Speak Compassion

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Haven, CT Workshop: Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict

by @ 9:02 pm. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict

April 16, 2010 – 32 Elm St. New Haven, CT
9:00AM – 4:00PM

Transform conflict in your home, workplace, school and in your community

Based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg and the Center for Nonviolent Communication

Most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand, and diagnose — to think and communicate in terms of what is “right“ and “wrong“ with people. We express our feelings in terms of what another person has “done to us,” instead of taking responsibility for our feelings independent of another person. We struggle to understand our own needs in the moment, or to effectively ask for what we want without using unhealthy demands, threats, or coercion. At best, communicating and thinking this way can create misunderstanding and frustration. And still worse, it can lead to anger, depression, and even emotional or physical violence.

Through a combination of lecture, group work, video and role plays, we will examine the thinking, language, and moralistic judgments that keep us from managing the conflicts in our lives. We will explore the 4-Part NVC process and how it can be used to express ourselves in ways people can hear without judgment or raising defenses. We will also explore news ways to hear what others are saying so we don’t hear blame or judgment of us. You’ll start to manage conflicts with more easily, request what you want without using demands and begin to strengthen your personal and professional relationships.

To Register:
Register Online at www.community-mediation.org or mail check or money order to: 32 Elm Street, New Haven, CT 06510. (Checks should be made payable to Community Mediation, Inc.) Registration is open to the public. Seating is limited. The requested fee for this training is $89.00 per person and includes lunch and materials. A selection of NVC books will be available for purchase at the workshop via cash or check. The deadline for registration is April 12, 2010. Questions, please call (203) 782-3500.

About the Presenter:
Twice the victim of violent crimes, Joe Brummer has spent years exploring why people commit acts of violence against others. He has studied nonviolence, conflict resolution and clocked hundreds of hours at the mediation table. He has worked with the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence to bring nonviolence to youth in schools, trained with the Community Mediation Center of RI and serves on their Juvenile Restorative Justice Advisory Board. In the winter 2008, Joe attended the International Intensive Training on Nonviolent Communication. He has presented on NVC at national conventions, universities and private organizations across New England. Joe is the Connecticut representative for New England NVC. View his website at www.speakcompassion.com

Sponsered by Community Mediation, Inc.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Surviving the Holidays: Navigating Family Conflict

by @ 9:26 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

The following article appeared in the December 2009 edition of Options Magazine in Rhode Island.

If you have ever seen the film, “Home for the Holidays” staring Robert Downey, Jr. where bitter battles, flying turkey dinners and screaming matches are just as much a theme for the holidays as cranberry sauce or potato pancakes, you know that the holiday season can bring out family conflicts. A holiday dinner can have simple questions provoking sarcastic comments, opposing political viewpoints turning into heated angry debates or boyfriend choices turning into slamming dishes.

One of the reasons we end up in conflict is because we listen to the words people choose rather than the message behind them. Psychologists have been telling us for decades that all behavior, including our words, is an attempt to get our basic human needs met. Psychologist and creator of the process known as Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg claims that human beings are only saying two things, “Please” and “Thank you.” While we have many versions of expressing these two things, we are really only asking people to “please” meet our needs or expressing gratitude when our needs are met. When we listen to the needs and feelings behind difficult messages, we are able to stay in a place of compassion.

We have four basic choices of how we can hear and respond to difficult messages. The first choice is to fight back. This means redirecting the message back to the speaker. This includes competing to prove rightness or wrongness. For example we might say, “Well if you hadn’t…” or “You know the problem with you is…” This choice tends to put the speaker in a “fight or flight” defensive state rather than a place of connection. In this mind frame, people tend to be more concerned with being right than hearing each other.

The second choice is to turn the message on ourselves. It usually sounds like “If only I was a better…” or “I know, I am terrible at these things…” This response tends to turn our focus away from the speaker and into a self-loathing session in our heads. It prevents us from being fully present to what the speaker is really saying and does little for our self-esteem.

The third and fourth choices focus on listening for “please” and “thank you.” We can hear the speaker’s message and try to connect with what comes alive within us in response. What are we “feeling and needing” in response to what we are hearing or seeing. Just being aware of this can help to keep us focused on being compassionate rather than judgmental.

