One of the benefits of being a Reservist with FEMA is that I get to experience firsthand the resilience of humans. In much of my work, I am limited to seeing growth during the process of the time I am working with individuals, couples and even students in the classroom. Going out to various places in our country, including territories, I get to experience firsthand what true human resilience is.
For example, in Puerto Rico a few months after Hurricane Maria struck, members of the response team, many of which were survivors of the disaster, were sharing traditions at the office, bringing in customary foods and inviting their co-workers to celebrations that were unique to PR. The desire to return to normalcy in whatever manner possible was strong. It's human nature! Even as many were still not able to return home or dealing with claims and their own frustrations with the system, there were smiles and generosities that were shared with those of us that had homes far away and families that were not suffering. There was a genuine support system, one that focused on what one had, not what one did not have.
Resiliency allows us to persevere and look at a glass half full. When we start imagining the world that we want, not necessarily the situation we are currently in, we start making decisions that lead us in that positive direction. And this is what makes us resilient.
A colleague posted the idea that before we make resolutions for a new year, we should review the existing resolutions that we put into place during the current (and prior) year(s). With a new year at hand, we tout the ability to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. New resolutions, new habits, new goals, new me, new you, new, new, new... But are we setting ourselves up for failure if we ignore what currently exists? Can we truly "wipe the slate clean"?
I'm a list keeper. My practice is that if I don't write it down, it doesn't exist. And I particularly like to buy a shiny new notebook (preferably unlined) to write down my goals, dreams, wishes and ambitions. In keeping with my colleagues idea, it was easy for me to find last years goals or resolutions. I only had to flip to the front of the formerly shiny notebook (actually, it is still pretty shiny as I didn't use it as much as I had "resolved" to!). I went down the list: attend local business networking meetings (check), exercise regularly (check), get outside and breathe fresh air daily (check), travel (check), lose weight (1/2 check), research small business incubators (1/2 check), set monthly sales goals (blank), start a new business (blank)...see where this is going?
While I am not going to do this, I could probably look back at my annual goals for the last 5 years and see many of the same topics that had varying levels of success. So is my glass half full or half empty? What about all of the "goals" I reached that I didn't write down? How do I measure those personal accomplishments? Sometimes being in the moment and being open to what is present and available allows us to take an unrecognized path that may actually help us to realize personal growth and success that we hadn't considered before.
I am going to take my colleagues advice and look at my goals from last year. Any goal on there that I am not fully 100% committed to I am going to not move onto my 2020 goal list. Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?? Doing this should help me move forward in a positive manner, putting forth strengths and passions that truly align with the 2020 version of Sunny. It will undoubtedly keep me energized, challenged and honoring the person I want to be going forward. It will also reduce personal stress and help me to have stronger relationships. Happy New Year to you and may you find your best self in this new decade.
#davidsmithconsulting #newyear #goals
Warning. This is motivated by the political climate currently in our country.
Recently, I was listening to a congressman on one of the television stations that provides "news" 24/7. The interviewer and congressman were clearly not communicating well. Both were speaking from their perspective of the "facts". And their "facts" were in opposition of each other. I was curious about the comments being made by the congressman. While this congressman was not a representative from my district, my voter registration would indicate that I was a supporter of what he claimed his constituents wanted from his representation. I wanted to voice my ideas directly to him so I looked up his information online. Part of this process required that I enter a zip code that matched with his district. Without a matching district zip code, I was blocked from communicating with him and would need to do further research if I wanted to communicate with him. Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated.
When we are in conflict with another, it may be on the assumption that the other is blocking our access to having our needs met. When we don't take time to listen, clarify and gather more information from the other, those assumptions push us further into a corner where we work even harder to protect our "facts". I've worked with individuals whose entire relationship is based on having conflict with the other and if that conflict is resolved, there is the danger that the relationship will end or have to be defined in a whole new way. This may be uncomfortable for the parties involved because it treads into new ways of thinking and how we conduct our selves. But just think of the possibilities for growth and learning!
In Tongue Fu, written by Sam Horn, she demonstrates how absolutes discredit the speaker and break down the ability to have dialogue. For example, "always", as in "you are always disagreeing with me" is an exaggeration. More accurate, "you sometimes disagree with me and I want to understand why". Or, "everyone always agrees with me" is probably less accurate than "often, many people agree with me while there are others that don't". This type of language invites clarification, further understanding and the opportunity for each to actively participate in the dialogue. Absolutes tend to shut the other down which is what we seem to hear a lot of in the media and political discourse these days. As a consequence, this style and tone is leaking into the workplace, our homes and communities. So instead of trying to better understand each other, we shut each other out at the first sign of disagreement.
It's okay to disagree. It's okay to hear something that conflicts with your own viewpoints. It's okay to say "tell me more" and then ask, "can I share with you what I know?".
