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Blah! Blah! Blah! – Is This What you Hear When Your Boss Speaks?

Waffle by Ruth Hartnup
Waffle-RuthHartnupHave you experienced this scenario? You have given your employee specific and detailed instructions. They nod their head not uttering one word. You are in a rush as you have another meeting to get to in 5 minutes. You only ask the employee, “Do you understand?” The employee replies “Yes.” You follow with “Does it make sense?” Again, the employee responds, “Yes.” You feel confident that you have communicated well. And, off you run to the next meeting. At the end of the day, you check in with the employee. To your surprise, they misunderstood the detailed instructions and failed to follow through on the job as you intended. So, is it the fault of the employee or the boss in this failed communication?

100% of what the listener hears and understands equals communication success. According to Osmo Wiio, a Finnish Professor of Communication, and a member of Finland’s Parliament, “Communication usually fails, except by accident.” What is important to note here is how did the recipient interpret your intended message. You may believe that you communicated your intention, but did you listen to how they received the message. We all process incoming information differently.

Another Osmo Wiio maxim, “The more we communicate, the worse communication succeeds.” We may think endless details are what is needed to clarify a project when in fact, the listener may shut down their listening. One client shared with me when his boss gives the minutia; he only hears “blah, blah, blah.” The employee might miss crucial information.

As the speaker, make a few adjustments to your communication strategy.

  • Be succinct. Give the level of detail the listener needs at the moment, and leave the door open for the employee to return to further questions.
  • Ask an open-ended question versus a closed-ended question. “What do you understand about this task?” or “What is the key to what you will do with this project?
  • Listen to the employee’s response. What did they misunderstand? Then, provide further

And, remember to reverse the strategy. When an employee comes to you with a concern or project idea, then you are the listener.

  • Refrain from saying “I understand.”
  • Briefly, summarize what you heard.
  • Ask clarifying questions to get the detail you need.

Using these simple strategies will significantly improve communication success.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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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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The Guilt Trip – How to Address a Master Manipulator

Depositphotos_84031256_m-2015 (GuiltTrip)We’ve all experienced a guilt trip at some point in our lives.  Family members, co-workers, significant others, bosses, friends, are all likely candidates to enlist a guilt trip on you for some reason for another. Perhaps, you’ve even guilt-tripped someone in the past.

The bestselling author, Dr. George Simon describes a guilt trip as:

“A special kind of manipulation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish, or has it easy. This usually results in the victim feeling bad, keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious and submissive position.”

I never looked at guilt trips as a form of manipulation, I always just associated it with a thing older relatives do. But it is manipulation; emotional, communication manipulation. An example of this would be, “If you cared about me, you wouldn’t X!” or “If you loved me as you say you do, then you would Y.” One example that I’ve heard before, “We don’t have many years left, you should call us while you can.” Anytime I have been at the receiving end of this behavior I have recognized that I feel guilty for whatever I did or didn’t do which is what the person wanted me to feel. I will then immediately apologize and try to figure out how to rectify the situation. However, I also notice whether in the moment or later that I will feel resentment. When I feel resentment, I recognize that it has an effect on my relationships, and I feel less inclined to do what that person wants the next time.

But if like me, you find yourself resenting the person or people guilt tripping you this must be addressed so that it does not damage your relationship.

It is important to recognize when you are being manipulated with a guilt trip. The guilt trippers know that by triggering your sympathy button, it will result in you feeling sorry for not behaving in the way that they want. Being able to recognize when this is happening will assist you in addressing it when it comes up.

I found a great article on PsychologyToday.com by Dr. Winch, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, and author that had two suggestions on how to address those who emotionally manipulate.

The first, Dr. Winch, Ph.D. suggests speaking to the person guilt tripping and, “Explain that their using a guilt trip to make you conform to their wishes makes you feel resentful, even if you do end up complying.” Acknowledging that you are aware of what they are doing could have a profound effect because you are calling out their behavior that they may believe they are hiding. It is important to express that the resentments that are festering are not something you want and you bringing it up is a way to alter these feelings.

Second, Dr. Winch, Ph.D. suggests is, “Ask them to instead express their wishes directly, to own the request themselves instead of trying to activate your conscience, and to respect your decisions when you make them.” It may be difficult for the person to respect your decisions especially if they are not receiving what they want at first. But, if they ask you directly to do something, it could make you feel more willing to do whatever they are asking. You may be more willing to do it because they asked you not because they guilted you into it.

We have all at one point or another been on the receiving end of a guilt trip and maybe even the deliverer. To make sure our relationships don’t suffer as a result of these experiences we must learn to address them directly.

 

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

Guest Blogger/ Host

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Back to School: Building a Bridge of Positive Communication to Create a Positive Learning Process

 

angela woodrowParent, you are your child’s best advocate. Just like painting a room, the more preparation you do the better the result. It may seem like oversimplification when it comes to communicating to your school, especially if it has not always been the most positive process. Separating the facts, emotions, and results can be confusing.

In this program we highlight three free resources that will help you:

  • Gather the facts
  • Organize your information
  • Identify effective ways to communicate with your child’s school /teacher

Knowing your child’s learning style and being able to quantify and collaborate their interest and abilities to what is going on in the classroom is like having cliff notes for accelerated learning. If you are a parent who feels overwhelmed, dealing with the demands of work as well as your child’s school issues this conversation is for you. Angela Woodrow, whom as a coach, provides the opportunity for individuals and the organizations to discover distinctions, maintain focus, and develop and implement action plans. As a life long learner, she advocates for parents and teachers to build the bridge to positive education processes for all.

For more information on this subject check out these sites: Parent Driven Schools, Authentic Happiness, and  Love and Logic

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A Spouse’s Revelation: Changing How You Phrase a Question Can Make All the Difference in the World

digital-art-398342_1920Will you please empty the dishwasher?” I asked my husband, Bernard one evening while I was preparing dinner.

Sure!” He said quickly to oblige.

The way I worded the question was something new I was trying for the past several weeks. I am a self-admitted nag and due to Bernard and I’s vastly different ways of managing tasks I found I was nagging him more which was causing conflicts.

Before getting married, I purchased a book written by Ruth E. Hazelwood titled, “The Challenge of being a Wife.” I bought the book on a day when I was having anxiety about failing in my role as a spouse; however, by the time the book arrived, my concerns must have dissipated because I never opened it before our nuptials. Flash forward to a month ago when I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the sound of my voice nagging my husband that I stumbled upon the book and decided to read it. It was eye-opening.

A passage that stood out to me that Hazelwood wrote is:

A wife who thinks her husband can’t do anything without her direction may soon find that he won’t do anything; he is just glad to have you take it all on, and you are left wondering what went wrong.

I recognized immediately after reading this passage that I constantly was giving my husband direction in the form of rhetorical questions without allowing him the opportunity to do things when he felt motivated. I’d say, ” You know the dishwasher needs to be unloaded?” or “The sink needs to be emptied.” I wasn’t confident that he would rise to the challenge without my direction – which his track record implied that he wouldn’t. When he wouldn’t do these tasks in the past, I would get angry, do the tasks myself, and then feel resentful towards him because of it.

I read that passage and felt enlightened. The chapter where that passage resides ends with a list of steps to assist in changing your behavior, so your husband feels more motivated to complete tasks on his own. One step that Hazelwood suggests is, “Be efficient in your areas. If you need his help, don’t demand; just ask, “Will you please…?” in a kind way.” I found I would plea or state what I needed and Bernard would either tune me out or ignore. Hazelwood stresses that husbands will ignore or tune you out because they want to demonstrate they are capable of managing their responsibilities without you. So I began to change how I worded my questions and delegated when I felt overwhelmed by household tasks. Changing from, “Why don’t you empty the dishwasher?” to “Will you please empty the dishwasher?” has made a world of difference in my household.

The last suggestion in Hazelwood’s list is, “Show appreciation.” Hazelwood explains, ” You must make him feel worthwhile and loved in order to motivate and bring out the best in him.” I recognize that just the slight change in how I word or phrase what I am saying to Bernard and then express appreciation when he completes the task has changed how quickly he responds to assisting me. He is more willing and motivated to do so, and our exchanges around completing household tasks have become much more pleasant and much less frustrating.

Husbands and Wives, I challenge you to take a look at how you are speaking to your spouse especially if you notice tension and conflict arise around these exchanges. Perhaps, making a slight change in how you word a question or statement can help improve your relationship.

 

Have a Great Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

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How to Resolve Conflicts Involving Mental Health

dan-berstein

 

One in five adults each year are coping with a diagnosable mental health problem.  Even if our problems don’t escalate to diagnoses, we all know what it’s like to have a bad day.  How do we have effective communication when we’re impacted by mental health issues, or just trying to talk about them? Dan Berstein, a mediator with bipolar disorder and an expert in mental health communication, will share insights to help you have empowering mental health conversations.

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Life’s Negotiations – Insights I Learned

realty-1151243_1280One of the first eye-opening things I learned at the University of Baltimore in the Negotiation and Conflict Management program was that we negotiate every single day of our lives. Stuart Diamond writes in Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life, ” Negotiation is at the heart of human interaction. Every time people interact, there is negotiation going on: verbally or nonverbally, consciously or unconsciously“.

