There’s this thing called “Empathy.” And it’s a powerful force. When I don’t see eye-to-eye with someone, I try very hard to understand why that person feels the way they do, and why their reality is so different from mine. When I take that approach, I am usually able to comprehend their logic or at least catch a glimpse of where that person is coming from, even if I don’t agree with their reasoning or conclusions.
Unfortunately, many people are unwilling or unable to see a problem through another person’s eyes. And in today’s political environment, empathy and compassion are often considered a liability. Why? Maybe people are afraid that trying to understand another’s point of view will somehow be seen as a tacit admission that the person is right. Maybe they fear that conceding a point, even a small one, is tantamount to losing the debate. Or maybe they’re just afraid of being wrong.
But “Empathy” is not a weakness – it’s a strength. Failing to consider a problem from the opposing point of view often leads to a stalemate and continued conflict. Refusing to make even a minimal concession or a reasonable compromise only assures that competing parties will never be able to bridge the gap and resolve their differences. It heightens the conflict and can cause a small spark to become a raging fire.
When two people are going through a divorce, it’s a scary and emotional time in their lives. They may wonder, “What’s going to happen to my children?” or “How can I protect the assets that I’ve worked my whole life to accumulate?” It can feel as though the ground beneath them has fallen away and they have nothing to hold onto. Fear grips them. And eventually their fear morphs into anger. They run out and look for the meanest, most aggressive attorney they can find. But they soon learn that the divorce litigation, which is an adversarial process to begin with, has only increased their fear and inflamed their anger.
With this mindset, it is hard to make concessions or compromises. It is difficult to put yourself in the shoes the other person (who, by now, may seem like an enemy) — but that is exactly what you need to do. Because being able to view the situation through the eyes of that person will enable you to better understand their perspective — their fears, their insecurities, their unstated needs. And that insight, along with a willingness to make reasonable concessions, could allow you to resolve your dispute amicably, and save thousands of dollars in the process.
A father going through a divorce might be afraid that the mother is trying to take his children away from him. A wife who was a stay-at-home mom for many years might be afraid that she won’t be able to support herself after the divorce. By trying to understand those fears, you are better able to address the problem. Empathy also allows you control your own fear and insecurity. You are less likely to be angry with your soon-to-be ex-spouse if you understand that his/her motives are not evil. That person is just fearful, like you are.
In the end, empathy enables you to comprehend the other party’s state of mind, which may result in finding a solution that allows you to meet their needs without compromising your own.
At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Amar are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. We handle Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com. We look forward to hearing from you.