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The UnSlut Project: Stop “Slut” Shaming and Sexual Bullying

Emily-LindinStephenKotev2-smallclark.photo.Have you ever been called a “slut”? If so, how did you feel? Whether you are sexually active or not the term can be hurtful and embarrassing. If you’re a parent of a teen, have you heard about “slut” shaming and the dire effects it can have on your impressionable teenager?

“Slut” shaming and sexual bullying is occurring every day in America. Many teens are experiencing these issues and feel uncomfortable reporting it to their parents or other adults. Emily Lindin, who founded of The UnSlut Project in April 2013, found herself in this exact situation when she was eleven. She began journaling about these incidents of “slut” shaming and sexual bullying she faced in school.

As Emily published her journal entries, she hoped that her words would reach teens experiencing the same thing bringing awareness about this prevalent issue. The UnSlut Project started as a small online personal submission and has now grown to incorporate the stories of girls, women, and men of many ages, backgrounds, and nationalities. Emily will be discussing the UnSlut Project and her upcoming video project “Slut: A Documentary Film” and her soon to be released book, “UnSlut: A Diary and A Memoir”.

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Teen-Parent Battle: The Parent’s Perspective

angrymumteenagerdaughterMy blog post from last week provided teens with points to keep in mind when in conflict with their parents. Some parents may have read this post and smiled with satisfaction that a twenty-something agreed with them. Teens’ hormones are all over the place; they are changing physically and emotionally. When conflicts are regularly occurring, it must be those hormones to blame! Or perhaps, your teen is trying to challenge your rules and prove they are an adult, and conflict continues to arise because of their persistence? Either way, the conflict fault line falls to your teen, right? I’m being facetious, but only for the sake of setting up this week’s post.

Parents have all the power in their relationship with their teen. When parents are arguing with their kid, taking advantage of the power imbalance can cause more damage than good. I should mention that I am not a parent. However, I have observed and listened to many teens rant about their parents and vice versa. Therefore, I have compiled a list of points and tips below that parents need to keep in mind when in conflict with their teens.

  • Be honest. Many teens complain that their parents treat them like children. Parents will sugarcoat and omit information because they want to protect their children. However, teenagers become resentful of these omissions and the sugar coating, they want honesty, they want communication. When my Great-Grandmother was passing away, my parents explained to me exactly what was happening. They gave me the choice to continue visiting her or to stop and remember her how she had been. When my parents were honest about what was going on and gave me the choice, I felt mature and responsible. Unfortunately, parents cannot protect their children for life. If you shelter your child too much then once they hit adulthood, they are naïve about the world, and the reality might be overly shocking.
  • Communicate your reasons. If you don’t want your child to go somewhere or wear something, communicate your reservations to your teen. When my parents would use, “Because I said so” as their reasoning for not letting me go to a party or out with friends, I thought they didn’t have a reason. I thought; they just didn’t want me to go. Perhaps, they felt it was too unsafe? Or they just wanted me to stay home for a night? Regardless, they wouldn’t communicate their true reasons to me. Parents, if you are honest and upfront about your hesitations, then maybe it would inspire your child to be truthful and upfront with you. There is an opportunity for a discussion where you and your teen can communicate reservations and build understanding from one another’s point of view.
  • Let mistakes happen. Let me be clear, I am not saying that if you see your child making a mistake that could seriously harm themselves or someone else, do nothing. However, for a child to learn and grow, they have to make mistakes. I imagine it’s hard to watch your kid slip-up, even when you believe you know what is best for them. But, by letting your child make mistakes they learn how to handle tough situations, make judgment calls, and take responsibility for their actions.
  • Trust your parenting. My mom was never one to coddle her children. She gave us independence and room to make mistakes. I once asked why that was? Many of my friend’s parents were over-protective. My mom said, “I cannot follow you around for the rest of your life. I know the values I taught you and I have to trust in my parenting.” Parents, have confidence in how you raised your children. The values you instilled in them are there, it may take a bit for your child to realize it, but they will!

