blog

Solving The Relationship Conflict Puzzle!

What is conflict?

  • Is it about a disagreement or escalation of anger and disappointment with someone else?
  • Does it exist if the other person doesn’t know you feel in conflict about an exchange with them?
  • Is it possible that your ability to resolve conflict within yourself is related to how well you resolve conflict with others?

Conflict, regardless of who’s involved, relates to the emotions that present as internal discomfort, frustration, anger, negative self-talk and if not resolved, anxiety.

When we learn how to identify and label our own conflicting thoughts and feelings about things, we can learn specific techniques to resolve conflict with others. Without the prior (and sometimes simultaneous) ability to understand and work through conflicting thoughts and feelings, we are limited in our ability to resolve conflict with others. This is largely because we operate only from a cognitive or ‘thinking’ perspective, when the emotions underlying conflict are the ones that stop us seeing the whole picture.

Insights from Neuro-science

Neuro-science shines an important light on understanding what happens in the brain when we experience internal and interpersonal conflict.

When I interviewed Andrew Mowat (co-author of The Success Zone: 5 Powerful Steps To Growing Yourself And Leading Others), he shared an older model of brain function that is broadly accepted although it may not be 100% correct. He explained that the brain is made up of three layers:

  1. Reptilian brain at the back
  2. Mammalian brain – the mid layer where our emotions sit
  3. Cortical brain which sits on top (modern human thinking brain)

 

If a teacher (or any communicator) says something to offend someone, it shifts the blood flow in the brain to a more primitive part – the reptilian or mammalian brain. The hearer becomes far less self-aware, more self-focused and less interested in the things about them, and not about others. This is called the Red Zone.

However, when someone listens carefully and takes notice of the other person; when they show generosity or vulnerability in the conversation, they trigger the area behind the forehead – the mammalian brain (Blue Zone)

The teachers, leaders, friends and gurus 
we find inspirational are those who were not only operating from a blue zone mindset – they engender this state in us, because mindsets are highly contagious. The blue zone is the home of engagement. A person who is in the blue zone is very highly engaging to other people. People who are in the red zone are very disengaging.

This explains something about the conditions of conflict and how to reduce them – not only using strategic negotiating skills but by doing everything we can to stay in the blue zone, because mindsets are highly contagious.

Brain science now confirms that a person’s charm is linked with their ability
 to ‘engage’ other people because they are operating from a blue zone mindset. This is a learnt behaviour, and by doing certain things, we can trigger a blue mindset and increase our capacity to engage other people.

Importance of exquisite communication

Two key communication skills that trigger a blue mindset are:

  1. Listening in a particular way.
  2. Language skills based around questioning.

 

Because these occur when we are in a blue zone mindset, when we communicate we become highly engaging and communicate with impact, and engender a blue zone mindset in others, which further enhances communication. When we learn to use these skills and combine them with specific strategies to navigate difficult conversations, our communication and relationships improve dramatically.

Combining powerful communication strategies together with an understanding of brain function and blood flow, we can learn to effectively overcome conflict and work towards resolution and more harmonious relationships.

This I believe is the missing piece in the ‘relationship conflict’ puzzle.
JOIN me for our free communication skills webinars and learn specific tools and techniques to get better results in your business and relationships. Leave each webinar with 3-5 specific techniques you can use right away. https://communicate31.com/webinars

Read More

Does your talk match your walk?

Creating a more ethical and humane workplace is hot topic amongst academics and business leaders. Many HR professionals have been imploring leaders for some time to revisit earlier personnel management practices that treated people more than mere units of production.

In Strategic Human Resource Development: Strategies and Practices I highlighted the real costs to organisations and society if people are seen only as resources to be optimised, exchanged, compared and disposed of. A decade on it would seem that leaders are starting to see the value in this.

With conferences specifically seeking to humanise the workplace and include mindfulness practices, what must managers be aware of as they embrace these changes?

At a recent conference in Sydney I heard leaders speak about humanizing the workplace and how they could bring ‘heart, head and hands together’ in their strategy and operations. As they talked about these ‘feeling, thinking and doing’ aspects of their operations, some of them omitted to see the incongruence arising out of their language. I overhead phrases like:

‘With every move towards excellence, there will be bloodshed’.

‘We have to be better than the best and we are there to win!’

‘It’s all about getting the right people on the bus and there’s not enough room for everyone’.

Such phrases led me to think that we have some way to go to ensure ‘heart, head and hands’ are on the same page. The phrases above are reminiscent of the military style corporations that modern large organisations have been modeled on. These are not without their costs to human beings who must put on a straightjacket of conformity to fit into the command and control style of leadership, despite attempts being made to make them more agile.

With one major organisation I know of priding itself on being called the ‘abattoir of the human soul’, it’s going to take more than a shift in language to truly change the culture of some organisations. However, it’s gratifying to see so many leaders usher in a new more humane style of leadership.

Read More

How to Stay Empowered When Someone Throws Multiple Issues at You!

Do you feel frustrated when someone says something which contains several issues you wish to address?

