Mediation: What’s Sex Got to do with it?

by - March 2, 2007

Mediation is a process commonly used in today’s divorces. It’s an alternative that allows couples to reach agreements without going to court. It’s also generally less expensive and more satisfying than a day spent fighting in court. This is probably why many women choose to mediate, or is it?According to research on the role gender plays in negotiation, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever have shown “that women are much less likely than men to use negotiation to get ahead and get what they want.” They go on further in their book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change to provide that women and men differ in two key areas of negotiation: negotiating for themselves and over finances.

Does this mean women choose divorce mediation at their husband’s urging and consequently, receive less than they are entitled too? It may, but fortunately Linda and Sara’s research has also shown that a woman’s reluctance to negotiate isn’t genetic. It’s learned and can be unlearned.

Four strategies they suggest for overcoming reluctance and becoming a better negotiator are:

1. Don’t assume that you’re stuck with the status quo - begin thinking about the world as a more negotiable place.

2. Gather information – Start by finding out where you stand.

3. Role-play in advance. Practice with a friend or colleague to anticipate roadblocks and plan how to get past them.

4. Pay attention to how you ask. You can do this by using friendly body language (such as smiling and making warm eye contact) and by communicating your wish to find a solution that works for everyone.”

So, if you’re considering divorce mediation and already know you are one of the reluctants, start working on the four strategies suggested above, take a look at Linda and Sara’s book and a few others on the subject like A Woman’s Guide to Successful Negotiating: How to Convince, Collaborate, & Create Your Way to Agreement by Lee E. Miller and Jessica Miller or Nice Girls Don’t Get…: The Corner Office/Rich by Lois P. Frankel. Also, visit our website for more information on, and help preparing for, mediation.

If there isn’t enough time to unlearn your negotiation reluctance, consider hiring a lawyer to attend the mediation with you or postpone the session until you’re ready. Whatever you do, don’t rely on your husband or the mediator to negotiate on your behalf. Your husband, as nice as he may be, has a conflict of interest: his own well-being, and the mediator is a neutral whose professional guidelines prevent him from taking your side or standing up for you. This means you’ve got to look out for yourself.

“Linda Babcock is a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management. Sara Laschever is a writer whose work has been published by the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and other publications.” They are also the coauthors of Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change. For more information about the authors visit their website Women Don’t Ask.

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