It is important to remember, that for children to grow into well-rounded, mature adults, they need their parents to guide them. However, just because you’re the parent does not necessarily mean you are always right.

 

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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The Teen-Parent Battle: Growing Through Conflict

cmbs-2-0-still-maturingOur radio program series for September is titled, Courageous Conversations on tough issues between parents and their children regardless of the child’s age. The parent-child relationship can be difficult to navigate both from the parent and child’s perspective. As a parent, you nurture and care for your little babies then watch as they grow and change into adults. As a child, you view your parents as authority figures turning to them for advice and guidance. As your parents get older, your roles reverse, and now they need your guidance and support as adult children. During your life cycle, a myriad of conflicts occur from eating vegetables to breaking curfew or differences of a career path to difficult decisions about whether to put your parent in a nursing home.

I am a child of two wonderful parents, who have always shown me support and love. However, we did and still do have our conflicts. I think when I was a child I was under the impression my parents were perfect people. Once adolescence hit my relationship with my parents changed; blame it on the hormones or on my need to prove that I was an adult. Either way, I fought with my parents, my dad more so than my mom. I know there are many teens out there whose parents get on their nerves. Many teens may find themselves wishing time to speed up so that they can be an adult and not have to listen to their parents anymore. Two weeks from now, I will be getting married, and I often wonder where the time went? I find it aggravating that ten years ago when I was sixteen and my parents said “Enjoy your childhood while it lasts because you will blink your eyes, and it will be gone” they were right.

I wanted to write this week’s blog post for teens who find themselves in a constant battle with their parents. I have prepared a short list of points teenagers need to be aware when they get into these conflicts.

  • Let go. If you are harboring resentment towards your parents about something they did or didn’t do in the past, understand your parents are human and make mistakes. When we are born we don’t come with handbooks and your parents are doing the best they can.
  • Understand your parent’s intention. If your parents don’t let you wear certain outfits or stay out longer past your curfew, remember they have your best interest at heart. They are not trying to ruin your life, despite how it may seem.
  • Mamma and Papa know best. If you think you are an adult and capable of making your choices, understand that with age comes wisdom and despite how grown up you feel, you are still a child. My fiancé and I were looking at pictures of us as children, and we found one of him when he was twelve. He had put “sun-in” in his hair, which was a popular fad during this time of our lives. Sun-In was a hair product that would bleach the top of your head blonde. My fiancé told me how much his parents had not wanted him to use Sun-in and looking back now he said he completely understood why they were so opposed. However, when he was twelve, he thought he knew best.

I hate admitting this, but my parents were right more times than they were wrong. When in conflict with your parents remember they are adapting to you changing and growing into an adult, this isn’t an easy adjustment. While conflict with your parents is inevitable keep the points listed above in mind, and remember you will survive!

Our September series is covering a variety of difficult conversations between parents and child. Check out our upcoming series here: http://www.texasconflictcoach.com/category/upcoming-shows/

 

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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O’ Captain, My Captain- Tips for High School Seniors Who Don’t Receive The Title

20130128163451-CaptainI was a member of my high school’s Dance Team for my junior and senior year. My senior year of high school I was one of four seniors graduating. I had been on the team the least numbers of years compared to the other three seniors. Two of the girls had been on the team since sophomore year, and the other girl had been on the team since freshmen year.

The team had spent all summer bonding at dance camp, learning new routines, and getting ready for the new school year. The coach named the captains of the team at the start of the fall season. She named the girl who had been on the team since freshmen year, with which I had no issue. She named one of the other girls that had been on the team since sophomore year, which I believe the coach made captain just because she had been on the team longer. I thought I should be named captain because I had stepped up throughout the summer. I had choreographed a dance that we performed at the football games, and the younger girls looked up to me. I was upset about not receiving the title and that night after practice, I came home and spoke to my Dad. He had not been named the captain of his high school football team because he was not the quarterback. He told that I could still be a captain without the title, it was more about being a leader and someone the rest of the girls could look up to and respect. He told me to continue acting and behaving the same way I always had, and not let the title bring me down.