If you start responding to only one of the issues, you run the risk of forgetting the others or worse, letting the other person get away with acting in a way that you wish to call them up on.

This simple technique will help you structure your response, ensure you address each issue and assertively take back your power to be heard.

Use it in 1:1 situation or meetings and never again feel ignored.

Read More

3 Steps to go from Linking to Liking

As our technology has developed, we have evolved from keeping physical address books, rolodexes and contact lists to using sophisticated online databases that discern between our friends, acquaintances and clients. We no longer have to remember birthdays or anniversaries or miss congratulating a friend because we heard about an achievement too late, because now we are automatically advised of such occasions through social media, smart phones and CRM systems.11415f8

Networking events no longer hold the worry that if we don’t contact someone immediately after an event we will have lost the opportunity forever, because social media sites now allow contact to be made at the click of a link. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook allay our fears that we might lose contact with someone whom we don’t want to meet regularly for coffee, but we do want to advise of something we have in common in the future. We can announce events and give calls to action to sign petitions because online social networking means we can invite large numbers of people to physical functions, knowing that not everyone will turn up but enough people will attend that we won’t be doomed to be alone. We can ask people to endorse our services or ‘Like’ our Facebook page in the hope that suddenly thousands will see our services. Surely this is Nirvana, where the efficiency of social media creates hours of leisure for us as a result of streamlining our social and business communications?

The reality is that we seem to have less time now than ever before. We become overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information directed at us and are pulled in all directions, often finding it hard to focus and concentrate. Increasingly, stories are heard of important business and personal relationships ended by text message, the sender saved from having to experience the emotional reactions of the receiver. Then we are told at the network event that ‘People only do business with people they like’ – and this doesn’t mean clicking the Like button on Facebook. Something has gone terribly wrong, because now we can feel more alone than ever, and feel pressured to do even more to have successful relationships.

For instance, whilst we may smugly smile in the knowledge that we have reached five hundred-plus LinkedIn connections, so many connections that the counter stops registering them, how many of these people do we really know? How many of our connections or Facebook friends would, if asked, bail us out of a difficult situation at 3 a.m?

It is true that whilst we may engage with large numbers of people, most of us only spend physical time with people we trust. In business, we buy and partake of other people’s products and services if we trust them. To be successful in both personal and professional life, we have to do more than connect occasionally on social media – we have to move from being linked to being liked, and that’s going to involve giving something personal of ourselves. We have to really communicate and connect to build trust and effective relationships.

My 3C’s of Communication comprises three elements:

Each of these progressive stages requires us to give something of ourselves beyond the standard LinkedIn Invite and Facebook Liking.

01e9ae7

1. Connect

We all know the phrase, ‘You only get one chance to make a first impression’. So when meeting people for the first time, do something memorable that fits in with your values. People like to be asked with real interest about what is important to them. Instead of the standard ‘So what do you do?’, engage with people in a playful way that shows genuine interest. Ask them questions about what inspires them or what were the key points that resonated with them from whatever event you are attending. Be open to the reality that your first impressions based on appearance or style might be very wrong. Many opportunities are lost when people are quickly dismissed, when they may be just the people you need to meet.

2. Communicate

Connections are made when we really communicate with others. If we are good communicators we listen and take interest in other people and eloquently convey what we want to say. We read the signs that indicate the other person is confused or bored, and use appropriate words to rectify this and maintain rapport. We constant challenge our assumptions about what others mean and use sophisticated skills to check out details and meanings behind a speaker’s message. These communication skills contribute to being liked because the ones we are connecting with feel understood and respected, and that they have not been ‘talked at’ but communicated with. These skills are invariably lost online ‘Liking’ unless we really reach out to clarify what we mean.

3. Collaborate

The quality of our relationships equals the quality of our communication, so if we invest time and energy in becoming exquisite communicators, we lay foundations that allow us to take advantage of opportunities for collaboration. Collaboration is the process by which we come together to create something bigger than ourselves. Trust is essential, or we cannot open ourselves to being challenged or put aside preconceived ideas of what we expect from the connection. When each of us comes to the table with our skills, aspirations and qualities in a context of trust and effective communication, collective projects can be enacted that are not possible when we work alone.
The 3C’s of Communication can be applied to every social situation, whether in business or personal life. Lots of connections are made through networking, but they only become meaningful if we really communicate effectively with others beyond the limitations of social media. Not all of us go on to collaborate, but by communicating effectively we are more likely to be accepted and remembered by people than if no effort is made beyond clicking a ‘Like’ button. Amazing collaborations can arise when real and lasting connections are made and the foundations of effective and ongoing communication are put in place.

Read More

Is it too late to say what you really want to?

Everyone has the experience of walking away from a conversation wishing they had addressed something important in the exchange. It might be a desire to clarify the intentions or values behind what the other person said, or to tell the other person that they are behaving badly or don’t seem to mean what they say. How do you keep an open mind so you can clarify what’s going on and educate the other person about how you want them to treat you?

The 3-step ATOMS Method is a simple process to help you:

  1. Examine Assumptions
  2. Remain Tentative and Open Minded
  3. Say what you want to say and educate other people how to treat you.

