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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.

November Newsletter

Peacemaking in Italy:
The Law Collaborative and Mediators Beyond Borders Go Abroad
An article by Ron Supancic

Last month, I traveled to Italy as part of a group sponsored by Mediators Beyond Borders, to speak at several seminars held to affirm the ideas of Global Peacemaking.  The following is taken from one of my presentations:

“When I was a little boy growing up in Seattle, Washington, I studied the life of an extraordinary Italian man. Several days ago I had the privilege of kneeling and praying at the tomb of this man, Francis of Assisi. He lived during a time of dissonance, distress, and hostility, amid a crisis of violence and bloodshed. He had been a soldier. He was taken as a prisoner and spent a year in a dungeon. Through his suffering he came to the awareness that violence does not end violence. He came to the conviction that there had to be another way. He realized that he must give his life as the example of this new and different way. In so doing he founded the Franciscan Order based on poverty, charity, and good works.

We also live in a time of crisis, conflict, violence, and bloodshed. Innocent people are dying in unprecedented numbers in many places around the globe. Our leaders only fuel the flames with their failed efforts to force peace through war. It is again time for a new and different way.

Not long ago, Ken Cloke, a mediator from Santa Monica, watched paratroopers dropping into Bosnia with machine guns and grenade launchers.  He wondered what the outcome would be if they came bearing tools of peacemaking, rather than weapons of destruction.  If the paratroopers were facilitators of dialogue and mediators of conflict, carrying only the skills and technology of dispute resolution. What if their message elicited and encouraged disputants to stop, listen, and reflect in a mindful way that promoted understanding and invited participation? His musing was the birth of Mediators Beyond Borders. Still in its infancy, but engaged in eleven countries around the world, it is helping to build indigenous capacity with tools for dispute resolution wherever requested and invited.

My own journey is similar. A scorch-and-burn litigator for over thirty years, I knew my training in traditional methods of dispute resolution left wreckage and chaos in its wake. Mediation opened the door to consciousness and collaboration, and underscored the need for signed agreements to avoid litigation by both parties and counsel. First I used the services of a court mediator. Then I became a court mediator. Now I am a member of a Collaborative Firm that, first and foremost, promotes consciousness, awareness, discernment, and litigation avoidance whenever and wherever possible.

Having known Ken Cloke for several decades, and as impressed as I was with his intelligence and empathic peacemaking skills, I was immediately drawn to the vision and mission of MBB. Attending the Annual Congress, serving on Committees, and becoming familiar with the caliber and the talent of my professional colleagues among MBB members has confirmed my belief that this organization, by virtue of its values and the quality of its aspirational intentions, would only attract the best of the best.

If you only read one book about Mediation, it must be Conflict Revolution by Ken Cloke.  It paints a picture both breathtaking and inspirational of the possibility of peacemaking on a global basis. It deserves to be translated into all languages and shared with all people who seek to peacefully change the world. The information is essential to the present task we face together.

When I was a little boy growing up in Seattle, I read, ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.’ I still believe that. I believe you do as well. Welcome to the Revolution.”

For more information, visit TheLawCollaborative.com.

Please call us if you have any questions. We are here to serve you.

Best,
Ron Supancic and Robert Borsky
“Bringing Peace to the Legal Process”

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