School is starting this week, and I cannot help but wonder how many seniors feel snubbed when they don’t receive the title of captain. I wonder how often conflict arises between coaches and parents when their kids don’t get the title? Or between coaches and athletes when they feel snubbed? Or between the captains and other members who feel their teammates didn’t deserve it? My junior year and first year on the dance team, there were six seniors graduating. When the coach announced who the captains were, one of the seniors was so upset she didn’t get the title, she quit.

What is the best way to handle this conflict if you are not named the captain and you feel like you should have?

  1. Think before you speak. The girl on my team quit before talking to the coach. She also made a lot of negative and nasty comments about the girls who had been named the captains, as well as the coach. Before jumping to conclusions, try to put yourself in your coach’s shoes and ask yourself why they may not have made you captain? Are you frequently late to practice? Do you have leader qualities or are you more of a follower? Don’t talk badly about other teammates or your coach, that just appears immature.
  2. Approach the coach. Once you have put yourself into your coach’s shoes, if you still don’t understand their decision approach them calmly. You could say something like, “Hey Coach, I have been thinking about the title of captain and I was wondering why you didn’t choose me? Could I have done something differently? If there were certain qualities, you were looking for I was hoping to work on them throughout the year”.
  3. Remember it was not your teammates choice. Your coach chose them; they didn’t put themselves in that position. Therefore, don’t take your anger and frustration out on your teammate, this will just further drama and conflict. Team conflict can cause losses, for a team to win they have to work together.
  4. Accept the decision and keep pushing forward. Despite not receiving the captain title initially, I did what my Dad advised and continued to act like a leader. My hard work paid off and at the start of the Winter season, my coach announced that I was being made captain because of my hard work and leadership skills.

 

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Adolescent Relational Aggression – How to Diminish the Damage

Bullying-and-Relational-AggressionI began at the University of Baltimore in the spring of 2013. I was in the process of a major transformation in my life. I had lost thirty pounds, switched from another graduate program where I was severely unhappy, and overall I was trying to maintain a more positive attitude. I was excited and happy about the changes I was making. It was about that time I started hearing rumors and gossip as to why I lost the weight, how I had lost the weight, and why I switched graduate school programs. Shortly after that, I found out that the origins of these rumors were coming from two girls I had considered my closest friends. I realized that the unsupportive and negative behavior was something I had experienced in most of my female friendships throughout my life. I spoke to other women and found out that they too, had experienced the same thing. I researched and found out that this behavior had a term.

The National Association of School Psychologists describes Relational Aggression as “harm within relationships that is caused by covert bullying or manipulative behavior.” Relational Aggression can be demonstrated as social exclusion, giving someone the silent treatment, or spreading rumors and gossip among other behaviors. I became so passionate about this topic that I wrote my Master’s thesis about relational aggression in female friendships. I should note that relational aggression can be utilized by males too, but women tend to behave this way more than men.

How can young adolescents combat relational aggression? The teenage years are already awkward, stressful, and full of angst. Teens tend to turn to their friends more often than their parents even if the friends are bullying them. This can be very detrimental. I compiled a short list for teens on how best to handle these conflict-ridden situations.

