Thursday, May 24, 2018

Does Mediation Work?

If you can’t resolve your family conflicts respectfully, does mediation work?  That is the question I asked Robert (Bob) Stocksa business consultant and coach.  Our usual chit-chat eventually turned to a conversation about mediation, Bob’s area of expertise. 

Networking is learning.  Learning is networking.  When anyone attends a Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA) meeting, they are privy to a wealth of knowledge offered by other advisors in attendance.  This is exactly what I received, a first-hand glimpse into the role of a mediator when families stop talking about important matters.   

Many years ago, Bob made the decision to take courses in Conflict Resolution through a college in Boulder, Colorado.  Today, he vows that his old school mentality has helped him serve his clients effectively both in the past and present.

The two styles of family conflict are matrimonial (between a husband and a wife) or inter-generational (between parents and children or siblings).  When a family is having disputes, bringing them together into a room to air their concerns and grievances doesn’t work.  Bob prefers to have the initial conversations with them individually.  You have an opportunity to hear everyone’s objectives in advance on a one-on-one basis.  You not only hear their objectives but you understand their objectives.  This is critical.  People need to feel they have a say if the issues are ever to be resolved.  They want to feel they are in control of their destiny if a deal is to be made.

Bob shared his father’s wisdom. His father combined a valid statement with a direct question, “You might be right and I hear you, but will it do you any good?”  It’s a question we probably should ask ourselves often when confronted with the choice of either winning the argument or winning the relationship.   Harboring resentment against family does not do any good for anyone.  When you do, you unknowingly cause more harm to yourself.  This phrase shines a new perspective on the subject: “Holding a grudge is like drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die”.  We never want to be in a position where our thinking is clouded by our emotions.

The first step in resolving conflict always involves an important communication skill, listening.  When people feel they have been heard, then they are ready to move to the next step, finding a resolution.  So the probing begins.  Bob starts by asking:  “What deal do you need so you can move on from this place of being stuck?”  

Bob referenced a very insightful and popular book. Christopher W. Moore’s book, The Mediation Process, Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict  is used by many conflict resolution practitioners, faculty, and students as the all-inclusive guide to the discipline of mediation and conflict resolution.  Here’s the logic behind this process.  Mediation is a better alternative compared to having matters settled in court.  The decisions made by the courts might not result in a desired outcome.  A mediator, like Bob, helps people decipher their own solutions. There are no easy answers but the important thing is to find a way to talk about the issues which have people feeling stuck.  The families are persuaded to push through their problems and hurt feelings and to think about how they can get to a better place than where they are presently.         

Another best-selling book, Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In written by Roger Fisher and William Ury, supports Bob’s belief that no one should cave into agreement.  “No one wants to feel forced to do something they do not want to do.  They should not be forced into a deal they do not like.”   All options needs to be considered.  The decision is to pick an option which is better than a worse one.  Reaching a Win-Win agreement far outweighs a Win-Lose or Lose-Lose agreement.  

Mediation always works.  The only time mediation doesn’t work is when the parties are not willing to pay the consultation fees to have the conflict resolved.  That’s the clincher. If people could see into a crystal ball the situation going from bad to worse, they might change their minds.  Do they want to pay a little now for a consultant or pay a lot later for a lawyer and court fees?  In the end, the result may not be pretty if they choose to wait by avoiding both the conversations and the fees.    

As I write this blog, I think of my family’s situation.  My father and his brother passed away without talking to each other.  I reflected on the question Bob poses to his clients, “What are we trying to accomplish so you don’t spit at each other when you pass on the street?”  I realize that my family’s situation is not an isolated case.  Many families find themselves in a similar dilemma.  Hurt feelings and unresolved conflicts cause relationships to blister with anger, grief, and sadness.  If there’s a slight chance you can mend the broken bridges in your relationship with mediation, you are encouraged to try regardless of the cost.  

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Where Do You Fit?

The information is hot off the press.  I am not picking through old data.  This week the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) released its latest report on Financial Stress.  When asked, people will share their biggest fears and concerns but generally money isn’t something we discuss with our family and friends.  We might complain about the price of groceries and gasoline but we are reluctant to fully disclose every detail about our personal finances. 

If you were asked the same five basic questions about views on money that 1,106 Canadians were, where would you fit in the conversation?  Here’s your chance.  Below are the questions.  Once you have answered them, you can compare your results with those people surveyed.

Question #1

In general, what tends to cause you the most stress in your life?

  • Money
  • Personal Health
  • Work
  • Relationships

Question #2

How often, if ever, do you feel embarrassed about lacking control over your current financial situation?

  • Always
  • Sometimes
  • Rarely
  • Never
  • No Answer

Question #3

How much do you agree, or disagree, with the following statement:  I have lost sleep because of financial worries.

  • Strongly Agree
  • Somewhat Agree
  • Somewhat Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree
  • No Answer

Question #4

To what extent, if at all, do you feel pressure to keep up with your friends’ or colleagues’ financial status?

  • Very Pressured
  • Somewhat Pressured
  • Not Very Pressured
  • Not At All Pressured
  • No Answer

The results are found in this Omni Report:Financial Stress.   We can determine whether or not our answers align with others. 

Money is the one thing we all have in common.  It’s certainly understandable not to share our money concerns with every person; however, when we struggle about doing the right thing with our finances, talking with a financial planner may give us peace of mind.  Doing so is no different than seeing a doctor about a health concern.

We are usually looking for something: where we buy our new car or home, where we spend our next exotic vacation or where we purchase something small like a camera or an appliance.  We tend to do homework in our endeavors to make the right choice. Therefore, we shouldn’t be reluctant to seek advice about money matters when we can’t figure things out on our own.  The main reason for doing so is to live your life without regrets.

Here’s the final survey question. 

Question #5

What is your greatest financial regret – that is, if you could go back in time and do things differently, what would that be?

  • I would have saved money/more money/saved earlier
  • I would have invested more/invested earlier
  • I would have bought a property/invested in real estate/land
  • I would have done more schooling/higher education/different stream
  • I would have avoided debts/not overspent on credit cards
  • I would have made the right decision when selling/buying property
  • I would have kept my job/worked longer/wouldn’t retired earlier
  • I would have been more responsible with money/budgeted earlier
  • I would have saved more for retirement/retirement plan
  • I would have spent less money on leisure/gambling
  • I would have tried to get a higher paying job
  • I wouldn’t have bought a car
  • I would have spent less money
  • I would have had a separate bank account with spouse/no divorce
  • I would have avoided bankruptcy/managed business better
  • Other
  • No regrets
  • No Answer

The survey reveals that more than eight-in-ten Canadians (83%) have at least one financial regret.  What’s yours, if any?

This article, Change Your Mindset If You Want to Succeeddoesn’t talk about money.  It simply talks about life.  My biggest takeaway was this quote from business coach, author, and speaker Ali Golds. She says, Celebrating triumphs can also help put self-doubt to flight and take the spotlight off setbacks. “Who cares about mistakes? I don’t,” adds Golds. “I celebrate every achievement, even tiny ones, because without them I’d never have gone on to bigger successes.”

After answering the above survey questions, we may want to change one way we handle money. Ali Golds’ reasoning can apply to our money concerns.  If we need to make changes to our financial circumstances, then we need to develop a strategy.  Ignoring the problems doesn’t help.  Action may or may not result in triumphs and successes every time but we can celebrate the strides we do make towards our financial goals.  Any change, big or small, to improve our financial well-being is a step worth taking.