I never considered myself much of a negotiator until I started at UB. I never took into account that every time I spoke with someone about what we would have for dinner; what would we be doing on Friday night; or what color would we paint the living room, etc. would actually be a negotiation. I found this realization to be eye-opening because when I thought of people negotiating, I often thought of serious businesspeople in suits or a car lot salesmen or real estate agent. So when I had my first negotiation class, I naively thought the skills I would be learning would only be useful in a business setting or if I was buying a car – but I was wrong.

I want to share this week some tips I learned in my negotiation class that helps me in my everyday life.

The first thing I learned was from Roger Fisher and William Ury’s international bestseller book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In which is “separate the people from the problem”. It was a fantastic insight because I would often equate the person as THE PROBLEM. I would forget that people bring their emotions, values, and perspectives about the problem to every discussion as do I. Acknowledge the individual’s perspective and name the problem or issue between the two of you. For example, the issue is the purchase of your first home. Just because your spouse wants a colonial and you want a ranch-style home does not make one person the sole problem in selecting your perfect home. By not acknowledging that the person you are negotiating with is an individual who has their emotions, values and perspectives you are hindering the success of the negotiation.

The second thing I learned is that every individual, a negotiator, has a particular set of interests they are trying to satisfy, and it is important to focus on those and not on positions. Roger Fisher and William Ury in Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In explains, “Desires and concerns are interests. Interests motivate people; Your position is something you have decided upon“. Let’s go back to the house hunting. You decide you must have the ranch-style home. In your mind, this is it. It is your position or your strongly held decision. Your spouse says it must be a 2-story colonial. He grew up in one and there is no other way to live. Done deal. Negotiating on a position one might have can often lead to a deadlock where no solutions are generated and no house bought. However, negotiating on someone’s interests allows you to learn more about their concerns and provides you more room for discussion and resolution.

The third thing I learned, communication is everything in a negotiation. Whether you are negotiating with a business partner over the next big investment or with your significant other over where to go for dinner, what house to buy, or where to enjoy vacation – communication is essential in coming to a decision. It is important to be explicit in our interests and communicate them to the other person. It is also crucial to listen to the other party to hear their interests and concerns. Both sides then must be aware that one party may put a special meaning or emphasis on a particular interest which may bear no weight or special meaning to the other person. Therefore, clarifying and asking questions is imperative for better understanding.

The final thing I wanted to share may have been the most powerful thing I learned, and that is to view the person I am negotiating with as a partner and not an adversary. The example they gave in class is rather than thinking of yourselves sitting on opposite sides of a table think of yourselves sitting side-by-side both looking for an outcome that is mutually beneficial. By reframing the way you look at the person you are negotiating with, you provide yourself with an opportunity to be more open-minded and willing to engage in constructive conversation that could benefit both parties in achieving their desired outcomes.

Check out our negotiation series this month http://www.texasconflictcoach.com/category/upcoming-shows/

 

Happy Negotiating,

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

Apprentice

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Back to School and the Woes of Pokémon™ Go

cc0 public domain pokemon go cellAs referenced in the Wall Street Journal article by Sarah Needleman entitled “’Pokémon™ Go’ Craze Raises Safety Issues”, the cell phone app game called “Pokémon™ Go” has caused concern on many levels. These concerns are due to the nature of the game, which involves on-foot travel to capture specific characters and collect them to battle others who play the game. According to Needleman’s article, Don Boyes, a geography professor at the University of Toronto maintains the game itself “could be potentially leading people into areas where they don’t belong.” This safety concern is because the Pokéstops™ (places where you can collect Pokemon™ characters) are sites where people can get hurt when they are not paying attention, such as construction sites and abandoned properties. Not only is the game posing concerns around physical safety, but the game also may raise concerns for parents who have children going back to school.

In the CNN article entitled “A parents’ guide to Pokémon™ Go”, author Christopher Dawson notes concerns related to how much time children spend looking at the screen and playing.  While he cites the benefits of exercise, he also notes that parents should be aware that children are simultaneously walking and playing the game and not paying attention to their surroundings. As a result, children are prone to injuries such as getting hit by cars, walking on rough terrain and getting robbed by thieves. In addition to physical safety and inattention, many parents, and even I see another concern, and that is the game can be very addictive.  Students, in general, are already addicted to their Smart phones texting, calling and using social media. It is hard not to stay constantly plugged in for most young people.  For teachers, one of their main concerns is keeping students focused in class without the need to compete for their attention. Even though I am not a parent, I too struggle in balancing my time with technology and the expectations of time spent with family.   For example, my family does not care about using phones at the table or while talking to one another. The expectation is to focus our communication on each other.

Here are some tips to consider how you might help raise awareness, guide and manage your kids’ game play.

1)  Set a time limit for young kids. Give your children time limits and restrictions including when they can play their app games. Follow through with consequences including the possibility of uninstalling the app from their phone. On the other hand, reward them with gameplay when they do well in school.