  1. Be confident in yourself. I know the adolescent years are a time when you are the most self-conscious. You know for the most part what you value and what you deserve. When I was a teen, I allowed people who claimed to be my friends dictate how I saw myself. If I had been more self-confident, I could have stood up for myself by standing by choices instead and giving into what my friends wanted.
  2. Expand your circle of friends. Friends are everything during these years, but shouldn’t it be the quality of the friends, not the quantity? I wish I would have had higher standards for my friendships during my adolescent years. If your friends are treating you poorly, branch out and meet new people. I am not saying the moment you get into a fight with a friend you cut them off and find new ones. But having more friends from different circles allows you to be well-rounded and less dependent on the friends who are being mean.
  3. Confront constructively. If a friend is acting relationally aggressive towards you, confront them. Don’t approach them when they are with a large group. Approaching them this way might cause them to be embarrassed and lose face in front of others. Instead wait for a private moment with them and so you can talk to them face-to-face. While face-to-face confrontation can be scary, you are better able to see their non-verbal responses. You could say, “Hey Megan, I noticed recently we haven’t talked as much. Did I do something wrong?” If she responds yes, or nastily, you could say, “If I did something wrong, then I would like to apologize so we can move forward.”
  4. Recognize differences of perspective. I remember a friend of mine in middle school once got mad at me and didn’t speak to me because she thought I had rolled my eyes at her when she was speaking. I didn’t know what I had done for a week before she told me, and I apologized. I didn’t realize I had rolled my eyes, and we resolved the issue. Adolescent years are full of emotions, so the quicker you try to address the conflicts the more likely you can fix and move forward.

 

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

 

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Is your teen being moody? Or are they being bullied? Tips and Strategies for parents whose teens may be victims of bullying

t1larg.cyber.bullying.gi-1Bullying has become one of the biggest topics of conversation in today’s education system. Bullying caused conflict between two or more students and left unresolved, can result in severe consequences. According to Dosomething.org, “Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year”. Dosomething.org also points out “Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse”. Teens may not be reporting their abuse to their parents. Therefore, the parents may have no idea it is occurring until it is too late. While I am not a parent, I would feel in these situations both helpless and hurt if my child was being bullied and I had no idea. I have brainstormed below some tips and strategies for parents whose teens may be victims of bullying and what they can do to assist their teen in managing these conflicts.

  1. Talk to your adolescents. I know teenagers are challenging during this period of their life when they are changing daily and regularly pushing the boundaries of freedom. But, parents you need to talk with your kids, even if it’s small talk about the mundane events of their lives. Keeping lines of communication open are necessary because if your child feels they cannot disclose information to you then they won’t.
  2. Keep your cool. If your child does open up about the conflicts they are experiencing in school, jumping into protective parent mode could make your child hesitant to tell you things in the future. Keep in mind, involving your parents is uncool during your teen years. Instead, brainstorm with your teen constructive ways to manage their conflict that does not involve contacting the other parents or administration.
  3. Be observant of your child’s behavior and temperaments. I know irritability and mood swings are typical in teenagers, but if your teen withdraws, or their personality makes an 180° turn, then that is cause for concern. Take notice if your child appears more upset after texting on her phone or using the computer, cyber bullying has become a serious issue in today’s society. If your teen seems more upset than usual after using these technologies, someone could be harassing him or her.
  4. Take a timeout from social media. Teens are spending a lot more time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Surfing the sites to see what their friends are doing can be very addicting. Parents suggest to your teen that they take a break for a couple of hours each week. Unlike back in the day, when students were being bullied, they could escape from it when they went home. Technology has allowed bullies to enter into the home and continue their harassment of your teen. Requesting your teen take some time away from social media could assist them from getting away from their bully.
  5. Teach your teen how to manage conflict constructively. Conflict does not have to be a bad thing. Teaching your teen to confront their bully, without violence can be a confidence booster. Teach your teen to ask their bully questions such as, why are you treating me this way? What can be done to resolve this? If the bullying persists, tell your teen to come to you.
  6. If bullying does continue, ask your teen if it is okay to intervene. If they agree, go to the administration and ask what they feel can be done to resolve this issue.

Bullying is not okay. Unfortunately, many administrators and teachers in the school system see this behavior as normal and acceptable. But, when adolescents are resorting to harming themselves as a way out, the issue becomes life and death. Parents, I urge you to check in with your teens and make sure they have not fallen victim to bullying behavior.

