Numbers vs. Feelings: Different Perspectives in Divorce Mediation

©2016 Shawn D. Skillin, Esq.

In divorce mediation, there is almost always a numbers person and a feelings person.

The numbers person was probably what I refer to as the “Managing Partner” in the marriage.

The person who balanced the accounts, took care of getting the bills paid and the taxes done, made the investment decisions, etc. This spouse was often the more organized and logical partner in the marriage. They are more logical in their decision making, they are linear thinkers and often have a good grasp on how this divorce thing is going to look from a logical perspective. They are often focused on practical matters: schedules, finances and logistics.

The other spouse is often the “feelings” person.

Numbers aren’t really first and foremost in this person’s mind. They are worried about where they will live, will they have enough money, are the children going to be ok, will they ever find love again. They are often slower to process the practical issues of divorce.

How do you bring these two parties together into a space where decisions and planning can take place?

It’s not always easy. Recognizing where each person is coming from is the first key. You have to take each client “where they are at.” You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, so once you’ve identified this problem, start chipping away at the sharp edges.

Help the “numbers person” to recognize that the “feelings person” needs some time to process their feelings so they can take in the practical information and be ready to make decisions that will stick. Pushing them forward too quickly will only result in a one step forward, two steps back scenario that ultimately frustrates the “numbers person” even more. With the numbers person, my favorite saying is “slower is faster.”

Assist the “feelings person” by acknowledging their feelings, but gently reminding them that being involved in the decision making process requires their active participation. Help them figure out what they need to help them move forward. Gently remind them, that if they fail to make any progress, the other person may ultimately get so frustrated they will end up in court just to move things along. Help them to outline what information they need and what resources they may need utilize to help them move forward. Set deadlines for getting certain tasks done.

By acknowledging where each party is, the mediator helps normalize the situation for both parties. This can make everyone feel heard and more comfortable in moving forward.

Shawn Skillin is an attorney, family law mediator, collaborative divorce practitioner. She is a sought-after speaker, trainer and consultant at the High Conflict Institute. She is the co-founder of the Family Resolution Institute, in San Diego, and is a senior mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center. Learn more about Shawn and contact us to learn how she can help train your group.

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