Lastly, we have the choice to check in with the speaker about what is going on for them. It means hearing the “please” and “thank you” buried in their message regardless of how sarcastic, judgmental or thoughtless we believe the words they chose may be. We don’t listen to the words. We listen for the needs being expressed. For example, someone who states “talking to you is like talking to a wall” might really be expressing a need to be heard. Someone who states, “You are ruining your life” might really be expressing fear and a need for security for you. Rosenberg states, “Every moral judgment, snappy remark or evaluation of others is a tragic expression of an unmet need.” If we listen to the human needs and not the poor choose of words, we hear a completely new conversation.

Here is the flying turkey clip from the film: Home for the Holidays

Watch on YouTube

Monday, November 30, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #9

by @ 10:49 pm. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips

Conflict Resolution Tip #9: Assume just one thing!

I know you have been taught for years not to make any assumptions.  I would like to give you one exception to this rule and I would like you to make this assumption each and every time there is a conflict.  “Assume” there is something you don’t know yet and start looking for the rest of the story!

By walking into the conflict making the assumption that there is something you don’t know, you will keep your curiosity up and increase your chances of making a connection with the person on the other side of the conflict.  A wise women I once trained with named Janice would say “Get curious, Not furious” and that is exactly what I am suggesting to you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Finding Compassion is a Journey

by @ 11:37 pm. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, hate speech, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

I have been spending a lot of my thoughts and energy lately on building compassion for those who do things or believe things with which I disagree.  This is not an easy task and it really involves not allowing myself to loose sight of other people’s humanity.  It also means truly focusing on the needs met by other people’s actions especially when I disagree.

Finding this compassion also seems to require me to believe that all humans are basically well intentioned and that is surprisingly not that hard.  For starters, psychologists have noted for decades that all human behavior is in the service of meeting human needs.  If the intentions of all people are really about getting their needs met, and all of us have the same universal human needs, that would mean that none of us has ever done anything that wasn’t well intentioned.  We are all just trying to get our needs met.  We just don’t always choose strategies that work with everyone else.

I have been watching the news and reading blogs of people with whom I disagree on strategies to meet their needs.  The healthcare bill is a prime example of this.  I am in favor of a the strategy of the public option.  This “strategy” meets my needs for growth for us as a Country because I believe it helps us value every human life.  It also meets my needs for financial security for the Country as I think this is the better move at keeping costs down since our treatments are keeping people alive longer but not without significant costs that are rising as our treatments get more advance, and people need more care.  I realize that other people feel anxious and concerned about this strategy because it doesn’t meet their needs for growth or financial security for the Country.  Pointing out that our needs are the same.  We all want, value and need financial security, we all want growth for the Country and the strategies we choose are not in agreement.  Our needs are what connect all of us.

Here’s the CATCH!

When I focus on the needs of other people and NOT the strategies, it is much easier for me to see them as human and find compassion.  It is easier for me than labeling them as “greedy” or “insensitive” to the plight of others.  I can then acknowledge their humanity while disagreeing with their tactics.  I can separate the people from the problem.

I realize I have oversimplified this for the sake of writing this article and that this takes more effort than some may think it is worth.  For me, as I can’t speak for anyone else, this is about the person I want to be and the world I want for future generations.  I don’t want to see others, regardless what they have done, as a label.  Take for  instance those who are against same-sex marriage, I don’t want to see a “bigot” because I have grown to believe people are not really “bigots.”  I think they are choosing strategies to meet their needs for spirituality that don’t meet my needs for equality.  I sometimes struggle to see their needs and get past the name calling that happens in my head, yet that is the person I am working to be. I wish we could find ways to meet both our needs and I have some doubts that will happen.  I still don’t want to sink so low that I have to call them names or view them as the enemy.  It is those enemy images that block us from seeing others’ humanity.  It is also those same enemy images that block them from seeing our humanity.

As I have said, this is a goal I have and I am working to achieve it in my life.  To find compassion for even those who I just don’t like.  I have learned that we don’t have to like people to connect with them as humans and yet when we can connect with them, humans are beautiful.  What’s not to like really?

One of the reasons I stopped writing as much about gay rights is that I realized how radical it is to look for compassion and empathy for people in the pro-family, anti-gay side. (example: Peter LaBarbera, Mary Gallagher, Brian Brown, etc.)  I have learned this isn’t always favorable in the eyes of many and I am even looking for compassion for them.  Sometimes I can find it and sometimes I can’t get past the fact I believe in the deepest parts of my soul,  their tactics of name calling and personal attacks on the other side hurt more than help our goals.

