Modern Family Matters

Harnessing Your Power to Reclaim Control in Divorce and Make Co-Parenting a Win/Win Situation

January 06, 2022 with Gail Rudolph Season 1 Episode 41
Modern Family Matters
Harnessing Your Power to Reclaim Control in Divorce and Make Co-Parenting a Win/Win Situation
Show Notes Transcript

Join us as we sit down with Behavior Coach and best-selling author, Gail Rudolph , to discuss how you can set healthy boundaries while navigating divorce, and control your own power dynamic not only in separation, but in co-parenting relationships. In this interview, Gail and Steve discuss the following:

•     How Can we Harness Power, Control and Personal Choice in Difficult Situations to Influence Others and Create Healthy Relationship Dynamics?
•    What Exactly Does Power Up and Power Down Mean?
•    What’s the Relationship Between Power, Fear, and Intuition?
•    What Role Does Active Listening Play in Powering Up or Down?
•    What Are Practical Ways to Set Boundaries When Navigating Divorce?
•    How Can You Stop Your Co-Parent from Becoming a Boundary Buster?
•    It Can be Incredibly Difficult to Forgive Someone Who’s Inflicted Hurt, Harm and Pain Upon Us—Why Should We?

If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys, please call our office at (503) 227-0200, or visit our website at

To learn more about Gail, how she can help you, and information about her best-selling book, Power Up Power Down: How to Reclaim Control and Make Every Situation a Win/Win, visit

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such.

Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast devoted to exploring family law topics that matter most to you. Covering a wide range of legal, personal, and family law matters, with expert analysis from skilled attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcast provides answers, clarity, and guidance towards a better tomorrow for you and your family. Here's your host, Steve Altishin.

Steve Altishin  0:31  
Hi, everyone. I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships here at Pacific Cascade Family Law. Today, we have behavior coach and best selling author, Gail Rudolph, here to discuss how you can harness your power to reclaim control in divorce and make co-parenting a win/win situation. So how're you doing, Gail?

Gail Rudolph  0:53  
I'm doing great. Thank you so much for having me today.

Steve Altishin  0:56  
Oh, thank you for coming. Before we start in, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Gail Rudolph  1:01  
Well, you know, I think probably your audience would love to know that I actually am going through a divorce myself. This book was actually started after my divorce began. And it had a lot to do with me understanding the subject that we're going to talk about today, which is your own personal power.

Steve Altishin  1:19  
Well, since we are going to talk about power and harnessing power, I'm going to start with a basic question. What is power?

Gail Rudolph  1:28  
You know, power is simply defined as the capacity or the ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or a course of events. It's kind of an energy that ebbs and flows as we interact with others. And it's central to every one of our interactions that we have. You see how we communicate verbally and non verbally is more energetic, and our ability to affect and express our power comes in our ability to to harness our power. You know, I think it's sad because too many people today feel powerless, when they actually aren't. It's actually rooted in our self limiting beliefs. And I believe that there's always personal power to be assessed.

Steve Altishin  2:14  
So you said nonverbal. So power can be not just the words you speak, it can be the way that you move your eyes?

Gail Rudolph  2:24  
It actually can. It can be the way you stand, it can be taking up space when you're sitting down. It can be choosing or not choosing, sometimes we sit small, you know, we take up very little space. It's our tone of voice. It's our eye contact. It's everything that we do that's non-verbal.

Steve Altishin  2:44  
Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.

Gail Rudolph  2:44  
You know, it's something that we don't have to seek permission about having power. Our own personal power is something that we always have. It's already there. And I think that one of the key things that we we need to understand is that it's about harnessing our personal power, nobody takes our power away. We actually give it away. Sometimes because we're being quiet, or we're trying to keep the peace, and we don't want to do that. Your personal power is yours. And it's there for you to assess. And it's about choosing the right way to do it.

Wow. So how, we talked about harnessing power, so how, and I guess also, why, do we want to harness our power?

