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Turning Your Kaleidoscope for a Different Perspective

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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What Dr. Seuss Taught Me -Teaching Conflict Resolution through Children’s Literature

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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THE TEXAS CONFLICT COACH: CELEBRATING CHANGE AND DISCOVERING NEW PATHS

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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Switching Roles: Constructive Conversations between Elder Parent’s and Adult Children

people-1394377_1920One of my favorite shows currently streaming on Netflix is Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as quirky friends navigating through their later years together. In one episode, Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) simultaneously throw out their backs and struggle to get to the phone to call for help. The next episode begins with one of Frankie’s sons giving both characters’ medical alert buttons to wear around their necks in case of an emergency. The remainder of the show follows the women as they grapple with aging and the reality of their situations.

The episode resonated with me as my grandparents who live on their own have experienced some health issues recently, and the family has discussed plans of action regarding their living situation and lifestyle.

There comes a time in the cycle of life when the parent and the child seem to switch roles. The elder parent finds their adult children now taking care of them, telling them how best to live their life, and encouraging them to consider the dreaded idea of “assisted living.” Adult children just want the best for their parents but find their parent’s resistance to being frustrating and burdensome to their life. How can adult children approach conversations with their elderly parent’s about getting older so that they are constructive and won’t cause damage to the relationship?

  1. Be Respectful. Getting older is an adjustment, suddenly things don’t work like they use to and figuring out to manage those changes can be difficult. Be mindful of your tone and how you are speaking to your adult parent. Speaking to your parent like they are a child can be humiliating for them and make them feel worse about the situation.
  2. Listen to what’s not being said. Admitting to your adult child that you are struggling with your daily routine may be hard. Your parent may state their challenges in less direct ways, so pay attention and actually to listen to what they are saying.
  3. Find solutions together. Including your elderly parent’s in decisions regarding their care is important so that they feel empowered. You could say, ” Mom, I know it is important to you to continue living on your own, but I’m worried about you falling again. What are some possible solutions we can think of that with meet both of our needs?” However, in some cases, elder parents cannot fully participate in these discussions so working collaboratively with other members of the family such as siblings is important to find the best solution for all parties involved.
  4. Consult professionals. Sometimes knowing if you are making the right decision can be challenging, therefore, consulting with an Elder Care Specialist may provide you and your family with the guidance you need to move forward.
  5. Check out additional resource outlets. Over the course of the last eight years, we have had experts on our program discuss how to manage the delicate relationship between aging parents and their adult children. One program with Carolyn Rodis examines how to get your aging parents and adult siblings to communicate more productively. This excellent program and others can all be located in our podcast library under Family and then Elder Care.

Getting older can be a sensitive time for both elderly parents, their adult children, and key family members. Learning to navigate through that period in a constructive manner is necessary to maintain a healthy relationship and keep all parties happy.

 

Have a Great Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

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A Spouse’s Revelation: Changing How You Phrase a Question Can Make All the Difference in the World

digital-art-398342_1920Will you please empty the dishwasher?” I asked my husband, Bernard one evening while I was preparing dinner.

Sure!” He said quickly to oblige.

The way I worded the question was something new I was trying for the past several weeks. I am a self-admitted nag and due to Bernard and I’s vastly different ways of managing tasks I found I was nagging him more which was causing conflicts.

Before getting married, I purchased a book written by Ruth E. Hazelwood titled, “The Challenge of being a Wife.” I bought the book on a day when I was having anxiety about failing in my role as a spouse; however, by the time the book arrived, my concerns must have dissipated because I never opened it before our nuptials. Flash forward to a month ago when I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the sound of my voice nagging my husband that I stumbled upon the book and decided to read it. It was eye-opening.

A passage that stood out to me that Hazelwood wrote is:

A wife who thinks her husband can’t do anything without her direction may soon find that he won’t do anything; he is just glad to have you take it all on, and you are left wondering what went wrong.

