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Marriage Counseling Vs. Dispute Resolution

Posted by on 6:34 pm in Blog | 0 comments

When couples get to a sticking point in their relationships, many assume that the next step should be marriage or couples counseling. But many couples are surprised to find that counseling may not actually be the fastest and most effective way to overcome a conflict and repair their relationship. Read Brian’s story.   Counseling is a long-term, ongoing strategy designed to examine personal issues that may contribute to unhappy relationships. A counselor is trained to dig into the past, pinpointing and analyzing past events to try to determine their impact on current behavior.   In contrast, dispute resolution is focused on resolving a present issue in order to create a harmonious relationship for the future. The couples I see in my dispute resolution practice are here because they just need to tackle a big relationship stumbling block and get it resolved, once and for all.     Many need help clarifying their concerns so that they can get to the heart of the conflict. Most need help learning how to effectively communicate with each other. Some seem to have reached an impasse because they have completely different goals, and they don’t know how to move forward together.   These couples need help, and they need it fast. They don’t want or need to go through the deep dive into their psyches that’s involved in ongoing counseling. They just want to resolve a dispute, put it behind them, and move forward with a clean slate.   Dispute resolution can help couples achieve that goal in just a few sessions, and at the same time, equip them with tools and techniques they can use to prevent and resolve future conflicts. As a trained relationship mediator, I facilitate two-way communication that helps couples quickly identify their deepest motivations, understand the other person’s point of view, and work together to come to an agreement that’s mutually satisfactory.   The dispute resolution process is an excellent first step in quickly resolving the conflict that’s holding you back. So if you’re ready to repair your relationship, read about the four stages to resolving disputes, or contact me to schedule an appointment.  ...

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Taking on the Elephant in the Room

Posted by on 6:27 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Once the holiday decorations are packed away, the New Year has been toasted, the kids are back in school, and life has settled back into the same old routine, many couples find themselves right back where they were before, rehashing the same old problems. Some have been doing it so long, it has simply become part of the fabric of their lives, always there in the background, lurking like the proverbial elephant in the room.     These couples often go through the motions of life, day after day, pretending like everything is normal, ignoring the tension they feel simmering just below the surface. On days dedicated to celebrating relationships – anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day – they might bury the hurt deep inside, dress for a dinner out, and put a happy face on for the world to see. All the while, they both know that the longer they ignore the conflict, the closer the strain will push their relationship to the breaking point.     Too many couples live their lives pretending that everything is fine when it isn’t, and accepting that this is just the way things are going to be. They have reached a sticking point in a relationship that has come to feel like a house of cards, and they can’t seem to move past it without knocking the entire thing down.     But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a proven process for working through and resolving even the most intractable relationship problems, and you and your partner owe it to yourselves to try it.     Dispute resolution is a tried-and-true, objective method for pinpointing each person’s deepest feelings and motives, understanding where the other person is coming from, and working together to agree on a path that leads you both safely past the sticking point.     Because it takes emotion off the table, it allows both parties to express how they really feel, without fear of reprisal. And because the process teaches people how to actively listen and negotiate fairly, it gives couples the tools they need to head off any future conflicts before they can become relationship-killers.     Don’t spend another day dancing around the elephant in the room, wondering when the pressure will finally build up to a breaking point. You owe it to yourselves to put this behind you, once and for all, and to find your path forward – together.   Contact me to learn more about my private mediation sessions, where I can guide you and your family member through the entire process of reaching resolution,...

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The Best New Year’s Resolution of All

Posted by on 10:54 am in Blog | 0 comments

‘Tis the season when many people are thrilled to close the door on one year and open their hearts and minds to the possibilities of 365 new days. This is the time when people resolve to lose weight, get healthy, eat better, save money, travel, volunteer, or cut down their stress level.   Resolutions like these are a fine way to start the New Year, but if you’ve got a conflict in your life with someone you care about, you won’t be fully happy no matter how many pounds you lose, trips you take, or dollars you save. That’s especially true if the conflict has driven your marriage to the breaking point.   If you want to resolve the endless arguments with your spouse, step-children, siblings, or other important people in your life, but you don’t know where to begin, you’re not alone. Many people assume that their conflicts are unresolvable – something that they just have to live with, always there in the background, creating toxic stress in their lives.   But the truth is, no conflict is “unresolvable.” There is always a way to find a middle ground, where both parties can agree to move ahead peacefully. It might not be easy, and it might take a lot of focus, cooperation, and discussion. But once the conflict is resolved and that weight is lifted, it’s much easier for everything else you wish for to fall into place.   So make a resolution now to make this the year that you put that conflict to rest, once and for all. There are several good resources available that can teach you some techniques to help you work through conflict on your own. One great place to start is by reading People Skills by Richard Bolton, which includes chapters on How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflicts.   Some people prefer a more hands-on approach to gaining the tools and skills they need to prevent and resolve conflict. Shortly, I’ll be hosting a workshop to help couples learn more about the sources of conflict, how different communication styles can lead to an impasse, and how active listening and other techniques can help people pinpoint their deepest motivations, work through their issues, and reach resolution.   Or have a dispute resolution mediator, such as myself, facilitate the process from a neutral perspective. I’ve guided many couples, families, and co-workers through the process of resolving their conflicts by pinpointing each party’s deepest motivations. I can tell you that it all starts with this: You have to commit to doing it together.   Now’s the time to get started making your resolution come true. Free yourself from conflict, and make 2016 your happiest year yet.    ...

