Choose the Road Less Traveled in Conflict

Are you stuck in a rut in your relationship with someone?

Do you find yourself having the same fight over and over again? Are you doing the same thing over and over, even though you know it doesn’t help you and doesn’t get you the love or the results that you need? Well, here’s your problem in a nutshell:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results. Narcotics Anonymous

You are on a habit loop, doing what you do because that is what you do.  You do it that way instinctively, without thinking.  Your brain goes there automatically, unconsciously.

If you want things to change, you have to wake up your brain.  You have to make it respond consciously, rather than unconsciously.  You have to train it to do something different.

You have to jump the track and take the road less traveled.

The road less traveled will be harder going in the beginning.  You won’t know exactly how to do it.  You won’t know whether it will work or not.  It may feel uncomfortable.  Actually, it is almost guaranteed to feel uncomfortable at different points or even, if you don’t like change, all the time at first until you get settled into a new habit loop. 

Along the way, you may think, “Oh, this isn’t working.  I want to go back to where it’s safe and secure.”  And you can do that.  That is always an option for you.

However, you may find that you like your new road. Your decision to change may bring you joy. It may spark others to join you.

In either instance, you will be choosing your actions consciously, acting proactively, rather than reacting. This will result in your being better able to make choices in your own best interest. In the end, that will help you to navigate conflict successfully.

Do you want some help figuring out how to change things up and handle conflict differently? Reach out to Karen at 207-632-1111 or Meredith at meredithmediates@aol.com to set up an appointment.

How to Get Rid of 80% of Your Unhappiness in Relationships

APPLYING THE 80/20 RULE TO RELATIONSHIPS

Have you heard of the 80/20 Rule?  The theory is that 80% of consequences are a direct result of 20% of causes.

Have you ever applied it to your relationships?

When you think of your friends and family members, which 20% create 80% of your desired outcomes and happiness?

These are your peeps.  These are the people with whom you want to spend your time and, if it’s a healthy relationship, these are the people with whom you should spend your time. 

Take a moment after you’ve finished reading this and make time to get together with them.

Now, think of your friends and family members again.  Which 20% create 80% of your problems and unhappiness?

Here is the harder question.  Why are you sacrificing so much of your happiness to them?

Here are some of the answers I have heard:

“She’s my mother.”

“It’s not his fault.”

“I have nowhere else to go.”

“I’m married.  I made a commitment.”

“My (adult) son needs me.”

“I’m a rescuer at heart.”

“I’m Superman.”

“Who will take care of her if I don’t?”

“I’m too old to change now.”

“I couldn’t live with myself if I weren’t there for him.”

“He’s my brother.”

“I can’t afford to leave.”

Here are things that people often think but don’t say:

“I’m afraid no one else will love me.”

“I don’t think I deserve to be treated any better than this.”

“I’m so ashamed that it has gotten to this point.”

“I need to be needed.”

“I don’t know how to have a relationship where my needs are met, too.”

“I’m afraid of what will happen if I stick up for myself.”

“I’m afraid of change.”

Here is the part that can be too scary to even think:

“I don’t know how to put my needs first (in this instance or maybe in life).”

Here’s the reality:

First, let’s talk about the extent of problems and unhappiness you suffer as a result of the person.  Not all unhappiness is equal. 

When you have contact with this person, how do you feel on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being minor irritation and 10 being high level anxiety or anger, often resulting in a need to medicate yourself with food, alcohol, cigarettes, or other substances? 

How often do you currently have contact with this person?  How often do you really need to have contact with this person?  Could you decrease your time with this person?

Is the person causing you unhappiness because the person is emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to you?  Has anyone told you the person has been abusive toward you, even if you would not describe the person as abusive?

Can you take a step back from the person to better evaluate the relationship?  Often, we don’t even know the reactions our bodies are having until we step away from the relationship.

There is a difference between someone creating 80% of your unhappiness intentionally versus unintentionally.  There is also a difference between someone creating 80% of your problems on a temporary basis versus on a permanent basis.

