There exists scientific research by Dr. Robert Cialdini and his team known as the ‘Consistency Principle of Persuasion’. Cialdini described this in his book Influence Science and Practice. Briefly and generally, Cialdini’s principle states that people live up to what they have publicly said they will do and what they have written down.
So, Cialdini encourages us to have others write down commitments as a way of having them live up to their promises. Best practices in Collaborative Process require that clients and their respective attorneys, in the presence of one another at the first Collaborative session, to make an explicit commitment to the process, to respectful communications and to problem solving by signing the Participation Agreement. This type of “public” (in the presence of the parties respective attorneys and the other party) signing is the written commitment to the process. So, through the lens of Cialdini’s Consistency Principle, signing the Participation Agreement (PA) can be said to be part of what will lead to successful outcomes. By signing the PA at the outset parties can be said to be making a public written statement which will help them live up to their commitment to problem solving and sustainable outcomes.
Also, having Collaborative clients at the outset of the process write down their goals can be said to help lead to successful outcomes. As opposed to litigation where, instead of writing down commitments to problem solving and positive outcomes, litigants (most often only through their advocates) write down (in the form of Court pleadings) information to support statutory elements to make the best case against their “opponent” – the person who they once made a written commitment to for life by signing a marriage license. Taking the parties goals and having them break them down and write them in the form of actionable items and “to-dos” lists can also help clients reconfirm their commitment to problem solving and durable outcomes. These type of writings, through the Consistency Principle lens, can also be said to help parties live up more fully to their promises.
Sandra Crawford, Law Crawford, P.C., Chicago, IL