Confidence in Conflict: Three Methods to Resolving Conflict Without Losing Your Cool

Confidence in Conflict: Three Methods to Resolving Conflict Without Losing Your Cool

In coaching we often suggest clients that they “keep Amy in the backseat” when you’re in a conflict. We are referring to your Amygdala. A tiny almond shaped structure in our brains. Although small, it is mighty. The amygdala controls the fight or flight response in our bodies and brains. Often it acts instinctually and without warning. This is especially true when dealing with a High Conflict Personality (HPC) partner. Our brain unconsciously takes over and we often respond in ways we normally wouldn’t. When we feel lack of control or vulnerability it’s nearly impossible to have thoughtful, well considered conflict resolutions.

There are methods to keep “Amy” in the backseat. Here are three communication tactics that can help you regulate, respond, and rise above conflict.

 

Regulate:

 

In divorce cases we see several physical responses that happen when we are faced feeling attacked. I want to focus on two that I see most often.

Approaching conflict with aggression. Aggressive communication is when you state your needs and leave little room for your partner to share theirs. Examples of aggressive communication would be an attempt to dominate the conversation, using humiliation, critical language, and “you” statements in an attempt to avoid your responsibility in the situation and negate feeling insecure about yourself. This method of communication is often seeing with HPC’s.

Fawning is a response that is very common, especially with clients that have suffered past trauma or suffer from PTSD. Fawning is a maladaptive survival response. It is ones need to avoid conflict at any cost. When a client is in a fawning response they often exhibit people pleasing behaviors, deny their truth for the sake of ending the conflict, and feel that they are unworthy and undervalued.

Approaching conflict with either response can is a recipe for disaster. One of you will surely walk away from the conflict feeling “less than”, unheard, and unloved. We can regulate our own physical reactions to regulate our bodies response to threats. Start with a deep breath. Taking a moment to center yourself and regulate your breathing can instantly change the bodies stress response. Take a break from the conflict, find a quiet place, and spend five minutes focusing on your breath, inhaling, and exhaling slowly. You are allowed to excuse yourself from the conversation. The conflicts you are trying to resolve did not develop overnight and they do not have to be resolved in an instant. When you feel your heart rate begin to rise and the walls feel like they are closing in, simply tell your partner you need a moment to gather yourself and acknowledge you will touch back on the topic when you are in control of your thoughts and emotions. There is absolutely no reason These simple tactics can you help you prepare for the response phase of the argument and knock it down to a discussion.

 

 

Reason:

 

Reasonable, well thought out responses to conflict help us to protect our mental health, self-worth, and sanity.

Now that you have taken a moment to gather yourself, it’s time to gather your thoughts. I encourage clients to take time to look at things from their partners viewpoint. Try to understand the issue and why it is so important to them. At times, the real reason may be convoluted by finger pointing and “you never” statements. For example, my client is angry that her husband forgot it was their anniversary.

She took time and made an effort to make him his favorite meal and buy him a card. How dare he not get her a gift? Is the issue the gift? Is it possible that the gift was the issue on the surface of the problem but really, she feels uncared for, unloved, and possibly unworthy? In true conflict, we must dig deeper to find the issue because it’s rarely floating on the surface of our relationships. Changing our perspective in turn changes our insight.

What if your partner can’t articulate the deeper issue? I suggest questioning them with curiosity. What are you upset about? Can you tell me why you feel like that? and my personal favorite, “what was your expectation of me in that moment?” Try not to interrupt them and stay on the actual issue at hand. Curious questioning does a few things. It gives your partner acknowledgement that you are open to listening and a willingness to let them articulate how they really feel. This can lead to a deeper understanding of their perspective, the opportunity to form a more informed opinion for yourself, and hopefully a resolution in the conflict itself.

How we respond to our partner can make or break the outcome of the conversation. You have the choice to respond in a non-confrontational manner once your partner has finished speaking. “I had no idea you felt that way, do you mind if I address this from my perspective?” or “I would like to avoid continuing to argue about this topic, how do we suggest we fix it?” The goal is to identify the issue, take responsibility only for our actions (if there is any), and stop the conflict cycle in its tracks.

 

Rise above:

 

“But Melissa, this just makes it seem like I’m being a pushover! By keeping my cool and not showing a reaction, the other person doesn’t know how much they have affected me with their words or actions.” This is precisely why these methods work. HCP’s are fueled by the ability to incite hurt, confusion, and lack of control on their target. If you have been with your partner for a while, they know exactly what buttons to push to get a reaction from you. They will rely on that pattern to gaslight, stonewall, and trigger you to get their desired outcome. How many times have you ended a conflict and come away questioning yourself, your involvement, and wondering if you really are at fault for the problem?

