Below is an article that originally appeared in an ACR publication written by Kate Stewart.
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7 Tips to Transform Disagreements Into Opportunities in 2018
Most of us prefer to avoid thinking about conflict. But avoiding won’t make it go away.
The Chinese symbol for conflict means danger + opportunity. Conflict can be an unpleasant threat…or it can provide unexpected benefits. It’s really up to you.
Since you will inevitably face disagreements in the workplace and in your personal relationships, here are some tips for making 2018 one of your best years yet.
1. Manage your reaction. Conflict can bring out the worst in us. Anger, surprise, and hurt can trigger knee-jerk reactions we regret. They may feel good in the moment but rarely do emotional responses get us the best outcome.
Want better results? Take a pause. Count to 10…or 100, vent the steam with physical exertion (sports, hard work, punching a pillow), or meditate. Do what it takes to gain perspective and commit to making the situation work for you instead of controlling you.
2. Examine your stories. Think you understand the situation? Think again. We create meaning based on our histories and mental templates. Those are different for every one of us. Your counterpart’s story about the event is different from yours…but very true to him or her. These conflicting stories (explanations) are the primary cause of conflict.
What is your story about the situation? What labels are you putting on it and on the participants? Is it possible there may be other explanations? Can you suspend your stories long enough to get more information? It may change your perspective…and improve your options.
3. Ask questions. Asking questions often reveals information that challenges our assumptions. Answers we hear can expand our range of possible solutions. As a bonus, asking questions (not those dreadful leading questions, but questions asked in a genuine effort to learn and understand) softens others’ resistance, improving their ability to work with you to find a good solution.
Start with open-ended questions – those that produce narrative, not ayesornoanswer. Contrary to what you may think, asking questions doesn’t reduce your power or leverage. Instead, the information you gain increases your power.
4. Listen strategically. Your counterpart may be angry, may offer insults or complaints, or may strongly voice a position. Strategic listeners notice the emotion but don’t let it trigger their own emotional response. Instead, they focus on listening for new information, underlying interests, and opportunities to build bridges and weaken walls. Repeat what you hear and ask if you have it right. Ask clarifying questions. Be curious.
5. Move from positions to interests. Think of two boxers. As one attacks, the other responds with equal or greater force. The dance continues until one overpowers the other or they reach a draw.
Trying to win at the positional level is just like that. The more you argue your position, the more entrenched your counterpart becomes. Think you’re going to reach a mutually beneficial outcome? Not likely.
Instead, listen for the interests under their position. Simon Sinek’s popular 2014 TED Talk encourages us to start withWhy, notWhat. Try asking Why to soften the entrenchment and learn the underlying motivation. “Help me understand why getting a raise is important to you.” “I hear you saying that you’re unhappy with the relationship as it is now. Please explain why you would like it to change.” Make sure your tone shows a genuine desire to understand. It often helps to disclose your own Why.
Don’t move to How until you fully understand Why. When you do, invite your counterpart to join you in brainstorming solutions that address their interests and yours, too. This technique reframes a lose-lose, positional argument into something much more useful - a joint problem-solving process.
6. Don’t settle forcompromise. All our lives we’ve heard that compromise should be our goal. Frankly, compromise is an uninspired solution that rarely represents the best outcome for either side. Taking the time to explore underlying interests (see #5) ‘expands the pie’, allowing new, creative solutions to emerge that better meet the needs of everyone involved. Compromise is the best outcome only when (a) the pie has been expanded as much as possible, and (b) you are negotiating the division of a limited resource (e.g., money, time).
7. Get help. Sometimes we find ourselves unable to manage our emotions long enough to get the best outcome. Accept that. You’re human. Even the best negotiators and mediators sometimes get triggered. If you question your ability to manage conflict well and you care about the outcome, consider engaging a third-party neutral. It could be a person trusted by all participants. If such a person isn’t available, consider engaging a professional mediator.
Few of us enjoy disagreement, and none of us can avoid it forever. Those who accept conflict as inevitable and manageable can minimize its disruption and even enjoy benefits they never expected.
Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2018!
