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Page Turner – Learning Conflict Resolution and Mindfulness Through Children’s Books

Photo by Abigail R.C. McManus

Photo by Abigail R.C. McManus

My niece turns two years old this week, and instead of toys, I like to buy her books. I always loved getting new books and hearing new stories as a kid, and that hasn’t changed since becoming an adult. I was walking through the Children’s section at the book store the other day looking for books for my niece when I stumbled upon a book titled, What Do You Do With A Problem by Kobi Yamada (author) and Mae Besom (Illustrator). The book begins with the child having a nameless problem. The problem is small at first, but as the child tries to ignore it, they find that it just becomes bigger, consuming their thoughts, and affecting their life. Finally, the child decides to face the problem head on and discovers their problem, “…held an opportunity. It was an opportunity for me to learn and to grow. To be brave. To do something.” The illustrations parallel the message, at the beginning of the story the pictures are gloomy and gray but as the child faces their problem, the images become more colorful. I love this book, and the message it conveys to kids. Avoiding a problem will likely only make it worse, and once you face it, you will discover there is something you can learn from it.

The book brought to my attention the unique ability adults have to convey conflict resolution, mindfulness, and problem-solving to their kids. I have theorized for many years that conflict resolution should be taught as a course in school. I feel if an emphasis was placed on tiny humans to learn to be mindful of themselves and resolve conflict constructively it will evolve into adulthood and then there is a potential that future generations will have more peaceful interactions than today.

I love that there are many children’s books promoting mindfulness and conflict resolution. I compiled a book list below of some other impressive options and the messages they convey that emphasize key elements in mindfulness and conflict resolution:

Thanks for the Feedback, I think? By Julia Cook  (Author), Kelsey De Weerd (Illustrator)

  • The book teaches children about receiving positive and negative feedback and how to act when you receive it.

My Mouth is a Volcano! By Julia Cook (Author), Carrie Hartman (Illustrator)

  • The book in a humorous way teaches children about listening to others, not interrupting, and being respectful.

Decibella and Her 6-Inch Mouth By Julia Cook (Author), Anita Du Falla ( Illustrator)

  • The book outlines how you can use your voice in varied situations to convey different messages and feelings.

What If Everybody Did That? By Ellen Javernick

  • The book teaches that there are positive and negative consequences of your actions and how those actions affect the people and world around us.

Cool Down and Work Through Anger By Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed

  • The book discusses the complex emotion of anger and how to work through it constructively.

The books listed above are just a few amazing options to teach children constructive conflict resolution skills like managing emotions, listening, productively conveying your message, handling feedback, and tackling problems head on rather than avoiding. Those skills are difficult for many adults to learn, therefore, teaching them to children early on can alter how they interact with others for the rest of their life.

What other children’s books discuss conflict resolution and mindfulness? Share  your findings in our comment section below!

 

Have a great week,

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

Guest Blogger

 

 

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Conflict Coaching: Empowering YOU to Move Through Conflict Constructively

Straight from the Archives! Reintroducing our Guest, Cinnie Noble, on October 24th at 7 pm CST on Blog Talk Radio.

In this episode we learn how conflict coaching can help YOU. Cinnie Noble talks about how she moved from a mediation practice to one of developing a full-time conflict coaching practice. Her conflict coaching model is a structured model developed from an evidence-based research.

We highlight how conflict coaching is different from counseling and other forms of coaching. The CINERGY conflict coaching model supports one in becoming conflict competent in engaging in conflict constructively. This type of coaching also supports one in moving through specific disputes.

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Conflict Chat: Ripped From The Headlines

Listen LIVE on September 26th at 7:00pm CST at Blog Talk Radio. Call in to speak with host, Pattie Porter and guest host, Stephen Kotev:  (347) 324-3591.

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Got Conflict? If you have a conflict with someone and are not sure how to handle it, then let us know. Here is your opportunity to ask your question with Conflict Management experts who are mediators, conflict coaches, and facilitators on how to think about, analyze or resolve your situation.

Think about it. Are you currently engaged in an active conflict with your co-workers or boss? Ignoring your neighbor because of a conversation you don’t want to have? In a disagreement with your spouse? Or simply afraid to bring up a concern with a friend in fear of stirring up problems. Read, Listen, Share »

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Conflict Dynamics – Identifying Your Behaviors

Straight from the Archives! Reintroducing our Guest, Dr. Debra Dupree, President and founder of Relationships at Work, Inc on  September 12th at 7 pm CST on Blog Talk Radio.

