Divorce and Separation in the USA

A global perspective of the human effects of separation and divorce

Month: December 2018

Fairness Part IV: Inner (psychological) Satisfaction

When we are involved in a problem-solving process, our sense of satisfaction (fairness) is affected by whether we are able to participate fully, whether we are treated with dignity, whether our contributions are given respect. Satisfaction requires that we mattered.

Ask yourself these questions to judge whether the process was fair.

• In terms of the pace of the discussion and the rules about participation, did you feel welcome, included and comfortable?
• Were you satisfied with the format and the tempo of the discussions?
• Were you treated as a responsible, attentive and thoughtful person—not as someone who is wounded, unqualified or discouraged?
• Did you understand the goals and what would happen?
• Were you able to ask questions and get answers?
• Were you an active and full participant in all elements of the decision-making?
• Did you have the information you needed in order to participate fully and effectively? If not, were you able to obtain that information? Did you feel reassured as a result of receiving accurate and complete information?
• When you presented your ideas or questions, were you listened to?
• Did you sense that your questions deserved answers, that your concerns were genuine and that your ideas were worth considering?
• As a result of participating in this process, did you experience a relative decrease in stress and anxiety?
• Were you listened to by the professionals (not looked down on or treated like a victim). Did you sense that you counted?
• Overall, did you feel calm, composed, confident and hopeful?
• Did participation in the process reinforce your sense of self-worth—that your ideas, questions and concerns really mattered?

Hopefully you have a better idea of what it means when we say, “I just want what’s fair?”

Fairness includes the outcome—the solutions. But fairness also involves being in a process where the rules are clear and are evenly applied by an impartial person. And, fairness involves being able to participate fully and to be treated respectfully.

When you have all three, then you can truly feel it was “fair.”

Photo by hisu lee, www.unspash.com

Fairness Part III: The Methods and Process

Something feels fair to us when the method we used to make important decisions is sensible, we feel respected, and we have a chance to participate actively in all parts of the decision-making.

Sometimes we want someone else to decide things for us—like a judge. In front of a judge, the process is formal. There are rules and procedures about who can say what and when. We can accept the outcome and feel satisfied if the trial is conducted in accordance with the stated procedures, if the judge acts in an impartial manner, if our point of view has been fully presented, and if the laws (the rules) are applied properly. Then, we can say, the process was fair.

At other times, however, we want to be more involved in how our views are presented. We want to be directly involved in speaking for ourselves and making decisions that we decide are best for us. Mediation provides that opportunity–where an impartial and unbiased mediator helps the parties in dispute to: talk about the conflict, identify and clarify the reasons for the conflict, listen to one another, create possible solutions, and find answers and solutions that are practical, reasonable and that completely resolve the dispute.

No matter what approach you choose, there are some questions you can ask to be sure the process was fair.

• Were you treated fairly by the judge or mediator?
• Was the process conducted in even-handed manner?
• If there were rules to govern the process, were they applied consistently and equally?
• Was the process managed in a dignified and professionally way?
• When you consider the costs (money, time, effort) and the benefits received (process and outcome), were you satisfied with your choice?
• Were you treated as adult and with respect? Did your ideas and concerns matter?
• Did you have a full and unimpeded opportunity to speak and be heard, to present and respond to ideas, information and proposals?
• Were all parties encouraged to listen attentively? Did the judge or mediator listen carefully?
• Was everyone given an opportunity to participate? Did everyone have a voice?
• Did the process encourage and support every one’s ability to engage honestly; to express ideas, proposals and emotions? Was there a chance to react and respond to other people’s ideas?
• Did you feel the process was inclusive; that those essential to the discussion were involved?
• Did the timing—the scheduling and pace of the process help you with thoughtful decision-making?
• Was the process organized and handled in an open and transparent manner? Did you understand what was happening at every moment? Were there unspoken rules or opaque procedures?

