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  • deciding-1364439_1920I was watching the morning news where violence erupted at a recent US Presidential race rally. Hotly contested, this year’s presidential race between the Republican and Democratic parties include flying accusations, lying, shooting barbs and winning at all costs. Of these running mates, the question debated is who would best serve as the US leader? And yes, families at dinner tables, community leaders, political parties, friends, and co-workers are arguing and forcing their points of view of which candidates are relevant, competent, and reputable.  The arguments focus on who is right, points out flaws, and often takes a strong position for one candidate over the other. It is the news of the day, every day.

    I bring this up because I see and hear the damage that debate causes among us versus a more constructive dialogue approach to discussing vast differences of opinions. So, what is the difference between debate and dialogue? In school, we learn that debate is a formal, structured process to bring opposing arguments over a particular topic or issue. However, what we see and experience is that informal, unstructured debate based on false assumptions, what we hear in the media, and turning that into our truths. In Daniel Yankelovich’s book, The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict into Cooperation, a debate is focused on right and wrong, truth or lie, black or white. It is taking an offense approach leading to a defense reaction. If I am right in my thinking, then you MUST be wrong in your opinion. Right? A debate involves behaviors that are often destructive and damaging to relationships, communities, and whole societies. Debating often turns into being combative, judgmental, opinionated, and insulting.

    Dialogue, on the other hand, is about listening to understand and to learn about the issue discussed. Dialogue is about sharing our personal experiences as it relates to the topic without judgment of the other person’s different points of view. We all have a fundamental need to be heard and understood. Dialogue provides an opportunity to be open-minded about the differences we encounter and to engage in these differences in a constructive and productive manner. I had a wonderful opportunity to train and become a facilitator in the Soliya Virtual Connect program. The program aims to provide cross-cultural dialogues to engage people from various cultures, backgrounds and experiences from around the globe. This virtual platform tapped into strong differences of opinions on all topics from religion to social and global challenges including immigration, terrorism, gender roles, and even US Presidential candidates.

    So, the similarity between debate and dialogue is that there is a topic or issue which has varying points of view that people feel strongly about and want to vocalize. Conflict will result from these discussions. An informal debate often takes a nasty turn where dialogue can promote learning and deeper understanding. In a debate, there is a winner and a loser. In dialogue, all points of view are acknowledged without the need to convince someone they are wrong. As a co-facilitator working with my partner, Kirti Kler from New Dehli, India, we worked very hard to engage our group on very difficult topics. We knew we needed to guide the conversations into conflict territory and challenge our group’s thinking, invite them to share their personal experiences while being fearless ourselves. We listened for moments of opportunity where these strong differences of opinion emerged to engage the conversation further. Sometimes, it felt daunting, scary and questionable about how we were to turn these debates into constructive dialogue. We persevered with the help of our fabulous coach, Amanda Brown and the Soliya team.  By the end of the eight weeks of dialogue sessions, the group learned skills in how to engage more effectively in dialogue within their families, local communities, and workplaces. After three months of training and facilitating, Kirti Kler, Amanda Brown and I were awarded the “Fearless Challenger” award by the Soliya team in seizing the difficult moments and turning them into opportunities for deeper understanding and learning.

    Are you willing to be a Fearless Challenger? Then simply listen to learn and understand the other’s point of view. Don’t be afraid of it. Engage in the difference.

    Learn more about the Soliya Virtual Connect program and how you can become involved.

    Pattie Porter, LCSW

    Founder and Host

    The Texas Conflict Coach


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  • Photo Credit- Abigail R.C. McManus

    Alvin Dog Park Picture

    My husband and I are the owners of a super energetic 8-month-old Bull Terrier named Alvin. We live in a rowhouse in Baltimore City so taking Alvin on walks and to our local dog park is essential for all of us to remain sane. The dog park in our area is very spacious with lots of room to run, and there are a substantial amount of dog owners in our area, so there is never a shortage of dogs with which Alvin can socialize.

    Since we began going to the park, I have observed two conflicts that frequently arise, which has inspired me to write this post.

    The first conflict I have observed is the distracted dog owner. Most of the owners at the park are very vigilant of their dogs. However, there have been a select few who are busy talking on their cell phones, socializing with other dog owners or their friends, or watching the games on the athletic field that are next to the dog park.  The issue with the distracted owners is that they miss their dog going to the bathroom, so they fail to pick up after their dogs. Or they miss their dog bothering other dogs, and they don’t step in to stop it, which sometimes leads to aggression among the dogs. I have heard some owners make passive aggressive comments towards these distracted owners. I have also observed owners have a tense exchanging of words over these issues.