You see, there's kind of a space between a stimulus and response. And Viktor Frankl actually talks about that, where he talks about the space between the stimulus and response and harnessing our power, and tapping into our power actually allows us to use that space. So when we think about that, we can use our mistakes, our failures, and our setbacks as guideposts then for learning and growing. See, when we harness our power, when we take that space and harness it in the right way, it leads to positive interactions with others, it leads to getting things done and creating an environment where cooperation and diversity really flourishes. See, at the most basic level, power is channeled by our mindset, our body movements, and our verbal interactions, and the way we use our tone of voice. We need to plug into the appropriate power response really at any given situation. See, when we understand how to harness our innate personal power, we give off cues and signals or indicators to our powers and influence. If you've ever been in a room and somebody walks in and you don't know what their title is, you don't know what their position is, but you can just feel that they have power and they seem very sure of themselves, that's personal power.

Steve Altishin  4:57  
Is this something we have a choice over, or does power give us more choices? I know when I was reading your book, you kind of had the two together, the power and choice.

Gail Rudolph  5:10  
Yeah, power and choice actually go hand in hand. So we have a conscious choice to make. We can look at other people many times, especially our ex spouses, as a natural enemy where we fear power, and our fear comes into play. Or, we can choose to flip the script and realize that people and situations and difficulties are there to help us grow and to strengthen our ability and character. You know, when we decide to harness our power with the correct attitude, it gives us the capacity to overcome challenging circumstances, things like co-parenting with an uncooperative or hostile ex spouse.

Steve Altishin  5:54  
Yeah, I imagine that. So power, do you want to use it to dominate? 

Gail Rudolph  6:00  
No, no, absolutely not. Power is not about domination. Remember, when we talk about power, it's our ability to actually influence a situation. Power, dominance, coersion, hostility, and creating things as a contest, it is not power. That's actually dominance. And nobody wins in that situation. Nobody. And when we actually harness our personal power in the right way, when we make the choice to use our power and influence, we can actually maintain and relationships and we can grow. And we actually become more accepting of other people and their ideas. But if we're trying to dominate, that's not real power.

Steve Altishin  6:40  
Then it's not a, 'I win, you lose' thing?

Gail Rudolph  6:44  
Absolutely not. We want to create personal empowerment. So the things I talk about a lot is that when we talk about power, power is actually a choice that we make, and it empowers both people. And when we think about people like Martin Luther King, he was the ultimate about powering up and powering down. He empowered those people around him, but he, at the same time, maintained his own personal power.

Steve Altishin  7:14  
It seems like in a divorce situation, and you obviously are close to that, that it's tough not to use it as a way to win or force someone else to do. It's got to be not easy sometimes when you're with a spouse that is not being exactly cooperative.

Gail Rudolph  7:43  
Well, I think that if our spouses were cooperative, we'd still be married, we wouldn't be going through divorce. I think that there's some expectation when we're dealing with an uncooperative person. But what we don't realize is that we hold our own personal power. And when we lose our temper, when we try to control, when we waste our energy in those ways, what happens is that we actually end up giving our power away. That's why it's so much of a choice.

Steve Altishin  8:11  
Wow. That leads to this other thing that you wrote in your book, and it was really interesting. I have a power switch in the kitchen, and you know, you hit it and it goes on and off, and then you move it, it goes up and down. And half the time, I don't know how to use it right. It sounds weird. But you had talked in your book about powering up and powering down. I'm sure it's not about the switch in the kitchen.

Gail Rudolph  8:39  
Well, in a way it is. It's about tapping into the right power source or using the right power tool that you need. You know, just like you plug in something to an outlet, you have to make sure that it's the right kind of outlet. There's different types of outlets for different things. And that's what we're talking about when we're talking about power. You see, it's a choice. You can either power up or you can power down. It's about controlling yourself, and how you present yourself. You see, when you power up, it's kind of a choice that you make to step into fuller presence. When I talked about spreading your arms out, you know, taking up more space, different tones of voice, lowering, using strategic pauses. That's powering up. When you talk about powering down, it's a choice to make a change or a stance, kind of to level the playing field. What we know about human behavior is that we have a tendency to butt up against each other. When we get pushed, we push back. And when you start that type of power struggle or that type of power dynamic that happens, nothing gets done, nothing gets accomplished. So when you are conscious about, 'I'm going to stand up here, and I'm going to harness and power up in this situation,' in an appropriate way-- because I always say the moment you lose your temper you give your power away-- or you choose that, 'I'm going to step back now and I'm going to power down a little bit, let the other person maybe interrupt me, you know, maybe not make so much eye contact to create a playing field where that power struggle doesn't happen,' it's about tapping into the right power tool at the time.

