July 8, 2016

How to use negotiation to help diffuse family feuds

By family law specialist, Norman Taylor

It is a fact of life that family members fall out with each other and that family feuds can be fuelled by stressful times of the year such as Christmas and children’s holidays.

This week tips from Jones Myers appeared in a feature on the ASOS Likes website which provided expert tips for dealing with family dramas – with our advice on communication being key leading the article.

I recently ran a workshop on how to adopt negotiation techniques in difficult meetings and have found that this approach is particularly useful in transforming negative and stressful family feuds into positive outcomes:

  • Think seriously about whether a trained mediator or another trusted third party might be able to steer discussion and reconciliation
  • Before holding a meeting to try to identify the issues that divide your family. Ensure that everyone involved has calmed down enough to manage their emotions – and that all involved are genuinely committed to repairing damaged relationships.
  • Take a good look at your own contribution to the argument – and be brutally honest with yourself – perhaps taking advice from a trusted friend or confidant.
  • Explain that you want reconciliation – not finger-pointing – and establish ground rules that each person will speak entirely honestly and that nobody will take offence, even if what is aired upsets them.
  • Also agree that each party will be polite and respectful throughout the meeting and allow others to speak without interrupting them.
  • Be ready to apologise for any hurt you have caused during the feud and be genuine about your desire to resolve matters. Similarly, while being open about your own bruised emotions, stress that you are ready to leave them behind for the sake of a repaired relationship.
  • Ask questions to enable you to appreciate and understand other people’s feelings and standpoint in the dispute – and show that you are listening by posing additional ones.
  • Always try to put yourself in the other person’s situation – to better understand and appreciate their views and accept that they may be different from yours.
  • Focus on what you agree on and want to achieve together and think about what practical steps can address the problem and lead to a peaceful outcome. Don’t rush things: consider road mapping a number of meetings that will lead to repair.  In times of difficulty, remind yourself and the others involved why you are all engaged in this process.
  • Finally, make notes on how the process worked best – and where and why it didn’t – so it can be pressed into service to settle any future disputes that might arise.

If you have any comments, queries or concerns on issues relating to family feuds, divorce, family disputes, children, future planning or will and estate disputes, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce