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When Lemons lead to Misunderstanding

lemons-2039830_1920I recently re-watched the movie, The Break- Up starring Vince Vaughn (Gary) and Jennifer Aniston (Brooke). The title gives away the plot of the film which follows Gary and Brooke as they navigate through their break-up. There is a scene that occurs early on that demonstrates how misunderstandings can affect a relationship. In the movie, Brooke and Gary run into a dispute over lemons. Brooke asks Gary to bring home lemons for a decorative centerpiece for their dinner party they would be hosting. Instead of bringing back a bunch of lemons as Brooke asks, he only returns home with three. A fight ensues due to this misunderstanding.

How many times have you found yourself in a disagreement with someone over a misunderstanding?

I have experienced and observed conflicts over differences many times before at home, in the workplace, in social situations, among other settings. My husband Bernard and I have run into disagreements over what each of us defines, as a “few.”  I feel a few means four minutes, whereas Bernard believes a few means fifteen to twenty minutes. In the workplace, general statements like ” We need to make some calls to get the project done” can cause confusion if it isn’t clear who is designated to make those calls. Misunderstandings can cause many issues so it is important to know how to prevent these miscommunications before they can occur.

  1. Listen actively. When you are speaking with someone, stay present in the moment. We often don’t listen when others are speaking. Instead, we are thinking about what we will say next, or our minds wander to other things, which results in us not hearing everything the other person is saying. Active listening can be a preventative measure to avoiding misunderstandings.
  2. Ask clarifying questions. It is important to recognize that two people can have different definitions or make alternative assumptions to the same thing. Therefore, it is important to clarify and ask further questions to ensure everyone is clear.
  3. Reflect. If a misunderstanding occurs, recognize what you did to contribute to the misunderstanding and what you can do differently next time. In doing so, you can establish preventative measures to ward off miscommunication in the future.

Instead of making misunderstandings a common occurrence in your relationships and possibly causing further damage take these steps to avoid them.

 

Have a Great Week,

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

Guest Blogger

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Switching Roles: Constructive Conversations between Elder Parent’s and Adult Children

people-1394377_1920One of my favorite shows currently streaming on Netflix is Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as quirky friends navigating through their later years together. In one episode, Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) simultaneously throw out their backs and struggle to get to the phone to call for help. The next episode begins with one of Frankie’s sons giving both characters’ medical alert buttons to wear around their necks in case of an emergency. The remainder of the show follows the women as they grapple with aging and the reality of their situations.

The episode resonated with me as my grandparents who live on their own have experienced some health issues recently, and the family has discussed plans of action regarding their living situation and lifestyle.

There comes a time in the cycle of life when the parent and the child seem to switch roles. The elder parent finds their adult children now taking care of them, telling them how best to live their life, and encouraging them to consider the dreaded idea of “assisted living.” Adult children just want the best for their parents but find their parent’s resistance to being frustrating and burdensome to their life. How can adult children approach conversations with their elderly parent’s about getting older so that they are constructive and won’t cause damage to the relationship?

  1. Be Respectful. Getting older is an adjustment, suddenly things don’t work like they use to and figuring out to manage those changes can be difficult. Be mindful of your tone and how you are speaking to your adult parent. Speaking to your parent like they are a child can be humiliating for them and make them feel worse about the situation.
  2. Listen to what’s not being said. Admitting to your adult child that you are struggling with your daily routine may be hard. Your parent may state their challenges in less direct ways, so pay attention and actually to listen to what they are saying.
  3. Find solutions together. Including your elderly parent’s in decisions regarding their care is important so that they feel empowered. You could say, ” Mom, I know it is important to you to continue living on your own, but I’m worried about you falling again. What are some possible solutions we can think of that with meet both of our needs?” However, in some cases, elder parents cannot fully participate in these discussions so working collaboratively with other members of the family such as siblings is important to find the best solution for all parties involved.
  4. Consult professionals. Sometimes knowing if you are making the right decision can be challenging, therefore, consulting with an Elder Care Specialist may provide you and your family with the guidance you need to move forward.
  5. Check out additional resource outlets. Over the course of the last eight years, we have had experts on our program discuss how to manage the delicate relationship between aging parents and their adult children. One program with Carolyn Rodis examines how to get your aging parents and adult siblings to communicate more productively. This excellent program and others can all be located in our podcast library under Family and then Elder Care.

Getting older can be a sensitive time for both elderly parents, their adult children, and key family members. Learning to navigate through that period in a constructive manner is necessary to maintain a healthy relationship and keep all parties happy.

 

Have a Great Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

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Renewing and Strengthening Relationships in the New Year

thanks-1804597_1920One of my favorite artists is singer Carly Simon. I was reintroduced to her again after many years of silence to listen to her new CD, Carly Simon – Songs from the Trees. One of my favorite songs “As Time Goes By” in her CD Coming Around Again has me reflecting on this past year’s relationships that wane or grow. We all have relationships with friends, family, co-workers, business partners, neighbors, and even our clients. How do you intentionally strengthen a relationship or acknowledge the friendship? Or is it time to say goodbye or let go of a relationship in the New Year?

In 2016, we mourned the loss of many musicians like Prince, David Bowie and now, George Michael. Or, the television “moms” like Florence Henderson and Doris Roberts and the “dads” like Alan Thicke. We are all still in shock over the loss of movie stars, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, a beloved mother, and daughter duo not to mention political figure and an American astronaut, John Glenn. Even in our family, we mourn the loss of my brother-in-law, Mark Porter, to a four-year battle with cancer. Relationships are precious, and yet we often take for granted our friendships with little acknowledgment or recognition of the small gifts people bestow on us daily. Small gifts came in many forms like that of laughter when you shared a funny story or a much-needed hug when you got disappointing news or the focus of a listening ear.

As you enter 2017, reflect and commit to being intentional on the small gifts you can provide to strengthen, honor and acknowledge those important relationships in your life. Here are some ideas to consider.

  • Give someone your focused and undivided time. Time is invaluable in today’s fast paced world and we don’t want to squander it. Relationships need quality nourishment, and that includes time to engage. This time could mean 30-45 minutes a week you actively listen to a friend who wants to share their news or concerns.
  • Say thank you or acknowledge someone. The words “thank you” goes a long way to recognizing and appreciating a relationship. When is the last time you said thank you to a client for their loyalty and referrals? Or, maybe “I appreciate you pitching in with the household chores and taking out the trash without being told.”
  • Write a note. I love sticky notes in all shapes and sizes. Simply write a message such as “I appreciate the extra time you spent today to finish this project by the deadline.” Or, “Amazing job!”
  • Make a phone call. Today, people mostly communicate via text and other written form primarily through social media. Make a phone call to someone you have not spoken to in a while and show that you care. If you are concerned about time, simply begin with “Hi! Theresa, we haven’t spoken for a long time. I miss you. Do you have about 30 minutes to chat and catch up?”
  • Schedule a visit. This visit might take a bit of coordination to put on your calendar, but schedule it, or it won’t get done. Think about the person in your life who could benefit the time with you. You might have an elderly family member in a nursing home who desperately seeks companionship, a neighbor who could use some assistance, or even a long-term client who would appreciate a deeper connection.

Let me add by acknowledging those that make the Texas Conflict Coach® radio program an ongoing community educational outreach program and for recognizing those who will be leaving and joining us in 2017.

First, Zena Zumeta, an internationally-recognized mediator, will leave us after guest hosting for six years. Wow! Time has gone by and so quickly.  Zena, a long-time friend, and colleague introduced the idea of being a guest host after I turned the mic over to her to interview me as a guest on the radio show. Since 2011, Zena was a great contributor, idea generator, and interviewer. Zena, we will miss you. We won’t say goodbye for good as we hope she will return for guest appearances and special interviews. From Texas with love and appreciation, Zena.

Secondly, Abigail McManus will join us as a permanent guest host in 2017. Abby has been with the Texas Conflict Coach® family first as a graduate student Intern, then as an Apprentice, and now, as a guest host. Abby is also a contributing blog writer as well as having launched her new blog, Pearls of Prudence. We are excited to see Abby grow and to be part of her career journey.

Dar Allen, voice over artist and actor, has been a fan and supporter of our educational work for years. A colleague and friend, Dar offers his fabulous voice to open and close each radio program episode in the New Year. Thank you, Dar, for being part of our team!