I recognized immediately after reading this passage that I constantly was giving my husband direction in the form of rhetorical questions without allowing him the opportunity to do things when he felt motivated. I’d say, ” You know the dishwasher needs to be unloaded?” or “The sink needs to be emptied.” I wasn’t confident that he would rise to the challenge without my direction – which his track record implied that he wouldn’t. When he wouldn’t do these tasks in the past, I would get angry, do the tasks myself, and then feel resentful towards him because of it.

I read that passage and felt enlightened. The chapter where that passage resides ends with a list of steps to assist in changing your behavior, so your husband feels more motivated to complete tasks on his own. One step that Hazelwood suggests is, “Be efficient in your areas. If you need his help, don’t demand; just ask, “Will you please…?” in a kind way.” I found I would plea or state what I needed and Bernard would either tune me out or ignore. Hazelwood stresses that husbands will ignore or tune you out because they want to demonstrate they are capable of managing their responsibilities without you. So I began to change how I worded my questions and delegated when I felt overwhelmed by household tasks. Changing from, “Why don’t you empty the dishwasher?” to “Will you please empty the dishwasher?” has made a world of difference in my household.

The last suggestion in Hazelwood’s list is, “Show appreciation.” Hazelwood explains, ” You must make him feel worthwhile and loved in order to motivate and bring out the best in him.” I recognize that just the slight change in how I word or phrase what I am saying to Bernard and then express appreciation when he completes the task has changed how quickly he responds to assisting me. He is more willing and motivated to do so, and our exchanges around completing household tasks have become much more pleasant and much less frustrating.

Husbands and Wives, I challenge you to take a look at how you are speaking to your spouse especially if you notice tension and conflict arise around these exchanges. Perhaps, making a slight change in how you word a question or statement can help improve your relationship.

 

Have a Great Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

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Burying the Hatchet – How to Reconcile a Friendship After Conflict

solution-1783776_1920In my previous post, I discussed when and how to go about ending a friendship. Many of us, I would suspect, if given the option would choose to reconcile our friendship over termination. Therefore, I felt for this week’s post, and in honor of the upcoming ‘Reconciliation Day‘ on April 2, 2017, I would write about how to mend a friendship after there has been a conflict or a prolonged dispute.

Surrounding yourself with good friends is important. An article found on WebMD written by Tom Valeo and Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS explains:

A recent study followed nearly 1,500 older people for ten years. It found that those who had a large network of friends outlived those with fewer friends by more than 20%.

Friends can provide emotional support, make us laugh, and bring out the very best in us. But friendships do come with their set of challenges and just like all other relationships will never be completely devoid of conflict. For that reason, it is important to know how to reconcile a friendship once it has been broken, especially if you want it to last.

How do we make up with our friends?

  • Make the first move. After a fight has occurred one of the more difficult tasks is being the first person to wave a white flag and reach out for a peaceful reconciliation. Generally, our pride gets in the way, we say hurtful things to one another when emotions are high, and we do not believe ourselves to be at fault. However, staying silent or being stubborn to concede in any way will only cause more issues. Being the first person to reach out may take some courage, but someone has to do it if you want your friendship to survive.
  • Accept Responsibility. One thing I learned while studying for my Master’s in Negotiation and Conflict Management at the University of Baltimore is just like it takes two to tango it takes two to have a conflict. Many of us naturally, point the finger at the other person and absolve ourselves of any foul play because we don’t like thinking of ourselves in a negative light. However, looking at how you contributed to a conflict can assist in reconciliation. For example, maybe you were not as supportive as your friend would have needed, or you made negative comments that were judgmental to your friend’s actions. Acknowledging your contribution, however small, demonstrates it takes two to engage in conflict.
  • Use “I” statements. Apologizing will help break down your friend’s defensives and make them more willing to listen and communicate. And, it is still important that you express how your friend made you felt during the conflict. Otherwise, your feelings will go unheard, and resentment could build. If you say, ” You always blow me off to hang out with other people” you are blaming your friend which would put them on the defensive. Instead, you could say, ” I felt hurt the other day when we had plans, and you canceled, and then I saw on Facebook you were with Penny and Mary.” Expressing how their decisions and behavior made you feel will more likely encourage them to see things from your perspective and perhaps make them more willing to apologize.
  • Don’t look back. Once you and your friend have hashed out your differences and forgiven one another, leave that conflict in the past. If you continue to bring up old transgressions, your friendship will not be able to strengthen and grow instead it will become immobile.
  • Reflect together. Take time to examine what you both could do differently next time a conflict arises. Decide together to approach each other first before jumping to conclusions or listening to gossip. Learning how to manage conflicts better together will strengthen your relationship and ensure its longevity.

