Twitter Facebook Myspace

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.

Non-Communication Can Cost You

This is a risk of “traditional” divorce that doesn’t come up often. Traditional divorce doesn’t teach you to communicate with your ex spouse, but rather to have an adversarial relationship, where non-communication becomes the norm. If you think that’s fine, think about the following situation, involving two parents, two sets of lawyers, and one wise old judge.

The custodial parent moves and enrolls their child in a new school, but fails to communicate the details with the other parent, who comes to believe that the child would be walking home along dangerous, busy streets and coming home to an empty house. That parent files a temporary restraining order to prohibit the enrollment. The truth is that the custodial parent had in fact taken all concerns into account, and the child was at no risk. The non-custodial parent based their fears on hearsay, and the restraining order had no merit – so, after reviewing the evidence and the custodial agreement, the judge threw it out.

But, and this is a big one, he didn’t grant attorney’s fees to the custodial parent. Why not? The restraining order had no merit, after all. The judge decided that court was a poor substitute for a simple conversation. In effect, he punished the custodial parent, who was acting within their rights, for not pro-actively communicating with the other parent. Mediation or collaborative divorce can help avoid expensive and wasteful litigation not just at the time of the divorce, but years down the road.

On October 18th, The Law Collaborative is offering Tips, Tricks & Strategies for Divorce, a seminar that will provide tools for moving a stuck case forward, how to communicate effectively with a former spouse, tricks for negotiating even when negotiation seems impossible, and more. The workshop is $25 in advance or $35 at the door. Licensed attorneys who attend will earn 1 MCLE credit. Anyone contemplating or going through a divorce is invited to attend.

Register online at www.thelawcollaborative.com or call us toll free at (888) 852-9961.

Spinning Record

photo by joshfassbind.com via PhotoRee


YourTango.com recently posted a great article by Dr. Margaret Paul called “Do You Have The Same Fight Over and Over?” about why couples can sometimes resolve conflict easily and why other times resolving conflict seems completely impossible. From the article:

As long as avoiding pain is more important to you than being loving to yourself and your partner, you will be closed and protected and the conflict cannot reach a mutually satisfying resolution.

Dr. Paul says, “If you are stuck in resolving conflicts, let go of the issues and look at your intent. I assure you that when both of you are open to learning about yourselves and each other, and want to support your own and your partner’s highest good, you will be able to easily resolve your conflicts.”

Read the article HERE.

Winning Is A Losing Battle

photo by timsamoff via PhotoRee

Is your relationship riddled with disagreements, a constant need to defeat your spouse, or just old-fashioned competition? An article written by Jeffrey Rubin, Ph.D., cites a need to “win” as the number one cause for divorce and loss of intimacy.

Love is not about victory for one, defeat for another, but the triumph of the union. The alternative to winning is really hearing where your partner is coming from and what she is upset about. Striving to understand doesn’t mean you agree with your partner or let go of what you value–only that you take his or her feelings seriously.

This reminds me of something Joseph Campbell wrote in An Open Life, “Marriage is an ordeal.  It means yielding time and again.  That’s why it’s a sacrament.  You give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship, and when you are giving, you are not giving to the other person, you are giving to the relationship.  And if you realize that you are in the relationship just as the other person is, then it becomes life-building; a life fostering and enriching experience, not an impoverishment, because you are giving to somebody else.  This is the challenge of a marriage.  What a beautiful thing is a life together; is growing personalities.  Each helping the other to flower, rather than just moving into the standard archetype.  It’s a wonderful moment when people can make the decision to be quite astonishing and unexpected, rather than to become cookie-mold products.  Failure to recognize that is the main reason for the high divorce rate that we experience today.”

To read the rest of Jeffery Rubin’s article, click here. To purchase a copy of Joseph Campbell’s book, click here.

Secrets of Power Negotiating

From the latest LACBA Negotiation Tips Newsletter:

Whenever others confront us with a viewpoint we totally oppose, we easily start arguing about the veracity of that position. What is the problem with this approach, or more to the point, this reaction? It leads to an argument. When we start pushing others, they push back as if by instinct. The more we argue with others, the more they feel forced into proving they are right.

So how do we overcome this natural tendency to try to prove we are right? Let’s consider a playbook that enables us to disagree without being confrontational and that give us time to think. A master negotiator, author, and trainer, Roger Dawson* has come up with a basic formula: “feel, felt, found.”

Take a phrase we often hear in legal negotiations and mediations: “That is a ridiculous and insulting offer.” Armed with Dawson’s “feel, felt, found” formula, you can respond as follows:

1. FEEL: “Please help me understand why you feel that way.” Or “I understand how you would feel that way.”

2. FELT: “I have been in your position and have often felt that way too.”

3. FOUND: “And, what I have found is that taking a step back to listen to what the other side has to say about why this is so insulting, often opens the door to other possibilities that might satisfy your interests.”

The bottom line: instead of arguing, get into the habit of agreeing with them and then turning it around to your favor.

*Secrets of Power Negotiating, Roger Dawson, The Career Press, Inc 2001

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

In their book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin Putnam, 2000), authors Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen tell us how to engage in conversations in our professional or personal lives that make us uncomfortable. Tough, honest conversations are critical for managers, whether they need to change the group culture, manage conflict within a team, give a negative performance evaluation, disagree with others in a group, or offer an apology.

The authors of Difficult Conversations give the following advice: To set the stage for a productive discussion, open a difficult conversation with the Third Story. The Third Story is the story an impartial observer, such as a mediator, would tell; it’s a version of events both sides can agree on. “The key is learning to describe the gap—or difference—between your story and the other person’s story. Whatever else you may think and feel, you can at least agree that you and the other person see things differently,” Stone, Patton, and Heen write.

Suppose two regional sales reps share responsibility for sending weekly updates to their manager. Brad always submits them on time, but Frank often turns them in late. Saying, “Frank, you’ve turned in the sales reports late again” would only put Frank on the defensive. Instead, Brad opens the conversation this way: “Frank, you and I place a different value on deadlines. I want to explain why meeting them is important to me, and then I’d like to hear your take on them.”

Brad learns that Frank, when faced with the choice of possibly making a sale or compiling the report, thinks he should focus on the sale. With this insight, Brad proposes another way to share responsibilities: Brad will complete the report when it’s Frank’s turn to do so, as long as Frank gives Brad two hours’ notice and a share in any commission Frank earns as a result of being able to continue pursuing a lead.

Would you like a copy of this excellent book? Click here.

Difficult Conversations

Photo by Dopey LaRue on Flickr

Article from Peace Talks Mediation Services May Newsletter

Difficult Conversations

Sooner or later, you’ll need to have a difficult conversation. Whether it’s “I turned my back for a minute and now we’re in the emergency room” or “this relationship isn’t working for me anymore” or even “I feel like I can’t talk to you because all you do is shut me down,” it’s going to happen.

Here are some tips for making your next difficult conversation as smooth as possible.

1. Plan ahead: What is your purpose for having the conversation? What do you hope to accomplish? What would be an ideal outcome? How can you word your opening sentences so that they are supportive, and not critical or condescending? Write out your goals on a piece of paper if you’ll need a prompt.

2. Don’t assume: What assumptions are you making about the other person’s intentions? Although you may feel intimidated, ignored, disrespected, or worse, are you sure they meant it that way? It’s easy to misinterpret what someone says, particularly when it’s via e-mail or voice mail.

3. Watch for triggers: Is the situation pushing your buttons? If you step back for a moment, are you more emotional than the situation warrants? Are you having a reaction that has more to do with your personal history than with the actual situation? You may still need to have the conversation, but you’ll go into it acknowledging that some of the heightened emotional state has to do with you.

4. Check your attitude: Your attitude influences the outcome. If you think the conversation will go poorly, it probably will. If you believe that the conversation, even though it’s difficult, will result in some good, then it probably will. Adjust your attitude for maximum effectiveness.

5. Put yourself in their place: Think about the other person. What might they be thinking about this situation? Are they even aware of the problem? If so, how do you think they perceive it? What will be their main concerns? What solution do you think they would suggest? Use some empathy to see the topic from a different perspective.

6. Look for commonalities: Is the situation you’re addressing something that may also be troubling the other person? Are there any common concerns? Could there be? Sometimes a difficult problem has a wider impact than just you, even though no one else may have brought it up yet because they dread having this difficult conversation.

7. Own your part: How have you contributed to the problem? It’s easy to figure out how the other person contributed. But what was your role in what happened? Are you ready to take responsibility for your part, even if you feel the other person is mostly to blame?

© 2010 Diana Mercer and Katie Jane Wennechuk. Excerpted from Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys for Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee, December 2010). Contact: diana1159@aol.com

Reduce Your Legal Fees

The dissolution of a marriage often comes at a time when a family is going through a financial as well as emotional crisis. Sometimes the emotional crisis can make the financial one worse by increasing the attorney’s fees incurred and costs expended. For example, if a spouse is vindictive or just plain upset, he or she can refuse to negotiate in good faith, or act in such a way as to provoke numerous court appearances or otherwise delay the proceedings. When this happens it is usually beyond our control, and we have to cope the best we can though the mechanisms provided by the court. Frankly, it can be extremely expensive and frustrating.

However, you can help to keep your fees and costs to the minimum for your case by following these simple rules:

1. Remember that talking to me on the phone is expensive. My time and skill in the law are all that I have with which to make a living, and I must charge for the time I spend on the telephone just as I charge for research, document drafting, and court appearances. Therefore, you can save yourself a great deal of money by not always asking to speak directly with me. As a general rule, discuss your needs first with my paralegal, my law clerk, or my accounts manager, or my front desk administrator. If legal advice or intervention is needed immediately, they are trained to recognize it and will bring it to my attention, as soon as possible. Furthermore, if I am in court or working on a research project, or otherwise unavailable at the time, a detailed message through my staff will get my attention a lot faster than simply asking me to call you back. Better yet, my assistant can often handle the problem right then and there. If you wish information on a court date, the status of service or filing of papers, or other similar information, they can help you as well as I can and at much less expense to you. My account manager can answer all of your billing questions, again at less expense to you. Finally, if you merely wish to leave some information such as an address, telephone number or some figures that I have requested, please leave the message with my staff or with the answering service if they are available.

2. Remember that I am trained as an attorney, not a counselor. Certainly, unless I understand the nature of your relationship with your spouse, I cannot represent you as well as I might. For that reason, I will spend some time with you exploring this interaction, especially toward the beginning of the case. From what you tell me, I may be able to point out some of the “games” that are being played and how to avoid being one of the players. A dissolution or other family law matter can be one of the most stressful times of a person’s life, and it is to your best legal interest that you cope with the stresses. If you are not thinking clearly, you may be inclined to make decisions on whether or how to settle the case that will be very expensive in the long run. However, at some particular point, I will have learned what I need to help you legally, and I will be giving you the best advice I can on how to cope with the legal and practical aspects of the case. From that point on, my listening to your non-legal experiences with your spouse, your spouse’s faults and other matters will usually appear on your monthly statement. Generally, this will be the case after the initial consultation or first court hearing.

3. Participate as effectively as you can in your own case. Your time is likely to be less expensive to you than mine, and you will certainly be more familiar with many of the details. Therefore you will probably wish to obtain and organize as much of the information and documents for your case as possible. For example, in a case involving child or spousal support, the required income and expense forms are long and complex and require extensive background information and documentation. Experience shows that if you use your best efforts to complete these forms and provide the information and documents before the appointment at which we will discuss them, you will save up to two hours at that appointment and will be able to most clearly and favorably present your evidence to the court. If my office has to do all the work involved in preparing these forms and organizing the information, your case will become more costly. If there is a delay in preparing and filing such documents, the other side could apply to the court for sanctions in the form of a money judgment against you, use the delay in answering as an excuse to postpone court dates, request that the court prevent you from having your evidence submitted, or invoke other penalties.

4. Organize your questions and concerns so that they may all be discussed at one time rather than on separate occasions. It is generally much less expensive to have one long discussion rather than several shorter ones.

5. Think about settling the case instead of going to trial. Under the best circumstances, a trial’s outcome is uncertain. It is very unusual for husband and wife to recall things in the same way, especially the circumstances and understandings involved in acquiring assets or incurring debts. Because of such factual disputes and because there are numerous unsettled areas in the law, neither I nor anyone else can accurately estimate the odds of any particular outcome, nor can any single result in the case be guaranteed, if trial is necessary. For these reasons, trial is generally not in a client’s best interest if it can be avoided, and it is almost always best to settle the case if we can obtain a reasonably fair agreement. Therefore, as soon as we have enough information to evaluate the issues, I will usually seek your authority to negotiate a settlement.

Despite this, my usual office practice is to file a request for a trial date fairly early in the proceedings. This has the effect of putting an externally imposed time limit on negotiations. Even if the case may not actually be tried on the first assigned trial date (usually because the court schedule is overcrowded), there is an incentive to negotiate and achieve the best settlement for you. We present the position that we are prepared to try the case, unless we receive an acceptable offer. Just because we have filed a request for trial date, you do not need to assume that your case will go to trial or give up on trying to think of constructive settlement possibilities.

6. Particularly if your spouse has an attorney, please do not try to settle any major issues directly with your spouse unless you have discussed your proposals with me first. You have hired me because of my knowledge of the technicalities and practicalities of California Family Law, and if you try to negotiate major issues yourself you may unwittingly waive substantial rights, fail to provide for certain common contingencies, or otherwise damage your case. On the other hand, after discussion I frequently advise clients to attempt to settle who is to receive items of furniture, furnishings, appliances, and other personal and household items directly with your spouses. “Trying the Tupperware” issue usually results in spending more money to divide these items than it costs to replace them.

7. Please call the office if your address or telephone number changes, so that we can reach you. Sometimes it is important that I talk to you within a few hours, and it is most helpful for us to have both a home and a “daytime” number.

8. Please call the office if there are any important changes in the facts or your circumstances. These changes can drastically affect the case, the best strategic approach to it, and our position. I may not be immediately available to talk to you, but I will do my best to return all calls that require a response or have them returned by my staff. If you need to speak to me, I will be happy to accommodate you as soon as possible. I only want you to remember the financial realities; my time is billed at a much higher rate rather than that of my staff. Just as I give attention to your case when I am working on it, I have other cases that also require full attention when I am working on it, I have other cases which also require full attention when I am working on them.

9. In all cases, tell us the truth and provide complete and accurate documents, even if you fell that it is embarrassing or may not be information you want to share. Having to work without full and accurate information almost always leads to performing work over and over again that should have been finished the first time and unpredictable, to say the least, hearing in court.

I don’t want you to have the feeling of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”. On the contrary, there will be times, perhaps many, when you will need to speak to me. I urge you to do so when necessary. Please bear in mind that, in the most literal sense, my time is money and if you always insist on speaking to me you will probably be wasting your money. Again, my assistants and my accounts manager are trained to recognize when your case requires my immediate attention and to assist you at other times. Most legal matters move slowly. Unless a threat of physical violence or other irreversible and immediate harm is present, there are few situations that require immediate action (or in which immediate action is even possible).

Similarly, while you can leave messages with my answering service evenings and weekends, and while I can usually be reached in a real emergency, there is almost no action I can take until normal business hours that you cannot take yourself. You will have copies of existing court orders. With very few exceptions, new or different orders cannot be obtained after court hours. Please try to be patient, organized, and bear in mind which services can be provided best by myself, by my staff, or by someone else.

TLC, Bringing peace to the legal process.

February Newsletter

Dear Friends of the Law Collaborative,

We wish you the best in all of your relationships. In order to facilitate our wish for you, this month we have included a “tool” to help with communication in your relationships, professional and personal.

As February is often referred to as the month of love, we would like to share an article written by Dr. Mark S. Goulston, Author of “Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.”

The single best predictor of how children do post-divorce is the amount of conflict between the parents. This is true whether you’re in an intact (living together) family, a separated family, or a divorced family.

