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Family Tree Mediation Blog - Mediating All Family Disputes - Divorce to Estate
Friday, 21 December 2012 19:29

A Winter Solstice Poem for Families

On the Family Tree Mediation facebook page, we have a weekly tradition in tandem with our Pinterest page.  We call it Our Weekly Celebration of the Family Tree.  Each week we choose an inspiring photo of a beautiful tree and reflect on what the photo might say about families.   Last week’s celebration of the family tree was called “The Tree of Lights” and evoked the following reflection: “Each member in the family glows with a beautiful vibration he or she has been singing since before any of us had an agenda or experience. The holidays are a time, amid the busyness, to get quiet enough to enjoy each other's nature singing, to bathe in the gift of the glow each one gives off, that cannot be improved upon or corrected.”  (See http://www.facebook.com/FamilyTreeMediation and http://pinterest.com/fmlytrmediation/) The tree is such a powerful force and symbol, with its skyward direction, offer of shelter, witness of time,…
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 20:41

The Identity Conversation

When we experience difficult conflicts, part of the reason they are difficult is that we are not just confronting someone else; we are also confronting ourselves.  One common form of conflict involves us receiving feedback that is painful to us.  We find ourselves objecting to whatever it is, unwilling to accept delivery of the message being sent to us, in conflict with it. What we are so often unable to understand is that there is a reason for our strong reaction to such feedback: the feedback challenges a story we tell ourselves about ourselves, about the way we show up as a human being in the world.  We all need confirmation that we are competent, good and lovable people.  This sense of ourselves is our identity. Over time, we develop identity stories that explain why and to what extent we are competent, good and loveable beings.  But at times, we are…
Friday, 15 March 2013 18:55

The Feelings Conversation, Part 1

We all know what it’s like to NOT want to share our feelings.  We know the vulnerability, imbalance, unpredictability, and wild nature the feelings by themselves often embody.  We know their subjectivity, and the ease with which they may be ridiculed and judged.  We know how challenging they make maintaining strategic control when other important things are also at stake.  And we know that in many cultural contexts, feelings are also taboo as either unprofessional, effeminate , or simply bad taste.  The cards are basically stacked against us putting our feelings on the table. But it turns out, keeping our feelings out of a difficult conversation is actually more risky, not less, than putting them in it. Consider the following points: ~ Unexpressed feelings can leak into the conversation through one’s affect, tone of voice, body language, facial expression, withdrawal, distance, sarcasm, impatience, defensiveness, and unpredictability. ~ Unexpressed feelings can…
Friday, 01 November 2013 02:54

The Feelings Conversation, Part 2

Last time, I talked about all the ways sharing feelings feels unsafe and why it’s actually more risky to keep feelings out of a difficult conversation than it is to put them in it.  I also explained that this “feelings layer” of the conversation was only part of the anatomy of any difficult conversation, there also being a “what happened layer” and an “identity layer.”  Finally, I noted that the directors of the Harvard Negotiation Project whose book, Difficult Conversation, presents this anatomy, recommend a three-step process for including feelings in any difficult conversation in a manner that is both wise and self-possessed.  These steps are: 1.)  Sort out your feelings for yourself; 2.)  Negotiate with your feelings; and 3.)  Share your feelings without judgment or attribution. Last time, I also offered my thoughts on how to sort out your feelings for yourself in a meaningful way.  Today, I’d like…
Thursday, 07 November 2013 22:28

The What Happened Conversation, Part 1

They are all too common, those difficult conversations we would do almost anything to avoid.  And though we do try our best to avoid them, that never seems to work.  Sooner or later, we get cornered by a situation grown intolerable for at least one of the parties in the mix.  If no one musters up the courage to dive into the situation, someone eventually “breaks” and the vectors of the conflict fly across the room from every angle.  Chaos ensues.  The perils of avoiding a difficult conversation are many and complex and they merit separate attention.  Today, however, I want to think about why we are tempted to embrace avoidance in the first place. I would like to venture the hypothesis that the temptation to embrace avoidance arises not just because conversations about painful conflicts are hard.  Even if such conflicts are hard, if they were reliably successful in…
Thursday, 21 November 2013 00:21

The What Happened Conversation, Part 2

In “The What Happened Conversation, Part 1,” I suggested that our lack of experience skillfully navigating difficult conversations all too often leads us to conclude that we are damned if we do (pardon my French), and damned if we don’t.  For this reason we are prone to adopt a strategy of avoidance, choosing to let the perceived doom of a looming conflict come and get us, rather than to actively assist that doom along by seeking it out and opening it up for discussion. But, as I discussed, the flaw in this approach is that our history of making a bad situation worse by rolling head-long into it does not mean that the problem lies in choosing to engage rather than to avoid.  What it means, actually, is that we have to engage the conflict in a skillful way.  Avoidance will eventually blow up in our face.  Yet picking up…
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