We, humans, have an almost obsessive desire to be (and appear to be) consistent with what we have already done and the decisions we have already made. It is one of the keys to influence and persuasion.

Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.

These pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision, making it increasingly difficult to shift our perspectives or change our minds.

This is particularly true of couples who are separating and feeling the pressures of uncertainty.

For these psychological and emotional reasons it is extremely important for us, the family professionals supporting our clients, to ensure that they make the right decisions about how they are going to separate and reach the best decisions for themselves and their family, as early on in the separation process, as possible.

This will also influence the kind of support our clients will need from us, and other family professionals, depending on the dispute resolution process they choose.

FoPERSUASIONr example, as solicitors are we going to negotiate on their behalves (very tempting to take this challenge away from our clients) or are we going to support them to communicate and reach decisions for themselves, in mediation. These are only two of the many process options and combinations of options, available to our clients and they will look to us to make the right decisions early on.

When making these decisions, we, the family professionals, must not underestimate the power of positive (or negative) influence we have over our client’s thinking when it comes to them having to decide whether and, if so how, they are going to work together with their former partner, in the best interests of all concerned, as well as the children.

With this power comes an enormous responsibility to ensure that our clients understand the full range of dispute resolution process options available to them and provide our best recommendation based on a thorough and expert assessment of their motivations and capacity to communicate and reach decisions together, with our support and the support of other professionals.

Nowadays, although my preference in many cases is for mediation, I find myself working in an increasingly integrated and joined up way with other family professionals, such as solicitors, child experts and financial experts, within a process I call ‘supported mediation’ or ‘ team mediation’, to ensure that my clients are enabled and supported by the most appropriate family experts, at any particular time, keeping in mind the outcomes, they are trying to achieve.PERSUASION