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 Break Free of An Addictive Relationship

Some people bring us a great deal of pain along with the joy, and yet we keep running after them anyway.

When people look at the relationship from the outside, they may not understand it.  “Why do you want to be with him?” they ask.  “He treats you badly,” or “He’s mean,” or “How could he do that to you?” or “You don’t deserve that.”

“Why do you want to be with her?” they ask.  “She doesn’t like your friends and won’t let you go out with them.”  “She is a b#@%%!” 

On the receiving end, you’re hearing what they’re saying, but thinking, “But you don’t understand.  You don’t see this person the way I do.  You don’t see the kinder, gentler side that the person only shows to me.”

And you may also be thinking, “And now I’m not going to talk to you about my love anymore.  You’re not a safe person to talk to.  You’re judging him and you’re judging me.”

On NPR, the singer Dessa was talking about her inspiration for heart-centered lyrics in her latest album, “Chime.”  One inspiration was a relationship she had which she described as breaking up from the beginning, but they kept at it for years.  “As soon as we started dating, we started breaking up,” she said.  After years of this, she still felt her heart explode with hope when she got a call from him. She ended up screaming at herself and her heart in her car in the rain.  Why did her heart keep leaping in hope for this man when she knew intellectually that the relationship was a bad one, forever doomed?  She went so far as to have a fMRI done, in which she was shown a picture of her former boyfriend, then a picture of a man who looked like him but wasn’t him, to find in her brain where the love was so that she could erase it.  Then, once they isolated the target area, she went to a specialist to stop reacting in that way to her former boyfriend.  She saw her behavior as the equivalent of a muscle cramp. She wanted a muscle that was strong and could flex without cramping.  Afterwards, she had another fMRI to see if she had successfully rid herself of romantic love for him.  The fMRI showed that she had been successful.

I think that with any form of addiction, it can be a lot easier to see it clearly from the outside looking in than it is to see it from the inside looking out.

In a “normal” relationship, there are highs and lows, but they aren’t anything like the spikes of an addictive relationship.  It’s like comparing hills to mountains and fjords.  The highs are higher and the lows are lower in an addictive relationship.

In an addictive relationship, when your partner is attentive and happy, the sun shines brighter.  While most people experience this when first in love, it usually fades over time.  It may not fade as much in an addictive relationship because you cannot count on your partner to be this way on a regular basis.  As a result, when it happens, it is a much bigger event than when you are dealing with a person who is generally happy or even keel.  You can take for granted that your partner will be there for you, will be the same person that s/he always is.

In an addictive relationship, when your partner is sullen, withdrawn, angry, drunk again, neglectful, mean, cheating, threatening, etc., you may look to fix things so that your partner can be attentive and happy again.  You may rage against your partner.  You may cry.  Your lows are lower than they would be if you were not in an addictive relationship.  If you were not addicted to this person, then when she continuously acted this way, you would say, “Enough.”  You would not only say, “Enough,” you would act on it.  When you are addicted and chasing the high, you might say, “Enough,” but you don’t mean it.  Your partner returns to being attentive and happy, your heart blooms with hope and love, and you are still riding the rollercoaster of addiction.

Why do you do this to yourself?

1.       You may have an addictive personality.

Some of us have addictive personalities.  It is just who we are.  If we aren’t addicted to a person, we can be addicted to food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, work, TV, our phones, video games, and more.

This person may feed your addictions.

2.       You may be repeating old patterns.

Some of us are recreating what we learned at an early age.

Some of us grew up with parents in addictive relationships.

Some of us lost a parent to addiction, whether because the addiction took over the parent’s life and left us with little time with the parent, or because the parent actually died from the addiction.

Some of us grew up without a parent.

Some of us grew up with parents who weren’t constant in their love for us or who showed us that love was conditional upon our meeting their needs and expectations.  We couldn’t rely on them.  We had to provide the love for them, as they couldn’t provide it for us.

Some of us were taught to put other people’s needs always before our own.  If we aren’t caretaking for others, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

Some of us are afraid of getting close and so we do a lot to push people away, even if we really want to get close, or we think we do.

What would you like to do differently (if anything)?

If you suspect you are in an addictive relationship, take some time to answer the questions below.

1.       What do you see as signs that you are in an addictive relationship?

2.       If you could change your relationship in any fashion, what would you like to see happening instead?

3.       What are you willing to do to make your relationship better?

4.       What is the other person willing to do to make the relationship better? If you don’t know, that’s a conversation that you need to have, either on your own or with me, a mediator, counselor, or spiritual advisor, or another trusted, neutral professional.

5.       What will you do if the other person isn’t willing or able to do enough to meet your needs? (You can answer this question now or you may wait until after you have implemented the answers to steps 3 and 4.)

You can choose whether to continue with an addictive relationship.  You cannot choose whether or not the other person will relinquish their addictions or their addictive behavior for you.

Please let me know if I can help. You can reach out to me through this website or book time with me on fiverr.