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Wishing for a Silent Night?

Posted by on 7:18 pm in Blog | 0 comments

‘Tis the season when families come together to celebrate the holidays. It’s a time of joy and giving – but for many people, all that family togetherness means it’s also a time when tensions bubble up to the surface. Nothing brings out the stress like packing up a carload of gifts and kids and hitting the road for that annual holiday trip to see the family. Unless it’s hosting a houseful of guests, trying to find that perfect gift for the spouse who already has everything, or sitting around the yuletide fire trying to keep Grandpa from tipping over as he polishes off his fifth spiked eggnog. Thank goodness the New Year is right around the corner, and you can get to work on your resolutions. If one of them is to resolve the long-simmering conflicts in your family, my holiday gift to you is this tip: It all starts with being a good listener. Good listeners are active listeners. They respond by restating what the person just said, without judgment. They paraphrase what was just said, so the other person knows they are really paying attention. They let the person know that they understand how they are feeling, and how strongly they feel about it. They ask questions to clarify what the other person is saying. They pause the conversation every now and then to summarize and review what has been said so far. These active listening techniques show that you care about how the other person is feeling, and that you are interested in resolving the conflict. And the best part is, active listening tends to be contagious, so it’s very likely the other person will begin to do the same for you when it’s your turn to explain your feelings. Active listening is one small part of a multistep process that I teach people as I help them through conflict resolution. If you’d like to start 2016 off right by learning more about how you and your loved ones can work together to resolve your conflicts, I invite you to attend one of my upcoming workshops. Through education and role play, you’ll gain the tools and skills you need to put your conflict to rest, once and for all. Or, contact me to learn more about my private mediation sessions, where I can guide you and your family member through the entire process of reaching resolution, together. I wish you and yours a happy – and above all, peaceful – holiday season.    ...

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When Siblings Argue Over a Parent’s Senior Care

Posted by on 10:33 am in Blog | 0 comments

It’s heartbreaking to watch your parents age, especially when you and your siblings become caregivers to the person who has always been the one who cared for you. In many families, this difficult time becomes even harder when adult children do not agree on what’s best for their aging parent. What if your sister thinks it’s time for your Mom to go into assisted living, while you think she would be happier with an in-home caregiver? What if you live closer to your Dad and are almost always the one doing all the work, while your siblings don’t seem to carry any weight? Or, what if you’re carrying most of the financial burden for your parent’s care, while your brother stands idly by? Situations like these can tear families apart, at a time when an elderly parent needs peace and stability the most. While you may believe that you’re right and your sibling is wrong, continuing to argue is not in your parent’s best interest. So how best to resolve a seemingly intractable elder care dispute? The first step is to ask your sibling for a calm discussion, and then really listen and try to understand their point of view. Ask questions and try to get to the heart of the matter. You might be surprised to learn that despite your differing opinions on exactly how to care for your mother or father, both you and your sibling are both motivated by love, and you both want the same thing: stable, loving care for your parent in their final years. Once you’ve established this understanding, it’s much easier to work together to find solutions that have your parent’s best interests at heart, so that you and your siblings can focus on making the most of the precious time you have left with your mother or father. If tensions continue to simmer, my objective dispute-resolution service may be the next step to help you and your siblings move past the family feud and toward family...

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Instead of Goodbye: Mediation vs. Litigation

Posted by on 9:02 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Whether you’re in a troubled marriage, having issues within a blended family, or have differences with siblings in the care of an elderly parent, family relationships can get messy. Sometimes small disagreements explode into huge conflicts, and when everyone digs in their heels, relationships begin to break down. Too often, that’s when families shatter, and the tearful calls to lawyers begin. When your marriage or family reaches a breaking point, don’t call an attorney. Call me first. I’m Sharon Dolak, and I’m a mediator who works with families and workplaces to help resolve conflict in a positive way– before the damage becomes irreversible. Mediation is a fast, confidential, and affordable way to resolve personal disputes. It isn’t a legal approach – it’s a formal process that brings people together and helps them quickly resolve their conflicts on their own. I serve as an objective, unbiased third party, guiding people in conflict toward greater understanding, and helping them repair their relationship and create solutions to their conflict that each of them can live with. If your conflict with a loved one seems to have reached a dead end, start working to save that relationship. I can...

