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Resolving Conflicts Constructively – Trust Me, It’s a Thing!

traffic-lights-466950_1920People deal with conflict every day of their lives. Conflict stripped down to bare bones is merely a clashing view on a particular topic. However, most of us when we hear the word conflict we think, yelling, name-calling, slamming doors, silent treatment, cold-shoulder, avoidance, etc. Conflict does not have to be this way. You can have a conflict with someone and through listening, discussing, negotiating, and empathizing you can resolve the conflict constructively. The constructive way to resolve conflict seems far fetch, doesn’t it? I thought so in the beginning when I first started to learn about conflict resolution.

The reason I believe that we find the concept of constructive conflict resolution so improbable is because we have never seen it done properly. We often learn from the world around us how to manage conflict, and most often our examples do not do it well. Think about what your household was like growing up, did your parent’s communicate well? Try to remember a time when there was a disagreement, did they yell over top of one another? Speak in absolutes, “You always cut me off, why should I listen”? Or did they do the opposite, where rather than discussing it at all they simply gave one another the cold shoulder and then eventually at some point the conflicts resolved? How your family managed conflicts growing up is likely how you approach conflicts today.

Changing how you approach conflict can be tough especially if you do not have any idea how to go about doing it. What if I told you there is a way to resolve your conflicts constructively for little or no cost? Community mediation is an awesome resource that many people do not realize is available to them.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process involving a neutral third party that facilitates communication between two or more opposing parties in hopes of achieving reconciliation and resolution.

Mediation allows both sides the opportunity to be heard and also to control the outcome of their conflict as opposed to going to court where a lawyer will speak for you, and a judge determines the outcome. Mediation is also a much cheaper option than going to court where costly fees for lawyers and such can rack up quickly.

What is community mediation?

Community mediation centers exist in just about every one of the fifty states. Many centers serve specific communities and regions within their state. They are often free or low-cost, efficient and timely in regards to scheduling and availability, and most often voluntary meaning, you are in charge of the process and can stop mediation at any time. The mediators that facilitate your conflict are often volunteers that have gone through your center’s particular training program. They are neutral third parties, which means they are unable to take sides or give any advice to you. Also, mediators are bound by a confidentiality agreement. The best and most important thing I believe about this service is it is your process; you are in control; the mediator is simply there as a guide.

What’s the point of having a mediator present if they are only facilitating and can’t tell me what to do?

Just the presence of another person who is neutral and unattached to the conflict can change the entire dynamic of the disagreement and how the parties approach one another. We tend to behave better when another person is present. The mediator will ask questions and will use reflection to assist one side in further clarifying their feelings, needs, and wants to the other side. When we are entrenched in our conflicts, we often say things we don’t mean, by having a neutral third party there to parrot back to you what you just said it gives you the power to edit and rephrase your message in a clear and concise way.

The most amazing thing about all of this is once you witness constructive conflict resolution, you’ll have the tools and be more mindful of what to do in future conflicts to achieve the same results.  Consider the option of reaching out to the community mediation center in your area next time you experience a conflict and take advantage of a service that could help make your life easier! In fact, we have some podcasts on community mediation. Listen now!

 

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

Guest Blogger/ Host

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The 3 C’s of Listening

SusanShearouseListening is a skill. It is an art. It is a discipline. It is hard. It takes attention and practice. It takes awareness. It is particularly hard when you don’t want to hear the person who is talking to you. It is particularly hard in disagreements, arguments, and conflicts. How do we listen without being caught by the judgments, opinions, desires, justifications and stories rumbling around in our heads?

In this session, we will be talking with Susan Shearouse, Frameworks for Agreement. We will explore the 3 C’s of listening: how to prepare yourself and enter a difficult conversation able to hear what is being said, to be able to listen more effectively.

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Conflict in Cross Cultural Groups: Lessons to Prevent and Manage It

crossculturalclipartModern technology and various transportation options have allowed for the cooperation of people across the world. Specifically in today’s work environment, employees are now working internationally with many different individuals and in some cases these people differ in age, gender, race, language, culture or nationality. In the article, Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution in Teams, John Ford goes into detail about the difficulties of international teamwork and also offers some lessons to prevent and manage conflict in situations that require teamwork.