Steve Altishin  10:18  
And that sounds like it's not control as in, 'I'm going to control you,' but it's a way to help control the situation from maybe skyrocketing out of control.

Gail Rudolph  10:32  
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, we waste a lot of time and energy trying to control other people. And the truth of the matter is, the only people that we can really control is ourselves. But if we can control ourselves, we can control the interaction. And even though we might not get or have complete control over the outcome we have, we can walk away feeling good about ourselves. And that that's where true power and personal empowerment comes in.

Steve Altishin  11:03  
And that's kind of the goal. In terms of, again, when you get to the co-parenting kind of situation where the other spouse is not cooperating and no matter what you try isn't working, and a lot of times you end up just feeling bad about yourself. It's not just that maybe life is a little more difficult, but it really is detrimental to yourself.

Gail Rudolph  11:31  
It absolutely is. You know, the book is about moving out of a actual habitual state of consciousness, and moving more into kind of a creative and a purposeful way of interacting. It's about us harnessing our own interpersonal power, and taking that and using it to create something better; something better for ourselves, something better for the world we live in, and definitely something better for our children.

Steve Altishin  12:01  
And powering up and powering down isn't something that just sort of reflects or responds to, it sounds like it's something you, like the switch, can control. You intentionally move it up or down.

Gail Rudolph  12:15  
You know, I've struggled with power my whole life. I was the youngest child of four children. My brother was 18 years my senior. From two years old, I wanted to be heard, to feel like I had some some power, or to be understood. And what happened to me as I went throughout my career, what I learned is that power is actually our response. It's something that can be learned, it can be taught, and I actually wrote the book as a guidebook to actually be able to do that, to learn how to move into a reaction instead of a response. And it really can make a difference, it will make a difference in you feeling empowered.

Steve Altishin  12:59  
I like that. I like that term, 'a reaction instead of a response'. The response is just one of those things, you know, I always call it like a knee jerk. 

Gail Rudolph  13:09  
I was just gonna say, and what's great about it is because it can be learned and taught, when you start stepping into your own personal power, your children then learn how to do that and hold their power in the right way. And they're watching, you know, they're watching to see how you interact with that ex spouse.

Steve Altishin  13:29  
You wrote also about power, sort of how it works with or against fear, intuition, and, you know, in divorces and separations, learning to co-parent. That all kind of comes in, doesn't it?

Gail Rudolph  13:49  
It does. You know, when we're going through a divorce, our life is chaotic, right? And there's a lot for us to process. But when we work in our fast processing brain, what happens with our brain is that we automatically move to reactions. So many times we're working out of automatic mode. We're kind of sleepwalking, and it becomes blurred as to how we should react or respond. But when we start when we think about power, then we can move into what we call our slow brain, and we actually make a choice. And that's when we can make a difference. You know, that's when it comes into play. And what happens is that when we work in our fast brain, we move into fear. And our fast brain often perceives a threat, especially when we're talking about an ex, right? And what happens with fear is that we want to approach it with caution. And instead of trusting our intuition, we fall into this fear mode. And fear sometimes creates this kind of environment where we react, we get panicked, but intuition is a little different. Intuition is our subconscious ability to evaluate our prior knowledge, and to gain on our experience with aspects of our past and our present. It allows us to kind of get a vibe of the situation, to stop and to think about it, and it guides us. You see, fear wants us to move and to react, and it's fast. It's kind of always there, it's always present. Intuition, on the other hand, it actually comes in softly. It's not something that has to be acted on immediately. It shows up occasionally, right, for important life decision where conclusions and answers aren't always readily available. And when we talk about power, what we're talking about is moving out of fear, that can be based out of guilt or self doubt, and moving into more of our intuition, where we move into our inner wisdom of how to go about things. You know, I really hope that the listeners and everybody here learns to trust their intuition and recognize that fear, and realize that it's tempting a lot of times to disguise itself, right? It creates a mask for us. And we need to really tap into our inner wisdom, because we have it and that's where trust comes from of our power. And when we can trust our intuition, we can fully step in, harness our ability to step into our power, and it creates a calm knowing... it's not frantic. And our intuition really is our key to know when to Power Up and Power Down, and what power tools to use at what time.

