When you talk with divorce and family lawyers about divorces, separations, or even “conscious uncouplings” a statement they always make in the course of the conversation focuses around their amazement that couple choose to go through a litigation based process.
In particular, their statement tends to focus on the fact that litigation takes time and is more emotionally draining than mediation, and yet many couples would prefer to go through that process than another, more collaborative one.
There are many points to consider from this observation, but there are three immediate ones that could be instructive and strategic for your conflict situation—even if you’re not getting a divorce, experiencing a separation, or have decided to “consciously uncouple”:
- A desire to see “justice done” is really a desire to see our will done unto the other person who hurt us. Which really means, when we go to a third party (whether a lawyer or a judge—and sometimes even a mediator) we aren’t looking to grow collaboratively with the other party out of a difficult relationship. We’re really looking for revenge and a reckoning.
- Collaboration is not about “being friends again” or even forgiving the other party. Collaboration is simultaneously a selfish and selfless act of growing with that other person (who sometimes you have a deeply personal relationship with) so that the relationship can end in a way that benefits both of you. Mediation is a collaborative process. Litigation is always a competitive process.
- Litigating not to “lose” is not the same as not collaborating to “win.” The fact of the matter is, “winning” and “losing” are black and white concepts that have little to nothing to do with the facts of the dispute, the relationships involved, the values on the table, the positions and interests of the parties involved, or the outcome in question. But parties in a dispute often view not “losing” (or outright “winning”) as the only satisfactory strategy that can justify emotional decisions made in all of those areas. Which is why litigated disputes always end up feeling emotionally hollow and are often decided—in hindsight—to have been a waste of both time and energy.
Many people in disputes, conflicts, disagreements, and who are having “differences of opinion” with other parties, experience a sense of burnout throughout the processes of both litigation and mediation. But the question on the table is “Do you prefer your burnout slow and steady, or quick and dirty?”
Answering that question, individually and corporately, with honesty, self-awareness, and insight into the other party, can lead to picking the best process for managing your particular conflict.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org