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Deescalating Verbal Attacks

Posted on May 26 2020 under Blog Posts | Tags: ,

After 28 years of marriage, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear me say my husband I and get into arguments, at times. Usually, it ends up with a sarcastic “You’re right, I am wrong” response. For us, they are small conflict skirmishes. Arguments, in general, emphasize binary thinking with opposites: truth/lie; right/wrong; black/white; yes/no; either/or and so forth. Over recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic puts a spotlight on binary thinking here in the U.S. Recently, when discussing the Stay at Home, Work Safe orders extending into June, someone said to me “It doesn’t matter…everyone is out and about anyway” which I silently thought “It DOES matter.” I checked my defensive instinct to react, paused, and replied with “maybe there is some truth to that statement.” This strategy essentially kept the conversation from quickly irking my friend and escalating into the same old debate patterns.

Binary thinking generally places each person in the argument on opposite sides of one another’s position. Oh, but to be right and win my argument! And yet, when I push my point where the other concedes, did I win? I must ask myself what the win is in being right…all the time especially when I know how it negatively impacts the relationship. It invalidates the other person’s point of view often making them feel unheard and not valued. A common conversation as of late is wearing masks out in public. It is one thing when a person chooses not to wear a mask because it is their right. When someone then says, “You should be wearing a mask!” when one believes they have a right not to wear a mask, the conversation quickly escalates into a conflict. And, we have already seen physical altercations and even people who have died as a result of these quickly heated disputes. I choose to wear a mask in public because of my weakened immune system to fight off COVID-19.

The impact of this type of dualistic thinking and our engagement with others is often perceived as an attack, a verbal attack, and commonly followed by a defensive reaction.  It also limits our ability to listen for different perspectives, douses our curiosity, and blinds us to new ideas and possibilities.

What do we do if we are on the receiving end of a verbal attack placing us in a position to fight, dismiss, or avoid the conversation altogether? As a novice Aikidoist, I have been practicing how to redirect verbal attacks. My motivation for pursuing Verbal Aikido is the self-mastery of redirecting these verbal conflict skirmishes without harming someone with my own words. It is about learning how to quickly “destabilize” the tension-filled attack to a conversation within a very short period in a couple of minutes. I have been applying a 3-step process guided by Luke Archer, master verbal Aikidoist and author of two Verbal Aikido books. The 3-step process is simple and yet the endless strategies require practice and time to master. The first step is learning how to find your center so when you are verbally attacked, you can find your balance quickly to engage the next two steps. And most importantly, this first step creates an open frame to listen. The second step is focused on seeking to understand the other person by “drawing out” and using empathetic listening. There are a number of short movements such as “Say more about what you mean” or “there may be some truth to that statement.” Another short movement I learned recently for this second step is to say in response to the verbal attack “That is one theory. Say more about where you learned this theory.” Then, listen for their understanding. The Aikidoist can then offer “Would you be willing to hear another perspective or theory?” Depending on how the other person responds, you can then move into the third step which is to offer an “Ai-Ki” as a way to rebalance the energy from escalation to conversation. The Aikidoist can say “How do you propose we move forward from this point?” or “If you are interested, let’s revisit and keep the dialogue going so we can fully understand each other. Would this work for you?” You can also say “Let’s agree to disagree.”

As I continue to work on my green belt in Verbal Aikido, I am blessed to be guided by Luke Archer. Anyone is invited to try out Verbal Aikido techniques. We practice virtually almost every Wednesday using the concept of the dojo practice mat where we verbally spar with each other applying the 3-step process and trying out different movements and techniques. To join, simply go to Verbal Aikido – The Club to check out the weekly dates and times the group meets on Zoom.

And, if you wish to get in-person training, I will be hosting Luke Archer with newSkool from France to conduct a two-day training in San Antonio this upcoming October. For more information, click HERE.

Patricia “Pattie” Porter, LCSW, ACC, ABW

CEO and Founder

Conflict Connections, Inc.