 

Have a Great Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Guest Blogger/ Guest Host

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Every Day Is a Game of Boggle: Challenge Your Perspective Taking Skills

Photo by Patricia M. Porter
PerspectiveMy husband and I love to play games with family and friends. One of my favorite games is Big Boggle, a word game, where you have three minutes to find as many words as you can with earning higher points for four or more lettered words. The game is composed of dice with one letter per dice. We shake the box until all of the letters fall into a slot with letters shown in different directions. Each of the player’s view of the game is different depending on where you sit around the table. After the timer goes off, we then compare words crossing off similar words from our list. Words remaining on your list indicate no one else saw your word nor wrote it down. You then score points for being the only person with the word on the list. Responses such as “Wow, I didn’t see that one.” Or “I can’t believe I didn’t see it. I was looking straight at it.” Then, we start another round amazed how each of us sees the words in front of us differently and yet, ironically, we are all viewing the same die. It is mind boggling.

Or, is it? Being a conflict management practitioner for over 22 years, I study many aspects of conflict resolution theory, relational dynamics, and neuroscience. The area of study I enjoy exploring is the field of neuroscience and how our brain can work like a muscle. The brain is an organ, but like most muscles, with focused effort, we can practice and build our critical thinking skills, learn to manage and control our emotions, and even change our thinking thus our perspectives. Like everyone else, I can easily stick with what I know and believe my perspective to be the “right way” of doing things or to adamantly state “that’s how I see it, felt it, and experienced it.” So, how can you challenge yourself, build awareness and even explore a perspective building skill? Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Watch Chris Chabris and Daniel Simmon’s videos. Psychologists and authors of The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us made a series of short and funny video clips to illustrate illusions to our perceptions, how we selectively choose to focus on certain things and dismiss other critical information, and our uncanny ability to not see changes right in front of us.
  • Watch the television series Brain Games. This Emmy-nominated television series demonstrates how the brain processes information. These short episodes on National Geographic are fun and boggle the mind. They introduce a concept such as perception, memory, stress, etc. and then demonstrate through visuals and audio how your brain engages. They provide practical strategies to reduce misperceptions and illusions of memory, and so much more.
  • Play the word game, Big Boggle. Well, it is a fun game and builds word skills. It challenges you to look at so many angles. What are other games which challenge perspective that you would recommend? Let me know.
  • Ask open-ended questions to gain different perspectives and challenge your critical thinking skills. Often disagreements escalate into conflict and even full blown disputes because we get stuck in our perspectives. Taking another perspective leads to undiscovered factual information, understanding another’s experience or emotions and sheds light on a new unseen angle. Asking open-ended questions tells the other person you are genuinely interested in learning. Examples of these types of questions could be
  1. What light can you shed to help me see this differently?
  2. How might you help me see the hidden door and walk through it?
  3. What am I missing that would help me understand your perspective?

Go out and challenge yourself daily. Build that perspective-taking muscle and skill set. Let me know how it goes.

Pattie Porter

Host and Founder

The Texas Conflict Coach®

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You No Longer Have a Friend in Me – When and How You Should End a Friendship

Photo credit:  woodleywonderworks

Goodbye (AttributionRequired)When we hear someone say they are, “ending a relationship” we assume this to mean the person is breaking up with their significant other.  However, “ending a relationship” could also mean severing ties with a friend.  Friendships can be challenging to maintain especially over extended periods of time.  Life provides many excuses for a friendship to end: you move far away from one another, you work more, you have more responsibilities just to name a few. But what about those friendships for which you deliberately choose to walk away? When should you end the friendship? How do you end it?

Ending a friendship is not easy, but coming to that decision requires careful consideration, especially if you have been friends for a long time.

