About Me

Meredith Richardson, Esq., is a conflict management specialist.  She works as a Mediator, Facilitator, Trainer, Conflict Coach, and Collaborative Lawyer in Maine and New Hampshire.  Follow her on facebook as Meredith Mediates: http://www.facebook.com/MeredithMediates.  To receive monthly tips on conflict and upcoming events and retreats, email her at meredithmediates@aol.com.

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fall is a time to reap what you've sown

Fall is in the air.  The nights are cooler and longer.  The apples at local farms are almost ready to be picked.

While the weather still supports a lot of outdoor activities, with nightfall coming sooner, and with children back in school, it seems that your evenings are more likely to be spent at home these days.

If you've been taking care of yourself and your relationships, then spending time at home with your loved ones may be quite pleasant.

And if you haven't, then you may find yourself feeling a little trapped in the evenings, wishing for the escape that summer brings.  

Or perhaps you live alone and you're feeling a little lonely and wish that you had someone around in the evenings.

Fall is a time to reap what you've sown.

What have you sown over the course of the year?  Seeds of discontent?  Seeds of gratitude?  Have you nurtured your relationships, your loved ones?  Have you tended to the needs of others as well as those your own?  Have you communicated effectively?  Have you treated others the way that you want to be treated?  Have you sought out relationships with people who treat you well?

In relationships, as in gardening, what you intended is not always what you get.  Plants can suffer from blight, pests, drought, flood, etc.  You can put in a lot of work and still have your efforts destroyed by circumstances beyond your control.  In the alternative, with the right conditions, you can get a high yield with little effort on your part.  Most of the time, however, there is a direct correllation between the work you put in and the benefit you receive.

Take a look at your relationships.  Are they working for you?  What have you sown?  What are you reaping?



living with mental illness

Robin Williams' recent suicide has brought the issue of mental illness to the forefront for many in the United States.  Many of us who knew him only as a performer wonder how someone who brought such joy to the lives of so many could also experience such despair in his personal life.

Living with mental illness can be difficult, both for the person who suffers from mental illness and for those who love that person.

Maya Angelou did not write her poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, to address mental illness.  However, for me, her free bird personifies the idealized version of normalcy when one is wrapped in the struggle of mental illness and her caged bird epitomizes what it feels like to be wrapped in the despair of struggling with mental illness when all that you want is to be normal and free.

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

Mental illness in our society comes with a stigma attached to it.  It is not as great a stigma as it used to be, but it is still there, none the less.

In Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, created in 1937, the characters are labeled and defined one-dimensionally.  There is the Evil Queen, who clearly suffers from some kind of personality disorder.  Then you have Grumpy (who may be clinically depressed or antisocial), Sleepy (who probably has narcolepsy), Bashful (whose social anxiety may not rise to the level of a disorder), Sneezy (who suffers from allergies), and Dopey (who isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree, as they say).

When you admit to having a mental disorder, there is always the fear that you will forever be seen and defined one-dimensionally, by your disorder.  And yet, you are so much more than that.

A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh, knew this.  While his characters also have their troubles, they aren’t labeled with them, and they are allowed to be more than simply their disorders.  Winnie the Pooh may be addicted to honey, but he isn’t called the Honey Addict.  Piglet isn’t the Anxiety Pig; Eeyore isn’t the Depressed Donkey; Tigger isn’t the ADHD Tiger; Owl isn’t labeled as narcissistic, and Rabbit isn’t diagnosed with OCD.  Milne’s characters are multi-dimensional, with their strengths and weaknesses woven throughout.  They are who they are, in their entirety. 

In the United States, every year, one in four adults suffers from at least one mental disorder.  One in four.  Over 57% of US adults will experience a mental disorder during their lifetime.  That’s almost 3 out of 5.  And, yet, when it occurs, we keep it secret, thinking that it is somehow shameful.  We keep our own disorders secret and we keep those of our loved ones secret, both to protect them and to protect ourselves.

In keeping it secret, while protecting ourselves from adverse judgment, we also deprive ourselves from receiving emotional support from others.  And we continue to perpetuate the myth that mental health disorders are rare, that they don’t happen to “normal” people.  They do.  They happen every day.


dealing with disparate interests

For the first couple years of a relationship, people want to spend as much time as possible together.  People are willing to do a lot of things that they wouldn't otherwise do, just in an effort to please the other person, and because it feels so good to be together.

And then the hormones die down and you're stuck with this person who doesn't like to do what you like to do and who likes to do things that you absolutely hate.

For some people, this puts the relationship on the fast track toward breaking up.

Some people sacrifice their own interests, going with what pleases their mate.

