Perhaps the most important skill that Collaborative Divorce attorneys provide and teach their clients is fighting well.
(Cue my wife raising an eyebrow).
Actually, it’s not fighting. It’s resolving disagreements and conflict between divorcing spouses in difficult and tense situations without fighting.
Fighting well is really the art of communicating your viewpoint, needs, and interests in a way that can be effectively heard and received by your spouse. After all, the validity of your concern is invisible if it’s wrapped in anger or criticism.
In fact, the most important thing in communication in a divorce is not what is said, but what is heard.
So, fighting well often means first figuring out what you want the other party to hear. Then you have to form your words to ensure that your spouse will effectively receive the message.
Usually, this means that the words that impulsively come to mind need to be revised.
Many people are far more concerned about saying what they want to say, regardless of how it may be received. In fact, this is by the far the most prominent, if not effective, style of fighting in a marriage or divorce.
This discrepancy between what is said and what is heard may result from people arguing from different sides of their brains. As pointed out in this recent Wall Street Journal article and Today Show story, people have different fighting styles. And, some of that is determined by which part of your brain is doing the fighting.
The article points out that left-brain fighters tend to become blind to non-verbal information when they are fighting. They lose the ability to perceive and judge emotion, tone and body language.
Right brain fighters can become flooded with emotional reactions to words, and lose the ability to hear the actual words that are spoken.
So, in order to fight well, or rather to effectively discuss any point of conflict, it helps to know how you fight, and what information you may be missing from your spouse. At least that way, you can pay more attention to what you may be missing.
And, knowing how your spouse fights can help you communicate your concerns in a way that your spouse will actually hear.
This is one of the skills that we, as collaborative attorneys, work to build in our clients. It is one of the “secrets” to resolving divorce issues without creating more hostility and destruction.
In fact, if spouses can master this skill during their marriage, then they may never need to work on it in a divorce.