Conceptual road sign on change and paradigms (against a dramatic sky background)

Top Tip to Transform Difficult Conversations

Two never-married parents in a child custody mediation despise one another.

They chose child custody mediation to push themselves to improve their communication and co-parenting.

They are practicing some classic communication strategies. Reflecting back what they are hearing to make sure they understand one another. Listening without interrupting. Even trying to validate feelings.

Amazing strategies.

The problem is they are incredibly defensive, getting caught in a vortex of claims and counter-claims.

It took me some time to figure out the reason for the continued defensiveness despite reflecting, validating and listening.

But figure it out I did!

And the culprit in this child custody mediation was…

Can you identify the culprit in these sample comments?

I understand you were sick. I really do. We all get sick. But you’re not only late when you’re sick…let’s be honest.

I appreciate that you’re stressed out by our arguing. But how do you think Johnny feels having to listen to you scream at me on the phone?

Both statements led to raised voices, blood pressure, and tension.

The culprit is a tiny thing. Three itsy-bitsy letters.


Yes, BUT…

Yes, but nothing!

Using BUT as your conjunction when giving someone feedback rarely works.

  • BUT places the focus on the negative
  • BUT conveys that the issue of concern is the most important part of what is said.
  • BUT is a buzzword. It raises antennae. It draws attention. It does this because we know that it is setting the stage for a negative message.
  • BUT often leads the speaker to a direct and confrontational style of communicating.

BUT what else am I supposed to say?

The solution is also a tiny thing. Three itsy-bitsy letters.


Sounds too good to be true, right?

Let’s take our examples from the child custody mediation and first imagine what kid of reaction the father receives using BUT.

Father: I appreciate that you’re stressed out by our arguing. But how do you think Johnny feels having to listen to you scream at me on the phone?

Mother: How dare you bring Johnny in to this! You didn’t hear anything I had to say, did you?

Now let’s replace BUT with AND see where it leads us.

Father: I appreciate that you’re stressed out by our arguing. And how do you think Johnny feels having to listen to you scream at me on the phone?

Sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it?

Worry not! The beauty of changing the conjunction is that it will lead the speaker to alter the rest of their sentence.

Here’s a more realistic replacement of the conjunction.

Father: I appreciate that you’re stressed out by our arguing. And I’m also worried that it’s also stressing out Johnny.

Mother: I’m worried that it’s stressing him out too. Of course it’s stressing him out!

BUT sounds like a rebuttal.

AND sounds like a continuation of the discussion.

Using AND forces the speaker to phrase ideas in a more open manner. It leads to “I statements” more than “You statements” (more on this in a future post!). And it generates far less defensiveness in the listener.

Sounds so easy but…I mean and…

I can tell you from personal experience that it is difficult to replace BUT with AND. Using BUT is ingrained in the way most people communicate. It is a habit, and habits can be hard to break.

A couple of suggestions:

  • As an exercise, think through what you want to say using BUT. Then replace it with AND see how it affects what you say.
  • Use “AND, AND, AND” as your mantra during difficult conversations until it becomes natural or automatic.
  • Practice during inconsequential conversations. If you catch yourself using BUT, correct yourself. Make a mental note.

AND finally…how do you think changing conjunctions might help you?

Scroll down to comment!

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How to Deal With Teenage Drama | Mediation | Teen Counseling Natick, MA

Understatement of the year: teenagers are tough to parent.

Tell me something you don’t know, right?

Some conventional ways parents deal with their intransigent teens involve arguing, punishing, ignoring, avoiding, and when push comes to shove, therapy.

I recently had success with an unconventional approach with two “heated” teenagers who almost fought on the bus.

Teen Counseling Natick: A Different Way to Deal with Teenager Conflicts

Kate, a 17-year-old girl, was upset because she believed that Larry, a 15 year old boy was talking badly about her with other kids. She had heard that he called her a b****, made sexual innuendos, talked trash about her family, and to boot, had thrown an apple at her six-year old brother.

Larry was infuriated after hearing that she called his mother “crazy” and made fun of him with other kids. He was scared her talk would lead to losing respect in the neighborhood.

I recommended they participate in mediation even though both were referred to me for school-based teen counseling,

So, I brought these two students who were at each other’s throat in to mediation…raising more than a few eyebrows from skeptical colleagues.

It began with both kids sitting back with their arms folded and facial expressions tense. He spoke so softly he could barely be heard and she was curt.

The walls were up, the tension palpable, and thus began the mediation.

Did Sparks Fly? Did it Come to Blows?

