Avoid the Sting of the Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s Remorse (noun) — a feeling of regret (a wish that you had not done something) after making a choice or decision. ~ Cambridge Dictionary [1]
We have all experienced buyer’s remorse at one time or another. Maybe your remorse was over a flashy car you bought, then wondered if you could really afford it or a house you purchased, then immediately questioned the location you chose.
Buyer’s remorse extends beyond the act of making a material purchase. A myriad of intangible decisions, many with long-term consequences, can also leave us plagued with regret. Having to place our trust in someone else to help make these tough decisions, such as in the relationship between attorney and client, can sometimes fan the flames of doubt and remorse.
You’ve likely been on the receiving end of this type of buyer’s remorse—when a client called you shortly after settling their case to express regret or disappointment. They may have said something along the lines of, “My friend (neighbor, sister, mother, etc.) said I could have gotten more if I had been more persistent,” or “I compromised too much,” or “I would have done better in court!”
So how do you help improve your client’s satisfaction at the conclusion of a settlement? According to a report in Psychology Today, “…if our choices are informed by trustworthy data, we increase the chances of good outcomes.” [2] This illustrates the need to inform and prepare your clients from the beginning and throughout the process.
Here are tips to keep in mind:
  • Prioritize, educate and inform. At the very first meeting with your client, get them thinking about what is most important to them and help them prioritize. As there is more than one way to settle a divorce, informing your client of the various scenarios from the start will likely help them decide on the direction they prefer to pursue. Set up each scenario and educate them with realistic expectations of what they may get. For example, if your client keeps the marital house or moves, what would each of those scenarios look like to them.
  • Evaluate expenses and don’t settle for less. Have your client refer to their bank account and credit card statements going back a number of years. Then ask them to decide what the minimum amount they are willing to settle for would be, without short-changing or over-reaching. Point out that in addition to monthly living expenses, they should consider annual expenses such as property taxes and car maintenance, unplanned expenses such as replacing a roof or paying out an insurance deductible, and lifestyle upgrade expenses such as buying a new dining room set.
  • Avoid the ‘pressure cooker’ technique. Encourage your client to take the time they need to consider all the offers and options. If something they had not considered was presented in mediation, it’s a good idea to adjourn and let them think about the new scenario. Sometimes it just takes a few days of contemplation to be ready to return to the negotiation table and agree to a full settlement.
It’s imperative to keep your client’s expectations grounded every step of the way. The more informed they are about their new reality and the more they understand different potential outcomes, the more prepared your client will be entering into a successfully mediated agreement made with confidence rather than uncertainty and regret.
My 18 years of litigation experience and six years of exclusive divorce mediation make me uniquely qualified to help you and your clients reach a settlement tailored to meet their specific situation.
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