Monday, March 25, 2013

10 Reasons Why We Love Making Lists

By: Carole L. Chiamp 

“We like lists because we don’t want to die.” - Umberto Eco

One of my favorite websites is It has loads of information about mediation. There is timely and accurate data about mediation newsletters, featured blogs, organizations, videos and jobs. Best of all, there are articles and books in which mediators take the time to convey helpful tip lists for other mediators to use or share with their clients1. Some of my favorites are listed below.

Dr. Joan B. Kelly, a well-known psychologist, who teaches and works with children, provides her top ten recommendations for parents on how to minimize the impact of divorce on children:

   1. Talk to your children about your separation.
   2. Be discreet.
   3. Act like grown-ups. Keep your conflict away from the kids.
   4. Dad, stay in the picture.
   5. Mom, deal with anger appropriately.
   6. Be a good parent.
   7. Manage your own mental health.
   8. Keep the people your children care about in their lives.
   9. Be thoughtful about your future love life.
   10. Pay your child support.

Another listmaker is Diana Mercer, an attorney/mediator who co-authored Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010). She claims the eight essential keys to resolve family conflict are:

   1. Be hard on the problem, not the people.
   2. Understand that acknowledging and listening are not the same as obeying.
   3. Use “I” statements.
   4. Give the benefit of the doubt.
   5. Have awkward conversations in real time.
   6. Keep the conversation going. Life is a dialogue.
   7. Ask yourself “Would I rather be happy or right?”
   8. Be easy to talk to.

In her article, she explains all of the “keys” by recommending that parties reduce drama to resolve problems. “Bite your tongue before you respond...It takes two to have an argument. If you refuse to take the bait for a fight, a fight can’t happen. Don’t blame...” All of this is good common sense advice. When one reads the lists and the explanations, the lessons are brought home in a very constructive way.

Nancy Hudgins, another attorney/mediator who co-mediates family law cases with a marriage and family therapist, suggests in preparing for the mediation of divorce the following list be shared with clients:
   1. Envision civil negotiations. Really.
   2. Make a checklist of issues to discuss at each session.
   3. Sketch out a parenting plan or two.
   4. Gather financial documents.
   5. Strive for fairness in asset and debt division.
   6. Draft a prospective monthly budget for you (and your children).
   7. Address the inevitable shortfall (e.g., earning more, making do with less).
   8. Consider spousal support and calculate child support.
   9. Consult a family lawyer.
   10. Monitor your attitude. Stay positive. It’s better for you and MUCH better for your children.

Providing clients with lists for gathering financial data, custody and parenting information, and information on other issues can be helpful. For an entertaining list of why we love lists check NPR’s website for Linton Week’s article touting how “lists bring order to chaos, help us remember things and relieve stress and focus the mind”. However, giving a list to a procrastinator may not get the job done. Follow up is a must.