 

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Managing College Roommate Conflict in Small Spaces- Do and Don’t Tips

argue-1Roommate conflict in college can be difficult whether you choose one another or matched randomly. Navigating through disputes constructively is a must-have skill. My freshmen year of undergrad I lived on-campus. I was planning to live on-campus all four years, but by the end of my spring semester, I had decided to move home and finish out my undergrad education as a commuter. I made this decision based on several reasons, but my ultimate deciding factor was my roommate Bianca.

The university housing department chose my roommate and throughout the fall semester, Bianca and I got along great! Once we returned from winter break, though, our roommate relationship took a drastic turn.

Bianca and I had signed a roommate agreement required by the university at the start of freshmen year that outlined what we expected from each other. Some examples of our agreement were:

  • If you plan on having your significant other stay the night, ask your roommate beforehand.
  • Quiet time will be between 3 pm – 5 pm and 7pm-9pm, during these periods, noise levels must be kept low.
  • Respect one another’s belongings and space.

Bianca broke all three in the second semester. She initially asked if her boyfriend could stay, but then she stopped asking once his visits became more frequent. Bianca started having friends in our dorm room during quiet time, where they watched television, played games, and listened to music. During the second semester, Bianca and I were taking statistics with the same strict professor at different times. The professor during exams allowed us to use our class notes for reference. Bianca, who had been skipping class to hang out with her boyfriend, asked to borrow my notes to copy before one of the exams, I reluctantly agreed wanting to avoid a confrontation. I later discovered that rather than copying my notes, she took them to class with her and used them. Luckily, my teacher did not find out or both she and I would have failed.

I should note, at this time in my life, I was not comfortable with confrontation and usually tried to avoid it at all costs. By the end of the second semester, I was miserable and driving home every chance I could because of my unwillingness to address my roommate problems.

Unfortunately, bad college roommate stories come a dime a dozen. Now, I have acquired knowledge of how to manage conflict constructively, and I am going reflect on what I could have done to better my situation. Hopefully, if you find yourself in a similar situation these Do and Don’t Tips can assist you!

  • DO talk to your roommate, DON’T avoid confrontation.
    • If Bianca and I spoke when the issues started, I could have made her aware that I was bothered, and we could have resolved them. Instead, I avoided addressing my grievances and as a result, I was miserable and annoyed.
  • DO be honest and upfront, DON’T sidestep your concerns, needs, and wants.
    • I should have been honest and upfront with Bianca when we first started living together about my pet peeves. I refrained from disclosing them because I did not want her to think I was a high maintenance, roommate.
  • DO have a roommate agreement. DON’T assume you and your roommate value the same things and think the same way.
    • Even though our roommate agreement was unsuccessful, I still believe that it is important to have one, that way everything is on paper and neither you nor your roommate can claim you did not know.
  • Do include specific details into your Roommate Agreement with solutions, DON’T make your Roommate Agreement too general.
    • Make sure to add to your Roommate Agreement that each of you will raise issues with the other before they fester. If issues cannot be resolved, then roommates agree to talk with the Resident Assistant (RA) together.
  • DO enlist your Resident Assistant (RA) if necessary. DON’T avoid seeking out their advice because you think it is tattling.
    • RA’s are there for a reason, even if you don’t want them to intervene you can still get great tips from them on how to best address a bad situation.

I could have had a much different college experience had I addressed issues as they arose instead of avoiding them and letting them fester.

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Facing Ourselves in Times of Conflict- The Power of Self-Reflection

brainsI am an inquisitive person. I think it is important to ask why, because I believe knowing and understanding why things and people act and behave the way they do furthers learning of the world around you. When you ask the question why, it allows you to hear the facts, draw your conclusions and apply the synthesized information into other areas of your life.

Merriam-Webster defines self-reflection as “careful thought about your own behavior and beliefs”. Self-Reflection is taking a step back from yourself and looking inward. I had been a self-reflector even before I knew there was a term for what I was doing. I have always been curious as to why I behaved or thought a certain way. I believe many people struggle with self-reflection because it is scary to admit our shortcomings. Recognizing our flaws, makes them real for us and many of us shy away from self-reflection. I am not one to shy away. I think self-reflection is essential in my life to keep myself in check.

2012 was not my best. I gained thirty pounds; I was in a different graduate school program that I did not want to be in, and my self-esteem was low. I was unhappy and negative. I had internal conflict which impacted my attitude, reactions and behaviors with others. I started asking why I felt this way through journaling. It was the most therapeutic part of my transformation process. Journaling allowed me to express and put on paper what I was thinking and feeling. I analyzed why I pursued my Masters in the first place? Why I had gained thirty pounds? Why I felt envious of my friends? As a result of journaling and self-reflection, I was able to work through these internal conflicts and I concluded it was time for a change.

I applied and enrolled into a different graduate program, started working out and eating better, and slowly my life began to change. I know journaling is not for everyone, but it allowed me to look inward and analyze myself and my behavior. I wrote when I was angry, when I was happy, when I was sad, and I began to take inventory of how I responded in those situations; and then I started to brainstorm how I could do better.

Self-Reflection Strategies:

Think about these questions as it pertains to the internal conflict you are experiencing.

#1 – Be honest.

  • What are you not speaking aloud that you know to be the truth of the situation you find yourself experiencing?
  • What is it you are embellishing in your story to others?

#2 – Be vulnerable.

  • What emotions are you experiencing right now?
  • What is causing you to feel that emotion?
    • For example: When you fought with your spouse over not taking the trash out, were you angry about that or were you taking your frustration from work out on him?

#3 – Be tough.

  • How did I contribute to this dispute?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What will I work on to prepare for next situation I encounter?

I am my harshest critic and asking myself these questions allows me to take responsibility, look at myself from another perspective, critique my behavior, and generate solutions to do better next time.

I believe self-reflection is necessary for anyone looking to address his or her internal conflict. I often say that no one can ever tell me something about myself that I haven’t already thought. My goal in life is to be the best version of myself and self-reflection is crucial to achieve success. I challenge anyone with this common purpose to do the same and find the power of self-reflection.

Abigail Clark- M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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What sets you off? How to recognize your identity pinpoints that cause you to get defensive?

WhoAmIThe book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Shelia Heen is one of my favorites. I just re-read the chapter where the authors speak of identity, and they cite three identities that a person worries about in a tough conversation, “Am I competent? Am I a good person? Am I worthy of love?” Each question can provoke defensiveness that can instigate conflict.

These three points affect how you and I see ourselves as a people. I will admit if I am in a disagreement and I feel my intelligence, my feelings towards someone or something, or my choices and beliefs are in question, I feel a need to get defensive. I had an epiphany when I first started learning about conflict, and I realized most of the arguments I had with others escalated because of personal identity battles with which I was struggling.

My second-grade teacher called me stupid in front of my class and unfortunately, it was not a onetime occurrence. I spent most of my life believing I was stupid and using this experience as a crutch. I reflected on this experience, and I determined that I gave my second-grade teacher’s comment power by believing it and therefore, I did myself a disservice because I could have achieved a lot more. I began noticing that every time someone called something I said into question, I felt like they were inquiring my competency, and I would get defensive.

When you get defensive what happens?

  1. You stop listening. The moment you feel defensive you automatically jump into fight mode, thinking of your next comeback.
  2. You may say things you do not mean, make accusations, and draw conclusions about something that was not mentioned. I call this the groundhog effect. When Groundhogs feel trapped, they attack. Humans do the same thing in an argument when you feel stuck you get defensive, and you attack.
  3. You make a resolution more difficult. If you get defensive you stop listening, then the person you are disputing with does not feel heard or acknowledged. If you attack, say things you don’t mean, make accusations, or draw conclusions about the unsaid, you then have to work through the hurt feelings that arose between you and the other person.

Identity is something humans hold dear. Defensiveness occurs when we see ourselves a certain way, and it is called into question or criticized. There are some cases that call for defensiveness when people are outwardly mean and deliberately trying to hurt your feelings. I am not discussing these particular incidents; I am referring to our sensitive hot spots that provoke defensiveness when it is not necessary.