Let’s change that! By regulating your body’s reactions, thoroughly considering your responses, and responding without malice, you have taken all the control back and on your terms. You weren’t goaded into angry reactions and remorseful words that can’t be taken back. You maintained your dignity, bolstered your self-worth, and you can leave the conversation feeling good about who you are at your core.

This is not something you can learn overnight. High conflict relationships are volatile, and these methods must be practiced over time. After all, you are fighting your amygdala, its natural response, and it takes time to unlearn unhealthy communication. This is why so many of my clients continue with coaching even after divorce, particularly with co- parenting after divorce. These methods work and can be applied to any kind of conflict that needs resolution.

Divorce CoachAt Divorce Strategies Group, we offer mediation and coaching services for clients thinking about divorce, in the midst of divorce, and even co-parent coaching. If you can relate to this article, I’d love to talk to you. Complimentary Discovery Session’s can be booked directly through our website.

 

 

 

* If you are currently in a relationship and experiencing domestic violence, this article is not applicable. Please call/chat/text with an advocate by calling 800-799-SAFE or visit thehotline.org.

 

What is a Divorce Coach and How Can they Help You?

What is a Divorce Coach and How Can they Help You?

Divorce CoachAre you waking up at 3:00 AM, feeling overwhelmed and panicked by the uncertainty of your future?

Questions and worries run through your mind? “Can I afford to get divorced?” “How do I tell my spouse our marriage it’s over?” “What about our kids?” “How do I tell them?” “How will I survive?” “Do I have to share my retirement savings?” “Do I need to lawyer up?” “What lawyer do I hire?”

The questioning can be endless and in a attempt to find answers, you start Googling. Taking the first steps in a divorce can be terrifying and overwhelming. In researching, something pops up about “Divorce Coaching.” Like almost everything else related to divorce, this is a new term for you.

 

What is a Divorce Coach?

A Divorce Coach is a trained mental health professional who shepherds you through your divorce. Divorce Coaches have unique expertise in divorce, co-parenting, parenting planning, child development, the impact of divorce on children, and all other issues related to divorce. Divorce Coaching is not therapy. Instead, coaches specialize in helping you emotionally cope with divorce before, during and after the process.

 

Is Divorce Coaching Right for Me?

For most people, the prospect of a divorce is an overwhelming life crisis. You need to make big decisions at a time when you are emotionally overloaded. The demands and decisions can be confusing. Divorce can require the time and energy of a full-time job (when a lot of women already have full time jobs and are full time moms).   In the process, it can also be exhausting to get through each day especially when you are meeting with your legal team or financial advisors to discuss divorce related issues.  You don’t know what steps you need to take, how you can figure it all out, or how long it will take. If this sounds familiar, then a Divorce Coach can help. 

 

How Can a Coach Help?

A Divorce Coach can help you understand one of the first and most important decisions you will have to make. You will need to decide which of the divorce process options available to you will work best for your family: a do-it-yourself divorce, mediation, collaborative law divorce, or litigation. The process you choose will dramatically affect your outcomes and the process.

A Divorce Coach will walk the path with you, through the legal process you have chosen, to provide support and guidance when needed. Divorce coaches also offer post-divorce support, addressing issues like co-parenting, setting up a spending plan, and claiming your new life.

 

 

One of the first and most painful things you will have to do is talk to your children about the upcoming changes in your family. A Divorce Coach will help you (and often your spouse) structure and plan for this, telling your children what they need to know. The Coach will help you respond to their questions and concerns in age-appropriate ways.

A Divorce Coach will help you build or strengthen your skills to cope with your emotions, especially at meetings with professionals and your spouse. In addition, your Coach can help you develop and hold you accountable for implementing much needed self-care practices.  This is critical as they can help you feel more grounded and help you cope during this time of life changes.

A Divorce Coach will help you begin to envision your life post-divorce, as a single parent and perhaps going back to work. The Coach will help you set goals and keep you accountable for them. This type of planning may influence your divorce negotiations. For example, if you need re-training to enter the workforce, this can be discussed as part of your divorce settlement.

Coaching will help you develop skills for the negotiations, which usually come after the information-gathering stage. With the help of your Coach, you will be clear about what is important to you in the final resolution. Identifying what matters most to you and where you can compromise is critical in divorce negotiations, and a Coach can help you do this with confidence.

Your Coach will help you understand and think through the many decisions you will be asked to make. A coach can help you feel brave, confident, and articulate in expressing what matters to you without being hijacked by emotions. This makes the process more efficient and cost-effective!

A Divorce Coach can help you build a new kind of parenting partnership relationship with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. A Coach can work with you to establish good communication, boundaries, and strategies for dealing with issues that inevitably arise.

