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207 - Mediating High Conflict Disputes with Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

207 - Mediating High Conflict Disputes with Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. Image

07/30/2021 7:00 pm

One could say that this book has been in the works for a couple decades. Bill Eddy and his co-author, attorney Michael Lomax share what works and doesn't work when mediating a case with a High Conflict Personality. Their book is a game changer for those who want to settle their case but are dealing with someone who may have a personality disorder, making settlement near impossible. Listen in to the show for a glimpse inside this book and a few examples to the successful techniques that they have learned over the years.




Transcript

Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, your host for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. Here you learn about divorce, family law, and from time to time, even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you were to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com.

Well, hello, everyone. I have some good news today and some bad news today. The bad news is that Todd couldn't make the show today. But the good news is Todd could not make the show today. So it's probably going to be one of the best shows ever in the history of Divorce Team Radio. No, I'm just kidding. No, the real good news is that you will not have to listen to me drone on and on all by myself because we have a returning guest on the show to talk about his newest book.

That's right. Bill Eddy has come back on the show to discuss his fantastic new book that's just come out, Mediating High Conflict Disputes. Now, Bill's actually the co-author of this book with Attorney Michael Lomax. And for those that may not know Bill, he's an author, a speaker, a lawyer, a licensed counselor, a registered mediator, and he started the High Conflict Institute and has written and coauthored 18 books as of 2021, if you don't count all the workbooks he's done. Welcome back, Bill.

Bill Eddy: Thanks so much, Leh. I'm glad to be on again.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And if you want to read... Billy, I keep your intro short just because it would take up the first segment talking about all the stuff you've done. So you're welcome to look... What's the website that people can go to, to find out more about you and all the information that you've written about over the years?

Bill Eddy: It's highconflictinstitute.com. So that's www.high, H-I-G-H, conflict, C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T, institute, I-N-S-T-I-T-U-T-E, .com.

Leh Meriwether: Great. Because this book, Mediating High Conflict.... Okay. Here's my first question about your book. What took you so long? I mean, why did you take so long to write this book? Because I really could have used it 10, 15 years ago. Instead, I had to learn from the school of hard knocks. No, I'm just kidding. I'm sparely serious, but partly kidding about that question.

Bill Eddy: Well, that's actually a good question because mediation is really been the theme that's held together my kind of mixed career. Because I did my first divorce mediation in 1979.

Leh Meriwether: Wow.

Bill Eddy: For a couple of friends. And I don't recommend that, but it actually worked out okay. And their son is still alive and he's 48 now instead of eight years old like he was 40 years ago.

Leh Meriwether: Wow.

Bill Eddy: But yeah, it's, I think partly just so busy doing it, but also just not quite getting around to reflecting on all the different pieces. Because it's really been 10 or 12 years that I've been using this approach. And my co-author Michael Lomax, who you mentioned, we've been discussing it over 12 years. He's in British Columbia in Canada. So it's [inaudible 00:03:34] interesting two different countries. We kept reaching the same conclusions on what worked with high-conflict disputes. But it's something that's been evolving, I guess. And maybe because of COVID we finally had a chance to sit down and get it all written down.

Leh Meriwether: Well, that's one good thing that came out of COVID, because... Truthfully, it's a great book. And for the listeners that may not understand what high-conflict personalities are, Bill, I'm sure you will get to where you can explain what you mean by high-conflict people here in a minute.

Bill Eddy: Yeah.

Leh Meriwether: But your first book was at 2007. It was called high-conflict Personalities and Legal Disputes. Was that it? I'm trying to remember off the top of my head. And I've read the book a couple of times.

Bill Eddy: Yeah, High Conflict People in Legal Disputes. And actually, it came out originally in 2006. So we're not-

Leh Meriwether: 2006. Okay. Sorry about that.

Bill Eddy: 15 years ago on that one, but it's as relevant today as ever.

