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Holiday Homecomings – Preparing for Your College Child’s Return

house-19002_640-1I have heard the venting of frustration from college students and parents after Thanksgiving and Winter breaks have concluded.

It is a familiar story:

College student lives away from home and gets a taste of independence. They can stay up as late as they want, come and go as they please, eat whatever, where ever, and not have to worry about keeping their room clean or following the rules of their parents. College student excited for break returns home with the presumption that their parents will treat them differently because they are now an adult who has been living on their own and who makes up their rules. A college student comes home and finds their parents are treating them the same as when they were in high school.  They have a curfew; their parents are nagging them about helping out around the house and forcing them to visit with family when they would prefer to be spending time with their friends who were also away at school. Conflict arises and what was supposed to be a nice, relaxing break has now made the college student longing to be back at school.

Parents move their college student in at school. After a tearful good-bye, they hope and pray that their child makes the right decisions and all the good habits you have instilled in them will carry on at school. Parent’s miss college student and gets excited about Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks because they will get to spend time with their child who has been away at school. College student returns and they are different from the child they moved in at school. They suddenly think they can do whatever they want; come and go as they please, sleep into the late afternoon, not help around the house, and spend all their time with friends. Conflict arises and what was supposed to be a nice break filled with quality bonding time with college student has now made the parent dreading the summer break.

Can you see where the disparity in what the college student and parents think Thanksgiving and Winter Break will be like and how it can cause problems? How can we be pro-active so the holidays can be a joyous time for all?

First, acknowledge the possibility of change. Are you a college student coming home this holiday? Recognize that you are still your parent’s child despite your new-found independence. Be aware that they have missed you and that they may need some time to adjust to the changes you have made as a young adult. If you are a parent, you need to acknowledge that your college student may have changed since you dropped them off. They are still your child, but they are also becoming an independent adult.

Second, communicate and prepare. Before your college student comes home, it’s important to have a conversation about expectations. Yours and theirs. Will there be a curfew? How much time will be spent with family? How much time will be devoted to friends? What chores will they be responsible for while home? It is important that this is a discussion, and not the parents telling the college student what is going to happen. Parent’s remember your college student is not in high school anymore and certain rules may need further negotiation with an open-minded discussion. College students keep in mind; you are still under your parent’s roof which means to respect their way of life and their house rules.

Lastly, be patient. It may be difficult once your child returns home for them to recall the expectations discussed in earlier conversations. It is important to be patient through these adjustment periods. What may not be working this time around can be noted and discussed for the next holiday break.

The goal is that everyone has an enjoyable Thanksgiving and Winter break that remains conflict free or at least managed well. The first step is to be proactive before things get out of control and misunderstandings lead to long-term hurt feelings.


Have a good weekend,

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


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Life’s Negotiations – Insights I Learned

realty-1151243_1280One of the first eye-opening things I learned at the University of Baltimore in the Negotiation and Conflict Management program was that we negotiate every single day of our lives. Stuart Diamond writes in Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life, ” Negotiation is at the heart of human interaction. Every time people interact, there is negotiation going on: verbally or nonverbally, consciously or unconsciously“.

I never considered myself much of a negotiator until I started at UB. I never took into account that every time I spoke with someone about what we would have for dinner; what would we be doing on Friday night; or what color would we paint the living room, etc. would actually be a negotiation. I found this realization to be eye-opening because when I thought of people negotiating, I often thought of serious businesspeople in suits or a car lot salesmen or real estate agent. So when I had my first negotiation class, I naively thought the skills I would be learning would only be useful in a business setting or if I was buying a car – but I was wrong.

I want to share this week some tips I learned in my negotiation class that helps me in my everyday life.

The first thing I learned was from Roger Fisher and William Ury’s international bestseller book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In which is “separate the people from the problem”. It was a fantastic insight because I would often equate the person as THE PROBLEM. I would forget that people bring their emotions, values, and perspectives about the problem to every discussion as do I. Acknowledge the individual’s perspective and name the problem or issue between the two of you. For example, the issue is the purchase of your first home. Just because your spouse wants a colonial and you want a ranch-style home does not make one person the sole problem in selecting your perfect home. By not acknowledging that the person you are negotiating with is an individual who has their emotions, values and perspectives you are hindering the success of the negotiation.