Step 1: Examine Assumptions

Write down the assumptions you have about what is going on. Your assumptions may not be what the other person intended or what is going on for both people, but they are real for you. Don’t censor these; just make a note of them so you know what is going on in your head that needs to be checked out.

Step 2: Remain Tentative and Open-Minded

Tell the other person what assumptions you are holding as a result of the exchange. Do this is in a tentative and open-minded way, allowing them to clarify their intentions with you and advise whether your assumptions are correct or not. They may, of course, deny that they come across in a certain way; they may say you are exaggerating. However, if you raise the issues in an open-minded, questioning way, you allow them to ‘keep face’ and set the record straight. You may still believe that they are not admitting to their intentions, but you will be positioned differently because you have noticed and raised the issue. In future, the other person will not forget that you are prepared to talk about these things.

Examples:

In our recent meeting, it appeared that everyone had a chance to contribute except me.  Is that how you see it?

In our last conversation, I felt you undermined the effort I’ve made on this project.  Did you mean to do this or have I interpreted you incorrectly?

I always feel I’m the one to make the plans.  It’s as if you think this is not a joint responsibility.  Am I right?

 

Step 3: Speak out and educate the other person how to treat you

After discussion and the opportunity to clarify intentions (or point out what you have experienced), it is time to say how you want things to be different in future. This often requires you to say how you want to be treated in future, and how the relationship could be improved.

Examples:

When you say there isn’t time to include my input, I feel undermined.  It would be really helpful in future if you would allow time for me to contribute so I feel I’m treated equally.

Thank you for saying you didn’t allow time for my ideas to be considered properly.  In future, I would like to raise this sort of issues this as they happens.  Can you see us being able to discuss it as it happens, or can you suggest an alternative to ensure we both feel our ideas are explored properly?

Whilst there are numerous techniques that could be used to ensure discussion flows easily, the ATOMS method is a starting point from which to visit issues that often are left unexamined. Whatever the other person’s response, you will feel more empowered when you speak out and educate others about how to treat you. If issues are left unexamined, you may feel resentful towards others, and towards yourself, for not raising them.

Read More

7 Questions for a Better Year

Every year, thousands of people make New Year resolutions, each of them determined to change their lives or aspects of them. By the third or fourth of January, many have broken them and by the middle of the month, most have forgotten them completely, yet alone used them as the impetus to change their lives. What is this collective urge to usher in a New Year, determined to make it different from the previous one?

Why are so many people failing to put in place the changes they believe will transform their lives?

New Year Resolutions are often made in response to a self-censoring of one’s behaviour or punishment for not doing what they believe will bring happiness. Giving up smoking, losing weight or getting fit are often at the top of the list when it comes to the top ten resolutions. Self-disgust, low self esteem or admonishment by others is often the reason for making resolutions. When we look at New Year resolutions, they are focused on changing aspects of one’s unacceptable behaviour – rarely are they couched in terms that reflect a larger vision for our lives or the values that might underpin a personal mission for what we want lives are about.

Thus, conscious and unconscious resistance to the punishments that resolutions demand, sabotage us from keeping them. The outcome is that we continue our lives as before with humour, cynicism or increased self-loathing for our inability to change. We risk, as Henry Thoreaux said ‘Living a Life of Quiet Desperation’.

What alternatives are there for changing aspects of our lives in more productive and nurturing ways?

The following seven questions help you look at your life more strategically so changes you desire can be assessed in terms of their alignment with your vision and desires.

  1. What do you really want to do with your life? What do you want your life to stand for and how would you like to be remembered?
  2. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Don’t answer this question within the constraints of what you believe is currently possible. Think big and worthy dreams.
  3. What are your values and what is so important to you that you would stake ‘even life itself’ to act in ways to celebrate these values?
  4. What thoughts, feelings and actions do you believe align with achieving your vision, values and dreams of how you want your life to be?
  5. What stops you from achieving the life you so desire? What reasons do you give yourself for not having what you want? Do you blame others for your failures or are you taking full responsibility for your own life?
  6. What reasons do you give yourself for not having what you want? Do you blame others for your failures or are you taking full responsibility for your entire life?
  7. What do you need to do to support achievement of your desired life? If those supports are not in place, what stories do you tell yourself for why this is so?

 

By asking these and similar questions, you can create a pen picture of the life you want. Take that picture and set goals, targets and the means for measuring and assessing your success.

The late Earl Nightingale once said ‘Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal’. Dare to dream something worthy and examine your thoughts, feelings and actions to assess the extent to which you are progressively realising it.

New Year Resolutions are temporary ways to assuage the anxiety of not living the life you truly want. They provide a temporary salve hoodwinking you into believing that positive change is on the horizon.

This year, replace your New Year resolutions with value aligned ways to create a life that is worth living so temporary setbacks no longer determine your success or failure.

Read More

KPI’s for our relationships?

How can you measure the quality of your relationships? In business, people say ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!’

Can we take something from this principle and learn something important about our relationships?

Watch this short video and learn how simple measurement principles could help you understand how you can ensure your efforts are bringing a return.

Read More