My blog is meant to inform but its primary purpose is not to be informative. It is about the law but it is not solely about the law but also about those places the law does not go. The law is the platform from which I dive. My blog is about my opinions but is not primarily about my opinions since I often temper these to the subject matter on hand, not to mention the imagined audience. Quite often when I open a subject which is related to the law for discussion, I find myself in a place I never meant to be, or to go, as if the subject takes on a life of its own. I write articles based on what I do for a living, and I am a family lawyer, but of course that is not all I am. I find that when I engage with a subject, and use writing to express my thoughts, that quite often the journey is more interesting than the end and that what I thought I was writing about is not what I wrote about at all. This seems to me to be a metaphor for life. I write, therefore, to throw some light into the dark, to increase my understanding and by extension hopefully, other people’s understanding of what often seems incomprehensible, to enliven the dull so my spirit does not sag and to throw some humour at what is often deeply sad so that I can, or maybe, dare I say hopefully, “we”, can gain perspective. I doubt I succeed but the effort is honest.
Monday, December 14, 2009
out of the blue...
If we change the way we communicate and in particular the way we manage conflict, we have the potential to change the way we live. Indeed, many think that it is the next step on the evolutionary ladder. Sadly, it is not as easy as it sounds but the will to change is the first step. Apparently, we have 8 seconds from the moment something is said or happens to cause us upset to consider our reaction before flooding occurs. Flooding is when you are too overcome with emotion to think – you are quite literally flooded. When we are flooded there are only three reactions possible to us, fight, flight or surrender. So there is a window of 8 seconds – not very long at all. In order to be able to change the way we react in certain situations within 8 seconds we need to become very skilled in alternative communication. It would have to become automatic and that is only going to happen with constant vigilance and practise. Thinking about the three responses that we have when we are flooded, fight, flight and surrender – what strikes me about them is that they are the same three possibilities open to an army in battle.
Sharon Strand Ellison in her book “Taking the War out of Our Words” reckons that all our communication is from the stance of war. She reckons that we are pretty much permanently on the defensive or on the attack. We are afraid to be vulnerable lest we be perceived as weak and so we set up barriers. We confuse honesty and vulnerability and we think if we are honest especially emotionally, that we will be savaged. Sadly these ways of communicating are not just Western, they are pretty much global. And yet if you examine honest thoughtful communication it has the potential to diffuse conflict and to allow for true human interaction. The irony is that what most of us crave and few of us ever achieve is true communication even with our own children. Of course, to achieve the kind of effective honesty and non-defensive communication that Strand Ellison is talking about takes daily practise. It is not just blurting out whatever comes into your head, it is what the mediators call living in the question but these are questions that are artfully constructed and asked with genuine curiosity. Their honesty is what makes them disarming. The other person senses that the question is genuine and not designed to trap. Too ask a question with true curiosity, you have to truly want to listen to the answer. Few of us can achieve this when we are emotionally invested without a great deal of practise certainly not in 8 seconds.