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Our blog about communicating throughout conflict

You Can't Unring a Bell, So Make Sure They Ring the Right One!

People love texting and live chat. Neither are likely to be involved in the legal field, but that technology still has an influence on client expectation. It's sped up the pace of service and communication in other industries. And even though on one level clients understand that the same will not apply to legal services, the energy is still there. 

People get impatient if they don't receive a quick and accurate response. You can't promise to respond within 4 hours and miss that window. If you do, people will go on social media, complain to the bar, complain to their friends, etc.

But if you promise to respond in 24 hours and respond in 20 minutes, people may still go to the same outlets to complain. Even if you exceed the expectations you've set, faster than you can say, "I'm calling now," they've launched their attack.

The bell has been rung. The damage is done. When clients become emotional, it's like the world suddenly is on the slide under a microscope, and the only visible...

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The Three Bears and Client Communication

Attorneys are in the business of representing clients. They serve. They're not the boss; they're partners. Nonverbal and verbal communication must match that status.

Sitting in his office, I wasn't there as a consultant or coach; I was there as a client. I'd heard good things about him. People said, "He's one of the best."

But when he put himself on a pedestal, I wasn't impressed. Standing while I was sitting, he literally talked down to me. He wasn't in rapport. And when he opened his mouth, things went from bad to worse.

He started the conversation saying, "Let me tell you what I know because that will save us both some time." I don't think he realized there're two interpretations for that. Neither is fitting for a professional, though.

In law, a lot of information needs to be manipulated. But in order to best accomplish that, we need some context. I mean, you can't just put ducks in a row for someone unless you know if they want them alphabetically or by height! So, ask questions...

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Elaboration on Collaboration

A colleague and I were talking about collaboration today. It all started when I said there are 3 essential elements for conversations, especially conversations involving conflict: listening, relating, and collaborating. She doesn't believe that collaboration is always involved though; she thinks that sometimes attorneys just have to break the bad news. But that all depends on your definition of collaboration.

For me, collaborating means working together to achieve a goal or complete a task or project. The attorney-client relationship is, by definition, a collaboration - You've built a relationship working together to resolve or prevent an issue. Even if you're breaking the bad news, that conversation can still be collaborative.

 You start out as usual, listening, then relating, and then you begin more interactive discussion.  Even if your initial reason for the conversation is to break the bad news, and even if your client's options are exhausted, you can come up with a...

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Frame Your Client...

...Communication. We've all had clients who are reluctant to move forward with something. For example, sometimes clients are reluctant to move forward with mediation, not wanting to face the opposing party. That can bring up a lot of emotions, so they may not be at their best or get the best outcomes.

If you preframe, their focus can shift to a feature that makes it more palatable, or at least more tolerable. So, instead of them going into it with negative expectations, they can go in feeling empowered, focusing on something positive to work toward.

 A frame, in communication, is very much like you relate to a frame for a picture. Frames contain the content, and they also set the perspective. Where a picture frame might draw out specific colors while others fade, a frame in communication may draw out specific perspectives around the topic while others fade. So, it's a great tool to use in the second essential element, or step, of conversations - relating.

Agreement frames,...

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3 Tips for Good Client Communication

People like to be kept in the loop, especially when it involves a legal case. There's just something about turning over a big deal to a stranger, you know?  So, the question becomes, "How do we keep clients in the loop?"

Clients may not like to make calls for status updates. Sometimes they feel annoyed at having to. Other times they hate to "be a bother." But there are ways to handle this, and following these suggestions for client communication benefits both you and the client.

1.) Set a reasonable expectation for the client.

Say when you hope to know more, and invite them to contact you if they haven't heard from you by then. This does a number of things: 1.) It empowers the client, which can help to put them at ease. And whe a client is at ease, the job has one less complication. 2.) It can be a good trigger. Set a reminder to follow through on the case a few days ahead of when you suggested the client call. Of course, feel free to call ahead of time, too, especially if you...

