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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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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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