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Verbal Self-Defense Begins with a Mindset of Compassion and Empathy

In my last blog post, Changing the Way We Handle Verbal Attacks, I shared that I began a journey in learning Verbal Aikido. What does it mean to learn the art of verbal self-defense? First, it means understanding the purpose and establishing a mindset behind this approach.

Morihei Ueshiba (pronounced Mora-hAY-wAY E-shE-ba) the founder and creator of the martial art of Aikido stated: “True victory is victory over self.” Being able to master oneself in how we engage and diffuse a defensive verbal attack without a counterattack that is equally or more destructive than the original attack takes intention and practice.

Aikido’s main principle supports neither combat nor aggression. In fact, Morihei Ueshiba firmly believed that this was the “..way of joining the peoples of the world together in peace.” Practitioners learn how to defend without harm to themselves and the attacker. The Japanese word “Ai” means harmony or balancing whereas “ki” is the energy force and “do” is the path. Ai-ki-do is the ‘path to balancing energy.’ In other words, being able to take the attacker’s negative energy and adeptly using your skills to shift the energy from negative, potentially escalating verbal exchange to a neutral or even positive shift. The shift would end the verbal exchange and potentially shift it to a mutual and constructive conversation.

Luke Archer, the author of Verbal Aikido: The Art of Directing Verbal Attacks to a Balanced Outcome, and my teacher, shares in his book and training that the mindset is key to setting your intention for this type of practice. First, it is establishing a mindset of compassion and empathy for the other person. For most of us, when we are being verbally attacked, we go into automatic pilot which means a lack of empathy from where the other person is coming from and why they are attacking in the first place. I know for myself personally, my mindset goes into gear with irritation and viewing the other person as an annoying problem or even threat. In that moment, I don’t see that person as human who is hurting or in fear. They are protecting some vital part of themselves. Second, it is important to understand we are trying to assist the other person to remain standing if you will, and ‘save face.’ You might be saying to yourself right now, “Are you kidding me? I need to protect myself too.” And yet, here is the problem. By reacting or counter-attacking with criticism, name-calling, blaming, etc., we are contributing to the problem and potentially making it worse. No one walks away feeling good about the encounter. It is not about winning or being right, it is about making a choice, remaining calm, and engaging the other person peacefully. “It is a way to live in harmony with others.”

Watch why I took the Verbal Aikido training with Luke Archer.  

Patricia M. Porter, LCSW, ACC

CEO and Founder
Conflict Connections, Inc.

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Changing the Way I Handle Verbal Attacks

Angry man photo by Pixabay

This is what you hear “You are late again!”  or “You keep making mistakes…FIX IT!” or “You never listen to me!” All of these statements are examples of a verbal attack. One of my personal challenges is how to deflect and master my in-the-moment reactions to verbal attacks. I don’t know about you but I can be very sensitive to unexpected and unwelcomed verbal attacks and without pausing or thinking, snap sarcastically and defend myself and sometimes with vigor. Then, I feel ashamed that I reacted so strongly given my professional study and work.

Most of my readers and podcast listeners know me as 25-year conflict management and resolution expert. And yet, I recognize the areas of communication struggle in my personal life. When I am working as a neutral or even teaching, training, facilitating or coaching, I have mastered remaining calm in the face of verbal assaults. It is a natural part of my conflict resolution work for people to displace their anger or frustration about the person or situation, they are in conflict with and yet, I have failed to master this at home with close interpersonal relationships.

I decided last year to purposefully pursue changing this destructive habit in my personal life. How do I catch myself in the moment from being impulsive, saying things that are hurtful or judgmental? How can I prevent a seemingly small incident from erupting into an emotionally-charged argument and see it grow into a conflict?

I went back into my Texas Conflict Coach® podcast library to revisit the work of Luke Archer on Verbal Aikido: Manage Verbal Attacks Peacefully and Effectively. I contacted him in late 2017 to revisit his work and invite him to be a guest expert on the Challenging Workplace Behavior Summit launched in 2018. It would be to my surprise when Luke informed me, he would be in Texas training Verbal Aikido principles and techniques at Sam Houston State University (SMSU) in October 2018 during Conflict Resolution Week. This week sponsored by Gene Roberts, Director of Student Legal and Mediation Services is a colleague. He and I both served back to back as Presidents of the Texas Association for Mediators (TAM). Gene invited me to be the keynote speaker for SHSU during the week and join Luke Archer’s training. It was a serendipitous moment. I felt blessed to be part of this week and meet Luke for the first time.

After the initial 2-day training, it was crystal clear that this would take practice and guidance by an expert. Luke offers a virtual “dojo” or practices mat to verbally spar with partners using the 3-step process we learned in training. We not only learn how to ground our basic foundation but we learn additional strategies to carry out each of the three steps. It is fun meeting people from different countries to practice around real-life examples.

My next few blog posts will focus on my journey, stumbles, strengths and insights into mastering verbal self-defense.

Patricia M. Porter, LCSW, ACC
CEO and Founder
Conflict Connections, Inc.

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What Challenging Workplace Behavior Are You Dealing with in the New Year?

For the past year, Conflict Connections and MH Mediate have been developing a set of resources to help people address the ten toughest behaviors at work – everything from gossip to bullying, harassment, and hostile work environments.  Our Challenging Workplace Behavior Summit featured 10 top global experts brought together over 250 conflict and human resources practitioners and yielded the definitive toolkit for challenging behaviors at work.


All resources are designed to be extremely actionable – for each behavior we hosted two 15-20 minute programs, the first explaining the behavior and the second sharing strategies and solutions.  For each behavior we also put together a one-page summary (definition, impact, solutions, key quote), a full set of program notes, and a take-away tool.  
The take-away tools include:

  • Engaging Passive Aggression Without Losing Your Cool (Tip sheet)
  • Diffusing Verbal Attacks (Checklist)
  • Preventing Hostile Work Environments (Checklist)
  • Escaping and Reframing Workplace Gossip (Talking Points)
  • Overcoming Time-Sucking Interruptions (Checklist)
  • Responding to Gender-Based Violence (Tip sheet)
  • Preventing and Overcoming Workplace Bullying (Tip sheet)
  • Stopping and Balancing Criticism (Talking Points)
  • Responding to Workplace Incivility (Checklist)
  • 5 Steps to a Deliberate, Non-Impulsive Reaction (Infographic Framework)

Because we value Conflict Connections subscribers,we’re offering a discounted rate for the All Access Pass to these programs.  Instead of paying $297, if you use coupon “NewYearSpecial” you can pay just  $149 – that’s 50% off!  Discount ends on Wednesday, January 9th.


Visit https://www.workbehavior.us/register/all-access-pass/?coupon=NewYearSpecial to go directly to the checkout page with the coupon already applied.  You will be able to create an account, pay by PayPal (use any major credit card, no account required), and get immediate access to the All Access Pass content.

Take a look at our 10 behaviors and experts below:


Workplace Incivility

Sharone Bar-David, workplace incivility expert and the author of Trust Your Canary: Every Leader’s Guide to Taming Workplace Incivility, defines incivility at work and shares frameworks for managing these situations.


Passive Aggression

Signe Whitson, trainer and author of The Angry Smile: The New Psychological Study of Passive-Aggressive Behavior, introduces passive aggressive behaviors in the workplace and teaches techniques for overcoming them.


Workplace Bullying

Catherine Mattice Zundel, a founder of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition and the author of BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, explains what constitutes bullying at work and offers steps for victims, bystanders, and managers.


Non-Stop Criticism

Krister Ungerboeck, CEO Coach and former CEO of a global tech company, explains when criticism becomes a problem and shares powerful solutions.


Verbal Attacks

Luke Archer, the founder of Verbal Akido, defines verbal attacks and teaches akido-inspired tactics for diffusing them.


Hostile Work Environments

Rodney Klein, Training Manager at the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), clarifies the legal definition of hostile work environments and shares ways to both prevent and respond to them.


Gender-Based Violence

Sheerine Alemzadeh, co-founder of the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence and co-founder of Healing to Action, explains gender-based violence and suggests ways to proactively address it.


Workplace Gossip

Peter Vajda, writer for Management Issues and coach at True North Partnering, defines workplace gossip and offers strategies to manage it.


Time-Sucking Interruptions

Helene Segura, author of The Inefficiency Assassin, outlines different kinds of time-sucking interruptions that reduce productivity at work and shares solutions to overcome them.


Impulsive Reactions

Dan Berstein, developer of MH Mediate’s Ready for Anything framework for addressing challenging behaviors, explains why we sometimes mistakenly act on gut feelings and how we can plan ahead instead.

Where do I go to purchase the All Access Pass?
The pass normally costs $297 but Conflict Connections subscribers can get a 50% discount, $148 off, if they use the coupon “NewYearSpecial” and purchase by Wednesday, January 9th.  Visit https://www.workbehavior.us/register/all-access-pass/?coupon=NewYearSpecial to go directly to the checkout page with the coupon already applied.  You will be able to create an account, pay by PayPal (use any major credit card, no account required), and get immediate access to the All Access Pass content.  

If you’d like to read a bit more about the summit and experts, visit www.workbehavior.us – remember you’ll need to apply the NewYearSpecial coupon yourself to get the discount unless you use the longer direct link above.

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Challenging Workplace Behavior Toolkit

Before Thanksgiving we launched the Challenging Workplace Behavior Summit. Over 250 professionals participated to learn from our 10 top global experts, resulting in a complete toolkit for the ten toughest behaviors at work:

  • Workplace Incivility
  • Passive Aggression
  • Workplace Bullying
  • Non-Stop Criticism
  • Verbal Attacks
  • Hostile Work Environments
  • Gender-Based Violence including Sexual Harassment
  • Workplace Gossip
  • Time-Sucking Interruptions
  • Impulsive Reactions

What tools are included in the Summit Toolkit?

Each behavior includes two 15-20 minute video interview programs, the first focused on understanding it and the second focused on strategies to address it.  We also provide program notes (edited transcripts), behavior summaries (one-page quick-reference guides defining each behavior, explaining its impact, summarizing solutions, and including a key quote from the program), actionable take-away tools, and bonus items.
After accessing these resources, participants can:

  • Understand the definitions, signs, and impact of challenging behaviors at work
  • Be Equipped with tools to manage and respond to the ten toughest behaviors at work
  • Feel Empowered in the face of challenging behaviors
  • Access Quick References to review summaries of the behaviors

How can I access the Summit Toolkit?

All toolkit items are available with the purchase of a single All Access Pass that allows an individual user to access them on-demand whenever they’d like for an entire year.  We’re giving Conflict Connections subscribers a 50% discount ending Wednesday, January 9th.  Scroll to the bottom of this e-mail to get the coupon, or keep reading to see what people are saying about the programs and the All Access Pass!
What are people saying about the Individual Behavior Programs?

  • “This provided great insight as well as tools to equip me as a manager  This was very helpful, especially with a specific step-wise process for addressing passive aggressive behavior at work.”
    (Passive Aggression)
  • “I will be using the suggestion to offer ‘two minutes right now, or ten minutes in an hour’ right away!” 
    (Time-Sucking Interruptions)
  • Excellent discussion. Great infographic and very useful examples discussed during the presentation. Thanks.”
    (Impulsive Reactions)
  • This was excellent. Such a pervasive problem and the presenter provided great examples of strategies to address the issue.”
    (Workplace Gossip)
  • “This was a great topic…had lots of good info about the differences between ‘illegal’ hostile environment vs. toxic and/or destructive work environment, ‘the gateway drug.'”
    (Hostile Work Environments)
  • Simple and effective technique for managing verbal attacks. Nice three-step approach. Explained well.”
    (Verbal Attacks)
  • “Great speaker, great topic. Essential tools provided for changing negative behaviors and providing positive feedback.”
    (Non-Stop Criticism)
  • “Very affirming to hear of the need to address incivility even if it is being experienced by a ‘velcro’ personality. Critical for hr/admin to understand that behaviors will escalate if not addressed.”(Workplace Incivility)
  • “All three programs I tried today were really helpful. Thank you!” 
    (Workplace Incivility, Passive Aggression, and Workplace Bullying)

What are people saying about the Toolkit as a whole?

