Recently, I was invited to be one of the speakers in a special program hosted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, IACP. I am an IACP member, and I sit on its Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility Committee (IDEA).
Last month, I led a discussion in partnership with Rajan Chettiar, a Barrister, Lawyer and Mediator in Singapore. Our topic was to focus on diversity and inclusion in Practice Groups.
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IACP Practice Group Leaders (PGL) from around the world host quarterly meetings where we come together to learn and share information. This was the first PGL meeting with a specific theme and focus. I am part of the Southeast Michigan Practice Group and regularly attend IACP PGL meetings.
It’s also where we network, learn, form stronger teams of Collaborative professionals, and have opportunities to get to know people on a different level and share information and best practices.
Our mission at the September meeting was to offer ideas for Practice Groups to increase awareness and be more inclusive.
While diversity and inclusion are buzzwords these days, at IACP, it’s our goal to use those terms to become aware and intentional in the work that we do and how we relate to colleagues and clients. Some people host a book club and discuss issues that come up in the titles they read. Others plan webinars, share articles or recommend books. Some committee members share personal stories to better understand each other’s background and beliefs.
A while back, I hosted a Civility Session through the Great Lakes Civility Project for my Practice Group, as a way of launching a conversation about civility and bridge-building.
At the recent session, Rajan and I discussed the IDEA committee, what we do, and what IACP is doing to expand inclusion and diversity. These values are embedded in the organization, which is why I am proud to be a part of it.
In this politically divided time, it can be nerve-wracking to imagine discussing some of these sensitive issues. They can become explosive or offensive. There is so much hatred and vitriol encircling our communities and nations.
But we must press on, so we can come to common ground, and all be better at the work we do.
Professional development isn’t just about learning new tricks of your trade. It’s also opening your eyes to the world at-large, to better help your clients and do better work yourself. In the end, the effort changes us, making us better as people, and as professionals.
Recently, I coordinated a program for collaborative practitioners with the Great Lakes Civility Project. It was a 90-minute virtual Civility Session, where we explored what civility is, why we need it in these trying times for our country, and how each of us can begin to build civility into our existing relationships. (Watch the session here.)
I had participated in Civility Sessions before, which is why I felt it was important to bring it to my colleagues in the Collaborative Practice sphere. By definition, collaborative practitioners seek ways to compromise, to find common ground, to create solutions that serve all involved. And yet, even we at times have trouble always being civil.
Frankly, don’t all people?
In the situation of a divorce, emotions run high and vulnerabilities do, too. My clients and their soon-to-be ex-spouses both have things to lose and things to gain as the marriage ends, and sometimes winning feels like redemption if we are sad and feel rejected by the breakup. But winning is not always the best outcome.
What Stephen Henderson and Nolan Finley of the Civility Project teach is that all good people want the same outcomes – they just differ in how they will get there. I believe that’s true in divorce, too. Even when we are hurt by a marriage ending, possibly initiated by the other person, we want happiness, prosperity, security and to know that we are worthy of love. In the temporary fog of divorce, we can forget that the relationship might be over but both people’s lives (and the lives of their children) are ongoing and meaningful.
When people divorce, they can’t possibly agree on everything. Frankly, during the marriage, it’s unlikely that they agreed on everything! We all have different perspectives on everything from money to parenting, and I tell my clients that they didn’t agree while married, after the divorce, they’ll agree even less and have less control over the decisions their spouse is making.
The principles of civil discourse, as presented by Nolan and Stephen, are as follows:
A conversation is not a competition. Nor is it intended to convert the other person to your way of thinking.
Set honest goals for a conversation.
Learn to listen fully – which means not jumping in with a retort when the other person stops speaking. It means, asking follow-up questions and regurgitating what they said after they said it, so you know you’ve truly heard it.
See the person behind their politics. In a divorce setting, I’d say, see the person behind the breakup. See them as human if you can. It’s the only way to have fair and easy interactions.
Taking it one step further from just a civil conversation, in a co-parenting situation, you have to be more accepting of your ex-spouse’s different beliefs or values. All people come to their beliefs on the basis of experiences and values and all people make decisions that they think are going to serve them, their family, their community. So when your ex makes a decision for the kids that you wouldn’t, it doesn’t mean they’re evil or out to get you. It means they parent differently from you.
Whether in the professional sphere, or in our relationships, we could all stand to become more civil. If civility were the goal, how different would our lives be?