Saturday, August 27, 2016

Why Flexible Thinking is Key to Problem-Solving

Flexible thinkers have a demonstrated ability to see problems from various points of view, and they don't see conflict as a failure, but rather a challenge that requires some creativity in order to find a solution.  If you are a flexible thinker, you don't see things as black or white.  It's not your way or the highway.  You are open to possibilities.  You listen with genuine interest.  You collaborate well with others and enjoy brainstorming.  You share ideas readily, and appreciate feedback.  You draw others into your world with diverse backgrounds and expertise.  And as you pull all of these things together, you see magic happen.  Truly, if you have experienced this you know what I mean.

In mediation, one neutral professional meets with both parties to guide them through the process of identifying the issues that need to be addressed and analyzing various options for an amicable resolution.  This only works well if both parties are comfortable advocating for themselves, there is no history of domestic violence and there are not any major power imbalances.

Within the Collaborative Divorce process, each party has his/her own attorney that will guide the  4-way meetings, where the attorneys work together as a team while assisting their clients to articulate their goals and concerns, discuss the issues that need to be addressed, and develop options for a global solution that promote the best interest of the entire family.  If the parties agree to involve additional professionals, such as a divorce coach, child specialist or financial neutral, they will jointly select experts trained in this process.    

When couples opt for mediation or a Collaborative Divorce, the driving factor may not actually be a desire to avoid litigation in order to preserve goodwill.  Often times, these couples are still stinging from the raw feelings of immense failure and defeat, but they are not so blinded by their emotions that they fail to recognize the great benefits of 1) spending less in legal fees and/or 2) avoiding the disclosure of embarrassing details in an open courtroom.  Ultimately, the reasons a couple may choose an Alternate Dispute Resolution process can vary greatly, but as long as everyone is committed to cooperating with the exchange of relevant information to address the important legal issues and openly discussing options for reaching an agreement outside of court, the main challenge will be for the professionals assisting them to help them get past their positions and teach them to articulate their needs, wants and concerns in an honest and respectful manner as everyone brainstorms various options (without passing judgment) until they reach a final solution that works for everyone.

Here are some basic ground rules in any ADR process:
1. Take turns speaking-- listen with empathy and express yourself respectfully;
2. Stick to "I" statements, don't speak for the other person;
3. Don't pass judgment or try to place blame;
4. Try not to guess someone's motive, instead just ask "why?
5. Focus on the problems at hand,  and not the past.

The beauty of mediation and/or the Collaborative Process is that the parties set the pace for the meetings, and trained professionals are constantly checking in with everyone to see if everyone is calm or if someone is upset and needs to take a break.  The professionals use techniques to ensure no one is overwhelmed by the emotions, which can seriously hinder meaningful discussions to address the legal issues. 

It is ironic that many of the techniques applied in ADR are also used by marriage counselors in couples counseling.  Just imagine if more people would actually avail themselves of these services when things first become difficult instead of waiting until it is too late?  Unfortunately, many wait years to seek help, by which point too much damage has been done to the marriage.  But it is never too late to learn to apply flexible thinking in order to be respectful and solution-focused, especially for couples that will need to co-parent their children long after their divorce is finalized.

Regina A. DeMeo, Esq. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Do You Think Nothing Ventured Means Nothing Lost?

There are some people that are so afraid of getting hurt that they will not put themselves out there.  They don't believe that relationships ever last and therefore remain very guarded.  Some might even refer to them as "prickly" like a porcupine.  Of course, we all know that those porcupine needles are a defensive mechanism, and what is really going on is that deep down inside there is a very vulnerable child with unhealed wounds.

Despite what some might think, those of us willing to expose our vulnerable sides are not stupid, naive or overly optimistic.  It is not that we have never been hurt, or that we always see the glass as half full while others see it as half empty.  As one of my closest friends aptly pointed out the other day, "the whole point is that the glass is refillable."

The difference between those that close themselves off and those that remain open to letting others in is that those in the latter category have managed to process their loss.  What you need to remember is the following: 

1. You need to grieve the disappointment of a relationship that you thought had potential

2. It is not about fault.  Rather it's important to recognize that each person has a different capacity to love, often with varying expectations of what they want in life and a partner; and

3. Don’t feel stupid because things didn’t work out.  Instead be proud that you were willing to put yourself out there and give it a shot. 

Those that think nothing ventured means nothing lost have completely missed the mark.  There are so many wonderful experiences that they will miss out on, but their myopic view will never let them appreciate this fact, or they might resign themselves to believing that they are not worthy of being loved.  But we are all worthy of love, and as long as we realize that nothing ventured means nothing gained we will continue to find the necessary courage to experience life to its fullest.