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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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Home for the Holidays: Reconnecting Authentically with Successful Conversations

friends-581753_1920The holidays are a time filled with catching up with old friends and family. Since electronic communication has taken over the world; the face-to-face conversation has become a difficult one to hold for many people. Therefore, below is a list of do’s and don’ts on how to generate successful dialogue with your relatives and old friends.

DO listen attentively. A conversation should be a back and forth effort, and for that to occur you must be able to listen and respond to what the person is saying. It is important to make eye contact with the person speaking, give a nod or some other sort of acknowledgment that shows the person you are listening such as, “That must have been exciting for you”.

DO ask questions. My mother once told me that if I ever find myself stuck in conversation to ask the person questions about themselves and I found this to be very successful. It is important to ask open-ended questions – ones that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” For example, “How did that impact the kids when you moved to the new neighborhood?”

DO end the conversation. I say this one because once the conversation begins to taper off people don’t know how to conclude the dialogue politely and what transpires is an awkward ending or silence. Therefore, when you notice the conversation has reached its end, add a few comments or appreciative remarks to conclude. Every good conversation has a beginning, middle, and end. Simply say, “I appreciate you sharing that experience with me.”

DON’T use your cell phone unless it’s an emergency. People today are constantly connected. It becomes difficult for two people to have a conversation if one or both of them are checking their social media or texting others. It also sends the message the person you are currently face-to-face with is not as important as the person on the other end of the phone. So, therefore, put the phones away even having them out in plain sight can be distracting.

DON’T interrupt. When the person is speaking, don’t cut them off to share your insight or personal story, or finish their sentence if you anticipate it’s ending. Both would imply that you were not actively listening to what the person was saying and don’t think what they are saying is important.

DON’T discuss or make jokes about taboo topics. Nowadays, we don’t always know where people, including our family and friends, stand on politics, religion, healthcare, and other sensitive topics – including our family and friends. Therefore, it is best to politely change the subject or avoid making jokes about sensitive material to maintain a successful dialogue.

Conversations with old friends and relatives during the holidays does not need to be an awkward exchange. Instead, use these Do’s and Don’ts to help increase the chances of a successful conversation.

 

Happy Holidays,

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

Apprentice

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The Stressed Out Office – Managing Co-Workers Who Lash Out

co-workers-294266_1280I work at a mortgage office in the compliance department. My role is to review changes the Loan Officer’s make to a loan and ensure that what they are doing is compliant with the law. I spend a lot of my day speaking with Loan Officers on the phone and through email. Our office has been very busy recently, and so everyone has been under a lot of stress. Therefore, some of the conversations I have had with Loan Officers are asking them to remove a fee that was out of compliance or to redisclose to correct an error. These requests I am making can be frustrating to some Loan Officers as it adds onto their workload; however, I want to note I am not exactly happy about it because it adds onto mine as well.

Some Loan Officers can become very irritated and short-tempered when discussing these necessary changes and often resort to taking their feelings out on me. So I decided I would write about dealing with difficult people in the workplace for my post this week.

The first thing to keep in mind is that people handle stress differently. I will admit that I do not manage stress well. I get testy, overwhelmed and reactionary. When a Loan Officer is lashing out at me, I struggle not to react the same way. So keep in mind that the person losing their cool may be responding this way because they are under stress. Just keeping that in mind can help put things into perspective.

The second thing to do is to look at yourself. Are you frustrated? Or angry? Perhaps you are conveying a tone or are responding in such a way that is triggering something in the other person. It is important to be self-aware of your own, feelings, moods, and reactions to better address the situation.

The third thing to do is speak and convey your message calmly and if a break is necessary to take one. If the person continues to be difficult or nasty- ask them if you could take a break and pick up the conversation later. Recognize when a conversation is escalating and try to put the breaks on before it goes too far.

The final thing to do is bring others in if needed. When Loan Officers continue to be snippy with me, I approach my boss about the matter. If you require involving upper management to help resolve the issue you are facing then, by all means, include them. Upper Management tends to have more experience dealing with troublesome people; especially if the individual is a repeat offender and can provide tips and strategies on how to approach that person in a way that won’t escalate the matter.

