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Don’t waste my time: 3 steps to avoid conflict

4 Mar

What triggers set you off?

Admittedly, I’m unsure of my specific plans to sell my apartment, but when a potential realtor said, ‘I don’t want to waste my time’, my communication skills went the way of affordable middle-class housing in NYC (non-existent).

www.talkingdollarsandcents.net.  Hey I'm selling a studio apartment and all my worldly possessions!

www.talkingdollarsandcents.net. Hey I’m selling a studio apartment and all my worldly possessions!

So I thought about triggers.  Triggers that get pulled and explode in either conflict and/or nasty feelings.  We all have them: those intangible minefields, verbal or nonverbal (tone of voice or ‘scrunched’ faces) that upset our equilibrium about how we feel about ourselves, our lives, and the world we live in.

So why did the flippant comment of this realtor bug me so much and what did it remind me of ‘fighting words’?

Current emotional residence:  Conflict is always about what is going on inside.  Selling my external/physical residence feels freeing, but as my next step is uncertain, internally I’m emotionally fragile.    The stress of ‘when’ to sell was heightened as my uncertainty met with her impatience.

Expectations:  It is wrong, but I still expect to be treated with some semblance of kindness, goodwill, compassion by others – especially in a situation where I am the customer and will make her money.   A little empathy goes a long way I always think to reminding me I am in a ‘human’ relationship.

Communication style differences:  Yes, I know different people focus on different things.  I focus on relationships whether it is in selling my apartment or going to the dentist.   In a busy city in our modern 24/7 life it a reminder  others favor tasks and getting things done over a warm fuzzy relationship shouldn’t surprise me – and yet…  And while I ultimately want a task focused realtor, this realtor’s task approach left me feeling like I do when the ‘F’ train suddenly goes express leaving me in the freezing cold on an outdoor subway platform.

Needless to say, I let this realtor know I wouldn’t list with her.  Her verbal comments and nonverbal tone made me feel like my sell was ‘pocket change’ which it is, but still….  I recommended I would have preferred a ‘let’s see if this will work for both of us’ approach.

www.featurepics.com  The math equation we all have memorized!

www.featurepics.com The math equation we all have memorized!

Time is money and it always has been.    As a consultant, I’ve spent months patiently calling potential clients to discuss their needs.  Sometimes its paid off, quite often not.  Is there anything more valuable than money?  I suppose that is up to each of us to decide.  Like I said, I focus on relationships.  Granted, one reason why I am selling a VERY low commission apartment!

So as l ditch my cheap little apartment, not only don’t I want my time wasted – more importantly I don’t want my good nature destroyed.  So here is my 3 step reminder to myself (and any potential realtor or substitute realtor for any person of potential conflict) to prevent conflict and make a sell:

1.  Compassion:  Realize when someone is seeking ‘help’ they are (likely) feeling vulnerable.  Compassion like empathy goes a long way.  I know it’s so last century, but ‘be nice’.

https://www.kindsnacks.com/store#All-KIND-Products.  Healthy snacks earn a profit with the message to do kind things for others

https://www.kindsnacks.com/store#All-KIND-Products. Healthy snacks earn a profit with the message to do kind things for others and (basically be nice)

2. Expectations:  (see above) and: I don’t know my potential clients expectations (hell, as a seller in this situation I barely know mine!).  This is a reminder to compassionately ask:  what are your expectations for working with me?  It’s not meant to be an end to negotiations, only a good beginning.  And a good first step to ensure no-one’s time is wasted.

3.  Connect with style:  (see above) and: remember we all have different styles and ways to go about doing the same things.  This is why we are always grousing about partners, significant others, and friends.  In reality no-one does things the way we do.  So my most important reminder:  LISTEN to what someone is asking/telling to understand what the other person needs.  A simple:  ‘tell me more’ goes a long way to not wasting time on either end.

Wishing you ‘easy sells’  and interactions filled with connection, calm, and compassionate!

