Your behavior, how you conduct yourself at the negotiating table can work for you or against you.

Remember, this is a negotiating table, not a court of law or arbitrator’s office. In negotiating, there is little to prove and all to negotiate.

Negotiation is about how to move forward, not prove who necessarily did what. The service provider is there to help you both reach a resolution between yourselves.

Service providers are not there to take sides although some may express opinions or offer information to facilitate your negotiation. You certainly can raise contentious issues. It doesn’t mean the other side has to agree to one’s point of view. Interestingly though, plans can often be put in place to mitigate concerns without either ever having to admit anything. If there are allegations of untoward behavior, without admitting culpability, plans may still be available to move forward and to have contingencies in the event someone engages in untoward behavior.

However, if a parent really needs to prove something in order to move forward then negotiations can break down. If a parent is looking for validation, a confession or closure, then too negotiations can break down. If a parent continually seeks to induct the service provider into their view of the other parent and towards support of their position, then too, negotiations can break down. Keep in mind, the goal of negotiation is a settlement or resolution – an agreement on how to co-parent moving forward.

It is not uncommon for parents to hear things from the other that trigger emotions. When triggered, it can be a challenge to; mind one’s own behavior; let the other person finish; maintain one’s emotional composure; respond in a civil or composed manner.

Indeed some persons, knowing their former partner’s triggers, may intentionally provoke to undermine the other person’s self-confidence and stability while at the negotiating table. Some provocation can be overt and readily observable, such as shouting, name calling, scowls or other gestures. Other provocations can be subtle and not readily observable such as use of particular words; gestures not visible to the service provider; or calmly mentioned allegations to incite you.

While the service provider will do everything possible to manage behavior in the midst of a meeting, final control of one’s behavior continues to reside with oneself. If one or other person does not control their behavior with or without being triggered, then again, negotiations may fail.

Before getting to the negotiating table it may be constructive to speak with your lawyer or a divorce coach about your deportment in the process – how you will present and handle yourself. Your lawyer or a divorce coach can prepare and teach you skills to manage in the situation as well as help you understand and appreciate the goal of the negotiation process. While at the negotiating table, consider these tips to manage your own behavior:

1) Resist aggressive tone or behavior. This will reflect poorly upon you. You don’t want to inadvertently create bias in the mind of the service provider against yourself for your own behavior;

2) Resist blame, but do explain. Speak from a first person narrative. This means, do not call the other person names and do not provide your assessment of the other person. Rather, speak to your own point of view and experience. (e.g. - rather than saying the other person is abusive, say, “It’s my view that I was called names which upset me.” As a result, I would prefer for only written communication and no phone or voice-mail.)

3) Maintain your composure. While it is not uncommon for people to cry when upset, hurt and distressed, to do so in this context may reinforce a feeling of power in the other person. Alternately, crying can also be interpreted by the service provider as a means to gain sympathy and thus bias the service provider. Same goes for angry outbursts. Angry outbursts can provide a negative impression of yourself regardless of what you say about the other person.

4) Speak to and look at the service provider rather than the other parent. Staying focused on the service provider can help maintain composure. If one is looking at the other parent as a means to gain control and be subtly coercive, this too can form a negative impression in the mind of the service provider, so here too it is beneficial to look at the service provider.

5) Practice your breathing before and during the negotiation. It is not uncommon that under duress our breathing gets shallow. As we breathe deeper and more relaxed, then our demeanor follows.

Now, why would anyone put themselves through negotiation? The answer is because negotiated agreements tend to be better lasting and better followed than decision imposed by a court or arbitrator.

Entering a tough negotiation, consider those tips! Needs help to master those and other strategies to get through your negotiation, consider a divorce coach.

BTW – not all negotiations are tough. In fact, many are not and many are experienced remarkably positive. Depending on your service provider as well as reaching an agreement, many parents also learn the tools to communicate more effectively themselves to better address future issues that may arise.

Author's Bio: 

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America and was the first social worker to sit on the Ontario Board for Collaborative Family Law.