Posted by fxckfeelings on June 11, 2015Share This Post
While the old saying may be that the best way to make God laugh is to make a plan, there is something to be said for preparedness in the face of uncertainty. Of course, if you’re very nervous, you’ll never feel prepared enough, and if you’re unaware of the real dangers, you’ll risk becoming overconfident. So learn how to be open to doubt when you have a problem to manage. You may not feel as passionately certain about your position, but you’re more likely to be persuasive while side-stepping conflict and making a Higher Power giggle.
After several years of separation, I am now negotiating a divorce settlement to secure my future. My ex has a history of dishonesty and is with a woman who resents his long history with me and uses ultimatums and pressure to influence his rather weak behavior. We are on reasonable terms, however, and I have learned to disengage and put aside strong emotions in my dealings with him. He is all for settling by mediation but I feel vulnerable as trust is lacking and I need to get a good deal here. I am having an experienced divorce lawyer advise me through the mediation process with a back up plan of asking him to take over if I am unhappy with the progress. I am meeting with my lawyer soon and then must negotiate with my ex regarding dividing our assets and dismantling the legal side of our long marriage, and I’m not absolutely confident that my ex and I will be able to get through the process without a lot of unnecessary and destructive hostility. My goal here is to find a way to focus on a secure future, to protect myself from being ripped off and to avoid falling into the trap of high conflict/low resolution angry exchange that was my default setting in the marriage.
When entering a hostile negotiation, it’s always tempting to, in the words of Bull Durham, “assert your presence with authority.” And it might feel smart to set the tone that you’re tough and won’t be fucked with, but more often it makes the other person think that you’re so tough, you’re about to fuck with him, and it’s all downhill from there.
It’s natural to be nervous, but it’s more important to remind yourself of all the smart things you’ve done to keep this process from getting ugly. Or to at least keep an ugly process from becoming a disaster.
You’ve already taken the important step of getting a good lawyer to advise you on tactics and expectations. Now the trick is keeping your negative feelings to yourself.
Protect yourself by assuming the worst—that your ex lies, or backs off an agreement after getting pressure from his girlfriend—so you can prepare a calm response and rehearse it with your lawyer. Not only will he be disappointed that he didn’t get to you, but you’ll also score points with the mediator for being tolerant and reasonable. Don’t let fear cause you to lose your cool.
Yes, you have good reason to fear that negotiations will become painful or disappointing. You also have good reason, however, to believe that your ex will eventually see that your proposals are fair and reasonable for both sides and that the mediator will agree with you, especially if you stay fair and reasonable yourself.
On the other hand, if you do lose your cool, don’t berate yourself or become pessimistic. Be prepared to return to negotiations with a speech that takes back anger and apologizes for demeaning words while reinforcing your faith in the process and your belief in the fairness of your offer.
If your ex responds reasonably, negotiation will lead to a settlement you can accept. If either one of you gets provocative or stubborn or disowns prior commitments, mediation may fail, but you will have built up your credibility and made it easier to win in court.
You’ll have asserted your presence, not through bluster, but through being smart and prepared.
“Whenever I see my ex, I expect the conversation to get nasty and ugly. Now that I don’t have to live with him, however, or rely on his support or agreement, I can learn how to state my position without responding to provocation or conflict.”
My son is very smart but he’s going to blow it and end up getting rejected from clown college unless he starts taking his education seriously. His mother and I can’t do better for him than the crappy public high school, and given his natural intelligence, the lack of inspiring and motivating teachers hasn’t been a problem, until now. He’s so used to everything coming easily to him that he assumed he could still pull As like before even though he has a new group of fuck up friends. Surprise, they’re dragging him down with them, and now he’s got to go to summer school, which I’m afraid he’s also going to blow off. Then it’s junior year, when he’s got to do all of his college testing, but he says he doesn’t need to prepare for that, even though it’s not supposed to have that much to do with smarts, just being good at taking these exact tests. I just want this kid to see that if he doesn’t make an effort, all of his brains are going to go to waste and opportunities are going to be lost. My goal is to get my kid to act smart, not just be smart, and do the work.
You obviously care about education and have tried to warn your son about the opportunities he’s missing by goofing off as a high school sophomore. Unfortunately, warnings that consist of negative emotion and raised voices often produce rebellion, passive resistance, and a vicious circle of failure and conflict. Alas, when delivered in harried tones, logic is an allergen to most adolescents.
Before assuming that laziness is his only problem, try doing homework with him and see for yourself whether learning new material is still easy. Sometimes bright kids have problems absorbing specific kinds of information that they first encounter in high school, or managing its organizational demands, and then become discouraged and humiliated. If that’s the case, your son may need tutoring in addition to a kick in the pants.
Then examine all the incentives he might care about, looking for ones that can be doled out in frequent, small amounts so that you can apply them to each day’s work. Think money, transportation, screen time, and social time. Create a structure that allows you to monitor his work every day without driving you crazy.
Finally, declare your belief in the value of a good education and your intention to help him do better while editing out your frustration and dislike of his friends. Offer a new system of scheduled and managed work, frequent rewards, and special help if he needs it.
Of course, you can’t force your son to learn if he really doesn’t want to. You can, however, become a strong, effective study coach and know you’ve done your best to give him opportunities to choose a clown-free future.
“Watching my son waste his talents makes me feel angry and critical, but I know he may respond to incentives and schedules. I’ll define clear goals, provide rewards, look for learning problems, and stay positive. With luck, I will get him moving.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname