Client Management Book Launch countdown

I am so excited that we are now in the final days before my book BRIEF: The Essential Art of Client Management is released on Amazon.

The Essential Art of Client Management Rebecca Carroll Bell The Everyday Mediator and Author of BRIEF: The Essential Art of Client Management

BRIEF: The Essential Art of Client Management lets you in on the secrets of client management that are not taught at university (at least not in the degrees I took). This book will improve your client communication which in turn will increase your productivity and efficiency – better client management means more billable hours per week and hitting your budget month after month. BRIEF: The Essential Art of Client Management shows you how.

Some people have asked what I am doing to launch the book, and although I have responded that its a “soft launch” that’s not entirely true.  Rather, it’s a digital launch, with the book available online and as a digital file only; a printed edition will be out down the track and that’s when I will throw a big party.

Best Seller

Part of the reason for delaying the physical edition is that I want to be able to put “Best Seller” on the cover when I get it printed, and I am hoping that you can help me with that.

How you can help: Order a copy of my debut book BRIEF: The Essential Art of Client Management via Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jkv4vb7

Thank you so much for your support and for being there. I can’t wait for you to read this book and to start seeing a positive difference in your everyday life.

Until next time,

Bec CB

You don’t have to be perfect

I was having coffee with a friend last week. We were talking about another friend who has been going through a tough time lately, and making things even harder by holding herself to outrageously high expectations.

My friend, Dee, summed it up beautifully when she said “You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t expect me to be perfect or your boyfriend to be perfect, and you don’t need to be perfect either”.

A few times over recent weeks I have looked at this blog and felt guilty that I hadn’t added any new content for weeks. I have been busy writing my first book, filming a 5-day video course, working on a website make over, all of which will be launched in October.  So its not that I have been unproductive, just that I haven’t added anything here.

Not Perfect

Today I am giving myself permission to not be perfect. Its ok to update this blog when I have something important or interesting to share.

And today’s important message is that you don’t have to be perfect either. No one is perfect and no one expects you to be perfect. So give yourself a break and celebrate your imperfect self.

Until next time,

Bec

P.S.

In the spirit of celebrating our imperfections, here is a shot from my recent photo shoot that will NOT be part of my official branding or promotional material. I was going for ‘wise and pensive’.

Not Perfect

Winter Holiday 2016

Rebecca is on Holiday

Thanks for dropping by, I am on holiday at the moment, recharging my batteries, experiencing new things and seeing new sights. When I get back I will be refreshed, re-energised and ready to help you conquer conflict and manage drama in your everyday life.

In the meantime, you can find loads of resources to get you by here:

Videos via Bec’s YouTube

Articles on the Blog

FAQs and Factsheets

Guides for Purchase via the Business Business Business Marketplace

 

See you on Monday 27 June 2016!

Bullying – When your desire for ‘justice’ blinds you to your own best interests

Dealing with a bully at work is really tough.

The anti-bullying policies in the HR manual make it sound straight forward, but in reality, coping with a bully is anything but simple.

A very stressed out looking man suffering from bullying

Photo Credit: jorge gonz@lez via compfight.com

Dealing with a bully at work is really tough Click To Tweet

You speak to your manager, they speak to the bully, perhaps there is a round table discussion or meeting, and for a week or two they might change their ways, but it doesn’t take long until they are at it again. You start to feel there is nothing to be done, and you begin to consider your options.

Usually it comes down to a choice between 3 things: stay and put up with it; leave and find another job; or take it to Fair Work Australia and/or Workcover.

Bullying or Reasonable Management?

I recently mediated a workplace dispute in which allegations of bullying were made by a junior staff member against his immediate supervisor. I was brought in by their manager to see if we could sort it out. After a day and a half of discussion and negotiation it seemed pretty clear to me that the supervisor was a really poor communicator and have not been giving enough or the right type of training to the junior. This was one of those cases where the bloke was not a bully, he was just rubbish at his job.

Often they are not a bully; they’re just really rubbish at their job! Click To Tweet

One of the options we came up with was for the junior to find another place to work, and the supervisor would support him in that by giving him a good reference. Another option was to stay on and create a ‘behavioural contract’ whereby they both committed to changing the behaviours that most irritated the other; the third was take it to Fair Work.

In a private session with the junior he was outraged by the idea that, if he left for another workplace, the supervisor would do the same thing to the next person who came along into the role. He wasn’t impressed when I said that wouldn’t be his problem, it would be the company’s problem. He was angry and frustrated that the supervisor would get away with it, that nothing would be done, there would be no consequences for the supervisor. He seemed to feel some sort of obligation to expose this man as a bully, force him to change or be punished, and to protect others from this man’s behaviour.

Now I am all for social responsibility, activism and campaigning for change, but not when it is to your own detriment. If you are a strong person with the fortitude to go through with all the necessary steps to bring a case in Fair Work or with Workcover, by all means go for it, but be aware of the toll it will take on you, your family, your co-workers, and your life in general, not the mention the amount of time and money you could spend on pursuing this.

Those of us who run our own business are familiar with the Oxygen Mask Rule: always put on your own mask first before helping others with their mask. More and more often I want to give my parties the same advice: take care of yourself first.

Oxygen Mask Rule applies at work too: always put on your own mask first before helping others with… Click To Tweet

In this case the young man was already stressed out and miserable coming in to work every day because of his supervisor’s attitude and behaviour. It was sapping him of his energy and his enjoyment of life. He did not want to be there and was making a huge effort to get through each and every day. This young man was exhausted. He was worn down. And yet he was seriously contemplating taking the matter further with a complaint to Fair Work.

Get out of a toxic workplace

If the workplace is causing you that much misery and you have another option, get the heck out of there!

It is not always up to you to be the hero, to fight for justice. Don’t let your desire for justice blind you to what is in your own best interests. It’s ok to be selfish and to do what’s best for you. Getting away from a rubbish manager or an immovable bully is a valid option, and the thing with options is, you get to decide which one you take.

It's ok to be selfish and to do what's best for you. Getting away from a rubbish manager or an… Click To Tweet

Have you escaped bullying or a rubbish manager? Or perhaps you have been accused of being bullying? Share your story in the comments below.

For more tips on managing everyday stress and drama at work, home and everyday life, subscribe to Short Circuit

Was this article useful? If so, share it with your friends and colleagues.

My authentic self isn’t a morning person, and I’m ok with that

Being true to myself in business and in life

 

Rebecca Carroll-Bell is not a morning person

Lately I have been feeling a degree of entrepreneurial peer pressure to become a “morning person”

After all, Richard Branson rises at 5am local time wherever he is in the world, so if it works for him, we should all be doing it, right? It seems that more and more people in my Facebook stream are getting up early and joyously welcoming the day with walks on the beach, sun salutations and a few hours of precious peace and quiet before the rest of the household wakes. On Pinterest I searched for “30 Day challenge” and alongside the health and fitness posts I found “30 Days of inspiration”. That sounds more like me! I clicked on the pin, and Pinterest suggests “An Awesome Day Begins with an Awesome Morning”. Sure that sounds like a reasonable proposition. That pin led me to “5 Morning Mantras to Start Your Day” and then suddenly Pinterest is suggesting “How to Become a Morning Person” “How to wake up early” and other morning bird posts. And that was when I made the startling realisation: I don’t want to be a morning person. I am a night owl, and that is ok.

Night owls are entrepreneurs too

I don’t know about you, but my social media feed has been peppered this month with articles like Richard Branson Gives the Best Reason for waking up at 5am and I Joined the 5am Club, I Love It and You Will Too. With equal parts scepticism, curiosity and hope I clicked on some of those links, but no matter how engaging the writing, I have yet to be persuaded that rising with the dawn is right for me. You see, I am not a morning person. I used to be, but I am not any more. Luckily for me I am married to a fellow night owl. We can be working away at our computers long after most people have had their dinner and are settling in for some TV or reading in bed. When left to our own devices we sleep until about 10 in the morning, and I am most productive in the afternoons and evenings.

Rebecca Carroll-Bell is a night owl and that is ok
It has been this way for my entire adult life, and I would often bemoan the corporate world compelling me to fit into its 9 – 5 structure. Mostly, as a lawyer, I got away with arriving at 9.30ish and starting to actually do work around 10 except on days I was in court, when I was more likely to be in around 8 or 8.30 to pick up the court bag I had packed the night before and head across town to court. I was rarely the one in the office at 7 am and regularly the one there at 8 or 9 pm. This worked best when I was paired with a secretary or PA who was a morning person: I’d leave the office at 8pm leaving a stack of dictation and tasks ready to be actioned, and by the time I was making my 9.30 coffee she’d have the first drafts ready for me to review, edit and approve.

