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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 the Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree- Tips and Strategies on How to Change your Default Settings

brainearserPrior to becoming privy to the constructive ways to approach, manage and resolve conflict, I handled disputes in the same manner of my parents. My parents always confronted conflict and to get their points across to one another they would yell. When I was younger, I promised myself that I would handle conflicts differently when I was in a relationship. However, when my fiancé and I got into our very first fight, what did I do? I confronted him, and I yelled. My fiancé did not know how to handle this situation and recoiled because he grew up in a different setting, where his parents did not confront their conflict head on and never yelled at one another.

I observed something about how we tackled conflicts from this situation; everyone has, what I like to call a default setting. A person’s default setting is how you instinctively respond to the conflict that typically mirrors your parents or the environment where you were raised. Anyone can change his or her settings with hard work though it may be difficult at first. Once I started in the Negotiations and Conflict Management program at the University of Baltimore, I began to incorporate the tools and skills I learned in class and applied them to my life.

What can you do to change your default setting?

  • Acknowledge that you have a default setting and be honest with yourself about your conflict management shortcomings. We like to deny certain truths and put the blame on others regarding our inadequacies. When I would shout at my fiancé, saying it was his fault I was yelling. If I were honest with myself, I would have recognized that I resembled my parent’s way of handling conflict. I chose to yell because that was the only way I thought he would hear me.
  • Clear up misunderstandings by checking assumptions. We all see, hear, and interpret the world differently. We make assumptions about what is or isn’t being said and rarely ask for clarification. My parents could have easily resolved many of their arguments if they had asked for clarification and not assumed. Similarly, in my relationship, we would jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what the other person was saying or thinking which caused most of our disputes. Now, before I get upset I will say, “When you said you would take out the trash in a little bit, what did you mean by a little bit?”
  • Reframe and state your emotions. Emotions are what cause conflicts to escalate. My parent’s arguments were highly emotional because both of them would be angry, annoyed, hurt, etc. My fiancé and I’s arguments were always emotional because I can be overly sensitive. I would yell because I was mad, or cry because I was frustrated. In the book Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, I learned “I feel” statements. Using these statements helps you to acknowledge and take ownership of the emotion rather than placing the blame on the other person. Now I say, “ I feel frustrated that the trash hasn’t been taken out” rather than yelling, “You said you would take the trash out over an hour ago.”
  • Don’t automatically get defensive. Many times, we anticipate a fight, so we begin to put the boxing gloves on before we have the conversation. My dad dawdles when he knows my mom is mad, and he has to go home to face her. Anytime my fiancé and I were going to have a serious discussion; I would anticipate what he would say and plan my comebacks. Now, I go into every situation where a conflict could occur, reminding myself that we are teammates, not opponents.

While I do not believe our default setting entirely goes away, with perseverance we can challenge our default settings and create better and healthier habits to address conflict.

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Puzzle of Life: Where Does Conflict Fit?

Conflict is one piece of many in this puzzle we call life. One must know how to strategically place it into the puzzle so it does not interfere with the big picture called life. The conflict piece can come in many forms and shapes because it is forever changing. Intrapersonal picAs the puzzle master, one must use recognition and discovery to solve the pattern. There might perhaps, be a time where the piece may not fit perfectly. It is up to the individual to determine the correct place to put the piece in order to solve the puzzle.

To begin solving the puzzle it is important to start with the conflict(s) occurring within oneself. Conflicts occurring within are known in the conflict resolution field as intrapersonal conflict. The prefix intra as described by Dictionary.com is a prefix meaning “within”. These types of conflicts develop from our own, thoughts, ideas, values, emotions, assumptions, and self-criticism, etc.

Have you ever had a conversation with yourself? Felt restlessness or uneasiness about a certain situation? These thoughts and emotions can be described as intrapersonal conflict. For example, a friend was telling me about an internal problem she has been having recently. Over the past few months she has been contemplating about whether or not to purchase a new home. She is currently in an apartment and having a problem with the neighbor living above her. During the night she can hear the neighbor’s television, loud arguing, doors slamming and the smell of smoke coming through the vents. The thought of home owning seems very appeasing at the moment. She has never confronted the neighbor for fear of unnecessary tension between the two. Instead she bottles it up and acts as if a problem does not exist until the noise and smoke appear. Because she is the only one aware of the problem she does not consider it a conflict. It is only if and when she confronts the neighbor that she has engaged in interpersonal conflict…now we all know there is a problem.

To combat interpersonal conflict, there are several avenues she can make: retaliate and make noise of her own during odd hours, burn incense to block out the smoke coming through the vents, forgo speaking to the neighbor and contact the rental office, request a new apartment, confront the neighbor, etc. Making the wrong decision can have a major impact on her life. Questions she should consider are: what affect will the smoke have on my health, how will the decision affect my personal life, why should I stay, what options should I consider if I stay or move?

For additional help on developing questions for your interpersonal conflict consider The CINERGY® Conflict Management Coaching Blog – ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) by Cinnie Noble.

Yvette Watson Jenkins
University of Baltimore Negotiation and Conflict Management

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