For example, if a loved one has cancer, you are likely to feel a great deal of unhappiness as a result.  You may be worried, angry that this person is suffering, sad, anxious, and more.  If you are married and there are medical bills piling up as a result, you may also feel anxious, worried, distressed, angry, and more.  Still, it is perfectly healthy to be there for the person as much as possible, to love the person and to also feel great pain.  You may experience caregiver fatigue and look to find ways to support yourself emotionally as a result.  You may experience caregiver fatigue and decide that you cannot do anymore.

In the alternative, if you love someone who rejects you, puts you down, always has to ensure that his needs are met (and yours are not), then it could be time to take stock of the relationship.  You know that it is not working for you – that is why you have listed it in with the relationships causing 80% of your unhappiness.

Can the relationship be fixed? Is the person willing to work on the relationship to meet your needs, too?  Is the person willing and able to talk with you, to meet in counseling or mediation to discuss it and put together a plan to get things back on track?

If it can’t be fixed, and you still want to maintain the relationship, then can it be contained?  Can you limit the amount of time that you spend with the person, spend less hours together, have a buffer present, opt for telephone contact, email, text, or Facebook instead of in person contact?

If it can’t be fixed, you know it’s not healthy, and it’s causing you a great deal of distress, it’s time to really look at why you are investing so much of your time in this person.  We have a finite amount of time on this earth.  Think of what you could do with all of that time that you currently spend unhappy.  Why is it more important to be there for that person than to be there for yourself?

Using the Four Tendencies for Happier Holidays

In her book, “The Four Tendencies,” Gretchen Rubin posits that there are four types of people in this world:  Upholder, Questioner, Rebel and Obliger.  You are likely to meet most of them at your family events over the holidays.

The Upholder loves rules and order.  She meets external expectations placed on her.  She meets her own internal expectations.

The Questioner will comply with rules if the Questioner believes that the rules are valid.  The Questioner resists having external expectations placed on her.  She meets her own inner expectations.

The Rebel instinctively rebels against any rules, no matter who is trying to set them.  He resists external expectations as well as his own internal expectations of himself.

The Obliger looks to meet the needs of others.  The Obliger meets external expectations, but resists meeting his own internal expectations.

I have assigned genders randomly.  Men and women fall into all four types.

Upholders want to know what should be done.

Questioners want to know why it should be done.

Obligers want to know what they could do to help.

Rebels want the freedom to do it however they want.

Now, think of these four people in conflict. 

The Upholder will want to know what the rules are and follow the rules.  If someone is breaking the rules, that will be a problem with the Upholder.

The Questioner will question whether the rules are valid and will only want to follow rules that make sense to the Questioner.

The Obliger will look to take care of everyone else’s needs and have a hard time expressing or even recognizing the Obliger’s own needs.

The Rebel will instinctively say no even when it is in the Rebel’s best interest to say yes.  The Rebel may come around later and change to yes, but it will be on the Rebel’s timeline and terms.

This holiday season, think about your least favorite relative.  Where does she fall in terms of the four tendencies?  Does it help to think of that person as just doing what she does best – upholding the rules or questioning everything or rebelling against everything – rather than as being a giant pain?  Do you see that her behavior makes sense from her perspective, even if it continues to be absolutely maddening from your perspective?

What about your favorite person?  Which tendency best describes him?  What are you drawn to in a person and why?

Now, which one best describes you?  If you’re not sure or you just want to make sure or you just love taking these types of tests and learning a bit more about yourself, take the Four Tendencies Quiz at happiercast.com/quiz.  What are you bringing to the table?  Where does your tendency, your beliefs and value system, get in the way of having a better interaction with your least favorite relative?  What could you take from the Four Tendencies to transform your holidays?

Why Bother With Yellow Flowers When You Really Want a Turtle?

“Would you take me to go look at the yellow flowers?”

It seems like a simple request, but it was, in fact, perfectly tailored to meet both my nephew’s needs and his in the moment.

I was visiting my family.  My mother had suggested that I go look at the yellow flowers in her garden and I brought my two-year-old nephew along with me to see them.

