Lawyers are prone to overworking. Although it may feel like working as much as possible is the most productive way to spend your time, as Luke Van Arsdale explains in this episode, this is far from the truth! The more of a work/life balance we are able to maintain, the better the counsel we can provide to our clients.
Luke is a founding partner at JVAM, a 20-month-old law firm situated in the Roaring Fork Valley that focuses on real estate, business, litigation, and transactional work. During our conversation today, Luke talks about his approach to setting boundaries and prioritizing the facets of his life that exist outside of his office (like relationships, sleep, and exercise). Working 200 hours a month is unsustainable, so be sure to give this episode a listen to learn how to find the balance that will make you happier, healthier, and a better lawyer!
Key Points From This Episode:
What is Divorce at Altitude?
Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado.
To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here. If you have additional questions or would like to speak to one of our attorneys, give us a call at 970-429-5784 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISCLAIMER: THE COMMENTARY AND OPINIONS ON THIS PODCAST IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND NOT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE OR AREA TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE ON ANY OF THESE ISSUES.
Ryan Kalamaya (3s):
Hey everyone, I'm Ryan Kalamaya.
Amy Goscha (6s):
And I'm Amy Goscha.
Ryan Kalamaya (8s):
Welcome to the Divorce at Altitude, a podcast on Colorado family law.
Amy Goscha (13s):
Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me, I know. Besides being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a divorce client.
Ryan Kalamaya (20s):
Whether you are someone considering divorce or a fellow family law attorney, listen in for weekly tips and insight into topics related to divorce, co-parenting and separation in Colorado. Welcome Back to another episode of Divorce Altitude. This is Ryan Kalamaya. This week we're gonna be talking about balance. And balance is something that listeners can understand in the sense of their own life. We also have a bunch of lawyers that listened to this and this week we are joined by one of my good friends who also happens to be a lawyer, Luke Van Arsdale.
Ryan Kalamaya (1m 1s):
And Luke and I have talked about balance and I thought it would be helpful for people to hear his perspective on balance in terms of practicing law, dealing with difficult situations, as well as work life balance, which I think anyone can relate to. So let me first tell you about Luke, and for those that don't know him as well as I do, Luke is the founding partner of JVAM. They specialize in real estate, business litigation and transactional work here in the mountains in Colorado. He went to the University of Colorado School of Law, which is where I met him and his wife when they were looking at becoming lawyers.
Ryan Kalamaya (1m 46s):
Our children have the same ages, but we've known each other for a very long time. And before I go on, Luke, welcome to the show.
Luke Van Arsdale (1m 55s):
Yeah, Ryan, thank you.
Ryan Kalamaya (1m 57s):
So Luke and I have talked about starting a podcast and one of the things that he wanted or is thought about and we can get into this is balance, but before we get into the the topic, Luke, can you, for listeners that don't know anything beyond what I just kind of went over, can you maybe explain how you got into law and a little bit more about you?
Luke Van Arsdale (2m 20s):
Well, I could talk about me for days. It's a dangerous box to open. I got into law cuz I, I was a ski bomb and quite proud of it. I needed to find a better way of, of living in a ski town and earning a living than waiting tables. I had the raw skills of a lawyer and I took the LSAT and did, did well and decided to see, see if law school might be a good outlook for me. And it turned out to to be. And so during law school I moved up to Aspen, got a job as a summer intern with the chief judge up here.
Luke Van Arsdale (3m 0s):
And after law school, just kind, kind moved up here and made it work. One of the things I've observed over my career is particularly where we live, but I think this is most small communities, its to, to find good lawyers to, to hire as an employer. Finding good lawyers who are able to available, willing to, to move to a smaller community and find their way to establishing a a good thriving, successful law practice is, is challenging.