I guess it would be helpful if I explained what I mean by compassion and empathy.  First off, it doesn’t mean that I approve of what they are doing.  Compassion means I want to understand the “why” behind the actions.  What is this about for them?  For me, I think it is the easy way out to just call them a bigot or a hater and then call it a day. It is the easy way out to label someone something that detracts from their humanity and it is what they are doing to us?  I think it also oversimplifies things.  If all behavior is in the service of needs, then their actions meet universal human needs for them.  What are those needs and can they be met some other way and at less cost to others?

Even for lesser political things, I want to reach this place of compassion in my life. The guy that cuts me off on the highway could be seen as a maniac, rude, reckless and any other number of labels. With compassion, he might be seen as someone in a rush to see his dying mother before she passing away in the emergency room.

I don’t always agree with the people I meet. The real deal is that most people are not bigots, they are afraid. Calling them names like hater or bigot increases their fear while confronting their fear with compassion may actually calm it.  I believe the latter to be more effective.

So, how am I doing this?  What is the process?

The first step is to remove the labels we have on people.  As long as we are seeing people as bigots, haters, heartless, selfish, greedy, insensitive, cruel or whatever label we have, it is likely we are part of the problem, not the solution.  Next we need to connect and empathize with what needs the person was trying meet when they did what they did. Unless we connect and understand those needs, our actions in response are likely to create more violence.

Next, we need to to check back with ourselves.  We need to look at our own feelings, our pain in response to what this person (or group) did and what needs of ours were not met.  For each enemy image we have of someone, we must empathize with ourselves as to what needs of ours are not met.  For example, if we see our boss as “a jerk” and “a control freak” because he requested that all travel requests be approved before reimbursements will be given, it will be unlikely that we will be able to empathize with why he has done this and therefore impossible for us to find other ways for his needs to be met at less cost to us.

Chances are, if we only see the boss as a control freak, we will not address the issues that will then meet our needs.  We will instead feed our enemy images and look for other ways to back up our conclusion that he is a control freak.  On the other hand, if we are able to check in with our own needs, that travel isn’t always predictable and that pre-approval may not always be possible and that we have a need for financial security and cannot afford to “not” get reimbursed, then perhaps we can explore ways to meet everyone’s needs.  After we have done away with the enemy images, then we can explore what needs the boss was trying to meet with his new rule and see if there is another way that need can be met AND still meet our own needs.

For me, this is a personal journey I am taking to be the person I want to be.  I can’t say I know what needs are met by Peter LaBarbera with some of his actions.   I also can’t say I know what Gov. Donald Carcieri  needs were when he vetoed the domestic partner funeral bill.   I know the easy way out is to call him a bigot and a hater.  It also means my reactions will be from an energy of violence rather than compassion.   I don’t want that for myself.  I believe we can make change in other ways without using violence either physical or non-physical.

It is unlikely we can make change by convincing those who disagree with us how evil they are.  It is unlikely we can influence voters to vote for our rights by convincing them they are bigots and haters.  I do believe we can make change by empathizing with the fear in people that is the root of homophobia.   We can influence change by trying to help others see that their actions are effecting us in negative ways and explore ways they can get their needs met at less cost to us.  This process will work in the quest for equality and it can work in the conflicts in our families, places of employment and even our churches.

One of the reason both Gandhi and MLK were so successful in their nonviolent campaigns was their ability to find compassion for those who were viewed as their adversary.   This was also the case for President Ronald Reagan and Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev who somehow found ways to see each others humanity beyond their political differences.  They didn’t start this way.  They were arch rivals until one day Reagan is said to have turn to Gorbachev after a heated debate and say, “This isn’t working. Can we start over? Hi my name is Ron.  Can I call you Mikhail” and they formed a friendship that helped to end the cold war.

I believe this change in view can help us solve many of today’s problems in our families, in our schools, in our workplaces and in our communities.  It is written in the Tao Te Ching that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  I believe compassion is a better way and we can find it for those with whom we disagree when we change the way we look at them.   I know my journey is not for everyone but imagine if everyone took this journey with me. I wonder what we might accomplish.  As much as Gandhi?  As much as King?

Marshall Rosenberg writes in his book, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict: What you say next could change the world:

“Peace requires something more than revenge or merely turning the other cheek; it requires empathizing with the fears and unmet needs that provide the impetus for people to attack each other.  Being aware of these feelings and needs, people lose their desire to attack because they can see the human ignorance leading to these attacks; instead, their goal becomes providing the empathetic connection and education that will enable them to transcend their violence and engage in cooperative relationships.”

