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When Change Happens: Embracing the End First Before Starting Anew

Judy - La Taza 10 yearsI love visiting a local and family owned a coffee house around the corner from my home. For ten years, the owner, Judy built a community neighborhood gathering. We got accustomed to her morning smiles greeting us as we entered and often, she would introduce us to other customers. La Taza Coffee house provided a comfortable and very laid-back atmosphere. I attended many casual gatherings, met colleagues, and wrote many blog posts there. Surprisingly, Judy announced she was closing her doors but hoped to sell.

When a significant change in our life suddenly occurs, we experience a jolt. We might be in disbelief and quickly start to question. What’s going to happen next? How will it impact me? Will nothing be the same? Everyone experiences a transition when this type of change occurs.  For three months, Judy would keep her “regulars” informed about her plans. We were happy for her retirement and needed to travel the world. The neighborhood gathering place might come to an end. Judy didn’t have a buyer for the coffee house, but she was hopeful for prospects. It is not uncommon to first experience a need for closure before embracing the new change. When something comes to an end, regardless of whether it is a positive or negative event, we might experience sadness, anxiety, anger, grief, and even resistance to the change.

Everyone reacts to an ending differently and moves toward accepting the change at their own pace dependent on the closeness of the relationship and the likely impact. Why is this important to note? If you can recognize the signs of a family member, co-worker, or friend struggling to let go, you can help them by first acknowledging their emotions and experience. As the end of April approached, Judy and the regular customers expressed their feelings of sadness, shared their memories, and expressed their anxiety for what was still unclear about what would happen to the coffee shop. Every time I would visit, I saw fewer pictures on the walls, items beings removed, and the place becoming sparse. During the last week, Judy announced another neighbor purchased the store with the hopes of reopening in early June.

Keep in mind that for any change impacting a group, community, a business team, or family, requires that time is given to each person to process what will no longer exist. Ignoring this time could lead to individuals being emotionally stuck, refusing to let go of the past, and even resentful of the new change and could result in increased tensions, loss of customers, or replaying “this is how she did it.” Thankfully, Judy kept her customers and vendors informed. She honored them and provided time to say goodbye. She even marked the occasion with a fun closing party. We made it a family affair. I took my husband, and our little dog, Lucy and we attended a packed house of loyal friends, family, neighbors, tenants, and even new customers. This closing event supported Judy and helped many of us accept and let go of the La Taza we came to know over the years. Now, as we wait for the reopening of La Taza Java Coffee House, we see movement, and a sign reading “Opening soon!”. As I peak through the cotton curtains on the doors, I see physical changes to the store and menu changes. What will happen next?

Stay tuned for another blog post about what happens in the second transition to change.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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The Need to Be Heard and Acknowledged, Is It Enough?

Photo by Pattie Porter
20151127_165705You want to feel heard in a conflict. I believe it is also important that you have your feelings acknowledged when disputing with another.

During our recent Conflict Chat, Pattie, Tracy and I touched on the topic of the need to be heard and acknowledged when discussing the new mediation program Baltimore will be launching for citizen complaints against police. Being a native Baltimorean and observing the power of mediation, I am super excited about this program.

I have recently contemplated if being heard and acknowledged is enough for anyone to feel satisfied? Or, does an action have to follow for you to feel truly gratified?

Baltimore has built up years of distrust, anger, and resentment between the police and the community. Perhaps this program is a step in the right direction to not only allow its citizens and police a chance to voice their feelings and point of views so that each side can hear and acknowledge one another. But also, it shows an action that the Baltimore Riots that occurred in April last year did not go unnoticed, and the issues that caused it will not be swept under the rug as it has in the past. Do I think the police and community relations will change overnight? Absolutely not, but again it is a step in the right direction.

What about in our everyday lives? Is an action needed for you to feel satisfied? Or will someone hearing and acknowledging you be enough?

It would be dishonest of me to say that having someone hear my words and recognize them is sufficient, because to me it’s not. I need actions to speak louder than words and from several conversations, I have held with others, I am not the only one.

Unfortunately, every person we come in contact with may not feel the need to listen, acknowledge, or demonstrate some action to right a perceived wrong to satisfy you.

What can you do in those instances?

  1. Point it out. My husband and I have gone through this experience before. He is logical and level-headed and does not get emotionally invested in our disputes the way that I do. Therefore, my feelings get hurt much more than his so from time to time I have to say, ” Bernard I need you to listen to me.” Or, ” Bernard, I need you to acknowledge that what you said was hurtful.” He usually listens, acknowledges, and apologizes.
  2. Walk away. If you find that you are consistently having this issue with the same person or persons, ask yourself is it worth your building anger and resentment to continue engaging in these situations with them? I was friends with someone who continually brushed off my hurt feelings as if they were unimportant. After years of this occurring, I finally decided enough was enough and I severed our friendship. I found I was much happier once I did.
  3. Look in the mirror. Why would I ever suggest in a situation where you have been wronged to look in the mirror? Well, I noticed that I get upset when someone doesn’t listen to me, acknowledge my feelings, or follow it up with an action. But, I have also noticed I am guilty of doing the same. So, recognize the things you get upset about and take note of when you act in the same manner. We are all humans capable of making these errors, but it is important to address them personally and not continue the cycle.

 

Have a Great Week!

Abigail R.C. McManus

Apprentice

 

 

 

 

 

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Confront or Not to Confront, that is the Question! An Analysis of When to Avoid Conflict

conflict-405744_1280I ran into a dilemma this week with a friend; I will call her Layla. I found out Layla told another friend of mine, will call him David, that I said something when I didn’t. The dilemma arose when I told my husband about the incident because I, being a non-avoider, wanted to confront her, while my husband, an avoider, thought I should let it go. My husband and I then began our on-going debate about whether avoidance is a good or bad thing in conflict.

I know from my conflict resolution education and research that the avoidance as a conflict approach is applicable in certain situations. Dale Eilerman contributor to Mediate.com cites several examples of when avoidance is okay, such as when the conflict is minor and bringing it up could affect the relationship negatively, when you want to give yourself time and space to think about a situation, or when you need to reduce angry emotions.

I have always struggled with being conflict avoidant because my default setting is to confront the situation head-on. It is challenging to ignore my feelings and let things go. My solution for most conflict is to address it … now! I have always believed that if conflict is allowed to linger, it can cause detrimental effects. So when addressing my concern to my husband, he raised a good question. If I addressed the conflict, what would it solve?

My friend, David, was not upset with me even though he might have misinterpreted what Layla told him. David also has a reputation for misunderstanding other’s information. If I confronted Layla about David’s retelling of the story, she could get upset with David for saying something to me. Finally, there was a chance that if I confronted Layla, another conflict avoider, whether she said it or not she would deny the conversation and not want to discuss it with me.

I countered my husband’s question with what could happen if I didn’t address the conflict. I felt hurt and angered by the communication. I felt my reputation with David was compromised and I needed to understand the what and why of Layla’s conversation. Did she lie? What motivated her to say that to David? If I didn’t confront Layla, those feelings would not be addressed and I could build resentment towards her.

Ultimately, I made the decision not to confront. I did so because Layla had never done anything like this before and I felt that if I confronted her it could create more conflict, not just between her and I, but she and David. So what do I do about my feelings? When you don’t acknowledge your emotions and they go unresolved resentment slowly simmers and builds. It took me a long time to learn but I could let go of my anger. I needed to recognize the anger and the motivation to confront Layla. I wanted to clear my reputation and I wanted to protect relationships too. I really had to analyze for myself and my friendships what action to take: confront or not to confront.

If you find yourself in a conflict and can’t decide whether to avoid or confront ask yourself these questions:

  1. What would get solved by addressing this conflict?
  2. What further problems could result if you addressed this conflict?
  3. What would be the advantages if you chose to avoid?
  4. If I don’t acknowledge negative feelings towards another person will it build resentment or further distance your relationship?

Conflict avoidance is a strategy and a choice to deescalate a situation or minimize negative emotions. Consistently choosing to avoid conflict because of the discomfort of addressing emotions can lead to resentment; anger and retaliation. Analyzing whether to confront or avoid is no easy task. It takes forethought to decide how it will impact relationships or outcomes. Which will you choose?

 

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

Apprentice

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