Leh Meriwether: Well, what's really interesting in reading the book, what really jumped out at me is that there were so many insights in here that you couldn't have written this book. As I was joking about not writing it sooner, but I was serious in that, "Man, I could have really used this a long time ago." But you couldn't have written it sooner only because you didn't have all this information. I mean, you have all these experiences now about what works and what doesn't, that you've been able to distill and put into this book.

And so, as I was reading through it, I'm like, "Man, I could see why you couldn't have written this sooner." I mean, mediation has been something that's been evolving over the years, but also understanding how high-conflict personalities operate has been something that you've kind of pioneered, at least from my perspective as far as gaining an understanding of how to communicate with high-conflict personalities in legal disputes.

So I just want to say I'm really appreciative of all the information you've put together over the years. Because I know it's helped a lot of the attorneys in our firm. I know it's helped some clients of ours that have read your book, Splitting. Which I'd love to have you on just to talk about that even though you wrote it several years ago. It's such a great book on how to understand the personalities. I'm going into this right now only because one of the... If you've never read one of his books before, some of this stuff, I won't say won't make sense, but it'll make more sense when you have a background of high-conflict personalities.

But in every book I learned something new, like here's a little thing that jumped out at me. And then we'll get into some other more pertinent questions directly on the book. But you had said something in here that just hit me. And it was in the beginning of the book. You said, "Don't ask a high-conflict personality person how they're feeling. Because that is a trigger because they like to dwell on the past and emotion can really drive them. Instead, ask about what plan... For example, ask about what plans they might have coming up."

And you gave an example in a book where a mediation had gone all day and they'd made some progress, but they hadn't finished. And that you were going to... I don't know if you were doing the mediation, but the person who's telling the story was going to reschedule the mediation and the lawyer made the mistake of asking his client, "Well, how do you feel now?" And they just went off and the whole mediation just got derailed as a result.

Bill Eddy: Yes. That was me. I was the mediator and the lawyer was someone I knew pretty well and respected a lot. Both lawyers in the room, which often isn't the case for my mediation, but in this very high-conflict mediation, both lawyers in the room, the parties were difficult but made some progress. We scheduled the next session. And they're packing up. And that's when his lawyer says, "Don't you feel better now?" He was like outrage. Of course not. Of course not.And then he expands to say, and this was a total waste of time. And then he says, and I'm never coming back. And he never did.

Leh Meriwether: Wow.

Bill Eddy: That's why you don't want to ask how high-conflict people are feeling, because they have to tell you how terrible things are. And they feel terrible inside. And so it's better to distract them. Talk about making a decision, talking about plans, like you said, et cetera. And this is very counterintuitive. And this is something that you don't have to be a mediator to benefit by knowing this.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Bill Eddy: I didn't know this until about 10 years ago. Amazing.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. It really is amazing. And if you, and so the listeners, if you've got a case or you're... This book focuses a lot on family law and divorce, but it goes beyond that. You also have a workplace situations, right? Is that in the book?

Bill Eddy: Yes. Yes, we try to do a lot with that as well. Because there was a need for that there.

Leh Meriwether: Right. And some eldercare... You had some information about eldercare situations and mediations. So it goes beyond just the normal information that we focus on in our Divorce Team Radio. So if you have a case that's coming up, it's definitely a book that you want to check out because the things that you highlight in this book are so counter-intuitive. In fact, one of my favorite books out there when it comes to mediation, now this is my other favorite book, when it comes... Well, this is my favorite one wen it comes to mediating in high-conflict personalities. The other one didn't really address, so was getting to yes.

Bill Eddy: Yep.

Leh Meriwether: And-

Bill Eddy: One of my favorite books as well.

Leh Meriwether: But those techniques would fail miserably if one or both parties were high-conflict personalities. But you're going to explain all that, why it's going to fail. And see if you can do this in 50 seconds or less. Can you explain really quick, what is a high-conflict personality?

Bill Eddy: Well, basically four parts. One is a person's preoccupied with blaming others and not looking at themselves at all. They have a lot of all-or-nothing thinking. So they see the problem, I'm all good, you're all bad. And they're solutions are like that. It's my way or the highway. You leave town or it's going to be terrible for you. Then they often have unmanaged emotions. They may just kind of jump up and start yelling or run out of a room, something like that. And they often have some extreme behavior. They'll do things that 90% of people would never do.

