Creating & Maintaining Calm During Conflict Resolution: Establish Process Groundwork Early On

{3:20 minutes to read} Contrary to popular opinion, the fastest divorce is not necessarily the best. 

In order to successfully move through difficult discussions, the divorcing couple needs to take the time to create an infrastructure for the conflict resolution process. 

This groundwork helps the couple manage expectations, work toward a resolution, and maintain a greater sense of calm throughout the process. Devoting time to this conversation helps to immediately begin structuring the process. By doing so, the couple will

  • establish how to converse with each other;
  • agree on what information is needed in order to reach resolutions; and
  • learn to hear where each other is coming from in terms of how the problem is framed, as opposed to what the right resolution may be. 

Discussion about the process—the “How”—is critical in the beginning. When I begin working with a couple in conflict, I start by taking a full session and sometimes more at the outset to establish how we are going to work together. Once the ground rules are laid out, the process will go faster—and there will be fewer speed bumps along the way.

Another benefit to laying out ground rules at the start is that they short-circuit the natural desire for immediate gratification—the “What” (the substantive issues). Starting out with the “What” rarely works, in part because the parties just dive back into their familiar arguments. After all, if the parties were able to do it that way, they would have done it already! 

Generally, clients come into the conflict resolution process with a heightened sense of defensiveness and a natural resistance to feeling more angst and pain. It is imperative that the process calms the parties, not inflame them. This is not to say that there will never be challenging moments—there will be, particularly when negotiating the contentious issues in the agreement. When this happens, clients can often feel stuck and may think to themselves, “This is failing.”  

Such feelings are understandable, considering that divorce often leads to intense anxiety, and human nature is to avoid uncomfortable situations.  

With an established process for how to handle an impasse, there is considerably less anxiety, and it is easier to get back on the track to resolution.

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