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5 Steps to Celebrate a Conflict-free (Shopping) Holiday

2 Dec

Is (holiday shopping) credit card debt the kiss of death under the mistletoe?

Do your finances spin out of control while shopping for 8 nights of Chanukah gifts?

Money stress is as normal as holiday lights twinkling before Halloween these days.  A recent LearnVest post discussed couple conflict about over-indulgent holiday spending – and debt.   I started thinking about present’ expectations and how the anticipation of those wrapped packages uncover surprising presence about gifting and celebration.  Especially since I have more good cheer than money these days.

As Black Friday started before the Thanksgivannukah Turkey is cleared from the table this year, I wondered: How special are gifts these days?  While I’m not quite old enough to have received an orange or (more likely) a lump of coal for Chanukah, I remember when shopping the day after Thanksgiving was a rare and special occasion.  In fact, every gift was a BIG DEAL “back in that day” because shopping and “the biggest sale of the season” wasn’t a weekly occurrence.  Back then we walked in parks – not malls.  It’s impossible to turn back time (though I’d love an eye cream that delivers on that promise), but environmentally and economically it makes sense to rethink how and what we spend and consume.  Seems to me celebration should focus on keeping bank balances in the black, while maintaining green, to prevent seeing red credit card bills.

So I thought I’d share my financial gift: 5 steps to work through and talk about money – by yourself, with your partner, or your whole family.

1.  Write out a plan and check it twice (to make sure it will really work for you).  Start and end with how much you can – or want to spend to stay festive.  Most of all be honest with yourself, family, partner, and friends.  If you don’t have money to spend, tell them what’s important to you and why (i.e. not going into debt or spending money you don’t have).  Come up with a list of fun and FREE things to do.   When you find yourself beginning 2014 with a balanced budget and sanity, be sure to write a thank you note to friends and family who helped you celebrate in a financially and emotionally balanced way.

2.  Ho-ho-hmmmm….:  Does your current level of glitz equal fun or frustrating?  Define your meaningful glitz by writing down what you love and not so much about holiday ‘celebrations’ and gifting.  For each, identify what you give and what you get emotionally and monetarily.  Is there a pattern about your spending of good cheer and money?    I love getting little things that are hand-made – what about you?

3.  Gelt:  got it or not…  Gelt, wrapped chocolate coins gambled during a Chanukah game of drivel may be symbolic and insightful about what pot you’re throwing money into.  I used to LOVE buying (what I thought) was the perfect gift – but that was when I spent gelt like I ate chocolate – freely.  Now gifting is laden with guilt over gelt:  how do I explain the low-level glitz to the niece who has everything and whispers in my ear:  “what did you buy me?  Bring me a gift next time.”?    If a relationship is defined by the cost of a gift, is it really a relationship?  Honestly assess your gelt –  and check your guilt at the door: do NOT apologize – spend only what you can afford.

4.  Reframe spending traditions….  Extended family celebration’s at Thanksgiving have filled me with amusement and horror as “the kids” rip off wrapping paper without thanks and seemingly without meaning.   I like my friend Kevin’s family gifting tradition:   Everyone is assigned one person to gift.  On Christmas Day, after the lutefisk, they line up, holding received presents, opening them one by one , starting with 80 year-old Grandma.  Somehow the kids wait till everyone else’s gift had been oohed and aahhed over till they open their own.  Start your own meaningful gifting tradition – or borrow or adapt from these 8 families http://www.learnvest.com/2013/11/8-ways-to-give-holiday-gifts/?gallery=731&pid=#pid-8472_aint-0.  A few years ago I started gifting my nieces with a donation in their name to a charity or cause of their choice.  It hasn’t won me any popularity contests, but I hope it helps them understand the meaning of giving.

4.  Experience the love by spending on experiences, not “stuff”.  Years ago I convinced friends to forego gifts for doing something together.  Sure we might have planned these outings anyway, but they feel so much more special because they force us to be present to celebrate.  I don’t miss the gifts, but I would absolutely miss spending quality time together.  What special outings can you plan that would feel luxurious on the cheap?