You have a unique opportunity to influence the outcome, because it takes two people to fight. You can’t fight alone. And while choosing not to engage in an argument or bad behavior is difficult, it is possible. It may take both practice and commitment on your part to make it happen.

Parents in frequent contact who are supportive of each other have well adjusted children. That’s pretty compelling, isn’t it?

10 Strategies for Preventing and Dealing With Conflict:

1. It takes two to argue. Simply refuse to participate.

2. A certain amount of tension is to be expected when you’re getting divorced. Expect difficult discussions. They don’t have to result in a fight.

3. Try to understand your spouse’s viewpoint. Once you understand what he or she wants, you can begin to see how you might be able to help resolve the situation.

4. Evaluate your own goals. Are you entrenched in a position that may have another solution? If you want your children on Wednesday night for dinner, will Thursday do? If your goal is financial security, is one particular asset the key, or could another be substituted?

5. Use “I” statements. Begin every sentence with “I”, rather than “you”. Example: “I feel upset when I hear you say that I’m a bad father because I have to work so many hours,” instead of “You are always accusing me of being a bad father.”

6. After you explain how you feel, listen to your spouse’s side of the story. Repeat what you heard, to make sure for yourself (and to convey to your spouse) that you understand how he or she views the situation.

7. Plan a time to have a discussion with your spouse about a specific issue that bothers you. Limit the discussion.

8. Choose your timing. The same comment may evoke a different response if, 1) neither of you is tired, 2) neither of you is already angry, and, 3) the children or others are not in earshot.

9. Be prepared to say “I’m sorry” sometimes. “I was wrong” can go a long way.

10. Above all, let annoyances go and choose your battles wisely. They are too important to squander. Research points to the benefits of shared parenting, defined as shared decision making, as well as shared time between two homes. Children need emotional sustenance and comfort from both parents to get their needs met. Your co-parenting responsibilities get easier over time as your children grow and their day-to-day caretaking needs lessen. One way to ensure your adult children have a good relationship with you and your former spouse is to set you own needs aside from time to time and take the high road whenever possible. Remember forgiveness is the permission you give yourself to get over an offense & move into health, healing & a happy life. It is not approval. It is not acceptance. It is a gift to you from you. Forgive.

Visit Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes for additional information. Please call us if you have any questions. We are here to serve you.

Follow us on www.Twitter.com/TLC_Law

Add us on www.Facebook.com/TheLawCollaborative

Ron Supancic and Robert Borsky

* A free phone consultation will provide you with general legal information. Legal information is not the same as legal advice – the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, for specific advice on your situation, I will be pleased to provide legal advice after you accept and sign my retainer agreement.

For more information, please visit our website at: www.ronslaw.com or click here: www.divorcemagazine.com/CA/pro/supancic.shtml

Please forward a link for this newsletter to anyone you know who might benefit from this information.

Rules to live by?

Ron found this on Mark Goulston‘s website, Usable Insight.   It’s interesting to think about what our lives would be like if we lived by these rules.

What would be the effect on relationships if the mutually agreed upon* ground rules were:

1. Before you say something negative or critical to a person, you must say something positive and praising.

2. And before you speak those negative or critical words to a person, you must ask the other person if it would be okay to do so.

I can understand why it would be natural to be more adamantly negative or critical than enthusiastically positive and praising towards another, because negativity comes from a sense of something missing or being wrong within you that compels you to do something about it. Alternatively positivity comes from a sense of fullness and completeness. And just like you’re not too motivated to do anything after a filling, satisfying meal you may not feel compelled to do anything positive towards people. That may explain it, but it doesn’t excuse it.

You might say to me, “That’s hopelessly naive and impossible.” Maybe so, but then what would make it possible?

What would happen if you proposed this to your partner and to your children and agreed to practice it one day at a time, before you slip into the “addiction” that most of us have of being much too quick to be negative than positive? And if they immediately responded, “No way” or “That’s just stupid” what would happen if you said that you were going to commit yourself to doing it anyway?

* BEWARE! If someone won’t agree with these ground rules, you may be dealing with a high-maintenance (easy to upset, difficult to please) person.

TLC, Bringing peace to the legal process