 

Dr. Debra Dupree…helping people master relationships

Got Conflict? In this episode, we will be talking with Dr. Debra Dupree, Relationships at Work, Inc. She is a certified master trainer for the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP). This profile identifies the hot buttons, and conflict behaviors that one uses when they are confronted by conflict. Are your behaviors constructive or destructive when you are confronted with conflict? How do we identify these behaviors and how do we begin to change?

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“That’s None of Your Business” – Setting Limits with Nosy People

sculpture-2209152_1920We have all met nosy people in our lives. Nosy people ask intrusive and sometimes rude questions, they overstep boundaries, and they tend to make others feel uncomfortable. What I find interesting is in situations where I am speaking with a nosy person, they don’t seem all that interested in my responses on the subject just in how the information I provide effects them.

For example, I have a nosy coworker; I will call her Dana. Dana has been training another coworker; I will call her Sandy. Sandy and I have an established relationship as I worked with her previously at another company. Since we have a relationship, Sandy feels comfortable coming to me if she is struggling with a particular issue, to get my guidance or perspective. Last week, Sandy was in my cubicle, and Dana walked by and jokingly asked if we were gossiping, to which we laughed and said “No” as we weren’t. Dana then left for her lunch break, upon returning she then proceeded to ask me what we were discussing and if it was about her. I have found myself in this situation with Dana many times, where she boldly asks about my conversations with other coworkers and even our boss.

When this incident occurred last week, I recognized that I was getting triggered by Dana’s intrusive question. I became mindful of my annoyance, and I felt the strong urge to bite my tongue to avoid saying anything that could escalate a conflict or that I would regret. Once Dana walked away I reflected on this, why did Dana’s question trigger such a strong emotional response from me? I felt irritated because I value privacy.  Dana assumed she’s entitled to this information and she seems to lack of awareness that it is none of her business what I discuss with my coworkers or boss. Once I acknowledged why I felt triggered, I was able to determine what I can do next time I am faced with a nosy intrusion – not just from Dana but anyone.

Don’t lash out. The question they are asking can be rude and inappropriate. It can be natural to respond in the same fashion. However, as I mentioned before, negatively responding could cause a conflict to escalate and make the situation worse.

Change Subjects or Postpone. If you are uncomfortable, try to shift the topic to something different. Ask them a question about something unrelated to take the spotlight off of you. Or, postpone responding altogether by saying, ” Would you mind if we discuss this later? I am in the middle of something that I need to finish.”

Be honest. Vocalize to the person what you are feeling and be truthful in how you respond. You could say, “Dana, I know you like to be included, and yet, I feel it is intrusive when my private conversations are being interrupted by your need to know all that is said. I assure you that I am not talking about you or gossiping.”

Have a “go to” response. Prepare a generic response for when you get asked a meddlesome question and keep it short. You could say, ” I feel uncomfortable talking about private matters.”

Respond to the question, with a question. I thought this might be the best course of action with Dana. Next time she asks about what I was discussing with a coworker, I can respond by asking, “Say more as to why this is important for you to know my conversations.” If she responds that She wanted to know “if we were talking about her?” I could ask, ” What makes you believe we were talking about you?” By doing this, it takes the attention off of you and puts it back on the asker. However, be mindful of your tone to make sure you don’t sound defensive, or angry.

Family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, complete strangers, all have the potential to ask nosy questions, knowing how to respond and handle those encounters constructively can make an uncomfortable situation more pleasant.

 

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

Guest Blogger

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Love thy Neighbor? Except Online – How Online Neighborhood Groups Escalate Conflict

Photo taken by Abigail R.C. McManus

Photo taken by Abigail R.C. McManus

I belong to a Facebook group for the neighborhood in which I reside. I joined when I first moved here six years ago, and up until recently, I have found the group to be entertaining and informative. People post all sorts of things from pictures of funny sights around town to social happenings to crimes.  My feelings regarding this online forum, have reduced to frustration and concern due to the absurd amount of conflict that escalates on what feels like every single posting. The conflict on the page has gotten so bad that the administrators have had to step in and take action to censor the posts due to the conversations escalating into name-calling, nasty remarks, and all around hateful speech.

What I find surprising about these conversations is the internet provides a sense of security for those who want to be aggressive and abrasive and remain anonymous – but these are fellow neighbors, people you are likely to run into at the grocery store, out at a restaurant, or at the gym. Despite living in an urban setting, our section of the city feels very much like a small town.

So why might these individuals feel vindicated to resort to this hostile behavior online in our neighborhood group? I concluded three reasons. The first is a common reason most people speak out online; they are more inclined to be open and honest because the person to whom they are speaking is not in front of them getting emotional and reacting. The second reason is members of the group enjoy having the ability to write detailed and lengthy monologs stating their case or telling their story skewed in a derogatory way without interruption, a luxury you likely wouldn’t get from a face-to-face conversation.  Finally, neighbors feel they are supporting a cause. Many of the posts are seemingly innocent, and somehow one thing leads to another, and the conversation shifts to hot topic issues like politics, race, ethnicity, sexism, police brutality, lack of economic funds, immigration, and the list go on and on.

