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The Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum

I recently promised to share the Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum with blog readers, and I keep my word. I hope you find this extraordinary tool to be of help. It is a notion I was introduced to at a presentation on the new categories, revisions, and changes to the DSM 5 when it was first published in 2015. The authors recommend dropping labels and observing behavior instead. The idea is to connect consequences to choices by allowing people to know all of their choices and all of the consequences of each choice, they will see more objectively the result of their choices.

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Curious, controlled inquiry allows you to drill deep to determine the interests underneath the fears, concerns, and positions on the surface of the client’s emotions. Paraphrasing and re-framing are crucial strategic tools that need to be mastered and implemented. The skills in moving communication forward involve first establishing rapport. That’s done through a paraphrase. Second step is introduction of a second perspective that makes room for movement. These ideas can be explored in “Difficult Conversations” and “Beyond Winning” from The Harvard Program On Negotiation.

Empathy opens the door to assertiveness; mindfulness opens the door to empathy; self-awareness leads to recognition of transference and counter-transference. We navigate the emotional currents of dispute resolution through applying the Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum Scale to our analysis.

POSITIONAL

Lack of Insight
Blame/Projection
Anger/Vengefulness
Entitlement/Self-Absorption
Victimization
Passivity
Catastrophizing

OPEN

Self-Reflection & Insight
Ownership & Perspective
Forgiveness
Generosity
Volition
Empowerment
Hope

It isn’t always helpful to call him a “Jerk” and label her a “Borderline”. It is more useful to think of difficult clients as more flexible or more rigid. You almost never go wrong if you start with a paraphrase. The more rigid the reply, the more frequent the paraphrase. This allows the loosening of the rigid response and opens the door of possibility when the chance of success seems slim. Our job is persistence, determination, and belief in the power of the process. Never give up. Never give in. Stay positive. Be creative. Offer ideas, suggestions, options, and alternatives. They hold the solution to their problem. Help them find it.

Every high conflict case presents as full of sound and fury. Experienced peacemakers recognize rage as a secondary emotion that is an unconscious emotional overlap for the primary emotion of fear. To show fear would be to show weakness. That is unacceptable. Thus the rage. Beneath the rage, covered over by emotions, are the positions to which people become attached. This is the beginning of the journey. Underneath the positions are the interests that are the heart of the matter.

P.S. Our next Free Second Saturday Divorce Workshop is June 10th from 10AM to 12PM at our office in Woodland Hills. Call (818)348-6700 to RSVP or click here for more details.

7 Steps to Magical Conversation

Passage

A few weeks ago I posted about Magical Conversations and in that post I promised to share the tool I developed called 7 Steps to Magical Conversation. Here it is:

7 STEPS TO MAGICAL CONVERSATION

1: What is the centermost deepest part of your core? What is the one word that springs to mind, that is your essential core value?

2: Take a deep breath and breathe in your core value. Hold the value in your mind as you hold your breath in your chest for as long as is comfortable. Breathe out anything that gets in the way of that value, such as fear, anxiety, apprehension, etc.

REPEAT STEP TWO THREE TIMES.

3: Set your intention congruent with your core value. What is your intention? Is it a phone call? Is it a meeting? Is it an encounter? Is it a transaction? Remember you have control over your intention.

4: Stay conscious, stay focused, remain unshakeable. The world, events, circumstances, individuals, will attempt to distract and derail you, stay in control.

5: Slow down. Observe silence, listen deeply. Search for the interests behind the declarations, accusations, and statements you hear. Think before you speak, consider what you might say, what you could say, as distinguished from what you should say, in order to achieve the outcome congruent with your core value.

6: Inquire politely. Respond civilly, be courteous, and respectful. Do not accuse, threaten, argue, or object.

7: Express interest, concern, and appreciation. Do not try to fix the problem until requested to do so. Wait for an invitation. Simply allow the matter to conclude with the notion that you have heard completely everything the other is trying to say.

Magical Conversations


serene lake view

Your universe is no bigger than your vocabulary. Your vocabulary is the only limitation to your universe. Words are everything. Every time we open our mouth it is for good, or something else. What comes out of our mouth started in our brain and shaped us. We have no control over others, what they say, what they do. We can only control our own words and actions. We can only control what we say and what we do. That we can control, and it shapes us, and forms us as well.