Leh Meriwether: And, Bill, I'm going to have to stop you right there. When we come back, we're going to talk about how to mediate somebody with high-conflict personality. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd: Better than like counting sheep, I guess. Right? It's a... You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh, your hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com.

Well, I said I'm the host today because Todd couldn't make it. No, he didn't get fired or quit or run off in a tantrum or anything like that. He just couldn't make it today. But thankfully, I got someone to substitute for him. So it wasn't just me talking and boring you to death. No, I've got with me a return guest, Bill Eddy, and he's talking about his newest book, Mediating High Conflict Disputes.

Bill, thanks so much for coming back on. And thanks for writing this book. I really... This is something that... When we were off here, I was talking about, man, there's some people right now that I may not be dealing with them in a legal dispute, but I'm going to quit asking them how they feel. Because I'm going to get a response. I don't want to have to spend 30 minutes dealing with. I'm going to start asking them other questions.

So let's start. Let me start with this question for this segment. This book, on its surface, it appears to be geared towards professionals, because it's mainly like the mediators, but can anyone use this book?

Bill Eddy: Yes. And we tried to specifically say that at the beginning, even though it's geared to mediators, just about anyone will find themselves in the middle of other people's conflicts at some point in time. And so a lot of the tips can be used. Like the fact that you want to focus on the future instead of what happened in the past. You don't want to focus on how they feel, you want to focus on what they think and what to do.

And a lot of it is counter-intuitive that will help anybody even if they're going through a mediation themselves. Like a divorce client can benefit from this by realizing, oh, I better not raise that. And it might help if I raise this. Or there are certain things to do and certain things not to do. So I think, really, anybody can use it.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I definitely would agree with that because, like I said, I see how I can use some of the stuff in my personal life dealing with some people not just mediation. Obviously, it's geared towards mediation and very insightful. But let's talk about for those that may not know. In what ways are high-conflict disputes? If you're mediating a high-conflict, somebody with a high-conflict personality in the room, how is it different from your typical mediation?

Bill Eddy: Well, you need to do what they call, keep in mind before or forget about it. So we've already talked about forget about asking high-conflict people how they feel. And by the way, you don't have to apply this with the average person. If you think, uh-oh, this may be a high-conflict person with a all-or-nothing thinking and lots of blame, then you really do want to steer away from focusing on feelings because they drown in feeling. Sad to say, emotions don't really get healed for people with high-conflict personalities. So there's a lot of old unresolved stuff. And if they focus their attention on how they feel, they feel all that bad stuff. So guide them away from that.

Yeah. Then also guide them away from trying to get them to have insight. What we've learned is high-conflict people really don't have insight into themselves. And you can yell at them, or whisper to them, put it in writing or whatever, and they will not get their part in the problem. So what we've learned is instead of focusing on, "you need to see what you're doing wrong," is we focus on the future and what choices are there. Let's look at your choices. And so they don't have to get defensive because high-conflict people are very defensive.

So we steer away from feelings. We steer away from insight. We also steer away from the past. And high-conflict people, really, are stuck in the past. And they're constantly... One way to know a high-conflict person is they're still talking about what you did two years ago. They keep bringing that back up. "I was right to do what I did. You were wrong to say what you said." And you're going, "I don't even remember this anymore." But they kind of are trying to rework the past to prove that they didn't do anything wrong. They're really [inaudible 00:16:50] perfect in the image they want you to have of them.

So we try to steer away from the past and look at the future. What do you suggest? What do you propose that we do in the future? And lastly is of course not labeling and not saying, oh, you have a high-conflict personality, or a personality disorder, or something like that. Those are what we call the four forget-about-it. And you've need to take those into account if you're mediating a dispute with one or more high-conflict people.