2)  For older students, expose them to the news stories on the dangers and consequences of Pokémon™ Go. Hopefully, they can see how far is too far with this game. Follow up with a simple talk and raise awareness of the dangerous addiction to the game.

3)  If you are a parent or teacher, research the actual game and become familiarized with the various components of the game. Even if you are totally turned off towards the idea of the game, the kids may be more inclined to listen to your guidance if you know simply how fun this can be to them.

Here are two additional strategies for teaching kids safety while playing Pokémon™ Go, as cited by blog article “Ground rules for catching ’em all” by Brittany Morgan.

1)  Teach children to “look up” as Brittany states so that they are aware of their surroundings.

2)  Encourage children to play the game in “teams” so they are not alone while catching their characters. This team concept allows safety in numbers.

With kids returning to school, it is my sincere hope that these tips are helpful to you by raising awareness that your children can have a healthy balance of fun and safety while enjoying the game Pokémon™ Go.

Sincerely,

 

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management Program

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Organization and Communication – Surefire Ways to Reduce Conflict When Planning Your Wedding

love-1284492_1920Did you know that there are 6,200 weddings a day in the US and that June is the most popular month for weddings in the US? According to Sound Vision’s article on wedding statistics, the average wedding budget is $20,000 with 178 guests attending the event.  Organizing a wedding is no small feat when it comes to communicating a vision, creating a plan and coordinating all of the moving parts including service vendors, bridal parties, family members and guests.

Planning a wedding can be a very stressful process whether you are having a large or small event. There is potential for conflict to arise all the time, particularly between the bride and groom. My husband Bernard and I are newlyweds; we got married in September of 2015, and we had a 200 person wedding in the city of Baltimore.

I won’t sugarcoat anything, despite being the happiest day of our lives, planning a wedding of that size was incredibly stressful and overwhelming at times. However, the one key way I minimized the stress and sidestepped a lot of conflicts resulting from untold details was remaining organized and constantly communicating. On more than one occasion, vendors would say that I was the most organized and communicative bride they had ever met; a title I wear proudly.

Why are organization and communication so important when planning a wedding? 

Unless you are lucky enough to have a wedding planner, chances are the bride and groom (but most likely the bride), are doing the majority of the planning. There is a lot of details that go into making the day the magical one you envisioned. Being able to keep track of everything is necessary to ensure miscommunication and confusion don’t lead to conflicts.

How can brides stay organized and effectively communicate when planning their wedding?

  1. Get a Binder. My binder became my bible during the planning of our event. I had it organized into sections by the vendor; and I included my contract, pictures of what I wanted, etc. from each particular vendor filed in their section. While I know, it may be easier to have everything located on the web somewhere; I enjoyed having something tangible to hold so I didn’t have to sort through my phone to find stuff.
  1. Imagine What You Want. I am a very decisive person so when it came time to plan our wedding I had a very clear-cut idea of what I wanted which I think made things much easier when delivering my vision to our vendors. I know not every bride is like that, so vendors are great resources for sharpening your ideas. However, it important that you go in with some idea for them to springboard off of that way you don’t end up with a theme or colors you didn’t want.
  1. Ask Questions. I had a vendor tell me they felt like they were in an interview when I came to inquire about using their services because I asked so many questions. Before my first meeting with each vendor, I Googled, ” Questions to ask your [ fill in vendor].” I found that I not only covered a lot of ground, but I was able to see if they would be the best fit for the event.
  1. Create an Itinerary. You may think this is a little much, but I strongly recommend sending out an itinerary the week before your wedding to anyone who is involved: vendors, bridal party, readers, etc. The itinerary I created for our bridal party beginning with the rehearsal and ending with ceremony covered everything they needed to know from what to wear to the rehearsal and times they needed to be there to a checklist of what they needed to bring the day of the wedding. By sending this plan out, I was able to minimize my stress the night of the rehearsal and the actual wedding day, and I avoided having to answer repetitive questions.
  1. Speak Up. I have heard many brides complain after the fact that they didn’t like something a vendor/bridal party/family member did; or were disappointed by something a vendor/bridal party/ family member didn’t do. My rule is if you don’t say it or clarify it you cannot expect them to know what you wanted or didn’t want. Many brides fear being labeled a “Bridezilla” but if you hold back your wishes or don’t make sure everyone understands when things don’t go as planned you cannot blame anyone but yourself.

 

Have a Great Weekend,

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

Apprentice

 

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“That’s Not What I Meant!” – Male/Female Communication (or lack thereof)

It is said that men and women speak different languages and if you don’t understand the subtle communication differences between the genders then general understanding, cooperation, productivity, and stress levels will surely be affected by the inevitable miscommunications that occur.

Join Gregg Catalano in this highly entertaining and informative program as he provides you with the insights, tools and strategies to better interact with the opposite sex, and become bi-lingual in the art of male/female communication.

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