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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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Are You a Fearless Challenger? Moving from Debate to Dialogue

deciding-1364439_1920I was watching the morning news where violence erupted at a recent US Presidential race rally. Hotly contested, this year’s presidential race between the Republican and Democratic parties include flying accusations, lying, shooting barbs and winning at all costs. Of these running mates, the question debated is who would best serve as the US leader? And yes, families at dinner tables, community leaders, political parties, friends, and co-workers are arguing and forcing their points of view of which candidates are relevant, competent, and reputable.  The arguments focus on who is right, points out flaws, and often takes a strong position for one candidate over the other. It is the news of the day, every day.

I bring this up because I see and hear the damage that debate causes among us versus a more constructive dialogue approach to discussing vast differences of opinions. So, what is the difference between debate and dialogue? In school, we learn that debate is a formal, structured process to bring opposing arguments over a particular topic or issue. However, what we see and experience is that informal, unstructured debate based on false assumptions, what we hear in the media, and turning that into our truths. In Daniel Yankelovich’s book, The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict into Cooperation, a debate is focused on right and wrong, truth or lie, black or white. It is taking an offense approach leading to a defense reaction. If I am right in my thinking, then you MUST be wrong in your opinion. Right? A debate involves behaviors that are often destructive and damaging to relationships, communities, and whole societies. Debating often turns into being combative, judgmental, opinionated, and insulting.

Dialogue, on the other hand, is about listening to understand and to learn about the issue discussed. Dialogue is about sharing our personal experiences as it relates to the topic without judgment of the other person’s different points of view. We all have a fundamental need to be heard and understood. Dialogue provides an opportunity to be open-minded about the differences we encounter and to engage in these differences in a constructive and productive manner. I had a wonderful opportunity to train and become a facilitator in the Soliya Virtual Connect program. The program aims to provide cross-cultural dialogues to engage people from various cultures, backgrounds and experiences from around the globe. This virtual platform tapped into strong differences of opinions on all topics from religion to social and global challenges including immigration, terrorism, gender roles, and even US Presidential candidates.

So, the similarity between debate and dialogue is that there is a topic or issue which has varying points of view that people feel strongly about and want to vocalize. Conflict will result from these discussions. An informal debate often takes a nasty turn where dialogue can promote learning and deeper understanding. In a debate, there is a winner and a loser. In dialogue, all points of view are acknowledged without the need to convince someone they are wrong. As a co-facilitator working with my partner, Kirti Kler from New Dehli, India, we worked very hard to engage our group on very difficult topics. We knew we needed to guide the conversations into conflict territory and challenge our group’s thinking, invite them to share their personal experiences while being fearless ourselves. We listened for moments of opportunity where these strong differences of opinion emerged to engage the conversation further. Sometimes, it felt daunting, scary and questionable about how we were to turn these debates into constructive dialogue. We persevered with the help of our fabulous coach, Amanda Brown and the Soliya team.  By the end of the eight weeks of dialogue sessions, the group learned skills in how to engage more effectively in dialogue within their families, local communities, and workplaces. After three months of training and facilitating, Kirti Kler, Amanda Brown and I were awarded the “Fearless Challenger” award by the Soliya team in seizing the difficult moments and turning them into opportunities for deeper understanding and learning.

Are you willing to be a Fearless Challenger? Then simply listen to learn and understand the other’s point of view. Don’t be afraid of it. Engage in the difference.

Learn more about the Soliya Virtual Connect program and how you can become involved.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Founder and Host

The Texas Conflict Coach

 

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Managing Conflict at the Dog Park – Tips for Making it a Pawsitive Experience for You and Your Dog

Photo Credit- Abigail R.C. McManus

Alvin Dog Park Picture

My husband and I are the owners of a super energetic 8-month-old Bull Terrier named Alvin. We live in a rowhouse in Baltimore City so taking Alvin on walks and to our local dog park is essential for all of us to remain sane. The dog park in our area is very spacious with lots of room to run, and there are a substantial amount of dog owners in our area, so there is never a shortage of dogs with which Alvin can socialize.

Since we began going to the park, I have observed two conflicts that frequently arise, which has inspired me to write this post.

The first conflict I have observed is the distracted dog owner. Most of the owners at the park are very vigilant of their dogs. However, there have been a select few who are busy talking on their cell phones, socializing with other dog owners or their friends, or watching the games on the athletic field that are next to the dog park.  The issue with the distracted owners is that they miss their dog going to the bathroom, so they fail to pick up after their dogs. Or they miss their dog bothering other dogs, and they don’t step in to stop it, which sometimes leads to aggression among the dogs. I have heard some owners make passive aggressive comments towards these distracted owners. I have also observed owners have a tense exchanging of words over these issues.

