Attorney Richard Kulerski was a great guest speaker during of one of my past Divorce Speak teleseminars. He is a Chicago-based divorce attorney and Harvard trained mediator who has more than 40 years of experience in negotiations and courtroom battles, and is also the author of the supremely insightful book, “The Secret to a Friendly Divorce.” One of my favorite and most recommended reads, this book offers helpful tips for a friendlier approach to divorce settlement issues through mediation (an alternative way of resolving disputes between two or more parties).
So here are some thoughts to ponder which Mr. Kulerski shared with listeners of the teleseminar about more effective ways of communicating with your soon-to-be-ex on issues surrounding divorce and to hopefully help you steer clear from battling things out in a courtroom.
1. Be nice to your spouse.
First and foremost is his advice to be nice to your spouse. If you want your spouse to be reasonable in settlement or support issues, the answer is simple—just be nice and treat your opponent with respect and understanding. If you do that, there are more chances your spouse will start listening and soften up.
2. Your spouse is not concerned with what you think is fair and your concerns – they are focused on their own.
So you don’t talk, you get them to talk. Have your spouse talk until your spouse can’t talk anymore and just listen. The other spouse will feel purged of their anger. Atty. Kulerski says that if you want to win an argument, you have to LISTEN to the other side and let them know that you are capable of being persuaded.
Let the other spouse feel you are interested in what they are saying. You don’t have to agree with them, but let them know that you are listening to every word. Let them feel you respect what they are saying even if you might not agree with it.
3. Give each other permission to blow up!
Richard believes that no case is settled until each party has blown at least twice! There is something in human nature that after we blow up, we become nicer to deal with. Remember when you last quarreled with someone and after letting off steam became reasonable again?
You could put an agreement out on the table before sitting down to talk about issues like division of property or child care arrangements or whatever else is a trigger for each of you. You could start the conversation with, “Listen, before we get started, let’s do this. I will allow you to get mad and blow up without me feeling insulted and would you also give me the opportunity? Would you please not hold that against me if I do the same?” So, if we know to expect some angry outbursts, it’s not going to be as bad when it happens. Each party know it’s ok to let it out on occasion, and that doing so does not mean that negotiations are over.
4. The two-part word that kills deals is “you’re.”
Examples are, “You’re lazy,” “You’re always late,” “You’re impossible to deal with,” “You’re this; you’re that.” If you hope to avoid a divorce battle, it’s best not to start with “you’re” when you are talking to your spouse, or anyone for that matter, whom you want to negotiate with. They do not want to hear how they are or have been. That two-part word will put anyone on the defensive.
5. Behave as if you’re always on camera.
Richard suggests that when you’re speaking to your spouse, pretend that you are being videotaped and your kids will view the tape when they’re grown up or they reach 30. It’s going to be viewed by your boss, your enemies, your best friends or all the people in your life. How do you want to appear when you’re speaking with your spouse? Most people would want to appear in a very reasonable and respectful fashion, and if you do that, your spouse will also likely be reasonable as well.
Thank you again to J. Richard Kulerski for a wonderful interview and hope you enjoy his tips here. For more helpful information I highly recommend his book, “The Secret to a Friendly Divorce.”