You chose to be where you are today, you chose to read this post. This post is intended for like-minded individuals who gather on a regular basis to seek and pursue peace.

I talk a great deal about mediation as an alternative to litigation. That is because mediation is at the heart of creating peace, making peace, and building peace. By listening, ingesting, absorbing and ruminating on the words you read, and the words you speak, you will be changed, transformed, illuminated and enlightened. Each of us shares what he or she knows with the other. Each of us is the “Us” and the “Other”.

Here are a few ideas to share that have profoundly shaped me. You might have already heard some of them. Some of them may be new. If it is old, consider it a reminder. If it is new, pursue and explore so that you may expand and grow. That is the purpose of any of the time that we spend together. It is also important to invest time exploring the ideas of others on the same journey.

Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg is easily the most transformative book I have read in years. It teaches the 12 steps to Intimacy and Trust. I share it with you as an invitation to a new life practice in the days and weeks to come.

Consider the newly designed and promulgated Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum. It is a notion I was introduced to at a presentation on the new categories, revisions, and changes to the DSM 5 when it was first published in 2015. The authors recommend dropping labels and observing behavior instead. The idea is to connect consequences to choices by allowing people to know all of their choices and all of the consequences of each choice, they will see more objectively the result of their choices.

Out of this information and material I have designed the Seven Steps to Magical Dialogue, which I will be sharing here soon. I offer it for your consideration in addition to the Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum, which will also be available in the upcoming weeks. Let me know if these are at all helpful, if they assist you in any way, if you are able to use this information in your own professional application.

Bennifer 2.0: In the (Dog) Guest House

Newsletter_Header_Bennifer

After 10 years of marriage, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are calling it quits. Ben isn’t exactly moving into a dog house however; reportedly he’s moving into a guest house on their property.

Thankfully, Bennifer are part of the current movement dubbed “Conscious Uncoupling” which is less destructive and less expensive than old-fashioned litigation. Reportedly, they’re going to mediate or utilize the Collaborative Law Model wherein the attorneys are barred from going to court. They could literally save millions in unnecessary legal fees by avoiding court.

If Ben and Jen are able to keep their cool and stay in a consensual dispute resolution model, they will not be subject to a judge’s scrutiny of Ben’s new living arrangements which nicely illustrate one of the biggest changes to hit California Family Law in decades.

First some background: Almost everything a couple acquires from the date they’re married to their “Date of Separation” is community property. So if forced to divide that property in court, each party gets half.

On the other hand, everything a party acquires prior to marriage and after their “Date of Separation” is their separate property. So in a divorce you’re supposed to get half of the community property and all of your separate property.

Because the Date of Separation cuts off property sharing rights, it can be very important when parties have significantly different earnings or are separated for an extended period of time. Years of earnings you thought would not be shared might end up being shared based on what a judge determines to be the “Date of Separation.”

For many years now in California, if both Parties thought they were separated, and acted like they were separated, the court would generally find they were separated. If the parties couldn’t agree to the date they separated, they could present the court with evidence to prove their state of mind. This could include separating their finances, or telling friends and family they were separated, or moving out. But there was no consistency. Instead, judges would weigh evidence on a case-by-case basis.

There have been cases where a husband moved into the guest house but the judge found the couple were still married because the wife continued to do his laundry. In other cases, couples could continue to share a house for the kids or to save money, but the judge found other evidence that proved they were separated.

But the Appellate Court’s finding in July’s Marriage of Davis now requires that somebody move out in order to establish a Date of Separation. So in a case where a couple have moved into separate rooms even if they separated their finances and told people they were separated, the judge could determine they’re still together. The Appellate Court was not clear on whether or not moving into a guest house on the same property will suffice, but if Ben and Jennifer can avoid court and settle things between themselves and their attorneys, it won’t matter.

