Defensiveness–We’re All Guilty of It!

15 Aug

Thank goodness for CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credits! I say this because, in order for me to keep up my membership as a registered neutral in Georgia, I must complete 3 CLEs every year, and…it’s that time of year that I hunker down and get to it!

The reason I’m grateful for them is that they remind me of all the things I still have to learn about mediation and dispute resolution. This particular CLE was about defensiveness and how to diffuse as much of it as possible during mediation. The speaker reminded me that, yes, all of us have been defensive at one time or another and that, in her estimation at least, it takes between 20 minutes and an hour to diffuse a defensive posture and move on to business. That’s a boat-load of time to waste during the process!untitled

She also talked at length about how to diffuse defensiveness, and her thoughts were that mediators ought to be direct. Yep, get right to the point and call-out the elephant in the room. She brought up a divorcing couple in which the Father didn’t have a deep connection with his children, but insisted on having joint custody. Why? Well, we would all probably assume it has something to do with not wanting to pay child support. However, instead of “thinking” this, she suggested we just “say” it! Yep, come right on out and say something like, “I’m wondering if your desire for joint custody may have something to do with finances.” She says, in this case anyway, the Father came right out and explained that he was paying more than his fair share and had previous child support obligations…plus, he wanted to maintain a connection with his children, even though he hadn’t had one before.

There. Explained. Elephant out of the room.

So, just when you are tempted to shrug about the CLE’s or continuing education credits required for whatever membership you may hold, keep in mind that they’re there for a reason–because self-described know-it-alls like me need a reminder: We don’t know-it-all after all!


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