Friday, November 11, 2011

10 Tips for Better Collaborative Communication

At all stages of a Collaborative Law case, communication skills are important. How you say something is often just as important as what you say, regardless of whether you are talking with your attorney, your spouse or one of the neutral experts involved. At the outset of a Collaborative case, you can expect your attorney, the other attorney and any neutral experts in the case to have some discussion with both parties about how improving your communication style can improve your chances of success. Conversely, poor communication skills and strategies can sabotage the case. During the course of a Collaborative case, there are usually reminders give to the parties about how they are communicating.

At the outset, and all the way to the end of the case, you should try the following suggestions. Many of them are common sense and you may have even heard a lot of these from your parents when you were growing up. They are still good advice.

1. Look the other person in the eye. While this may not feel comfortable in some situations, failing to do so may lead to your spouse making inaccurate assumptions about what you are saying. "Not seeing eye to eye" is more than a figure of speech. It is often assumed to be an indication of deception. Get some help if that is difficult for you.

2. Answer. If you receive a message or a question, please answer so the other person knows you received it. Ignoring it may lead to various unhelpful assumptions about your silence.

3. Don't attack verbally. Sometimes discussions end when one party gets on a roll and starts criticizing the other party. Even if it's "true", don't attack. It doesn't help at all and it may end discussions.

4. Ask for what you want. Don't wait for someone else to speak up for you and don't think you can bring it up later. No one will be reading your mind. Don't assume that someone will remember what you may have said in the past. Speak up for yourself.

5. Speak factually. Don't exaggerate or make up details. Don't make assumptions about what your spouse or someone else wants or would do or say.

6. Don't be looking at your cell phone while you are in a discussion. Pay attention to just the discussion at hand. Choosing your cell phone over the live person or persons you are talking with is rude and would probably be considered insulting.

7. Respond without engaging in or starting an argument. You don't have to be mean or angry as you respond to what is said. Try to keep things factual.

8. Don't rehash all the history of wrongs you suffered that were inflicted by your spouse. In a Collaborative context, the focus is on the future, not on assigning blame for past issues.

9. Respond directly and briefly. Don't start a tirade because of a comment. Don't change the subject and get off on a tangent. You don't want to pay for long, unproductive meetings.

10. Don't make assumptions or read things into statements. Those are common problems, even in Collaborative cases. Try dealing with statements on face value. Adding assumptions will always cause problems because the assumptions are usually wrong and negative.

Whether you are talking with your spouse, having a discussion in a joint meeting or working with a neutral expert, you will have an easier time by implementing the suggestions above.

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