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Humbling the Conflict Intervener – A Reflection

mirror-1138098_1920The other day I mentioned in passing to a co-worker that my husband and I had a disagreement. She looked shocked and said, ” I didn’t think you and your husband fought, because of your degree in conflict management.” This scenario isn’t the first time I have received a shocked reaction from someone who knows of my degree. The truth is, I am excellent at assisting others in managing their conflicts, but my own can be a little more difficult.

I will provide you with an example of a recent dispute between my husband and me and my reflection after. Bernard, my husband and I have an adorable and ornery puppy named Alvin, who is seven months old. Bernard and I have different beliefs on how to discipline Alvin when he is acting up. Last Friday, Alvin began behaving badly, and Bernard disciplined “his way” without consulting me first. I immediately became furious and started yelling, because that is my knee-jerk reaction when in the heat of a conflict. When I yell, Bernard shuts down and refuses to speak on the subject unless we can talk about it calmly.

I was emotional, so all rational thinking went out the window. I couldn’t gain perspective because I was entirely too entrenched in the situation. I am also stubborn, so I was holding onto my feelings and beliefs very tightly. We moved on from the situation Friday night without a resolution because I could feel myself getting angry all over again every time I thought about the topic.

So yesterday, I reflected on the dispute so that I could pinpoint what I was feeling and thinking and then determine what a solution would be to move forward.

I asked myself first, ” What is really bothering me?”

It wasn’t that Bernard disciplined Alvin his way though I disagreed with his method. It was that he did it without discussing it with me first. I felt that I didn’t have a voice or that my opinion didn’t matter. I also felt that by him just going ahead and disciplining Alvin his way, he expected me just to go along with it.

I then asked myself, “What did I do poorly in this conflict?”

I think it is always important to take responsibility for your contribution in any disagreement you might have. I didn’t recognize my triggers or realize that I was getting more mad. I yelled, which is when the conflict stalled because I couldn’t talk calmly. I also was so worked up the rest of the weekend that it further prolonged the conflict. I was stubborn and even once I recognized the real issues I still had too much pride to give in and discuss them with Bernard.

Lastly, I asked myself “What could I do to move forward with this conflict and what could I do better next time?

I sent Bernard a text message, which I know may not be the best and most mature forum. However, I have found that sometimes having the ability to edit what I say is helpful. I explained my feelings and expressed my issues, and we planned to discuss the situation more when we see each other face -to- face. Next time, I think it is important for me to walk away from Bernard for a little bit so that I can compose my thoughts and my emotions. I also believe that it would be helpful for me to write down my thoughts and feelings in my journal or on the dry erase boards we keep in our kitchen, just so that I can see it rather than keeping it in my head.

I am not a perfect person, and just because I went to school for Conflict Management certainly does not mean I won’t be involved with disputes. It is important when in conflict to reflect, recognize your triggers and set goals to do differently next time.

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

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New Year – New Beginnings – Better You

recycle-1000785_1920The end of 2015 has arrived and what a year it has been! I love New Years because I love the idea of a new beginning. I like many others’ like to make New Year resolutions. I determine what my intentions for the coming year will be by reflecting on where I fell short over the last twelve months. After much reflection, it embarrasses me to admit that the area where I need the most improvement involves how I handle conflicts in my personal life. Despite my education in conflict management, I still find myself struggling to overcome certain behaviors when in the face of conflict. In this post, I want to share my shortcomings from 2015, and how I plan to make adjustments in the upcoming year.

In 2015, I was impatient. Over the course of this year, I pushed for the people I love to talk and discuss issues sometimes before they were ready because I was impatient and felt uncomfortable with lingering conflict not being resolved. I found my impatience brought about irritability and stress in my life which affected some of my relationships with others.

In 2016, I will be patient. I will practice slowing down and being more mindful of other’s needs. When I am feeling impatient about resolving a conflict that involves me either directly or indirectly, I want to slow down, take some deep breaths and acknowledge my impatience and what is causing it. I can write this in my journal or just self-reflect. After that, I will practice empathy and examine what may be causing them to be hesitant with me. My goal is to gain perspective that will allow me to be more patient with others.

In 2015, I was blunt. I have a sharp tongue, and I dislike beating around the bush. I like people to be straight with me. Therefore, I extend the same courtesy to others. However, this can be problematic because although I’m honest and point out the truth, saying it bluntly can hurt people’s feelings.

In 2016, I will think before I speak. I will practice not saying the first thing that comes to my mind and taking the extra time to think about what I am going to say before I say it. My goal is that I can articulate my points in such a way that it is honest but doesn’t hurt other’s feelings.