  • “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed and learned from the summit programs.  I thought the format was great, with a sensitive moderator bringing out the nuggets of wisdom provided by the insightful and informative speakers. I also appreciated how you broke the presentations into two parts, one delineating the ‘issue’ and one focused on strategies to address it.  I will continue to listen and learn.”
  • “I’m just reading through the materials now…they are very helpful and I’m enjoying the format of the material. Well done! “
  • “The resources are great…thanks so much!”
  • “The videos are very informative, and have already introduced quite a number of ideas and insights I had not considered previously.”

Where do I go to purchase the All Access Pass?
The pass normally costs $297 but Conflict Connections subscribers can get a 50% discount, $148 off, if they use the coupon “NewYearSpecial” and purchase by Wednesday, January 9th.  Visit https://www.workbehavior.us/register/all-access-pass/?coupon=NewYearSpecial to go directly to the checkout page with the coupon already applied.  You will be able to create an account, pay by PayPal (use any major credit card, no account required), and get immediate access to the All Access Pass content.  If you’d like to read a bit more about the summit and experts, visit www.workbehavior.us – remember you’ll need to apply the NewYearSpecial coupon yourself to get the discount unless you use the longer direct link above.

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Free Expert Interviews for the 10 Toughest Behaviors at Work – Challenging Workplace Behavior Summit

Whether it’s gossip, harassment, or time-sucking interruptions we have all encountered challenging behaviors in the workplace.  Have you ever wished you knew what to do when they happened?

If you’re like us, the answer is yes.  That’s why we spent a year finding ten top global experts to help us understand and manage the ten toughest behaviors at work.  Register now for free access to the Challenging Workplace Behavior Summit to watch our interviews. The summit launches on Tuesday, November 13th and it covers:

  • Workplace Bullying

  • Gender-Based Violence

  • Workplace Incivility

  • Verbal Attacks

  • Workplace Gossip

  • Non-Stop Criticism

  • Time-Sucking Interruptions

  • Hostile Work Environments

  • Passive Aggression

  • Impulsive Reactions

Each day, we’ll share action-oriented expert interviews about these challenging workplace behaviors.  Part 1 of every interview focuses on understanding the behavior. Part 2 is all about strategies.

Register for free at www.workbehavior.us/register – all it takes is your e-mail address and we’ll let you know when the programs go live.

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Feuds: A Love-Hate Relationship

exchange-of-ideas-222786_1920There is something about a feud we love to watch and see unfold; and, there is a polar opposite feeling when we are directly involved and impacted by emotional disputes. We hate to be in one. There are numerous historical examples of famous family feuds such as the infamous Hatfield and McCoys. Hearing the family names conjures up fierce fighting, violence, and hatred. The media sensationalized the stories as time went on creating a lasting impression in American culture. FX television series recently portrayed another famous rivalry between iconic Hollywood actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Feud: Bette and Joan.

Susan Sarandon plays Bette Davis’s role, and Jessica Lange plays Joan Crawford’s character. The spellbinding series captured my full attention, and I loved watching the two actresses, Sarandon and Lange give award-winning performances. What was interesting in watching the series is how the drama unfolded with each star positioning themselves to outperform the other and win at all costs. The women fought over acting roles, lovers, directing scenes, the limelight, and just about anything where one had power over the other. Unfortunately, Hollywood elite, gossip columnists, producers, and directors pitted Davis and Crawford against each other to keep the fight going creating a media buzz for high dollar ratings. Sarandon and Lange’s performance made me feel the tension, anxiety, frustration and anger as the two played out the intense scenes.