The second thing I learned is that every individual, a negotiator, has a particular set of interests they are trying to satisfy, and it is important to focus on those and not on positions. Roger Fisher and William Ury in Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In explains, “Desires and concerns are interests. Interests motivate people; Your position is something you have decided upon“. Let’s go back to the house hunting. You decide you must have the ranch-style home. In your mind, this is it. It is your position or your strongly held decision. Your spouse says it must be a 2-story colonial. He grew up in one and there is no other way to live. Done deal. Negotiating on a position one might have can often lead to a deadlock where no solutions are generated and no house bought. However, negotiating on someone’s interests allows you to learn more about their concerns and provides you more room for discussion and resolution.

The third thing I learned, communication is everything in a negotiation. Whether you are negotiating with a business partner over the next big investment or with your significant other over where to go for dinner, what house to buy, or where to enjoy vacation – communication is essential in coming to a decision. It is important to be explicit in our interests and communicate them to the other person. It is also crucial to listen to the other party to hear their interests and concerns. Both sides then must be aware that one party may put a special meaning or emphasis on a particular interest which may bear no weight or special meaning to the other person. Therefore, clarifying and asking questions is imperative for better understanding.

The final thing I wanted to share may have been the most powerful thing I learned, and that is to view the person I am negotiating with as a partner and not an adversary. The example they gave in class is rather than thinking of yourselves sitting on opposite sides of a table think of yourselves sitting side-by-side both looking for an outcome that is mutually beneficial. By reframing the way you look at the person you are negotiating with, you provide yourself with an opportunity to be more open-minded and willing to engage in constructive conversation that could benefit both parties in achieving their desired outcomes.

Check out our negotiation series this month https://www.texasconflictcoach.com/category/upcoming-shows/


Happy Negotiating,

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


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Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! – Addressing Indecisiveness in the Workplace

decision-pic-2People have trouble making decisions. The influx of information in our society has been rumored the cause of indecisiveness; people have too many options. An abundance of information may be the cause, but it goes deeper than that, fear can be the cause of indecision.

Larry Crane co-creator of The Release Technique wrote on SelfGrowth.com, “Often, it is not the end action that creates the most fear; it is the decision to act or not act.” Crane goes on to say, “Since life offers no guarantees, and you would never know that your decision would be wrong until you have made it, then you might as well let go of all of your fear, take the risk, and decide.”

When you are in conflict, indecisiveness occurs because you want to make the right decision, you don’t want to further a disagreement, and you don’t want backlash from the decision you make. Leaders of groups and organizations may find themselves in trouble if they become too indecisive about making a decision. Many conflicts or issues that arise need quick thinking and executive decisions to proceed further. Indecisions can slow things down and cause impatience and frustration in others. Leaders who don’t enjoy conflict may find themselves avoiding, which further slows the decision-making process.

I worked at an organization, where we were broken into teams and at the end of each month we were required to reach a certain number of sales. Our leader was very laid back and friendly with all team members. One of the team members, we will call her Sandy, was the leader’s best friend outside of work. Sandy was not the best worker; she spent most of her days gossiping and did the bare minimum. Some of my tasks were contingent on Sandy completing hers, which she was not. I approached our leader about Sandy. Her face looked pained as she informed me that others had already approached her regarding Sandy, and she was trying to decide what to do about the issue. The end of the month came, and we didn’t meet our numbers, and our team got in trouble with our leader’s boss. The team’s dynamic began to shift to annoyance and anger with our leader for not handling the Sandy situation. Finally, after two months of failing to meet numbers Sandy was fired. Our leader apologized to the team after Sandy was let go. She said she couldn’t decide what to do. Does she keep Sandy and change the team’s tasks and assignments angering the team or does she fire her which could result in their friendship ending? Her fear and concern led to indecisiveness and inaction.

An organization’s success is contingent on many measures, and leadership is key. Leaders must make tough decisions. If you are a leader, and you avoid conflict and therefore, making difficult choices the success of your team and meeting the organization’s mission could be at risk for failure. Our leader feared losing her friendship and confronting the conflict resulting in the lost respect of her employees., Her indecisiveness kept her stuck. What can leaders do to get unstuck and make those tough decisions?

Tip # 1: Know your end goal. Every time you have to make a tough decision think of what you ultimately want for your employees, customers and organization.

Tip #2: Name the fear. Identify what exactly is the thing you fear most. Naming it lessens the power it has over you.

Tip # 3: Limit your choices. Then, analyze the disadvantages and advantages or your choices. Too many variables and options cause many to feel overwhelmed and make no decision at all.

Tip # 4: When in doubt, chart it out. Spreadsheets, graphs, lists, whatever your preference, use any chart that can visually assist you in making a decision.

Decision-making can be gut-wrenching especially when in conflict or the stakes are high. Being decisive and courageous builds character, confidence and credibility. Now, go make that decision!

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


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