The Magic of Dancing with Conflict

June 26, 2023
The Magic of Dancing with Conflict

Hey XYZ, 

Sometimes I’m hired by clients who are in the middle of a divorce which has morphed into an all-out war in court. They’re mentally exhausted and running out of cash. They (and often their lawyers!) believe that there’s just no way their case can be resolved. A short time ago I had one of these cases. After reading the motions and documents, even I was having my misgivings about whether this conflict could be swiftly resolved.

They were blaming each other for all kinds of shenanigans. To read either of their documents would have you thinking that there was no way to come to resolution. They had two kids, a house, a pension, some debt and some assets. That’s pretty typical. But the fighting was bad. Really bad. She was a LIAR and he was ABUSIVE. Nearly an inch of affidavits between them. It was a mess.

I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I opened the Zoom rooms.  We all said our hellos. The parties did not acknowledge each other (it was a court ordered meeting). I gave my little introductory comments about being respectful. I summarized what I had read in both of their affidavits so that everyone knew I heard their point of view. And then, I set some ground rules for the conflict navigation journey. And then we were off.  

In the first hour, I wasn’t sure it would all come together. He’d say up, she’d say down. They were totally polarized to start. But the deeper we got, the more we talked about what was going on. We also spoke about other things, real things. We talked about Florida. About Italian food. Everyone connected and relaxed a little.  

In that calm space between the facts of the case and the easy conversation, solutions began to unfold. It was a dance. And through it, everyone started to see that big picture. There were way more points of agreement than disagreement.  

The more we peeled back the layers, and released the strong emotions driving the fights, the more the difficult conversations and issues simplified. In this case, having lawyers present was necessary to keep the power balance even. But once both parties felt heard, the clients were surprisingly flexible and very solution oriented.

By the second hour, a light switch turned on. It was incredible. There was a shift where the parties had a little breathing room to expect something other than the worst from each other. By the end of the third hour, the entire case was resolved. Yes, some damage had already been done in those affidavits, but by and large by taking a step back they were able to avoid making things worse.

Some people might think this sounds like magic. To resolve a bitter conflict in little more than three hours certainly sounds amazing.

But in my world, this is normal. And this is how things could go for so many if only more people were aware of this option. My experience has proven time and time again there is almost always a path to achieve what most people consider impossible.

Helping others discover that path is why I do what I do…

Until next time, 


- Gabrielle Hartley, author of The Secret to Getting Along

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