I am convinced if we can transform the way we see those with whom we disagree, we can find ways to meet everyone’s needs.  As soon as we can get past the labels that declare who is right and who is wrong; the labels that declare who deserves what punishment or reward then I believe we have a chance to make real lasting change.  The poet and philosopher Rumi wrote, “Out there beyond the ideas of rightness and wrongness there is a field.  I will meet you there.” It is on that field that the solutions to many of the conflicts in our lives stand for the taking.

I also believe that in those cases where it is difficult to make this connection, that at least one party has to make the effort for anything life-enriching to happen.  Why not you?  This is how we can “be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #8

by @ 10:30 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence

Conflict Resolution Tip #8:  Conflict Resolution is not just some tool you use when you realize there is a conflict.  It is a complete shift in thinking.

There are dozens of conflict resolution training books and training packages out there.  There is the Thomas Kilmann Conflict materials, the Vitalsmarts materials, the work of Dan Dana who calls himself the “conflict doctor” and holds his workshops on cruise ships and of course there is Nonviolent Communication, which is where I base my workshops.  Some of these approaches focus on communication in conflict while others focus on workplace policy or leadership skills.   All of these approaches have one thing in common, they try to help you shift your thinking about and your behavior in response to conflict.  All of these also acknowledge one thing, in order to be a master at conflict resolution, you have to change your thinking about people.

There really is no workshop, book, video or even a cruise that is going to make you a pro at dealing with conflict either at work or in your family unless you are willing to make the shift in your consciousness about how you see other people during a conflict.  All of these programs plants seeds in you that work to help you make change in yourself and your approach, dealings and management of conflict.

So here is the tip, if you want your workplace, family or community to deal better with conflict, avoid focusing on learning quick fixes and small little workshops designed to put band-aids on communication or policy.  If you want to bring better conflict resolution skills to your workplace, business, family, school, or even the community where you live, you have to work on shifting people’s thinking so they will begin to see the benefits of the tools you want them to learn.   It also helps to shift the environment to one that welcomes conflict as something to bond people together rather than divide them apart.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Surviving the Holidays: Navigating Family Conflict

by @ 10:48 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

This 2-day workshop scheduled for December 12 & 13, 2009 is being sponsored by Community Mediation, Inc. in New Haven, CT

What is it about the holiday season that brings out the worst in family conflicts? Is it possible to have a holiday without screaming, pouting and fighting? The answer is YES!

This two-day intensive workshop in Nonviolent Communication is designed to help participants learn new ways of dealing with family conflicts.

* Participants in this workshop will explore the roots of conflict and how we can respond to those we love with compassion rather than anger or sarcasm.

* Learn to clearly express your needs in a way your family will hear.

* Create more intimacy in your relationships.

* Gain concrete skills to navigate holiday gatherings with ease and joy.

December 12, 2009 from 9:00am until 4:00pm: Participants will learn the basics of Nonviolent Communication using their own family conflicts. Through lecture, interactive exercises, role plays and videos, participants will learn to express what is alive in them honestly without the use of guilt, shame or sarcasm. They will also learn to respond to others in ways that de-escalate conflict rather than fuel the fire.

December 13, 2009 from 9:00am until 2:00pm: Participants will learn to leave behind the enemy images of family members that lead to conflicts. They will practice empathetic listening to hear what is alive in others while still remaining true to themselves. Through exercises, games and discussion participants will explore using NVC to communicate in ways that bring the joy back to the holidays.

Registration is open to the public. Seating is limited. The requested fee for both days is $140.00. The requested fee for just day 1 is 99.00. Those with advanced NVC skills or those who have attended previous NVC Workshops may attend day 2 only for a requested fee of $49.00. Training fee includes lunch and materials.

Location: 32 Elm Street, New Haven, CT (parking is available in lot)

To Register online: www.community-mediation.org or call: (203) 782-3500

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #7

by @ 8:42 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Conflict Resolution Tip #7: Avoid labels because they are only judgments!

As part of the language we have that adds to the violence on the planet, we use words that label people, even in the nicest of ways, into the category of what we think or evaluate they deserve.  We call some people “good” and others we call them “bad” depending on what we believe they deserve.  Of course, it is easy to point out these words are arbitrary.  What one person deems “good” another may deem “bad” and other may call “neutral.”  We have various terms to do this, all of which may be well intentioned, yet they set us up for conflict and violence regardless if we see the deserve language that lurks in our labels.

