In practicing law, a personality being “good” or “difficult” is a matter of my perspective and my creativity. Much of the course of a case depends on whether I choose to see some traits as negative, or all traits as resources.
For example, in a litigated family law case, I dread the opposing counsel (or their client) who strives to be intimidating, nitpicks the details, wants to control everything and is demanding to the point of being rude. They enjoy being or seeming angry. They want to win and the other person to lose. The positive side to this personality is that this person is likely to be goal-oriented, organized, and ambitious. Their affinity to nitpick can expose the hidden problems that impede progress. Their obnoxiousness can be a reminder that settlement is a far better option than a trial. If this person can be convinced that making an offer is a win for them, this personality type can be the driving force toward finding settlement solutions.
Evasive and non-committal individuals are insecure, overly cautious, and indecisive. Making a decision feels like work and they do not want to work. They like other people to have to work hard for them. This passive-aggressive personality is a smarter strategy than you may think. Silence and indecision forces the opposing side to offer more concessions and make more reasonable offers in an effort to move the case to settlement. They make the other side work harder. I try to encourage them by showing respect and voicing praise for their input. I try to help them to see that it feels better to make a decision over which they have some control, than to let some else decide for them.
In some ways, the worst personality in a case is the happy-go-lucky, charming extrovert. This personality type is a pleasure to be in a room with, but you find that nothing gets done. This person loves telling stories and making people laugh. They do not want to dwell on negative thoughts or make a choice that could make someone sad, least of all themselves. It’s not that they are indecisive. They have decided they want to be happy and they are happy when they are not thinking about sad or hard things. They need positive attention. It is a kind of vanity or insecurity, or both. With this person it is useful to have an agenda and continually get them back to the agenda. They will interpret a too serious demeanor as a rejection of who they are. So, I try to accept them and give them the attention they want. I may have to redirect their conversation to the issues by asking questions and then really listen to the answers. I laugh at the funny parts. But, then I rephrase their answers in a more neutral tone. I help them to help themselves by getting them to see that reaching a conclusion is a cause for happiness.
I am convinced that each so-called negative personality trait can be used, molded, directed, or perhaps exploited, to achieve a positive outcome. These individuals have used their traits to some successful conclusions, whether in business, marriage, child-raising, family, social networking, sports or competitions, or something you may not even see in them. You can dwell on how their traits resulted in something negative. You can let yourself believe those traits are only bad. Or you can respect the person, believe there are pros along with the cons, and figure out a way to use those traits for a successful conclusion.
Some of the ideas for this post came from
“The Only Negotiation Book You’ll Ever Need” by Angelique Pinet and Peter Sander (Adams Media, 2013). http://www.adamsmediastore.com/only-negotiation-book-youll-ever-need-u3954
For more information about Joy A. Bartmon go to http://www.bartmonfamilylaw.com/about-joy-bartmon/
For more information about Mediation go to http://fladr.org/