When I made the leap out of corporate law and into my own business, being my own boss and setting my own hours were very appealing ideas; and yet, for the first couple of years, I still felt I “should” be available for my clients earlier in the day, I “should” operate “normal” working hours. And so I would set my alarm, and go about my morning routine on auto pilot, sit at my desk and force myself to try and think creatively, write appealingly and generally follow the formula I thought would make me a successful entrepreneur. Then as soon as the weekend or a holiday would come around, I’d slip straight back into my night owl ways, and come Monday morning the struggle would begin anew. I signed up for a few networking webinars that started around 9 or 9.30 in the morning. “This is great!” I thought “I am going to learn so much, make some great connections, it’s just the motivation I need.” The first week I was dressed and ready for the start of the call. The next few weeks I was on the call but still in my pyjamas, grateful that is was not a video call. I think the last time I joined one of those calls was 8 months ago. It’s just too hard.
I haven’t always been this way. When I was a kid I’d be up at 6 am to watch the Saturday morning cartoons without any need for an alarm or a wakeup call. Then, around age 12 or 13, I became a night owl. It would take me ages to drop off to sleep and in the mornings I struggle to drag myself out of bed. This became a real problem when I went off to boarding school. Lights out was at least an hour earlier than my brain wanted to sleep, and would lay in bed awake for what felt like hours, with nothing to do but chase thoughts around my own mind. Having to get up, shower, dress and walk across campus to the dining hall for breakfast – even on weekend – was a daily battle. Looking back I now realise that this had a terrible impact on my self-perception and self-worth – I was tired, miserable and hearing the message that I was “bad” or wrong” for not springing out of bed at the first bell like the rest of the girls.
Recent research suggests that my sleep cycle, which started in high school and continues to this day, is not all that unusual.
An Oxford University study of circadian rhythms has shown that the average 10-year-old will not start focussing properly for academic work before 8.30am; a 16-year-old should start at 10am for best results and university students should start at 11am.
Businesses that require employees to start work earlier are also likely to be hurting their output, according to Oxford’s Dr Paul Kelley. “This is a huge society issue,” he told the British Science Festival in Bradford. “Staff should start at 10am. Staff are usually sleep-deprived. We’ve got a sleep-deprived society.”
So, in 2016 I have decided to stop fighting my natural sleeping, waking and working rhythms. I will not be rising at 5 am. I will not be taking a 30 day challenge to become a morning person. And I will not be attending 9 am webinars. I will still make the effort to attend valuable breakfast meetings, conferences and seminars starting in the early morning (and by early, I mean before 11 am), but that doesn’t guarantee that I will be one time and won’t doze off before morning tea. I will continue to work until 8 at night, schedule client calls after hours and attend night time networking events.
As my mentor says “Your Business, Your Rules”. This year My Rules say the day starts at 10 am, and if you don’t like it that’s ok. I am sure there are plenty of other night owls out there who do.

My business, my rules
Rebecca Carroll-Bell is an experienced conflict manger, conflict resolution expert and mediator. In addition to helping you manage, resolve and prevent conflict in your everyday life, Rebecca provides coaching, mentoring and support to other mediators and lawyers wishing to market and promote their practice on a shoe-string budget.
For further information please contact:
0411770125
Rebecca@rcbmediationservices.com.au

10 tips to take the heat out of arguments this New Year’s Eve

How to defuse stand-offs and redirect conflict when temperatures rise and tempers fray on New Year’s Eve

Every year on New Year’s Eve hundreds of Australians are injured or arrested, many as a result of drunken arguments that quickly spiral out of control. With temperatures in the high 30’s predicted, a combination of heat, crowds, dehydration and alcohol could easily lead to conflicts amongst friends and strangers tonight on Melbourne’s streets tonight. Despite the heat, half a million people are expected in the city according to Deputy lord mayor Susan Riley, increasing the risk that ordinary Melbournians and tourists will be caught up in unnecessary conflict.

As tempers fray, small disputes that would normally be shrugged off may quickly escalate with ugly consequences.

