Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Advanced Skills for Managing High Conflict Families to the Association of Family Law Professionals in Ft. Myers


On Oct. 21, I presented Advanced Skills for Managing High Conflict Families to the Association of Family Law Professionals in Ft. Myers, Florida. This was a great interdisciplinary group of about 70 lawyers, therapists, and judges. The four advanced skills for professionals included:  

1) Providing Structure for High Conflict Parents;
2) Reinforcing Client Self-Management;
3) Guiding Parents to Teach Children Skills; and
4) Teaching Clients to Make Decisions.

This is a serious paradigm shift for family law professionals, who are used to making decisions for parents, especially high-conflict parents. And this was the ideal group for this new presentation and discussion (and they’re not shy!), who had previously had my 2-day presentation on understanding and managing high conflict people in Ft. Myers and Naples, Florida. Just as in Texas the week before, this was a very experienced group who are ready to try new, innovative methods. The hardest part, as they pointed out, was that it is very counter-intuitive to hold back and help parents struggle with learning decision-making skills, instead of just making the decisions for them. However, I gave them practice exercises and they said they were going to use some of this approach starting right away the following week.

I also showed them segments of the New Ways for Families video, which demonstrates a judge, a lawyer and counselors using this approach of shifting the emphasis to helping parents learn small skills in small steps, rather than focusing on parents’ bad behavior or just making decisions for them. While there are no plans to try this comprehensive method here at this time, the advanced skills for professionals that it involves will be used individually. The judges present even plan to use some of these tips in their courtrooms.

I also introduced them to a new method for understanding and explaining patterns of high conflict behavior, called the EVDENSE Digital Diary. This is a brand new method of using a computer screen to show patterns of abusive behavior, false allegations, poor parenting decisions, and positive behaviors, for use in custody and visitation disputes. It really addressed the problem of family law professionals and the courts becoming excessively focused on one or two events and exaggerating or minimizing them, while missing the larger pattern of ongoing behavior. High Conflict Institute is partnering with the computer software company which developed the digital diary, and in November we will announce our plans. If you’re not on our HCI eNewsletter mailing list, you can sign up on our site and receive the November issue with this announcement and details explaining how this can help in difficult cases.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of "It's All Your Fault!", "Splitting", "BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns" and "Don't Alienate the Kids!". He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

What’s Your Proposal?


Recently I spoke at the Texas AFCC (Association for Family and Conciliation Courts) in Ft. Worth about the need for family law professionals to provide more structure and more skills for high conflict families, and about the New Ways for Families program. They are looking for more ways to help high conflict families stay out of court and help their children, instead of  fighting over them. I gave a more thorough explanation than I have in the past about why high conflict families get stuck in conflict, and that professionals need to really shift their thinking from making decisions to assisting parents in learning and practicing their own decision-making skills.

The “BIFF Response” method and “Making Proposals” were particularly appealing to this group for working with, rather than against, their most difficult clients. BIFF Responses focus on how to deal with those angry emails that many reasonable parents and professionals get during high-conflict divorces. By being Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm, anyone can calm a conflict and feel better about themselves while still being respectful to the other person. (For more on BIFF Responses, see my new book BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email, and Social Media Meltdowns.)

“What’s Your Proposal?” is a great question to ask when someone is engaged in high-conflict blaming or talking about the past. Whole discussions can be structured around this method, which includes thorough preparation with clients for it to be effective, including explaining how to respond to any proposal. (For more on this technique, see the article Yes, No, or I’ll Think About It at our website.)

The Texas AFCC group seemed to appreciate these specific tips, since many of them attended one of my seminars before on understanding and managing high conflict people. I’ve been to Texas several times over the past few years, including Dallas, Denton and Austin. It’s a real pleasure speaking to people who want more positive methods, given the stress and anger so often associated with working with high conflict families.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of "It's All Your Fault!", "Splitting", "BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns" and "Don't Alienate the Kids!". He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Thursday, October 20, 2011

National Conflict Resolution Day


Today (Oct 20) is National Conflict Resolution Day, as established by the Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR). This is also ABA Mediation Week, as declared by the American Bar Association (ABA).

To me, the most important thought for conflict resolution professionals, volunteer mediators, and everyone else, is that the future depends on conflict resolution skills for everyone: the ability to be flexible, create new options, really hear each other's point of view, make proposals, make new proposals, and accept limitations and sometimes sacrifice our short-term individual wants for our long-term collective needs (delayed gratification, etc.)

Needless to say, these skills are diminishing in today's culture. This means that we (all of us) need to put more emphasis on reaching out to young professionals starting their careers and to teenagers and younger children.

