Monthly Archives: September 2011

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Divorce: the Only Moral Choice is the Collaborative Model

Statistics show that marriage is losing popularity and many couples are opting for divorce. Generations ago, divorce was perceived with stigma and while that perspective has improved, divorce is still frequently regarded as the launch into the fight of one’s life. Maybe this is one reason people are opting out of marriage altogether. Maybe marriage wouldn’t be losing ground if divorcing people began to choose a divorce that is moral and honorable in its approach.

I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen who is considering divorce to opt for a Collaborative Divorce. This choice represents a moral and ethical decision for the integrity of our society. To divorce collaboratively states that the needs of the children and their transitioning family context deserve to be treated with respect, care, loving kindness…and nothing less. This needs to become a core value for every divorcing family because the family is the foundation for our society at large.

Collaborative Divorce is a means for uncoupling that utilizes an interdisciplinary team of professionals; each trained and skilled in providing resolution and closure to the legal, emotional and financial dimension inherent in every divorce. The divorcing couple is cocooned within the safety net of their professional team and become empowered to respectfully gather and share necessary information,; brainstorm all the possible options in transitioning their assets and debts; and, kindly make agreements each can live with as they move forward in a two-household family. They work together with their team to listen to the voice of their kids and hold their children’s concerns at the forefront.

I have been practicing in this model for more than a decade and I am pretty passionate about the notion that our society needs to move into an honorable point of view that Collaborative Divorce is naturally the only way for a family to make a life-altering transition that truly serves the greater good.

If you or someone you know is considering a divorce, please learn more about Collaborative Divorce and take the high-minded path for the good of the family and for the good of society. It is your moral responsibility to do so. If you are a divorce professional (legal, mental health, or financial), please take the Collaborative Divorce Full Team Training on November 3rd, 4th, 5th in Phoenix, AZ. Check out our website Collaborative Divorce Institute (at for more information.

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Conflict: In It for the Friction

Have you ever noticed that some people are in it strictly for the friction? It seems as if they thrive on arguing and they like to turn most interactions into some kind of heated debate. They like to fight so that they can see themselves as right and justified in their bad behavior. Coined as “High-Conflict” personalities, this part of the population covers a wide demographic and you will find these types everywhere you go. Quite often they are of high intelligence and you might very well notice that they hold powerful jobs. Their behavior can become the bane of your existence if they are your boss or your partner.

According to Bill Eddy, the guru of high-conflict,  the personality traits of people who are in it for the friction include:

  1. Rigid and uncompromising, repeating failed strategies
  2. Unable to accept or heal from a loss
  3. Negative emotions dominate their thinking
  4. Unable to reflect on their own behavior
  5. Difficulty empathizing with others
  6. Preoccupied with blaming others
  7. Avoid any responsibility for the problem or the solution

Does this sound like someone you know? One way to gauge if you are dealing with this type is to examine your own behavior. If you notice that you walk on eggshells around him or her, you could be with a High-Conflict personality and you must take care, because you could easily end up as their target of blame. Learning how to set a boundary with this type of person does not come easy because their trap is to lure you into the debate. Once, you are lured in, they “gotcha!” and now are justified in escalating the argument. Beware! Don’t ever argue with a High-Conflict personality.

Here are some tips for you:

  1. Learn to be okay if the High-Conflict person doesn’t like you. Being the good-guy with someone who is in it for the friction is seriously overrated. The High-Conflict personality translates “good guy” into “my next victim”.
  2. Learn not to take the High-Conflict person’s behavior personally. So what if their behavior has insulted you? Why need the approval of an unstable person? If it is a supervisor or boss, their critical nature will rarely cost you your job. Consider the source and remember that their need to be right comes from a deep inner insecurity.
  3. Trust your instincts. You will get a gut-kick very early with someone who is in it for the friction. Set your boundaries early and don’t let those boundaries be intruded upon.
  4. Don’t try to prove a point. They won’t accept it. Remember that they need for you to be “wrong”. State that you understand their point of view and you just happen to see it differently.
  5. Never, ever fall into the trap of trying to manage the wrath of someone who is in it for the friction. You will only be as good as your last performance and you will become emotionally exhausted.
  6. Be ready to walk away. Since High-Conflict people are usually terrified of abandonment, you will sense this early on and you might stay hooked up with them long after it is useful to do so. Sometimes you just have to walk away to preserve your own mental health.

