The Attorney’s Role in Helping Clients Reach Settlement through Increased Conscious Communication Competence
When conflicts occur between a husband and wife, there are many possible courses of action. The parties may accept the status quo and continue living with the problem, the parties may use force and mandate change, or the parties may reach an agreement through negotiation. When faced with ongoing conflict, a spouse may decide to use the force of the legal system to mandate change—a divorce. Often each spouse will find an attorney. The attorney is tasked with helping their client negotiate a property settlement agreement as well as a parenting plan if there are children involved. Because divorces involve two individuals who have been embroiled in years of ongoing conflict and built-up tension, the attorneys are often key players in the negotiation phase. The attorneys can set the stage for an amicable resolution or lay a foundation in preparation for a long arduous battle. Attorneys can help move their clients towards settlement by employing various techniques.
Communication styles and language misunderstandings often create conflict. Often the communication styles of men and women vary and consequently can create conflict. However, increasing an individual’s awareness of her communication styles will help increase understanding of the nature of the conflict. This paper will discuss how attorneys can help their clients become more aware of their own communication styles, behaviors, and skills. By increasing a client’s awareness of her own communication styles, the client can better understand how her communications styles contribute to and perpetuate the conflict. In particular, this paper will examine the assertion that when a client is more aware of how gendered differences in communication create and perpetuate conflict, the client is more likely to reach a resolution.
The first part of this paper will describe communication competence and similar studies that have analyzed communication competence in various settings. The second portion of the paper will describe the role of language in conflict. The third portion of the paper will describe communication differences between men and women; additionally this section will identify specific areas that lawyers can help their clients understand the impact of communication on conflict. Through a greater understanding of one’s own communication styles as well as the different communication styles between genders, a client is better able to resolve disputes and reach settlement in family law context.