Steve Altishin  16:47  
It makes sense. It makes sense. Again, I think of that as the chicken, the light meat and the dark meat, there's fast twitch muscles that were really fair, and they were fight or flee, and then the slow muscles which nourish you, they act all the time to slowly continue to nourish you. It kind of works like that. But it can be hard, I imagine, especially again, when co-parents aren't working together or you're in the middle of a divorce, to do that. To just teach yourself to do that, that's got to take a lot of practice.

Gail Rudolph  17:35  
It actually takes a slowing down. So if you remember when you first learn to drive a car, I mean, you thought about everything you were doing. You thought about how much you turn the wheel, you thought about when you went into a curve, when to let off the gas, when to put on the gas. You know, there were so many things that were in your conscious mind. Now we drive in a subconscious way, we can be thinking about something else and whizz right past our intersection or drive and get home and not remember anything that all along the way. What that is, is that's an example of when we were first learning to drive, it was our slow brain that was actually working. Then it moved into our fast brain, and we don't think about it. What we're talking about with power, it's not about relearning, it's about slowing down and moving back into that slow brain. That's how we actually respond, instead of reacting. When we're working in our fast brain, we do an automatic response. When we respond, we're working out of our slow brain and we're choosing how we're going to behave and respond.

Steve Altishin  18:38  
Is there a neutral? Is there a power neutral? And what tells you to get out of neutral maybe and go up or down?

Gail Rudolph  18:53  
You know what, we all have a natural inclination to either power up or power down. But we are not very often power neutral. That's where we need to maximize our influence. We need to work on having both sides of the power coin because that's what it is. It's the two sides of the same coin at our disposal. So we need to know when power plays are available and what power tools we should use and which ones are most effective to create a better outcome and maximize our influence. The other is we need to access power and employ it effectively. It is vital to shift from that habitual reaction to a thoughtful response in a situation. And it gives us a different handle on the players and the things that are involved. You know, some of us tend to power down a lot out of habit. We give off clues that we're unsure of ourselves or expertise and the viewpoints that we have to share. And when we adopt those nonverbal cues, we need to actually decide to change those to present ourselves, and to use those power up and down moves to put people at ease, instead of letting go of our own personal power. However, a lot of times when we talk about powering up, we think of that as being a bully. And that is never, ever the case, that is not power. It is possible actually to power up and to firmly make it known that we possess control, and that we can still remain courteous while remaining full in our power.

Steve Altishin  20:39  
So powering up doesn't necessarily mean being the one that talks all the time?

Gail Rudolph  20:47  
Sometimes that gives your power away!

Steve Altishin  20:52  
But you say listening is important as well.

Gail Rudolph  20:56  
Active listening is very, very important when we talk about power, because it's a technique that requires us to fully concentrate and comprehend and respond to what's being said, both verbally and non verbally. See, when we think about having a power tool, to be able to pull and use, we engage that active listening and focus on words that are being said, while also being acutely in tune to the tone of voice and the body language that's being exhibited to us. You see, when we become aware of our emotions, as well as the emotions of other people, it gives us valuable insights. This is where we should not underestimate our intuition because it can be instrumental during this activity, and be active during this time as we're listening. It provides a well rounded idea of the true meaning of communication, and hearing what that other person says and what's being said to us, then we can truly pick the right response that we need to make.