A Divorce Coach provides a safe space to emotionally let go, vent, breathe and heal.

 

 

How Do I Find a Divorce Coach?

At Divorce Strategies Group we offer complimentary Discovery Sessions to discuss you and your situation. This introductory call with Divorce Coach Melissa Provence allows us to learn about you and pinpoint your immediate needs. Let’s talk!

Mediation and Co-Parenting: Why It Works

Mediation and Co-Parenting: Why It Works

As difficult as a divorce can be for a married couple, it can be just as upsetting and confusing for the children of the relationship. Not only are you trying to cope with a major life change, but you are also responsible for inflicting as little trauma as possible to the children of the relationship. Parents want what is best for their kids and often fear the effects a potentially long, drawn out court battle can have -with good reason!! Battling parents in long litigation can be catastrophic for the family and for your little ones.

One alternative to a litigated divorce some families find success with, is divorce mediation. Through mediation, you can often talk through each aspect of your divorce agreement without needing to take things to court or work with multiple lawyers and at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional divorce.

Mediation also allows you and your spouse to set an example for your children by reconciling your differences in a healthy and mature manner.

Creating a Parenting plan, not a custody battle

 When it comes to deciding the specifics of custody and how each parent will spend time with their children, there are several options. One is fighting it out and going to court for a judge ultimately to decide what is best for you, your children and your family unit going forward.  Often, if things get ugly other professionals are brought in to give an opinion of you as a parent and the other parent – amicus attorney’s (an attorney for the children) and mental health professionals are common place in custody battles. The stress, personally speaking, is breathtaking and the fees add up quickly.  Many of these divorces can cost upward of $60,000, $80,000, and more.   The second option is through mediation and collaborating with a team of professionals  to determine what is best for your kids and your continued co-parenting relationship. Your mediator will work with both of you to create a parenting plan that works best for the entire family.   Mediation is about forward looking at what life will look like for all of you. What are your schedules?  What is most important to you?  What special needs, wants or issues need to be addressed around your children?  This is a place to really focus on the solution, not the blame game or the past.  You are getting a divorce. Emotions aside, there are important decisions to be made about your family. Mediation helps you do this in an effective, timely manner.

Save the dirty laundry for another day

 We often hear concerns that going to court will air all your family’s dirty laundry and past parenting mistakes. Unfortunately, this often causes damage to co-parenting relationships and can lead to anger and resentment. In mediation, the goal is not to place blame for past wrongs, but rather for both parties to focus their energy on working to raise their children in the future. The end result is the desire to preserve the family unit and make positive decisions about your child’s care moving forward.

Co-parenting for better or worse

 You may not be married anymore but you still must have a relationship with the other parent for years to come. Children have a base need to feel safe and secure. Healthy co-parenting during a divorce often involves a lot of self-editing, communication with your ex-spouse, and consistent rules and expectations for kids. Unless there is a valid concern or the wellbeing of a child is in question, there is no room for negativity. Family dynamics are going to change, but it should not be at the cost of your children. 

Mediators don’t take sides

 Most couples fear that the court system is biased and that a contested divorce can end up pitting one parent against the other to the detriment of the children. In a litigated divorce, a judge can ultimately decide your parental rights. Mediation allows for negotiations and more control over the custody agreement.

Mediators are highly trained to act as neutrals in divorce cases. She/he will take both parents worries and concerns into consideration and work with you both to create a plan of action. If you and your spouse are willing to work together for the sake of your child, you can likely come to an agreement in mediation that you both agree is in the best interest of your child.  You are also able to help craft an agreement you are vested in.

If you would like more information about mediation and our collaborative process, please visit our site at www.divorcestrategiesgroup.com.  We offer mediation packages with a family law attorney and a financial expert helping you facilitate a win-win agreement for you and your family.   Please click here to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn more about how this may help you.

Reclaiming Who You Are Post-Divorce

Reclaiming Who You Are Post-Divorce

traveling alone

It took me a long time to accept that the only thing worse than my fear of my own emptiness, was the emptiness of my bottomed-out relationship with my husband of nearly 12 years. We are good people, and we are good parents, but that doesn’t make two people a good couple. So he moved out of our house and into a condominium by the kid’s school. My post-divorce in Texas was simple: I had one dog, a house, and—most of the time—I had our two children.