When someone critiques or questions something I say, I actively try to stop my conscience from thinking they are calling me incompetent. I also do the following things:

  1. Listen and hear out what the person is saying. In the past I would hear a critique and stop listening. Now I listen to the whole statement before I react.
  2. Recognize that what you hear i.e. tones, sarcasm, etc. may not be intentional, therefore you must also clarify. I have said to my fiancé on numerous occasions, “When you said [fill in the blank] did you mean it sarcastically?” Most of the time, what I am hearing is not what he intended, or he will admit frustration with something else and that is why he had a tone or was sarcastic.
  3. Acknowledge what provokes you to get defensive. You are the only person that can know your triggers and therefore, when pushed you are responsible for how those situations are handled.
  4. Learn to take constructive criticism. If you want to get better in life, you must be able to take criticism because that is the only way to get better. Recognize not everyone is out to get you and most want to see you succeed.

I challenge each person to look inward and find out what identity pinpoints provokes defensiveness; awareness is the first step towards constructive change.

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

 

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The Insincere Apology: How to Authentically Acknowledge

apologuI come from an extended family that argues and engages conflict frequently. Recently, I began mapping out the seating chart for my upcoming wedding, and I ran into several placement issues due to pending conflicts between different members of my extended family. I would like to believe that the members of my family would put on a happy face just for the occasion, but it is also a risk I am not willing to take. Now I am playing seating chart Jenga, in hopes that my strategically placed tables won’t collapse into a verbal sparring match between the members of my family. When I began at the University of Baltimore’s negotiation and conflict management program in the spring of 2013, I spent a lot of time analyzing my family and their clashes with one another throughout my time at the University of Baltimore. I have deduced one important point that often stands in the way of them reaching a resolution, an apology. Now just to be clear, my family is not the only group of people that struggle to achieve resolution due to a lack of apology. Most people that vent to me about their disagreements encounter this issue as well. The truth is most people struggle with saying I’m sorry, but why?

Many people may feel that saying I’m sorry is an admission of wrongdoing or defeat. We are headstrong about our values and beliefs, if someone is challenging us and offends us; we may see ourselves as the victim. We believe WE deserve the apology instead of being the one to give it. Most of us fail to realize the power a sincere apology can have on another person. I can remember at the University of Baltimore, my professors taught us that many arguments would see resolutions if one or both parties would just say sorry. Some situations where conflicts are deep rooted, one sincere apology may not be enough, but it has the potential to be a building block to moving in the right direction.

How can a person give a sincere apology?
1. Recognize that by saying you’re sorry you are not admitting defeat or conceding that you did something wrong entirely. It is important to remember that all parties in every conflict contribute in some form. Perhaps you did not initiate the fight first, but once you got angry, you made hurtful remarks, which further escalated the disagreement. Apologize for your contribution.

2. Leave out the “but” in your apologies. I have had apologies said to me in the past that start off well then once they say I’m sorry, they follow it with “but I reacted this way because you did [fill in the blank].” The apology loses all sincerity once a person tacks on what they believe to be a justifiable reason for engaging in their bad behavior. Apologize but leave off any excuse for why you said or behaved the way you did.

3. Acknowledge their feelings. When someone has upset us, we are not typically looking for just an “I’m sorry”; we want our feelings recognized. We need to know that the other person is aware of what has upset us and that they are not just saying words to dismiss the conflict.

I often wonder if my family members would have sincerely apologized at the start of several of their feuds if they would have a resolution now? My hope is that at my wedding all my family members can come together and be civil, but if any arguments were to break out, fortunately, I will know how to handle them!

If you want to know hear more about Apologies and Forgiveness check out these podcasts:

Transforming Conflict Through Forgiveness and Forgiveness: The Gift You Give To Yourself

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management
Apprentice

Permission and credit for Clip Arts

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