5.  Share gratitude.  I don’t know about you but even though I don’t give to get thanks, I love being thanked.  For me, it is a show of love, of gratefulness for the relationship more than the “stuff” given.  If you’re like me and wonder if thank you notes are as endangered as polar bears, give others (especially young people) a gift that will last a lifetime:  a reminder to write thank you notes (or at least thank you texts).  After all, where will they learn if we don’t teach?  And what can be more meaningful and gratifying than being thanked for an act of kindness, time spent together, or a token of friendship?  Now that I’m writing this, I think this might be the place to start your planning with your partner or family.  Most of all, share self-gratitude – try writing yourself a thank you note for being a good soul.

Here’s wishing you a financially balanced and emotionally fulfilling holiday season.  And thank you for reading  – and  hopefully sharing these ideas with those you love.

For Peace: “Practice Friendship with your Enemies” the Adaptive Leadership Way

14 Nov

It’s those lessons people want to teach- but you can’t hear – because the lessons you’ll learn are based on the solutions you’ve earned – working it through your way, based on your problem and situation.

No matter how well-intentioned:  you just can’t tell people what to do…

As a self-anointed financial yenta and communication coach, my seemingly brilliant solutions can’t be dictated or adopted, but rather (personally) adapted.  The key to solving problems is engaging people and “developing their capacity to solve their own problems”.  That’s adaptive leadership.

Imagine: thirst for blood, leading to a blood drive, leading to best baklava bake-offs.

Ron Heifetz, Harvard’s Adaptive Leadership maven shared (NPR’s Nov.  11, 2013  “lessons in Leadership:  It’s not about you (it’s about them) how reframing leadership as problem-solving did just that in the long-standing conflict between Greeks and Turks.  Heifetz and George Papandreou, Greece’s then Foreign Minister  realized  you can’t just tell people to stop hating each other – it has to come from within.

m6840119_763x260-give-blood

Papandreou extended the olive branch by helping Turkey apply for EU membership.  But that’s not personal enough.  In 1999, Turks helped save Greeks after an earthquake, a month later, it was Greeks donating blood for Turk victims.  It was like “friends helping friends”.  It was emotional catharsis.

In recent decades it became evident that emotional needs are often at the core of the conflict and have to be addressed in order to resolve the conflict, how adaptive leadership connects with Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa post-Apartheid, and in Rwanda’s (controversial) Gacaca courts where the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s victims and perpetrators came face to face to discuss atrocities.

Emotions and connection:  “Practice friendship with your enemies”, NYC artist De La Vega’s saying .

Or so it seems to me – leadership, problem-solving, and managing conflict is personal – it’s all about people tuning their individual radio stations to WIIFM:  What’s in it for me, and realizing to get my needs met, I need you (to care or at least look out for me).  It’s easy to see how adaptive leadership can be a powerful approach when improving a performance problem in the workplace or financial challenges in a family.

I heard this NPR story two days after the anniversary of the (official) start of the Holocaust:  November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht or the “Night of broken glass” when Nazi’s took to Berlin streets breaking Jewish storefront windows and burning synagogues.  I started wondering how this approach could be used before neighbor started killing neighbor (Rwanda), or any genocide erupts.

josephine www.rwandanstories.org

“Whoever confessed would see their penalty reduced, because you cannot confess and remain the same. Confessing is something that changes people.”
Josephine, www.rwandanstories.org

After all, the Holocaust began years before Kristallnacht’s broken glass with Nazi youth breaking legs, souls, and lives in the early 1930’s.   After time, research and stories shared, it’s easy (of course) to have an “ah-ha” moment that a modified adaptive leadership approach ala Papandreou and the Turks/Greeks could have stopped Hitler.  Imagine small group facilitations between Jews and Germans talking about needs and emotions…

Naive?  Sure.  But after the “Never Again” Holocaust, genocides continue to happen – again.   Even now, there is rising anti-Semitism across Europe, in places where there are more ghosts than living souls (and yes, Jewish communities are growing across Eastern Europe).   All the more reason I say to have those who “hate” share a coffee with those who are “hated” and actually talk.  Talk about emotions, concerns, fears – those personal things that make us human – and vulnerable.  It’s a chance for people to share their identity and be heard which is astonishingly powerful.  It’s a chance to build empathy and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Connection can cure conflict.  Don’t you think laughter can save a life as powerfully as blood?