Forty minutes later they were leaning forward, looking relaxed. They were asking each other questions. An occasional smile cracked through. He was speaking with a normal volume. She with compassion and humor.

They mended fences, made an agreement about how they would talk about any future concerns, and even scripted how to respond to friend who was tangentially involved.

So what happened?

Mediation Happened to These Teenage Problems!


  • After agreeing to keep the discussion confidential they immediately began to share information more freely
  • I reflected and reframed what Kate was saying so Larry had a better understanding of her perspective. This led him to take responsibility for something that he did not previously realize was hurtful to her.
  • After Larry took responsibility, she feltheard and understood and began to consider his point of view and interpretation of events.
  • They moved beyond the issues of the past and figured out how to co-exist in the present and the future.

In other words, with the help of a neutral facilitator and a safe and confidential environment, two teens who were so caught up in their high school teenage drama they were ready to go to blows experienced the power of effective communication, practiced listening skills, and engaged in problem solving.

Teen Counseling or Family Counseling May Be Helpful But…

…with teen counseling it is unlikely the conflict with Larry and Kate would have resolved as quickly or efficiently.

Conflicts involving teenagers abound. In school. On the streets.

And especially at home with their parents and siblings.

Too often the teenager is identified as a “problem child,” referred to counseling. Now don’t get me wrong — there is a time and place for teen therapy. I am a licensed social worker, after all.

But sometimes the acting-out teen is a product of the conflict — if the conflict resolves the acting-out may disappear. Without someone to mediate, the dispute will likely continue to simmer, and occasionally boil over.

If you live or work with a teenager please consider mediating conflict between teens or between teens and adults. Call on a friend. A parent-teen mediator. A relative. A school counselor.

Mediating the problem now can save a lot of heartache later. Unless, of course, you really like living with teenage drama!

Please REPLY below with your experiences with mediating teenage problems?

The students’ names and ages were changed to protect confidentiality.

Teen Counseling Natick Information: Click Here

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Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

Feeling Ignored? MA Child Support Mediation Shows Why You Get Bewildered When Solutions to Family Problems Are Ignored…And What To Do About It!

Ever offer a solution to a problem that you know will help the other person?

A brilliant, selfless, creative, and irrefutable solution?

Like this one I heard during a MA child support mediation:

“I really won’t care if you reduce the child support.”

How many parents paying child support would LOVE to be told that by their co-parent?

If you’re thinking all of them you would be thinking what I was thinking during a recent parenting mediation in Massachusetts.

The father was struggling financially. Well-educated and talented he had been down on his luck.

For a year.

He was used to making six figures and only brought in $35,000 this last year. He was re-directing all his income from his recent contracting gig to her and was leaving enough for himself only to pay bills and eat. He even turned off cable.

He was behind in child support payments by thousands of dollars.

And he was petrified the judge would lock him up the next time they were in court.

It was with this context the wife suggested what seemed like the perfect solution.

He should file for a reduction, she suggested. She cared less about the amount of support. She just wanted reliable support.

Mediating a Dream MA Child Support Proposal

He ignored the suggestion.

Then he gave a circular explanation for why lowering support would not help him if he came in to money in a few months (which was a possibility).

Of course it would help, explained his co-parent. Even if the amount was increased later he would still pay less in the interim.

Still, he danced around the issue.

I finally interjected and said, “you told us that you’re scared you might get arrested, that despite your best efforts you are having trouble finding a better job, and that you can’t pay your arrears. She is encouraging you to file for a reduction. Can you help us understand why you don’t seem interested in her proposal?”

He looked right at me as his eyes welled up.

“Ben, it keeps me up at night that I can’t pay my child support. That I can’t provide for my child. That I can’t contribute to his basic needs like clothing, food and activities. It kills me.”

“I’m not lowering my child support.”

You’re Not?

Proud. Dutiful. Responsible. These are the values driving his reaction.

Her suggestion made sense on the surface. But it missed the mark in one important way. It had absolutely nothing to do with what was important to him. It was a solution based exclusively on her desire for predictable payments.

Who would have guessed?

Ninety-nine out of a 100 times the parent would jump on the chance to lower payments. This was that 1 out of a 100.

Steps to Improve Family Problem Solving

It can be infuriating when your spouse, parent or child outright rejects what seems to you a logical and obvious solution to an important problem.

You try to convince the other why they should listen to you. They argue back.

And nothing gets worked out. Except that the conflict has gotten a whole lot worse.

