In our family, we call it the “Crankometer”. When tensions are high, we ask ourselves if we were able to measure the tension in the household, where would we be on the Crankometer? This usually gets us to laugh, and of course the tension is immediately reduced. Once the tension eases, it allows us to talk about and resolve conflict in a positive manner. Getting us to recognize that a family member may be experiencing stress that results in them being a little “cranky”, acknowledging that stress while at the same time helping them put that stress in perspective, diffuses what might otherwise have escalated into even greater conflict.
A tricky balance
While emotions are part of what makes us human, and positively contribute to problem solving by helping us be more compassionate and understanding, they can also affect reasoned decision making and undermine negotiations and settlement. Balancing the emotion of divorce, with the need to evaluate legal issues and make informed decisions about moving forward is tricky – yet clients tend to get to resolution more quickly and efficiently and with less rancor and less cost if they can find that balance and turn down the Crankometer. How does a client do that, and how can lawyers help them get there?
Professional outside support
Lawyers meet the legal needs of clients. However, in divorce or in any other family law conflict, lawyers should, whenever they can, ensure that clients have the appropriate resources and support to help meet client emotional needs. These resources and support can be referring a client to a therapist or divorce coach, connecting them with appropriate professionals such as a financial planner, or just being a good listener and letting the client know you care enough to see the whole person and not just another divorce client. Acknowledging client emotions, providing realistic assessments of their case so that a client can step away for a moment from their emotions to see an issue more clearly, working with the other professionals that clients choose to assist them, and respecting the choices clients make which are not always about the law, helps clients manage conflict in a more productive way.
Finding resolution with less emotion
Some legal processes may be better than others at providing a safe environment for clients to find and maintain the balance between emotion and reasoned decision making. Legal processes such as Collaborative Law and Mediation support good conflict resolution skills that may lead to agreement in divorce or other family law conflict, and more lasting outcomes than litigation. At Levitt Family Law and Mediation, we offer Settlement Counsel, Mediation and Collaborative Law services, because we believe that while the courthouse doors are always open and that it may be necessary for clients to litigate in some cases, many of our clients can and do benefit from other forms of dispute resolution.
Our family found the Crankometer to be a useful tool for reducing conflict and getting us through difficult times. Even when conflict results in something like divorce, conflict resolution skills are integral to our health and well-being, our ability to come to agreement, to co-parent, and to move forward in life. It is not always easy – but you can always try the “Crankometer,” maybe it will help your family too.