In Part 1 of this article, I enumerated how the first 4 habits in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are universal and how they can be applied in divorce mediation. Here are my thoughts about habits 5-7.
5. Seek first to understand then to be understood. Too much of discussion, negotiation, and disagreement is people talking over one another. The first goal in any discussion should be to learn how your partner sees the issues. What is important to them? Maybe it’s important to you too. Just listen without simultaneously formulating a response in your head. Then, tailor your response in a way that meshes. Show that you were listening and use what you have heard to fine-tune your explanation. Nothing opens up a dialog better than showing you have listened and understood. In mediation, there is the further advantage of having the mediator present to help the process along.
6. Synergize. This is about teamwork, utilizing the best portions of the collective in order to achieve the best outcome. In mediation, we build on common interests and expand the possible outcomes in order to come to an enduring agreement. We look at problems from many angles. It could not be more different than the context of an adversarial divorce, which by nature is built on posturing and threats to turn over decision making to a judge. That is the opposite of teamwork. Judges do not have the time or inclination to be creative and consider details that may be of great significance to the parties.
7. Sharpen the saw. Covey addresses the future with this habit. What does it take for each of us as human beings to be better and do better? We need to consider our tools–body, mind and spirit. What do we need to do to improve upon our contributions inwardly and outwardly? For those going through divorce, how can you nourish those parts of your life that need an influx of positive energy? In mediation, the expectation is that people can discuss information, make decisions and begin the next phase of their lives without having been extensively damaged (and bankrupted) by their divorce. After divorce, the next steps can and should be mental and physical renewal for an improved outlook on the future.
Please contact me if you would like to learn more about divorce mediation.