Tip #1 Try not to make assumptions about the other owner. It may be difficult to do because you might assume they care less about their dog than you care about yours because they are not watching theirs as much. However, if you voice this assumption, the other owner will likely get defensive which could escalate issues.

Tip #2 Make the owner aware in a non-aggressive manner. Rather than saying, ” Your dog went to the bathroom over there can you pick it up?” You could politely interrupt them by saying, “Excuse me I saw your dog go to the bathroom over there, I just wanted to let you know.” If they didn’t see it, they would likely be thankful for making them aware as some owners can get snippy when another dog owner doesn’t pick up after their dog.

The second conflict I have observed is the inexperienced owner in the dog park. These dog owners become frazzled if another dog continues to mount or keeps gravitating towards their dog. The owners usually don’t understand that dogs play with each other by sparring and wrestling around. Dogs can sense when their owner is on edge or uneasy which can, in turn, make the dog feel the same way. An anxious dog can quickly turn into an aggressive dog if they not careful. Again, I have observed the inexperienced dog owners glare and make negative comments at other dog owners which have resulted in some heated exchanges.

Tip #1 Research before bringing your dog to the park. It is important that you understand how dogs interact and socialize with one another.  By doing this, you will be more prepared for the situations as they arise. Also, it is important to know your dog. If your dog is anxious or aggressive, bringing them to the dog park may not be the best option as other dogs may increase these traits and potentially cause issues with other dogs.

Tip #2 Socialize with the other dog owners. Ask, “Is your dog friendly?” before allowing your dog to interact with theirs. Or if the dogs begin sparring, check-in with the other owners to make sure they are okay with it. Just by doing this can alleviate potential tensions at the dog park.

It is important to remember that pet owners consider their pets as part of the family and thus they can be very protective over them. Learning how to handle conflicts constructively with other pet owners can ensure happiness and safety for your pet.

If you would like to hear more tips for conflicts involving pet’s/pet owners check out our archived podcasts here: Animals-Pets

 

Abigail R.C. McManus

Apprentice

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Tick.. Tick.. Tick – Addressing Time Management Difference before they Explode.

appointment-15979_1920 One of the ways my husband Bernard and I differ is our time-management skills. I always get things completed on time or earlier; same goes for arriving at appointments and events.   Bernard, on the other hand, is usually if not always late on getting things completed and arriving at places. The difference between our time-management skills has always been something we have been aware of, and it has always driven me nuts.

When we began dating, Bernard would tell me he would be at my house at 7:30 to pick me up and then wouldn’t show up until almost 8:00, this drove me crazy.  I would become angry because I felt like he didn’t value my time. There were some instances where I would stop what I was doing to get ready and then I would find myself waiting around for him when I could have prolonged getting ready a little longer. I also became annoyed because I didn’t have control over when he would get there. Even if I sent him a dozen reminder text messages, he still was in control of when he arrived. Since I am a bit of a control-freak, this never sat well with me.

After fighting about his tardiness on several occasions, I decided to make some changes as these fights would often put a damper on the evening or cause stress and tension between us. I started adding fifteen to twenty minutes onto when he said he’d arrive and using my fixed time rather than the time he gave me to determine when I’d start getting ready. So if he’d say he would be there by 7:30, I would start getting ready at 7:30 and prepare for him to arrive at 7:50ish. The other change I made was I started driving to his house so that I could be more in control of the situation.

The difference in our time-management skills also came very much to light when we were getting ready to send out our wedding invitations. We assigned one another different tasks to complete for the wedding and Bernard was in charge of the wedding invitations. I am the type of person that enjoys completing tasks ahead of schedule so that I can cross it off my list and relieve some of the stress from my life. Bernard is a procrastinator. Therefore, when the deadline was quickly approaching to send out our invitations and Bernard had not begun to complete the task I became very frustrated.

I became disgruntled because I had asked him if he wanted me to do the wedding invitations since he was busy with work and he told me no that he still wanted to do them. He continued to put off the invitations until the last minute, rather than asking for help which increased tension between us. Now, I am aware I could have just jumped in and completed the task myself and saved he and I both from a lot of tension, however, my “micromanaging” had been a heavily discussed topic throughout our engagement, so I was trying not to do that.