If you find yourself offering a well-intended and logical suggestion that is rejected there are but a few possible explanations:

1. You didn’t explain it well (unlikely if you’ve already tried more than once)

2. Your spouse, child or parent is being stubborn and unreasonable (unlikely if the problem is also burdening them)

3. Drugs or alcohol are involved (hopefully not — but if so this is NOT the time to try having a rational conversation)

4. Something else is going on

When Something Else is Going On…

1. Take pause

2. Consider that there might be something else going on

3. Check in with the person by letting them know that you understand they don’t like your idea, and that you want to know what about it doesn’t work for them (without sarcasm)

4. If that doesn’t work, drop your suggestion. Wait for a later time when the tensions have lowered. And then go back to step #3 and try to figure out what else is going on.

Curious, Are You?

Curious how it ended with my MA child support mediation clients?

They decided to request a 30 day continuance to buy the father more time to figure out his finances (and avoid jail-time for the moment). He outlined how much she should expect to receive each week based on his current job. They decided to work on the parenting schedule so they could report progress to the court. And they scheduled another mediation session for a few weeks out to explore other alternatives.

A perfect solution? No.

A viable temporary solution? Yes.

Why? Because it was relevant to what was important to both of them.

These folks detest one another. If they can do it, so can you.

What is your experience when your solutions to problems get shot down? Other illustrations like this MA child support mediation? Comment below!

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3D rendering of a GPS navigation system

One Simple Way to Improve Marital Problems, Family Conflict, & Communication in Relationships

Ever get really impatient waiting for an answer to a question?

I know a lot of people like this (you know, like me). Unfortunately, this impatience causes problems.

Let’s take Jake, a student with whom I work. One of his teachers had a frustrating experience with him. The teacher asked him a question. Jake looked at him and said…nothing.

The teacher checked in with me about the student, commenting, “there’s not much up there. That kid just stares at you like you have two heads or something.”

There are innumerable reasons I found this disturbing. What bothered me most was that he was wrong.

Ever Think If Your Partner Would Just Give You a Second You Would Have Less Marital Problems?

Now, I will admit that he does have this blank look on his face while he’s thinking.

I’m sure you’ve seen that look on your wife, husband, parent, or child at some point.

For me, that look is like waiting for a GPS system to figure out directions after a wrong turn, monotonously repeating recalculating, recalculating, recalculating.

Yet Jake, like any good GPS unit, arrives at a sound answer after the extended period of recalculating. In fact, he has a lot of things to say. It just takes him a little extra time to process information and figure out what he wants to say, and how he wants to say it.

There is something about waiting for a response from someone that is exceptionally hard for many people.

There may be a range of reasons but one that I see time and again is this: an inability to tolerate silence.

What the Teacher Missed Due to His Impatience With Jake

The educator was asking Jake if he could stay after for extra help and prepare for an upcoming test.

Jake was having a bad day. He had gotten in a fight with his mother in the morning. He received a detention an hour earlier for tardiness. He did not have a ride home. If he had stayed for the detention he would have had to walk over an hour — in the rain.

Jake was trying to process all of this information — the insecurity he felt about needing extra academic help, the conflict with his mother, and his transportation issues.

How do I know this?

Because after I spoke with the teacher, I checked in with him. I asked him how he was doing.

And I waited.

But I HATE It!

Silence, that is.

If you truly want to understand someone use a strategy that teachers are taught to use in the classroom. Give “wait time.”

If the teacher waits 5-10 seconds someone will eventually raise their hand and answer (the student group can’t tolerate silence either!).

It is too bad the teacher did not apply this technique during his private chat with Jake. Just imagine what the teacher may have learned!

More importantly, imagine what you are missing by not waiting for an answer when you are arguing with your spouse or irritable with your teenager.

Wait time is an under-rated element of effective communication. Wait time gives people time to process information, react emotionally, and figure out how to articulate thoughts and feelings. It can be a powerful tool to help marital problems.

I have written about how helpful “being curious” can be to effective communication. The reality is that curiosity only helps if you give people the time they need to properly respond to what you are asking of them.

Allow people — like your spouse, parent or child — to finish recalculating, recalculating, recalculating…and you may be amazed at what you can learn.

What other strategies would you recommend for waiting patiently for someone to respond to you?

keyboard with a blue Translate button

Need Marriage Help? Does Your Partner Ever Sound Like They Speak A Foreign Language? How To Handle Conflict Using Mediation Techniques

When you are arguing with someone do you ever feel like the other person is speaking a foreign language? That they don’t make any sense?