When should you end a friendship?

While it is entirely up to you if and when you decide to sever ties with a friend, there are several junctures where the choice to walk away may be obvious.

  • You can’t trust them. Your friend has done something to betray you whether it was talking about you behind your back, telling your personal stories, hitting on or becoming romantically involved with your significant other are just some examples of how trust can be broken.
  • You feel self-conscious when around them. Your friend consistently puts you down or make snide remarks about your appearance, behavior, or any other aspect that makes you feel bad about yourself.
  • You recognize the friendship is one-sided. You’re always the one making an effort to get together or connect. Or, your friend only reaches out to you during times when they need something, but they don’t reciprocate for you. Then you are likely in a one-sided friendship.
  • You no longer have anything in common. You grow up, develop different interests, make other friends. It is a part of life.

How do you address this dilemma?

  1. Make sure it is what you want. Rekindling a friendship after you have explicitly made a point of ending it with your friend will be most difficult, therefore, it is important that you are absolutely sure it is what you want. Think about what you will lose by cutting ties with your friend and if the loss is worth it. Consider whether mutual friends will be impacted by this decision. Be mindful if you are still angry about what has occurred, making rash decisions in the heat of the moment most often never turns out well.
  2. Silently Part Ways. If you are in a situation where your friend is no longer reaching out, then it may not be necessary to have a face-to-face conversation. It that situation, perhaps it may be better for you to stop making an effort to reach out and connect. Take some time to consider whether silently parting ways will be the best option or if a face-to-face conversation is the better route to take.
  3. Don’t bring others into it. Meaning, don’t speak poorly or encourage bashing of the friend you are severing ties with in an attempt to gain allies. Involving others friends has the potential to cause damage to more than one friendship.
  4. Be truthful but not mean. If you decide to end the friendship, it may be best to do so in person so that closure can be had for you both. When speaking to them be truthful in your reasons for cutting ties. The strategy of sugarcoating and dancing around the topic will only make ending the relationship worse. It is important to be descriptive and to stick to how their behaviors have made you feel rather than pointing out their flaws. For example, you might say, ” Danielle, I need to end our friendship because for some time now I feel it has been one-sided. I feel frustrated and annoyed as I only hear from you when you need someone to talk to or when you and your boyfriend are fighting.” Rather than, ” Danielle, I’m done being your friend. You are just using me, and I am sick of it.”
  5. Set boundaries for moving forward. If you are severing the friendship make sure it is clear to both you and the person you are walking away from what that means, so there is no confusion. For example, “Danielle, moving forward I feel it is best if neither of us makes efforts to explicitly hang out. However, if we happen to run into each other we still remain cordial.”

 

Have a Good Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prepare to Engage: Minimizing Anxiety for Hard Conversations

entrepreneur-593358_1920Many of us are conflict avoiders typically avoid because the idea of engaging in a dispute fills us with anxiety. You don’t know how to manage the conversation once it starts and in your past experiences conflict has often had negative results. After I had begun the Negotiation and Conflict Management program at the University of Baltimore, I learned the technique of preparation before a conflict. Preparing for an uncomfortable conversation before it happens is an easy way to minimize anxiety that many people feel about conflict.

Why is preparation an essential ingredient for a hard conversation to go smoothly?

  1. Preparing allows you to be mindful of your fears and anxieties. Acknowledging your frame of mind about the conflict can assist you in re-framing it in a more positive light.
  2. Preparing allows you to format what you want to say and edit to remove any language that could cause the other person to get defensive or take offense.
  3. Preparing also provides you the opportunity to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and anticipate what their responses might be.
  4. Preparing allows you to focus on what you need and want from the conversation and have an end goal in mind.

For example, you need to have a talk with your roommate about cleaning. You don’t like conflict and often feel your roommate gets upset quickly, and you end up giving up because you don’t want to ruin the relationship.

The first thing you need to do is sit down and outline what you ultimately need and want from this discussion. You need your roommate to contribute more to the cleaning of the house. You feel that since she has started her new job, you are constantly the one cleaning.

