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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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Looking Back and Looking Ahead- Making New Year Conflict Resolutions

Looking Back and Looking AheadI love New Years – it is one of my favorite holidays. The notion of a fresh start for some could be relieving especially if the previous year was particularly challenging.  Last year, I wrote a blog reflecting on how I fell short in addressing my personal conflicts in 2015 and how I wanted to improve in those areas in 2016. The three areas where I felt, I needed the most improvement was being more patient with others, thinking before I speak, and being more responsive.

I believe in 2016 I was able to exercise my ability to be more patient with others and responsiveness to conflict. I took on a lot more responsibility at work over the course of this year, and in doing so, I was able to work on managing and resolving conflicts without overreacting or getting stressed out. I forced myself in the moments when I felt most stressed to take deep breaths and persevere, and in the end, I was more thankful for it.

I went through training this year to become a Community Mediator and even completed my first mediation. I found I was challenged to think before I speak and be more aware of my responses and how my words could affect the person with whom I am talking.

While I did make some good strides in 2016 addressing my previous year’s conflict shortcomings, I always feel that I can do better. Therefore, I would like to give my 2017 resolutions for conflict management in my life.

I would like to once again put making choices to respond versus reacting onto my shortcomings list as well as blunt. While I do feel that I have made myself more approachable to others; I feel my tone in response to things going differently than I had planned can be pointed and sometimes harsh.

In 2017, my goal is to challenge myself once again to think before I speak, take deep breaths and be mindful of the emotions and triggers I am feeling while I am feeling them. I also want to work on focusing on the positive aspects of every given situation. I think part of my problem is that when my expectations are not met, I resort to looking at the negative rather than the positive. Therefore, another goal for 2017 is to recognize my expectations and find the silver lining when I am feeling upset about a conflict.

I would also like to add to my resolutions to consciously check assumptions. I found this year that I jumped to conclusions and was judgmental of others before knowing and understanding their perspective. In 2017, I want to approach every situation or person with an open mind. I want to acknowledge my bias and feelings perhaps even saying them out loud to myself or writing them in my journal. I want to make a point of asking more questions and trying to learn more about other’s perspectives rather than arguing my point or disregarding theirs completely.

A new year is what you make of it – taking time to recognize areas where I can grow and develop as well as credit to my accomplishments in my managing of conflicts assists me in becoming the best version of myself that I can be and in life that is my ultimate goal. Take some time to evaluate yourself and set intentional behaviors for the new year, perhaps next year you will find yourself an improved person.

 

Happy New Year,

Abigail R.C. McManus

Guest Blogger/ Host

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Renewing and Strengthening Relationships in the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year Everyone!

Pattie Porter

Founder and Host

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Humbling the Conflict Intervener – A Reflection

mirror-1138098_1920The other day I mentioned in passing to a co-worker that my husband and I had a disagreement. She looked shocked and said, ” I didn’t think you and your husband fought, because of your degree in conflict management.” This scenario isn’t the first time I have received a shocked reaction from someone who knows of my degree. The truth is, I am excellent at assisting others in managing their conflicts, but my own can be a little more difficult.

I will provide you with an example of a recent dispute between my husband and me and my reflection after. Bernard, my husband and I have an adorable and ornery puppy named Alvin, who is seven months old. Bernard and I have different beliefs on how to discipline Alvin when he is acting up. Last Friday, Alvin began behaving badly, and Bernard disciplined “his way” without consulting me first. I immediately became furious and started yelling, because that is my knee-jerk reaction when in the heat of a conflict. When I yell, Bernard shuts down and refuses to speak on the subject unless we can talk about it calmly.

I was emotional, so all rational thinking went out the window. I couldn’t gain perspective because I was entirely too entrenched in the situation. I am also stubborn, so I was holding onto my feelings and beliefs very tightly. We moved on from the situation Friday night without a resolution because I could feel myself getting angry all over again every time I thought about the topic.

So yesterday, I reflected on the dispute so that I could pinpoint what I was feeling and thinking and then determine what a solution would be to move forward.

I asked myself first, ” What is really bothering me?”

It wasn’t that Bernard disciplined Alvin his way though I disagreed with his method. It was that he did it without discussing it with me first. I felt that I didn’t have a voice or that my opinion didn’t matter. I also felt that by him just going ahead and disciplining Alvin his way, he expected me just to go along with it.

I then asked myself, “What did I do poorly in this conflict?”

I think it is always important to take responsibility for your contribution in any disagreement you might have. I didn’t recognize my triggers or realize that I was getting more mad. I yelled, which is when the conflict stalled because I couldn’t talk calmly. I also was so worked up the rest of the weekend that it further prolonged the conflict. I was stubborn and even once I recognized the real issues I still had too much pride to give in and discuss them with Bernard.

Lastly, I asked myself “What could I do to move forward with this conflict and what could I do better next time?

I sent Bernard a text message, which I know may not be the best and most mature forum. However, I have found that sometimes having the ability to edit what I say is helpful. I explained my feelings and expressed my issues, and we planned to discuss the situation more when we see each other face -to- face. Next time, I think it is important for me to walk away from Bernard for a little bit so that I can compose my thoughts and my emotions. I also believe that it would be helpful for me to write down my thoughts and feelings in my journal or on the dry erase boards we keep in our kitchen, just so that I can see it rather than keeping it in my head.

I am not a perfect person, and just because I went to school for Conflict Management certainly does not mean I won’t be involved with disputes. It is important when in conflict to reflect, recognize your triggers and set goals to do differently next time.

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

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Mom’s Always Right – A Lesson in Managing Expectations

fear-1052611_1920My mother has said to me on numerous occasions, ” Ab, you can’t expect people to act as you would act. Not everyone is raised with the same values, has the same beliefs, or thinks the same way as you.” The funny thing is, I have had to parrot the same thing back to her a time or two, which goes to show that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Nevertheless, I have a strong moral compass and many times my values do not coincide with others. My mom would often say the above sentence to me when I was upset about someone who didn’t rise to meet my expectations.

Once at a former job of mine, a co-worker was struggling to get her section of the work accomplished. I offered to help because I knew her part was holding up others from completing their work. I also wanted to be a team player. A few months later, I had been out for a couple of days because I had been sick and was behind on my work. I thought she might offer to help; however; she didn’t.

Another time, an old friend of mine was having relationship problems with her boyfriend. She called me sobbing and said she needed to talk. I had plans that night, but I cancelled them and showed up at her house with junk food and funny movies because I wanted to be there for a friend in need. But later, when I had issues with my boyfriend and called her in the same state, she told me she had plans to go to the movies, that everything would be okay, and she would call me tomorrow.

Over the years, I have been disappointed, hurt, and angered by others who didn’t meet my expectations. So a while back, I developed a plan to manage my expectations so that resentment wouldn’t build.

  1. Recognize not everyone is like you. I know it sounds simple, but it is probably the first thing I forget. I would get upset in these situations because the person isn’t acting as I would act, but to paraphrase my mom, we all are guided by different morals, values, and beliefs.
  2. Learn to say “No.” I found this to be a challenge because, for me, I enjoy doing things for others. I like to be there for people I care about in their times of need. However, I found that going above and beyond for others can cause you to lose sight of yourself. People can take advantage of your kindness, and you can end up resentful. If you find yourself always coming to the aid of others and find yourself becoming bitter, try saying “No” every once and awhile.
  3. Reflect, Reflect, Reflect. When you find yourself upset or angered when someone didn’t act the same way you would, reflect and ask yourself why are you feeling that way? You may find points one and two above are the answers. However, stopping to look inwards allows you to gain perspective on yourself and respond accordingly.

Have a great weekend,

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

Apprentice

Have a great weekend,

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

Apprentice

Leave a Reply




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