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 burst uncontrolled into conversation once they have built up such intensity that we are unable to contain them any longer.
~ Unexpressed feelings make it difficult to listen because all our psychic energy is consumed in simultaneously keeping them in check and seeking their relief.
~ Unexpressed feelings take a toll on our self-esteem and relationships as you judge yourself for not sticking up for yourself and deny others the opportunity to step up in response to your sharing.
All of these aspects of unexpressed feelings can seriously hurt our chances of achieving a resolution to a conflict that serves our best interests.
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 confronted with feedback that is difficult to face because it suggests we are not who we thought we were, we are not who we have claimed to be to ourselves. Confronting ourselves in this way is no picnic.
Figuring out how to cope with such identity confrontations is one of the great offerings contained in one of my favorite books, Difficult Conversations.
In mediating family conflicts that have become either so painful or so intractable as to require the assistance of a neutral third-party, we often are compelled to look into many deep and central aspects of life, not just in understanding the source of conflict, but also in charting a future course that serves everyone’s needs. It occurred to me that we should not have to wait until a deep conflict arises among the loved ones most important to us before we make time for proactively investing in a personal development process clear in its goals, competent in its navigation and communication skills, and centered in an evolving understanding of the parameters of one’s own growth and one’s most important relationships.
The following seven layers of personal development are thus not only the product of my own introspection and quest for personal development, but also of my observation of what people in conflict learn is most important to them and what they want and feel a need to dedicate more attention to cultivating. Here they are:
Life is a social enterprise. Navigating this enterprise requires us to develop our communication skills, particularly those that enable us to deal with conflict and misunderstanding. Thus, skillful communication is the 1st layer of personal development.
Part workshop, part master-mind support group – the Grow Your Life workshop is my effort to create a proactive vehicle for personal growth:
The Grow Your Life Workshop is also a deliberate attempt to apply to the social dynamics of our personal lives the ecological wisdom of permaculture, which works with natural forces to weave a diverse web of resilient relationships in the environment to produce healthy, abundant, and richly satisfying homesteads and harvests.
Above all, the Grow Your Life Workshop is a dedicated dynamic space for you to get organized, inspired, creative and connected with the things that matter most to you in life.
This space is “dedicated” because by signing up, you are setting aside two hours a week to tend to your own growth and wellbeing. This space is “dynamic” because it offers a rich social and collaborative small group context in which your voiced intentions, concerns, challenges, experiences and inspirations interact with those of up to eight other group members, including a skilled facilitator. The Grow Your Life Workshop thus offers the opportunity to step your personal goals and pursuit of wellbeing out of the isolation of private thought and into a shared interactive enterprise. At the same time that the Grow Your Life Workshop offers structure, sophistication and nurturance to your efforts to grow at your leading edges, the workshop does so in an informal, organic manner that imposes no institutional group think, expectations or standards. It is simply smart time devoted to living the adventure of your life ever more fully.
My hourly rate is $200 per hour for mediation services, couples coaching, personal development and communication coaching for individuals, family meeting facilitation and work with families supporting young adults in their transition to independence. My fee for corporate training, speaking engagements and coaching is $300 per hour.
In mediation, where a settlement agreement is required, my fee is $200 per hour for drafting the agreement.
In the divorce context, I also charge an optional flat fee for assistance with various court filings in order to enable divorcing couples to avoid all or most of the hassle of navigating the court process. The costs associated with divorce mediation are spelled out in more detail below.
A sliding scale is available to parties that demonstrate need as determined by Family Tree Mediation.
For mediation, there is no charge for first session if you decide not to contract with Family Tree Mediation. This way there is no risk. Even if you decide not to continue, you get the free benefit of gaining further understanding about the options available to you for resolving the dispute you are experiencing. To schedule an appointment, you can call me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page.
In an standard divorce mediation, the costs of obtaining your final Dissolution of Marriage Judgment fall into five parts: (1) the fee for the mediator's time during the mediation process, (2) the fee for the mediator's time drafting the marital settlement agreement, (3) the fee for assistance with the initial filings and required disclosures, (4) the fee for assistance with preparation and filing of the judgment and standard attachments, and (5) filing fees required by the court. A sixth type of cost is sometimes required: the fees charged by experts required to appraise property, prepare and file more complex orders requiring attorney assistance, provide forensic accounting appraisals, or other provide any other type of service beyond the scope of mediation.
1. Mediation Fee: My fee for mediation is $200 per hour, payable at the end of each session.
2. Marital Settlement Agreement Fee: My fee for drafting the marital settlement agreement negotiated in the mediation is also $200 per hour, but I require payment up-front for 5 hours' work ($1,000). In the event drafting an agreement does not require 5 hours work, I will refund the portion of the up-front payment not used. If the agreement requires more than 5 hours to produce, I will either request another up-front payment based on the estimated time needed to complete the agreement or I will require further payment at the same hourly rate, payable at the time the final agreement is provided.
3. Fee for Assistance with Petition and Response: I charge a $350 flat fee for assisting the mediating couple in preparation of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the Response. I do not provide you legal advice in helping you fill out and file these forms, but only administrative assistance. This assistance does, however, relieve you of the great majority of the work involved with preparing these initial filings. As part of this assistance, I will also help each of you collect and organize the information required to make the required disclosures to the other and help you prepare and file the associated declaration concerning service of these disclosures.
4. Fee for Assistance with Judgment and Related Attachments: I charge a $650 flat fee for assisting the mediating couple in preparation of the Dissolution of Marriage Judgment and various standard attachments. However, this flat fee does not cover preparation of QDRO orders and a range of more complex motions and orders that, if desired, often merit the involvement of a specialist, whose fees will be additional to those charged by Family Tree Mediation.
5. Court Filing Fees Not Included. Filing and other fees charged by the court are not covered by either the flat fees or hourly fees charged by Family Tree Mediation. The mediating spouses will write checks covering such fees to be included with the documents to be filed by the mediator on behalf of the divorcing couple.
6. Fees for Expert Services Beyond the Scope of Mediation Not Included. Where the divorcing spouses choose to seek a QDRO or various other orders warranting legal help or where they seek the services of experts in valuing property or providing services beyond the scope of mediation, they will be responsible to pay the fees charged by the experts used.
No Charge for first session if you decide not to contract with Family Tree Mediation. This way there is no risk. Even if you decide not to continue, you get the free benefit of gaining further understanding about the divorce process and the options available to you. To schedule an appointment, you can call me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page.
Sliding Scale: Reduced fees are available on a limited bases to couples who can demonstrate financial need as determined by Family Tree Mediation.
Are you looking for a way to better handle conflict with your spouse, a close friend or a colleague at work? Do you have an issue with your spouse that you would like to mediate, but your spouse refuses to participate? Would you simply like to strengthen your ability to stand up for yourself while still respecting and caring for others?
If so, Family Tree Mediation’s conflict coaching service may be right for you. While it is always a great opportunity when two parties in conflict are willing to work on improving the way they communicate, especially with the assistance of a mediator, a relationship can be greatly improved on the initiative of just one person.
In the past four decades, a great deal has been learned about the nature of conflict, the communication patterns that help individuals navigate such conflict, and those that don’t. We have greatly increased our awareness of the way that culture, emotion, information, past experience, worldviews, and communication models complicate our participation in conflict. In the heat of the moment, however, we rarely have the capacity to make effective use of this understanding, if we are fortunate enough to have obtained it. We find ourselves reacting according to the models for dealing with conflict we learned long ago and now apply unconsciously.
That’s why conflict coaching can be so helpful. Breaking old patterns and learning to consciously and effortlessly apply new ones takes practice. When one person in a relationship begins practicing using more productive communication tools in conflict, the old pattern of exchange is no longer the same, space is created, the temperature cools, and connections are made. Each small adjustment in the exchange is assisted by other small adjustments. As with the tumblers in a lock mechanism, it can be a wonder to witness how these little pins can open a door that kept two people from really hearing and appreciating each other’s experience, needs, and intentions.
Today, I am celebrating the first post on this blog and I thought a good first topic to discuss is the name I have given my mediation practice. I call my practice Family Tree Mediation because, to me, the metaphor of the Family Tree expresses many values and beliefs that I think make mediation an extremely valuable tool for getting the most out of our lives:
Striving for Organic Self-Development
First, the Family Tree image reflects the positive growth of each of our lives through all of life’s changing seasons. As we grow older, the strength, peace and grace we embody are a reflection of our authenticity, integrity, and self-awareness. Mediation is a process that provides the opportunity for navigating deeply painful conflicts with all of these desirable qualities so that you feel yourself growing stronger, more peaceful and more graceful no matter what challenges you face.
Managing Essential Relationships
Communication Coaching and Mediation
Can Help Both to Improve Your Communication Process and
to Develop a Mutually Agreeable, Practical Vision for the Future
Day in day out, we spend our lives navigating and negotiating a wide variety of relationships. The work of being a good steward of our own welfare while also being a creative collaborator skilled in sharing life with others is a huge part of what life is about for social beings like ourselves.
This work is hugely rewarding, but can also be hugely challenging. And nowhere are the rewards and challenges greater than in the intimate partnership we share with our spouse or significant other.
Challenges come in all kinds, too. Some are unique events that require hard work, a clear sense of priorities, mutually devoted commitment, and some big decisions. Other challenges come in the form of ongoing relationship patterns that leave both parties feeling that there must be a better way to relate to each other. Still other challenges are a combination of stresses, unproductive communication reflexes, frustration and exhaustion that together threaten the admiration, passion, and joy shared between two lovers.
While the idea of couples counseling has entered the mainstream as a service that can be helpful to many, the value of communication coaching and couples mediation as processes that can help couples strengthen their relationship is still very new.
The fact is, however, that many relationships struggle with issues that do not require psychological therapy, but simply coaching in strategies and skills for better communication. As couples learn to forge new patters of communication, they acquire deeper insight and understanding both with regard to each other and to themselves. At once, they experience the relief of being freed from the frustration of not being heard and the heart-felt meaning that comes with connecting to aspects of their partner they previously had not accessed. As a result of these emotional shifts, individuals are able to notice needs, priorities and feelings within themselves they have not been able to give their attention to in the midst of the frustration, noise and conflict of their old communication patterns. In this way, over time, couples communication coaching can help each person to find more clarity, peace and presence both on their own and when they are with their love, and the couple can acquire skills and mutual understanding that will help them to build a stronger, more satisfying relationship and future together.
Additionally, it may be said that many issues couples face need more than therapy in the sense that they involve life-choice dilemmas that will only be resolved if the couple can come to an agreement about a plan of action after achieving better understanding and communication. Couples mediation offers couples not only communication coaching and a means for more constructive interaction, but also a practical focus on the concrete obstacles they want to overcome.