Leh Meriwether: And you do a great... I mean, just taking a step back, the goal of mediation is to settle your case out of court. Because when you get in front of a judge or, on some cases, a jury, you are handing your life over to someone who doesn't know you and doesn't know your family, your children, your life. And they make a decision about you're going to live, especially of children, for the next several years. So it's important to have the mediation be successful.

And while it may feel good to say to someone you're crazy and you're a narcissist or whatever it makes you feel good saying, all that does is defeat mediation. And before this book, I would say that going into certain mediations, dealing with someone that was a high-conflict personality, whether it was my client or the other side, I always... I wouldn't say I dreaded those mediations, I just knew I had to stay on my best behavior enabled to get through them. You had to bite your tongue unlike any other mediation. And you had to really think through things because high-conflict personalities don't process information just like you highlight it. They don't process information like most people.

I know this is a tangent and kind of off of what we were just talking about, but I just wanted to say that... One of the other things I found very helpful in your book, and I don't think we have time to get into it today because there's a bunch of other stuff I want to get into, but there was this section about understanding high-conflict personalities. And I think you do a great job summarizing it. And also highlighting, from the professional standpoint, that when you lay all this information out, you're not trying to be judgemental, you're just giving information to help recognize a pattern of behavior that requires.... And so this might apply to the person that doesn't have a lawyer and is representing themselves, that they need to take a different approach than a typical mediation.

And you also set in there, in conjunction with that, it's very important to have compassion for people with personality disorders and high-conflict personalities. Which, from experience, can be very challenging. Because you just want to, for lack of a better term, let them have it. But that's counterproductive. But I think when you read that first chapter about understanding the high-conflict personality, it makes it easier for you to step back and go, "You know what? In many respects they can't help themselves." And so playing blame on their feet. It's not going to help.

And you can't come in there from a judgemental standpoint because they will spot that. And that will cause the case to fail, too. So you've got to come in there with compassion and understanding in order to achieve what you want, and that is a successful mediation. Is that a fair summary?

Bill Eddy: Yes. I think that's excellent. It's easy to lose track of that compassion when people are blaming you, and angry with you, and saying it's all your fault and stuff like that, but it's kind of like dealing with a child or something and going just yell at them back, it's all their fault. Instead, you say, "Look, Johnny, here's what we need to do now."

And that's really a lot of what high-conflict mediation is. It's just not getting hooked into that. And as you said, early, kind of biting your tongue. Because there's so much that high-conflict people say and do that trigger a reaction in us. And being able to override that and stay focused on getting a task accomplished isn't easy, but with practice, it gets easier. And it's so important if you're really trying to help somebody resolve their dispute.

Leh Meriwether: And in the book, you actually broke down the... I don't know if it's called... You call it a psychological term. And that's called, what was it? The mirroring effect where a person that's not a high-conflict personality, psychologically speaking, they want to mirror the other person. And sometimes you can mirror that high-conflict personality.

And when we come back, we're going to continue to break down what you can do to not mirror the high-conflict situation and reach a successful mediation. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd: Better than like counting sheep, I guess. Right? You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh, your host for Divorce Team Radio show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com.

Well, today we don't have Todd with us, which is a bad thing and a good thing. Just kidding about the last part. But we do have Bill Eddy, who's talking about and explaining his newest book, Mediating High Conflict Disputes. And he's actually, after years of practice himself and study and self-reflection, has put together a really remarkable book explaining how to deal with high-conflict personalities in a mediation setting. Because it forces you to think a lot differently and mediate in almost a completely different way that you may have been taught if you're a mediator. Or if you're going in there and you're not a mediator, you're going to be an attendee of the mediation, these things to really help you achieve a successful mediation.

I know I kind of butchered it because I was running out of time, but real quick, Bill, what... I had said mirror, the mirror effect, but I messed that up. What's going on when a high-conflict person in the room results in other people in the room start becoming high-conflict people as well.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. So it's called mirror neurons. That they discovered them... Brain scientists discovered them in our brains. And we kind of absorb what we see other people doing and we feel tempted to mirror that. Like you're in a group of people and somebody crosses their arms, next thing you know you're crossing your arms. But also, emotions seem to be something that we mirror. So if someone's getting loud and angry, then the whole group will start getting loud and angry.