A couple weeks ago I spent an hour answering questions in a teleseminar format from teenagers who volunteer with the North Star Youth Court in Fairbanks, Alaska. They had excellent questions about resolving conflicts with high-conflict people in their volunteer mediations and in their lives. I was impressed with how sharp and interested they are.

I think we all need to reach out to young people such as these to explain and promote conflict resolution skills. Our future may depend on it!

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of "It's All Your Fault!", "Splitting", "BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns" and "Don't Alienate the Kids!". He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Workplace Coaching for High Conflict Situations


On October 3rd I presented a tele-seminar for the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) Workplace Section’s Conflict Coaching Committee, on Coaching for High-Conflict Situations. Conflict coaches are being sought more and more to assist employers and Human Resource Professionals in dealing with high-conflict behavior in the workplace, from bullying to bad-mouthing to major disruptions of work groups. I focused on two different coaching approaches: First, the C.A.R.S. Method is an approach I developed for assisting individuals who are dealing with a high-conflict person (HCP), such as a customer, co-worker or a boss. This method includes four steps that helps the coach connect with the client and focus the client on things he or she can actually do to deal with an HCP. It’s based on the book It’s All YOUR Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything.

The second approach I call “New Ways for Work,” which is a new method for coaches with a structured workbook for 3-6 individual sessions, depending on the assignment. This method is designed for potentially high-conflict employees who are in the early stages or pre-stage of progressive discipline. The employee may be valuable to the organization, but has engaged in high-conflict behavior, such as hostile and blaming emails, vague verbal threats, confrontations with co-workers, etc. A manager, H.R. person or other administrator may require the employee to attend 3 of 6 sessions with a coach specifically trained in this method. Then, after the employee is finished, there can be a meeting with the manager, H.R. person or other administrator, to see what the employee has learned. Then, there can be a meeting with another employee, when appropriate, using a method such as The Exchange (developed by the National Conflict Resolution Center, where I do some mediations) or some form of mediation. I hope to have this method ready in early 2012.

The listeners had good questions, including wanting to know more about the BIFF response method that is taught in both of these coaching methods. It is based on the method described in my recent book on this subject: BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns. This method really helps clients focus and manage their emotional response when attacked in print. I have provided many consultations on this method and received good feedback after clients have tried it. In general, it really helps to simply and structure what coaches are doing with clients, so that the client isn’t just becoming reliant on the coach, but learns skills to use in the future on his or her own.

For those who are interested in more about the New Ways for Work coaching method, check out our website in early 2012 (www.HighConflictInstitute.com) for the publication of the materials (Client Workbook and Coaches Guidebook) and training dates for using this method with potentially high-conflict clients. Much of the work with high-conflict clients is dealing with their resistance to positive growth, so that it really helps if the coach is a mental health professional.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of "It's All Your Fault!", "Splitting", "BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns" and "Don't Alienate the Kids!". He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Ways for Families sponsored by Medicine Hat Family Services


On Sept. 30th I gave an all-day training in the New Ways for Families method to 26 mental health professionals, lawyers and agency staff in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, sponsored by Medicine Hat Family Services. They are preparing to start up their New Ways program in January, with 3 years of funding from the Safe Communities Initiative to handle most of the separation and divorce cases that involve a conflict over the children in their Family Court.

The training emphasized several paradigm shifts of the New Ways method:
·         Skills before Decision
·         Teach small skills in small steps with lots of repetition and encouragement
·         Guide parent decisions, rather than making decisions for them (as much as possible)
·         When new conflicts or decisions arise, remind parents to use their skills
·         If parents return to court, have judges quiz them on how they are using their skills, before hearing evidence and argument

In reality, these shifts are hard to do for professionals who are used to making decisions for high-conflict parents and getting frustrated and angry with them. However, the group was committed to really learning and practicing these skills in role-play exercises using the New Ways Parent Workbook throughout the day. As several emphasized at the end of the day, it’s a lot more satisfying and effective to remind parents to use their skills and have success, rather than arguing with what they’re doing wrong.

This was Day Two (the “live day”) of their 2-day training, after many of them saw the Day One training by DVD. I really enjoyed my day with them and wish they great success.

For more information about New Ways for Families, see the website: www.NewWays4Families.com.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of "It's All Your Fault!", "Splitting", "BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns" and "Don't Alienate the Kids!". He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Maximizing our Resources for Texas Families


I'll be speaking at the 2011 11th Annual Texas AFCC Statewide Conference October 12-14 at the Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Ft. Worth, Texas.

For more information or to register, click here!