Finally, Tracy Culbreath King and Stephen Kotev continue as our special guest hosts in 2017. We could not continue this program without them, and especially without Shawn Tebbetts, our Executive Assistant, who keeps the wheels oiled and running behind the scenes. We want to extend our thanks and deep appreciation to our guests, from all over the world. They give of themselves and their time to educate our listening audiences. And, to you listeners, new and loyal followers who find value in our podcasts.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Pattie Porter

Founder and 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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Conflict Escalation – How to De-Escalate the Conflict Before It Spirals Out of Control

stairs-113610_1920I recently brought out all of my conflict management textbooks from hibernation. As I was flipping through the pages, I stumbled upon one of the topics I recalled finding fascinating when I was in school.  A Conflict Spiral defined by Dean G. Pruitt and Sung Hee Kim is, “escalation as a vicious cycle of action and reaction. One party’s punishing action provokes punishing retaliation by the other side, which in turn prompts increased retaliation from the first party.”

The term resonated with me because I have seen conflict spirals occur throughout my entire life but never knew this behavior had a name. So for example, when I was younger maybe nine or ten, my older brother and I had a pretty contentious relationship. At some point, we got into this battle where we hid one another’s things. It started off simple; he hid my favorite doll then I hid his favorite Nintendo game. He retaliated by hiding all my Dollhouse people; I countered by hiding his favorite CDs. We continued back and forth until eventually, it escalated to my brother holding my bedroom shut until I told him where his belongings were.

The example may not show the most catastrophic result of escalation; however, you can get a general idea. The most recent damaging conflict spirals I have witnessed has been on social media following the results of the elections. I witnessed people who voted for the opposing parties begin with harmless discussion over one particular topic, and after some tit, for tat back and forth the conversation quickly escalates to both sides calling one another names and vowing to “de-friend” both on social media and in life.

A conflict that spirals out of control can have damaging consequences between the two parties. Therefore, it is important to understand how to de-escalate a problem before it reaches that point.

  1. Recognize your triggers. Be mindful of your reactions to the things the other person is saying and doing. Take deep breaths and take the time to think before you speak. We often get hyped up during a conflict especially if we are feeling attacked; therefore, it is important to be self-aware during a conflict.
  2. Ask Yourself: What is the root conflict issue? In addition to number one tip ask yourself what this dispute involves? Often, the discussion goes from being about one topic and escalates to something else. We take low shots, insult the subject matter the other party is passionate about, and most often we cause our opponent to get defensive. We fight from emotions so we must become aware of the root of the actual conflict.
  3. Listen and be open-minded. Differing opinions and viewpoints can be a good and a bad thing depending on how you handle them. If you listen with the intent to be open-minded then perhaps you can extend your understanding of a differing viewpoint.
  4. Walk away. It may be more of an abrupt ending to a conflict; however, walking away from a conflict that is quickly escalating to a damaging point may be the quickest and simplest way to de-escalate a conflict.

Look out for the conflict spirals in your life and determine your best strategy for de-escalation.

Have a Good Week,

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

Apprentice

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Taboo Topics – How to Manage High Conflict Subjects on Religion, Money, and Politics

exchange-of-ideas-222789_1920

There are three topics they say you should not discuss when you’re in polite company: religion, money, and politics. However, with the grandstanding of political candidates engaging in conflict and drama-filled debates, it’s difficult to avoid talking politics when gathering with family and friends.

It is important to remember when a taboo topic works its way into the conversation that people hold their beliefs and values in high regard. Therefore, immediately attacking their position is a surefire way to find yourself in conflict.

It may seem impossible, but there are some things you can do to help manage these conversations, so they do not get out of control. The very first thing to consider before engaging in these taboo topics is to decide upfront, what is your intention and/or goal for entering this territory? Is it a debate where you stand your ground holding on to your dear beliefs convincing and persuading the other person to join you on your side? Or is it a genuine dialogue and an opportunity to understand each other’s perspective? If it is the latter, then consider these strategies or skills.