I picked up on some common traps my fellow residents fall into when communicating in this online forum that quickly leads to escalation and what neighbors can be mindful of moving forward:

  1. Name-calling. “Bigot,” “Racist,” Ignorant,” “Dense” are just four examples on one conversation thread that I saw. Once Neighbor A says Neighbor B is ignorant, Neighbor B then gets defensive and retaliates calling Neighbor A dense. The issue escalates, and other people jump in, and before you know it, the thread has gone completely off the rails. Every time this happens I recall what I was taught in a kindergarten class, “When you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.”
  2. 2. Challenging Beliefs and Values. I have read so many posts where neighbors speak of their faith or their respect for the military or their longing for kindness from their fellow neighbors. Instead, they receive angry worded retorts or eye-rolling emojis. To have a productive conversation one must come to it with an open-mind. It is also important to acknowledge the other person feels just as strongly about what they are saying as you do about what you are saying.
  3. Misinterpretation. Online communication does not convey tone, verbal cues, or body language and because of that the risk of miscommunication surrounding post increases. While I am overjoyed when a fellow neighbor responds with a clarifying question, it doesn’t happen often. Many threads run rampant with the original poster trying to backtrack and explain what they meant, which results in the responders disregarding the initial point of the post entirely. It is crucial to be mindful of the shortcomings of online communication and combat it by asking questions, clarifying, and managing your tone.
  4. Going for the Win. Neighbor A knows what they are saying is right. Neighbor B also feels what they are saying right. Both will battle it out until one decides they are sick of arguing and signs off of Facebook. The remaining neighbor gloats about winning. What isn’t pointed out is that no one won. No one’s viewpoints altered nor were any feelings acknowledged. Most often the only change is the way Neighbor A and Neighbor B feel about one another and how all subsequent neighbors reading the heated exchange now feel about them.

In these neighborhood disputes going for a win in a written post only furthers the divide between residents. If growth and genuine change are to occur, then approaching one another and attempting to understand each other’s viewpoints is the direction to take.

 

Have a good weekend,

Abigail R.C. McManus, MS Negotiation and Conflict Management

Guest Blogger

 

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When Change Happens: Embracing the End First Before Starting Anew

Judy - La Taza 10 yearsI love visiting a local and family owned a coffee house around the corner from my home. For ten years, the owner, Judy built a community neighborhood gathering. We got accustomed to her morning smiles greeting us as we entered and often, she would introduce us to other customers. La Taza Coffee house provided a comfortable and very laid-back atmosphere. I attended many casual gatherings, met colleagues, and wrote many blog posts there. Surprisingly, Judy announced she was closing her doors but hoped to sell.

When a significant change in our life suddenly occurs, we experience a jolt. We might be in disbelief and quickly start to question. What’s going to happen next? How will it impact me? Will nothing be the same? Everyone experiences a transition when this type of change occurs.  For three months, Judy would keep her “regulars” informed about her plans. We were happy for her retirement and needed to travel the world. The neighborhood gathering place might come to an end. Judy didn’t have a buyer for the coffee house, but she was hopeful for prospects. It is not uncommon to first experience a need for closure before embracing the new change. When something comes to an end, regardless of whether it is a positive or negative event, we might experience sadness, anxiety, anger, grief, and even resistance to the change.

Everyone reacts to an ending differently and moves toward accepting the change at their own pace dependent on the closeness of the relationship and the likely impact. Why is this important to note? If you can recognize the signs of a family member, co-worker, or friend struggling to let go, you can help them by first acknowledging their emotions and experience. As the end of April approached, Judy and the regular customers expressed their feelings of sadness, shared their memories, and expressed their anxiety for what was still unclear about what would happen to the coffee shop. Every time I would visit, I saw fewer pictures on the walls, items beings removed, and the place becoming sparse. During the last week, Judy announced another neighbor purchased the store with the hopes of reopening in early June.

Keep in mind that for any change impacting a group, community, a business team, or family, requires that time is given to each person to process what will no longer exist. Ignoring this time could lead to individuals being emotionally stuck, refusing to let go of the past, and even resentful of the new change and could result in increased tensions, loss of customers, or replaying “this is how she did it.” Thankfully, Judy kept her customers and vendors informed. She honored them and provided time to say goodbye. She even marked the occasion with a fun closing party. We made it a family affair. I took my husband, and our little dog, Lucy and we attended a packed house of loyal friends, family, neighbors, tenants, and even new customers. This closing event supported Judy and helped many of us accept and let go of the La Taza we came to know over the years. Now, as we wait for the reopening of La Taza Java Coffee House, we see movement, and a sign reading “Opening soon!”. As I peak through the cotton curtains on the doors, I see physical changes to the store and menu changes. What will happen next?