Ford states that conflict is a major contributor to failure in groups. It is important to be mindful of the fact that various cultures react to conflict in different ways. One example of these cultural differences is communication styles. Communication in a group can either be expressive or restrained. While some cultures might focus on eye contact and physical touch, others might be less interested in physical touch and dodge eye contact. Furthermore, communication differences in relationships and level of directness can be seen throughout many cultures. In some cultures it is important to be direct and get to the point. Individuals from this type of culture would probably be upset by people who dodge the relevant questions and instead focus on personal matters. In contrast, the people from the second culture, who prefer addressing personal matters first, might be offended by the directness or aggressiveness of the individuals from the first culture. That being said, in the second culture it could be the norm to create a relationship with peers before tackling a project.

Ford goes on to explain that varying communication styles are not the direct cause of conflict. Instead, conflict can arise when judgments are made due to the different styles. He uses an example of a team member who strongly and loudly expresses opinions on subjects. An individual from a less vocal culture may see this behavior as arrogant or even rude. On the other hand, the individual with the strong opinion might deem the timid team member untrustworthy because he or she is quiet and does not hold eye contact. Variances in communication styles are only one example of the many differences between cultures that could cause conflict.

When working with a diverse group of people, it is important to be patient and mindful of any differences. Ford provides seven lessons to help foster better teamwork between unique individuals. The first lesson he mentions involves knowing yourself and your own culture. It is important and valuable to understand yourself and your own culture so that you can compare other cultures more effectively. The second lesson states the importance of learning the culture of the other individuals. Since cultures are dynamic, it is nearly impossible to fully understand them without experiencing them first hand. However, studying a culture by reading literature or watching films can still help prepare you for cooperation. The third lesson is called “check your assumptions”. In this section, Ford stresses the dangers of assumptions. It is important to stay open-minded and seek different interpretations to situations. Inaccurate assumptions or false judgments often lead to negative stereotypes.

The next lesson suggests focusing on asking questions instead of assuming that you know and understand a foreign culture. Asking questions not only shows respect, but it can also prevent conflicts by providing clarification. In the next lesson Ford suggests simply listening as an important tool for conflict prevention. Listening can provide a lot of valuable information about a foreign culture. The sixth step encourages you to consider the platinum rule. While somewhat similar to the “golden rule”, the platinum rule says to treat your team members how they would like to be treated rather than how we would like to be treated. Ford’s final lesson is about the fact that culture is so diverse and spread out. Therefore, instead of learning specific strategies for cross cultural conflicts, it would be more beneficial for us to assume that all our conversations deal with different cultures. We can utilize the lessons provided by Ford in our own lives every day.

 

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

 

Reference:

Ford, John. “Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution in Teams.” Mediate.com. Oct. 2001. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

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Don’t Let Misunderstandings Leave You Misunderstood! Tips for Delivering Messages

imagesMisunderstandings –don’t you just despise them! They ruin many conversations from the personal to the professional. Your delivery of a message (s) can often times be perceived differently than what you intended. For example, an employee might over hear a supervisor say “I GOT HIM!” The employee understands the message as something negative. The supervisor’s intention however, is “I finally understand him.” Many times messages are perceived as negative when considering how it is delivered, and this can create a great deal of conflict. This mostly happens when your boss or your team leader has to deliver an unpleasant message in the midst of an existing dispute. Delivering a hard message can be harmful if it is not presented in an effective and constructive way.

According to author Heidi Burgess, all communications have two valuable roles, the sender and receiver. The sender is the person who delivers the message and the receiver is the one who accepts and interprets the message. The interpretation is when your conflict will most likely occur. However, interpretation is not solely dependent upon the receiver. The sender can frequently provide you with reasons to believe that the message has an undesirable intent. His/her posture, tone, level of empathy or the type of space chosen to deliver an unpleasant message could be the reason why you interpret it as rude, impolite or offensive. If your boss or team leader is delivering a difficult message to you, the characteristics aforementioned should be considered and valued.

Picture this! You’re a team leader/manager and your boss just gave you bad news. The news basically states that if the customer service numbers don’t improve substantially, company layoffs will occur. You now have to deliver this tough message in the clearest and most understandable way for your co-workers and team. If the message is delivered as a threat, ultimatum or blame, any person in your department could take this as a personal attack. Maybe this past month his/her numbers were low. It’s challenging…right? Exactly!