While our invitations were sent out by the date, we assigned, Bernard didn’t complete them until the evening before they were due out. In this scenario, neither of us utilized excellent conflict-management skills; we fought every day up until we mailed the invitations. In hindsight, I can say we should have established better expectations as to when and how the invitations should be done. I should have expressed to Bernard how much stress the situation was causing me, without blaming him. Bernard should have expressed how overwhelmed he was with work so that we could have reevaluated our wedding task list.

Differing time-management skills no matter who it is with can cause turmoil. It is important to recognize when it is a trigger and what solutions can help manage it.

If you would like more time-management strategies, check out our latest program with Helene Segura .

 

Abigail R.C. McManus

Apprentice

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Conflict Chat with….Pattie Porter, Tracy Culbreath King and Abigail R.C. McManus

Pattie8Tracy-Culbreathclark.photo.

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

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

Discussions Topics:

Negative Wedding Vendor Review

Demanding Bride

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Tips From The Wedding Lawyer On Preventing And Handling Wedding Conflicts

Christie AsselinTracy-Culbreathclark.photo.

Christie Asselin, the blogger and attorney behind YourWeddingLawyer.com will share tips designed to help engaged couples prevent and handle conflicts with wedding vendors. Christie has a background in business disputes and consumer law, and loves event planning and weddings. Her mission is to educate and empower engaged couples with legal know-how.

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Common Conflicts and Peace Practices for Engaged or Newlywed Couples

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Tracy-Culbreathclark.photo.

Are you currently, or soon to be, an Engaged or Newlywed Couple?  While this is an exciting time, it can also bring certain stresses that can be difficult to navigate. We will discuss common conflicts you may experience in your relationship at this stage, as well as peace practices and prevention techniques.  Join us to learn valuable tips to help you maintain the relationship of a lifetime!

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Maintaining Friendships in Adulthood – The Ups and Downs of Growing up

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Muhammad Ali said, ” Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything“.

It took me a long time to truly understand the meaning of friendship. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens/ early twenties that I found a great group of friends that I could lean on and that had my back no matter what. A group of people that accepted me for who I was and never judged me. After a while, the lines between friends and family blurred, and they became one in the same.

When you are younger, your entire world seems to revolve around your buddies. But as we get older life happens, our responsibilities change, we grow up. Hanging out and interacting with our friends is no longer the top priority in our lives.

Recently, I have been feeling a little down about this realization. I have found myself feeling frustrated by my group of friends diminished time together. Though I continuously remind myself that this is how it goes, it doesn’t make it any less painful. I also have found myself becoming resentful because every time I attempt to make plans, I get a thousand reasons why they can’t get together and no solutions.

I recognize my feelings of frustration and resentment. I also acknowledge the vengeful part of me that wants to respond with a thousand reasons why I can’t get together next time they make a suggestion. However, that will not make things better.

So what I can I do to address this potential conflict in my life?

  1. Recognize my emotions, feelings, and shortcomings. The only way to grow and change is to be more self-aware. By looking inwards and holding myself accountable to even the negative emotions I am feeling is the first step to actually making changes.
  2. Manage expectations. I think part of my feelings stems from high expectations. I think I expected us to continue hanging out like we always had. I didn’t account for life happening. I have to remind myself that as we get older things will change, we may not be able to see each other all the time, and that is okay! It makes the time we do get to see each other that more special.
  3. Speak Up. My friends won’t know I am upset unless I speak up and voice my concerns. I have a rule that if you don’t communicate it you can’t be upset about it and carry it around. Approaching them in a non-aggressive way and use “I” statements instead of “You” statements can assist in alleviating the frustration I feel. Instead of saying, “You never answer your phone when I text you to hang out.” I could say, “I feel frustrated that every time I try to make plans to hang out I don’t get a response from you.”

Friendships are hard work and like any relationship they take time and energy to maintain, but if you know the meaning of friendship you know how important they are to your life.

Have a Good Weekend,

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

Apprentice

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Rising to the Bait – Addressing the Instigator

background-1293455_1280I am someone who has buttons that are very easily pushed depending on the subject matter. It is evident when someone is getting a rise out of me, which is why certain people in my life seem to enjoy doing it. These people I like to call “instigators.” The Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines an instigator as, “a person who causes something to happen, especially something bad.”

When I was going through my teenage years, my father was the instigator. He and I would bicker over just about everything during those years. I remember after my dad, and I’s disagreements my mother would say to me, “Abby you need to not rise to the bait, that is what he wants.” But, I never listened and to this day, I hear her voice in my head when someone touches a nerve – “Abby you need to NOT rise to the bait, that is what they want.”