So in a mediation, if one person starts accusing the other in a well angry voice, next thing you know the other person's responding in a loud, angry voice. And so the difficulty for a mediator is to not join in or saying, "Can you all shut up? I am timed. I can even be louder than you." So realizing that, you can override that.

And so if someone starts pointing fingers and that kind of thing, you can just kind of stay cool, and often people will start mirroring you. And that's something I teach lawyers, mediators, counselors, et cetera, is communicate in the way you want other people to mirror and don't mirror the high-conflict person. That's the key.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And that's very powerful, that if you can come in there and exert through almost body language, a positive calming environment, it can help calm down the other person. But you have to be aware of it. I have fallen prey to it myself from time to time. Thankfully, someone else doesn't in the room and they calm me down. But you have to be really aware of this, especially going into the mediation, that you've got to have that situational awareness and personal emotional awareness on high alert so you are mirroring the correct, I like to call vibe for the room to reach a successful mediation.

So let's talk about the new method. Because one of the subtitles you had in here was, New Ways for Mediation. It was in the subtitle you had. It's a new method. So let's talk about that line. Obviously, we're only going to scratch the surface of it, but let's give people a taste.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. We call it New Ways for Mediation. And ways really means skills for the clients and skills to emphasize for the mediator. And so it's really engage... It's more structured than an average mediation. And it really engages the clients. Especially around making their own agenda. and we help them with that, and also making proposals.

And one of the big differences in this method from the getting to yes method, which was based on looking for each other's interests before you start looking for solutions, when high-conflict situations we find, especially high-conflict people often come in with demands. And so we say, "Oh, that's a proposal." He'll say, "No, it's not. It's what has to happen?" And we'll say, "Well, we don't know because in mediation things have to be discussed before they happen."

So we start with proposals. So when it's time for proposals, you can say your proposal and they would go, "Oh, well, we'll see." And then they're patient and eventually got around to saying their proposal. And then we deconstruct the proposal to understand what's in it and how both people can fit together new proposals to reach agreements.

So we really... We shift several things, but the focus really on the clients really doing more of the thinking than in an ordinary mediation where the mediator is asking a lot of questions and trying to figure it out themselves. So we really help the parties figure it out more than an average mediation. And we try not to go into the past. Or if we do, it's not much.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And I liked the... You had a great example in the book of a very common intro that you give. And in the intro, where you said if we get into the past, it's only going to be a little, we're going to focus on the future. Because you can't mediate the past. You can only help them reach a solution for the future. So that's very helpful for people to keep in mind.

The other thing I liked was just having them, I mean... Let me pull back a second. I have so many thoughts running through my head because I have too many notes in front of me right now. I wish I'd had a little... I think one of those days where I'd booked too much in my day, and then when one thing ran late, it just made the whole day run a little behind. And so I apologize that I'm not better prepared for this interview because I have too many questions for you.

In the book, you explain something... This is just a big prop for the book. You explain something and you won't just say, Hey, you shouldn't do this or you should do this. In fact, you do say, don't do this and you shouldn't do this. But you say, here's an example of what I'm talking about. And you pull from real cases and everything. That is so helpful, that if you're a listener and you're thinking about buying this book, I can just tell you, not only will you learn a lot, but you're going to get a lot of practical advice on how to deal with things, because.... Going back to the book, Getting to Yes.

And if you haven't listened to a previous show about a traditional mediation, we're not dealing with a high-conflict personality, you'll hear us talking about that we try, when we mediate as lawyers, we try to move the person past their position and look at where their interests lie. Because where their interests lie, you can often find a solution. They may choose a position. And their position may not actually be the position they want to take, but they think it is. But once you get past their position and understand their interests, a lot of times you can reach a mediated settlement that both sides are actually somewhat happy with.