If you are leader in the workplace, community or even a parent, it's really important that you provide access to those whose beliefs might not appear to be in alignment with yours. It's also a good idea to back up your beliefs and words with full information, not just assumptions. Before you say "everyone", "always", or "never", switch up your words to invite dialogue: "many", "sometimes", or "occasionally", and see what happens. You might learn something and realize that you had more in common with your opponent than you first assumed.
#communication #tonguefu #dialogue
I came across Jia Jiang's 100 Days of Rejection on a podcast while taking a walk. He shared his personal story of how rejection at an early age framed his future life experiences. He contrasts how rejection as a young child impacted and limited him as an adult. And he decided to do something about it: he spent 100 days intentionally seeking opportunities to be rejected. I recommend his TED talk as he incorporates humor along with his experiment.
The idea of rejection and conflict struck me. What if we looked at conflict as rejection? As a mediator, I feel my body shift and empathy grow when I look at someone with a conflict as his or her way to express rejection. Think about it: at some point he or she was rejected as he or she didn't have a need met and that rejection escalated to a conflict.
Sensitivity Rejection is discussed in Psychology Today. In intimate relationships, one partner is sensitive to rejection and will interpret the unavailability of the other (no, I cannot go out Friday as I have to get up early for an event) or a slowness in response from a text, as rejection. This sensitivity can make it difficult for relationships to succeed.
Fortune offers another look at rejection, such as when you are turned down for a job or promotion. The author contrasts rejection with the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. If the individual experiencing the rejection can get to "acceptance", they can be more objective about the experience and frame it in such a way that doesn't diminish their own value.
If we view rejection as the instigator of a conflict being expressed, we have the opportunity as mediators, managers, supervisors, and co-workers to impart curiosity and empathy for the other. If the individual expressing conflict has felt rejected (i.e. "I can't get my needs met; I keep hearing no"), we can help them go through the stages, get to acceptance which then leads to problem solving -- getting to the root of the issue.
Mr. Jiang's experiment intentionally sets up the test subject to get rejected (one of his examples is asking for a hamburger "refill" at a fast food restaurant). If we get more comfortable with risking rejection, we become stronger. If we become more emotionally intelligent about the role of rejection in conflict, we can become more curious and empathic.
Introspectively, I have considered how I deal with rejection. I realize that most people want to please others so rejection isn't necessarily all that easy to do. And by risking rejection, we up our rewards when we do make ourselves vulnerable to rejection. It could result in improved interpersonal relationships; it could mean a hamburger "refill". One never knows until one takes that first step towards that opportunity.
I've noticed a concerning trend in the food service/retail sector, particularly in the Northwest. Case study: a small food service business with 1-5 locations experiences a fast rise in success. The business owners develop a niche and high quality product. They are able to charge a high price point for the products and the customers return, stand in line and support the business allowing for expansion. Behind the scenes (and in front), are employees working hard each day to support the owners vision and create the high quality experience that customers expect. Since this is a food service business, the employees enjoy a decent income, much of which is derived from the tips customers provide for the service and experience the employee has offered to them. The relationship between management and staff is relatively close allowing for staff to influence the business and feel appreciated. Promotions are generally internal at the early stages and training is valued.
The business eventually reaches (or appears to) a tipping point where a different legal structure and partnership seems necessary in order to continue at the current pace of success. Perhaps it is the owners initiative; perhaps it is an outside interest that dangles a carrot or otherwise makes an offer that is hard to say no to. In comes new interests, new management, new legal business agreements. Behind the scenes, usually without staff engagement and input, change begins. And this is where I am concerned.
The service industry business is all about Service. And who provides that Service that keeps customers coming back, telling their friends, posting to their social media, standing in line for hours and otherwise? The staff. The employees that work hard every day to create the customer experiences that drive a business to success. This change is frequently referred to as becoming "corporate". Guess what experienced business leaders and investors (those over 40 years old), Corporate is a bad word! It sums up everything that staff feels: unappreciated, overworked, dis-empowered, disconnected.
Here is the take-away: your front line staff and managers are the ones that made the business successful in the first place. They did this with managements leadership and support. They were empowered to be part of the organization and to influence how it reached its success. If you take this away from the staff, you will lose the very culture that made the business attractive to you in the first place. If staff is feeling undervalued, they will leak their discontent to the very customers that you need to meet the financial goals of your investors.
What can a new owner/manager do? First, genuinely listen to your staff. Ask for their feedback and be open to hearing feedback that isn't necessarily complimentary to you. Second, share with them the vision and empower them to help match the successful culture (of the past) with the new culture. Third, if you ask them to do more, compensate them and be flexible. Service industry workers tend to be millennials and younger. Some value time, some value money, some need healthcare and retirement benefits, some want the opportunity to be promoted and others want a flexible schedule. Treat them with respect and pay them commensurate with what you compensate corporate management with. Remember, these are valuable employees that created a culture that made the business a success in the first place. In the words of Richard Branson, "Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients."