Steve Altishin  22:02  
You talked about bullying, and that power doesn't necessarily mean bullying or pushing boundaries. Can you tell us a little bit about that? I mean, there are boundaries we have, and there's power ,and there's got to be a limit to either the power or the boundaries. You know, the immovable object versus the irretrievable force.

Gail Rudolph  22:32  
You know, I refer to boundaries as the secret sauce to power. We don't always think about them that way. But they're really the secret sauce to us maintaining our power. You see, boundaries are just really limits that we set around our time, our energy, and our money, and there are parameters that create a reasonable, safe, and permissible way for other people to behave towards us. And a lot of times, as a recovering what I call 'people pleaser', I let my boundaries actually be plowed over many times and didn't create those parameters that were reasonable, safe and permissible ways for others to behave towards me. They also define how we will respond, should our limits be breached. You know, they're so essential when it comes to power. But there's a distinct difference between power and boundaries. You know, when we hold firm to our personal limits, we are defining and establishing our true empowerment. Through maintaining and holding our boundaries, we show where we will and will not be moved.

Steve Altishin  23:46  
Wow. This is a dance, the power up and down, the boundaries. I mean, this is, it almost feels like it's an art, as well as a skill. But someone's going to push through, or try to push through. What happens when you get that, those people who just keep pushing?

Gail Rudolph  24:11  
We do, we get a lot of people in, and I think that you're right, it is a dance. And we've learned a lot of times how to actually, you know, we think we know how to respond to especially a spouse. But when we step back and we look at where our boundaries are, there's their safeguards to where our boundary lines are. But people are constantly trying to push through our boundaries, whether it's a spouse, whether it's people at work, it's really important that we, first of all, clearly define what our boundaries are for us, where and where we will not be able to clearly communicate. But if we have somebody who's trying to, what I call bust through our boundaries, we need to ask ourselves a lot of times, you know, am I saying yes to something I want to say no to? And if that's coming up, then we need to make sure that we understand why we're doing it. There are different ways that we relinquish our boundaries. The first one is internal pressure. We feel like we have to. You know, that we, for some reason, or maybe loss, or grief, or fear of the unknown, that we need to give into our boundaries. Those are internal pressures that we need to look at. There are external pressures, those are those people telling us that we need to prove, or that we need to change our boundary or persuade us to do or act in a different way. And when we relinquish our boundaries, sometimes it springs out of something on the inside of us, out of obligation, or fear, or guilt. And both internal and external influences and boundaries, to cross our boundaries, they can be pretty strong at times. There are forces that can either sabotage and allow other people to take over and actually, what happens is we end up giving our power away.

Steve Altishin  26:07  
So, for instance, as an example, say it's my weekend to not have the kids and I've made plans, and we're going to go somewhere, we're going to take two days to just get ourselves relaxed. And the ex calls up at 11:30 at night, and says, 'Oh, yeah, I can't do that, we've got to change, I got to go to this thing, so yeah, you're gonna have them.' What do you do?

Gail Rudolph  26:36  
Oh that never happens, Steve! That's kind of a constant a lot of times when it comes to dealing with your ex. And what we need to do is we need to ask ourselves, how does this make us feel? You know, examine the symptoms. Are you saying yes, possibly, to something that you want to say no to? And then identify kind of the root cause. Is there something in your past or your childhood that taught you to relinquish your boundaries, where other people, possibly family or even friends, were asking you to help them out of binds they've gotten themselves into? And you know, why? Why you feel that you need to say yes? You know, is it because you've had things in your past that you're scared that they're going to threaten to withdraw their affection if you don't say yes? And then there's always a need. Identify your own personal need, and why you feel like you have to say yes. Is it fear of abandonment? Is it guilt? Examine what's causing you to allow this person to step all over your boundaries, and for you to give your power away. You have to identify that need. And then the next thing is to be prepared to respond instead of react, okay. Take a deep breath, collect yourself, then you could respond with something like, 'It sounds like you had a tough week. And you know, you've had something unexpected come up, and that's a problem. I understand you're in a tight spot. But I won't be able to help you out with such short notice. I would be happy to help you at a different time if you'd give me at least two weekdays notice in advance.' You know, we know that some situations are going to happen. So preparing for them ahead of time, and having something to say and respond and hold your power is extremely important.

