I find that most clients who come to me are grounded, established, smart, intelligent, and resourceful people who are thriving and do well in society.
They are healthy, constructive individuals and generally, they are trying to work through the parameters of a family dispute in a way that they can start anew. They would like their children taken care of and protected. In the beginning they come to me without malicious thoughts for their family members/spouse in the beginning. Often though, when we hit some triggers, they begin to show vulnerability, fear, and anxiety about what might come.
The more that I have capacity and agency to hold them, embrace them, and remind them that they are not alone. They should be reminded that hundreds of thousands of people in that situation have already gone through what they are experiencing and come out okay. We are going to work together.
Do Clients Typically Apprise You Of The Details That Led Them To This Point In Life?
The answer is yes and no, because trust is a process and trauma often freeze emotions. Someone is not necessarily going to share after only one session. I teach a course on dealing with difficult people, and I suggest an exercise based on Going to the Balcony. This is taught in many leadership courses as well. It is the concept of going on a balcony where you can observe everything going on in your life and in your relationships. Then you bring that difficult relationship up to the balcony. You sit with that individual who you are in conflict within this imaginary space. You then visualize listening to this person who is challenging you.
It could be a boss, it could be your child, it could be anybody, but in this situation, it’s your family member/spouse. You really listen and ask them what’s going on. Conversely you share what is really going on with you right now? What’s important to you? You try to listen consciously, but you also try to listen in a thought field where you’ve been living with this person as children or as a spouse or partner, for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, however long you have known one another. You know this person pretty well, and you may even know the answer to it. But you want to hear it from them, and you want to be able to restate it back so that they hear it from you. Then you want to imagine that your partner is asking you the same important question, what are your interests right now? What’s concerning you as we go through this process? This is an ongoing question and process through the entire process. The idea is that by rehearsing in the balcony, you will be a lot less charged and reactive when you begin discussions/negotiations with this individual.
The point of this exercise is not that you are scheming about how to get at this individual. You are invoking a sense of honor, relationship, and appreciation for the individual for being in your life. What I find is that too many people at the time of a family breakup begin to really get tough on themselves. We are our hardest enemies because we are so hard on ourselves, and we make ourselves wrong for having chosen this family or this individual. How come I didn’t know? I should have known; I should have seen the signals. Well okay, but the truth is you spent however many years with this individual. Can we heal that relationship so you move on and you don’t drag that baggage into that next relationship? That’s also true for not dragging that baggage into a co-parenting relationship that may last for another 15 years depending on the age of the children.
That is a recurring exercise that I encourage my clients to practice throughout the dispute resolution process.
How Do You Find the Balance Between Engaging And Connecting With Your Clients But Also Must Draw A Boundary Of The Attorney-Client Relationship?
In order to keep a professional distance, I practice staying objective and detached. I practice not owning every client’s issues. I do not say that in a negative way or non-caring way, but for my personal health and effectiveness. I can do this and also still really lean into my clients to empathize and understand what is happening in their situations. In order to remain open and transparent, I practice co-regulation. This is the ability to be with my client in a way that they feel deeply understood and listened to. Each individual is unique, special, gifted, and talented. They also have incredible capacity to do wonderful things.
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