He spent less than 30 seconds looking at the yellow flowers.  What caught his eye was the ceramic turtle nearby.  While I checked out the flowers, he happily played with the turtle.  Then, while I waited, he continued to play with the turtle.  Finally, after a bit, I brought him back inside where the rest of the adults were.

We adults resumed our conversation, which was not very exciting for a two-year-old boy.

“Aunt Meredith,” he asked, “would you take me to go look at the yellow flowers?”

Time stopped for a second, at least on my end, as I processed this request.

“I don’t think you want to go see the yellow flowers,” I said.  “I think you want to see the turtle.”

“Yes!” He beamed.  “Would you take me to see the turtle?”

My nephew is two and he can create a win-win situation and sell it to me as being all about me.

I’m not asking you to go that far.  I think it’s better to be transparent and tell the person how the proposed solution could benefit everyone involved.

Still, he is only 2.  And we were able to have a conversation where we each saw and spoke about the benefit that the other person could get out of the same event.

When we are in conflict, we can lose sight of anything other than what we want.  We can’t see what the other person wants and we don’t care what the other person wants.  We get tunnel vision.

When you find yourself getting tunnel vision, when all you want to do is focus on is the turtle, take a step back and look for a way to meet both your needs and the needs of the other person.  Look for the turtle AND the yellow flowers.

Have you tried Dynamic Facilitation?

You've probably been in at least one meeting with a facilitator who used one white board to capture ideas.

I use 3!

Dynamic Facilitation provides the framework to have a difficult conversation successfully. 

In Dynamic Facilitation, the facilitator uses three charts at once:  Perspectives, Solutions, and Concerns.  Each person who speaks provides his/her Perspective on or data about the problem.  The person is also asked to provide a potential Solution to the problem.  If a person has a Concern about a potential Solution, that is included as well.  Then the person is asked, given that Concern, what the potential Solution could be.

Dynamic Facilitation is solution-focused, but not in a way that is stifling.  Dynamic Facilitation moves people from focusing on the problem, which can cause feelings of helplessness, frustration, powerlessness, to focusing on the solution, which motivates action-oriented, powerful change. 

1.       Dynamic Facilitation is useful in coaching, as it moves a person from stuck into action.

2.       Dynamic Facilitation is useful for having a difficult conversation between two or more people.  It gets the issues out onto the table to be dealt with and it provides the participants with concrete solutions for those issues.

3.       Dynamic Facilitation is useful for a team working on a tough problem.  It provides the necessary framework to gather data, generate potential solutions, and highlight concerns that may come up.

If you are struggling with a tough decision, if your team is stuck and unable to move forward, contact me.  Let's see if Dynamic Facilitation can help you to move from stuck to solution.

Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity in your conflict?

In their book, "Designing Your Life," authors Burnett and Evans talk about "gravity problems," things like gravity that you cannot change no matter how hard you try.  If you trip and fall, you fall down, not up.  That is just the way it is.  You can waste a lot of time and energy railing against gravity or you can simply accept it for what it is and figure out how to work within its parameters.

I often see people in conflict railing against what I would see as "gravity problems" in others.  They want the other person to change.  It may be in the other person's best interest to change.  However, the other person has no ability and/or no interest in changing.  That is a gravity problem, my friend.

When you see it as a gravity problem, then you can start to make better choices about how to deal with it. 

Sarah is always running late.  She has always run late.  She will always run late.  She pays lip service to wanting to be on time, usually under pressure from John who prides himself on being punctual. 

John grew up in a military family, where being 15 minutes early was on time and being on time was late.  Being late is horrible!  Sarah's tardiness drives John crazy.

When Sarah and John divorce, John wants to meet at a half-way point to exchange the children.  It should work beautifully, John thinks.  However, every time they meet, John is stuck waiting in the car for at least fifteen minutes for Sarah.  It is bad enough when he is stuck in the car by himself, but it is worse when he has two impatient children in the car with him. 

John wants Sarah to just be on time.