When this happens to me it is like listening to french over twenty years after studying it in high school — I recognize a few words but miss the larger meaning!

When this happens to you I bet you give the other person a blank perplexed look, feeling confused and frustrated.

And then you start arguing or angrily walk away, right?

Help Wanted: A Translator Is Needed For Marriage Help

I am sure you won’t be surprised that I see this dynamic among mediation clients all the time.

A client once told me that her friend questioned the time she was putting in to her divorce mediation. She wanted to know if it was worth the travel, the money, and the time. My client answered with an emphatic, YES!

Asked why, she explained that it was because she felt the mediator was her translator – without me none of her thoughts, feelings or ideas would be heard or understood by her husband.

So What Does This Have To Do With Me???


This is not a sales pitch for mediation.

It is a sales pitch for thinking differently when faced with a frustrating conversation.

In my experience, when someone sounds like they are speaking a foreign language it is not because what they are saying is inherently wrong or bad. It is the WAY they are saying it that is completely ineffective.

Let’s take my mediation couple as an example.

They would come in full of anger and indignation over an issue that took place earlier in the week. I would meet with one and hear their story. I would meet with the other and hear their story. And here’s what was uncanny.

It was the same story! Just told and interpreted in very different ways.

This particular case required many private sessions. When I would report back to one of them about progress on the problem du jour, they would look at me in surprise, and have a hard time believing that agreements had been forged.

What if you could get this kind of marriage help on your own without the help of a mediator?

So Here’s the Trick Using Mediation Techniques

Here are two essential tools of the mediation trade that can help you become your own translator.

1. Mediators reflect back what their client is saying.

In other words, they make sure that they truly understand what the person is saying before moving on and responding.

Teachers call this checking for understanding. Counselors call it reflective listening.

Call it what you want.

But don’t respond until you really feel like you understand what the other person is saying.

2. Mediators seek to clarify information.

Rather than reacting to what someone is saying, especially if it seems confusing, illogical or frustrating, follow step #1 and validate, and then ask more questions to gain clarification.

This step is like being a detective — you are drilling for information so you can be confident that you understand what is being said.

3. If you are still confused, rinse and repeat.

Often, you can figure it out on your own with time and effort, and more than a pinch of patience. But it can be done.

It’s hard to resolve conflict when you don’t have a clue what the other person is saying.

Figuring out how to translate is the first step.

In what other ways have you dealt with someone who is confusing and perplexing? Please share your ideas and reactions in the comments section!

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Gift wrapped in paper on the wooden background

Relationship Issues Stressing You Out? 3 Tips to Improve Marriage Problems Without a Marriage Counselor

“Why do I NEED to consider her point of view after all the marriage problems we’ve had, and the way she’s treated me?”

A divorce mediation client angrily asked this of me after I made a comment suggesting the possibility that he might need to consider his wife’s perspective.

I was trying to suggest that it might be helpful to understand what she was saying by looking at the situation through her eyes. After all, stepping in to someone else’s shoes is a common approach to improving communication in relationships. Well, the word “need” really set him off!

In hindsight it was clearly a poor word choice by me.

After a moment’s reflection I told him that I was wrong to use the word “need” and that in fact he did not “need” to do anything that he did not want to do. This calmed him down.

To his surprise I followed up by asking him what the harm would be in considering her point of view.

Now it was his turn to take a moment to reflect. To his credit he tried to consider her perspective.

Your Laziness Might Be Creating Your Marriage Problems…and Creating Business for Your Local Marriage Counselor!

I learned an important lesson from this exchange.

I had developed a very comfortable rapport with this client (we had met several times already). My comfort led to a lazy statement that made him defensive.

Similarly, couples get comfortable with one another. Over time, their internal censor diminishes and they sometimes talk before thinking. Their message may be rough around the edges, their partner bristles, and the stressful relationship issues rear their ugly heads.

Don’t we get lazy in the way we communicate all the time in our relationships at home?

Want to Stay Out of the Marriage Counselor’s Office? Package the Message Properly and Your Marriage Problems and Relationship Issues WILL Improve

My client was not adverse to considering an alternative viewpoint – even if it was his wife’s – but he was surely not going to do it because he was told to do so. When he did not feel forced or directed, he found that being able to step in to her shoes for a moment helped him work through the current impasse.

Ultimately, how we go about saying something is often more important than what it is we have to say. It is all about the packaging of the message!

Lazy communication is like crumpled gift-wrapping — it sends the wrong message.