In 2015, I was reactive and emotional. I don’t always react or handle situations well; especially when I am stressed. I raise my voice, and I can get frustrated easily. I was naïve to think that only I was aware of this. Just before our wedding, when stress levels were high, several members of my bridal party started their questions off to me with “I was nervous about bringing this up to you but…” It was a huge wake-up call for me that the people I love were anxious to talk to me because they were worried about how I would react.

In 2016, I will be responsive. I will practice being more mindful of my emotions, speaking softer, and being more approachable. My goal is that I learn to handle stress and conflicts better so that no one feels nervous about approaching me.   If an issue arises, I first want to be aware of what I am feeling, and acknowledge it; again, I can write in my journal or self-reflect. Lastly, I will concentrate on the solution, instead of focusing on the problem. It will take less time, resolve more quickly, and I will feel less frustrated.

Your new beginnings and new you begin with an honest assessment of the areas on which you need to improve. I hope my reflections for 2015 will inspire you to develop a plan to make changes in 2016.

 

Happy New Year,

Abigail R.C McManus

Apprentice

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Student-Athletes In Transition: Secrets to Success

Joshua A. GordonStephenKotev2With the start of a new academic year, college athletes and coaches prepare for another season and often a whole new environment. They encounter new team members, the pressures of performance and a longing for home. During this program, Joshua Gordon, of the Sports Conflict Institute  and Stephen Kotev will discuss what student athletes and coaches can do to optimize their performance on and off the field.

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Teamwork Tango: Using Partner Dancing Principles to Improve Organizational Leadership

Yael Schyclark.photo.Today’s organizations require that workers be adaptable. Truly effective leaders know how to follow and how it feels to be a follower. Conversely, in order to be a productive team member, one must understand the difficulties of being a team leader. The daily “dance” between leaders and followers requires mutual understanding and a balance of give and take. As the great Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said: “To lead, one must follow.” In this program, Yael Schy, creator of the Teamwork Tango®  leadership training approach, shares her philosophy and methodology of using partner dancing principles and exercises for helping leaders and followers in organizations to work together more collaboratively and effectively.

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Negotiation 101: Building Blocks for Getting What You Need

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We negotiate every single day over important and routine requests. Spouses negotiate over household and financial duties, co-workers negotiate time off, job tasks, promotions and salaries. When a perceived disagreement or dispute erupts, know how to negotiate effectively and constructively by learning the very basic building blocks. Join Stephen Kotev and Pattie Porter, as they outline and demonstrate how to listen beyond the demand, identify the common goals and negotiate to get what you need.

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The Gratitude Opportunity: Expressing Gratitude at the Best and Worst of Times


Ross Brinkert
Gratitude communication involves expressing appreciation or thanks to others. Hear powerful, real-life stories of individuals who shared moments of gratitude in their work lives. Take away tips to guide you in your own life, whether handling a difficult situation or simply savoring a situation that’s already amazing.

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Embracing Cultural Differences Requires Challenging Your Mindset

 

Luis Ore 2011Pattie-fade.jpg (2)Yvette Globalization is making our world smaller with cross-cultural situations at the core. Even though diversity can be a powerful source for creativity, adaptability, and innovation, the potential for conflict increases, requiring, even more attention to how we deal with differences and how people work together. People’s actions reflect people’s thinking. One challenge we all face is the way we think about the parties involved in any conflicting situation. When interacting with others, people assume and attribute intentions to others. An “all-or-nothing” thinking and a right/wrong mindset lead people to play blame games and get stuck judging others instead of looking forward to resolve the matter at hand. Can we get “unstuck”?

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Transforming Our Inner Conflict

 

Milagros PhillipsWhether we are aware of it or not we live in a racial world, which proposes equality, but is firmly set on hierarchy, inequality, and separation.  patterns of racial dysfunction have been handed down from generation to generation.  How do we transform these patterns and begin to live the connection that is part of our natural human existence?

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Back to School: Tackling Roommate Disputes

Roommate ProblemsWhen I was pursing undergrad, my friends often came to me with roommate conflicts. When you prepare to go away to college, you talk to your parents about the supplies you will need, how bills will be paid, and map out your plans for when you will visit again. But you don’t talk to your parents about what you will do when your roommate is messy, eats your food, or just has a different lifestyle than you.

Universities and Community Colleges have prep classes that offer guidance on adjusting to college life and highlight the differences between high school and undergrad, but what is often missing from the curriculum is conflict management. They don’t tell you how to have a difficult conversation regarding the upkeep of your dorm, the policies on visitors, or rules for food in the refrigerator.

