Negotiation in family law is distinct from buying a car or purchasing a multi-million-dollar defense system. The major difference is that in a family system dispute, family members share a history with all its ups and downs. The seven principles of negotiation theory are right for family negotiations. This practice structures four contextual areas surrounding the core aspects of the agreement. The four areas are: the relationship itself, communication, commitment, and your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. The core aspect of the agreement focuses on all the interests/goals each family member has for a viable outcome, all options that could help meet the collective interests, and an evaluation of the outcome with legitimate standards or criteria such as the law.
This month we focus on the first element or relationship – the threshold in any successful negotiation. Family members are asked to bring a sense of honor and dignity towards the other. Negotiating parties can suspend their heated feelings and animosities and opt for a seat in the proverbial balcony. You may recall from prior newsletters that the balcony signifies our capacity to remove/suspend ourselves from the battle long enough to simply observe our feelings and thoughts. We can begin focusing on what is essential about the relationship. What is the history, maybe siblings, maybe a spouse, a child – and what decisions have you made about the relationship. Were you harmed by the other, were you abused, are you angry, sad, disappointed? Observe your feelings without judgment.
When you are in the mode honoring the relationship, you are encouraged to forgive yourself for any role you may have played in causing this conflict. You can forgive the other family member at the same time for whatever role they may have played in causing the conflict. There is a sense of presence and awareness about the history in the relationship. Where there is a history of trauma you are able to maintain a keen perspective that the trauma may actually be a teacher in the conflict. Rather than avoiding or neglecting the trouble, you realize that this is now a power source for resolving the conflict.
Honoring the historical and relational conflict is key to a successful negotiation. Carry this truth with you from the vantage point of the balcony into your family conflict resolution work and you will see immense benefits emerge.
Stay tuned for communication tips in July’s newsletter.