John has a gravity problem.  He can want Sarah to be on time all he wants, but that is not going to get Sarah to be on time.  Sarah is who she is.  If he couldn't get her to be timely when they were together, he certainly won't be able to get her to do it when they are apart.

If John doesn't like waiting for Sarah in the car, then he can ask to change the way that transportation is handled so that they each pick up the children from each other at the parent's home.  That way, the children are always waiting at a home, never in a car, for the other parent.

He can ask to change transportation so that they each drop off to each other.  That still might result in occasionally waiting in the car with the kids for Sarah to get home, like if she had plans right before.  However, most of the time, she will likely be home.

If John really does not want to stop meeting at a half-way point, he can intentionally arrive at the half-way point fifteen minutes later than the designated time.  That will make him more likely to arrive about the same time that Sarah does.

Look at a conflict that you have with someone.  Do you have a gravity problem?  Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity?  What is the best that you can do with the situation, recognizing that you do not have control over gravity?

Post-Election Conflict

We have been through the most divisive election I have seen in my lifetime.  I am still trying to make sense of all of it -- the lead up, election night, and the country as it stands now, still sharply divided.

I have seen posts from people across the nation whose families are sharply divided as a result of this election.  There are marriages on the rocks as a result of this election.  There are families whose members celebrated Thanksgiving apart as a result of this election and will likely celebrate Christmas separately as well. 

People are moving as a result of this election.  Hate crimes are up.  Anonymous threatening letters are left at residences, at mosques.  Children chant, "Build that wall," at other children in school. 

People are protesting as a result of this election.  They have taken to the streets, and what was supposed to be a peaceful protest has turned violent in many instances.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Riots are the voices of the unheard."  This election has brought forth a lot of voices of the unheard on both sides.  The Alt-Right and KKK are celebrating, seeing Trump's victory as a victory for them, for their unheard voices.  Clinton supporters are protesting, seeing Trump's victory as a quashing of their voices.

Many of us feel unsafe in our own country, more unsafe than we did before the election.

At work, things are no better.  Hate speech has increased.  While some workplaces have been quick to crack down on hate speech, I would imagine that others are more inclined to let it slide.

Trust has been eroded on both sides.  Clinton supporters are shaken by Trump's rhetoric and his Cabinet postings.  Clinton supporters are horrified that all of Trump's negative qualities were so easily ignored by his supporters.  Trump supporters are shaken by Clinton supporters' protests.  Trump supporters want to move on as we have in the past after other elections, want Clinton supporters to just recognize that Trump won and let it go.

There is a quote from "The Way We Were," that keeps running through my head:

Hubbell Gardner: People are more important than their principles.

Katie Morosky Gardner: But Hubbell, people ARE their principles.

There have been calls for people to reach out to those with whom they disagree.  This would be the Hubbell view of the world -- people are more important than their principles.  See the good in them, despite the parts with which you disagree.  After all, we are all people.

There have also been calls for opposition against those with whom they disagree.  This would be the Katie view of the world -- people ARE their principles.  See people for all that they are and judge accordingly.  Don't give them the benefit of the doubt just for being people.

I am wondering if there is a way to hold both Hubbell's view of the world and Katie's view of the world at the same time.  People ARE their principles.  At the same time, PEOPLE are more important than their principles.

We have learned a lot about each other this election season.  We may not like what we have learned, but we do have the opportunity to grow from it if we learn from it.

We need to have discussions with people with whom we disagree.  At the same time, we have to expect that during those discussions, we will disagree.  We need to find a way to be open to hearing what is being said by the other person, while also ensuring that we are heard as well.

Martin Luther King, Sr., said, "Don't hate.  It's too big a burden to bear."  It's true.  Hate eats away at you over time.  It can be easy in the immediate, but it's hard to maintain.  We cannot move forward together if we hate each other at the same time.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."  We are in a time of challenge and controversy.  We have been tested by this election.  We will be tested by this election.  We all have a choice to make -- where do we stand?  Can we hold both Hubbell and Katie in our hearts at the same time?  People ARE their principles.  At the same time, PEOPLE are more important than their principles.