Couples who mediate or collaborate can agree to things no judge can order. And they can save tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

Thanks for reading,

Ty Supancic, Esquire
The Law Collaborative, APC
e: info@thelawcollaborative.com
t: 818-348-6700
f: 818-348-0961

Workplace Conflict Solutions

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On Thursday, July 9th, the Sovereign Health Group in Culver City hosted an introductory workshop to Workplace Conflict Solutions. This workshop has been developed over the past decade by the conflict professionals at the Law Collaborative. The assembled mental health professionals gathered enthusiastically to learn more about conflict resolution strategies, tactics, and techniques for conflict avoidance and dispute resolution through the application of imaginative and creative tools developed and designed for the specific needs of family oriented businesses.

The Law Collaborative primarily handles family law and divorce, and the tools we’ve developed in an effort to settle these sometimes high conflict cases are extremely effective. The trials and tribulations so familiar to family settings are no stranger to the TLC team. Communication errors are common. Misunderstanding seems to be a normal part of every day life. So what do we do? How do we manage the emotional meltdown in a way that lessens loss and maintains productivity? The purpose of the workshop is to teach those skills and provide those essential tools. What do you do when there is a meltdown? What do you do to prevent a meltdown? How do you handle conflict, combat, and competition in the work place?

These are very important questions that are discussed and answered in the 90 minute workshop I gave at Sovereign Health. Please contact me if you think this workshop would benefit your company. I’d be honored to present to your staff, co-workers, and colleagues.

Very truly yours,

Ronald Melin Supancic
Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Collaborative, APC
T: (888) 852-9961  F(888) 852-9962 

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for a Little “Me” Time

15-02-18 Newsletter_Header_Me_Time
My Legal Assistant and Paralegal, Courtney M. Howard, recently became a Certified Life Coach.  Seeing the pain and stress our firm’s clients go through on a daily basis, she felt it was important to pass on some tips for mindfulness and other coping skills that can help anyone not only get through the hard times, but to find peace and thrive.  In the article below, she explores the important practices of self-care and mindfulness.
– Ronald M. Supancic, CFLSIt is easy to get caught up in the stress of day-to-day life, especially if you are going through an emotional time such as a divorce, a child custody battle, or the loss of a loved one.  It is imperative to take time for yourself and practice self-care.  For some, that might mean doing fifteen minutes of yoga in the morning, cooking yourself a nice meal, reading a chapter of your favorite book before bed, or even just taking three minutes to listen to your favorite song.

Whether or not you have children, it is important to take time for yourself.  This is not selfish!  It is not overindulgence!  You cannot adequately take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself.  It is not sustainable, as you will end up unhealthy (mind and/or body), imbalanced, and resentful.

While you are at work or taking care of your kids, you might find yourself getting overwhelmed.  Mindfulness is a great tool to bring your awareness to the present, keep things in perspective, and refocus.  This short exercise can be used anywhere, including during that stressful meeting, at the playground, or while dealing with high conflict personalities.

S-T-O-P
Stop what you are doing;
Take a few deep breaths (focus on the oxygen going in and out of your body);
Observe what is going on (what are you doing, thinking, feeling, etc.); and
Proceed with your day (with a more mindful sense of awareness).

Though we all know the old adage, “This too shall pass,” that often doesn’t provide much comfort in the moment when we are upset, stressed, or spread too thin.  However, self-care, mindfulness, and similar coping skills will help you focus on the present, gain perspective, and release the negative energy that has been building so you can move forward to tackle the issue at hand.

 

Courtney M. Howard, Paralegal
The Law Collaborative, APC
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
T: 818-348-6700 F: 818-348-0961

The Blame Game

14-04-09 Newsletter The_Blame_Game

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘The Blame Game.’ It is very easy for most of us to play. We have been programmed to play it since childhood. “He did it!” “She did it first!” “It’s your fault!” Finger-pointing is so simple when we’ve been disappointed. If a situation has not gone our way, and we find ourselves feeling ‘wronged,’ we can usually find someone else to blame. However, blaming is generally not helpful, and may even be perceived as abusive. In fact, it is an attitude that will easily embitter any relationship. This is because any relief the Blamer may experience from taking a blaming position will usually be more than matched by the bitterness, anger and guilt that the ‘Blame-ee’ will feel.