    Tip #1 Try not to make assumptions about the other owner. It may be difficult to do because you might assume they care less about their dog than you care about yours because they are not watching theirs as much. However, if you voice this assumption, the other owner will likely get defensive which could escalate issues.

    Tip #2 Make the owner aware in a non-aggressive manner. Rather than saying, ” Your dog went to the bathroom over there can you pick it up?” You could politely interrupt them by saying, “Excuse me I saw your dog go to the bathroom over there, I just wanted to let you know.” If they didn’t see it, they would likely be thankful for making them aware as some owners can get snippy when another dog owner doesn’t pick up after their dog.

    The second conflict I have observed is the inexperienced owner in the dog park. These dog owners become frazzled if another dog continues to mount or keeps gravitating towards their dog. The owners usually don’t understand that dogs play with each other by sparring and wrestling around. Dogs can sense when their owner is on edge or uneasy which can, in turn, make the dog feel the same way. An anxious dog can quickly turn into an aggressive dog if they not careful. Again, I have observed the inexperienced dog owners glare and make negative comments at other dog owners which have resulted in some heated exchanges.

    Tip #1 Research before bringing your dog to the park. It is important that you understand how dogs interact and socialize with one another.  By doing this, you will be more prepared for the situations as they arise. Also, it is important to know your dog. If your dog is anxious or aggressive, bringing them to the dog park may not be the best option as other dogs may increase these traits and potentially cause issues with other dogs.

    Tip #2 Socialize with the other dog owners. Ask, “Is your dog friendly?” before allowing your dog to interact with theirs. Or if the dogs begin sparring, check-in with the other owners to make sure they are okay with it. Just by doing this can alleviate potential tensions at the dog park.

    It is important to remember that pet owners consider their pets as part of the family and thus they can be very protective over them. Learning how to handle conflicts constructively with other pet owners can ensure happiness and safety for your pet.

    If you would like to hear more tips for conflicts involving pet’s/pet owners check out our archived podcasts here: Animals-Pets


    Abigail R.C. McManus


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  • appointment-15979_1920 One of the ways my husband Bernard and I differ is our time-management skills. I always get things completed on time or earlier; same goes for arriving at appointments and events.   Bernard, on the other hand, is usually if not always late on getting things completed and arriving at places. The difference between our time-management skills has always been something we have been aware of, and it has always driven me nuts.

    When we began dating, Bernard would tell me he would be at my house at 7:30 to pick me up and then wouldn’t show up until almost 8:00, this drove me crazy.  I would become angry because I felt like he didn’t value my time. There were some instances where I would stop what I was doing to get ready and then I would find myself waiting around for him when I could have prolonged getting ready a little longer. I also became annoyed because I didn’t have control over when he would get there. Even if I sent him a dozen reminder text messages, he still was in control of when he arrived. Since I am a bit of a control-freak, this never sat well with me.

    After fighting about his tardiness on several occasions, I decided to make some changes as these fights would often put a damper on the evening or cause stress and tension between us. I started adding fifteen to twenty minutes onto when he said he’d arrive and using my fixed time rather than the time he gave me to determine when I’d start getting ready. So if he’d say he would be there by 7:30, I would start getting ready at 7:30 and prepare for him to arrive at 7:50ish. The other change I made was I started driving to his house so that I could be more in control of the situation.

    The difference in our time-management skills also came very much to light when we were getting ready to send out our wedding invitations. We assigned one another different tasks to complete for the wedding and Bernard was in charge of the wedding invitations. I am the type of person that enjoys completing tasks ahead of schedule so that I can cross it off my list and relieve some of the stress from my life. Bernard is a procrastinator. Therefore, when the deadline was quickly approaching to send out our invitations and Bernard had not begun to complete the task I became very frustrated.

    I became disgruntled because I had asked him if he wanted me to do the wedding invitations since he was busy with work and he told me no that he still wanted to do them. He continued to put off the invitations until the last minute, rather than asking for help which increased tension between us. Now, I am aware I could have just jumped in and completed the task myself and saved he and I both from a lot of tension, however, my “micromanaging” had been a heavily discussed topic throughout our engagement, so I was trying not to do that.

    While our invitations were sent out by the date, we assigned, Bernard didn’t complete them until the evening before they were due out. In this scenario, neither of us utilized excellent conflict-management skills; we fought every day up until we mailed the invitations. In hindsight, I can say we should have established better expectations as to when and how the invitations should be done. I should have expressed to Bernard how much stress the situation was causing me, without blaming him. Bernard should have expressed how overwhelmed he was with work so that we could have reevaluated our wedding task list.

    Differing time-management skills no matter who it is with can cause turmoil. It is important to recognize when it is a trigger and what solutions can help manage it.

    If you would like more time-management strategies, check out our latest program with Helene Segura .


    Abigail R.C. McManus


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