Three Strategies For Improving Your Communication Packaging

1. Tell your partner what you think and feel, NOT what they should think and feel. “I” statements are far more effective than “you” statements.

2. Think about what you want to say before you say it. Just because you are talking to someone you love does not mean they don’t deserve the same sensitivity you would show an employer or member of the clergy! They do.

3. If you are angry or frustrated — heated in any way — wait. Wait until you are calm. Wait until you have had time to think it through.

I have found that the way I frame messages in my work as a mediator, and in my life as a husband, son, and father makes or breaks a difficult conversation.

What additional tips on how to package messages productively can you share with other readers? What other communication strategies can help improve marriage problems?

A close up shot of a happy jack-o-lantern sitting on a rail of a deck during the day

Parenting Tips for How to Help Your Kids Resolve Conflict

It’s Halloween time.

Two brothers are upset because one of the two pumpkins had to be thrown out. Brothers did what brothers do: argue. They both wanted the remaining pumpkin to be their pumpkin.

Their mother tried her best to encourage them to share, to reprimand them, and even threatened to take the pumpkin away from both of them.

No luck.

She was at her wits end. The kids arguing would not stop.

Parenting Tips and Tricks

Their father was brought up to speed later that day. Taking a different approach to his kids arguing, he waited for a calm moment to sit the boys down and asked them why the pumpkin was so important to each of them.

After some encouragement and assurance the older one explained that he wanted to carve the pumpkin by himself. He had spent time thinking about the carving and in preparation had even drawn it out on paper. It was going to be so cool!

The younger one, sniffling, explained that he wanted to bake the pumpkin seeds like his teacher told him about. They were going to be so good!

Their father listened intently.

And then he said:

“So, you want to carve the pumpkin. And you want the seeds so you can bake them. I wonder if there is a way for each of you to get what you want with the same pumpkin? What do you think?”

Later that night, the older son carved the pumpkin. As he gutted the pumpkin he carefully placed the seeds in to a bowl. His younger brother worked with his mother to clean, salt and bake them.

Parent as Mediator: Teaching Kids How to Resolve Conflict

In mediation, the pumpkin is an example of a position a client may bring in to the session. The carving and baking are the interests that the father helped his kids figure out. This father was a great mediator!

He asked some questions, listened, and helped the kids brainstorm solutions that met both of their needs. This is exactly what any effective mediator will do to help resolve family conflict.

Focusing on the pumpkin alone would never have resulted in a win-win solution.

In what ways do you focus too much on the “pumpkins” in your life?

Comment below to share your take-away from this story!

Woman meditating

Jedi Training to Develop Conflict Resolution Strategies

So, I am one of those cheesy people that draws meaning from the original classic sci-fi Star Wars trilogy. I know it is mostly over-simplified messages packaged with light sabers, cool characters, mystical forces, and huge spaceships. But what can I tell you? I love it.

Why am I telling you this? To set the stage for one of my favorite movie lines. A line that I think has profound relevance to most conflicts in relationships that I see time and time again in mediation.

Star Wars & Conflict Resolution Strategies?

Remember in Return of the Jedi when Luke confronted Obi-Won for lying to him about his father’s true identity? Luke was furious – even betrayed – by Obi-Won’s omission.  Obi-Won did not get defensive. He did not make excuses. He simply, and wisely, told him, Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

Wow! The truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. Isn’t that so true? Especially when it comes to the difficulties we have resolving conflict?

In other words, the storylines we play in our heads shape our interpretation of events and experiences. In a recent post I shared a story of a wife who made false assumptions about her husband due to her point of view. The truth she clung to made resolving conflict with her soon-to-be ex very difficult.

Obi-Won is implying that if Luke had opened his eyes to view things from alternative perspectives – or perhaps embrace the force more fully – he may have figured out the truth about his father earlier.

Jedi Tricks Are Great Conflict Resolution Strategies

Resolving relationship conflicts are always easier when multiple points of view are taken in to consideration. It can be hard for sure (after all, Luke struggled and he was Jedi in training!), but some strategies can be helpful:

  • Clear your mind and step outside of yourself to reflect on the situation as a spectator (click here to read a post about how to do this)
  • Remind yourself to keep an open mind
  • Remind yourself that you don’t know everything
  • Listen to what other people have to say before jumping to conclusions
  • Remain patient and take time to think things through
  • Take deep breathes

What other Jedi mind tricks have you used to keep an open mind to alternative points of view?

