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Our blog about communicating throughout conflict

Toward or Not Toward?

Have you seen our latest course, How to Lead Effective and Engaging Meetings? If you have, you'll probably recognize the first element - purpose. And you may remember the tools we talked about to help with it. So, today I want to explore a couple different styles of motivation, because motivation can act as a purpose in some conversations.

In the course, we mentioned that we're aiming for the "highest positive purpose." Yet, when it comes to motivation, there are two types: away and toward.

Toward motivation is the positive motivation, where someone is aiming to accomplish something, often to work toward something else. They may, for example, want to lose weight in order to be healthier, look better in their clothes, etc.

Away motivation is the incentive to do something in order to get away from or prevent something else. For example, some people want to lose weight so they don't have knee pain or have trouble keeping up with their child.

When we are first getting started on a...

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The Truth About Interruptions...and Dogs

When I get on the phone with a friend whom I haven't talked with in a while, we rarely finish a story or discussion without having taken a few "detours." It's almost like word association, where a word or name comes up and the other person immediately cuts in, interrupts, with a story.

That's okay when we're just catching up. Then, we don't always have to finish. And if we really do want to finish what we were saying, we can come back to it. But that isn't always the case in professional conversations or when there is disagreement.

When there is a conflict where mediators, attorneys, or police become involved or a professional conversation or disagreement , there's usually something at stake. People are often outcome-focused then. So, when they're interrupted, it frustrates their goal. It also annoys them because they don't feel heard or respected.

When we don't feel heard or respected, we tend to repeat ourselves and talk louder. We may even talk faster in an effort to not be...

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Warning: Online Schedulers May Reduce Efficiency and Satisfaction

Efficiency is something many professionals aspire to. But what does it mean to be efficient? It's not just about completing tasks as quickly as possible. When other people are involved, it's also about communicating effectively, and technology may be setting us back in this. Take the online calendars such as Calendly or Acuity, for example.

The calendar may save time and reduce the frustration of going back and forth, but when people send a link with only a message of "Here's a link," that, alone, is not efficient. If you do that, you miss an opportunity to connect. And that may actually set you back in the long run because you fail to connect well and consistently. If you've ever been annoyed by an automated receptionist, you know what I'm talking about. The automated receptionists make us feel like a number, like the company's time and efficiency is more important than ours, right?

The online schedulers seem to be used most when first meeting a person because people schedule the...

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Warning: You Must Use This Key or You May Lock Yourself Out

Have you ever gone deeper into something you didn't expect to like, only to discover you actually did like it after all? I did that with business law in college. The course I took to prove to myself it wasn't a good fit turned out to be something I liked so well I went to law school and got a license to practice law. And you can see how law school can change the way you see the world around you. A banana, for example, is no longer just a fruit; it is also a harbinger for a tort. Life experiences, especially as a first-year law student, suddenly present as questions for a final or a bar exam.

When we change our perception of one thing, we are in a different position than we were in before, and that means we are now in a different position with respect to other things. That's why if we quit looking for our keys or glasses and focus on something else, the keys or glasses turn up. Conflict resolution works the same way.

When I am mediating cases, one of the best things I can do is...

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How to Navigate Communication "Like a Boss"

In a previous post, I asserted that we can ask better questions, get better answers, and have better outcomes as a result. Let's look at last week's public hearing involving the U.S. Attorney General to discuss some things we can use to make that happen.

The U.S. Attorney General was not just acting as an attorney; she also works in the political arena and was being questioned publicly on a topic that might have threatened her job. This was high stakes for her so we could reasonably expect her to bring the best game she could, requiring the people questioning her to do the same in order to succeed.

First, in order to be at their best, they needed to be extremely clear on what specific outcome they wanted and the exact points needed to secure that outcome. That gives focus and helps to develop the line of questioning. But if we really want results, asking questions doesn't stop at asking a question. It also involves adjusting and taking another pass when we don't get the answers we...

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Why Flexibility is Critical to Effective Communication

In discussions regarding a political hearing, people were expressing frustration at how the whole thing was "a farce," "a waste of time," "disappointing," etc. That is frequently the case when communication doesn't result in the desired outcome. And while that can be frustrating, there are things we can do for more effective communication and to change the outcome. One of the biggest is having flexibility.

It's been said that the system with the greatest flexibility wins. We've all heard the analogy to the stiff, dry twig breaking while the green twig of similar diameter bends, and it's true for communication as well. When we ask, say, or nonverbally communicate something the recipient may have an unexpected or undesired response. We've all had that happen. And we can't change that, but we may be able to change the final outcome, because we still have the opportunity and maybe even the responsibility, in some cases, to respond accordingly.

We have responsibility for our part of...

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2 Things That Build Strength among Leaders (aka "Why Violence Doesn't Work")

Ronald Reagan said, "There's only one way you can have peace - surrender." He went on to say there are only two options: fight or surrender. But we really don't live in a black and white world, at least when it comes to homes, schools, and offices, and that's an important point to understand when it comes to effective communication.

I can passionately stand up and fight for what I believe in from a state of peace.

I can listen to other opinions and start the conversation from there, staying curious about opposing positions, and at the same time, comparing them with my views.

I can learn from and about the other person and use effective communication and emotional intelligence to express my views in a conversation that allows us to come together, to narrow the gap. And all the while, both parties can fully represent their views and satisfy them as well, better than either had imagined in some cases.

What I can't do if I really want or need something is be violent. Violence just makes...

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Why Labeling "Difficult People" May Stunt Your Growth

There are a lot of classes about how to "Deal with Difficult People," and I am concerned that will not lead to effective communication or de-escalation. Though I realize the title may be a marketing ploy, just the assumptions within the title raise doubts about how effective they can be. And if that is a ploy, then it points to the fact that other people are using that term to identify their problem.  But are there really "difficult people" in the world? I mean, is that all they are? Or is the use of that label allowing us to get lazy in our response, making our results mediocre at best, not to mention dangerous at worst?

Terms like that suggest other people are the only issue and we can only deal with the people, but that is far from the truth.  We can respond in the heat of the moment, and the best response will probably involve collaborating. In fact, that is the epitome of effective communication and de-escalation, not to mention staff communication. Before we can do...

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