4 Things to Avoid When Making a Legal Decision

by Jacqui Brauman

4 Things to Avoid When Making a Legal Decision

by Jacqui Brauman

by Jacqui Brauman

Many legal decisions can have a big impact on your life. Clearly, making a poor decision can have long lasting effects on your life. So if you want to make sure that decision has a better impact on your life, and not a negative impact on your life, you should know what to avoid when making that legal decision.

Unfortunately, our human nature makes us behave in these ways fairly regularly. So not only is it important to be aware and avoid these attitudes when making a legal decision, but it’s also important for having good relationships.

Taking things personally

The first reaction to avoid when negotiating an outcome or considering offers, is to not take things personally.

We can make up so many stories in our own heads about what the offer means, and what the other person thinks about us … but most of the time, they are only thinking about themselves. 

A typical example would be a business woman trying to recover an unpaid invoice. Your customer or client is not paying your invoice because of their own problems, not because it’s a personal attack on you. If they didn’t value your work, then that is usually due to their own failure to communicate their expectations or their lack of integrity for others’ time.

Be very careful to trust your initial reaction to a statement or an offer. Your initial reaction is likely to be emotional and create a story about it.

I often recommend that someone takes time to consider a statement or an offer before responding. Because sleeping on it, or at least giving your emotions and brain time to settle down will give you far more clarity and reasoning power.

Having an attitude of ‘getting what’s mine’

The second behaviour to avoid is to set yourself into a fixed position. This usually involves clinging onto a dollar amount, or a percentage, in your head that you must get at all costs. Then you justify the logic behind what you want to yourself, and you are just blindly pursuing getting what you think are your rights.

The law is rarely that black and white that you should have a fixed position. It is far better to either consider a range, or to have in mind a number of flexible and creative options to resolving a dispute or settling a negotiation.

This kind of thinking is typical when someone separates. They don’t think about what their future needs actually are, and rarely do people get financial advice about what their future needs are. But they decide that they should get 65% of the total value of the joint asset … with no real mathematical formula or reasoning behind that percentage.

An attitude of ‘getting what’s mine’ can lead to far more extensive legal fees, and overall dissatisfaction with the process, so don’t do it!

Making a decision from fear

This is probably the most important thing to avoid when making a legal decision – making the decision from fear.

Our brains don’t operate properly when we’re in a fearful and stressed state. One of the reasons is that the brain is not getting enough oxygen. When you’re fearful, your breath becomes shallow and your brain is starved. So the brain’s ability to process information shrinks.

The second thing that happens to your brain when we’re in a fearful state is that your hormones are triggered. The brain releases a whole lot of survival hormones, which trigger the ‘fight/flight/freeze’ response in your body. Once these hormones are released, it can take at least 20 minutes for your brain to recover, and often longer for many people.

When you’re fearful, you may need to take time to calm your body and your brain back down so your brain can assess the situation rationally. Sometimes that means that you need to move your body to expend the hormones, by going for a walk. 

Unfortunately, legal decisions are often highly stressful, so it is hard to avoid the fear that is generated – the fear for our future, the fear of the unknown, the fear of being criticised, the fear of making the wrong decision. 

You may also need to investigate other methods to use on your body and brain to calm yourself, like deep breathing, using essential oils, using the emotional freedom technique (tapping), or sometimes a quicker method is to use the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique.

Trying to inflict harm

The other game that humans often play is ‘who’s the bigger victim’? We try to get support and sympathy from those around us by increasing the drama or how hard-done-by we are. But part of that process also puts us into a defensive attitude, like a cornered mother bear.

When we are a cornered victim, we look to defend our position and attack anyone who approaches. We want to hurt the other person we’re negotiating with, whether that will cause us a good result or not. 

If we feel like the victim, we also feel like we can’t have a ‘win’ in the situation, so we just try to make the negotiation a ‘lose-lose’ situation by seeing how deeply we can hurt the other person. 

Some of the most harmful legal battles involve people just seeing how deeply they can cut the other person. This will not give you a good outcome, and after it’s all over, you will feel like you’ve lost your integrity.

For more support with learning to negotiate like a pro, join the Legally Wise Women community.

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