Dealing with Misunderstandings (and Other Hiccups) During Mediation

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Divorcing adults

Using mediation to end a marriage empowers participants to communicate their desires without the limitations, public record and the formality of appearing in court. Mediation is a process that can be liberating and empowering, allowing both sides to be frank about their goals. Dealing with misunderstandings during mediation may not be simple, but it may be an opportunity to be open and honest in a relationship that’s been anything but peaceful.

Then what happens when there’s a hiccup? What if being in the room together dredges up unhappy history? If difficult topics or misunderstandings arise (and you know they will), what do you do?

Don’t Respond with Anger

Anger, while understandable, is not a useful tool. In fact, in a recent Harvard Business Review article on the role of emotions in negotiating, one researcher argues that “bringing anger to a negotiation is like throwing a bomb into the process, and it’s apt to have a profound effect on the outcome.” In other words, you may be paying (literally) for that flash of anger for a long time.

Don’t Walk Away

It may be tempting to just say “See you in court!” as you walk out the door, and forget about negotiations. In fact, studies have long proven that not only does anger make people leave the negotiating table, it makes them reluctant to ever come back.

Manage Expectations

What happens if you stick it out? Tackling the situation proactively just may yield the results you’ve been hoping for. You can make this approach work by managing your expectations.

It is likely—and natural—that some of the personal dynamic with your soon-to-be ex dredges up negative feelings. Try to remember that these feelings are temporary, and you’ve got bigger and better long-term goals.

Come in with a Strategy

Having an “emotional strategy” when you walk in can help you ride out the bumps. Have coping mechanisms handy, and prepare the answers to tough questions ahead of time.

Keep the Right Perspective

As I’ve mentioned before in this space, shifting your perspective can be extremely powerful. Looking beyond this moment—this misunderstanding or rough patch—to a peaceful life post-divorce can be just what you need to see the mediation through to completion.

For more ideas on dealing with misunderstandings during mediation, get this Guide: Tips for Divorcing a High Conflict Spouse.

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