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Applying the Principles of Positive Confrontation in your Divorce Mediation

In a divorce mediation, being able to handle conflict positively is one of the most useful skills you can utilize. This doesn’t mean you have to be happy about your current state of conflict. What it does mean is that when you do face conflict you will be able to handle it constructively. Two words Barbara Pachter in her book, Positive Confrontation, uses to describe your state of being in a positive confrontation are, “Polite,” and “Powerful.” Her choice of these two words are a stark contrast to other words we usually think of when we think of confrontation, such as emotionally charged, accusatory, judging, and demeaning.

Barbara highlights the word “polite” to emphasize the importance of etiquette. Etiquette she explains is all about treating others the right way. The word “powerful” is used to connote the assertiveness required to meet our own needs during a confrontation. When these two words are read together, we understand that Barbara is asking us to treat others in the right way while acting assertively on behalf of our own needs.

We can all fall into trap of whining to others about the issue at hand instead of actually directly confronting the person with whom we have the issue. However, positive confrontation is geared to helps us to avoid this trap. Positive confrontation requires five steps:

1) You identify what’s bothering you

2) You know what you want from the other person

3) You understand your own position and the other person’s

4) You make a conscious choice to say something directly, respectfully and powerfully

5) You use polite language when you speak

When you use positive confrontation to express your needs, not only does the issue resolve, you also boost your sense of self efficacy and self-esteem. Harnessing these skills are crucial in your divorce mediation. Even though as mediators, we aspire to provide a neutral ground and space for everyone to express their needs, being able to be your own advocate in a polite and powerful way can help your needs be heard.

As divorce mediators, our job is to guide you through steps 1, 2 and 3. We provide you the legal framework so that you understand the issues that need to be identified. With proper guidance on what the law is, you can begin to form opinions on what is you are seeking from the other party. Finally we help each party understand the other’s position. However, it is important to note you have to be proactive and make a conscious choice in your divorce mediation to state what it is that you would like. Being able to assert your position is your most important responsibility in mediation, however, as always we are here as your fail safe in case emotions get the best of you and politeness goes out the window.

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