Anyway, I’m free to facilitate and help people share stories.  Call me.  Better yet, tweet me (@katz_communicat) – let’s start a revolution.  One conversation at a time!

Guilt? Obligation? Anger? An Alternative

9 Aug

Would you hide me?

I’m obsessed with this question.  Prompted by Nathan Englander’s story: ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” .

Hiding refers (partly) to the physical hiding in the event of another Holocaust.  And really so much more.  The layered morality  in the action to hide another.

Are you trust-worthy?

Luckily, in this day and age,  I have the luxury to view ‘hiding’ as an emotional act.

Hiding as a metaphorical act focuses on words of  kindness and compassion.  These are the words you say to offer safety and escape from sadness, bullying, self-hate, insecurity, loneliness.

It’s as simple as sincerely saying ‘thank you’ and ‘I appreciate you’.  I may help others because it’s the right thing, not to be thanked.  Yet, it feels really good to be acknowledged.   In fact, when someone tells me they appreciate who I am, it makes me feel safe.  It makes me think they would ‘hide me’ when I feel low.

After all in one small way, holocausts, genocides and hate crimes begin with small acts of bullying, disregard, and unkindness.   And bullies often feel insecure themselves.  Bullies need to hear:  ‘You are good.  You have something to offer.”

Advertisement from NYC subway at Transit Museum

Advertisement from NYC subway at Transit Museum.

Unfortunately, people don’t use these three magic words often enough, do they?  How often do you feel unappreciated?

Hiding can be as simple as, “I know you’ve been having a rough time.  How are you?”

I remember a friend, ‘F’, sharing details of a mutual friend’s , ‘melt-down’.  It had to do with roommate issues and ‘F’ had sided with the roommate.  I can still feel my frustration, reminding ‘F’ to think about our friend’s feelings.   I wanted to hide  her and urged ‘F’ to do the same.

Emotional hiding demonstrates character and strength.   It’s ‘walking the talk’.   Likely all of us, if asked, would adamantly say we’d hide another.   But how do you really know:  you don’t.  Emotional hiding is a pretty good indicator though.  As I’ve written before,  I obsessively ask myself this question to become a better person, the person I know I can be.

Recently my calendar presented a dilemma.  Two invitations on the same day:  family wedding and out-of-town friend visit.

Where to go?  Who to please?  See, by nature I am filled with guilt – I like to do what pleases.

By nurture, I am equally filled with obligation – I am told I must do what pleases.  I am told I should feel guilt.

guilt + obligation = anger

Naturally, the anger is all mine – pleasing others doesn’t necessarily please me!

When it comes to obligation, what will it cost to pay my dues?  Must I go in debt and be buried in anger?

Needless to say, relationships are complicated.  Not black and white, but splashed with shades of grey and lots of red.   Yet, when deciding where I would go to be engulfed by comfort and love, I found myself asking:  ‘Who would hide me?’

Which event would I be most surrounded by love?  Where would I be listened to and supported?  

Sitting here safely, I realized:

  • First and foremost I have to feel I’m worth protecting, worth hiding.
  • It’s important to let others know when their words feel judgmental, unkind, hateful, and hurtful.  A simple:  ‘that’s not nice’ works well.

Oh, and terrible as it may sound, if you want me to attend your event:  treat me like I’m worth ‘hiding’ – and, I’ll strive to treat you the same.

 For the first 2 steps in my series in how to prevent genocide (and bullying):

https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/prevent-genocide-and-bullying-12-ways-to-swallow-an-empathy-pill/

https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/6-strategies-to-naked-identity-only-you-can-prevent-genocide-step-1/

https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/only-you-can-prevent-a-genocide-an-introduction-to-6-actions-you-can-take/

Keep your Dance Partner and Avoid the Conflict Dance with these 5 steps

17 Jun

Toe-tapping and ready to groove to the music?  

Intrigued by a dance invitation?

Well, there’s the 2-step, the waltz, and then there’s the conflict dance.

I always say that every conflict starts with an invitation.  An invitation to get all hot under the collar.  The only dance that’s never cool.

better invite dance

It’s a decision.  It takes two to tango and two to argue.

Your partner has an itch – and ‘dancing’ with you will scratch it.

‘K’ told me how ‘B’ filled her dance card:  they were on a nice romantic cruise after a week of travel and conferencing.

‘B’ brought up the money issue with a huffy ‘I spent SO much money on this romantic cruise.’  He talked numbers. ‘K’s toe started tapping itching to rumba through his rumbles.

pointing finger man at woman

After all, ‘No one puts Baby in the corner!‘ How dare he bring up money?

They  talked about the trip’s finances before they left.  She talked numbers.

I broke it to her as gently as I could:  ‘Sometimes arguments about money aren’t about money.  (Of course, sometimes they are…)  

Money is the number one fight between couples and is a leading cause of divorce!

And then I shared my  3 steps to avoid the conflict dance (and appreciate the perks of being a wallflower:

Step 1:  Avoid the seduction and heat of the moment: Recognize the ‘invitation for what it is.  An invitation to fight/argue.

‘B’ knew exactly which of ‘K’s buttons to push to ‘pump up the volume’ so to speak.  In responding, she did exactly what he wanted her to do:  dance back.

Here’s where you decide:  Do you wanna dance?  Especially realizing you’re not going to be arguing about the ‘real’ issue.

(Note:  if you do want to fight just to fight be aware of your motives. We’ve all known couples (in particular) who get into screaming matches that last for days with no end in sight and so hope of resolving the issue.)

woman aghast

Step 2:  Say:  NOTHING!  Especially if you’re also angry, since before you know it you’ll be in a dancing furry. ‘K’ responded in the way most of us would by telling ‘B’ what she had paid for including air fare and hotel.  While this is true, it was just enough to escalate the situation so they were stomping on each other’s toes.

two dancers dise by side

Better is to stop and just think a minute about what you want:  if you want to preserve the relationship:

Step 3:  Listen.  FYI:  Listening will turn the fastest twirl into a seductive slow dance – and here I mean the good kind. Your partner may not have brought up the main issue, but address it respectfully.  Giving someone what they want will ease the path to communication and connection.

Step 4:  Give your listened response – not your high kick (initial) one. Rather than sharing a detailed expense report, ‘

K’s better response would have been: “I really do appreciate this cruise”, or “I really appreciate us being here”, or “Thank you for this great cruise” or something like that.  Chances are this is what she would have said at a later time. This thank you and acknowledgement would have turned off the music to ‘B’s conflict prance. If your partner drops it, let it go temporarily.

relaxed time

If s/he doesn’t, or definitely at a later time:

Step 5:  Bring the issue a little closer and ask for more (info) The issue will come up again (as we all know), so stand on tippy-toes, and in ‘K’s situation ask: ‘You know the other day when you brought up _?  I wonder if we could spend a few minutes talking about money?”

choose how we dance saying

Repeat:  ” I appreciated the cruise (or what you appreciated!) and would like to know more about how you feel paying for it:

Or

“What would make you feel better considering both of our financial situations?’

Or

‘What could we do differently next time that would make you feel better?’

Often, if you are both relaxed at this point, your partner will talk about what the real issue is/was.

In ‘K’s situation, she was talking to me, not ‘B’.  Though she did realize he was probably feeling put off because she had (professionally) spent so much time with  other men during the conference and their travels. As in all conflicts, this one goes deeper…  Next, I’ll share ‘K’ and ‘B’s communication style differences.  I also recommended they go through their values.  It’s all a start – a good start!  And I know they deserve the best.

What causes you to do the conflict dance?