When spouses separate emotions are high and people who normally are quite reasonable can get caught up in the battle and can become unreasonable.
These days we have several labels for people who have challenging personalities ranging from passive aggressive to narcissistic to borderline personalities. Many spouses who are going through a difficult separation have researched these characterizations and they recognize them in their former spouse and can provide the label which they believe is most appropriate.
Regardless of the label however lawyers must persevere and try to negotiate settlements. Some helpful things for clients and their lawyers to remember are as follows:
- It is extremely important to listen and then to acknowledge that the other person has been heard. This can often be the key to allow that person to move on to resolve an issue.
- Try to understand the fear or concern that is behind a request or a demand. What is the person afraid may happen if they accept a certain deal. Once you understand their fear often there is a way to address it.
- Try to keep the negotiation focus on the future rather than rehashing the past. What needs to be in place to move forward?
- Give people suggestions or tools that allow them to resolve their own dispute whenever possible instead of providing solutions.
- Emphasize both spouses’ strengths and try to focus on them instead of their weaknesses.
If you are able to remember these guidelines you will probably be able to reach a settlement regardless of the spouses’ high conflict personalities.
Deborah A. Todd