But that doesn't work for high-conflict personalities, as you very well explained in your book, because they can't, they can't self-reflect, they can't even get into interest. So you move way past that. And here's... The other thing that would like for you to talk about is, for those listening, maybe there's some mediators listening and you go, "Wait, but I love getting to yes." You're not totally giving up on that theory because you talk about in here, what was it called? The reverse? Getting to yes.

Bill Eddy: Reverse interest-based negotiations.

Leh Meriwether: Yes. That's it. That's it. Yeah. Talk a little bit about that.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. And you've already been explaining it pretty well. So rather than try to identify interests and then start looking at solutions with high-conflict people who come in with positions or demands, et cetera, is we treat those as proposals. And they make those as proposals. And the other person asks questions about them. And then says, yes, no, we're all thinking about it.

And if they say no, then the other person now gets to make a new proposal. But if they go back and forth with that and just don't reach an agreement, then the mediator can say, well, here's what I hear is really important to John. Here's what I hear is really important to Mary. And am I right? Yeah. And what's happened is the mediator has just identified their interests by kind of extracting them from the proposals, but the parties are real engaged in the process because of their proposals.

And so now it's like, can we think of a new proposal that will fit what's important to both of you? And that really is interest-based negotiation at that point. And so that's why I call it reverse interest-based negotiation. Because instead of going from interest to proposals, we start with proposals and then go to interests. If we need to, sometimes [inaudible 00:34:00]

Leh Meriwether: When we come back, we'll continue to break down you having a successful mediation. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd: Better than counting sheep, I guess. Right? You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh, your host for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com.

If you're just joining us, Todd isn't with us today, unfortunately, but the good news is we have Bill Eddy back on the show to talk about his newest book, Mediating High Conflict Disputes. Now, normally, lawyers, when they have a case with a high-conflict personality, they are generally not that optimistic. They will be able to settle the case at mediation. But I will say that this new book should give them hope.

And I could personally say I've read this book. And I would say I would endorse this book because there's education for you as an individual. It's not just for professionals. But you can learn about the background of high-conflict personalities. And then you learn practical advice on what to do to increase the odds of you having a successful mediation, despite having a very difficult person on the other side.

Now, before I forget, Bill, can you tell everyone where they can buy this. Book and if they wanted to reach out to you and get more information from you or your organization, how would they do that?

Bill Eddy: Well, they can actually get this book and any of my books on Amazon, which is okay. We can also get them from our website. And that's www.highconflictinstitute.com. And we have a store link in the menu, and that takes you to all the books. And this one's titled, Mediating High Conflict Disputes. I might mention, we also have a lot of videos, articles. So there's a lot of resources, consultation, et cetera. They go all going to the website, highconflictinstitute.com.

Leh Meriwether: One of the things you had in here was the... So part of the book is about a paradigm shift, a new way to mediate when you're dealing just with people with high-conflict personalities. Because traditional methods will work in an ordinary situation, but not in a situation dealing with what you call HCPs, high-conflict personalities or people. So explain, if you can do it, the four... You have kind of four task you'd like to give the high-conflict personality folks to give them at the beginning of the mediation process in order to keep them focused towards reaching a resolution rather than dwelling in the past. What are those?

Bill Eddy: Yeah. And let me mention, before I give these four tasks, that there may be one high-conflict person in a mediation and the other person may be quite reasonable, but these are tasks, still, for both parties. And these other cases where both people are high-conflict. But I don't assume that people are high-conflict, but I want them to both use the same skills. So the tasks to focus on in the first stage of the process is as asking questions.

And what's interesting is high-conflict people often don't ask questions. They tell you what to do, they tell their lawyers, they tell their therapist, they tell their mediators, here's what you have to do. And so we're really trying to teach them back up a little bit and ask questions. Because they often don't have a lot of information, but they think they do.

Then the second thing is making their agenda. And mediators, and I know I was for 30 years, before about 10 years ago, I would make the agenda, but now we're helping the parties make the agenda. It makes it more efficient. It makes them also get the experience of joint agreements. So let's say you're a reasonable person and you're your co-parent is a difficult or high-conflict person, is being able to make the agenda together as one step or it's bigger and bigger agreements?

