Learn to listen, question and walk away…
February 2019 | Martin Fuller
Negotiation is in reality no more than a discussion of ideas, principles, opinions, beliefs and expected outcomes, used to persuade the other person to agree with us.
Often human nature will not allow us to listen constructively to anything that contradicts our assumptions, and in relationship breakdown we can become forceful in our reluctance to hear a contrary opinion, especially from our estranged partner. This doesn’t need to be the case.
We need to prepare for our negotiations to counter our reluctance to embrace the alternative proposals which may not always be in our best interests. If we seek first to understand the other persons view by listening and asking questions; and then walking away to consider our position we will avoid considerable acrimony, bad feeling and legal fees.
Listening is a difficult skill to acquire and takes a great deal of discipline, especially when listening to another’s view that contradicts our belief in what is fair and reasonable. Also there is an innate sense that if we do not correct a point that we disagree with, immediately, we are taken to have conceded that point. This is a paradox which if not restrained will decrease the chances of an amicable settlement. If you allow yourself to listen with the sole aim of contradicting the other person you are no longer following their argument, you are following your argument, and you do not need to do so. Just simply listen and appreciate the other point of view.
If you do not practice active listening then you are just trying to convince your estranged partner that they are wrong without them knowing why! If your estranged partner does do not know why they are wrong they will never change their position.
If you do not master the other point of view you will not be able to successfully connect with that person when you respond with your alternative proposals. Negotiation is about connecting with the other person with effective, informed, and persuasive communication.
Once you have listened to your estranged partners proposals, and they will finish, you then need to ask some questions.
By asking questions you clarify and confirm your understanding of the points being made. It is not an opportunity for you to attack your estranged partners views, beliefs or proposals. If your questions in any way hint of an attack, judgement or scorn you will provoke a defence, which will often be a personal attack on you, which should be avoided. It can be common for us to ask questions and then answer them ourselves which may seem a little foolish. Once again you employ active listening to understand the answer to the questions you have asked. Repeat until you have all the information that you need to consider the proposal properly. At this stage of the process you may be feeling a little vulnerable and exposed. That is quite normal, but in fact you are now empowered. You and you alone comprehend all the issues, and have a complete understanding of the problem. Your estranged partner knows nothing about your views. Now you walk away to consider the points made.
Walking away to consider the information and possibly calm down is essential at this stage. You may need just a few minutes or many days depending on the subject matter. It is essential that you walk away because you need time for your emotions to calm down and for you to properly consider how to respond with your reasons for rejecting those proposals, and how to present your alternative suggestions in context. Your estranged partner will be happy for you to think about their proposals; you have demonstrated your ability to listen to their views so they will feel confident that they have made a good argument and that you will think about it positively, which you will. Once you have calmed down!
By applying the above principles you have managed to discover the strengths and weakness of the proposals and how they apply to you and the family. You have also provided a space for you to take advice, and prepare a fully reasoned response which acknowledges the estranged partners point of view, and improves it with your considered alternative.
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