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  • Looking Back and Looking AheadI love New Years – it is one of my favorite holidays. The notion of a fresh start for some could be relieving especially if the previous year was particularly challenging.  Last year, I wrote a blog reflecting on how I fell short in addressing my personal conflicts in 2015 and how I wanted to improve in those areas in 2016. The three areas where I felt, I needed the most improvement was being more patient with others, thinking before I speak, and being more responsive.

    I believe in 2016 I was able to exercise my ability to be more patient with others and responsiveness to conflict. I took on a lot more responsibility at work over the course of this year, and in doing so, I was able to work on managing and resolving conflicts without overreacting or getting stressed out. I forced myself in the moments when I felt most stressed to take deep breaths and persevere, and in the end, I was more thankful for it.

    I went through training this year to become a Community Mediator and even completed my first mediation. I found I was challenged to think before I speak and be more aware of my responses and how my words could affect the person with whom I am talking.

    While I did make some good strides in 2016 addressing my previous year’s conflict shortcomings, I always feel that I can do better. Therefore, I would like to give my 2017 resolutions for conflict management in my life.

    I would like to once again put making choices to respond versus reacting onto my shortcomings list as well as blunt. While I do feel that I have made myself more approachable to others; I feel my tone in response to things going differently than I had planned can be pointed and sometimes harsh.

    In 2017, my goal is to challenge myself once again to think before I speak, take deep breaths and be mindful of the emotions and triggers I am feeling while I am feeling them. I also want to work on focusing on the positive aspects of every given situation. I think part of my problem is that when my expectations are not met, I resort to looking at the negative rather than the positive. Therefore, another goal for 2017 is to recognize my expectations and find the silver lining when I am feeling upset about a conflict.

    I would also like to add to my resolutions to consciously check assumptions. I found this year that I jumped to conclusions and was judgmental of others before knowing and understanding their perspective. In 2017, I want to approach every situation or person with an open mind. I want to acknowledge my bias and feelings perhaps even saying them out loud to myself or writing them in my journal. I want to make a point of asking more questions and trying to learn more about other’s perspectives rather than arguing my point or disregarding theirs completely.

    A new year is what you make of it – taking time to recognize areas where I can grow and develop as well as credit to my accomplishments in my managing of conflicts assists me in becoming the best version of myself that I can be and in life that is my ultimate goal. Take some time to evaluate yourself and set intentional behaviors for the new year, perhaps next year you will find yourself an improved person.

     

    Happy New Year,

    Abigail R.C. McManus

    Guest Blogger/ Host

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  • thanks-1804597_1920One of my favorite artists is singer Carly Simon. I was reintroduced to her again after many years of silence to listen to her new CD, Carly Simon – Songs from the Trees. One of my favorite songs “As Time Goes By” in her CD Coming Around Again has me reflecting on this past year’s relationships that wane or grow. We all have relationships with friends, family, co-workers, business partners, neighbors, and even our clients. How do you intentionally strengthen a relationship or acknowledge the friendship? Or is it time to say goodbye or let go of a relationship in the New Year?

    In 2016, we mourned the loss of many musicians like Prince, David Bowie and now, George Michael. Or, the television “moms” like Florence Henderson and Doris Roberts and the “dads” like Alan Thicke. We are all still in shock over the loss of movie stars, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, a beloved mother, and daughter duo not to mention political figure and an American astronaut, John Glenn. Even in our family, we mourn the loss of my brother-in-law, Mark Porter, to a four-year battle with cancer. Relationships are precious, and yet we often take for granted our friendships with little acknowledgment or recognition of the small gifts people bestow on us daily. Small gifts came in many forms like that of laughter when you shared a funny story or a much-needed hug when you got disappointing news or the focus of a listening ear.

    As you enter 2017, reflect and commit to being intentional on the small gifts you can provide to strengthen, honor and acknowledge those important relationships in your life. Here are some ideas to consider.

    • Give someone your focused and undivided time. Time is invaluable in today’s fast paced world and we don’t want to squander it. Relationships need quality nourishment, and that includes time to engage. This time could mean 30-45 minutes a week you actively listen to a friend who wants to share their news or concerns.
    • Say thank you or acknowledge someone. The words “thank you” goes a long way to recognizing and appreciating a relationship. When is the last time you said thank you to a client for their loyalty and referrals? Or, maybe “I appreciate you pitching in with the household chores and taking out the trash without being told.”
    • Write a note. I love sticky notes in all shapes and sizes. Simply write a message such as “I appreciate the extra time you spent today to finish this project by the deadline.” Or, “Amazing job!”
    • Make a phone call. Today, people mostly communicate via text and other written form primarily through social media. Make a phone call to someone you have not spoken to in a while and show that you care. If you are concerned about time, simply begin with “Hi! Theresa, we haven’t spoken for a long time. I miss you. Do you have about 30 minutes to chat and catch up?”
    • Schedule a visit. This visit might take a bit of coordination to put on your calendar, but schedule it, or it won’t get done. Think about the person in your life who could benefit the time with you. You might have an elderly family member in a nursing home who desperately seeks companionship, a neighbor who could use some assistance, or even a long-term client who would appreciate a deeper connection.