  1. Listen. So you might not agree with Aunt Lucy’s political beliefs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hear her out. Actively listening while she is speaking and not formulating your rebuttals or cutting her off shows consideration and respect. When she finishes talking, you then have the opportunity to voice your opinion. If you didn’t cut her off, there is a likely chance she won’t cut you off. However, if she does you could say, ” Aunt Lucy, I would like to voice my standpoint and then get your response. Would you be willing to listen without interruption?”
  2. Don’t attack. Be careful using words or phrases like: “stupid” or “ridiculous” or” that’s insane” or ” I can’t believe you like him/her.” It is essential that you don’t attack their views because in doing so you will find they will get defensive. Once this happens, feelings can get hurt, someone could say something they don’t mean, and no productive or reasonable conversation can occur.
  3. Ask questions. You may not agree with what they are saying, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions to gain further understanding of their views. Perhaps, having an open mind and asking questions will open up a greater discussion. Asking questions will also so interest in the other’s views which can make them feel respected and appreciated. For example, “Uncle Jim, what is it you have heard in the media that has contributed to your opinion?”
  4. Breathe. Uncle Jim’s beliefs may ultimately clash with your convictions, and you might notice that your triggers are going off and that you’re getting angry. Take some deep breaths or excuse yourself for a moment to gain composure. But keeping your anger in check is an absolute must if you want to avoid intense and unconstructive conflicts.
  5. Agree to Disagree. The likelihood that you will change the other person’s opinion is far-reaching. There is a chance you might not even find common ground. But, doing one through four of these tips will help keep the conversation productive. You could say very kindly say, ” I hear what you are saying Uncle Bill, but I respectfully disagree. However, thank you for taking the time to explain your views.”

Nowadays everyone appears to have polarized views on religion, politics, and money. Disagreements on those views are bound to arise when they are discussed so figuring out how to manage those conversations constructively is key to avoiding intense conflicts and possibly damaging the relationship.

 

Have a Great Week!

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

Apprentice.

 

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“Stop Being Sensitive!” – A Reflection on Over-Sensitivity

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My entire life, I have been told I’m too sensitive. During this past week, a dispute arose between my husband and I that had everything to do with my over-sensitivity. I keep a journal and after many disagreements with my husband and others I usually write about what happened, why I reacted or felt that way, and what I need to do differently next time. It occurred to me as I was writing in my journal that my over-sensitivity has caused many disputes and hurt feelings in my life.

Why do I believe I am so sensitive?

  1.  I over-analyze everything. A friend could say to me, ” You look skinny today!” My initial thought process after I say, “Thank you” is: Do I look fat other days? Did she mean that or was she just being nice? Or was she trying to be mean? Has she been talking to others about me being overweight?
  2. I am self-conscious about certain things that trigger over-sensitivity. Being intelligent is   something I am very self-conscious about, ever since my second-grade teacher referred to me as stupid in front of the rest of my class. I have made it my life goal never to come across as unintelligent. If someone speaks to me in a condescending manner, or implies stupidity, etc. I immediately get defensive.
  3. I jump to conclusions. I get upset because someone said something that I perceived as offensive. Rather than pause and give that person a chance to explain, I get defensive, or immediately believe that it was said maliciously.

I outlined in my journal these reasons above, and I began to brainstorm how I could work to control my over-sensitivity so that I didn’t find myself in conflicts with others.

  1. Pause and Breathe. Breathing is a great regulator of your heart rate and your mind. I love doing yoga, and breathing is a huge part of it, as it helps you remain centered. In situations where I find myself being over-sensitive, I need to remember to take deep breaths, this will allow me to stay calm and centered.
  2. Think positively – Not Negatively. I have to remind myself that not everyone is out to get me. I am unsure when my distrust of others began, or if I have always been this way. However, anytime I find myself getting upset by something someone said, I have to remind myself that they are not saying it maliciously.
  3. Listen, Clarify, and Ask Questions. It is important that I don’t jump all over someone immediately after they offend me. Many times I have found myself not allowing the person a chance to explain themselves or refine what they say. So in the future, I am going to listen, clarify points they make, and ask questions to make sure I understand their point.

If you find you are over-sensitive, ask yourself why? Reflecting and looking inwards has allowed me to make changes that I have found better myself and my life. You can too!

Have a great week!

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

Apprentice

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The New Trend in Listening: How to Improve Your Communication Skills and Enrich Relationships

 

Susan YoungIn this show, we kicked off March’s International Listening Awareness month with Susan Young. Susan is a news and communications expert with 25 years of experience.

I spoke with Susan about the “new trend” in listening she calls “silent listening.” The ability to quiet the mind, focus without distractions, and being in the moment…all with the purpose of improving business relationships.

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