Some find various unpleasant ways to coerce their partner into doing what they want -- nagging, bullying, anger, guilt, manipulation, etc.

And some find ways to get their needs met on their own.  (And by "on their own," I mean just that.  I don't mean that they go off and find an old love on facebook or a new love on match.com.  That counts as putting the relationship on the fast track toward breaking up.)

If you're with someone who doesn't like to do the same things that you like to do, that's OK.  It's normal.

It does mean that you'll have to have extra conversations about how to get your needs met and how to get your partner's needs met. 

It does mean that sometimes you'll have to do things that really aren't that interesting to you because it will make your partner happy.  It also means that your partner will have to do the same for you. 

And, it means that in order to be your best self, you will be spending time alone and/or with people who are not your partner to support yourself in the areas in which your partner has no interest.  That's OK.  

Take a good, hard look at yourself in your relationship.  Are your needs being met?  If not, then, what is one thing that you could do toward getting your needs met (absent changing the other person or putting your relationship on the fast track toward breaking up)?  Now, as they say in the Nike ads, just do it.


Does birth order influence how you handle conflict?

For all of us, what we learned as children can have a dramatic effect on what we do as adults.  

Most of what we do on a daily basis we do on autopilot, without even thinking about it.  We have developed rituals and routines and habits that enable us to use our thinking brain for the bigger stuff, while allowing our subconscious brain to handle brushing our teeth, showering, and the like.

So, what did you learn about conflict as a child that you're still using as an adult?

If you're the oldest child and/or the oldest boy child, you're likely to be the bossiest.  You will tend to believe that you know best.  As a child, you may have exercised the eldest's prerogative of "might makes right." While that doesn't have to carry over into adulthood, the idea that you know best and that you know best for everyone certainly can carry over.

It's not that you can't be caring and nurturing and wonderful.  You can be.  You just tend to do it in a parental way, providing guidance and direction for those around you (even if they aren't actually asking for it).

If you're a middle child, you had to find ways around your older sibling, but you still got to boss the younger one a little.  You may have learned to say you were sorry to the eldest, even when you weren't, just to keep the peace.  You may have felt a little invisible, with the eldest doing everything first and the youngest being the baby forever.  You may have used that invisibility cloak to your advantage, being a bit naughtier than your parents realized.  In the alternative, or in addition thereto, you may have become a bit of a button pusher, a rebel, just as a way to attract some attention your way.

You may find that you have less direct conflict in your life than the eldest does.  You look for ways around conflict.  You don't feel the need to deal directly with conflict.  You may be someone who always picks the relationship over being right.

At the same time, with your rebellious streak, you may find yourself doing some button pushing.  It could be playful conflict that you're engaging in.  You may also be a little passive-aggressive.

If you're the youngest child, the baby of the family, everyone felt entitled to boss you, so you had to find other ways to get your needs met.  You may have found that simply charming them worked quite nicely. You had it easier with your parents than your siblings did.  Your parents weren't as rigid with you; they had been worn down by your older siblings.  And you were the baby, so you were forever adorable (even when you weren't).

Where do you fall in terms of birth order?

Does your birth order affect how you are handling conflict as an adult?

Do these behaviors serve you now?


How can you get mediation and CLE credits and be on retreat?


Star Island

for education and relaxation

September 7-10, 2014!

It can be hard to transition from the easy days of summer to the work of fall.  I've put together a work and play retreat to help mediators and attorneys with that transition.

Unlike other educational events you may have attended, the focus here is on both relaxation and education.  The workshops are scheduled in the morning and late afternoon, giving you prime afternoon hours to explore Star Island and Smuttynose, row, kayak, swim, play tennis, or simply chat or read on the front porch.  It’s your choice how you spend your relaxation time.

We will discuss some of the famous and infamous residents of the Isles of Shoals, whose lives will be incorporated into the skills and ethics training portions of the materials. 

You will learn about some of the birds at the Isles of Shoals, who will be personified and incorporated into the training sessions.

You will also get an introduction to transformative mediation, a form of mediation in which the parties lead the mediator, rather than the other way around.

I will be applying for 14.0 hours of CE credit from CADRES and from the NH Marital Mediation Board, as well as for 14.0 hours of CLE credit from the Maine Overseers of the Bar.  (NH has changed their rules, so individuals must apply for NH CLE credits on their own.)

If you are an attorney who has no interest in ever being a mediator, can you come?  Absolutely.  You have great wisdom to offer.  Mediators can always learn from working with attorneys, and attorneys can always learn from working with mediators. 

Register  here.

Can you come late/leave early?  Probably, but it’s more complicated.  We will be on an island, after all. Contact me to make it happen:  meredithmediates@aol.com

I look forward to seeing you out there!