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"They Don't Understand!"

"They don't understand!" is a common phrase that I hear in a number of contexts, and unfortunately it often means conflict isn't far away, either in the rearview mirror or around the corner.

I cringe when I hear this because of all that it entails. It implies that the speaker knows what the other person understands, that it's possible the other person could understand, and that the speaker understands the person they're speaking about. But, really, none of those is true.

We can't possibly understand what another person is experiencing. Each of us has different experiences, training, values, beliefs, and other filters through which we see and interpret the world. No two people, including identical twins who grew up together, can really "understand." We can empathize, though.

Before we can truly empathize, though, we have to have something to empathize with. The best way to gain true empathy, then, is through solid listening skills. Sounds easy, doesn't it? But there's more to...

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Aisle Take Blame for $1000

On November 8, 2016, the world experienced a new level of blame, rocking the world of social media as people took in what, for some, was a surprising result. Over a week later, I still see posts blaming others. I don't know how beneficial that is.

Is it creating deeper friendships? No. I bet there has never been a time when Facebook's unfriend function has been more heavily utilized. Blame is not conducive to conflict resolution.

Is it persuasive? No. Putting people on the defensive is not a good way to help them be receptive to listening to your concerns much less addressing them. Plus, we need to collaborate, and that means gaining trust and sharing responsibility.

It's disempowering to give responsibility away because if we give it away, then we cease to look at what we could do differently next time and how we can collaborate in conflict resolution for this event. We also lose credibility, and we stop looking for ways we can respond going forward. That's true regardless of...

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Are You Giving Your Clients What They're REALLY After?

When you go to a movie, play, musical, or concert, you aren't going just to see or hear it; you're going for the experience of it, the state that doing so effects in you. Maybe it's to laugh or be uplifted; maybe it's to feel emotionally moved or scared. Whatever it is, you aren't just going so that you can see a performer; you go for the impact it has on you. And if you are a mediator or attorney, chances are your clients are there to see you for the same reasons.

It's true! A person doesn't come to you because of a situation; they come because of the emotion or other effect that situation has brought about, and they have a desire to change that. They believe that by hiring you, they will be able to change the situation and thereby change the impact on emotion or other effect. There's a problem with that, though.

A lot of times we can change the situation by changing our state first, not the other way around. That's particularly true with someone who is too highly emotional - they...

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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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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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