Luke Van Arsdale (3m 40s):
There's just a, there's a limited pool of people available and there's a smaller number of those still that are gonna be good fits that have the skills that you need to, to succeed. And so training people, the amount of time and energy that goes into training a lawyer, getting them up to speed or not just a lawyer, a legal professional, a paralegal, a admin. It's extremely resource intensive for us. And, and I suspect that that's, it's less true in big cities, but it's not, it's not untrue there either.
Luke Van Arsdale (4m 20s):
I don't care how big your law firm is or how big your community is, training people to be a good cultural fit to do things the way that that you do them is, is time consuming. It's resource intensive. And so more so in small communities, but probably everywhere it's long-term disadvantageous to an employer to burn people out. And it's short-term disadvantageous to an employer to have people who are burning the candle at both ends who are, you know, working themselves into a pit that they can't dig out of, who are not thriving in life.
Luke Van Arsdale (4m 60s):
People who are thriving in life do better work. They bring their best to the table every day. They're smarter, they're, they're more attentive, they're more objective. And so over, over my career, the more I worked, the more I observed those dynamics at play and finding ways of, of achieving balance in people's careers just became something that I became very interested in for those reasons.
Ryan Kalamaya (5m 24s):
Yeah. And listeners, I've often spoken about my passion for, for skiing and Luke and I ski together frequently and, and Luke, at least my observation is that my skiing or the time off that I take from working, it allows me to be much better at what I do in terms of work when I'm actually on. And I think a lot of people, especially during the pandemic learned or realized how that work life balance. But a lot of things that you just kind of went over, you know, really resonate with me and we've talked a lot about, so let's kind of unpack some of those, those things.
Ryan Kalamaya (6m 13s):
The first thing in terms of the, the, the balance being in, in a small town, I do think that that magnifies a lot of these issues because you become a lot more sensitive in terms of the cultural. So can you maybe talk about your law firm where, you know, where are you guys located and why do you think that that matters for listeners of, of divorce altitude who, you know may be living in the mountains and may understand what you're talking about or maybe on the, on the front range where both of us have spent some, some time.
Luke Van Arsdale (6m 47s):
Yeah, so j a is a mountain law firm. We have offices in Aspen, Basalt, Glenwood Springs, Buena Vista. And our office is coming online here this summer. We founded this firm 20 months ago with five lawyers and as of today we have 16 with the 17th starting in August. So it's been a, it's been a steep growth curve. A big part of the reason we've been able to sustain it is it's, it's really two things. It's the quality of work that we do and it's the culture of leadership, service, integrity, the that we've established.
Luke Van Arsdale (7m 32s):
And so being located in the Roaring Fork in Arkansas Valleys, most of our clients are based full-time here. And those who aren't have second homes or businesses up here that keep them, keep them in these areas a significant amount of the time and people gravitate to these areas. The cost of living is, is high to exorbitant and people gravitate to these areas primarily, not entirely, but primarily for the superior outdoor recreational opportunities that they afford there. There are other things, you know, there's more agricultural community than I think popular media gives these areas credit for and there's still solid entrenched communities of, of longtime multi-generational locals hanging in there.
Luke Van Arsdale (8m 24s):
But it's hard to make it in these areas without some level of, of commitment to, or some level of just joy derived from the outdoors. And look, we, we live in some of the most beautiful places in the world and finding the opportunities to enjoy that or important part of everyone's experience here.
Ryan Kalamaya (8m 48s):
Yeah and I think that your firm's growth is, a lot of people stop me and and say, Ryan, you guys just, every time I had looked on LinkedIn, it seems like you guys are hiring someone new and I think your firm's growth as well as what we have at Kalam Gia, I think that what people are really, that our clients notice that. And there's been this huge generational shift in the legal community in terms of a lot of the transition between older attorneys just retiring and being kind of burned out. So how, in terms of the mentorship, Luke, that you provide and, and how do you view kind of that balance in terms of work life balance?
Ryan Kalamaya (9m 38s):
Because that growth, you could just be working all the time, you know, the work is there. So how do you manage that on your end, both from a personal side as well as kind of a mentorship side?
