Stephen Covey wrote the well-known and often cited 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. While the book is mainly directed at the habits of business people, the beneficial results of the enumerated habits are universal. So how can those concepts be applied to divorce mediation?
1. Be proactive. Devise a plan and take action. Covey highlights the importance of understanding which things we can influence and those we cannot. The key is to do your best in the areas over which you have control and to let go of the things you cannot change. For instance, couples may not be able to keep their children from feeling sad that their parents are divorcing. Feeling guilty will not change that but they can do their best to devise a co-parenting plan that will keep their children’s needs in focus and consequently provide them with the security and continuity they require.
2. Begin with the end in mind. Envision the future you’d like to have and design the steps needed to get there. For example, what are realistic expectations regarding finances for your post-divorce lifestyle? Sitting down with a financial advisor can help flesh out a budget to determine how much you can spend, save etc. You are much more likely to achieve your goal with a plan in place. I have seen this step empower those who are overwhelmed about the financial aspect of their divorce even when it seemed insurmountable at the outset.
3. First things first. In mediation, the mediator and couple work together to create an agenda according to the couple’s most pressing needs. For some, it’s the logistics of one spouse’s move out of the marital home. For others, it’s creating a schedule for spending time with the children or how to gather the needed financial statements. What’s important is that a system is devised upon which to lay the foundation for informed decision-making. It looks different for everyone. Establishing priorities, assessing what’s urgent and then discussing the details creates order and can alleviate stress.
4. Think Win/Win. In his book, Covey talks about the traditional tact in business negotiations to smash and grab as much as you can from your competitor. He emphasizes how this is short sighted. The better one person does at the expense of the other yields long-term negative prospects. The best outcome is where both parties feel they have accomplished at least a portion of their goals, leaving them wanting to come back to the table to do more business in the future. Divorce mediation is the ultimate process to benefit both participants and ensure continued communication. In mediation, people work together to find solutions, retain control over the outcome and leave anger and resentment behind. Frankly, a spouse who wishes to see his or her ex suffer is not an appropriate candidate for the mediation process.
Habits 5-7 will be covered in my next blog.