A year later, a thrum of panic washes over me when the children’s father comes to pick them up on Thursdays. The divorced-parenting class that I attended focused—as they must—on how to best protect and nurture the children. But there were no classes on how parents should learn to be without children or a family. It took me a vulnerable, soul searching year before I came up with a few guidelines of my own, most of them established after hours of reflection and prayer:

1. Surrender to Forever
Girlfriends coming over to the house—their eyes barely containing the dread of visualizing themselves in the same position—say something along these lines: “It’ll be okay. This isn’t forever.” Which is true in the huge, universal sense of the word; nothing is forever. But my living without my children part of the time is my forever, a daily reality. We will never be a family again. This is an earth-shattering, heart-wrenching realization of post-divorce in Texas. Surrendering to the pain of was more unbearable than I could have anticipated. This isn’t where I want to be after all of the time and effort it took to cultivate a lasting relationship; it’s not what I wished for my children; it’s not at all what I would have chosen for my future. It is, however, reality, even though I didn’t choose it. Until my divorce, I hadn’t realized that my outcome in a situation wasn’t a reflection of my effort.

2. Join a Support Group
I’ve never been fond of cocktail parties, charity events, and obligatory dinners, so I automatically decline any invitations to the same. But with empty evenings stretching ahead of me—the weekends were the worst—I found myself scouring the Facebook events for distractions from the dreaded silence of no-children. I found Divorce Care at my local church. It was a refuge for people who were experiencing the same process that I was. There was an understanding, sympathy, and compassion that my married friends couldn’t show me, because until you’re in this place, it’s very difficult to relate. My experience taught me that like death, there are different phases to this type of grief and being around others that were further along in their divorce was inspiring.

women group

3. Close the Door to Unnecessary Sorrow
For the first six months post-divorce in Texas, my knees caved with sadness every time I got to the stair landing and saw the kids’ bedrooms; smelled their adolescent scents; noticed the trail of towels and books and toys that led from their closets to the bathroom to their desks. It took me that long not to get drawn into a Bermuda Triangle of heartache, panic, and guilt; only to find myself standing with mute regret in their innocent spaces. Eventually, I learned to allow myself the sadness but to shut the children’s bedroom doors on the nights I didn’t have them. Their laundry and chaos could wait until I felt stronger. I accepted that I was going to be messy and human and unstable for a while, but that I didn’t need to create unnecessary pain and anxiety for myself. What I needed was to feel the loneliness, let it wash over me and move forward. This is the fundamental rule in therapy. Dwell in the pain. If you continue to push it away or drown it out, you’ll never move forward. Not dealing with the grief now, would have made me a victim and I refused to let my ex-husband and the choices he made have any more power over me.

4. Be Gentle With Yourself
For the first few months after my ex moved out of the house, I would wake up at 3 a.m. and relive every moment of being left behind. I wanted to find fault in what I’d done. Where had I messed up? What had I done to drive him into the arms of another person? Was I that miserable to be around that he would give up his children seventy percent of the time just to get away from me? I considered myself a smart person and yet I had missed the fact that he was having an affair. After a lot of reflection and prayer, I realized that I may have faults but ultimately he made the choice to destroy our family. Nothing I could have said or done could have stopped it, because I wasn’t the issue. He was. His feelings about himself and who he is, lead to the choices he decided to make. We all have flaws but at the end of the day, we deserve respect, unconditional love, and feeling valued in our relationships.

5. Get to Know the New You
For nearly 12 years, the person I was at home was “Mommy” or “wife.” What I answered to most frequently was “Mom.” Suddenly, post-divorce in Texas, I found myself in a free fall of mostly unlabeled, uncalled-upon silence. There was no one demanding my attention at times. I went from having no spare time to having huge blocks of time alone. I missed being needed.
Then one day, I wondered “who am I right now?” If I could be a mother but also nurture my own identity, who would I be? I had grown up very timid and shy, afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone. I decided my strategy from now on would be the same advice I give my children. It’s ok to be afraid but you also have to be brave. Being brave is moving ahead despite your fears. I would now try things that in the past, I wouldn’t have done. It could be something as simple as experiencing a new cuisine or as thrilling as sky diving. I was no longer held by the boundaries of “wife” and who that meant I was as a person. There was freedom from having to consider how my ex-spouse felt about anything I did or how it made him look to others. I gained confidence in myself because I was calling the shots now. I set an example for my children by taking my most broken self and making her into someone that lived life with exuberance and joy.

6. What Now
I bought a t-shirt shortly post-divorce in Texas. It say’s “Know your worth, then add tax.” There is value in being the person you were created to be. The grieving process is long. I don’t feel emotionally wounded for myself anymore but I experience their trauma daily when I see my kids trying to navigate through the minefield of emotions that they experience. I remind myself that I’m a roll model for my children, especially my daughter. They have seen the devastation that divorce has caused and they have seen me rise from it. You are worth more than the circumstances of your past. You have been broken but You have a choice. We can continue to be stuck in the “what if’s” of life or we can choose to pick ourselves up, dust off and move on with joy to “what now”?