In my last two posts I wrote about visioning your “new normal” and identifying your values. Now I want to give you some tips to give yourself the best chance at making good decisions that align with your values. You are the one who will have to live with your decisions so it is important to make sure they are based on the things most important to you!
1. Keep calm
Clearly when you are going through grief, keeping calm is not easy to do. You are battling a stack of emotions – denial, anger, guilt, depression, fear, sadness – and then you have to face the legal fallout.
There is a raft of neuroscience research that shows that if we can act calmly – or at least calm ourselves down – we will have more capacity to think straight.
How you take steps to calm yourself can differ from person to person. Ever since I was a baby, water always calmed me. To this day, getting to the beach, floating in a pool or taking a long bath helps me feel calm.
Taking deep, measured breaths can also be a very effective tool to lower heart rate, bring oxygen back to your brain and leave you feeling less stressed. Here is a link to a calm breathing exercise. Why don’t you try it right now? This is simple exercise you can do anytime and anywhere, to remind yourself to be calm before you take a next step.
There are a myriad of other ways that you might discover work for you. Listening to relaxing music, taking a long walk, lying down with your feet up, walking in bare feet on the grass or sand, journaling and praying. Keeping a smooth stone or worry beads in your pocket as a physical reminder to stop and think before responding.
Write down the things that make you feel calm. How can you adjust your daily or weekly routine to include one or two of these things?
Which ways do you think would help you to keep calm when you are being asked to make big decisions? Or when you face circumstances that get the better of you? Write those down and remind yourself to revisit them (and your list of values) when you are feeling stressed or need to make a big decision.
If you still find it hard to keep calm, seek support from family or friends or from professional counsellors.
2. Keep listening
Now as someone who talks too much, I find this one hard to do! But learning the skill of sitting back and listening (really listening – to hear the deeper things that are concerns or issues or fears for your other family members) can be a huge advantage. Because, if you can understand the emotions that are driving others, you will be able to understand how better to address those needs while at the same time meeting your own. It can also help you to “hear” statements made as coming out of frustration or fear about the future rather than as a personal attack on you.
Another upside of active listening (where you repeat back what you have heard), is the opportunity to show your family members that you respect them and understand things from their perspective (even if you don’t completely agree with their position). Sometimes this is enough to allow constructive conversations that might lead to agreement and finding some common ground on issues big or small. Steps like these can mean the family relationships might ultimately survive the trauma of an estates contest.
3. Keep discerning
It is important to recognise that when family conflict arises, often well-meaning souls arrive on the scene to “help” or to “support”. There is little doubt that you will receive “advice” and “gossip” from family and friends. This can in some cases be helpful and in other instances destructive. For this reason, you need to be discerning about the reliability of the information and the reasons why someone is feeding you that information. Then discern whether or not the information is helpful or harmful to you or resolution of the dispute you face. If you need help with his, speak to trusted friends or family members, a professional counsellor or a lawyer.
4. Use Discretion
It will at times be tempting to vent to others about the estates dispute within your family and the things that are getting under your skin, or keeping you awake at night. Clearly it is very important for you to have appropriate support people around you, as you grieve and as you cope with the additional stress of a family fight over inheritance. But it is equally important to pick your confidants carefully. It is best not to over-share your frustrations with everyone around you. For goodness sake, don’t go posting things about the dispute or your family on social media as a reaction to something that pressed your buttons! Instead use discretion and try and select only a few friends and family to share with. The upside to this, is that you will have a myriad of other people around you oblivious to the estates dispute, who can “distract” you with talk of other things.
5. Pick your battles
In last week’s post I spoke about spending time to work out what things are most important to you, and what things might be most important to your family members. If you know what is most important to you and you can stay focused on the big picture, then “giving in” on a few things that aren’t important to you (but are more important to your other family) is fine. You don’t have to win every battle!
In fact, avoiding the fight over things that “don’t matter” to you, can be one way to minimise the unnecessary conflict with your family members. It can take the “heat” out of conflict and is likely to encourage other family members to show reciprocal compromise on other things.
6. Family First Litigation Last
Even when it seems you don’t share any common ground with other family members who are involved in a contested estates dispute, it might be that the only thing you can agree on, is that the family relationship is worth trying to rescue or that it is better to try to reach resolution rather than go to court.
But it is not always easy to keep these things front of mind. Particularly when words are said and letters or texts are exchanged that continually air past injustices or point the finger to blame others for the circumstances. But if you can find ways to communicate sensibly with the overall goal of keeping the family together, then you are far more likely to navigate to a resolution in a shorter space of time, so that you can all put the dispute behind you and move on with your lives.
7. Correspond with caution
Only 7% of our communication is “verbal”. 55% is communicated in our body language and 38% in the tone of voice we use. When we choose to communicate by text or email or letter, we lose over 93% of the other cues that often give greater meaning to the words. It is for that reason that I am not a big fan of trying to solve disputes by exchange of letters.
Having said that, sometimes correspondence is the only workable way to communicate. If that is the case then think carefully about the tone of the words you are writing. Don’t say spiteful things or use inflammatory or accusing language, which will only be met with more of the same. Instead consider setting out the things you share common ground on and try to speak to the issues that are most important to you while also acknowledging the things that are most important to your other family members. Focus on the present and how things might be worked out in the future (rather than going back over issues in the past).
Get input from a close friend who you trust to read things objectively, or consider whether you need input from your counsellor or whether you should get legal advice before sending the letter or email.
8. Sleep on it
Have you ever had a bad day, or received bad news or a nasty letter that makes your blood boil and then after a good night’s sleep you see things differently? We have all heard the phrase “sleep on it”. It truly is a powerful tool to use to make sure you are acting in line with your values, rather than reacting with emotion!
9. Get informed
Gathering in information and data, can be quite important if you don’t want to make decisions in a reactive way. Knowing where you stand at law, can also be a useful tool. Just be aware that getting “stuck on” what is “right and wrong” in a black and white way can sometimes take your focus off what is ultimately most important to you. Sometimes following your “gut” value instincts will mean paying little attention to the facts, figures or legal position and focusing more on what will best allow you to get on with your life!
“It is in your moments of decision, that your destiny is shaped” Tony Robbins
I sincerely hope these tips will help you be mindful of making your decisions with your values at their centre – so that you can live your “new normal” well.
If you travelled this journey or helped others navigate grief, and you have other tips to add to this list, I would love you to leave your comment!