Change is difficult and a source of conflict for an organization going through a change. Leaders recognize when they are out of their element and need assistance. Yes, help is available. A conflict coach can support a manager who wants to improve his/her communication. A mediator can help 2 or more people problem solve. A communication consultant can offer training and team building to improve communication and reduce conflict.
This trend does concern me and while it isn't necessarily a phenomena, it impacts people close to me. With a vision that includes employee appreciation and an integrated conflict management plan, an organization can successfully go through change that is inclusive of the staff that helped make the business a success in the first place.
#smallbusiness #conflictmanagement #inclusion #employeeappreciation
It has been quite the winter of 2019! The decision to "winter" in the desert seemed like a win-win. Left most of the heavy fleece, boots and jackets in the Northwest and shipped dresses and shorts to Scottsdale. And I have spent most of this winter feeling cold and not enjoying being outside.
As I consider this, I realize that there is a mindset that I am stuck in. My expectation has been for warm, dry weather; lots of sun and outdoor activities. With a temperature around 70 degrees. I have been disappointed, to say the least, as the temperature has stayed in the 50's and 60's with many days of rain.
However, I can't change the weather just as I can't change what happens to me. When I realized this, I made a little shift and my perspective changed. Yes, it is only in the low 50's but the sun is out. Yes, it is raining -- at least it isn't snowing. So put on a jacket, a cap and gloves if necessary and go take that walk! When it is a rainy day go see a movie or browse the mall. Or stay inside and work on my website. If the weather was too perfect, I wouldn't want to work anyway!
So, yes, rain and cold can be a good thing. Similar to conflict because it informs us that there are alternatives and that sometimes we need to work a little harder or look a little deeper or be a little more creative to come up with a win-win solution.
I know that I am late to the show...Podcasts are where it is at and I have been slow to embrace. However, I can learn new things and adopt new habits! Which incidentally was one of the topics of the podcast I listened to today... Optimal Living Daily is hosted by Justin Malik who finds content from blogs and reads them. #OLDpodcast provides a short summary of inspiration. And if the topic doesn't resonate, the next edition just might. As I was walking today, I heard a topic that reinforced my commitment and belief in the work that I do. The podcast also helped me to understand that connecting with the right people has been my challenge. Who are those influencers?
I also realized that an opportunity had presented itself to me and I needed to act on it. Thanks to mobile technology, I had an answer by the time I completed my walk.
There are many podcasts out there. And since I am about communication, I look forward to creating my own. What topics would you like to hear? What is relevant to you? What podcasts do you tend to prefer listening to? I invite your feedback as I continue on this podcast journey...
Joshua Weiss was our Keynote speaker during the 2018 ACR Conference in Pittsburgh, PA this past October. What a privilege to meet him and learn about all of the work he is doing! I invite you to visit his website and learn more about the work he has done with William Ury on the Abraham Path and as the co-founder of the Global Negotiation Initiative at Harvard University as well as his role as the
Director of the Master of Science in Leadership and Negotiation at Bay Path University.
This is my first book review and it was an honor to create. Hope you enjoy and are motivated to put this wonderful book on your shelf or at your children's' school.
BULLIED NO MORE!
The Continuing Adventures of Emo and Chickie
BULLIED NO MORE! is the second edition in the Emo and Chickie book series created by co-authors Gregg F. Relyea and Joshua N. Weiss with illustrations by Vikrant Singh.
The adventure starts in the first few pages--Bart the Beaver is bullied by a wolf named Scruffy and his gang. Emo, a baby bear cub, and his best friend Chickie, a red breasted robin, witness the bullying behavior first hand, but they are reluctant, initially, to get involved. Bart reacts by wanting to fight back, but after considering that option, he realizes it would solve nothing. Cue the main themes of the book-- children who are bullied have choices about ways to handle it and they are not alone.
While the book is clearly oriented towards children, there is also a wealth of supplementary support that provides tools for parents, caregivers, educators and counselors. BULLIED NO MORE! is effectively three books in one as it examines bullying behavior from 360º: the viewpoints of the bullied, the one doing the bullying, bystanders, parents, and school officials. Additionally, the colorful illustrations will engage even the youngest reader and provide talking points for the adult.
As the story unfolds, Bart explores options with Emo and Chickie for ways to address the bullying by Scruffy as well as to consider the unintended consequences of each choice. Throughout the adventure, Emo and Chickie provide the reader with examples of how to effectively support a friend as an observer of bullying behavior.