Providing Organizations and Individuals with: Training - Negotiation Skills, Collaboration Skills, Conflict Management Skills Alternative Dispute Resolution Workplace Mediation Team Performance Improvement Succession Planning Outsourced Ombuds Service Coaching Facilitation Organizational Dispute Resolution System Design
Now is the time for family lawyers and their clients to begin preparing for several revisions to the Texas Family Code that are set to take effect in 2018. The biggest, most-scrutinized change involves how courts will handle child support, which is almost always a big point of contention.
In nearly every family law case, the noncustodial parent, or “obligor,” feels like they are paying too much child support, while the custodial parent, or “obligee,” believes they are not receiving a sufficient amount to raise their child.
In Texas, outside of an agreement otherwise, Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code (TFC) governs the amount of child support that the nonprimary must pay the custodial parent each month.
To determine the monthly payment, barring any special needs or other extenuating circumstances involving the child, the code requires that the court first calculate the noncustodial parent’s monthly net resources (monthly income after taxes).
Based on that amount and number of children, a certain percentage is deducted from the obligor’s monthly net resources and paid to the custodial parent. The percentage varies depending on the number of children, with a deduction ceiling of 40 percent for all cases involving five or more children.
The code also requires the court to order the noncustodial parent to provide medical coverage for the child at a reasonable cost (TFC Section 154.181). The cost of the child’s health insurance premium is deducted from the obligor’s monthly net income to determine the monthly net resources discussed above.
Significant 2018 Changes
Effective Sept. 1, 2018, the TFC will require courts to begin ordering obligors to also cover their child’s dental insurance at a reasonable cost in addition to health insurance. The dental premium cost will be deducted from the obligor’s monthly net resources for child support calculation purposes in the exact same manner as health insurance premium costs.
The biggest change taking effect on the same date is the court’s ability to modify child support when the parents reach an agreement on a payment amount that does not follow TFC guidelines.
Currently, TFC Section 154.401 holds that no matter if an agreement has been reached on an amount that deviates from the guidelines, the court can modify a child support order under three scenarios:
• The circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the original order.
• The parties have reached a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement.
• Within three years of the original order being rendered or last modified, the monthly amount of child support under the order differs either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the TFC child support guidelines.
Once the new rules take effect next September, if divorcing parties agree to an order under which the amount of child support differs from what would have been awarded in accordance with TFC guidelines, then the court may modify the order only if the circumstances of the child or person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the date the order was rendered.
Plain and simple, this change will affect family law cases and child support payments statewide. By restricting the ability of courts to modify child support to a material and substantial change only, custodial parents who agree to deviate from TFC guidelines, absent a proven material and substantial change to current circumstances, will not have the luxury of simply waiting three years and hoping for an increase in the obligor’s monthly net resources.
Since it is very common for an individual’s employment experience to increase over a three-year span and, in turn, create a spike in income, this change precludes the custodial parent from simply presenting those facts to modify support.
Custodial parents who utilize the services of the attorney general in a Title IV-D family case are not restricted by the above change to modify support at any time, absent a showing of material and substantial change, if the order does not provide health care coverage or dental care coverage.
Considering that calculating dental care coverage is not required until next September, there likely will be a massive increase in child support modifications in Title IV-D cases once the new rules are implemented.
These changes not only will affect potential settlements between parents or conservators, but also the strategies and practices of every family law attorney practicing in the Lone Star State. Texas lawyers will soon have to advise their clients of the possible effects of deviating from TFC guidelines and the significant obstacles to modifying child support in the future.
Another consideration involves the possibility of previously amicable divorcing parties becoming less so due to them being forced to adhere to the new guidelines, which could create an increase in docket congestion and the amount of tax dollars spent by each county.
The final impact of these new rules will not be truly realized until after they’re implemented, but it is crucial for all family lawyers to know the details prior to Sept. 1, 2018.
This article was written by - Family law attorney Kris Balekian Hayes is the founder and president of Dallas-based Balekian Hayes. She has represented clients in Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma in all areas of family law, including contested divorces, child possession and child support disputes, and mediation proceedings. She can be reached at email@example.com.