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Family Negotiations

by Phyllis Pollack

From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

Phyllis  Pollack

       When asked the question, “are you a negotiator” most people answer, “no.” They do not realize that they are, indeed, negotiators and that they negotiate every day of their lives. They negotiate with their friends, family and strangers every day, about such mundane things as who will walk the dog, who will make the coffee, where and when to go to lunch, or dinner, what to bring to the party, and/or  who will drive et cetera.

      Rather, most of us think of “negotiation” in terms of “formal” disputes such as cases in court. But, as the above-examples show, we shouldn’t. There will be times when we will have to negotiate seriously with friends and family. When that occurs, a few helpful hints will come in handy.

       In the December 2007 issue of Negotiation (Vol. 10, No. 12), the author discusses “Negotiating with those who matter most.” Four handy tips are proffered: (1) Capitalize on benefits; (2) Anticipate complications, (3) Allow feelings to surface; and (4) Seek outside help.

      With respect to the first – capitalize on benefits – use the fact that you have shared experiences with the other party. Such shared experience provides a great deal of knowledge that can enhance your negotiation. “Negotiators with close ties tend to cooperate rather than compete.” (Id.)

            The second tip – anticipate complications – focuses on the fact that “negotiating friends and relatives tend to avoid conflict rather than confront it.” (Id.) Rather than engage in such avoidance techniques, “take time to agree on the norms, standards, principles, and processes that will guide your interaction” before you start that process. (Id.)  

       The third point – allow feelings to surface – ties in with the second point. Again, friends and relatives tend to sweep negative emotions under the rug. Fight this inclination and instead use your emotions to improve the relationship and to create resolution by satisfying everyone’s interests.

       Finally, at certain times, you have to willing to concede that outside help is needed. The use of an independent financial advisor, real estate person, therapist or mediator may be necessary to resolve the impasse. “Sometimes, the smartest option is to recognize the difficulty of negotiating rationally and to turn over some degree of control to an outside party.” (Id.)

           . . . Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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