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When Change Happens: Maneuvering Through The Unknown

La Taza Java Coffee HouseIn my last blog post, When Change Happens: Embracing the End First Before Starting Anew, our neighborhood coffee house changed owners. At first, the communication to the regulars who visited the coffee house is that the new owner would open in 4 weeks. I thought to myself that will go by quickly. Since my local grocery store is in the same shopping center, you could drive by often and see the sign on the shop’s door, “Opening First Week of June.” The first week of June came and no opening. The sign continued to read the same.

I shared earlier that the first transition to any change is embracing the end first. Secondly, we enter the unknown period, and with a lack of communication, it often causes confusion. We begin to question the information or lack thereof with “What’s happening?” People make assumptions when information is not communicated such as “There must be something wrong” or “There are delays because of X.”

Think about significant changes in your family life or workplace organization. You might recall the boss saying we are going to move offices by the end of the week. She gives an instruction “Start packing your things.” Two weeks later, your office supplies and files remain packed in boxes in a holding area, and nothing and no one moved. The only response you get “I don’t know when the move will happen. Be patient.” The negative impact when there is a lack of communication during a major change event is numerous. People naturally feel anxious, they chatter with gossip, and before you know it, the lack of solid information leads to chaos and confusion. Keep these transition strategies in mind.

  • Communicate clearly and often to diminish misunderstandings
  • Acknowledge an individual’s anxiety if they are struggling through the change
  • Encourage and reaffirm that you are all in this together
  • Discuss unmet needs or concerns due to the change

One day, I saw activity in the new coffee house. I stopped by thinking they may be open after all. The new owner, Corinna, greeted me warmly as I entered the shop. Clearly, they were not open for business. However, she took the time to welcome me and provide information on the delay. She assured another local community member visiting at the same time and me they were very near to opening their doors. Corinna wanted everything to be just right. She let us know the revised name, La Taza Java Coffee House, and it already looked and felt different inside. A new layout and different coffee beans and food product lines to enjoy. Corrina also indicated changes in how things would run from closing hours to holding special events and supporting activities for the local community and non-profit groups.

Wow! I felt relieved and excited for the new owner and the next rendition of our neighborhood coffee house. In the next blog post, I address the third transition, starting fresh and accepting the change.

 

Patricia M. Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

 

Note: La Taza Java Coffee House is now open in the Brookhollow Shopping Center in San Antonio!

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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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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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Control Addict – My Life as a Recovering Micromanager

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“Ab, stop micromanaging…” My husband Bernard cried out. I was badgering him with questions about when he would complete a project on our house. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Bernard has made this statement to me. Bernard isn’t the only person I have heard this statement from; friends and family have said this to me as well. I have noticed that because of my micromanaging ways, my life is way more stressful than it should be for a twenty-six-year-old. I also noticed, that my micromanaging ways cause conflict in my relationships.

I reflected on this flaw of mine and determined two main reasons why I micromanage. I then generated goals that will assist in curbing the behavior.

The number one reason I micromanage. I like being in control. I like the comfort of scratching a task off my to-do list well ahead of schedule. I like arranging all the details and making multiple back-plans just in case something was to go wrong. If you wanted to spin my controlling tendencies in a positive light, you could say I am motivated and prepared for anything. I determined that my tendency to control had to do with anxiety. I fear if I don’t complete a task right away, I will forget about it and miss a deadline. Or I am anxious that something could go wrong, and I won’t know what to do in the moment. Since I am a control addict – I find that living on the edge and spontaneity are rarely an option. I stress about the littlest thing going wrong, or I badger if I fear something will not be done on time. By being this way, I find myself in conflict with friends, family, and most frequently my husband.