The word Assumptions on a tablet with other items at a table

Co-Parenting After Divorce When You Hate Your Ex But Love Your Kids

A few weeks ago a divorce mediation client was venting frustration in a private session about certain aspects of child support and co-parenting after divorce. She was convinced that her husband would be irresponsible with the money and spend more of it on himself than the kids. To prove her point she pointed out that he had a new iPhone, just a month after getting an Android phone.

I can remember the vitriol in her tone when she declared his guilt by phone association!

I asked her about the possibility that he got the phone for an important reason? That perhaps, his employer had given it to him? That it was a gift from someone? That he returned the previous phone for an even exchange?


She was sure that it represented his impulsive ways and his failure to put the kids first. She was becoming increasingly convinced that co-parenting after divorce with him was going to be a disaster.

I was curious. When I saw the husband next I casually observed that he had a new phone and found out how he came to have it.

Where Did That Phone Come From Anyway?

It turns out that the phone was indeed given to him by his employer at no cost to him.

The wife had been so dismissive of this possibility because she jumped to conclusions about his intentions. Simply, she did not give him the benefit of the doubt.

I knew that the wife and the husband were both good people with nothing but the best intentions for their children. Due to the hurt and pain caused over the years of their marriage they were blinded to this fact and assumed false intentions of one another. And as a result there was no trust to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Co-Parenting After Divorce With HIM?

From my perspective there was great opportunity to build trust with this duo, at least as it related to the children.

The next time I met with the wife privately I filled her in. She had one of those I don’t know what to say and feel kind of foolish looks on her face.

The iPhone led to a wonderful discussion. She reflected on the possibility of assuming that the hurt from their marriage would lead him to behave in a manipulative and deceptive way with issues related to co-parenting and the children. She realized that there may be opportunity to build trust as a co-parenting partner even though there was no hope of rebuilding trust as a marriage partner.

What Steve Jobs and Co-Parenting After Divorce Have to Do With One Another

I love when something symbolic occurs in a mediation that can illustrate a point more effectively than I ever could.

Ever since this exchange I would pull out my iPhone whenever the wife was quick to react to her husband’s decision-making. I would take out my phone, place it on the table, point, and ask her to remember the iPhone story. She would pause, reflect, and begin to consider interpretations of her husband’s decisions that did not always involve devious intentions and evil plots.

As a result, she is beginning to build trust and give him the benefit of the doubt. She does not always agree with him, but she is beginning to accept that like her she wants what is best for their kids.

Do you think Steve Jobs predicted that the phone would help divorcees improve their co-parenting? I wonder if there’s an app for that?

What parts of your relationship do you need the iPhone reminder? What false assumptions are you making?

Comment below and share your experience with “iPhone moments.”

theater interior, view of balcony seating

Stuck in an Argument? Check Out the Balcony View. A Massachusetts Divorce Mediation Tip

Ever get so frustrated in a disagreement because you just know that you are right? That your point of view seems so crystal clear?

Of course, you have. I certainly have!

It feels good to stick to your guns. Doing so may even occasionally work in your favor. Most of the time however the tension will remain or get worse. The conflict will become more and more entrenched as the disagreement either escalates or goes underground. Resentment will build.

The View From the Balcony

I learned an important lesson in a leadership program. My teacher, John D’Auria, taught that an effective leader takes in the balcony view. With distance, he argued, a leader can dispassionately view, evaluate and appreciate all elements of an issue.

Take My Own Advice? A Massachusetts Divorce Mediation Professional?

Some time later I was in an argument with someone and becoming more and more frustrated. I was not happy!

Did I take my own sage mediator advice? Did I immediately take the high road?

Nope. I festered. I complained to my wife. I plotted my rebuttal. I was going down a road someone who preaches conflict resolution and provides divorce mediation in Massachusetts should avoid.

Oh Yeah…

That balcony thing.

I thankfully remembered John’s words. I forced myself to step back, climb the steps to the balcony, and look down at what was transpiring.

It opened my eyes.

I gained a better understanding of the conflict, the other person’s perspective, and the negative implications of staying the course. I still had my view on the situation — and my strong feelings about it — but was now able to take a different approach and have more respect for the other person’s point of view.

As a result, we were eventually able to talk about the issue and find some common ground.

During some of my Massachusetts mediation sessions I have introduced the concept of taking the balcony view. It has helped divorce and parent-teen clients in the same way it helped me!

When you are angry or frustrated and feeling stuck take a walk  — or the elevator — up to the balcony and look down. Check out the view. Watch what is happening as if in a theater.

What do you see?