Steve Altishin  28:30  
That makes such sense. One of the powers that I know you talked about in your book was the power of forgiveness. Can talk about that?

Gail Rudolph  28:44  
This is so hard to do when you're going through a divorce. Because, you know, a divorce is one of life's top five most stressful experiences. And you're ending a relationship and dividing up a life that once was together. And it's painful. It is like a death. And one of the things is that there's emotions involved--you're hurt, you're angry, and a lot of times that anger and that hurt, we can get paralyzed by it. But holding on to that hurt actually consumes us. It also gives our power away. And I know that sounds funny because you could think about okay, I'm giving my power away because I'm mad and I'm angry at the other person? But it is. You know, there's a person that once said that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We need to stop pretending that our past doesn't affect our present, because it does. But when we decide to forgive, we can regain our sense of self and our personal power. It's incredibly difficult to forgive somebody who's inflicted harm or pain upon us but we need to remember that forgiveness is about freedom. It's about our freedom.

Steve Altishin  30:07  
You hear the comments sometimes about well, I can forgive but not forget. Is it easy to kind of confuse those two?

Gail Rudolph  30:16  
Absolutely, absolutely. See, we have no control over that other person has hurt us, either intentionally or not. They may never apologize or show any remorse for the things that they've done to us. But when we hold a grudge and we harbor ill will towards them, then we are choosing to deepen and prolong our pain rather than address it and move forward. It's so easy to confuse forgiving with forgetting, and many of us have been taught that when we forgive that we're supposed to forget. This simple error, I think, is what causes so many of us to hold on to our anger and pain much longer than necessary. You see, forgiveness is not about justifying the other person's actions, right, or letting them off the hook. Or saying that you'll reconcile or even forget the hurtful actions. See, forgiveness is a gift that we give ourselves. It's about letting go of somebody else's hold over us, and moving forward and to bigger and better things. You know, when we think that of all the things that come into our life, good and bad, they will either make us stronger, or will cripple us. We have a choice to make. And the good news is we get to view how we want to live our lives. The good news is we get to choose that.

Steve Altishin  31:41  
Yep. We're getting near our end but the things you said were just really, really informative and insightful. And thinking about that, say you're in a divorce or you're in a co-parenting situation with a difficult ex spouse, all of the things you talked about. And as you kind of were saying, it isn't just controlling, and empowering you, but the people around you to make everybody at least more civil, if not more cooperative. It sounds like it is an influence that influences not just yourself, 

Gail Rudolph  32:22  
Well again, what we can control ourselves. When we respond with the appropriate response, we can change the interaction. And I always say that when you change the interaction, that's when you can start changing the world. You can start changing your environment. That's where it begins, is in that interaction. And the only person you really can control is yourself. And when you can walk away feeling good about how you handled yourself and an interaction, you remain powerful, and then you're empowered.

Steve Altishin  32:56  
Well, thank you, Gail, this was wonderful, it really was insightful. I really want to thank you for being here today to give us this insightful look into understanding the power dynamics involved in divorce and co-parenting, and kind of using that understanding to reclaim control and improve your post-divorce relationships. I just think it's wonderful. Thank you so much.

Gail Rudolph  33:20  
Thank you so much, Steve, for having me join you. This is something, again, that's very close to my heart because I'm going through it. And, you know, I really hope that everybody understands you can start using your own interpersonal power today by changing how you respond.

Steve Altishin  33:37  
Thank you. And thank everyone who who is watching for joining us today. You know if anyone has any further questions on today's topic, you can post it here and we can help get you connected with Gail. And with that, everyone, stay safe. Stay happy. We'll see you at our next Pacific Cascade Family Law Facebook Live. So long.

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