Luke Van Arsdale (9m 52s):
Well, it's hard. They kind of go hand in hand, right? Because you're, look what you say to people as a manager, mentor, leader, whatever is is one thing, but what they actually see you doing is gonna be much more impactful than than anything you ever say. And so to be effective you have to practice what you preach or if, if you don't, you're just pulling people in different directions. And I don't think this is unique to us. I think lawyers in general, but to some degree all working professionals, anyone with any type of job where they're doing meaningful work, it's easy to bring your work home.
Luke Van Arsdale (10m 33s):
It's easy to find yourself lying in bed at night or sitting shock upright at three in the morning and worrying about work, thinking about work, focusing on work, giving your attention to work. And you gotta be careful about that cuz that can overcome your life. That can take over and be all that you do in the legal profession in particular. It's easy to do that. People fall victim to that. I think for a long time a lot of law firms had cultures where they leaned into that and I think it's been a detriment to the profession particularly, you know, back in the days where you show up at work and you open your mail and you've got a letter from someone and you dictate a response and the secretary types it up and they send a US mail back to 'em and they get the response several days later, everyone has time to, to cogitate.
Luke Van Arsdale (11m 35s):
Maybe it was a little bit different. But in the age of electronic, instantaneous communication, if you don't set good boundaries between your work and the rest of your life, it's for especially driven people, the types of people that become lawyers, it is just incredibly easy to let work take over your life. And so one of the most important things for me, and I think for lawyers in general has always been setting boundaries. There are plenty of lawyers who feel like the level of service that they want to give to their clients is instantaneous response to emails. No matter what time of day that they come in, I'm sure that there are some lawyer jobs where that's actually necessary to do your job, not most of them.
Luke Van Arsdale (12m 25s):
And so things like turning off email notifications outside of regular business hours, things like managing your client's expectations so that they see that you're, you're not going to respond to emails in the evenings or on weekends. Things like, you know, so many of us now are cell phone is also our office phone. Turning off your work phone app outside of regular business hours so that you're not getting blown up all weekend long. Blown up in the evenings and training your clients that, listen, these are the hours where I'm available and the rest of the time I'm with my family or I'm with my friends or I'm exercising or recreating or whatever I might be doing.
Luke Van Arsdale (13m 11s):
But creating those boundaries is essential. And then having created them for, for ourselves as partners, as employers, encouraging the more junior attorneys and our firms who have, you know, a strong desire to succeed, they're driven, they have more time because they may not have families yet they may be more inclined to focus on work more of their lives just to just to out of a perceived need to succeed. Helping them learn to set those boundaries early and to be diligent about it. And my experience is critical. Cause you may get more work out of someone for a short time if they don't have those boundaries.
Luke Van Arsdale (13m 53s):
They may come and bill 200 hours a month for you for a year or two or three, but it's not sustainable. And putting the resources into training people that we put into it, we wanna create sustainable careers that people will stick with and ideally, ideally can live out their entire legal career with firm.
Ryan Kalamaya (14m 16s):
Yeah, that resonates with me in terms of the sustainability of practicing law. A lot of people that Luke, I'm sure that you went to law school with and that I can think of in terms of my own experience, a lot of 'em, they're no longer practicing law and it's because the challenges in the stress is related to the profession, but I think it kind of expanded even larger is something that we're all navigating listeners, you know, understand Eric and Melanie Wolf, our hypothetical divorce clients. If Eric is a business owner and especially when he might be having some marital issues to just put his blinders down and just focus on work, I think that that defense mechanism can really be detrimental.
Ryan Kalamaya (15m 7s):
And I think a lot of lawyers when they're going through or or just professionals in general when they're going through a difficult time just to bury themselves in, in work, I is I think a natural tendency that can really have some negative long-term implications.
