Negotiations Require Focusing on the Numbers, Not the Emotion


I had a client on the phone yesterday.  And the client was trying to get a settlement agreement signed, on her own, that our firm had drafted.


The basic goal:  signature.  Ink on the page, before a notary.


Background issues:  hurt, pain, years of mistreatment, neglect, lies, an affair.


Guess which came out when they brought the agreement into the living room?


All of the emotional issues.  I used to call those, as many of my colleagues do, “background issues.”  But that’s diminishing their power.


In fact, they’re not background.  They’re the other half of all of this.  But these emotions have to stay “on their side of the room” when the Agreement needs to be signed, when negotiating the division of assets is in need of decision.


That’s really difficult to suppress—all those emotions—during a negotiated outcome.


So, now, I’m not suggesting suppression.  That’s the old way, the stiff upper lip to emotional trauma.  No, we see from our war veterans returning home, the physical and emotional trauma must be repaired in equal measure. 


In family law, the numbers and the pain have to be addressedBut they each have to stay on their side of the room.


Emotions will cloud your judgment on the numbers.  Rent cares little if your sad after all.  But to delay dealing with the emotions, fully, through counseling, through care groups, through friends willing to listen and help, through spiritual guidance is to only settle one-half of the ledger.  And for those not going through a family law matter, but perhaps a raise request, a change from your spouse, buying a home, or trying to stick to a New Years resolution—are you dealing with the emotions, properly, before the negotiation?


For some, its easier to focus on the numbers, still others on the emotional side, rarely is it easy for us to walk from one side of the room to the other with equal amounts of ease. 


Which side of the room are you on?  Have you visited the other side lately?  And are you keeping them separated and in their respective corners as one requires your full attention?

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg