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15 Observations about Life and Conflict- A Reflection

binoculars-1269458_1920I am an observant person. I have been fascinated by people and how they interact with one another, how they behave when they are alone, and why they ultimately do the things they do. Over the course of my twenty-seven years of life, I have observed the people around me and learned from these observations some key understandings about life and conflict.

Here is what I have learned:

  1. You cannot control most of the things and people around you. The one element in any given situation you have complete control over is yourself, and that makes you incredibly powerful.
  2. Optimism is better than pessimism. It brings a better outcome.
  3. If you spend all your time looking and thinking about the past, you’ll never move forward.
  4. You are human and you will make mistakes. Acknowledge when you do, apologize, and try and do better next time.
  5. Most conflicts come down to miscommunication between two people.
  6. Taking a few deep breaths can change a lot: your mood, your perspective, your ability to talk with reason.
  7. Knowing when to remain silent and when to speak up is one of the most important skills you can learn.
  8. There is something below the surface that someone is battling or holding on to, not every conflict is about you or something you did. You could have just been the trigger.
  9. There is a bigger picture. A small justice or victory now could result in damaging the bigger picture. Always keep that in mind.
  10. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes can be a challenging task to achieve, however, doing it can completely change your point of view on the issue and the person.
  11. Taking time to think before responding can decrease the number of conflicts your words might cause later.
  12. When in doubt, genuinely apologize.
  13. Listening is far more important than speaking.
  14. You contribute to every conflict in some way – just like the tango conflict takes two.
  15. Many conflicts are not managed constructively, but when you see one that is, you’ll never look at conflict in the same way.

What have you observed about life and conflict in the world around you? I’d love to hear it!

 

Abigail R. C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ 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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Encouraging Restorative Community Conversations with the Comfort Zone, the Discomfort Zone and the Alarm Zone in Mind!

 

Rose Gordon- 1Abigail - smallerOften our Alarm bells go off, blood pressure rises and our capacity to listen stops, when we hear ideas and opinions that seem radically different than ours.  What techniques can we use to increase trust and create the foundation for truly Restorative Conversations?  How might we create an environment that encourages people to listen deeply and speak openly?  Join Rose Gordon, Restorative Justice Facilitator, in exploring these questions and tips for facilitating conversations that can make a difference.

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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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Conflict Chat: Navigating the Dating World Without Getting In Your Own Way

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Got Conflict? If you have a conflict with someone and are not sure how to handle it, then let us know. Here is your opportunity to ask your question with Conflict Management experts who are mediators, conflict coaches, and facilitators on how to think about, analyze or resolve your situation.

Think about it. Are you currently engaged in an active conflict with your co-workers or boss? Ignoring your neighbor because of a conversation you don’t want to have? In a disagreement with your spouse? Or simply afraid to bring up a concern with a friend in fear of stirring up problems.

 

 

Discussion Topics:

Dating coaches share how to find love

Ona could help you get better at dating with an online dating coach, therapist or matchmaker

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You Have a Right to Remain Silent – But Should You?

You Have a Right to Remain Silent

I have observed people choosing to remain silent when there is a conflict with another. Remaining silent when angered by another’s behavior or words has quickly become one of my pet peeves in others.

Why do some people stay quiet?

There are several reasons why people don’t voice their grievances. One reason is, you don’t want to hurt or anger the other person and fear destroying the relationship. Second, bringing up your discontentment can put you in a vulnerable position if the person were to flip the tables on you. Third, you feel nothing will change if you bring it up, so what is the point.

While to some degree these reasons depending on the situation are understandable. Remaining silent is a maneuver used by those who like to avoid conflict. Conflict avoidance doesn’t resolve the issue, and in many cases, it makes it worse.

Why is it important to speak up?

It is important to speak up for the same reason some choose to stay quiet- not to destroy the relationship. By not voicing your grievance you are allowing resentment and frustration to build. If another person persists in using a particular behavior that you dislike, you may choose to limit your time around that person. By speaking up, and voicing your frustration in a way that is constructive you could enhance the relationship and create a more open dialogue.

It is also important to speak up in situations where you feel hopeless about the outcome because we never know for sure that things won’t change. In those cases, we are basing our beliefs off of assumptions that it doesn’t matter so why bother.

How can you speak up effectively?

Prepare. If you don’t enjoy conflict, then a surefire method to feel more confident is to prepare beforehand. Write down exactly what you would like to say and practice it. When you prepare prior, you can edit and adjust anything that could make the other person defensive.

Use I feel statements. When you are addressing an issue, you have with someone else’s behavior or words describe how what they did or are doing makes you feel. For example, “Lennie, I felt hurt the other day when I overheard you talking to Lucy about me.” By sticking to “I Feel” statements, you are stating how their behavior affected you instead of attacking them personally, which leads me to my next point.

Don’t Blame or Name Call.  When a person feels they are under attack, they become defensive, and it makes resolving the conflict more difficult.

When you choose to remain silent, you allow your feelings and needs to go unaddressed. It is my belief that if you decide not to speak up when in conflict with another person then you give up your right to complain about it later.

 

Have a good week,

Abigail R. C. McManus

Guest Blogger

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Looking Back and Looking Ahead- Making New Year Conflict Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Happy New Year,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

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When High Expectations Leads to Disappointments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abigail R.C. McManus

Apprentice

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