How To Negotiate Your Separation is Effectively

Submitted by Kathryn Jankowski, B.A., CFP, FMA, CFDS, AccFM, Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist and Accredited Family Mediator

Divorcing people are, typically, under a lot of stress and sometimes they forget how to argue effectively during their mediation negotiations. Stressful situations often bring out the worst in people. Remember, however, that in mediation you are trying to work out a reasonable deal with your soon-to-be-Ex. Is that person likely to give you any consideration if you argue in a way that makes them defensive? Not likely, right? So here’s a list of what not to do to ensure you don’t argue ineffectively.

Blaming And/or Bringing Up The Past

Blaming someone for bad behaviour is only going to make them defensive, especially when you do it in front of someone you have known for a relatively short period of time (your mediator). This is not how to get on your Ex’s good side.


Often when we yell no one really hears us. Have you ever noticed that the louder you get the less someone is actually listening to what it is you are saying? When you yell the only thing the other person hears is that you are angry. Sometimes it’s not so much what you say but how you say it. Consider this when negotiating.

Picking Out Small Issues

When you are mediating and making decisions that affect your life you might want to stay on track. Dealing with the important, substantive issues is key. If you want to pick out the small issues it’s probably not a good idea to alienate your spouse to a point where he or she doesn’t want to consider the rationality about the big stuff if you keep picking out the small stuff.


If you are listening just to get a chance to respond you won’t get anywhere in the conversation. I call this the ‘circular conversation’ as each person restates their position because they know they weren’t heard. If you truly listen to the other person you might gain some insight as to why they feel a certain way about something. That insight might gain you an opportunity to have that need met in another way. A way that might work for you both.


If you aren’t quite sure what someone meant, when they make a statement, ask them. Sometimes I ask my clients to restate what they have heard from the other person just to make sure they were listening. It also gives the listener an opportunity to restate and reset the understanding if the listener didn’t get it quite right. Clarifying the point can also give you the opportunity to find out what is important to your spouse and why. Maybe their need can be met in a way they haven’t considered.

What you could do to be an effective communicator:

Take Your Time

Don’t just say the first thing that you think. Instead, consider how your spouse might understand what you are about to say. Put yourself in their shoes. Sometimes, it’s not what you say but how you say it. I think I’ve said that before…..

Treat Your Spouse How You Want To Be Treated

OK, I know this isn’t always easy but if you are constantly kind and non-threatening but still getting your message out it can defuse your spouse to reasonableness. It’s hard to engage your anger when someone is being nice and considerate towards you, even if they aren’t agreeing. Ever heard the saying, “It’s easier to kill a bee with honey than with vinegar?”

In the end, what you end up with after the negotiations are said and done can affect your life in a big way. You might consider how you want to argue, effectively or ineffectively.

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