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  • kaleidoscope-2186166_1920I grew up in a family addicted…addicted to conflict drama. Our family’s drama resulted from a single grandparent trying to raise three grandchildren on a limited income. I learned to survive my grandmother’s potent rage by observing and avoiding things that might trigger her wrath. I was adept at avoiding potential conflict and confrontation. Today, I am a recovering conflict avoider.

    As a child, I learned that the only perspective that mattered in the conflict game was my grandmother’s viewpoint. I remember she had a pair of binoculars in an old brown, canvas case. She used it when we would visit the beach to watch birds or see the ships in the far distance. The binoculars were a way to get close and see things from afar more intimately; however, it also provided a narrow viewing field. We used a similar telescopic lens when seeing situations that triggered my grandmother.

    For years, I used a telescopic perspective and stayed hyper vigilant to the signs and signals so as not to disturb the periods of time that were calm and peaceful. I honed my conflict avoidance skills, but these same skills did not serve me well as I entered into adulthood.  I became more self-aware that other perspectives than my own existed and questioned how could it possibly be that others didn’t think the way I did. I stopped using the binoculars if you will and learned how to use a kaleidoscope.

    The Kaleidoscope was one of my most fascinating toys as a child. It felt exotic compared to my Barbie dolls. Upon holding the long tube to my eye, I saw vibrant and intricate shapes. And to my discovery, I could turn the end of the tube to see an endless number of colorful patterns. The kaleidoscope is an optical instrument with multiple reflections from mirrors, glass pieces, colored beads, and today, can be made of any number of small objects to create various perspectives. To learn and read the history of the kaleidoscope, read here.

    How can we use the kaleidoscope, not the telescope, to see various perspectives in disputes? Just as each kaleidoscope provides unique patterns, every person we encounter is unique with different familial experiences, beliefs, values and personality characteristics.

    When we are in an interpersonal conflict, we tend to focus on one perspective usually our own very narrowly. We don’t turn the kaleidoscope to see a different angle to the story. We experience the other person in the conflict as the individual who wronged us in some way. The beauty of a kaleidoscope is the mirrors used to reflect simple elements into a complex arrangement. It is in the turning of the long tube that allows each of us to see a distinct perspective. In conflict conversations, the turning of the kaleidoscope means taking action, actively listening and asking questions to gain a new understanding. It is revealing, beautiful, and often leads to a deeper understanding of what makes the other person unique.

    Learning how to turn the kaleidoscope changed my life and gave me the courage to take more risks. I wanted to see more beautiful things in people, and myself. I do have to remember to pick up the kaleidoscope in my interpersonal conflicts and turn it to see the hidden patterns. Have you done this lately?

    If not, I invite you to pick up and turn your kaleidoscope for a new perspective.

    Pattie Porter, LCSW

    Conflict Management Expert

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  • Zax

    The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss. Illustration by Dr. Seuss. Picture, taken by: Patricia M. Porter.

    I have a niece, Zoey, who is eighteen months old, and I was recently looking at children’s books to get her. I always loved when my mom would read to me as a kid especially books where there was a lesson to be learned. I started thinking about books that would be appropriate for teaching Zoey about conflict, being that I am a conflict intervenor. After doing some research, I found the perfect story in one of Dr. Seuss’s collections titled, “The Zax.”

    The story is about a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax who come to the same spot on their journey and bump into one another. Neither one is willing to step out of the other’s way as they both have an abundance of pride, so they stay unmoved for days, months, even years. The conclusion of the story explains that while the Zax’s refused to budge the world continued, and eventually a highway was built around them.

    How is the story of the Zax’s a good way to teach children and even adults about conflict resolution?

     

     

    1. It demonstrates a conflict without a resolution. As neither Zax would agree to move, they remained stuck in the same spot missing the developing world around them. How many times have we witnessed a fight between two people where both parties refused to budge on their position? What do those two individuals end up missing out on because of their pride?
    2. It’s a way to discuss negotiation and compromise. What did the Zax’s ultimately want? The North-Going Zax wanted to go North while the South-Going Zax wanted to go South. They both felt the other should move out of their way so that they could go forth. However, if they had discussed their problem instead of forcefully asking the other to move, they could have worked out a compromise that both parties would have found met their needs.
    3. It’s an excellent lesson in attacking the problem not that person. The Zax’s attack one another by saying things like, “YOU are blocking my path, get out of my way.” They could have instead looked at the problem itself and how they could fix it rather than attacking one another.
    4. It teaches conflict escalation. How did the Zax’s make the problem worse? The North-Going Zax started, “I never,” he said, “take a step to one side. And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways. If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!” The South-Going Zax countered that he could stay fifty-nine years at that point both were trying to save face to prove a point.

    Teaching children how to manage conflicts constructively I believe is the best way to ensure a more peaceful world in the future. Children’s literature can be a helpful resource in conveying skills and lessons on conflict resolution. What other books would you recommend for teaching conflict resolution? Let me know.

     

    Have a Good Week,

    Abigail R.C. McManus

    Guest Blogger / Co-Host

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  • TCC Congrats CakeThis month, April 2017, marks the Texas Conflict Coach global radio program’s 8th anniversary. I have had the joy of meeting and learning from guest experts around the world; mentor graduate students from the University of Baltimore and Salisbury State University in Maryland; and work side-by-side with Hosts, Zena Zumeta, Stephen Kotev, Tracy Culbreath, and Abigail McManus. And finally, receiving the guidance from Advisory Board members Lou Geisel from Maryland Association of the Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO) and Cinnie Noble with CINERGY Coaching in Canada. Shawn Tebbetts, the Executive Assistant, proved to be invaluable to keeping all of us organized and working through the details.

    Starting in May 2017, I am retooling and making program changes to provide more effective and valuable content to our listeners and viewers. During this transition, we will re-broadcast each month well-liked episodes straight from our archives, and we will produce live episodes, Conflict Chat: Ripped from the Headlines focused on discussing the current conflicts we read in the news. Abigail McManus, a guest blogger, along with me, will publish weekly blog posts focused on conflict management topics to help you reflect and apply concepts.

    Periodically, we will host a special guest or event episode. You can access over 315+ podcasts on a variety of topics related to conflict management for families, workplace organizations, kids, and schools, neighbors, religious communities, etc. ANYTIME and ANYWHERE! You can listen and learn from a variety of sources including www.texasconflictcoach.com, our Texas Conflict Coach YouTube channel, or through iTunes, Stitcher Radio, FM Player, and Google Play.

    This month, you can listen to my inaugural episode focused on what motivated me to begin this journey as well as what I have learned about engaging in interpersonal conflict in Being in Conflict: Lessons Learned from a Conflict Management Practitioner. Rose Gordon returns with Encouraging Restorative Community Conversations with the Comfort Zone, Discomfort Zone, and the Alarm Zone in Mind!

    I want to extend a huge hug and share my appreciation for everyone’s support over the years. You might have been an avid listener, a guest, a fan or a supporter. Whatever your role, thank you for sharing in our success and our mission to educate the everyday person on how to embrace conflict constructively and courageously!

    Stay tuned for future developments and new program content.

    Pattie Porter

    Founder and Host

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