This is the third section of a four-part post. The next section deals with the importance of being able to participate fully in the choices that affect your future. This includes the opportunity to speak, to ask questions, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Photo by daria-nepriakhina, www.unspash.com

Fairness–Part II: The Results

When you think about fairness and satisfaction with the outcome of any decision-making, here are some guide posts:

• Are the terms of the settlement comprehensive and inclusive? This means that every detail, no matter how minor or large, was discussed, and then a clear agreement was reached.
• As you think about the next 6 months, or longer, does it seem likely that you can make the terms of the agreement work? Can you live with this?
• Are these plans and arrangements realistic and practical?
• Have you talked about what it will take to make this work? Can you do what’s necessary? Can the other person? Have you considered the trouble spots–the ways things could go wrong?
• Do the arrangements address everyone’s needs— including those who are not directly involved in the discussions such as your children, relatives, friends?
• Does the language make sense to you? Do you understand everything in the proposed agreement? Have all your questions been answered?
• Is the agreement complete and accurate? Are there any unresolved or unaddressed matters?
• Have your needs–and the needs of others involved–been fully addressed?
• When you look at the settlement terms, do they make sense? Can you see how they will work?
• Are your decisions based on complete and accurate information? If didn’t understand something were you able to ask questions and get helpful answers?
• Did you understand the standards or guidelines that were used to make decisions? Were these standards clearly identified and spelled out, did everyone agree to them?

This is the second section of a four-part post. The next section deals with our need for the process to be impartial, balanced—fair.

Photo by fancycrave, www.unspash.com

I just want what’s fair!

I have been a mediator for 40 years, and before that I was a family lawyer. In all those years, there is one statement I have heard in every divorce: “I just want what’s fair.”

Wanting fairness is automatic, instinctive, it seems to be part of our humanity. We all want to know we have been treated fairly. What we mean is we don’t want someone playing favorites. We want the decisions to be consistent with standards or rules. And, if a judge, mediator or other person is involved, we want them to be impartial, fair-minded and unbiased.

When people are in conflict—such as in a divorce—each one expects the other to be “fair.” Each person thinks that she or he is being reasonable, decent and open-minded.” And, each thinks the other person is stubborn, closed-minded and unreasonable. That’s where the problem lies.

Because when we say the decisions were fair, it always means I got what I wanted. Even if that means the other person is disappointed or feels unfairly treated. We think the other person is just upset because what they wanted wasn’t fair. On the other hand, what I wanted was fair.

One of the difficult things in talking about fairness is that it has different meanings for each of us. For some, fairness means equality—50/50. For others, fairness means that the outcome makes sense, it fits their situation, and it’s workable. Fairness might also mean there was an open and honest discussion and there was an opportunity to present ideas and proposals, that they were listened to and given respect—no matter what the outcome might be. Still, for others fairness means they were able to make decisions for themselves without outside influence or coercion.

There are many more ways to think about fairness.

1. Fairness usually means we are satisfied with the results. Fairness can also mean that the results met our expectations. Or, that the outcome is similar to what others have experienced. It might even mean the outcome is consistent with “the law” as we understand it. In other words, when we talk about feeling satisfied with the outcome, we mean that the end results made sense, they were reasonable and they were consistent with how others have been treated.

2. There are times when we use the word fairness to mean we are satisfied with the method or system by which the results were determined. Whether in informal discussions, at a mediation session or through a trial, we feel a sense of satisfaction when everyone was treated the same, each person had the time and opportunity to tell their story, present their proposals and respond to the other person’s ideas, and when the mediator or judge was impartial and unbiased.

3. We might also feel treated fairly when we participated actively in every element of the decision-making. Satisfaction comes from feeling fully engaged and able to be part of the discussion, to present ideas, ask questions, be listened to and given a full opportunity to join in making decisions that affect us and our children. We experience satisfaction when feel composed, confident and hopeful.

This will be a 4-part post. I will talk about each of the three elements of satisfaction in more detail and with examples to illustrate when people feel a sense of satisfaction (fairness) or when it’s missing. The next section deals with fairness in terms of outcome, the results.

Photo by Brendan Church, www.unsplash.com

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén