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Listening to Your Triggers – How to Suspend Judgment When You Are Angry

Pertinent Points

  • A hot button or trigger word can be words, a tone of voice, or a particular way someone conveys body language that sets you off.
  • Everyone has different hot buttons and trigger words that can cause them to become angry.
  • When we are feeling triggered we automatically rush to judgment about what the other person is saying or doing.

Key Question: How can you listen past their anger or yours?

Identify your physiological triggers.

It is essential to know when you begin feeling triggered, whether your face gets hot, shoulders tense, or your stomach starts turning, being able to recognize when you are triggered helps you to be more efficient in addressing it.

Take the judgment out of what happened.

When we are in a hot-button moment, we unconsciously jump to judgment. We feel accused, devalued, disrespected, or powerless. We judge what the person said and frame it negatively without considering that what we interpreted may not have been what the person intended.

Breathe to Calm Judgmental Thoughts.

Take deep breaths to calm yourself when you are feeling triggered. By taking deep breaths, you allow oxygen to the brain which can directly impact the adrenaline pumping through your system. By calming yourself down, you allow yourself to hear what the other person is saying without becoming defensive.

Be Curious in Conversation.

Ask the person questions about what they are thinking and feeling, to learn more about what is going on with them. Observe what is going on with the other person so you can begin to understand and question the situation.

Develop Self- Empathy.

Identify your feeling words to understand and determine what exactly you need at that moment.

Assignment for the week:

In our interview with Susan H. Shearouse on the Texas Conflict Coach® podcast, Susan suggested an assignment to listen to your reactions. Listen for the moments when you are hooked by trigger words and hot buttons, and spend some time identifying your feelings at that moment and what your needs are to address those feelings.

To learn more about this topic, listen to the entire episode entitled, Hot Buttons and Trigger Words: How to Listen Past Your Anger or Theirs.

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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Turning Your Kaleidoscope for a Different Perspective

kaleidoscope-2186166_1920I grew up in a family addicted…addicted to conflict drama. Our family’s drama resulted from a single grandparent trying to raise three grandchildren on a limited income. I learned to survive my grandmother’s potent rage by observing and avoiding things that might trigger her wrath. I was adept at avoiding potential conflict and confrontation. Today, I am a recovering conflict avoider.

As a child, I learned that the only perspective that mattered in the conflict game was my grandmother’s viewpoint. I remember she had a pair of binoculars in an old brown, canvas case. She used it when we would visit the beach to watch birds or see the ships in the far distance. The binoculars were a way to get close and see things from afar more intimately; however, it also provided a narrow viewing field. We used a similar telescopic lens when seeing situations that triggered my grandmother.

For years, I used a telescopic perspective and stayed hyper vigilant to the signs and signals so as not to disturb the periods of time that were calm and peaceful. I honed my conflict avoidance skills, but these same skills did not serve me well as I entered into adulthood.  I became more self-aware that other perspectives than my own existed and questioned how could it possibly be that others didn’t think the way I did. I stopped using the binoculars if you will and learned how to use a kaleidoscope.

The Kaleidoscope was one of my most fascinating toys as a child. It felt exotic compared to my Barbie dolls. Upon holding the long tube to my eye, I saw vibrant and intricate shapes. And to my discovery, I could turn the end of the tube to see an endless number of colorful patterns. The kaleidoscope is an optical instrument with multiple reflections from mirrors, glass pieces, colored beads, and today, can be made of any number of small objects to create various perspectives. To learn and read the history of the kaleidoscope, read here.

How can we use the kaleidoscope, not the telescope, to see various perspectives in disputes? Just as each kaleidoscope provides unique patterns, every person we encounter is unique with different familial experiences, beliefs, values and personality characteristics.

When we are in an interpersonal conflict, we tend to focus on one perspective usually our own very narrowly. We don’t turn the kaleidoscope to see a different angle to the story. We experience the other person in the conflict as the individual who wronged us in some way. The beauty of a kaleidoscope is the mirrors used to reflect simple elements into a complex arrangement. It is in the turning of the long tube that allows each of us to see a distinct perspective. In conflict conversations, the turning of the kaleidoscope means taking action, actively listening and asking questions to gain a new understanding. It is revealing, beautiful, and often leads to a deeper understanding of what makes the other person unique.

Learning how to turn the kaleidoscope changed my life and gave me the courage to take more risks. I wanted to see more beautiful things in people, and myself. I do have to remember to pick up the kaleidoscope in my interpersonal conflicts and turn it to see the hidden patterns. Have you done this lately?

If not, I invite you to pick up and turn your kaleidoscope for a new perspective.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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Conflict Escalation – How to De-Escalate the Conflict Before It Spirals Out of Control

stairs-113610_1920I recently brought out all of my conflict management textbooks from hibernation. As I was flipping through the pages, I stumbled upon one of the topics I recalled finding fascinating when I was in school.  A Conflict Spiral defined by Dean G. Pruitt and Sung Hee Kim is, “escalation as a vicious cycle of action and reaction. One party’s punishing action provokes punishing retaliation by the other side, which in turn prompts increased retaliation from the first party.”

The term resonated with me because I have seen conflict spirals occur throughout my entire life but never knew this behavior had a name. So for example, when I was younger maybe nine or ten, my older brother and I had a pretty contentious relationship. At some point, we got into this battle where we hid one another’s things. It started off simple; he hid my favorite doll then I hid his favorite Nintendo game. He retaliated by hiding all my Dollhouse people; I countered by hiding his favorite CDs. We continued back and forth until eventually, it escalated to my brother holding my bedroom shut until I told him where his belongings were.

The example may not show the most catastrophic result of escalation; however, you can get a general idea. The most recent damaging conflict spirals I have witnessed has been on social media following the results of the elections. I witnessed people who voted for the opposing parties begin with harmless discussion over one particular topic, and after some tit, for tat back and forth the conversation quickly escalates to both sides calling one another names and vowing to “de-friend” both on social media and in life.

A conflict that spirals out of control can have damaging consequences between the two parties. Therefore, it is important to understand how to de-escalate a problem before it reaches that point.

  1. Recognize your triggers. Be mindful of your reactions to the things the other person is saying and doing. Take deep breaths and take the time to think before you speak. We often get hyped up during a conflict especially if we are feeling attacked; therefore, it is important to be self-aware during a conflict.
  2. Ask Yourself: What is the root conflict issue? In addition to number one tip ask yourself what this dispute involves? Often, the discussion goes from being about one topic and escalates to something else. We take low shots, insult the subject matter the other party is passionate about, and most often we cause our opponent to get defensive. We fight from emotions so we must become aware of the root of the actual conflict.
  3. Listen and be open-minded. Differing opinions and viewpoints can be a good and a bad thing depending on how you handle them. If you listen with the intent to be open-minded then perhaps you can extend your understanding of a differing viewpoint.
  4. Walk away. It may be more of an abrupt ending to a conflict; however, walking away from a conflict that is quickly escalating to a damaging point may be the quickest and simplest way to de-escalate a conflict.

Look out for the conflict spirals in your life and determine your best strategy for de-escalation.

Have a Good Week,

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

Apprentice

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Hot Irritations: Strategies to Reduce Conflict Temperament

tired-hikers-249683_1280Have you noticed that you’ve been getting into more arguments lately? Or that every little thing seems to set you off? Not sure why your fuse is so short? Look no further than the outdoor thermometer!

I took notice of my more irritable state as of late. I don’t mind sweating if I’m working out or gardening, something that warrants breaking a sweat. However, I am not a fan of just sitting around and doing nothing and sweating. I am a big fan of controlled air, and I found when I sweat I feel overheated and testy.

I also became aware of the fact that the heat makes me tired which could be a side effect of not being well hydrated. I have determined that a combination of lack of hydration, sleepiness, and sweating puts me into rare form.  I became more conscious of this when I began picking fights for no reason and becoming more annoyed with my husband. I also noticed I have less patience with our puppy Alvin.

According to an article by Rachael Rettner, a senior writer for livescience.com, ” hot and especially humid weather is known to be associated with increases in aggression and violence as well as general mood.” The article goes on to explain that the limitations put on our daily activities due to the sweltering heat can cause us to be angry. Another interesting piece from the article, Rettner writes, “a lack of control over the situation may further irritate some people.”

Just another way my control issues can get the best of me! So what are we to do in these situations? Summer is the best time to soak up that vitamin D and be outside – we can’t be expected to hole up in our controlled climate houses fanning ourselves right?

* Be aware – the most important thing is that you are mindful of the fact that the heat could be affecting your mood. Be aware of what is triggering your annoyance. It is also important to remember the weather could be changing other people’s attitudes as well. So if someone seems to be biting your head off the heat could be a contributing factor.

* Take deep breaths- If you are feeling angry take some deep breaths to help focus your mind. Take a deep breath in, hold it for a few seconds and release. Just taking those few moments to refocus can help you be more aware of the conflict at hand.

* Take shade and hydrate – I am not asking that you sit inside all day, but it is important to take a break from the sun now and then to help regulate your system. Also, it is imperative that you stay hydrated especially if you are sweating, this will fend off tiredness and keep your system fresh.

* Use sunblock – I am a fair person, so I burn easily, and I know that when I get a sunburn, I am not a fun person to be around. So, keep yourself slathered in sunblock and fend off the painful burning experience.

It is important to remember to cool down before engaging in a summer battle both figuratively and literally. These may seem like common sense suggestions, but I rarely think of the weather as being a factor in a fight. Keep the weather in mind and be aware of your triggers. You will be sure to have a great summer experience!

 

Have a great week,

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

Apprentice

 

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Striving for Change in an Imperfect World Starts with Yourself – An Honest Reflection

perfect-948197_1920-1Our society is obsessed with perfection, and though it is something to strive for, it has proven time and time again to be an unattainable goal. I decided two years ago that I would stop putting pressure on myself to be “perfect.” Instead, I focus on my shortcomings and try little by little to improve those traits. I think it is important to keep yourself in check, own up to your flaws and actively try to improve upon them to grow as a human being.

I often debate with others about the human capacity for change. Can people change their ways? The resounding response to that question is usually “no.” I have asked that question several times, and most people believe that once someone’s behaviors are set they will remain that way. I disagree with this response as I optimistically believe in a human’s capacity for change. I also think that if more people took the time to evaluate their shortcomings and actively try to improve them rather than pointing the finger at others for their issues, our society would be in a much better place.

I began journaling recently about my inadequacies with a narrowed focus on my ineffective conflict reactions. I write down day-by-day where I fell short and what I could do better the next day. I believe if I am more self-aware of my triggers, my reactions, my behaviors I can actively adjust these traits so that they will cease to be an issue in the future. If I am completely honest, I will tell you that that the thought of passing on some of my more negative flaws on to my future children terrifies me, and so, I use that too as a driving force to actively change my ways.

So where do we begin? Make a list, an honest list about all your shortcomings in general, or narrow your focus to where you are flawed when engaging and addressing conflict. My common flaws are listed below:

* Patience – While this is a trait I have improved on immensely, I still struggle with remaining patient. I noticed my lack of patience showing particularly at work when someone is struggling to understand something that I have explained several times.

Solution: Take deep breaths. Use my breaths to calm myself and look at the situation from the other person’s perspective.  While I might type out very detailed instructions, someone might need me to walk them verbally through it for them to understand.

* Defensive – I take a lot of things personally, which I believe is because I overthink everything. I also tend to feel that everyone is out to get me, which is simply not true. So when someone critiques me, I first response is to jump into defensive mode.

Solution: I need to be mindful when I feel myself becoming defensive. My body has a physical response; I cross my arms; I feel my muscles tighten. When this happens I need to ask myself, why am I becoming defensive? Is it justified?

* Outspoken/ Loud – I have a tendency to say the first thing that pops into my head without giving it much thought. Again, I have improved on this a lot, but I still have ways to go. I also raise my voice when I get upset which can cause others not to listen to me.

Solution: Bite my tongue and think before I speak. I currently will take deep breaths, and think to myself, “What am I trying to say here? Could this be offensive?” If it is something I want/need to say I will evaluate how I say it before I do which allows me to deliver a message in the best way possible.

* Clarification – I assume things way more than I can to admit. I assume things based on expectations that I have and don’t ask for clarification. When situations don’t pan out the way I assumed they would, I find myself frustrated and a lot of times in conflict.

Solution: Ask more clarifying questions and know all the details that way expectations can be managed.

Abigail R. C. McManus

Apprentice

 

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Managing Impatience – Recognize What Triggers It

traffic-jam-688566_1920-1I am a very impatient person. I think I’ve stated this in more blog posts than any other negative trait of mine because I have found it has caused many conflicts in my life. I observe on a daily basis that I am not the only person who struggles with patience. I hear people honking car horns when traffic is at a standstill or sighing heavily when the line at Starbucks isn’t moving quick enough. I have watched people hit an already lit elevator door button several times in hopes that the extra pushes will get the elevator there that much sooner. I have seen and heard these acts of impatience, and I will admit I have done these things myself a time or two.

I have over the last five months become more patience in certain situations and owed it all to my husband, and I’s puppy, Alvin. But, I wanted to learn more about impatience, and I found an excellent article recently on Psychology Today by Dr. Jim Stone that outlines, The 7 laws of Impatience. I won’t go into all seven laws, but I want to focus on the first two that resonated something for me.

  1. In the first law, Dr. Stone describes impatience as ” a very particular mental and physical process that gets triggered under specific circumstances, and which motivates specific kinds of decisive action”. He is stating that impatience can arise in anyone; some people are patience in some situations while others are triggered and react impatiently.

I found this to be an important realization because at first my husband had much more patience than I did with Alvin. I felt guilty every time I got agitated with Alvin and my husband didn’t. I even found myself questioning my dog parent/ future parenting abilities. However, according to this article my husband and I have different triggers that sent off our impatience, and that is entirely normal. Recognizing what your triggers are is important when learning to manage them.

  1. The second law Dr. Stone explains is, “Impatience is triggered when we have a goal and realize it’s going to cost us more than we thought to reach it.” The idea of not reaching our goal when we thought we would is what triggers the impatience.

I never thought that my impatience stemmed from not meeting a goal, I thought of it as a flaw in my personality. Nevertheless, it turns out in every situation there is a goal I am trying to meet, and when I realize it will take longer to achieve it, my impatient behavior is displayed.

An example is I grow more and more agitated every time Alvin jumps up on the kitchen table, and we have to pull him off and tell him “No.” My goal is for Alvin not to jump up on the table and while it would be splendid if he got this concept right away, that’s not realistic. Rather than becoming frustrated by this, I need to reevaluate my expectations and examine what I could do differently to help meet my goal.

When you feel impatient, ask yourself what is your end goal? Are your expectations for managing your goal realistic? Take some deep breaths and ask yourself if getting agitated will assist in solving the problem or will it make the situation worse?

I have already begun doing this in my day-to-day life with Alvin, with my husband, and with people at work, and I found it to be very helpful in managing my impatience.

 

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

Apprentice

 

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