In yet another recent television series Fear Thy Neighbor on the Investigation Discovery channel, the series portrays real crime cases of neighbor feuds that resulted in intense fighting, verbal abuse, physical violence and even murder between families. In many of these cases, the neighbors started out being friendly and even good friends. In every single case, a seemingly small irritation occurred between two households such as driving over someone’s grass, playing loud music, or feeding the deer.

In each of these feuds, the misunderstandings and small disagreements could have been addressed early and simply if people had not closed the door to conversation. Instead, the silence and avoidance only lead to people making false assumptions, negative judgments, and increasing anger and destructive behaviors. It causes people to take sides and deepen the positions of right and wrong. The cycle continues until tensions and intolerance take over causing an eruption which is often damaging and can be deadly. The key to stopping a fight from becoming a lengthy feud is to address the situation early, calmly and constructively.

Obviously, television’s aim is to entertain, educate or touch their viewers. I must admit I am attracted to these types of programs but would hate to be personally involved in a feud. I tend to view these programs as an opportunity to learn what NOT to do. Here are things you can do.

  • Think about the possible consequences of your retaliatory behaviors
  • Consider other reasons for why the other person is upset with you
  • Approach the other person as someone who is in pain, fearful, or anxious versus someone who is evil.
  • Monitor your emotional thermometer taking measures not to boil over causing a surprising eruption

Next time you watch a movie or television series, observe the behaviors, non-verbal cues, and emotions that contribute to de-escalating a dispute and then try them out in your life.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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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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Recognizing the Signs of a Conflict Storm

HurricaneBeulah1967I grew up on the South Texas – Mexico border off the Gulf of Mexico. We were all too familiar with hurricanes. Hurricane Beulah, a slow-moving, Category 5 storm was one of the largest, most powerful and damaging to hit the Rio Grande Valley in 1967. It was my first hurricane experience.

At that time, television stations distributed hurricane tracking maps which my grandmother used to mark the latitude and longitude coordinates. This information helped us to prepare our home to reduce property damage and to find the safest place in the home while weathering the storm. Meanwhile, others chose to do nothing to prepare for the storm for various reasons. They didn’t feel the storm would hit the area. Others dismissed the seriousness of what they heard on the radio or just simply ignored the information.

Meteorologists play a significant role in helping the public understand what to watch and prepare for when storms develop. They are experts in tracking storms studying weather patterns and conditions and predicting potential danger.

As a conflict management expert, I work with individuals, leaders, and teams to recognize the signs and signals from people’s non-verbal communication as well as the words they use. I look for patterns in their workplace environment which contribute to a brewing storm. Most of us can recognize these same signals, but many of us ignore or dismiss entirely the significance and potential damage from misunderstandings that grow to disagreements. These disagreements can quickly escalate to conflict storms with the emotional intensity of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Learning how to recognize and acknowledge conflict takes courage and confidence for most people. It also requires one to hone their observation and listening skills. Here are some initial steps to consider when practicing these skills. The goal is to detect these signs earlier.

  • Look for non-verbal communication such as someone’s facial expressions or body language that says to you “I’m not happy” or “I’m uncomfortable.”
  • Listen for the emotion in the person’s voice. If someone says “I’m fine” with an emotional tone indicating nervousness, annoyance, or frustration, then they are NOT fine.
  • Mentally note or acknowledge internally that something is amiss.
  • Communicate what you see and hear to the dissatisfied individual. For example, “I noticed that you said you were fine, but I sense that you might be annoyed. Would you like to talk about it?”

By paying attention to the early signs of conflict, you become more aware of a potentially slow-growing storm. Watch! Listen! If you continue to hear or see dissatisfaction or emotions intensify, then the situation warrants a verbal acknowledgment and an opportunity to hear what is beneath the surface.

For more tips on diminishing destruction, read Stop the Dreaded Drama: 55 Tips for Ending Destructive Conflict.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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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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