Fortunately, there are alternative ways to communicate disappointment without accusations or ‘dumping,’ even when we have been legitimately wronged. If someone has caused or contributed to a difficult situation, the transgression must be discussed. Instead of accusing or blaming, try resolving. In other words, focus on a future preventative solution. “I understand that you did not purposely (drop the ball, blow the account, insult the client), so, if we find ourselves in this situation again, I’d like you to (fill in the blank).” If a colleague has messed up, frame your response in terms of, “should this happen again, here is an alternative way to handle it.”

It is okay if the other person feels badly because of what he or she did or did not do, but it is not okay to hurt or humiliate them with your words or attitude. If you use this new approach, your relationship will likely not deteriorate. The other person will probably breathe a sigh of relief, and thank you (silently) for not chewing him or her out, and most people will appreciate getting a second chance. Try it. Let me know how it goes. Let’s keep this conversation alive. We can all be more collaborative.

Your friend,

Ronald Melin Supancic
Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Collaborative, APC
T: (888) 852-9961  F(888) 852-9962 

The Raging Bull of Van Nuys

RMS_1989_Raging_Bull_72

I had an interesting nickname for the first 20 years of my law practice, and I’ll occasionally meet an attorney who may reference my original, aggressive style of litigation. The following should bring some clarity:

Years ago, I appeared on an initial Request for Orders in the Van Nuys Superior Court. A typical Request for Orders involves custody, visitation, interim child and spousal support, attorneys fees, and temporary restraining orders.

The attorney on behalf of the responding party was from Orange County, and introduced himself to me. He was cordial and polite. I invited him to go to the cafeteria to talk about an interim settlement. He agreed, and we asked the court to put the matter on second call. We went to the cafeteria, and, with the help of our clients, settled the entire case. We then returned to the Northwest Department to declare that we had completed the matter: in those few hours in the cafeteria we had worked out a Co-Parenting Plan, an equitable division of assets and liabilities, and permanent support orders to complete the case.

As we waited for the court to take the bench to hear the stipulation, the attorney remarked that he was very surprised. I asked why. He told me, “I’ve never appeared in Van Nuys before. I wanted to get a line on you and your reputation, so I called a friend of mine from law school. He told me you were called ‘the Raging Bull of Van Nuys.’ Imagine my surprise when you extended your hand and invited me to the cafeteria; even more so when we proceeded to settle the entire case.” I responded, “You’re reasonable, intelligent, and you didn’t demand anything to which your client was not entitled. You made a case for your client, and it was reasonable and fair. That’s the best we can ever hope for our clients.”

I’ve thought many times since about that dubious reputation for being a “Raging Bull.” I had certainly never intended to be a raging bull, but I was passionate, and vigorous in my advocacy on behalf of my client. I practiced “take no prisoners” litigation for the first 25 years of my career because, at the time, that’s what law schools taught. However, I was always aware of the damage and destruction caused by the traditional litigation approach, to the families, the clients, and especially their children. I was a child of divorce, so am very aware of the pain that children feel.

I served on the Executive Committee for the San Fernando Bar Association Family Law Committee. The cases in Superior Court were backlogged for up to two years at the time, so we put together a volunteer attorney pro tem program, in order to give relief to the courts. We planned to do small claims appeals, default judgments, and much of the administrative work that prevents judges from hearing trials in a timely manner.

Our committee approached the supervising judge in 1976, the Honorable Charlie Hughes, who listened patiently to our pitch for a volunteer attorney pro tem program. His response: “No. But I’ll tell you what we do need. We need you to create a volunteer mediation project.” Our reaction? “What’s mediation?” It was the first time any of us had heard the word used. (At that time I’d been practicing law for six years.) He explained the process, and we, in turn, created the project. Mediation proved to be so successful in that community that our program was copied in Santa Monica, where it proved equally successful. The supervising judge in the Central Department got wind of the success in Van Nuys and Santa Monica, and wanted to know more. Thus the program was extended to Central, and then to all of the 14 branch courts in L.A. County. That Volunteer Attorney Mediator Program is still in existence today.