The second reason I micromanage. I lack trust in others. I send the message to my loved ones when I swoop in with my plans and timetables that I don’t trust they can do the job. A lack of confidence in other’s abilities to carry out and complete tasks is what often causes me to break off more than I can chew. I also recognize that by taking on more because I lack trust, I have the potential to become resentful. A feeling I do not want to have with my family and friends. I am also concerned that if I continue to lack confidence in other’s I will never find myself promoted to a leadership role at work. To be a leader in the workforce one must learn to delegate, which will require a certain level of trust in others.

So how do you change and curb micromanaging tendencies?

  1. I will trust myself. I pride myself on being a good communicator. I give many details, I clarify, and I allow others to ask questions about things that may be confusing. I need to trust my abilities to communicate well. I can do this by not checking up on someone or nagging them about when and how they are doing a task. You are saying you don’t trust the instructions you gave that person.
  1. I will delegate. Part of being a good leader and minimizing the chance for conflict and resentment to build is learning to assign tasks, so you do not become overburdened. Letting other’s help with a job, will assist in relieving stress and reducing conflict.
  1. I will be creative and in the moment. While I don’t think I will ever be capable of throwing all backup plans and checklists to the wind. I do think a certain level of creativity when an issue arises couldn’t hurt me. I think in doing so, I could test my mind and come up with more inventive means of accomplishing a task.
  1. I will manage my anxiety. Since anxiety is a huge part of the fear of losing control, I will manage this through breathing, recognizing, and letting go.

I hope that my fellow MM’s may find some similarities between my micromanaging flaw and their own and utilize my strategies for themselves. Perhaps together we can tame our micromanaging ways!

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

Apprentice

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The Gifts that Keep on Giving – Forgiveness, Communication and Peace. Holiday Gift Giving that doesn’t cost a dime!

gift-687265_1280December has now become a month full of stress and anxiety over picking the best gift. There is no disputing that Christmas has become a commercialized holiday where the whole point appears to be finding and giving the best gift to your loved ones. I created a holiday gift list in a previous post, presenting my picks for presents to give this season to the peace-lover in your life. I also compiled a gift list this week for those who find themselves in conflict with a loved one; that wouldn’t cost you anything.

Forgiveness. The ability to forgive someone can be difficult, especially when a lot of damage and heartache has occurred. Holding on to grudges and anger can be detrimental to your health and can destroy your relationships. The holiday season is the perfect time to let go and forgive. How can you forgive?

  1. Look inward and analyze. Acknowledge your feelings and take a moment to think about what and why you are feeling the way you do.
  2. Invite a face-to-face dialogue. Invite the person to have a conversation. Then, speak to the person directly, expressing your honest feelings letting them know you want to forgive and move forward.
  3. Write a letter. I lost a family member suddenly a couple of months ago, and before their passing, I had felt a lot of anger and hurt towards him. I lost the ability to express my feelings to him verbally, so I wrote him a letter and found that filling the pages was very therapeutic and allowed me to let go of my anger and hurt. You can write a letter to someone who is still here as well; you could seal and give it to them or not, that choice would be up to you!

Communication. The gift of communication to a loved one you are in conflict could change the course of your relationship. Effective communication allows you to build rapport and trust. Defensive communication causes confusion, anger, and blame, etc. The holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to communicate with your loved ones and resolve conflicts. How can you communicate effectively?

  1. Actively listen. The point here is to speak less and listen more.
  2. Clarify. Miscommunication arises when you don’t clarify what a person says, which then causes false assumptions and confusion. An example: Aunt Mary told Aunt Penny she needed to bring another dessert for Christmas dinner. Aunt Penny agreed to bring a dessert but didn’t clarify what kind of dessert Aunt Mary already had. Christmas day arrives, and Aunt Penny arrives with homemade gingerbread cookies only to find that Aunt Mary had already made that same family recipe. An abundance of gingerbread cookies is not a huge conflict, but if Aunt Mary was hoping for variety, she might be annoyed.
  3. Practice. Good communication requires practice, so listen often, ask curious questions to show you care. This is the ultimate gift.

Peace. Merriam-Webster defines peace as, ” a state in which there is no war or fighting; an agreement to end a war; a period when there is no war or fighting.” Achieving world peace in time for Christmas seems a bit unattainable, but peace with your loved ones is something that can be achievable. How can you achieve peace this holiday season?

  1. Apologize. Say, “I’m sorry” genuinely for whatever wrongdoing you might have done.
  2. Take a time out. If two weeks is not enough time to work through a conflict and an apology just won’t be enough, speak with your opposer and suggest putting the conflict aside for the holidays.
  3. Be empathetic. Try placing yourself in the other’s shoes. A favorite quote of mine by Ian Maclaren proposes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” During the holiday season, the battle could be financial, emotional, physical, or mental, so be kind because you never know what someone might be experiencing.

The gifts given during the holiday season do not need an expensive price tag. A simple act of forgiveness, communication, or extending an olive branch for peace could bring more cheer to a loved one you are in conflict with than any store- bought gift you find.

 

Happy Holidays,

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

Apprentice

 

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Courage as a Choice: Building Your Courage Muscle

Cowardly-Lion-1In the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, I remember the scene with the Cowardly Lion who says,

Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?

Courage!

So what does it really mean to have courage especially in times of disagreement? Courage is the ability to stay strong and address what you find difficult, scary and challenging. Courage is a choice. Being courageous and fearless takes practice; it takes being vulnerable; it means making hard decisions and it requires action. Like any skill or behavior, it takes concerted effort to build.

For many people, including myself, encountering disagreements and facing escalating interpersonal conflict is scary. Interpersonal conflicts challenge our beliefs, values systems and our self-image. The closer we are to someone in a relationship whether it be our teenager, coworker, spouse, sibling, best friend, boss or neighbor, we are presented with opportunities to practice being vulnerable and courageous. So what steps can you take to build your courage muscle?

  • Name your fear or anxiety. Simply speak out loud to yourself and name the fear. For example,” I am afraid she will not talk to me anymore if I raise the issue.” Naming “it” lessens the emotional impact.
  • Take a deep breath. Breathing slows your brain’s defensive reaction and helps you focus. When building muscle, you isolate the exercise to a specific muscle group which in turn strengthens the ability to use the muscle in a different way. Breathing helps manage anxiety.
  • Set your intention. What is a new courageous goal you will set for yourself when facing interpersonal conflict? For example, “My goal is to communicate my needs in a respectful manner regardless of whether the other person disagrees.”
  • Acknowledge every tiny step you take. It is important to build self-confidence by acknowledging every small risk, step or effort in building courage as you work toward your goal.
  • Speak your truth. This is not about debating who is right or wrong. It is about speaking from your heart and being vulnerable with the other person to share your deeper thoughts and emotions. It is about being authentic and genuine to who you are in the face of conflict.
  • Listen to the other person’s truth. Building our courage muscle also means receiving feedback and listening deeply to the other person’s truth and be willing to be present with them.

These are just a few strategies to practice courage and build your courage muscle.

Pattie Porter. LCSW

 

Listen and learn more with Eric Galton and Unbearable Conflict Requires Courageous Conversations

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The User-Friendly Divorce: Using Online Tools To Resolve Your Disputes

Dr Jin Ho Verdonschotzena ZumetaAll over the world, people think about divorce and do not know what to expect from the process, what they will have to arrange and how long it will take. This anxiety comes on top of the stress of the divorce itself, worries about the costs or accessibility. And the possible contentious relationship. Today, the rapid changes in technology makes accessing the justice system amenable to all regardless of where you live in the world. Our guest, Jin Ho Verdonschot from the Netherlands will discuss how one can get their reasonable and fair divorce using online technology throughout the entire dispute resolution process. He will discuss the pros and cons of a virtual mediation experience based on an online divorce project developed in the Netherlands. Dr. Verdonschot will also share how this technology can be used for other types of disputes involving your neighbor, landlord-tenant and employer-employee disputes.

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