Stay tuned for another blog post about what happens in the second transition to change.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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That is Surprising – Reflections of a New Mediator

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In my last blog post, I discussed the benefits of utilizing community mediation in the area in which you live. I mentioned that many states have community mediation centers and those centers will train volunteers in their process. In June 2016, I was trained in the inclusive mediation model to become a community mediator in my county, and it has been an educational and rewarding experience.

Every mediation I have either mediated or observed has been entirely different, which is both exciting and a little nerve-racking.  It is exciting because no situation or issue is alike which can be challenging. But, it is also nerve-racking because you never know what to expect. Some sessions you may assume will be low-conflict with minimal arguing, and then it turns out to be the opposite.

In this week’s post, I thought I would reflect on what I’ve found surprising thus far from this volunteering adventure.

One, the number of times participants come to the mediation table with a competitive mindset and try throughout the process to convince the mediators they are right. The beautiful thing about mediation is the Mediators are neutral third parties, and they cannot take sides. Although this is explained several times at the start of the session, still participants try to persuade the neutral third parties of their stance.

Two, I find it surprising how often new insights on a particular conflict are unearthed by the participants in a mediation session. In the inclusive model, we are taught to listen for feelings, values, and topics and then use a technique called reflecting to illuminate the participant’s point of view and check to make sure what is being heard is what they mean to say.  I have observed one participant learning that the other party felt isolated and alone during a particularly challenging time. When these feelings were recognized and heard, it changed the tone of the entire session and conflict.

Third, not entirely surprising but fascinating occurrence is the way both parties share a different “truth” of the conflict and believe that the way they see it is more accurate than the other’s version. I’ve heard the saying, “There are three sides to every story, yours, mine, and the truth” so this occurrence isn’t that surprising. But, I find it fascinating because we often assume that because we are involved in the same conflict, we are experiencing it the same way. When the other party shares their version of an event, and they mention parts that you didn’t see, feel, or hear, our natural inclination is to believe they are not truthful. Instead of recognizing that everyone experiences things differently.

Finally, I have been surprised by how often I leave a session feeling energized by the work the participants are doing. A resolution isn’t always achieved, but more often than not the participants have found themselves communicating more and closer to a solution than they had been before.

I have learned a lot in this last year, and I am excited about the knowledge I will acquire going forward. I hope I continue to be surprised.

 

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

Guest Blogger

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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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Blah! Blah! Blah! – Is This What you Hear When Your Boss Speaks?

Waffle by Ruth Hartnup
Waffle-RuthHartnupHave you experienced this scenario? You have given your employee specific and detailed instructions. They nod their head not uttering one word. You are in a rush as you have another meeting to get to in 5 minutes. You only ask the employee, “Do you understand?” The employee replies “Yes.” You follow with “Does it make sense?” Again, the employee responds, “Yes.” You feel confident that you have communicated well. And, off you run to the next meeting. At the end of the day, you check in with the employee. To your surprise, they misunderstood the detailed instructions and failed to follow through on the job as you intended. So, is it the fault of the employee or the boss in this failed communication?

100% of what the listener hears and understands equals communication success. According to Osmo Wiio, a Finnish Professor of Communication, and a member of Finland’s Parliament, “Communication usually fails, except by accident.” What is important to note here is how did the recipient interpret your intended message. You may believe that you communicated your intention, but did you listen to how they received the message. We all process incoming information differently.

Another Osmo Wiio maxim, “The more we communicate, the worse communication succeeds.” We may think endless details are what is needed to clarify a project when in fact, the listener may shut down their listening. One client shared with me when his boss gives the minutia; he only hears “blah, blah, blah.” The employee might miss crucial information.

As the speaker, make a few adjustments to your communication strategy.

  • Be succinct. Give the level of detail the listener needs at the moment, and leave the door open for the employee to return to further questions.
  • Ask an open-ended question versus a closed-ended question. “What do you understand about this task?” or “What is the key to what you will do with this project?
  • Listen to the employee’s response. What did they misunderstand? Then, provide further

And, remember to reverse the strategy. When an employee comes to you with a concern or project idea, then you are the listener.

  • Refrain from saying “I understand.”
  • Briefly, summarize what you heard.
  • Ask clarifying questions to get the detail you need.

Using these simple strategies will significantly improve communication success.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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