We use labels like good or bad, wholesome or thug, freedom fighter or  terrorist, stylish or trendy and even strong words like “creative” or “bland.”  We say someone is a “great” person or a “horrible” person.  No  matter how you look at it, these words amount to nothing more than moral judgments based on what we thing someone deserves.  We know from the work of University of Colorado Professor O.J. Harvey that the more moral judgments a society has in its literature, the more violence they have as well. So what would happen if we moved such judgments and labels out of our language?

This post was inspired because I read a birthday wish for Marshall Rosenberg that read:

“Happy birthday to a most wonderful,peace loving,well rounded and compassionate individual, Marshal Rosenberg! may you be blessed with more birthdays to come.”

While this wish is sincere, it is filled with moral judgments based on what the writer believes Marshall Rosenberg deserves.  I know from experience that Marshall Rosenberg would have preferred to be told what needs where met by the specific actions he took to celebrate the writer’s gratitude.   It can be more connecting to tell people exactly what they have done (using observations without evaluations) and how that action has contributed to your well being by meeting needs. For example, it might be better to say “Happy Birthday to a man who has taught hundreds of peace workshops and met my needs for peace, love, compassion”

The problem with labels is that they disconnect us from ourselves and others. The more labels you put on someone, regardless if those are positive or negative, the less you see the person.   We become focused on the label and our attention stops at what that label says someone else deserves.  For instance, in the above example of Marshall Rosenberg’s birthday wishes, the writer labels Marshall as wonderful, peace loving, well rounded and compassionate.  These are all words they express how the writer believes Marshall deserves a good birthday because of all the things he “is” the least of which is Marshall.

To avoid conflicts, focus on what people need rather than what we think they are.   Use observations to tell the person exactly what they have done that has enriched your life.  Tell them what needs of yours where met by what they have done and how you feel having those needs met.   This keeps the focus on how we can enrich life rather than what we think people are or what they deserve.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #6

by @ 9:37 pm. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Conflict Resolution Tip #6:  Listen, but not to the words.

If we truly want to get to the root of a problem, we need to listen.  I am going to suggest we listen past the words.  Words are helpful, yet they only make up about 7% of our communication.   They do offer us a small window into the feelings and needs someone is experiencing. Marshall Rosenberg, clinical psychologist and author of the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, says that human beings are only saying two things.  The first thing is “please” and the second thing is “thank you.”   That is all we are ever really saying.  We have dozens of ways of saying just these two things and in the end, that is all we can say.  “Please” when we want someone to meet our needs and “thank you” when someone has met our needs.   The rest of what we say is just garbled jargon that translates into some version of “please” and “thank you.” If we can listen for the need that is behind the “please” statement regardless what words were used, we can hear even the most difficult messages for what they are, a request to get needs met.

Listening has another amazing result in conflict.   Listing allows people a chance to vent, a chance to be heard and understood.  This has commonly been referred to as “empathy.”  It involves giving others a chance to speak while we just give them our full presence. I suggest your refrain from asking tons of questions or make comments about anything they have said.  I would suggest you just listen so they can get what they want off their chests.

Not long after I became trained as a mediator in small claims court, I would listen to each side and then jump right to brainstorming the agenda.   I wanted to jump right into the solutions.  This process wasn’t getting me too many agreements and I was puzzled at what was not working.  My mentor explained to me that when people end up in small claims court it is because they want their day in court.  They want their story to be heard.  This is interesting because it is so unlikely the judge has the time to really listen to their whole story.  The judge is going to hear the facts, only the facts and make a decision.   Mediators on the other hand, have the time to listen, to let people vent the feelings and needs.  We let them say all the “please” and “thank you” statements we can allow so the need to be heard is met.

After I learned this lesson,  I started to get more agreements in my mediation.   I let each side have their uninterrupted time and then let them have a second round of it.  The aim is to let them be heard while I listen for the “please” and “thank you” that is buried in their words. Listen, not to the words, but the feelings and needs in their story.   I suggest only paraphrasing when you believe it will add compassion and do that by only checking in about the feelings and needs behind the “please” and “thank you” statements. Listening is one way we can get connected to what is going on for someone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #5

by @ 9:48 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Conflict Resolution Tip #5:  Solve conflicts when YOU are fresh and ready NOT when the conflict is fresh and ready.

