With righteousness shall you judge your fellow (Leviticus 19:15).

There is an interesting Torah law that states that a judge who has witnessed a crime is disqualified from acting as a judge in that case. The reason being that a person who witnessed a crime with his own eyes will not be able to objectively examine the defense case. True justice can only be done when the benefit of the doubt can be properly examined.

In workshops I conduct for parents, children and spouses seeking a better relationship between them, we have found that the best way to resolve a conflict is to first try to reduce the intensity of the negative feelings the parties have for each other.

I found that the following written exercise can be of great assistance to some people:

1) Describe the negative feelings you have toward your child/parent/spouse.

2) On a scale of 1-100, rate how intense your negative feelings are.

3) If you were hired to serve as your child/parent/spouse's defense attorney in a court of law, how would you describe the reasons for his or her action?

4) On a scale of 1-100, how strongly do you believe your defense arguments to be true?

5) Rate how intense your negative feelings are now, on a scale of 1-100.

The change in the intensity of the feelings may differ from person to person and from situation to situation, but it is very likely that the figure in #5 will be significantly lower than the figure in #2. It is amazing how this simple mental exercise will reduce the intensity of emotions such as anger, hurt, shame, etc., and the pain associated with them.

There are other ways in which engaging our minds to describe to ourselves certain events and situations will drastically affect our feelings about them. For example, we can describe a child or parent's action by saying "He stabbed me in the back", and feel a strong stabbing pain. We can reduce it by describing it as "He punched me in the back." We can choose to stay there, or, if we want to reduce it further, we can describe it as "He was not honest with me," and so on.

Why not take the wonderful tool called the brain that G‑d has given us, and utilize it to work for us rather than against us? By giving our loved ones the benefit of the doubt and using different descriptions to describe a negative action, we may not change the other person; but it will definitely change our feelings and reduce our pain, thereby enabling us to handle the situation more effectively, and perhaps even find solutions to some of the problems.

Try it — you’ll like it!