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Does Double Jeopardy Apply to Victims?

Victims have power. They do. It's just not their own. Instead, it belongs to the role - People want to jump into rescue people in that position. And in conflict resolution, it's not an effective position for consistent results.

It's sort of like a person leading by title instead of by character and earned respect. The problem with power by role is that it's finite. As soon as things get messy, this person will land face down in the mud, and when they come up, the honeymoon is over. They'll react by looking back to find the reasons to justify them sitting there. Not only that, but also, like titles, the person must maintain that position consistently, so they can't put the incident behind them.

The point where things get messy can have a different response from a person who acts through personal responsibility. That person will get up and ask how they can close the gap from where they are to where they want to be. They may even turn an apparent negative into a positive. We all have...

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Haters're Gonna LOVE...or at Least Respect

Have you or a client received a negative comment on social media? A lot of people are under the belief that "haters' gonna hate," and therefore attempt to ignore or block them. But is that really the best idea?

If the person isn't already a client, ignoring may be easy. But easy isn't always the best response. Sooner or later, a client will be the hater. And then what do you do? Regardless, a professional response may be the best client relations strategy.

Ignoring or blocking someone is still a statement. A decision not to act is still time and energy spent making the decision. Therefore, it's still an action. And, from what I've seen, most people will end up rehashing it anyway, and may even run it by people. Worse, it's an action based on fear, anger, or other emotions that may not be resourceful. So, the people who say, "Don't waste energy on the haters" may be steering people off course by that recommendation.

And, by ignoring or blocking, you may be missing out on a great...

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Are You Giving Your Clients What They're REALLY After?

When you go to a movie, play, musical, or concert, you aren't going just to see or hear it; you're going for the experience of it, the state that doing so effects in you. Maybe it's to laugh or be uplifted; maybe it's to feel emotionally moved or scared. Whatever it is, you aren't just going so that you can see a performer; you go for the impact it has on you. And if you are a mediator or attorney, chances are your clients are there to see you for the same reasons.

It's true! A person doesn't come to you because of a situation; they come because of the emotion or other effect that situation has brought about, and they have a desire to change that. They believe that by hiring you, they will be able to change the situation and thereby change the impact on emotion or other effect. There's a problem with that, though.

A lot of times we can change the situation by changing our state first, not the other way around. That's particularly true with someone who is too highly emotional - they...

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The "Lights, Camera..." Before the Action of Mediation or Negotiation

Impasse. Before we even ask the question of what we do about it when we get there, it's a good idea to ask what more we can do to avoid it. Two ideas come to mind, and both happen before the parties even enter the room. Because like any picture, where the backdrop, the lighting, and the camera can make an extraordinary photograph of an ordinary object, setting the stage for mediation can also offer powerful results. Because like any picture, where the backdrop, the lighting, and the camera can make an extraordinary photograph of an ordinary object, setting the stage for mediation can also offer powerful results.

One way is to help clients set a standard for success, and that may also mean that you help them shift from a single point of expectation to the greater range of a standard. That alone can increase the chances of a satisfactory outcome for clients. One reason for this is that it helps you ensure that your style is appropriate. It also gives a little context, setting the...

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How to Drive Change without Causing Whiplash

Change. It's a dirty word for some people. I mean it can be just rude. And even people who handle change well may find it rude to be faced with change when it occurs suddenly, without context or warning, creating a whiplash effect. This is particularly true if the people you are changing the rules on happen to be your clients.

In a world where so much happens online, change can and does happen quickly. There are many things that can change the dynamics of a team; some of them are out of our control. That's all the more reason to be particularly careful with the ones we do have control over, because when you have happy clients and staff, change may very well be seen as unwelcome and more restrictive.

Take changes in rules, for example. It's pretty safe to say those are likely to mean added restrictions; we are taking choices away from people. Or if we aren't a judge may be. And clients you are dealing with may be used to calling the shots, and would take particular offense...

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