Here are few tips to lessen misunderstanding (Adapted from Beyond Intractability)

  •  Actively Listen. Pay attention to what your co-worker or boss is saying and ask for clarity.
  •  Speak directly to the person who needs to receive the message. Give that person your full attention.
  •  Speak from your perspective. If the message involves addressing your co-worker’s many long breaks, let the co-worker know how that impacts you or your work environment
  • Speak for a purpose. Plan out what you want to say and focus on it. This will keep you from rambling when you deliver the message.

The bottom line is that unresolved misunderstandings in communication creates conflict! Ongoing conflict can create a destructive work environment. To learn more about delivering difficult message visit these links 10 Tips For Delivering Bad News and How To Deliver Difficult Conversations.

 by Tierra Henry, University of Baltimore Graduate Student

 

 

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Mindful Listening in the Age of Distraction

 

 

This program highlights the works of Rebecca Shafir, neurotherapist and speech and language pathologist. She is author of the book, “The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction.” We will explore listening myths, the 4 characteristics of being a mindful listener, examine listening stoppers, and tips for listening to difficult people.

To learn more about Rebecca Shafir or to sign up for her newsletter The Mindful Communicator’s Minute, click here.

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When Silence Can Be the Key to Listening Deeply

In today’s world, when are we not stressed out by things that happen in our everyday life? Do you find yourself feeling anxious reflecting on the important conversations you need to have but can’t because of the stress? Are there times when your stress levels prevent you from concentrating and listening to others? For many of us, the bad economy has positioned us to be on full-time stress alert taking our attention away from the things that matter most…our families, relationships, and our own health. Right now, people need to feel heard and understood; and yet, the overwhelming stress can prevent us from being effective listeners.
When you are not an effective listener there are things that you miss out on. Sometimes those things can be as significant as missing the time schedule to pick up your kids up from school to your work deadline for a special project. Either way becoming an effective listener can be difficult and takes lots of work especially in times of stress.
I know this from personal experience. My child’s father and I found it real difficult to listen to each other when it came to discussing matters about our daughter. There were times I felt he would hear the first ten minutes of the conversation and block out the last twenty minutes. This would cause us to bump heads on every decision that was needed to be made for our daughter. As time progressed, we both realized it wasn’t the fact that we could not talk to each other, but the fact that we were not listening to each other.

We all participate in selective hearing, and it can cause us to miss out on important things. If you would like to know more about learning different techniques to become an effective listener, listen to The New Trend in Listening: How to Improve Your Communication Skills and Enrich Relationships with Susan Young, President of Get In Front Communications.

Authored by Andrea Williams
Graduate Student Intern

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Handling Difficult Conversations With Family, Friends, And Co-workers- Part 1

AlexYaroslavsky

zena Zumeta Join Alex Yaroslavsky and our special guest host Zena Zumeta of Zumeta Mediation.

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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From Complaining to Reframing: The Art of Listening Deeper

 We invite you to call-in as we learn how to listen beyond people’s complaints and pick up what is really important. The art of listening deeper means being able to understand the complainer’s underlying need and reframe the situation. Reframing supports the speaker to be heard and possibly move them beyond their complaining behaviors. 

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Visit Texas Conflict Coach to learn more about conflict coaching.

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Hot Buttons & Trigger Words: How to Listen Past Your Anger or Theirs

Susan Shearouse talks about applying calm, courage and curiosity to those moments when their emotions or your own reactions are getting in the way.  How do the principles of non-violent communication improve your listening skills to listen past the anger.  

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Susan Shearouse has over twenty years experience helping people resolve their differences, improve their organizations, and lead more effectively. Her expertise is in improving working relationships, creating a safe place for thorny conversations, managing strong emotions, and providing collaborative problem-solving processes.

Susan often explains that she earned a life degree in conflict – on the job, at home and in her community. When she decided there must be a better way, she entered a Master’s degree program in conflict resolution at George Mason University.

After finishing that program in 1988, Susan applied her academic knowledge to real world challenges inside government agencies and major corporations as well as small businesses and nonprofit organizations. She is the author of Conflict 101: A Manager’s Guide to Resolving Problems So Everyone Can Get Back to Work

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Compassionate Conversations

Reverend Phil Schulman introduces the foundational principles of non-violent communications based on the works of Marshal Rosenberg’s “Non-Violent Communications: A Language of Life.” We will discuss how the 4 elements of observations, feelings, needs and requests guide the practice of non-violent communications.

In this episode, students from the Compassionate Conversations class led by Reverend Schulman will explore how they are listening and engaging differently as a result of these teachings.  

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