Communication is key

When it comes to achieving a collaborative outcome that works for everyone, the importance of communication cannot be underestimated, says collaborative family lawyer and mediator, Sue McArthur.
We’re not just talking about communication between you and your former partner. You also need to think about the communication between your respective lawyers; between you and both lawyers and between your partner and both lawyers. That’s a lot to think about! 
So how can you improve communication in a collaborative four-way meeting to help reach a better outcome? Here’s Sue’s advice:
  • Try not to be defensive. You both have to accept that things will be said during the process that aren’t easy to hear.
  • If your partner is raising something and you are having difficulty with it, try and remember that you can acknowledge its importance to your partner without actually having to agree with it.
  • Try and listen to what is being said in full before putting forward your own version of events or raising a counter attack.
  • Try and communicate without accusing. State an action or issue factually and talk about how it has made you feel – for example ‘when you did this it made me feel like this…’
  • Don’t forget to say yes when there is something you can both agree on. It’s easy to assume that everyone knows or that because it’s a small point it isn’t important. Agreement on lots of small points can make dealing with the more difficult points that much easier.
  • Try to say ‘yes, and’ rather than ‘yes, but’ – it’s a small distinction but it makes a big difference and is much more positive.
It isn’t easy – and you won’t always get it right – but my advice is if you keep trying to adopt a positive approach and look forward, you are more likely to reach a better outcome that works for both of you.
Sue McArthur is a trained collaborative family lawyer and mediator, and head of the family department at McKeag and Co Solicitors in Gosforth, Newcastle Upon Tyne. 
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