Luke Van Arsdale (15m 23s):
Yeah, absolutely. The subject of this episode is balance and it really, it really is at the end of the day about that if, if you're not maintaining a good balance between work and the other things that you, that you need to do, sleeping, exercising, maintaining good quality relationships with your friends and family, I mean, those are the essentials that drive happiness, that drive us to, to enjoy our lives. And I mean, look, let's face it, in the end, we all only have a limited amount of time in which we are going to be experiencing life. And I don't care what your spiritual creed or beliefs are, whether, whether when you die, you go to heaven and live out eternity, basking in the joyous glow of God's presence.
Luke Van Arsdale (16m 14s):
Or whether you get your memory washed and become reincarnated like you've done infinity times before, or whether, whether you achieve nirvana or your consciousness dissolves and becomes one with the boundless chi of the universe. Or whether you just stop being conscious and your body is, is no longer a living being under all of those in any other conceivable theory of, of being, or maybe not conceivable, but plausible theory of being. You have a limited time to enjoy the consciousness that you have and doing good, meaningful work that helps others, that advances your community, that earns, earns you a good living.
Luke Van Arsdale (17m 1s):
That's part of it. But that by itself is never gonna make you happy. You've gotta have good, strong friendships, good relationships with your family, good sleep, good physical fitness, good mental challenge, all those things. And, and if you have all of those other things outside of work, the quality of work that you do is inherently gonna be better. And particularly as a lawyer, the quality of the advice that you give people and the quality of the advocacy that you provide for them are both gonna be superior if you're well rested, if you're well-balanced compared to if you're showing up sleep deprived and, and you haven't exercised in weeks and you know your brain is part of your body and healthy body, healthy mind is a very real dynamic and it just makes everything easier and better.
Ryan Kalamaya (17m 59s):
This episode is brought to you by our law firm, Kalam Gosha. Amy and I describe our law firm as an innovative and ambitious trial team. The pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries in criminal defense in Colorado. We currently have offices in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Edwards, Denver, and Boulder. If you wanna find out more, visit our website, kalea.law. Now back to the show. So Luke, for someone that's listening that's saying, yeah, Luke, I'm picking up what you're putting down. I wanna get into some practical advice in terms of what are things that you do or have kind of changed that help you to get better sleep or achieve that, that balance?
Ryan Kalamaya (18m 50s):
Are there practical things that you have done? I mean, both of us are in our, our mid forties and you know, it's something that we've certainly talked on chairlifts and raft trips and, and other things which, you know, I think that certainly people can understand. All right, Luke and Ryan go rafting and they go skiing, that's great, I can't really do that or I'm not really into that. What are other things that you have done or at least have recommended to some of the attorneys in your firm in terms of achieving that balance?
Luke Van Arsdale (19m 26s):
I've started thinking about it in terms of sort of meeting my basic human needs and instead of just defining those as air, water, food, I've kind of expanded the scope of what I think of as my mandatory needs. And so I need regular exercise and I need good regular sleep and I need good quality friendships and I need good relationships with my family. And so I prioritize all of those things on roughly equal footing with my need to excel at my job, to provide good high quality work for my clients, to get my work done and done well and done timely to be responsive to people.
Luke Van Arsdale (20m 19s):
All of those things are in the mix and all of them need to balance together. And so one thing I started doing and I, I realized this after I broke my elbow a couple years ago, and because of that I didn't exercise really for a few months and that kind of spiraled into a little bit more laziness. And I, I found I was, I was just depressed. I was, I was, I was snippy at work. I I was not sleeping as well, just overall every, everything in my life was of reduced quality. And I realized it was cuz I, I needed more exercise. And so I've, I've decided that at least three to five days a week exercise is a mandatory thing that I'm going to make time for in my day the same way I'm going to make time for getting my work done.
Luke Van Arsdale (21m 11s):
And I've found different people can, can do this different times of day for me it's lunchtime, I carve out lunchtime, I will go to the gym and then eat a quick lunch on the way back to office, you know, swinging through the grocery store, something like that. A lot of people prefer early mornings. I think you tend to wake up early and, and get your exercise in the morning. I know a lot of people that works for, I for, for me, between sleep and getting my family ready and my kids out the door in the morning is, is challenging for sleep. A couple of things that have been really helpful to me, one is most of the time reasonably regular bedtime.
