NC, LA, APFM, SAC and SK!
Whew! My last month (October) was filled with travel for seminars all over North America. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to write about them. First, two days after I returned from Australia and China in September, I flew to North Carolina to speak to their North Carolina Association of Professional Family Mediators on Sept. 30. There were almost a hundred mediators there. They really liked the new ideas about mediating with high-conflict clients, including not having opening statements but rather “initial thoughts and questions” from each party; and asking the parties: “So, what’s your proposal?” instead of letting them complain about each other’s past behavior.
Then I spent the next two long weekends (Thursday through Saturday) outside of Los Angeles in Malibu teaching at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University’s School of Law. I teach Psychology of Conflict there once a year and it was a great class of law students and those getting a Masters in Dispute Resolution. It was a very international class of 26 students, over half of whom were bilingual (or more) from countries on almost every continent. They were the most verbal class I have had yet, with so many questions I almost didn’t get through all of my material. It’s great working with such bright young people, knowing that they will reach so many others someday around the world – a world increasingly filled with high-conflict people.
Then, the next weekend I attended and presented at the Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) in my home town of San Diego. There were over 200 family mediators, with lots of energy, ideas and commitment to expanding the use of mediation in separation and divorce cases. Again, it was great to see young mediators getting more involved and learning from other very experienced mediators.
The next Friday I was off to Sacramento, California, to speak with Matt Sullivan and Steven Friedlander to the Child Custody section of the Sacramento Bar Association. We were asked to come up with ideas to really help families get their cases settled, so they don’t stay stuck in litigation and high-conflict for years and years. We three agreed that a more “family systems” approach is needed, to help parents work together after separating – and truly help their children. I focused on skills that can be taught to accomplish this (BIFF Response emails; Making Proposals; and the New Ways for Families method).
The next week, I spoke in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, for two days. The first day I spoke to mediators with the Dispute Resolution Office of the provincial government. They also liked the “So, what’s your proposal method,” and started applying it immediately to their cases, with good success. They are very experienced and had great questions and comments. The second day I spoke to family lawyers with the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association. (See photo with 2 judges and 2 lawyers from our panel at the end of the day.)
At that Saskatchewan lawyers program, we discussed understanding high-conflict clients and opposing parties. Interestingly, they report that about 20% of clients now don’t have a lawyer, so lawyers and judges are having to deal more directly with separating and divorcing parties. I shared some experience from California family courts, where the statistic is now about 75% of couples have one party self-representing. It certainly is straining everyone in terms of how help these individuals while following established court procedures that really require a lot of legal knowledge. Of course, I again emphasized teaching negotiation skills to clients, either by their lawyers or in programs like New Ways for Families.
November is another whirlwind and I’m already on road again. More to come! Have a good month!
Mediation techniques mentioned above can be found in Bill Eddy's new book: So What's Your Proposal? Shifting High Conflict People from Blaming to Problem Solving in 30 Seconds
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist and family mediator. He has been a mediator for over 30 years, and is the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, CA, He is a founding board member of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators. He is the author of several books, including: High Conflict People in Legal Disputes; It’s All YOUR Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything; and BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, all published by HCI Press/Unhooked Books. He is also the President of High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers and trainers worldwide on managing high conflict people in a wide range of legal, workplace, healthcare, neighborhood and other disputes. www.HighConflictInstitute.com.