I liked what I learned about mediation, because consensual, cooperative problem solving is a kinder, gentler way to solve disputes like divorce. I originally trained as a mediator in 1981, at a California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists conference in San Diego. In 1997, while attending an International Alliance for Holistic Lawyers conference in Santa Fe, I had the opportunity to meet lawyer Stu Webb. He told me about the work that he was doing in Minneapolis through the foundation of the Institute for Collaborative Law. I brought the message of Collaborative Law back to Los Angeles County and I, as well as my clients, have been reaping the benefits of consensual dispute resolution ever since.

Subsequently, I’ve attended many Advanced Professional Skills Programs, such as those held by the Pepperdine University Law School, Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution, as well as spending several summers training with the Harvard Insight Initiative Project. I believe that Mediation education will never be complete – there are always new skills to learn.

I respect and trust the collaborative approach, cooperative problem solving, and alternative dispute resolution, consensual dispute resolution, interest based bargaining, principal negotiation, and teaching lawyers all of the skills that have been developed through the Harvard Programs of Negotiation:

“Getting to Yes,” “Getting Past No,” and “Difficult Conversations.”

At The Law Collaborative, APC, we approach every case by first reaching out to adverse counsel, to invite him or her to sit down to talk solutions. Sadly, and too often, some lawyers are so caught up in their own personal agendas, that they use their client’s case to attempt to solve their own emotional strife. On those occasions, I may have to let the Bull out of his pen. We can still do it the hard way, but only when it’s in the clients’ best interests.

Thank you for reading,
Ron Supancic, CFLS
The Law Collaborative, APC
T: (818)348-6700
F: (818)348-0961

The C**P That Makes You Want To Stay Home From Work, Keeps You Up At Night, Makes Your Life Miserable

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Dear Friends,

This month, I’m addressing the c**p that makes you want to stay home from work, keeps you up at night, makes your life miserable: Conflict.

Let’s start out with the philosophy that conflict is normal. Conflict is good. Conflict opens the door to innovation, revelation, opportunity, understanding, and improved communications. That is, it can open those doors. But – we must each open our own door.

Recognizing that it’s our job to open our own door is the important first step in moving toward the opportunity to turn our relationships around. We don’t become Masters overnight. This endeavor requires time and patience, dedication, determination, and consistent follow-through.

Here is an Introduction to true Conflict Avoidance. And truth be told, it is not really about Conflict Avoidance.

The only people who avoid all conflict are in the cemetery. Living, breathing people who interact with other people experience conflict daily. Some even go out of their way to create conflict. We don’t have trouble finding it.

What do we do when we do? We all need help. We all had models of conflict engagement as little people. Some of us even had good models. Unfortunately, those positive models are in the minority.

What models did you observe in your home of origin?
How did that influence your reaction to conflict?
How do you deal with conflict now?
Has there been growth?
What changes still remain to be made?

Here is an exercise to explore with someone you trust. Take 5 minutes in some quiet place with a pad & pencil in hand. Write brief answers to the 5 questions raised in the paragraph above. Not more than a line or two. Take another 5 minutes to discuss your reply with your partner.

Be brief. Invite your partner to go next. Same protocol. After you’ve both shared, open a discussion about what you have learned. Write down your insights. How you will use them in the future to improve your approach to conflict management?

I hope you find this email helpful and that it puts you in the mood to converse. We only truly learn through discussion and, ultimately, fearless self examination.

Your friend,
Ron Supancic
The Law Collaborative, APC
21051 Warner Center Lane, Suite 100
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
T: (818) 348-6700
F: (818) 348-0961

The Five Pillars of Marital Success

Relationship experts tell us that there are five pillars which can support a healthy marriage, but not all marriages have all five pillars supporting them. Four or five strong pillars can support a relationship that will last the age.  But if a relationship has only one or two strong pillars and the others are weak, the marriage might not survive the ravages of time. During the honeymoon period when the weather is fair, the marriage stands tall — but when stormy weather comes, when the winds start blowing and there’s been some erosion, the whole structure might come tumbling down.

Before people get married they should assess their pillars. Couples already married can shore up their pillars. People can make an effort to stay in shape and preserve the first pillar, they can write budgets and meet with financial advisors to shore up the second. They can agree to compromise on going out Saturday night. They can read books together. They can learn to accept the other’s spiritual journey. Knowing that the pillars exist is the first step, assessing and working on them comes next and takes time.