Power Talking-the right message, to the intended audience, in the most effective manner.

When we talk to our clients in family law disputes we do so against the backdrop of the relevant legal and social science concepts. We use words and strategies that are familiar to us and we assume that our meaning will be easily understood, so that we can lead our clients down the path we have planned in a mutually agreed direction.


But this is not always the case, and the assumptions that we make are often not correct. We might have the impression that there is significant common understanding, we might think we have received the response we are anticipating, but subsequent comments or actions show clearly that our message has not been received and taken on board in the way intended. What we thought was common ground and meaning has in fact been fleeting or one sided!


Power talking is the ability to take control of a conversation in a way that leads clearly and confidently in the direction you intend. Some tips to achieve this include:


  • Listen actively, speak clearly, and take the time to verify what is being communicated;
  • Always maintain a positive, pleasant and co-operative outlook; encourage all ideas with positive rather than critical judgment;
  • Keep the focus as far as possible on the positive and the future- on future choices rather than past regrets;
  • Reframe a situation that is presented in terms of an immediate end point, as a journey through this difficult time to a brighter place;
  • Emphasis the benefit that others may gain from a positive future focused outcome;
  • Aim to replace self-limiting predictions with positive hope for the future. Rather than what has not been possible in the past, look at what might need to happen for this to be possible in the future;
  • Refuse to accept the helpless or victim perspective. Move a discussion about inability to change and futility to one of taking responsibility and obtaining supports necessary to make desired changes occur. Examine choices available for change. Look at internal and external forces at play. There may be little ability to alter external forces, but ultimate control is possible with the right supports over internal forces. It is their choice to act positively or negatively;
  • Projective positive expectations, assume that there is the capacity for change. Consider when this will occur not if it will happen, replace a negative self-fulfilling prophecy with positive expectations;
  • Explore creative solutions rather than problems, challenges rather than disabilities. Concentrate on building returns rather than spending, investing to produce benefits and advantages;
  • Suggest behavioural changes rather than labeling behaviour;
  • Describe setbacks as temporary rather than terminal, point out that adversity provides an opportunity for growth;
  • Acknowledge achievements of your client as well as others, give and encourage credit to be given directly where it is deserved ;
  • Avoid diminishing language, think of and describe failures as learning experiences;
  • Look for positive results from unexpected places, see the glass as half full with many new opportunities;
  • Facilitate the acceptance of responsibility for current circumstances so that clients can take control of necessary changes, taking control of their life, becoming part of the solution rather than looking to others for this;
  • Use candour, be honest and give frank feedback, say what you can do, and what you believe the legal situation to be, let them know that you value them as a client and respect their viewpoint-this will strengthen your working relationship, and ensure that they will want to continue this journey with you as their trusted advisor;
  • Recommend a course of action, and invite them to choose among options, ask them what sounds “fair” to them; instead of confronting them, work with them.


There are many great texts about improving the use of language. If you would like to explore some of these I read very interesting one recently called “Power Talking:The Language of Success” by George Walther. Others include “The Language of Success” by Alan Weiss and Kate Wilkinson, and Listen to me, Listen to you by AnneKotzman. If you know of another please let me know!

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