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A Visualization Exercise for Dealing With Difficult People

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Do you ever get angry and nervous all at the same time? Perhaps opposing counsel tells you that the law says “the grass is blue and the sky is green,” and that anyone who believes otherwise should be sanctioned. Or perhaps, you have a client who keeps asking you when the case will pay them a million dollars, and you’re sick of explaining why it won’t and why these things take time.

You want a happy client who gets more than expected. And, you expect opposing counsel to advocate for their client, but last time you checked, the grass is green and the sky is blue. This is going to take some work. But right now, it looks like it is going nowhere. You’ve done your best to explain reality to others, but it seems you’ve failed to get it through their thick skulls, and some level it’s a little bit scary because you never know what an irrational person might try to do and what kind of mess you’ll have on your hands. At least you can tell yourself that you’re the only sane person left on earth.

You feel it in your solar plexus, the pit of your stomach. It’s that feeling you get when someone is lying to you, but threatening you at the same time. It’s that feeling you get when someone is being volatile and wants you to do something impossible for them even though they walked into their own problem. It feels awful because you sense the other person is so out of whack that they’re going to stay on a low level and will continue to frustrate you.

Have you ever noticed that the cases that have people who trigger you this badly often perplex you in other ways too? You know what you should do, but you tell yourself you’re uncertain of your strategy. Often the procrastination is a cover-up for the ick you are feeling.

And then your work feels like trying to run through mud while escaping the Sanctions Monster in a nightmare. The word for this is “angriety,” It’s a dreadful cocktail of anxiety and anger. It can really hold up your work unless you have a protocol for managing it.

I regularly use visualization and meditation to manage the unpleasant emotions and situations that are par for the course in the practice of law. Here is my suggested protocol for managing angriety:

First, affirm that YOU ARE OK. Take a deep breath. You are not going to die from the bonehead comments people make.

Second, identify what is stopping you from taking action. What is your biggest block, frustration, or source of confusion? There is an emotion behind it, usually fear, anger, or the dreaded angriety.

Ask yourself why you are reacting to this person or situation, when you know that the childish, annoying, angriety-triggering behavior is not their highest truth.

Try to name at least five positive aspects of each of these people involved.

Then, when you can set aside 15 minutes to visualize and meditate, pretend you are giving a TED talk. See all of the players of this situation in the audience. They are looking up to you on the stage, hanging on your every word looking to you for enlightenment and relief from their pain. And then in your mind’s eye, start speaking about the higher truth of the case. Speak to each one of them. Give them the highest, most loving piece of your mind that you can. See them all nodding in agreement. Feel that they are crying out for the wisdom and leadership that only you can provide, and that the Universe assigned you to handle for them. Empower them to make the right choices. “Here are the choices.”

See them applauding.

After you’ve visualized that, open your eyes and answer this question: what three things can I do today to make progress in these cases? Which one is most important to do first? Do I need co-counsel to help take some of the burden off? Do I need to meet with my client in person? Do I need to schedule depositions? Do I need to take a walk or go ride my bike? Should I do visualizations like this more often? (Yes, and I am a longtime fan of this book: Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain.)

There’s more to the mindfulness work than what’s published on this blog. If you found this helpful, I hope you'll check out my coaching page.


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