I know it is still easy to tell when someone is pushing my buttons by the look on my face – I still struggle to control and neutralize my facial reactions. However, I believe I have a better understanding of how to handle these situations when someone is pushing my buttons better than my teenage self.

First, recognize your triggers. Be aware of the subject matters that you are most passionate about – you can tell which ones they are by your physical response when they are brought up. When someone brings up any topic on the subject of males vs. females and shows favoritism towards the male perspective, I feel my face heat up and my jaw-clench.

The solution I use to calm my physical response to someone setting off my triggers is to focus on my breathing. I have found that this cools me down and allows me to think more clearly.

Second, recognize the instigator. If you have ever got into a heated exchange with this person before over this topic, or they have seen you engage with someone else, they are likely goading you. Individuals who instigate others feel rewarded when they have successfully set you off. Just like my Mom said, “It’s what they want.”

The solution I found the most success with is calling the person out in a non-aggressive manner. “Jack, I know you know this topic frustrates me, are you trying to push my buttons?” By pointing out what they are doing, removes their power. If they respond with “Yes,” then you can discuss why they enjoy pushing your buttons?

Third, consider your weaknesses. Some topics like religion, politics, and money can get people so riled up, and instigators enjoy doing it. Will you be able to talk about a subject constructively? What is the point of getting your point across to the instigator? Is it to change their mind or is it to have a good discussion?

The solution is to know when to switch topics or walk away. If a person continues to poke your buttons, make the decision to walk politely away. Or you can change the subject, “Jenny, I would prefer not to discuss this matter.  But I was wondering, how did you enjoy the movie the other night?”

Don’t let yourself fall victim to the instigator!

Have a Good Weekend,

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

Apprentice

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Did You See What She Posted? Options for How High School Students Can Respond to Negative Social Media Comments

media-998990_1920When I graduated high school in 2007, social media was just starting to take off. My sophomore year of high school I created a MySpace page, which was the only social media outlet I had, and I could only visit it from my computer at home. Facebook didn’t come out until the beginning of my senior year, and it didn’t catch on in my high school until a couple of months before graduation.  Twitter didn’t pick up speed until I was in college which was also when everyone started getting iPhones. Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist. It is crazy that I only graduated nine years ago from high school, and my experience is so much more different than kids today.

When I was in school, and I got into a fight with a friend, we wouldn’t speak to each for the rest of the day. Perhaps we would call each other after school or get on AOL instant messenger and have a fight, but getting online and battling it out were still somewhat unfamiliar. Nowadays, you fight with a friend, and before you reach your next class, she could have already posted a status and tweeted about it.

High school was not my most favorite years – which are a sentiment many people share. High school was tough then. However, I don’t believe it is anywhere close to how tough it is now.  Social media and smartphones have taken high school, bullying, and conflict to a whole new level.

Students have access to social media all throughout the school day and posting or tweeting negative remarks can be done quickly and easily, right from the palm of their hand. If you are a student, how can you respond to these negative and many times destructive comments?

  1. Approach your friend and talk about the post face-to-face. An intimidating idea, but social media networks and the internet provide anyone a platform to say things they may not have the courage to say otherwise. Ask to speak to your friend privately, and explain how the post made you feel and ask what the reason was for posting it to the world. Lastly, discuss what could be done to resolve the issue.
  1. Ignore it. If you don’t act like the comment or the post bothers you then, they are not receiving the reaction which is most likely what they want. By ignoring them, you are not giving their harmful words power. 
  1. Kill them with kindness. My best friend, Maria is the nicest person you will ever meet, and she is kind to everyone. When another girl was acting nasty towards Maria rather than treating the girl in a mean way, Maria continued to be friendly. I asked Maria, “Why did you respond this way?” She said if you are nice to everyone regardless of what they say, then the person who makes negative comments or acts mean is the one that looks bad. Therefore, if someone comments or posts that the outfit you are wearing in a picture is hideous, you could respond with something neutral and friendly. For example: “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve always thought you had excellent taste in clothes perhaps you could give me some pointers?”
  1. Talk to someone. I stress this point because many students today think if they tell someone they will look like a tattle-tale. However, if negative or destructive comments persist it is imperative that you tell a trusted adult, especially if you feel threatened.
  1. Limit or close your accounts. I am not suggesting you do this permanently – but not allowing people to have access to you will limit their ability to hurt you.

High school is just a small portion of your life – learning how to address negative and destructive posts and comments now, will prepare you for the real world later.

Have a Great Week,

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

Apprentice

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