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  • La Taza Java Coffee HouseIn my last blog post, When Change Happens: Embracing the End First Before Starting Anew, our neighborhood coffee house changed owners. At first, the communication to the regulars who visited the coffee house is that the new owner would open in 4 weeks. I thought to myself that will go by quickly. Since my local grocery store is in the same shopping center, you could drive by often and see the sign on the shop’s door, “Opening First Week of June.” The first week of June came and no opening. The sign continued to read the same.

    I shared earlier that the first transition to any change is embracing the end first. Secondly, we enter the unknown period, and with a lack of communication, it often causes confusion. We begin to question the information or lack thereof with “What’s happening?” People make assumptions when information is not communicated such as “There must be something wrong” or “There are delays because of X.”

    Think about significant changes in your family life or workplace organization. You might recall the boss saying we are going to move offices by the end of the week. She gives an instruction “Start packing your things.” Two weeks later, your office supplies and files remain packed in boxes in a holding area, and nothing and no one moved. The only response you get “I don’t know when the move will happen. Be patient.” The negative impact when there is a lack of communication during a major change event is numerous. People naturally feel anxious, they chatter with gossip, and before you know it, the lack of solid information leads to chaos and confusion. Keep these transition strategies in mind.

    • Communicate clearly and often to diminish misunderstandings
    • Acknowledge an individual’s anxiety if they are struggling through the change
    • Encourage and reaffirm that you are all in this together
    • Discuss unmet needs or concerns due to the change

    One day, I saw activity in the new coffee house. I stopped by thinking they may be open after all. The new owner, Corinna, greeted me warmly as I entered the shop. Clearly, they were not open for business. However, she took the time to welcome me and provide information on the delay. She assured another local community member visiting at the same time and me they were very near to opening their doors. Corinna wanted everything to be just right. She let us know the revised name, La Taza Java Coffee House, and it already looked and felt different inside. A new layout and different coffee beans and food product lines to enjoy. Corrina also indicated changes in how things would run from closing hours to holding special events and supporting activities for the local community and non-profit groups.

    Wow! I felt relieved and excited for the new owner and the next rendition of our neighborhood coffee house. In the next blog post, I address the third transition, starting fresh and accepting the change.

     

    Patricia M. Porter, LCSW

    Conflict Management Expert

     

    Note: La Taza Java Coffee House is now open in the Brookhollow Shopping Center in San Antonio!

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  • Photo taken by Abigail R.C. McManus

    Photo taken by Abigail R.C. McManus

    I belong to a Facebook group for the neighborhood in which I reside. I joined when I first moved here six years ago, and up until recently, I have found the group to be entertaining and informative. People post all sorts of things from pictures of funny sights around town to social happenings to crimes.  My feelings regarding this online forum, have reduced to frustration and concern due to the absurd amount of conflict that escalates on what feels like every single posting. The conflict on the page has gotten so bad that the administrators have had to step in and take action to censor the posts due to the conversations escalating into name-calling, nasty remarks, and all around hateful speech.

    What I find surprising about these conversations is the internet provides a sense of security for those who want to be aggressive and abrasive and remain anonymous – but these are fellow neighbors, people you are likely to run into at the grocery store, out at a restaurant, or at the gym. Despite living in an urban setting, our section of the city feels very much like a small town.

    So why might these individuals feel vindicated to resort to this hostile behavior online in our neighborhood group? I concluded three reasons. The first is a common reason most people speak out online; they are more inclined to be open and honest because the person to whom they are speaking is not in front of them getting emotional and reacting. The second reason is members of the group enjoy having the ability to write detailed and lengthy monologs stating their case or telling their story skewed in a derogatory way without interruption, a luxury you likely wouldn’t get from a face-to-face conversation.  Finally, neighbors feel they are supporting a cause. Many of the posts are seemingly innocent, and somehow one thing leads to another, and the conversation shifts to hot topic issues like politics, race, ethnicity, sexism, police brutality, lack of economic funds, immigration, and the list go on and on.

