Listening Empathetically to Increase the Likelihood of a Successful Divorce Mediation

Our Virginia divorce mediation attorneys deeply believe in the power of active listening to resolve conflicts, speed up negotiations and increase the likelihood that participants will walk away feeling happy and satisfied. But how, exactly, do you engage in empathetic listening?

Good listening involves paying close attention both to your own feelings and needs and to the feelings and needs of the other person in the negotiation. This process of paying close attention is not necessarily intuitive, nor is it easy. If your spouse cheated on you with a colleague at work, for instance, you probably feel so hurt and stung by the betrayal that you may find it exceedingly difficult to listen in an open hearted way to what your spouse’s wants and needs. If someone asked you, you might say “I could care less.”

But the more that you seek to understand what’s going on in your spouses’ head, the easier it will be to obtain what you want — to achieve your ultimate strategic goals.

Here are some tips for listening empathetically:

• Listen for the root feelings and core needs underneath the conversation. For instance, your spouse might say something along the lines of “you never cared about me.” Try not to take the accusation personally. Instead, appreciate that he or she might have been feeling lonely because of a need for connection that just wasn’t met, for whatever reason.

• You don’t need to take responsibility for anyone else’s feelings. If your spouse is livid, deeply depressed or jealous, it doesn’t mean that you (or something you did) caused those feelings. Understanding this will allow you to listen in a much more compassionate and open way.

• Strive to identify solutions that can meet your needs and spouse’s needs. For instance, let’s say during the mediation, you debate about who should get the jewelry that your husband purchased for you for your 10th anniversary. You want to keep the jewelry, because it has great sentimental value as well as substantial monetary value. Your husband wants it back because he gifted it to you. This battle over the jewelry goes well beyond the battle over the pure monetary value of the stones. It also touches on deep issues about your relationship (and potentially about what broke up the relationship). Seek to understand your own needs. For instance, maybe you need money to move into a new place or build a safety net. Seek to understand your partner’s needs. Maybe he’s less concerned about money and more in need of dignity or respect that he feels he lost after you requested the divorce. Once you understand these core needs, you can develop more effective negotiation plays that will be more likely to lead to positive outcomes.

• Get help from someone who’s experienced with the mediation process. Our Virginia divorce mediation attorneys, for instance, can guide you through the process. We can handle the technical, legal details as well as offer the support that you need to make better decisions about your future. Call us today at (703) 370-5555 to learn about the Virginia divorce mediation process and effectively navigate the negotiations ahead.

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