Why Smart People Can Have Dumb Divorces

Jul 10, 2014

Left brain = logical thinking Right brain = emotional thinking

Left brain = logical thinking
Right brain = emotional thinking

Working in Research Triangle Park (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) a region renowned for its education level, I have the privilege of working with a lot of very smart people.  Doctors, professors, business executives, entrepreneurs, nurses, techies, and domestic geniuses all bring healthy IQ’s to the collaborative divorce conference, mediation or negotiating table.

Certainly raw intelligence helps in a divorce.  The ability to learn, process and analyze complex legal issues and numbers is immensely helpful to efficiently resolving a divorce.

But, in my experience, it pales in comparison to the ability to recognize, understand, process and deftly handle the emotional component of divorce, both in yourself and in your spouse.

In his famous book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman points out that IQ only accounts for about 20% of a person’s success in life.  The rest is determined by other abilities and skills, as well as some good ol’ luck.  As Goleman points out “People with high IQ’s can be stunningly poor pilots of their private lives.”

Anecdotal evidence from my years of helping people resolve divorce issues is that emotional intelligence is probably the single most important factor in whether a couple will have a good process and outcome, or a difficult, stressful, expensive, drawn out negotiation.

While emotional intelligence defies exact definition, in a divorce context, it is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions, and recognize and respond to your spouse’s emotions, without letting your emotions or your responses interfere with the resolution process.

Where emotional intelligence is in short supply, discussions, problem solving, analysis, creative thinking and resolution becomes harder, takes longer and can be more expensive.  Where emotional intelligence is present, resolution is typically substantially faster, more durable, less painful and less expensive.

Collaborative divorce attorneys, collaborative divorce coaches and some mediators are skilled at helping divorcing couples focus on and build upon the emotional intelligence that they bring to a collaborative divorce or mediation.  The more open to these skills that a couple is, the better their outcome and process will be.  This is the biggest reason why divorce coaches are so valuable in the collaborative process.

Failing to recognize, focus on or strengthen emotional intelligence in a divorce makes things harder, slower, more expensive, more stressful and more destructive.  In short, it leads smart people to have dumb divorces.


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