    I picked up on some common traps my fellow residents fall into when communicating in this online forum that quickly leads to escalation and what neighbors can be mindful of moving forward:

    1. Name-calling. “Bigot,” “Racist,” Ignorant,” “Dense” are just four examples on one conversation thread that I saw. Once Neighbor A says Neighbor B is ignorant, Neighbor B then gets defensive and retaliates calling Neighbor A dense. The issue escalates, and other people jump in, and before you know it, the thread has gone completely off the rails. Every time this happens I recall what I was taught in a kindergarten class, “When you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.”
    2. 2. Challenging Beliefs and Values. I have read so many posts where neighbors speak of their faith or their respect for the military or their longing for kindness from their fellow neighbors. Instead, they receive angry worded retorts or eye-rolling emojis. To have a productive conversation one must come to it with an open-mind. It is also important to acknowledge the other person feels just as strongly about what they are saying as you do about what you are saying.
    3. Misinterpretation. Online communication does not convey tone, verbal cues, or body language and because of that the risk of miscommunication surrounding post increases. While I am overjoyed when a fellow neighbor responds with a clarifying question, it doesn’t happen often. Many threads run rampant with the original poster trying to backtrack and explain what they meant, which results in the responders disregarding the initial point of the post entirely. It is crucial to be mindful of the shortcomings of online communication and combat it by asking questions, clarifying, and managing your tone.
    4. Going for the Win. Neighbor A knows what they are saying is right. Neighbor B also feels what they are saying right. Both will battle it out until one decides they are sick of arguing and signs off of Facebook. The remaining neighbor gloats about winning. What isn’t pointed out is that no one won. No one’s viewpoints altered nor were any feelings acknowledged. Most often the only change is the way Neighbor A and Neighbor B feel about one another and how all subsequent neighbors reading the heated exchange now feel about them.

    In these neighborhood disputes going for a win in a written post only furthers the divide between residents. If growth and genuine change are to occur, then approaching one another and attempting to understand each other’s viewpoints is the direction to take.

     

    Have a good weekend,

    Abigail R.C. McManus, MS Negotiation and Conflict Management

    Guest Blogger

     

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  • Judy - La Taza 10 yearsI love visiting a local and family owned a coffee house around the corner from my home. For ten years, the owner, Judy built a community neighborhood gathering. We got accustomed to her morning smiles greeting us as we entered and often, she would introduce us to other customers. La Taza Coffee house provided a comfortable and very laid-back atmosphere. I attended many casual gatherings, met colleagues, and wrote many blog posts there. Surprisingly, Judy announced she was closing her doors but hoped to sell.

    When a significant change in our life suddenly occurs, we experience a jolt. We might be in disbelief and quickly start to question. What’s going to happen next? How will it impact me? Will nothing be the same? Everyone experiences a transition when this type of change occurs.  For three months, Judy would keep her “regulars” informed about her plans. We were happy for her retirement and needed to travel the world. The neighborhood gathering place might come to an end. Judy didn’t have a buyer for the coffee house, but she was hopeful for prospects. It is not uncommon to first experience a need for closure before embracing the new change. When something comes to an end, regardless of whether it is a positive or negative event, we might experience sadness, anxiety, anger, grief, and even resistance to the change.

    Everyone reacts to an ending differently and moves toward accepting the change at their own pace dependent on the closeness of the relationship and the likely impact. Why is this important to note? If you can recognize the signs of a family member, co-worker, or friend struggling to let go, you can help them by first acknowledging their emotions and experience. As the end of April approached, Judy and the regular customers expressed their feelings of sadness, shared their memories, and expressed their anxiety for what was still unclear about what would happen to the coffee shop. Every time I would visit, I saw fewer pictures on the walls, items beings removed, and the place becoming sparse. During the last week, Judy announced another neighbor purchased the store with the hopes of reopening in early June.

    Keep in mind that for any change impacting a group, community, a business team, or family, requires that time is given to each person to process what will no longer exist. Ignoring this time could lead to individuals being emotionally stuck, refusing to let go of the past, and even resentful of the new change and could result in increased tensions, loss of customers, or replaying “this is how she did it.” Thankfully, Judy kept her customers and vendors informed. She honored them and provided time to say goodbye. She even marked the occasion with a fun closing party. We made it a family affair. I took my husband, and our little dog, Lucy and we attended a packed house of loyal friends, family, neighbors, tenants, and even new customers. This closing event supported Judy and helped many of us accept and let go of the La Taza we came to know over the years. Now, as we wait for the reopening of La Taza Java Coffee House, we see movement, and a sign reading “Opening soon!”. As I peak through the cotton curtains on the doors, I see physical changes to the store and menu changes. What will happen next?

    Stay tuned for another blog post about what happens in the second transition to change.

    Pattie Porter, LCSW

    Conflict Management Expert

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