So many of us want to solve a conflict right when it happens.  While this attitude might work for many tasks we face, it won’t work as well for conflict.  Our brains were not wired for conflict resolution from the start.  As soon as our brains believe we are in danger either emotionally or physically, a process some of us call “riled up” begins to happen. Our bodies start to put us in a place that is not exactly primed for conflict resolution or thinking in general.  To start with, our body starts making adrenaline to give us energy to aid us in our actions of fight or flight.  The body then diverts blood away from the higher brain functions (neocortex) and send it into the limbs we use for fight or flight.   This means the blood and oxygen that would have gone to your higher thinking and problem solving is now fleeing your brain to help you swing your arms and make fists.  Your vision is also changing.  As your body is preparing you to take flight and run, it is narrowing your field of vision so you basically can’t see the whole picture.   This process is called the Amygdala Hijack and it is not a place from which to solve conflict. Basically, the Amygdala cannot tell the difference between a lion about to eat you and an emotional attack.

So how do you regain control?  Surprisingly, it is not that hard to free yourself of the brain hijack reaction.  As long as you can step out of the event and reengage your brain, you can “snap out of it” and the adrenaline will pass, vision will return and higher cognitive processes will step up to the plate.  The most important thing to do is breathe.  In that moment it is important to get thinking going again, it is necessary to get some oxygen to the neocortex of the brain.

The next step is walk away and refocus yourself on what it is you want the outcome to be in the situation.   I might suggest checking in with the needs you would like to have met by the interchange.   I would not suggest at this juncture to focus on the needs that are not being met as you will want to try and stay focused on the positives.  Focusing on what needs you are trying to meet keeps the neocortex engaged and keeps your mind’s eye focused on the goal of getting needs met rather than being held hostage by the strategies that are not working.

If these things fail to reengage you, walk away for a few minutes and breathe.   Feelings in our bodies are created by chemical reactions that our bodies pump out on demand.  If we can cut off the demand, we also can cut off the supplier.  By walking away and focusing on something else, we are asking our body to pump out a new set of chemicals and a new emotion.   This can return us to a place where we can examine what we want, what needs are we trying to meet with our actions and what is going on for this other person.

Just as a last thought, remember you are not the only victim of the Amygdala Hijack.   When you see family, friends, coworkers with steam coming out of their ears, make note that they may also be experiencing the hijack.  They may need a moment to reengage their thinking brain.  There will be little or no conflict resolution between two people who have gone blind and can’t think.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #4

by @ 10:10 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Conflict Resolution Tip #4:  Separate People From Problems Because People Are Never the Problem

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence stated in Principle No. 3: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.  There is much to be learned from the idea King put out there.  After reading dozens of conflict management books and taking several trainings courses in mediation and nonviolence, one thing that is stressed in all conflict solution-based material is the idea that people are never the problem.  It is easy in the heat of the moment to see the person as the source of the conflict and even think, “If Susan would just leave the meeting we could get some work done” and even if Susan left the meeting, whatever unmet needs existed to cause the conflict still remain.  Susan was just the stimulus to bring awareness to the real problem.  At the bottom of all conflicts are unmet needs.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the person (or groups of people) and to place blame on them for “being” the problem.  The catch of this is that by placing our energy on the person as the problem we aren’t spending any energy on the real issue at the table, unmet NEEDS!  We can say that “John is so greedy and always uses more than everyone else” and that leaves us focused on “what” we think John is and not why we need to make things run smooth again.  In the end, it is irrelevant what John “is” because what will solve the problem is a better system of making sure there is enough.  In this case, it may be the inventory system that is a problem and not John.

For example, you may have been passed over for a promotion and blame that on the boss. In this instance, you believe the boss is the problem.  You think he doesn’t like women and won’t promote one. You start to think if he wasn’t the boss, you could get ahead.  Your thinking he “is” a sexist, old fashion,  boy’s club manager.  As your wrapped up in all this blame game stuff,   there is no focus on the real issues causing the conflict.  It is even unlikely with this mindset you can even identify the real heart of the conflict which could be unmet needs for trust, productivity, even perhaps a need for better communication.  It could be the boss doesn’t know that you scored the last big account and wrote the two last sales reports.  If the real conflict here is a communication issue that needs to be addressed, chances are it won’t be addressed if you think the person is the problem.