Some other roommate conflicts college students may encounter are:
• Lack of privacy
• Borrowing without permission
• Study time vs party time
• Lifestyle differences

The question is how do you resolve these differences when experiencing them for the first time? Colleges often have conflict resolution mechanisms in place such as the Resident Advisor (RA) or the Student Resources Office. Resident advisors are usually students responsible for fostering a community atmosphere in dorms and resident halls. They can serve as peer counselors and enforce policies to ensure the safety of students living in the facility. Student Resource Offices strive to help students succeed at the institute and provide a wealth of resources ranging from job and internship placement to resume building workshops. Academic Advisors and counselors can sometimes be found in Student Resource Offices.

Some students may take advantage of their RA’s and Student Resource Offices. However, others shy away from these third parties and try to solve conflicts on their own. Here are some tips that may be helpful to you to reduce potential roommate conflicts:
• Check your false assumptions and listen to the roommate’s perspective. For example, Anna came home at 4am on the eve of your Biology final. The next evening you confront her about her lack of respect when you were sleeping. What you didn’t know was that Anna was rear-ended coming home from the library and had spent the wee hours of the morning waiting for a tow truck.
• Be transparent. Your roommate only knows what you tell them. Another typical example is you are homesick. You make an excuse and cancel your plans to go out with your roommate because you spent the last of your money on comfort foods. Your roommate’s feelings are hurt. Be careful not to assume they know how you feel.
• Set guidelines or roommate rules. Discuss and decide upfront if you are going to rotate buying groceries, when the latest visitor is allowed over, and determine the rules for sharing and borrowing of property among other issues important to each of you.

Conflict is inevitable but the key to effective conflict management is to address the issues head on by checking your false assumptions, being transparent, and setting guidelines. Don’t let your disputes tackle you, being proactive will not only strengthen the quality of interaction between you and your roommate but also prevent conflict from making your living arrangement uncomfortable. Remember, if you don’t voice your concerns, you don’t give your roommate a chance to address them.

Now go out there and have a great start to your school year!

By Tracy Culbreath
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Unnecessary Conflict – How Daily Hassles Contribute to Stress Reactions

What are your daily hasslesIn our daily lives, we often encounter stress and do not recognize it for what it actually is or give ourselves the space to manage it effectively. Stress can be triggered by overwhelming work and life responsibilities. When left un-managed, stress can affect the interactions between family members and friends creating unnecessary tensions and conflict. For example, have you found yourself lashing out at a loved one, and not sure why? Or come home from work, school, or even a shopping trip in a foul mood? You may be experiencing stress or anxiety. Stress can produce psychological reactions like nervousness, worrying, frustration, and other negative emotions such as anger, sadness, and loneliness.

I recently started an argument with a family member, not because it was warranted, but because I let the stress of the day get to me. One evening after working and attending evening classes I received a call from my cousin who was excited to discuss travel arrangements for an upcoming trip. When I answered the phone, I was short and barely listened to her. Sensing this, she asked what was wrong. At the time I was not aware why I was behaving that way. In fact, I was actually excited about the upcoming trip, but my psychological reaction to the stressors I had experienced that day overrode the excitement

Stresses that are regularly occurring in our day-to-day lives are called daily hassles. Professor and researcher, Richard S. Lazarus grouped the daily hassles as follows:
• Household hassles: cooking, cleaning, household upkeep, and shopping
• Health hassles: illness, concerns regarding health care and medicine
• Time-pressure hassles: not enough time in the day to get all responsibilities done
• Inner-core hassles: loneliness
• Environmental hassles: crime, traffic, living arrangements
• Financial responsibility hassles: money concerns
• Work hassles: conflict with co-workers and job dissatisfaction
• Future security hassles: concerns regarding retirement, taxes, and the economy

In reflection, I had experienced environmental hassles from the daily commute from work to school and time-pressure hassles. During the day I was concerned about making it to class on time, I was worried about the work I left at the office, and struggled to find time to eat dinner. So when I arrived home all I wanted to do was relax, get something to eat, and then go to sleep. Instead of recognizing the daily hassles I had experienced that day, I unconsciously projected my frustrations on to my cousin.

Next time you have a negative reaction to a family member, friend or co-worker ask yourself: How many daily hassles have I experienced today? Are these hassles temporary or permanent? You may also listen to the podcast on the Texas Conflict Coach® by Brady Mikusko called Stress Reduction Using EFT – At Work or Home to learn tools to handle stress and reduce negative emotions to prevent future and unnecessary conflicts.

By Tracy Culbreath
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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