You don’t want your roommate to get upset or feel attacked so the next step would be to write out how you want to approach this conversation. Perhaps you will say something like:

Sasha, I wanted to speak with you about how to handle the cleaning of the apartment? I feel that since you began your new job, I have been cleaning the house. At first, I didn’t mind because I knew you were adjusting to your new schedule. But, now I feel that it is becoming more difficult for me to manage and I was hoping we could work out a cleaning schedule that is best for both of us?”

Once you have read through what you have written edit any points or possible trigger words that could cause your roommate to become defensive. The next step would be anticipating what your roommate might say. Perhaps she will just apologize profusely and say she didn’t realize she had been slacking. Maybe she will say she doesn’t feel a schedule is necessary everyone should just pick up after themselves and clean when necessary. In both cases, prepare how you would like to respond. If your end goal is to have a cleaning schedule, what can you say to make sure that happens?

Alexander Graham Bell said, ” Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Addressing conflict and managing it successfully just like anything else requires preparing and practice to become more comfortable and reduce anxieties. Give it a try before your next difficult conversation and take note of how different your experience is.

Have a Great Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

 

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Indecision – Don’t Become a Flattened Squirrel

discordance-798855_1920“Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” Anonymous

We have all experienced indecisiveness to some degree. Sometimes, the indecisiveness is merely answering the question “What restaurant do you want to go to tonight?” You respond, “I don’t know. You choose.” Or, maybe you are shopping with your spouse for a special gift he wants to purchase for a dear friend, but he cannot make up his mind. So, you go store to store looking for that special something only to go home empty-handed. You are annoyed, but you understand the gift has to resonate and have to mean something.

For many of us, we struggle with making decisions and become habitual procrastinators and often complainers that nothing has changed. My aunt is a great example of this indecisiveness when for years she would grouse about not having a large picture(s) to complete her living room wall. It was a pure white blank canvas. Every time I visited, she would pass by this space and say “I can’t make up my mind about what I want to put there.” My initial thoughts and offer to her were “Let’s go shopping.” My cousin and I would drive her to numerous stores looking at paintings, photographs, structural art pieces but to no avail. She couldn’t make up her mind. Thirty years later that white blank canvas is dulled with age, and the pure white canvas is now yellowed. And, she still complains how she wants to fill the space.

Let’s go a step further. Habitual procrastination and indecisiveness comes from a place of anxiety not knowing what you want or if you know what you want but can’t make the decision it is often from a place of fear. A fear that paralyzes you resulting in you being that flattened squirrel on the road. Every day presents us with opportunities to make small decisions to life-altering decisions. Some of these decisions not only affect you but others around you so of course, it can be scary when the decision has a great impact regardless of whether it is a decision resulting in something positive or negative.

This indecisiveness can lead to growing tensions in relationships, conflict and even protracted disputes. Let’s say you are the boss. For the last two years, you have received complaints from your junior employees and even consulted with Human Resources about the complacency of a long-term employee. This employee doesn’t seem to carry the same workload as the others. She seems to feel entitled given her seniority and longevity in the company. She believes she has paid her dues and has proven her worth so why should she work long hours and go above and beyond. She doesn’t have the need to be a career driver but is at the time of her life where she is coasting down the path to retirement. As the boss, you need to take action but your indecisiveness and anxiety over the last two years has resulted in frustrated employees and a perception of you being a “weak” boss who won’t confront the situation in order to avoid conflict. The employees distrust you, and you can feel the tension and withdrawal. You feel disconnected, and as time progresses with no action on your part, your anxiety grows causing decision paralysis. You are definitely on the road staring at the cars heading straight for you. What will you do?

You can continue to duck and hide and then face the consequences; stand frozen and pray you won’t be flattened, or breathe through the anxiety and take the steps forward to move. Let me close with this quote from Ernest Agyemang Yeboah, a gifted Ghanaian writer, teacher and author of Distinctive Footprints of Life.

“Dare to keep moving when it is a must and there to keep waiting when you have to, but note, you shall always keep waiting if you keep waiting and you shall always keep moving when you keep moving!”

Pattie Porter

Founder and Host

The Texas Conflict Coach

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