Advocating for Yourself
Mediation is facilitated negotiation. That means each person is advocating for his or her own needs with the assistance of the mediator. Mediation can be an opportunity to learn skills, such as negotiation, that can be helpful for years to come. So how do you advocate for yourself in a negotiation? Here are some tips to get you started:
*Identify your needs–Needs are different from interests and desires. We all wish that certain things will go our way. A desire is to keep your house. A need is a place to live. Knowing what we need is a bottom line and helps to define the least that is acceptable.
*Think creatively–It can be hard not to focus on the outcome when you are negotiating, but if you can shift your thinking to your interests and the needs you are trying to meet, you might be able to come up with more creative solutions. For example, if keeping a house is the goal, think about why. If it’s to maintain stability for the children during the transition of divorce, maybe you could own it jointly for a year or two and then sell. If it’s because you love the house, maybe a family member can co-sign the new mortgage in exchange for 10% of the equity in the future. Brainstorm!
*Be informed–Gathering all the information needed before making decisions can thwart irrational decision-making. Having an initial consultation with a matrimonial attorney who supports mediation (your mediator can provide you with names and numbers), for example, can help you to know the best and worst outcomes if you were to litigate. You can use this information to determine for yourself if what you’re agreeing to is fair.
*Recognize your spouse’s needs–You might not agree with him or her, but he or she has needs and interests of their own. If you offer something that she or he needs or wants, it’s likely that she or he will be more willing to negotiate in return.
To learn more about negotiating, check out these resources:
Harvard Program on Negotiation
Skills You Need