Take a step back from your judgments and thoughts about what people “are” and look into the needs that are trying to be met.  First check in with what human needs you are trying to meet and then see what needs the other person is trying to meet.  Don’t look at the strategies, look at the needs met by asking why do I want this?  Why does the other person want what they want?  When you find the answers to these questions, you will see it is the unmet needs, not the person that is at the heart of the problem.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #3

by @ 10:27 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Joe's Rants, Nonviolent Communication

Conflict Resolution Tip #3:  Understand the meaning behind loss and grief.

In one of my favorite conflict management books, Hostage at the Table, author and former hostage negotiator, George Kohlrieser talks about the importance of understanding loss and grief in the context of conflict.  He writes in his book:

“I have never seen a hostage situation or any act of violence that was not preceded by some loss – a person, territory, a pet, money, an object, a self image, a goal, freedom, and so on.”

The fact remains for us that, all our behavior is needs driven.  Maslowe,  Rosenberg, Glasser as well as many other great psychologists have told us for years that every action we take, every word we say, is an attempt to meet our needs.   Occasionally, we get a bit stuck on the strategies to meet our needs and are ready to go to battle for those strategies when they are in danger of loss. We also tend to grieve deeply when we have lost them.   If we perceive the only way to meet our need for sustenance is “this” candy bar.  Chances are we are going to protect it and be ready to fight for it.  We may also become somewhat distraught should we happen to lose the candy bar.   Lucky for us, there are plenty of candy bars to go around but you get the idea.  When others perceive their only strategy to meet their needs is in jeopardy of being taken away, there is going to be a conflict. If what they perceive to be their only strategy is lost, there needs to be a grieving process before moving to the next strategy. In essence, you are asking yourself, “why is this important to this person” and the answer is the need.

I have been in many mediations where one party or both parties where locked onto a strategy to meet their needs.   Either the strategy had been lost, taken away or they perceived that they would loose it.   When we can move people away from strategy thinking and get them to need thinking, we can help them grieve the losses and move on to new strategies.

Step back from the conflicts you are in and ask what need is behind the strategy this person is fighting for?  For instance, a report your boss is hung up on, or the iPod your child is demanding he/she needs or even the time dinner will be.  When people perceive an important strategy to meet a need is in danger of being taken away, there will be conflict unless you can refocus on the need behind the strategy. Once you are onto the need, you can offer new strategies to help me the need.

For more information about loss and its influence on conflict, read the book by George Kohlrieser, Hostage at the Table.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #2

by @ 9:17 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Conflict Resolution Tip #2:  Clarify the meaning of words before reacting to them.

Don’t jump at the words you hear!  Clarify their meaning first!  Different words mean different things to different people. For instance when someone says, “this won’t work,” it might be best to find out what exactly they mean by the statement, “this won’t work” before reacting to their words.  Did they mean the whole thing won’t work?  Did they mean just once piece of the plan won’t work?

Take the word “Respect,”  when someones says they would like to have more respect, clarify what that word means for them. For some folks, they are referring to how they are addressed, while for someone else it may be the tone, timing or place they were addressed.   For some people respect means being called “sir” or “Ms.” while for others it means not addressing certain subject matters in the presence of others.

When someone says to you, “I would like you to treat me with some respect,” before you jump in to defend yourself, ask what the word respect means for them.  Try this format:  “When I hear you say you would like some respect, I feel curious and could use some clarity about what that means for you.  Just so we are clear about what that means for you, would you be willing to tell me what the word respect means for you?”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Conflict Resolution Tip #1

by @ 9:47 am. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Tips, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

I have decided to start a series on this blog of tips everyday people can use to deal with conflict.  Today’s tip:

Conflict Tip #1:  You don’t have to like the person you have a conflict with and you do have to find a way to connect with their needs on a human level if you want to solve the conflict.

The real deal is that we don’t have to like the person with whom we are in conflict, but we do need to connect with what is alive for them if we want to solve the problem.  When we take into account that all behavior is needs driven, we realize that the best way to solve a conflict is to get to the needs behind the behavior that is not making our life wonderful.  Essentially, this means getting to the “why” behind someone’s actions.

The catch is this, when you start to see people for their human needs and not the strategies they are using to meet the needs, we can separate the person from the problem.   Make sure you are getting to human need and not a strategy!  Human needs are simple and we don’t really have that many.  Safety, security, shelter, food, rest, sustainability are just a few of the truly human needs we have.   When you can see the person you are in conflict with for their needs and their strategies separated, it is easier to see them for their humanity.

Come back tomorrow for the next conflict resolution tip!

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