Monday, May 16, 2011

About to Hit the Book Stores! BIFF : Responding to Hostile Emails!

Hostile mail – especially email – has become much more common over the past decade. Most of this mail is just “venting,” and has little real significance. However, when people are involved in a formal conflict (a divorce, a workplace grievance, a HOA complaint, etc.) there may be more frequent hostile mail. There may be more people involved and it may be exposed to others or in court. Therefore, how you respond to hostile mail may impact your relationships or the outcome of a case.

Do you need to respond?

Much of hostile mail does not need a response. Letters from (ex-) spouses, angry neighbors, irritating coworkers, or attorneys do not usually have legal significance. The letter itself has no power, unless you give it power. Often, it is emotional venting aimed at relieving the writer’s anxiety. If you respond with similar emotions and hostility, you will simply escalate things without satisfaction, and just get a new piece of hostile mail back. In most cases, you are better off not responding. However, some letters and emails develop power when copies are filed in a court or complaint process – or simply get sent to other people. In these cases, it may be important to respond to inaccurate statements with accurate statements of fact. If you need to respond, I recommend a B.I.F.F. response: Be Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. For a full copy of this article and a preview to our upcoming book: email us at w/ subject: Please Send Biff Article!.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Is Your Child Alienated: part 4

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT ALIENATION? You might be alienating your child against the other parent or against yourself, without even being conscious of it - especially during a divorce. Here are seven suggestions:

1. POSITIVE COMMENTS: Regularly point out positive qualities of the other parent to your child.
2. REPAIRING COMMENTS: All parents make negative comments about the other parent at times. If you realize you made such a comment, follow up with a “repairing comment”: “I just spoke negatively about your father [or mother]. I don’t really mean to be so negative. He has many positive qualities and I really value your relationship with him. I’m just upset and my feelings are my responsibility, not his and not yours.”
3. AVOID REINFORCING NEGATIVE COMMENTS: Healthy children say all kinds of things, positive and negative, about their parents – even about abusive parents. If there is abuse, have it investigated by professionals. If not, be careful that you are not paying undue attention to their negative comments and ignoring their positive comments.
4. TEACH PROBLEM-SOLVING STRATEGIES: If your child complains about the other parent’s behavior, unless it is abusive, suggest strategies for coping: “Honey, tell your father something nice before you ask for something difficult.”
“Show your mother the project you did again, she might have been busy the first time.” “If he/she is upset, maybe you can just go to your room and try not to listen and draw a picture instead.”
5. AVOID EXCESSIVE INTIMACY: Children naturally become more independent and self-aware as they grow up. Be careful not to be excessively intimate with your child for the child’s age, as this may create an unhealthy dependency on you. Examples include having the child regularly sleep with you in your bed beyond infancy; sharing adult information and decisions (such as about the divorce); and excessive sadness at exchanges or how you miss the child when he or she is at the other parent’s house.
6. AVOID EXCESSIVE COMPARISONS: When you emphasize a skill or characteristic that you have, don’t place it in comparison to weaknesses of the other parent. You each have different skills and qualities that are important to your child. By comparing yourself positively and the other parent negatively (even if this feels innocent), you can inadvertently influence your child. Remember that your child is a combination of both of you, and thinking negatively of one parent
means the child may think negatively about half of himself or herself.
7. GET SUPPORT OR COUNSELING FOR YOURSELF: It is impossible to go through a divorce without getting upset some of the time. Protect your child from as much as possible by sharing your upset feelings with adult friends and family, away from your child. Get counseling to cope with the stress you are under.

WILL THE COURT ADDRESS THIS ISSUE? Routinely, in a divorce or separation, the court will order that neither parent shall make disparaging remarks about the other parent within hearing of the child. Some courts may ask you for 3 positive comments about the other parent or 3 steps you are taking to protect the child from absorbing your negative emotions toward the other parent. Think about this seriously, so that you are prepared to answer this question if it is raised. Most of all, practice the suggestions described above.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

High Conflict Training in Australia

Megan traveled to Australia last week and this to deliver high conflict training seminars to folks in healthcare, family law, and higher education. So far she's visited Bunbury and Geraldton Western Australia. While there, she was interviewed by ABC Radio ( Below are images of some of her seminar participants. Thanks to our amazing hosts during this trip. More updates to come!

Bunbury, Western Australia. High-conflict training for family law professionals. Pictured w/ Megan are Lisa, Sandra and Mandy.

Geraldton, Western Australia. High-conflict training for family law, healthcare, and educational professionals. Pictured w/ Megan are Allison and Mandy.

Geraldton, Western Australia at ABC Radio where Megan was interviewed about high-conflict people for their morning show.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mediation & Restorative Justice Centre

Last week I was in Edmonton, Canada, giving a 2-day training to 40 mediators with the Mediation & Restorative Justice Centre. It was an excellent group and they were willing to practice over and over again dealing with high-conflict clients. They learned (and I continue to learn) that what works best is often the opposite of what you feel like doing. And they were great sports about it! Pictured here: Bill Eddy, Susan Logan (Executive Director) and Scott (Chair of the Board).