Give the Benefit of the Doubt

open the doorHurt feelings happen. What distinguishes healthy relationships from dysfunctional ones is the way we respond to each other when our feelings are hurt.

If we confront and blame the other party under the assumption that they intended to cause us pain, they often become defensive because they feel deeply misunderstood. And it’s quite rare for two upset and defensive people to have a productive dialogue.

Instead we might broach the subject in this way: I believe that you did not intend to hurt or offend me, and I wanted to share my reaction when I heard you say that I am not a good team player. I felt upset and disappointed, because it’s important to me to make a valuable contribution to our process. I wondered if we could talk about what you are seeing and experiencing that led you to say that.

Here’s the thing — in the rare case where the person actually DID intend to disparage you, this response takes the wind right out of their sails and reveals you as … a team player! Taking the high road shows your true character, and allows the other party to gracefully step out of their petty moment while saving face. And that’s a win-win outcome.

Giving the benefit of the doubt opens doors. Assuming malicious intent closes them.

ps: If you are consistently assuming that people intend to hurt or harm you, and find it very difficult to give the benefit of the doubt, you might find that counseling can help you change that perception so you can inhabit a kinder world.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

Don’t Make This Mistake During Your Mediation Session

MP900443187During high conflict divorce or joint custody mediations, it can be tempting to point out how unreasonable, wrong, misguided or irrational the other parent is being.

The risk of doing so is two-fold:

One, the mediator (who in some cases may be the person who ends up making decisions about your parenting schedule if you enter arbitration) may perceive you as frantic, neurotic or hyper-critical, even if you aren’t usually any of those things in regular life.

And two, every minute you spend talking about how unreasonable the other parent is would be much better spent being spectacularly respectful and reasonable yourself. His/her unreasonableness will then reveal itself in contrast to your well-thought-out and respectfully communicated position. You won’t need to point it out.

So don’t waste precious time and energy trying to expose the other party’s flaws or issues – instead keep the spotlight on your own strengths, including compassion, generosity, acceptance/tolerance of differences, and grounded, centered communication skills.

And if you find yourself getting upset, aggressive, or defensive, ask for a bathroom break and use it to compose yourself. Call/text a friend, do some deep breathing, say a prayer — whatever brings you back to center and your heart.

Coming to the table as your best self is one of the most powerful and influential actions you can take during a mediation session.

Don’t Make This Mistake During Your Mediation Session2016-11-23T09:38:48-06:00

How to Give Feedback

Croissant SandwichHere’s how to communicate a piece of feedback about something personal, such as the off-color jokes your partner told at the office party, or the short skirt your daughter wants to wear to her new waitressing job, or the thank you note that your ten year old still has not written to his grandma.

First tell the person you have some brief feedback to share and ask if they’d be open to hearing it.

Then ask them when a good time would be for the two of you to talk in private. This part is really important — embarrassment definitely interferes with trust and open communication.

Serve up a feedback sandwich:

compliment
brief feedback in an I-message
invite them to share their response
acknowledge their perspective
compliment/good wishes

Here’s how it can sound:

I think it’s terrific that you got a job!
I’m concerned that you might receive some
uncomfortable attention from customers if
you wear that skirt to the restaurant.
What do you think about that?
Sounds like you want to wear it today
and see how it goes so you can make
an informed decision next time.
Thanks for listening, and I hope
your shift goes great today!

And of course feedback sandwiches should always be garnished with a big helping of respect for the other person’s right to do with it as they wish.

Hope this helps!

How to Give Feedback2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

Don’t Make This Mistake in a High Conflict Joint Custody Situation

MP900387517In high conflict joint custody situations, the less you need to negotiate with your ex, the better. So do your best to honor the parenting time schedule exactly as it was outlined in your written agreement.

If something comes up that requires you to be away from home during your parenting time, don’t try to negotiate a change in the parenting schedule. Instead ask a family member or friend to care for your child, or hire a beloved babysitter.

You can avoid a lot of stress and conflict by refraining from asking your ex to be flexible in order to accommodate your needs.

 

Don’t Make This Mistake in a High Conflict Joint Custody Situation2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

How to Resolve Conflicts with a Two Part Conversation

coupleinconflictWhen emotions flare, clear thinking evaporates. And nothing triggers emotion like conflict.

So to take the pressure off, allow yourselves to divide your problem-solving conversations into two phases: information-gathering and brainstorming.

During the information-gathering phase, your only job is to understand your partner’s perspective and concerns.

Since you know you won’t have to solve anything, it will be easier to listen carefully because you won’t be mentally rehearsing your rebuttal while your partner is talking. Instead of a clever, convincing comeback, you should reiterate your partner’s concerns, and ask him or her to correct your understanding if your synopsis is inaccurate. Then switch roles.

Stay with this discussion until you both feel heard and understood. Then take a break, ideally for at least a day, and try to do something fun together before you start phase two of your discussion.

Start the brainstorming phase with each of you giving a brief summary of the other person’s perspective and concerns as you understand them.

Then get out your computer, white board or pad of paper and start jotting down every idea you can think of that could address both your concerns. Go ahead and get silly here if you want – laughter fosters cooperation!

Finally, go back through your list and pull out an idea to experiment with. Agree to try it out for a fixed period of time, and schedule another meeting to evaluate how well it is working. If the first idea does not address both parties’ concerns to your satisfaction, try another idea until you find one that does.

How to Resolve Conflicts with a Two Part Conversation2016-11-23T09:38:50-06:00

How To Deliver Bad News

Businessman Thinking on Steps“Bad news” can be somewhat of a misnomer at times — often situations that appear negative on the surface reveal silver linings and eventually result in positive changes. But the fact remains that it’s not fun to be the bearer of news nobody wants to hear.

Here’s how to make this painful task easier:

1) Break the news in private. This protects the other person’s dignity and spares them from embarrassment.

2) Ignore #1 if you are dealing with a potentially volatile person. In this case, delivering bad news in public, preferably in a high-energy, crowded location like a coffee shop or hotel lobby, may ensure an extra measure of self-consciousness that might keep him or her from flying off the handle and shouting or reacting physically.

3) Get right to the point, but issue a heads-up first:  I’m sorry to say that I have some bad news to deliver today. 

4) Deliver the news succinctly. Don’t pretend it’s not bad news, and don’t point out the silver lining. Don’t prattle on and on. Don’t blame them or tell them they should have seen it coming. Say your piece as objectively as you can, then become quietly attentive and allow them to speak if they wish.

5) It’s okay to say you are sorry if you are. “I’m sorry” does not mean that whatever happened is your fault, it’s simply an expression of sympathy. Avoid “I understand” because it’s impossible for us to truly comprehend anyone else’s personal experience. Even if we went through the exact same situation, our individual reactions are unique.

5) Answer their questions concisely. Save detailed analysis and explanation for another conversation. People don’t tend to remember much of what they’ve heard while in shock.

6) Give them time and space to process the news privately. Don’t hit and run, however. Let them know you’ll connect with them again later.

7) Initiate contact again in a few hours or a few days. Make yourself available (but don’t be intrusive) in case they want to talk about it.

How To Deliver Bad News2016-11-23T09:38:50-06:00