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Courage, Curiosity and Connection Changes Communities – What is Your Part in Social Justice?

Social JusticeWe often hear the term ‘social justice’ but what is it and why does it matter?

In this world where’s there’s increasing hostility towards difference, how can we be upstanders for social justice not only in the workplace but also in our family and friendship networks?

We talk to Dr. Greg Curran who was awakened to the need for social justice in his primary school years, and who continues to be driven by it in his teaching today. Read, Listen, Share »

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Festering Conflict: Address Disputes Before They Erupt

lava-67574_1280My second Minibük® Stop Avoiding Conflict: Learn to Address Disputes Before They Erupt will arrive in February, 2016. I chose to write about this topic because it is a very common approach my clients use to NOT deal with conflict. Organizations that reach out to me for assistance say “the employee says there is NO problem” or dismiss the hidden damage that avoiding conflict has had on working relationships and performance.

Most of us avoid conflict out of habit. A habit is a learned behavior based on an earlier formed belief and past experience that if I avoid/ignore/deflect, I will be safe. As a child, I learned to keep my mouth shut for fear of provoking my grandmother, who believed discipline came through physical, psychological and emotional threats. I learned to avoid conflict at all costs and, as a result, it became an early behavior pattern that continued into my early adult life. For many of us who hate conflict, there is a fear factor. A fear of not being liked, not being successful, not seen as a nice person, not viewed as competent and the list goes on. These fears prevent us from speaking up, voicing our concerns and asking for what we need. Unfortunately, the unaddressed issues fester growing into an ugly dispute and leading to a downward spiral in our working relationships. It can hurt productivity, contribute to stagnation and apathy, and be a barrier to decision-making. The irony is we try to avoid conflict to prevent this and yet, habitually avoiding conflict only leads to eroding trust and shaping people’s negative perceptions of us.

So, what do we do so the problem does not continue to fester and erupt? We must practice courage. Ruth Gordon says “Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it with use.” Courage is a choice. Being courageous and fearless takes practice; it requires vulnerability; it means making hard decisions and it requires action. For many people, including me, encountering disagreement and facing escalating interpersonal conflict is scary. Interpersonal conflicts challenge our beliefs, value systems and self-image. The closer we are to someone in a relationship — whether it be our teenager, coworker, spouse, sibling, best friend, boss or neighbor — the greater the opportunity to practice being courageous and building our confidence.

Let’s look at how you can be courageous in the face of conflict.

  • Observe and listen for disagreements and misunderstandings. Watch for fight, flight or freeze behaviors in others and recognize your gut reactions of discomfort, anxiety or fear.
  • Acknowledge and address disagreements before they escalate. Recognize early signs or statements such as “I only see trouble ahead” or reactions of people sighing and walking away. Then, name the disagreement. Say, “I can tell you’re concerned about this. Let’s talk when you are ready.” By acknowledging concerns early, you may save a relationship or prevent unnecessary damage.
  • Get off automatic pilot. Know you can make a choice on how to respond to a conflict trigger. Reacting at lightning speed when someone pushes your hot buttons means you are on automatic pilot. Decide ahead of time how you want to respond in constructive ways, and practice that new behavioral response. For instance, if you typically shut down or walk away when triggered, practice staying and listening.
  • Neuroscience research shows how important breathing is to manage our intense emotional reactions such as rage, pain and fear. When you find yourself triggered, take breaths to slow down the racing thoughts and intense feelings. It will help you think more clearly and make constructive choices about how to respond.
  • Communicate one unmet need each day. Fear prevents many of us from communicating what we need, so we don’t ask. Identify one important but missing thing you need from someone else. For example, you need extra time from your co-worker to complete your part of an assignment. Ask, “Sue, it is important for us to turn in a complete and accurate report. I need your part of the report no later than 2 p.m.” Keep it simple and build confidence each day.

These are just a few examples of how to begin breaking the habit and taking courageous moments to have your voice heard.

Pattie Porter

Founder and Host

The Texas Conflict Coach®

 

 

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Courage as a Choice: Building Your Courage Muscle

Cowardly-Lion-1In the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, I remember the scene with the Cowardly Lion who says,

Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?

Courage!

So what does it really mean to have courage especially in times of disagreement? Courage is the ability to stay strong and address what you find difficult, scary and challenging. Courage is a choice. Being courageous and fearless takes practice; it takes being vulnerable; it means making hard decisions and it requires action. Like any skill or behavior, it takes concerted effort to build.

For many people, including myself, encountering disagreements and facing escalating interpersonal conflict is scary. Interpersonal conflicts challenge our beliefs, values systems and our self-image. The closer we are to someone in a relationship whether it be our teenager, coworker, spouse, sibling, best friend, boss or neighbor, we are presented with opportunities to practice being vulnerable and courageous. So what steps can you take to build your courage muscle?

  • Name your fear or anxiety. Simply speak out loud to yourself and name the fear. For example,” I am afraid she will not talk to me anymore if I raise the issue.” Naming “it” lessens the emotional impact.
  • Take a deep breath. Breathing slows your brain’s defensive reaction and helps you focus. When building muscle, you isolate the exercise to a specific muscle group which in turn strengthens the ability to use the muscle in a different way. Breathing helps manage anxiety.
  • Set your intention. What is a new courageous goal you will set for yourself when facing interpersonal conflict? For example, “My goal is to communicate my needs in a respectful manner regardless of whether the other person disagrees.”
  • Acknowledge every tiny step you take. It is important to build self-confidence by acknowledging every small risk, step or effort in building courage as you work toward your goal.
  • Speak your truth. This is not about debating who is right or wrong. It is about speaking from your heart and being vulnerable with the other person to share your deeper thoughts and emotions. It is about being authentic and genuine to who you are in the face of conflict.
  • Listen to the other person’s truth. Building our courage muscle also means receiving feedback and listening deeply to the other person’s truth and be willing to be present with them.

These are just a few strategies to practice courage and build your courage muscle.

Pattie Porter. LCSW

 

Listen and learn more with Eric Galton and Unbearable Conflict Requires Courageous Conversations

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Unbearable Conflict Requires Courageous Conversation


Eric GaltonMany people have encountered great challenges and unbearable pain from disputes as a result of strongly held values, belief systems and personal principles. And yet, people have the courage and ability to break through these barriers and create a common bridge. Eric Galton, renowned mediator, is a catalyst for these breakthroughs providing people with a safe environment where they can experience something different from what they know. Changing how we think about our experience is about great communication, deep listening and hope. You will hear about stories highlighted from Galton’s book Stories Mediators Tell and tips and strategies that will guide you in difficult situations.

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