Luke Van Arsdale (21m 51s):
And that's been hard because hours between 8:00 PM and 12:00 PM are like often the only time of day that I can actually focus and get substantive work done where I'm not getting blown, my phone's not ringing, emails aren't flooding in, I don't have people knocking on my office door, my my kids are in bed, but if I'm staring at a glowing screen until midnight, even if I'm getting good work done, then I'm not getting to sleep until one in the morning and then the next day I wake up and my performance throughout the whole day is impaired. And then I'm takes at least one, if not three days to catch up on that and, and get back to where I feel like I'm a hundred percent.
Luke Van Arsdale (22m 35s):
And so cutting that out, finding way better ways of organizing my time so I don't have to work late into the evening and, and getting a reasonably regular bedtime has been really key to me for managing my sleep. And then another thing on that front, I love caffeine, I love coffee. I'm someone who can drink a pot of coffee and go right to sleep and it doesn't affect my ability to fall asleep whatsoever. Afternoon coffee for a long time was something that I really enjoyed. Something I still enjoy honestly. And even taking off with some of my colleagues and walking to the coffee shop and hanging out in line and then walking back is 15 minutes of really good high quality focus time to devote to mentorship or talking through a case or whatever.
Luke Van Arsdale (23m 23s):
So there's all kinds of ancillary good things surrounding afternoon coffee as well. And what I've come to realize is that while all those things may be true, if I'm drinking a full serving of caffeine after 10:30 AM I may be able to fall asleep without difficulty, but the quality of sleep that I get is impaired. I'm not sleeping as well. And so you can do afternoon decaf, which I, it pains me a little bit even to say that it feels like sacrilege, but a tea or, you know, go for the walk without the coffee shop are all things that I have.
Luke Van Arsdale (24m 7s):
I won't drink decaf, but as a suggestion for other people who may like the, the flavor and feel less strident about their coffee purism than me. Those, those are things you can do to improve it. And then the last one is alcohol. Another thing that I, I love good booze, good tequila, good scotch, good wine, good beer, really enjoy it. And the thing about alcohol is kind of the same thing if, if you have, if I have three drinks anymore, and this wasn't always true for me, but it's, it's definitely true. Now, if I have a second or third drink, I'm gonna wake up at three in the morning, not able to fall back asleep, the quality of my sleep is significantly worse.
Luke Van Arsdale (24m 48s):
And so I'm, I'm not about to quit drinking. I enjoy good quality booze too much to, to do that. And talking about the quality of your relationships with your friends and your family. Like so much of what we do as a society, there's a bottle of wine or there's some beers or whatever it may be, but it's also, alcohol is a social disinhibitor. It, it helps people have fun together and that's important. And so it's not to quit drinking, but it's realizing that if you're just having a drink after work to like wind down or to help you sleep or to to blow off some steam or whatever, you're not doing yourself any favors.
Luke Van Arsdale (25m 28s):
That's totally counterproductive. If if you're gonna drink, make it count. Make it be a situation where you're improving your fulfilling relationships. And those, those I think tick off all of my main strategies. I maybe the last one is just making time for my friends. You know, like you, you organize a, a monthly men's breakfast that we do and I, the raft trips we go on, just having a community of people that you, it's on your calendar and you are going to make time to maintain those relationships and to, to keep those friendships alive cuz it, it takes time and it's so easy, particularly as you get into middle age to, you know, focus on your family, focus on your work, focus on going to the gym or doing all the other things you need to do to be healthy and just not find time for your friends.
Luke Van Arsdale (26m 21s):
And I feel like finding time to maintain those relationships is, is critical to us to have fulfilling lives.
