There are many situations where clients consult friends, attorney friends, attorneys who are not friends, family members, their hair stylists, their gym trainers, or even a well meaning next door neighbor – – all of whom we could qualify as the “Greek Chorus.” While soliciting advice is not necessarily a bad thing, it can leave clients more confused than ever as to what decisions they should make. It can also slow up and/or impede moving forward with a decision. All these different people want ”the best for their friends of course!”, but sometimes multiple opinions can do more harm than good.
So what should we do? What would the courts dictate? Can you please tell us what to do? These are some of the questions that my clients ask me in mediation when they are brainstorming and confused by the different alternatives available to them.
First and foremost, as a neutral I cannot tell people what to do. In addition, I am not going to have to live with the agreement so I truly cannot determine what is best for them, but I can guide, answer questions, help them do reality tests, explain the basics of the law and how it can be applied in their situation. With that guidance, they can build their own agreement to suit their unique situation.
I was working once with a couple and at each session the husband came back with advice given from a different person, making him doubt the decisions made at the previous session. So they kept revising and making changes to the same issue over and over, depending on what one friend or another had advised. After three sessions of going round and round, and the wife losing patience over the same issue being changed and not being able to finalize any decision, he understood that they were not getting anywhere. He needed to focus on his needs while also taking into consideration his spouse’s needs and those of their children in order to get an agreement done.
It cost them a lot of wasted time and emotional energy but they ultimately started working together. They stopped listening to other people, understanding that their situation was unique as is any family’s situation, and that they would be better served ignoring all the different input given by their well meaning connections.
Advice can be helpful depending on where it is coming from, but at the end of the day, no one knows better what is best for you, than you yourself.
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jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 firstname.lastname@example.org connect on