April 6, 2016

The Challenge of Thinking on Our Feet

An article I came across spoke of an eighteenth century French philosopher and writer, Dennis Diderot, who was engaged in a debate at a dinner party over a topic he knew well. When challenged on some point he found himself at a complete loss for words, quite incapable of responding. He left the party, mulling over the humiliation, and when he reached the bottom of the stairs he found the perfect retort. What to do? Go back to the party with his clever comeback? It was too late for that – the moment had passed. Later, when he was reflecting upon this experience he wrote, ‘A sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs.’ He coined the phrase – ‘l’esprit d’escalier’ – the spirit of the stairs, which came to be called staircase wit. It has now come to be called ‘Afterwit.’

We have all had such an experience in our lives. It is embarrassing and humiliating to be rendered speechless, and leaves one with a sense of regret and disappointment. It would be great if somehow golfing etiquette could prevail, and we would be given a mulligan, but that is not how life works. We are instead left with that dreaded feeling that we do not belong.

When it happens in the middle of important negotiations it can be a disaster. In a of divorce mediation it can be devastating. Divorce is usually listed as one of the top two or three greatest stresses we experience in our whole life. There are enough things gone wrong at such a time that we do not need another one.

This is another reason why collaborative divorce practice is such a good idea. In this model of negotiation it is not essential that you – or your attorney – be required to be able to think quickly on your feet. That aspect of the process is removed in favor of a process that allows each party to allow their ‘afterwit’ to spring into action.

As a matter of reality, most of the insights happen outside the actual meeting room. Any attorney will tell you that they carry your case with them outside the conference room. I often find myself mulling over the particulars of a client’s matter at odd hours. Sometimes a thought might jump into my mind while I’m driving in my car, other times while I’m eating a meal, and surprising often when I’m laying in bed at night, before drifting off, or in the morning upon waking up.

Clients don’t often appreciate that this kind of attention to their case actually takes place, but it does. In addition, ‘afterwit’ experiences themselves are not billable hours. When I sit down to put the idea into a phone call or email to my client or the other attorney or professional on the case, that time is billable, but not the critical time in rumination when the brilliant idea springs into being.

When you, as a party to the divorce, have these experiences, it is part of the collaborative process that you will share those insights, ideas or concerns with your attorney, and they will be brought into the negotiation process. You will always have time to ruminate and reconsider before making your final decision.

So, consider using collaborative practice as your process of preference. It is like having Afterwit Insurance.

Contact any collaborative professional to learn more about how this process can benefit you.

Bruce Peck

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at www.BrucePeckLawOffice.com

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