Ryan Kalamaya (26m 29s):
Yeah. Luke, I mean there's so much that I appreciate with what you just covered and I think for listeners to this podcast, they often will hear the topic of divorce or family law is a real challenge whether they're a lawyer and lawyers, as we know Luke, they tend to have a higher rate of divorce or alcoholism, I mean mental health and, and kind of that balance is a real hot topic within the legal profession. But so much of what you just covered is, I think important for people whether they're in a divorce or they're a, a family law professional or just interested in being healthier or trying to improve.
Ryan Kalamaya (27m 18s):
And, and it's something I have certainly thought a lot about. You and I have talked a fair amount, but I see the, the fallout and it's not, it doesn't mean that people that don't exercise go through a divorce or people that either drink or don't drink or eat or have coffee that they go through a divorce. But when you get back to those core values or core things in the buckets of, of life, whether it be family, work, friendship, those really are magnified, at least in from my observation. And I think you can relate in terms of either your own personal experience of, you know, when you get into a bad situation, like you break your elbow and you realize how important exercise is or you watch a client really struggle through in, in terms of litigation.
Ryan Kalamaya (28m 10s):
But that at least I think it's both that personal experience where I've had medical like a sur a foot surgery and it just magnified how important exercise is. Or I've seen someone who just really goes away from their routine and that they're in a divorce and they're really struggling. And on the flip side, I've seen, you know, clients I've mentioned before one, that he made a commitment to do a hundred bowl laps in his divorce and Luke and I, you know, we've gone, we've, we frequently will do, you know, bowl laps for hike Highlands bowl and that is a real focus for both of us, Luke and I think everyone has their different, you know, whether it be noon or for me in the morning because I can knock it out.
Ryan Kalamaya (28m 60s):
I think it just is is helpful for people to kind of be reminded of how important that is cuz they, you can get, you can stray, you and I have talked about like when you get super busy, you have a lawsuit that is really hot, you can kind of get for a week or two weeks, you kind of deviate and you don't exercise or you don't take care of those friendships and you know it, it's fine if it's a couple days, even if it's, if it's temporary for like a week or two. But you gotta get back to those critical key foundations in in your life.
Luke Van Arsdale (29m 36s):
Yeah, that's so true. And just, you know, maintaining good habits around it makes it so much, much easier to get back into when you do have to take some time off of one thing for whatever reason to reve that balance. You know, another thing too that we didn't talk about but that, that may be a good segue into is one of the most frustrating things about being a lawyer and I this is magnified, I know from firsthand experience for the the work you do and also for family people going through a divorce, dealing with difficult people that you have to deal with, whether it's your opposing counsel or whether it's your soon to be ex-spouse or sometimes, you know, as a client it's dealing with your own lawyer sometimes as as a lawyer, it's dealing with your client there.
Luke Van Arsdale (30m 30s):
The practice of law and, and in particular the practice of family law, but it's true across the board is just rife with incredibly frustrating interactions with, with people incredibly difficult moments. And a thing I've, I've noticed is one really hard phone call can totally derail your productivity for the rest of the day. Or if you get into a email fight with some opposing counsel and they're being obnoxious and saying all kinds of false, accusatory inflammatory things and you feel like you need to respond to it in writing and you, you bite back or whether it's on the phone, getting into that with, with anyone sort of succumbing to the frustration and, and, and letting yourself get into those fights can really just throw you off the rails.
Luke Van Arsdale (31m 30s):
And so finding, finding ways to stay objective, to, to see humor in that, to not engage in kind are so critical and all those things we've, we've talked about maintaining, maintaining that balance is in, in my experience one good way and one sort of foundational thing that's critical to being able to navigate those difficult interactions productively instead of counter productively.
Ryan Kalamaya (32m 2s):
Yeah. And Luke one I've observed you, you are incredibly well or even keeled when it comes to emotions. What are the things that you do or, or try to kind of consciously do when you are in that emotional situation? Whether it be as a parent, whether it be in your professional life, cuz it's something that I've observed you to be extraordinarily good at. So for those, you know, like me, I get emotional and I have, you know, admittedly younger in my career, have sent this snarky email and something I am trying to improve on. We can all improve kind of how we deal with anger.