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.

moving workplace conflict from dysfunctional to functional

When I get a call about workplace conflict, I often find that:

1. The situation has been brewing for a long time.

2. There have been repeated violations of social norms.

3. The person monitoring the situation tends to want to avoid conflict.

4. A quick fix is most desired.

It is unlikely that there is a quick fix available in this scenario.

The quickest fix might be to coach the person monitoring the situation.

Teaching people how to handle conflict respectfully and functionally is a process.  Having people learn new ways to handle conflict and actually implement these new procedures and keep acting on them until they become habits takes time.  A lot of time.  It takes 21 days to cement a habit and that's when you're doing the action daily.

When you are looking at conflict, you have to look at what is happening in the system, not just what is happening with respect to one or two individuals.  What are the unspoken rules with respect to conflict in the organization?  Are there certain people who are allowed to be "high maintenance?"  I have seen this with high performers, owners, friends of owners, those with tenure or seniority, and more.  Is the company really going to do anything about these people's behaviors?  Or are the rest of the people simply expected to tiptoe around these people?

Is the company so hierarchical that there is no place for true discussion among those of different ranks?  Is the expectation simply that those below will do what they are told to do by those above?  This often means that those below will be blamed for the conflict and told what they need to do, without anyone above taking a moment to listen to why this is happening.

Is there an unspoken rule that everyone gets along, that there is no conflict in the organization?  This can drive conflict underground and you will see it coming out in passive-aggressive ways.  This also can result in no accountability for bad behavior.

To move workplace conflict from dysfunctional to functional, you have to look first at what is causing the conflict. 

1. Put on your investigator hat and start asking questions.  Be curious.  Be open-minded.  Make your questions as open-ended as possible.  Don't presuppose that you know the answer -- you will start to hear only things that support your answer and discount everything that doesn't.  Get an outsider's perspective. 

2. Call in someone else, like me, to do the investigation for you and/or to talk the situation through with.

Only after you know what is causing the conflict, both from a systems perspective and at a personal level, can you effectively address the conflict and move it from dysfunctional to functional.

 

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.

 

What to do with an annoying person at work

Let's be honest.  Even if we like our jobs and we like the majority of our co-workers, we all have at least one person we have to be in contact with at work that we would rather do without. 

If we are lucky, that person is external, rather than internal -- clients, customers, other business people from other organizations, etc.  We don't have to see them on a regular basis and we can grit our teeth and get through it when we need to.

When the person is internal, though, we are in a different position.  We may try to grit our teeth and get through it, but the constant gritting of teeth can lead to jaw pain or even a cracked molar.  Moreover, our body is constantly triggered into fight, flight or freeze.  Over time, we become a little extra sensitive or hyper-vigilant to the other person's behaviors which annoy us. 

We may find ourselves actually looking for that little bit that annoys us most just to prove to ourselves that yes, that person still is incredibly annoying and justify our dislike of that person.

We may find ourselves avoiding that person and praying that person avoids us as well (then perhaps noting that they did and feeling left out).

We may find ourselves making snarky comments about the person to other people and/or to the person directly.  Even if we are able to keep from making a snarky comment with our out loud voice, we may still be thinking plenty of snarky comments and our facial expressions may give us away.

So, what can we do about this annoying person?

I know that you want to have a magic wand that will make the other person less annoying.  You don't have that level of control over the other person.  You do have that level of control over you, though.

Take some time to answer the following questions for yourself:  What is it that you find annoying about the other person?  What behaviors of theirs are particularly challenging for you?  Why are they triggering for you?  Should you even be around this other person?  What can you do to be less triggered in this situation (if anything)? 

When you process what is annoying you and why you are triggered, you are able to move from responding only emotionally to analyzing the problem intellectually.  You may find some parts of yourself that you didn't realize existed and might not even like very much.  You may find that if you make a list of the positive attributes of the person and remind yourself of those attributes when you are triggered, you are better able to see the good in the other person and be less triggered.

1. Do you have the ability to fire the person?  If so, that is an option.  You could instead a. try to work it out with that person, b. find a way to move past it yourself, c. build in small, measurable goals for that person that have to do with changing the behaviors that are most annoying to you (and see if that person can meet those goals).  If not, then....

2. Does the other person have the ability to fire you?  If so, you can a. try to work it out with that person, b. try complaining to a person above that person (if any), c. find a way to move past it yourself, or d. look for another job (before that person fires you).  If not, then....

3. Are you on equal footing with the other person?  If so, then you can a. try to work it out with that person, b. try complaining to a person above that person, c. find a way to move past it yourself, or d. look for another job (before you crack a molar from gritting your teeth).

Please note, however, that sometimes we are triggered by people who may actually be dangerous to us, whether emotionally, physically or sexually.  While most conflicts result from good people with different ideas as to how the world works, there are also conflicts that result from one or more people behaving in a toxic manner.  If you are in that situation, your choices are limited.  It is unlikely that you will be able to work through the conflict with this person.  You may find a way to move past it yourself.  You may find that you don't feel emotionally and/or sexually and/or physically safe in the workplace as a whole or around this person in particular.  If you are in that position and your complaints to upper management have been for naught (or there is no upper management to whom to complain), then your options are 1. stay and be miserable or 2. leave.  There is no third option.