At work, difficult people are bound to cross your path, and it is important that you learn constructive ways to manage those situations so that the workplace can remain a safe and productive place.

 

Have a good week,

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

Apprentice

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Deadlock Negotiations – Using the Right Key to Unlock the Solution

lock-179583_1920Imagine yourself in a negotiation with someone – it could be over a car price; where to go on vacation with your family; or even something more significant like a salary increase for years of hard work. Whatever you’re negotiating you’ve come to the point in the conversation where neither you nor the other person is willing to budge from their position. Whether you call it a deadlock, a stalemate, or an impasse, it all means the same thing. Your conversation isn’t going anywhere, and you are not finding any solutions.

Why do impasses occur?

One reason an impasse occurs is that the parties are working from their positions or their rigid stance of what they want as the outcome rather than from their interests or actual needs. You know the saying, “I want what I want.” Nothing wrong with that concept except when the other person wants something different that doesn’t align with your outcome. The more people hold onto their positions, the more difficult it is to negotiate a mutual solution.

A second reason an impasse may occur is that we stop being creative in looking for solutions to our issue. We see a direct line to the resolution, however, if the other party disagrees with the path, we believe it is our job to convince them that our way is the right way. Instead of figuring out their needs and working with them to come up with creative solutions that could satisfy all party’s needs, we block the path.

A common negotiation I experienced when I use to waitress was requesting time off with the other servers. Asking for time off could become tough especially if multiple servers wanted off which limited the number of people to cover and required some to work doubles. Therefore, you would reach an impasse because both the other server and I want off and need someone to cover our shift.

How can you move past an impasse?

* Take a Break.  If you and the other party have been negotiating for some time, and it doesn’t appear you are going anywhere, take a break, get some fresh air and reconvene. Taking some time away might assist with new ideas and solutions when you come back to the table.

* Ask questions. If you and the other parties are focusing on your positions, you are discounting the interests, values, and concerns the other party might have that is driving their position. Ask questions to get to the bottom of what they need or want out of the negotiation. So to go back to my example I could ask other servers what they were doing that they needed the day off? Perhaps upon asking questions, we learn that I need the day off to go to a doctor’s appointment, and another server is taking off to go to the pool with the girlfriends.

*Brainstorm Creative Options. People will often limit their outcomes when they are negotiating because they are looking to meet their desires only and fear to get creative. Creativity in conflict often leads to the best outcomes for all parties. So when you are negotiating with another party listen to their interests, values, and concerns and determine commonalities and differences. Then work to generate any and all possible solutions that fit those everyday needs and what each person is willing to do to meet the different interests. They don’t have to make exact sense; they can be completely outlandish, and it is important not to discount any ideas.

So to go back to my requesting time off example, we could negotiate that I would reschedule my doctor’s appointment for a different day and the other server would get off. Or, she would reschedule her pool day with girlfriends, and I would get off. But, if we got creative; perhaps we learned that my appointment was in the earlier part of the shift and her pool day with girlfriends wasn’t schedule until later part. We negotiate that she would work until my doctor’s appointment was over and I would then come in to work so she could leave and meet her friends. The unique solutions we could come up with could satisfy both our needs and move us past an impasse.

Listen to our podcast, Negotiation 101: Building Blocks For Getting What You Need for more insights into everyday negotiations

 

Happy Negotiating,

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

Apprentice

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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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Talking to Your Tweens and Teens When They Question Their Beliefs

 

Janet Bonnin-1StephenKotev2As our children grow, they naturally push for more control over their own lives. Growing independence and natural curiosity may bring them to question why the family believes what we believe. They might even reach the point of changing or abandoning beliefs held dear. How do we, as parents, keep emotions in check and constructively engage our kids in a conversation about our beliefs? How might we turn a potential minefield into blessings in disguise?

Join Guest Host Stephen Kotev and returning guest, Janet Bonnin, owner of Fine-Tuned Families and founder of the Families of The Way Christian ministry, for a fascinating and courageous conversation on beliefs. We’ll look at how to respectfully and lovingly share what is in our minds and hearts while giving our children the space to seek answers to the questions they have.

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Dying with Dignity: Starting the Conversation to Close the Healthcare Gap


Jackie FontWhat constitutes a ‘good death’? How and where are people dying? Are the needs of the dying being met? How can we advocate for a “good death”? Considering we are all going to die and lose loved ones at some point in time in our journey through life, these are all important questions to explore. Recently there has been an increased emphasis on the importance of addressing healthcare disparities in end of life care. This increased emphasis is mostly as a result of a bountiful of research on how dying patients are invisible in many acute healthcare settings in the United States and are victims of healthcare disparities. That is, certain groups receive lower quality of care than others. Worse than being a dying patient, is being a dying patient who is perceived by medical personnel as belonging to a different race, culture or ethnicity. These biases that lead to disparate treatment are often present at a subconscious level. Jacqueline will share her latest on-going research on ways to address end of life healthcare disparities through conflict engagement processes such as World Café Dialogues, some of the challenges, and what can you do to improve your and your loved ones quality of end of life care.

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Church Turbulence – Resolving Conflict with Communication, Conversation and Community

church-split-5Conflicts are a substantial part of everyone’s life. Whether you are driving to work or walking your dog, conflict can be sparked by any simple situation. Not only is conflict unavoidable, but it also has no barriers. It is present in small group meetings and even in large classrooms. From town hall meetings to church communities, conflict remains a key characteristic of human interaction. However, one might wonder how it could even be possible for conflicts to arise in a peaceful setting such as a church. Disagreements and misunderstandings are realistic possibilities for potential conflicts in church communities. Differences about religious strictness and practices, as well as other secular disputes between members are common conflicts in the church as well. Variances in beliefs as well as the willingness to modify views also create many disagreements.

This week’s Texas Conflict Coach® radio program featured Joey Cope, the Executive Director of the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution. Their website provides resources for resolving conflicts in the church. One page, Resolving Church Conflicts, provided by the Center, states that in order to be successful in resolving church related conflicts, one “must seek a commitment to peace — for you personally, for your church leaders, and eventually for your entire church membership”. Their strategies for peace-making rely on what they call “the 3 C’s”.

The first strategy is Communication. The article stresses the importance of actively dealing with conflicts in the church rather than avoiding them. Communication is a key aspect when attempting to reach a resolution between parties. The second strategy draws upon communication, and takes it a step further. Conversation is an enrichment of communication and deals more directly with interpersonal exchanges of ideas between parties. Conversation allows individuals to establish basic relationships, while building the skills necessary to express their perspectives. The final strategy deals with the importance of Community. Possibly the most important aspect of “the 3 C’s”, a committed community is essential for conflict resolution to take place. Additionally, it is important for church leaders to be dedicated to their beliefs. This devotion to the church makes getting to a resolution more significant and conceivable. The article stresses the importance of community by stating that “if we have no commitment to community, we will never see peace in our churches.”

Churches and church communities might be hesitant to seek a neutral third party to help resolve disputes because of the belief that conflicts should not occur in the first place. According to Joey Cope, “Peace is not the absence of conflict.” Conflicts do arise in a peaceful environment and can be resolved through religious principles and practice. Realistically, some conflicts in the church will require a third party neutral to facilitate conversations in order to find a mutual resolution. Check out another previous radio program, Mediating with True Believers, to learn more about how church members use neutral mediators and how religious communities respond to conflict, in general.

 

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

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Back To School Planning – How to Equip Your Child with the Strength and Confidence to Face the School Year from Day One

 

Jeanne and PaulAs summer vacation ends, parents rush to prepare for another school year.  You may have filled your child’s backpack, but missed the most important detail in your preparations.  Join Jeanne Dexter and Paul Schweinler, to learn how parents, teachers, and other adults, can start conversations with their child that allow them to talk about what concerns them, express what they need, and build strength and confidence to face a new school year.

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Handling Difficult Conversations With Family, Friends, And Co-workers- Part 2

AlexYaroslavsky Do you find yourself avoiding a difficult conversation with a relative, friend, or a co-worker? Are you afraid that the conversation will get heated and turn into an out-of-control fight? Let a conflict expert help. Alex Yaroslavsky is a mediator and a conflict resolution expert. He will teach you the three rules you need to follow to resolve even the most difficult conflict in your life.

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