Ryan Kalamaya (32m 43s):
And I, you know, Marcus Aurelius, you know, a well-known stoic would wake up in the morning and visualize all the difficult people that he was going to interact with and it would kind of prepare him or steal him to what was coming. So whether the things that you do Luke or that maybe tips that someone, you know, Eric Wolf going through a divorce who might get mad at at his ex or another lawyer who, you know, gets that, that email. What are the things that you kind of think about or, or have been cognizant in terms of your own practice or life?
Luke Van Arsdale (33m 17s):
There's two main things. One is one is how you relate to yourself, and then the other one is, is how you relate to other people. So for, for me, and look, it's not, I get fr we all get frustrated. I get, I get frustrated, I get angry. It's, it's impossible to be a human and go through a day without experiencing emotions. They're part of us and it's good. You wanna experience, they're healthy. And the key is recognizing that just because you're feeling frustrated or just because something's making you angry doesn't mean that you have to respond, react with frustration or with anger.
Luke Van Arsdale (33m 58s):
And one of the best strategies for, for recognizing the emotion and, and being okay with it, your emotions just well up within you. You don't control whether or not you experience them, but you can't control how you react to them. And so one of the keys, and I, I learned this at a parenting seminar. I, I went to a preschool when I think my oldest kid was like two, and just talking about how to, how to not only parent toddlers, but how to teach them to not give into their tantrums. And it's, it's just an incredibly effective strategy for dealing not only with toddlers, but also with lawyers, which are more similar than I think people give anyone credit for.
Luke Van Arsdale (34m 44s):
When you're experiencing an emotion, your brain, the, the reasoning, the impulse control, the speech functions of your brain are all focused in your prefrontal cortex, your emotions well up from other portions of your brain, most of the feelings of anger, frustration, the sort of fight or flight stress, emotions that you get dealing with difficult people come outta one of the most primitive portions of your brain called the amygdala. And when you give into that emotion, when you just react to it, you're letting the primitive portion of your brain control and drive your actions.
Luke Van Arsdale (35m 24s):
What you wanna do is literally move the function of your brain outta your lizard brain and into your well-developed human brain. And the best way to do that is to put your feelings into words. So when you're feeling frustrated, the temptation is to you clench your fist, you, you yell back at a person. You do whatever the feelings of frustration are driving you to do. If instead of doing that, you say, I'm feeling frustrated. Just the act of articulating those words, pulled your cognition out of your amygdala and put it in your prefrontal cortex.
Luke Van Arsdale (36m 7s):
And, and look, you're, you're gonna, there's, there's a back and forth going on there. You're still in the stressful situation. Your amygdala is still fighting for control of your brain, but by just saying, I'm feeling frustrated right now, that's an incredibly powerful tool to controlling your frustration instead of letting your frustration control you. And when you do that, if you're in a fight with another lawyer, they're being, they're being jackasses, they're ignoring the rules of civil procedure. They're, you know, they're saying stuff that just didn't even happen. They're, they're, they're off in their own fantasy land and it's like, you can't even talk to 'em. Just saying, I'm feeling frustrated right now, is, is one really effective way of controlling it.
Luke Van Arsdale (36m 55s):
If that doesn't hit the brakes on the challenging interaction, pull them back to the level with you where you can talk about it objectively. Another good thing to do is say, listen, I'm, I'm still feeling frustrated. I'm getting really hot. We're past the point in terms of my mind state right now where we're gonna accomplish anything productive during this call. So let's get off the phone, take some time, cool off, and I'll give you a call back when I'm feeling better and then hang up and go blow off some energy. Go do 20 pushups on your office floor. If you don't have something different you can do, go out in the stairwell. If you're in a big building in a city and run up and down a couple flights of steps, play a phone game.
