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LawBiz® TIPS – Week of January 15, 2013

LawBiz(r) newsletter

The film Charlie Wilson's War raises an important question: What is your "end game?" As you go through the days helping clients, growing your practice and providing a comfortable standard of living for your family, what will you do at the "end?" When will it be time to retire? What will you do for the 6000 days after you retire? Though Charlie Wilson's energies were focused on American foreign policy, the same question applies to all of us.

My new book, Life After Law: What Will You Do With the Next 6,000 Days?, helps you to address this question. It will be published this February. Stay tuned.

Ed signature

Manage the Stress in Dealing with Others

The stresses of what has become "the holiday season" - an all-encompassing period stretching from before Thanksgiving to after New Year's Day - are now pretty much behind us. Whether self-induced or not, the pressures seem to affect everyone, and they all seem to center on the difficulty of managing interpersonal relationships and the communication involved.

In this regard, managing the stresses of the holidays can relate directly to the stresses that lawyers can face when dealing with others in their own practices. Each lawyer has his or her own strengths, weaknesses, productive behaviors and stress behaviors. The interaction of these factors determines whether you will be able to deal effectively with stressful situations involving others. If you expect yourself to respond perfectly in every situation with family, friends and clients, you unnecessarily create stress. Consultants who have given personality tests to lawyers have found that many lack the trait that psychologists call "resiliency," which is defined as "the ability to bounce back from criticism or rejection." The adversarial nature of lawyers' training, and the fact that most lawyers have been successful at most things throughout their lives, creates a win-lose mentality that defines such stress as failure when dealing with others.

I recently ran across a list of holiday tips for successfully dealing with others that has much wider application to lawyers in their practices. Consider these ideas for better managing stress in your interpersonal relationships:

  • Avoid conversations with people you want to avoid. Steer clear of the ones who will naturally pull you in. Plan your polite, yet to the point, conversation stoppers.

  • Practice some stock one-liners to deflect the negative comments you'd like to avoid. Include, "Perhaps you're right," "That's an interesting opinion," "I'll think about that perspective" or "I need to wait on this until I have more information."

  • Excuse yourself if you find yourself biting your tongue. People frequently stay too long in a place where conflict is likely to occur. Walk away, just leave, go for a walk.

  • Avoid the 3 C's... Criticism, Complaints and Condemnation. Don't fight every fight. Don't win every argument.

  • Use compassion, humor and graciousness to look the other way when you hear a negative comment or give someone the benefit of the doubt and hope they do the same for you.

  • Above all, listen. Often we increase conflict by talking and restating our positions. Stop and really listen to the other person. What you thought you heard may not be what they said.

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Manage the Stress in Dealing with Others

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