Ultimately, someone who is in it for the friction needs to have a target. Recognize that early and refuse to play that role. See Bill Eddy’s work for everything you need to know.

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Cultural Diversity and Cruising Down the Danube

I truly had an interesting personal experience in cultural diversity last week as I cruised down the Danube with some German friends. My husband, a real estate broker, sold these Bavarian  folk a home here in the USA over twenty years ago.

At that time they spoke barely a word of English, yet we were somehow able to bridge the language barrier with them. Perhaps it was with our body language. Perhaps it was with patient, slow communication of English words, which they mirrored with the German counterpart. However we orchestrated the communication, we became enduring friends and they quickly learned to speak our language. These dear friends bought us a cruise down the Danube river as a gift to reciprocate for the kindness we extended to them over the years. We were quick to accept such a generous offer. Who wouldn’t?

What we didn’t know at the time we accepted was that the cruise consisted of all German people. No one out of 170 passengers and 60 crew spoke English, other than our friends who gave us this gift. The Captain spoke only German. The Cruise Director spoke only German. We were the only American people on board. At the launch, we were out of the fold…and never could make an inroad to connect. Sometimes it was hard not to feel sorry for ourselves or feel angry at our perception of being “left out”.

We frequently didn’t know what was going on. We couldn’t understand important announcements, we missed entertaining events, we couldn’t laugh when something was funny to everyone else.  We couldn’t interact with others and we felt isolated and lonely at times. We were sometimes frustrated at not being able to communicate our needs or get our questions answered.

It wasn’t the fault of the other passengers. They couldn’t communicate with us any better than we could communicate with them. But they had strength in their numbers and we carried the burden of the language barrier. For example, one night the Captain gave a little mini-concert with his guitar for the passengers. He approached us for feedback after he finished and I gave him the hand sign indicating “A-Okay”. He received the gesture offensively, thinking I was rating him with a “Zero” for his performance…Whoops!

A-okay to me, zero to you.

The good news is that we got to learn, in real-time, the three different aspects of cultural diversity: 1) the concrete; 2)the behavioral; and, 3)the symbolic.

The concrete is  the most visible and tangible level of culture, and includes the most surface–level dimensions such as clothes, music, food, games, etc . For example, we saw many men dressed in lederhosen, a customary native dress of Bavaria. The cuisine included lots of pork, potatoes and cabbage. The food tasted fine; but midway through the cruise, our American digestive systems began to yearn for a simple green salad.

We experienced the behavioral level of cultural diversity. This level clarifies how we define our social roles, the languages we speak, and our approaches to nonverbal communication. The handling of silverware is culturally very different. I became quite adept at working my fork and knife simultaneously while navigating around my dinner plate. Hugging as a greeting is rare and reserved for the most familiar of relationships. If you greet with a kiss, you kiss on both cheeks. I kept forgetting this and would be giving “half-kisses” that left my German friends bewildered.

The symbolic level of culture includes our values and beliefs. It can be abstract, but it is most often the key to how individuals define themselves. It includes value systems, customs, beliefs, mores, spirituality, religion, worldview, etc. German culture includes a staunch, stoic character and any sort of complaining seems to be frowned upon. Structure is very important and the expectation is often that one does not deviate from the existing plan. We learned about this on a number of occasions, but mostly poignantly once when we asked to change an established itinerary and we were quickly corrected to stick with the plan and not make a fuss.

I do not mention these details to be critical of the German experience. Cultural dissonance is to be expected in situations like this. We loved lots of features in our Danube experience. But perhaps the best thing we experienced was some true enlightenment about what it feels like to be culturally different and viewed as strangers among a homogeneous cultural group. I certainly have increased my awareness of and my empathy for cultural diversity.