Luke Van Arsdale (37m 37s):
Do do the wordle. Just do something to get, get yourself out of that frustrated state and into a better state of cognition where you can be objective and think critically about, okay, here's where this person's coming from. How do I navigate the situation in a way that's productive for what I'm trying to accomplish here? So that, that's the main thing, just giving, recognizing your emotions and giving, giving voice to them instead of letting them control you. And you don't, you know, don't judge yourself because you're feeling an emotion. There's nothing wrong with that. That just means you're a, you're a live human doing a hard job.
Luke Van Arsdale (38m 18s):
So except I'm, I'm feeling this emotion, that's okay, but while I'm under the control of this emotion, I'm not gonna do anything productive. And recognizing that and just stepping back and then re-engaging later is an incredibly powerful tool for managing yourself and then for managing other people. Very similar people tend, we all, we all tend to engage with people and we tend to respond to people in the way that they engage us. And so if someone comes up to you in the street and they're aggressive with you, your tendency most of the time for most people is to be aggressive back to them. If you're on a phone call with someone and they start escalating and they start cutting you off and interrupting and their voice is raising and now they're yelling at you or maybe they're talking down to you or any, any of the myriad things that they might do, your tendency is almost always to respond back in kind.
Luke Van Arsdale (39m 13s):
And there are some lawyers who, I don't think they necessarily do it on purpose. I think most of the people who do this aren't particularly mindful about it. But we all know some lawyers and, and there's not a lawyer listening to this podcast that can't think o immediately of someone who makes their living by being an aggressive jerk a hundred percent of the time, gas on every fire, escalate every interaction, concede nothing, and look, dealing with those people, it's so tempting to let them drag you down to their level where they then beat you with experience. Because when people confront you with aggression, particularly for lawyers, it's tempting to respond in kind and it's wired into our brains.
Luke Van Arsdale (40m 2s):
We have what are called mirror neurons. They're the same thing that if you're getting better at skiing as a good example, you can go skiing by yourself. You can like listen to someone tell you what to do till they're blue in the face. But the way that you're going to, to advance as a skier the most quickly is to just go skiing with someone who's better than you and watch what they do. And by watching them do it, you will naturally mimic it. Those same mirror neurons affect the, are what make us respond to people in the same manner that they confront us. But you can control that because some people are stronger projectors and some people are stronger reflectors, right? The, the agros that we were talking about earlier, very strong projectors of aggression, but if you recognize that they're projecting aggression at you and you instead of reflecting aggression back at 'em, you just reflect back, calm, objectivity, good humor, even keel.
Luke Van Arsdale (41m 1s):
One good way of doing that is by giving words to their emotions. Like, Hey, I'll use the completely made up non Attributional name, Matt. Hey Matt, it seems like you're feeling pretty, pretty upset about this. Like, hey, it seems like, it seems like you're really fired up about this thing that your client says happened that neither one of us was there to see. Do you need to take a minute? You know, do you need to calm down by, by giving words to the emotion and by projecting calm and objectivity? Not immediately, but you can almost always bring people back to your level and then have a productive conversation no matter what they confront you with.
Luke Van Arsdale (41m 49s):
And so those are long-winded, but those are the, the tools and strategies that, that we try to use and that we try to coach people to use to just make our days of, of navigating conflict a little bit less unpleasant.
Ryan Kalamaya (42m 6s):
Well Luke, those are some great strategies and tools for anyone dealing with difficult conversations that can give rise to emotional responses. Really appreciate the time that you've taken with sharing some of these with our audience. For those that are interested in finding out more about Luke and his firm, we'll have links in the show notes. But until next time, thank you for joining us on divorce at Altitude. Take care. Hey everyone, this is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. If you found our tips, insight, or discussion helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast. For show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode, visit divorce altitude.com.
Ryan Kalamaya (42m 54s):
Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen in. Many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and me at Kalamaya.Law or 970-315-2365. Thats K A L A M A Y A.law