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Reconciling Relationships – How To Rebuild Trust Once It Has Broken Down

u-leg-bridge-1370437_1920 (003)I recently observed two people reconciling after a long period of conflict between them. A breakdown in trust is what prompted the conflict, and now they were trying to determine how to move forward.

Trust can be a tricky thing. You must have some level of confidence with those you interact with as it is a significant element in most successful encounters. However, if you have faced distrusting people who have left you feeling disappointed or hurt in the past, you may find yourself unwilling or unable to trust.

In an article on the Beyond Intractability website titled, “Trust and Trust Building” by Roy J. Lewicki and Edward C. Tomlinson they provide a fantastic overview of trust between people.  Roy J. Lewicki and Edward C. Tomlinson explain:

The need for trust arises from our interdependence with others. We often depend on other people to help us obtain, or at least not to frustrate, the outcomes we value (and they on us). As our interests with others are intertwined, we also must recognize that there is an element of risk involved insofar as we often encounter situations in which we cannot compel the cooperation we seek. Therefore, trust can be very valuable in social interactions.

What I loved about this overview is that the authors mentioned the risk you take when you are putting your confidence in others, as that is the crux of the whole unspoken arrangement. Are you willing to put your confidence in this person and take the chance that they will come through on their end, whatever or however that may be?

Trust is involved in all social interaction. A wife and husband have to trust one another to remain faithful to their vows. Friends who share intimate details of their life must have confidence in each other not to share those secrets with anyone else. A boss must trust their employees to do their work. Even minuscule interactions like a mechanic and a customer require some level of trust.

Which brings me back to the two people I witness reconciling their relationship. Both parties wanted to reconcile and move forward, but once trust has broken down how do you get it back?

The essential element to rebuilding confidence in one another is communication. Speak openly and honestly about what caused the rift in your relationship. Having the ability to voice your frustrations and hurt feelings to the other person can assist in squashing any possible misunderstandings that developed. It also allows you the ability to feel heard, often we hold onto anger and sadness when we are not given the opportunity to tell the other person how we feel.  In some cases, one or both of you need to apologize. Sometimes a genuine apology is enough to reconcile and move forward. It can also be beneficial to express why you feel reluctant to trust the other person again. By discussing your reservations or theirs, it allows a chance to work with one another in brainstorming solutions to rebuild trust and strategies to address possible issues arising in the future.

A risk is always present when putting your trust in another person. If everyone is willing to reconcile, knowing how to rebuild trust in your relationship is essential in moving forward.

 

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

Guest Blogger

 

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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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“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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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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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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The Guilt Trip – How to Address a Master Manipulator

Depositphotos_84031256_m-2015 (GuiltTrip)We’ve all experienced a guilt trip at some point in our lives.  Family members, co-workers, significant others, bosses, friends, are all likely candidates to enlist a guilt trip on you for some reason for another. Perhaps, you’ve even guilt-tripped someone in the past.

The bestselling author, Dr. George Simon describes a guilt trip as:

“A special kind of manipulation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish, or has it easy. This usually results in the victim feeling bad, keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious and submissive position.”

I never looked at guilt trips as a form of manipulation, I always just associated it with a thing older relatives do. But it is manipulation; emotional, communication manipulation. An example of this would be, “If you cared about me, you wouldn’t X!” or “If you loved me as you say you do, then you would Y.” One example that I’ve heard before, “We don’t have many years left, you should call us while you can.” Anytime I have been at the receiving end of this behavior I have recognized that I feel guilty for whatever I did or didn’t do which is what the person wanted me to feel. I will then immediately apologize and try to figure out how to rectify the situation. However, I also notice whether in the moment or later that I will feel resentment. When I feel resentment, I recognize that it has an effect on my relationships, and I feel less inclined to do what that person wants the next time.

But if like me, you find yourself resenting the person or people guilt tripping you this must be addressed so that it does not damage your relationship.

It is important to recognize when you are being manipulated with a guilt trip. The guilt trippers know that by triggering your sympathy button, it will result in you feeling sorry for not behaving in the way that they want. Being able to recognize when this is happening will assist you in addressing it when it comes up.

I found a great article on PsychologyToday.com by Dr. Winch, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, and author that had two suggestions on how to address those who emotionally manipulate.

The first, Dr. Winch, Ph.D. suggests speaking to the person guilt tripping and, “Explain that their using a guilt trip to make you conform to their wishes makes you feel resentful, even if you do end up complying.” Acknowledging that you are aware of what they are doing could have a profound effect because you are calling out their behavior that they may believe they are hiding. It is important to express that the resentments that are festering are not something you want and you bringing it up is a way to alter these feelings.

Second, Dr. Winch, Ph.D. suggests is, “Ask them to instead express their wishes directly, to own the request themselves instead of trying to activate your conscience, and to respect your decisions when you make them.” It may be difficult for the person to respect your decisions especially if they are not receiving what they want at first. But, if they ask you directly to do something, it could make you feel more willing to do whatever they are asking. You may be more willing to do it because they asked you not because they guilted you into it.

We have all at one point or another been on the receiving end of a guilt trip and maybe even the deliverer. To make sure our relationships don’t suffer as a result of these experiences we must learn to address them directly.

 

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

Guest Blogger/ Host

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What Dr. Seuss Taught Me -Teaching Conflict Resolution through Children’s Literature

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The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss. Illustration by Dr. Seuss. Picture, taken by: Patricia M. Porter.

I have a niece, Zoey, who is eighteen months old, and I was recently looking at children’s books to get her. I always loved when my mom would read to me as a kid especially books where there was a lesson to be learned. I started thinking about books that would be appropriate for teaching Zoey about conflict, being that I am a conflict intervenor. After doing some research, I found the perfect story in one of Dr. Seuss’s collections titled, “The Zax.”

The story is about a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax who come to the same spot on their journey and bump into one another. Neither one is willing to step out of the other’s way as they both have an abundance of pride, so they stay unmoved for days, months, even years. The conclusion of the story explains that while the Zax’s refused to budge the world continued, and eventually a highway was built around them.

How is the story of the Zax’s a good way to teach children and even adults about conflict resolution?

 

 

  1. It demonstrates a conflict without a resolution. As neither Zax would agree to move, they remained stuck in the same spot missing the developing world around them. How many times have we witnessed a fight between two people where both parties refused to budge on their position? What do those two individuals end up missing out on because of their pride?
  2. It’s a way to discuss negotiation and compromise. What did the Zax’s ultimately want? The North-Going Zax wanted to go North while the South-Going Zax wanted to go South. They both felt the other should move out of their way so that they could go forth. However, if they had discussed their problem instead of forcefully asking the other to move, they could have worked out a compromise that both parties would have found met their needs.
  3. It’s an excellent lesson in attacking the problem not that person. The Zax’s attack one another by saying things like, “YOU are blocking my path, get out of my way.” They could have instead looked at the problem itself and how they could fix it rather than attacking one another.
  4. It teaches conflict escalation. How did the Zax’s make the problem worse? The North-Going Zax started, “I never,” he said, “take a step to one side. And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways. If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!” The South-Going Zax countered that he could stay fifty-nine years at that point both were trying to save face to prove a point.

Teaching children how to manage conflicts constructively I believe is the best way to ensure a more peaceful world in the future. Children’s literature can be a helpful resource in conveying skills and lessons on conflict resolution. What other books would you recommend for teaching conflict resolution? Let me know.

 

Have a Good Week,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger / Co-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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