Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How to Negotiate Effectively

A recent post on Human Law Mediation had five great tips for more effective negotiating in mediation. While some of these tips could also improve your efforts in the Collaborative Law arena, the list highlights some of the differences in approach between Collaborative Law and mediation.

1. Plan and prepare in the right way. In the Collaborative context, this would include thinking ahead about what your goals are. How do you see yourself coming out of this process? Think about your major long-term goals as well as some important but short-term ones. Use neutral experts to help you decide what you should focus on. Gather and share all the information you have in your possession on any relevant issues. Thinking and planning ahead can help the process move more smoothly and be less stressful.

2. Listen more than you talk. One way to increase your chances of success is to spend more time listening to your spouse (or the other party). In relationships, it is not unusual for partners to develop patterns of communication where one party tends to be more verbal than the other. Even if you are the more silent one, you may be tuning out your partner rather than actively listening. Having a mental health specialist help with the communication issues can result in both parties listening more effectively.

3. Keep emotions in check. Having a mental health professional involved helps keep the emotions in perspective. While emotional reactions need to be dealt with, they do need to be controlled. You can do a much more effective job for yourself if you can avoid being too emotional. It helps to keep in mind what your overriding goals are.

4. Balance aggression against cooperation. In a Collaborative case, aggression is controlled and avoided. Cooperation is the approach that is acceptable. This illustrates a major difference between Collaborative Law and other types of negotiation.

5. (Generally) make the first offer. This tip relates to "positional" bargaining (often used in mediation), rather than "interest-based" bargaining (a fundamental part of Collaborative Law). In positional bargaining, one side stakes out a position and uses that to try to reach an anticipated result. Interest-based negotiations focus on the actual goals and needs expressed by the parties and the parties work to create solutions that help them achieve the goals for both parties. The thought is that someone can limit or expand the range of possible settlements by making the first offer.

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