Then of course making proposals that helps to come in with a couple proposals ready for each issue that you want to put on the agenda. And as the mediator is guiding the parties to go through these kind of three steps, you make a proposal, you ask questions about that proposal, and then you say, yes, no, or I'll think about it.

And then lastly, of course, is making their decisions. And that often involves some back and forth. I don't know, Lee, how you folks do in writing up your agreements, but I'm used to doing them where we get all the agreements and then I'm going to go write it all up, send it out, and then it keeps getting tinkered with. And so the responsibility stays on the parties. I'm not going to twist their arm. I want them to be sure that they're reaching the agreement they want to do. So those are the four big tests.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. One of the things when I'm mediating, typically, I like to come to a mediation, that's me personally, with a full bone, like every document I would need to go in front of the judge and do an uncontested divorce. So I'll literally come in there with a parenting plan, child support worksheets, a settlement. Agreement. And typically, I try to hand to him ahead of mediation so there's always a starting point.

Every case is different, but I'm literally making changes to the agreement during the course of the mediation with the hopes that... And there's a few things that I might do different now, having read this book, because me as the lawyer, if I'm representing a client and I've got a deal that I think is good for the client, let's say there's a high-conflict personality on the other side, and I get a deal that I know is good for the client. When the mediator comes in and says, I think we have a deal, I'm literally hitting that print button.

It's not quite that fast, but I'm close to it sometimes. Sometimes it goes longer, but I try to be able to hit that print button and go, "Here you go, sign it." And get everybody out of there. You had made some suggestions in there that I made back off of, but I guess it depends on the deal I get. Because one of the points you make in this book is that, most often, the high-conflict personality or the person with the high-conflict person, they get home and they start dwelling on all the negative emotions again, and they want out of the deal.

And you have a suggestion on how to deal with that. And there was actually a question that you said... I'm not sure I would ever want to ask that question. But you had a question in here about, oh, I think it was on page 94, asking them to think about possible regrets they may have. And don't be afraid to ask the question. And I was like, "Ooh, I don't know if I'd ever want to ask that question." But that's me as the lawyer. Because I may think I have a deal on the table for my client, then I may say, "Okay, well maybe I'll just fight it out in court about enforcing the agreement."

But you know what? If I can the the high-conflict person to want to sign the agreement based on the... We don't have time to go into all the different things you suggested in order to get them to that place so they don't have regrets later, but you just had some great tips on having them reach an agreement in their head that they're not going to regret later. Or even if they do have some regrets, they don't cycle into the negative emotion place where they try to get out of it.

Bill Eddy: Yeah.

Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to share that with the listeners. Just a different perspective of how I had been doing things and how I may change based on what I've read in the book and try different tactics now.

Bill Eddy: Well, I appreciate hearing that. Because it's good to know that the book is real applicable so that that people can really apply it. But I want to build on what you've said, is I think it helps to predict possible problems while you've got high-conflict person there. Because they often are just thinking in the moment about one thing that they want or that they're worried about and getting them to think ahead. So talking about buyer's remorse like, Monday morning, you might decide you didn't like this Friday afternoon agreement. Well, let's think right now what you might think is wrong with it and address it right now.

Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bill Eddy: "And you think you might want to change your mind Monday morning? Well, I don't think she's going to follow through." "Oh, okay. Well, let's talk about that. And let's talk about what both of you can do so you both follow through." So it's almost like, convince me that you should sign this agreement instead of me trying to convince them. And sometimes they go, "Oh, Bill, can we just be done with this?"

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. No, I can get that-

Bill Eddy: "Oh, okay. We'll sign here."

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. No, that's a great example of one of the things I got from this. Look, the book is Mediating High Conflict Disputes. The authors are Bill Eddy and attorney Michael Lomax. Well, is also a lawyer. Just one more I'm going to add this in because we didn't have a chance and we only a few seconds left. The book also recommends getting ready for mediation and there's tips on how to prepare for mediation. And he has further resources on his website. Bill, Thanks so much for coming on.

Bill Eddy: My pleasure. Thank you, Leh.