Negotiating with your former partner is undoubtedly one of the most uncomfortable experiences you’ll go through both during and after your divorce. Regardless of whether you’re working through an issue that’s large or small, the conversation can easily become heated, since you likely have past resentment and anger that’s already bubbling beneath the surface.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to dread negotiating with your former partner; in fact, with the right preparation and mindset, you can learn how to negotiate confidently and successfully. Thanks to Chris Voss’ book Never Split the Difference, I’ve learned to hone my own negotiation skills, and his strategies have helped me guide thousands of women through this process as well. Don’t let that self-doubt creep in — follow these steps to help you get through each negotiation smoothly.
Be well-prepared: To start off, you need to take the time to really understand what exactly you’re negotiating for. What are your priorities, needs, and wants? What are your “must-haves” vs. your “nice-to-haves”? Clearly knowing the answers to these questions will help you keep the negotiation focused, and help you be more aware of where you might be willing to compromise.
Stick to the facts: Take the time to ensure that your side of the argument is rock-solid. Make sure that you’re focusing on what matters the most to you, and that your arguments are founded in facts, data, and precedence. You need to be able to ask for what you need, and have the data ready so that your former partner can analyze it and meet you halfway. Remember that most men are problem-solvers, so you’re more likely to be successful if you have the facts to back up your argument, and then you can work together to solve the problem.
Have empathy: Understanding the other party’s position is a crucial first step in any successful negotiation — and who knows and understands your former partner better than you? This will help you get at what’s truly driving your former partner’s argument, and allow you to use tactical empathy. Once you’ve prepared your own side of the negotiation, take the time to anticipate what the other side is going to be focusing on, so that you’re better able to show them compassion and understanding. During the negotiation, try to use powerful language to remain curious, open-minded, and flexible. One way to do this is to mirror back their statements to you, such as saying, “If I can hear what you’re saying, what matters to you most is…” or “what I heard you say is this, and I would like to know more about that…”
Don’t let narcissists intimidate you: If your former partner is a narcissist, you’re probably extra nervous about negotiating with them — but it’s not as difficult as you’re imagining it will be. When negotiating with narcissists, you need to recognize and reinforce the way that they perceive themselves and want to be seen. Narcissists see themselves as supremely attractive, intelligent, and capable, and they believe they deserve special treatment and praise — so give them that! Use tactical empathy to make them feel important and powerful, so that in the end you can get the result that you want.
Trust in your negotiation abilities: Believe it or not, you’re likely naturally gifted in negotiation, even though you may not realize it. Most women are highly empathetic, effective communicators, and have strong social and relationship awareness — all of which are key traits of a skilled negotiator. Remember too, that as a mom you’re negotiating with your children all the time. You have way more practice as a negotiator than you probably realize. Don’t underestimate yourself!
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