    Let me add by acknowledging those that make the Texas Conflict Coach® radio program an ongoing community educational outreach program and for recognizing those who will be leaving and joining us in 2017.

    First, Zena Zumeta, an internationally-recognized mediator, will leave us after guest hosting for six years. Wow! Time has gone by and so quickly.  Zena, a long-time friend, and colleague introduced the idea of being a guest host after I turned the mic over to her to interview me as a guest on the radio show. Since 2011, Zena was a great contributor, idea generator, and interviewer. Zena, we will miss you. We won’t say goodbye for good as we hope she will return for guest appearances and special interviews. From Texas with love and appreciation, Zena.

    Secondly, Abigail McManus will join us as a permanent guest host in 2017. Abby has been with the Texas Conflict Coach® family first as a graduate student Intern, then as an Apprentice, and now, as a guest host. Abby is also a contributing blog writer as well as having launched her new blog, Pearls of Prudence. We are excited to see Abby grow and to be part of her career journey.

    Dar Allen, voice over artist and actor, has been a fan and supporter of our educational work for years. A colleague and friend, Dar offers his fabulous voice to open and close each radio program episode in the New Year. Thank you, Dar, for being part of our team!

    Finally, Tracy Culbreath King and Stephen Kotev continue as our special guest hosts in 2017. We could not continue this program without them, and especially without Shawn Tebbetts, our Executive Assistant, who keeps the wheels oiled and running behind the scenes. We want to extend our thanks and deep appreciation to our guests, from all over the world. They give of themselves and their time to educate our listening audiences. And, to you listeners, new and loyal followers who find value in our podcasts.

    Happy New Year Everyone!

    Pattie Porter

    Founder and Host

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  • signs-416441_1280Expectations can often precipitate disappointment; especially if they do not align with another’s plan. People usually come into most situations with expectations as to how things will turn out, or what a person will be like, etc. While I do not completely believe it is a viable option to enter a situation with no expectations at all – I do believe it is important to learn how to manage those perceptions to sidestep a potential conflict.

    Recently, I experienced a conflict in expectations with my Mom. In January, my cousin will be getting married in Charleston, South Carolina. Being as we are from Maryland, it requires us to book flights to travel down or otherwise drive. My parents will be flying out of BWI which has direct flights to the Charleston airport. My husband and I have an event going on the day before the wedding and will have to fly out of Washington D.C.’s Reagan airport. Reagan has no direct flights to Charleston’s airport, so we will have a layover which will prolong our arrival, and we will miss the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding which we were planning to attend.

    When I informed my mom of this slight change in plans, she became upset and expressed her extreme disappointment as she was looking forward to a long weekend of visiting with us. Now, we would only be able to see them during the day before the wedding and at the celebration itself as our departing flight was leaving very early on Sunday. I was frustrated by her response initially because I felt it was unjust to be upset with me over flight times that I couldn’t control. However, upon further reflection, it occurred to me that my mother’s disappointment was an effect of the expectations she had for that weekend. I am very much like my mom – in the past, I set these expectations up in my mind, and when plans or people fall short I to quote my mom became, “extremely disappointed.”

    However, I began to work on handling those situations better so I could better control my emotional responses. Here are some tips and strategies I have used:

    Ask yourself, what am I expecting to occur? Just knowing what you are hoping to get out a situation provides more clarity. I like to ask myself this question so I can determine where I might need to be more proactive in making plans.

    What do I mean by being more pro-active? I planned my husband’s birthday celebration a couple of weeks ago. Before the event, I determined what I was expecting to occur. I expected us to arrive promptly to the place we were going – which required everyone to get to our house, eat, and leave on time. Therefore, I determined the time of arrival and leaving time and communicated it to all the people attending to ensure we met timing expectations.

    Communicate so everyone is on the same page. If you communicate what your expectations are then, everyone will know, and there won’t be any surprises. Back to my mom and I’s situation- I told her we had every intention of going to the rehearsal it just depended on our flights but I didn’t see any issue. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoken in terms that she could misconstrue as absolutes? Or I should have researched flight times a little more before giving a response, and this could have avoided her setting expectations.

    Acknowledge that you will not be able to control everything and everyone. I struggle with this one regularly, because I like being in full control; however, that is unrealistic. I like to say to myself before any event, “what will be will be.” Just saying it to myself helps me to set a realistic tone for the evening and pushes me to enjoy things as they are and not expect any more from the situation.

    Expectations are tricky, but learning to manage them as well as other can assist you avoiding conflict and being disappointed.

    Abigail R.C. McManus

    Apprentice

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