The story takes the reader through various scenarios of how Bart can stop the behavior as he reaches the breaking point of wanting to “teach Scruffy a lesson”. The options are realistically portrayed, including a creative dream sequence that captures the anxiety that many victims feel in these situations. The interaction with the school counselor impressed upon me the importance of educational staff having the tools and skills to effectively deal with bullying behavior. The authors’ skillfully demonstrate through the counselor’s perspective how to create a safe space to address the behavior and build understanding for both the bully and victim.
If the goal of writing and illustrating this story are ways to effectively address bullying behavior, I believe the goal was met with the story itself. However, the authors are negotiation and mediation professors and trainers with a wealth of experience to share. The Information and Questions section that follows after the story reflects the co-authors’ expertise. This section provides time-tested methods and tools to prompt or continue the conversation with children and support grown-ups who may be experiencing bullying themselves.
BULLIED NO MORE! is a book that I wish had been on our bookshelf when my children were younger. The format is approachable for a child to read alone, be read to, and for a parent, educator or caregiver to access when faced with a bullying situation.
Bullying is a societal issue, and as the Final Word recognizes, bullying happens to adults, too. Because it is straightforward, principled, and practical in its approach, I would hope to see BULLIED NO MORE! in every school and home library.
I am currently working in Texas which placed me here with plenty of exposure to the politics and issues of this state during the recent election. It is fascinating to me to learn about the issues and politics of a host state. "Learn" might be the wrong word; more like "exposed" to the political machinery of advertisements that inundated the airwaves.
One afternoon I was checking in to a hotel in Houston. As I was checking in, another guest standing at the counter, turned to me and asked where I was from. I stated Portland, Oregon. She stared at me in a rather blatant and awkward manner. After a few seconds, I asked her where she was from. Before she responded to my question, she says "a liberal". I immediately wanted to defend myself and started down that road but then paused. I again asked where she was from; turns out right from Houston. I was triggered but calmed myself down and got "curious". "What makes you say that?" "Have you been to Portland?" (turns out she has been there.) I attempted to learn from her why being a Republican was so important to her and in what ways did she see a difference in us. Eventually I divulged that I was a registered Republican (there is a story behind this and in reality, I really don't like having to be registered with any political party). And that I voted based on what best reflected my values. To which I got another, "Liberal!". I expressed to her that at the end of the day, we probably want and value many of the same things and that I decided to make a point of having dialog with others that have differing political views as this was something that is missing in our society. She agreed with me in concept but her body language told me that she was uncomfortable and had probably never met someone who responded to her in such a way that encouraged dialog and understanding. Later, she walked by me and said that I seemed like a nice person anyway.
This got me thinking about my identity. To be approached in such a way that put political affiliation as a core identity didn't resonate with me. My identity includes: mother, partner, professional, communicator, world traveler, independent thinker, peace maker, explorer, creative, health advocate. Political affiliation??? Way way way down the identity list...so how is it that this woman thought that because I call Portland, Oregon "home", she could make such an assumption about my identity, let alone my values and beliefs? I am pretty certain that if she had given me the opportunity, we could have learned that we have many shared values: family, health, financial security; and far few differences. But how will we ever know this if we don't take time to dialog and be curious about each other?
This is Texas and most likely she was also packin'. I didn't look that closely! Of course, I have encountered in Portland, grandma's with concealed carry permits, so again, maybe we aren't all so different after all....
Does anyone else feel this way? I start off with good intentions - I will exercise everyday, write a weekly blog, spend more time with my family, volunteer -- but I tend to get distracted! Life happens. I write this blog from Puerto Rico where I am deployed as a Reservist ADR Advisor. Did I know that I would be here the last time I wrote a blog? I had an idea as I had been in the interview process with FEMA and conversations were moving towards deployment.
While my goal of writing a consistent blog has been inconsistent, my career goals have fallen in place. As I plan for the ACR conference this fall, I am mindful of the many people who have aspirations to work in the alternative dispute resolution field and are frustrated with what feels like a lack of opportunities. Having landed in the ADR field nearly 20 years ago, I wouldn't have imagined that I would be sitting in a Puerto Rican Starbucks typing a blog for my own website in February 2018! How did I get here? Well, I think it is because I have been "consistently inconsistent" but with a goal in mind: to be an ADR professional. Earl Nightingale's analogy of a boat in a harbor, one with a captain and one without, and the fact that the boat will float either way. The difference is the one with the captain will get it to its destination. I have been "captaining" my career but I have been open to other co-captains, different ports, and even different "boats".
While my blog aspirations fall short (and then again, maybe I should only blog when I have something of value to offer!), I exercise on a regular basis (the fittest I have been since I left Maui - I am a tropical climate lover!), I am redefining my family relationships by having meaningful conversations and FaceTime with them while I am gone, and I am balancing my volunteering time as ACR's President while working as an ADR professional 55 + hours each week.
It looks like intentional consistent inconsistency works for me!
Sunny E. Sassaman Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Consultant