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Importance of Listening in Relationships and How to be an Active Listener

Posted by on 1:57 pm in Blog | 0 comments

I’m a professional listener. I help people resolve longstanding, intractable disputes in their personal and professional relationships. As you might imagine, this job is all about communication and helping people understand each other and become understood. And that, of course, starts with listening. Listening is so important in relationships, and that’s true in both our business and our personal lives. A lot of people consider themselves good listeners, but surprisingly few of them have really perfected the fine art of listening and responding effectively. The first thing to remember is that good listeners respond reflectively. This means that when someone tells you something, you respond by restating what they just said, briefly, in your own words, without judgment. Nobody likes to be confronted, so the first thing you might feel when someone addresses you with a problem is a flash of anger. If you respond with anger, you’ve just escalated the situation into a major argument. And that, of course, won’t get either of you any closer to resolving the actual problem. Instead, be the person who sets the stage for a calm discussion. Calmly let the other person know that you hear him by paraphrasing what he is telling you. It’s really hard to yell at someone right after they show you that they are listening and really understand what you’re saying. A good listener keeps the response short and concise, focusing on the heart of the matter. If you consistently practice paraphrasing, you’ll soon develop a sense of what the most important part of the message is, and mirror that back to the other person in your own words. But there’s more to active listening than summarizing what the person is worried or angry about. It’s equally important to let them know that you understand how they feel. And that’s an active listening technique called reflecting feelings. This is similar to paraphrasing because you are mirroring what the person is saying, in a concise way. But this time, the focus is on the person’s emotions, whether they are angry, sad, ambivalent, excited, or something else entirely. You’re not saying you know how they feel, because honestly, none of us can get inside another person’s head and really experience how they are feeling. You’re simply saying that you perceive how they are feeling, and you get it. When you acknowledge how the other person is feeling and put it into words, that person no longer needs to prove it to you by expressing it. You might even help them understand or clarify their own emotions, which takes you both one step closer to solving the issue at...

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Introduction to Mediation

Posted by on 8:11 am in Blog | 0 comments

Often times when I share with someone what I do, they respond with telling a mediation experience that usually makes me cringe. The story goes like this… My ex and I were ordered to go through mediation when we were splitting up to decide who was getting what and how much time we would have with our kids. We were put in two separate rooms and the mediator would go back and forth from my room to the other. Then my attorney would tell me if this was a good deal or not. I agreed to it, but it really wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t seem fair but it felt like I had no choice in the matter. This is a common form and outcome of mediation when people are getting divorced. My personal experience was a similar one. But to me, this is not mediation and therefore it is not the style of mediation I practice. There is a component in this style that is missing which is very, very important for both parties to feel the mediation was a success, which I will reveal in just a bit. While I am able to mediate divorcing couples or any dispute, I steer away from mediations where the participants are forced into mediation and those that are divorcing. For one, when someone is forced into mediation by the court it mostly is viewed as a step that is necessary to take before I can get “my day in court,” which results in the participants going through the motions and usually ends with neither party satisfied with the outcome. Secondly, because of my personal experience with ordered mediation, my heart wants to use my skills and style of mediation with couples or people in conflict who want to preserve and save the relationship. I work with couples who want to stop the endless cycle of arguing, save their marriage, keep their family together and learn new communication skills they can use in the future. So what is this very, very important component my clients have in relationship mediation? Self-determination. It is a process in which you choose how you come to an agreement over the issues that are stealing your happiness. Where YOU decide all the parts and pieces of the solution to help reach resolution. It is my belief that there is no other person who is better equipped to determine the solution then you for your family. You may be thinking, we can’t come to an agreement because we end up arguing and saying the same thing over and over again. This is very common. Sometimes what is needed to break this cycle is the style of mediation I offer. As a neutral third person, I help facilitate your discussion so you identify the underlying issues and circumstances, which ultimately leads to finding your solution. My mediation offers you communication techniques and the ability to get unstuck so you can move forward toward resolution. Yes, it does take work. Anytime we are in conflict, it is uncomfortable and difficult to express ourselves. There are four steps that I help you work through, which provide a beginning, middle and end. Mediation works for couples, parent/teen relationships, stepfamilies, eldercare issues and work place conflict. For more information, I offer...

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Marriage Counseling Vs. Dispute Resolution

When couples get to a sticking point in their relationships, many assume that the next step should be marriage or couples counseling. But many couples are surprised to find that counseling may not actually be the fastest and most effective way to overcome a conflict and repair their relationship.

Read Brian’s story.


Counseling is a long-term, ongoing strategy designed to examine personal issues that may contribute to unhappy relationships. A counselor is trained to dig into the past, pinpointing and…

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Saving a Marriage

For one blended family, mediation created harmony where once there was anger and hurt. After counseling failed, the newlywed parents came to Sharon Dolak. Together, they learned how to communicate and quickly disign a solution that created a peaceful home for both parents and stepchildren.

Here’s his story ►