Follow these 5 tips when responding to New Year’s arguments and  take the heat out of this New Year’s Eve:

  1. Thank them for their opinion – don’t agree or disagree with them, just thank them for telling you
  2. Repeat, reframe and check your understanding – this sends a message that they have been heard and will often stop them from repeating themselves
  3. Ask yourself “Does this really matter? If I walk away now, will this affect my future?” – you don’t need to respond to every quip and comment directed your way
  4. Find a point of agreement, tell them they’re right – they may have a valid point, they may have made an observation that is accurate, they may be spouting rubbish that is of no consequence, in which case, it makes no difference if you agree with them
  5. Reassure them, tell them they’re all right, that everything is fine, and that there is still fun to be had.

New Year’s Resolutions: Hydrate, Stay Cool and Stay in Control

Police and ambulance services have issued familiar warnings:  stay hydrated, stay cool, don’t drink to excess, and look after your mates. These are excellent tips for staying safe and keeping conflict at bay. The more stressed your body is – whether due to alcohol, heat, dehydration or emotional stress – the more difficult it is for your brain to find ways out of challenging situations. Instead of assessing the situation and finding a way to defuse or redirect the dispute, you are more likely to react angrily and defensively. This inevitably inflames the argument, leading to violence and in some cases police intervention. Drink in moderation, eat and have enough water, and you will be better able to assess the situation, ask yourself whether you need to respond, to defend, or to just shrug it off and get on with your night.

Mates don’t let mates have stupid fights on New Year’s Eve

If you see your mates getting hot under the collar, or you find yourself at odds with a stranger, avoid telling them they are wring or what they ought to do – this will cause them to become more defensive, less rational and provoke them to lash out at you. Put your suggestions and proposals as questions; ask questions the prompt the other person to respond form their own point of view. Instead of telling your fellow revellers to “calm down” (this generally backfires and the person becomes less calm by the moment), ask them a question like “let’s go see the view from across the street” or “you’re all right mate, let’s leave them to it”.

5 more tips to avoid New Year’s drama:

  1. Repeat, reframe and check your understanding of the other person’s drama; repeat their own words back to them
  2. Focus on the behaviour, the methods and the actions
  3. Do not criticise the person, only talk about the situation
  4. Ask lots of questions, get their feedback, ask don’t tell them what to do next
  5. Repeat, reframe and confirm your agreement (or disagreement)

Once you have either agreed on a way forward, or agreed to disagree, it’s great to again repeat, reframe and check you’ve understood what’s been said.

By taking a step back, resisting the instinct to respond in anger and defence, and instead redirecting everyone’s focus on the positives of the night – that they are ok, you appreciate their point of view, they are right, and there  is more to see in do somewhere else – you can stop arguments escalating and avoid ugly consequences.

Stay cool, stay calm, and have a happy new year.

Until next time,

Bec

Rebecca Carroll-Bell is an experienced conflict manger and conflict resolution expert. She is passionate about helping you manage, resolve and prevent conflict in your everyday life. A successful litigation lawyer for over 10 years, Rebecca brings her extensive negotiation skills and experience to conflict management and resolution situations. She is passionate about resolving conflict before it gets to litigation. With a focus on workplace and family conflicts, particularly ageing Australians and their families, Rebecca’s no-nonsense, approachable style makes her the ideal person to help you create strategies to manage, resolve and reduces conflict in your everyday life.

For further information please contact:

Rebecca Carroll-Bell – Rebecca@rcbmediationservices.com.au – 0411770125

Resolving conflict on social media: George Takei shows us how.

From the Archives: Once again an internet meme has prompted strong criticism and complaint, this time on actor and activist George Takei’s social media accounts. How “Uncle George” chose to respond was both eloquent and insightful.

You may recall Aussie clothing label Black Milk’s social media meltdown earlier this year (read it again here); Takei’s response shows us how social media conflict should be handled.

Meme? What meme?

Scott Jordan Harris writing in the National Post this week, says this particular meme* is not new.

“It is a photograph of a woman struggling out of her wheelchair to fetch a bottle from a liquor store shelf…

I despise it for two key reasons. First, many people who use wheelchairs can stand and walk short distances. Second, we are allowed to drink alcohol, and to shop for ourselves, just like any other adult.

The “miracle” meme has been around for a while—long enough to be infamous among those of us who use wheelchairs—but George Takei recently shared the photo several times with his colossal social media audience, and that brought it unprecedented exposure.”

(*The Conversation’s Sean Rintel has published this excellent answer to the question “what is a meme?” and why are they so popular?)

Takei said what?

Writing on his Facebook page a few days later, Takei said:

A photo of Geroge Takei

George Takei via GLBT News

“I’ve just come back from an extended trip to England, and I came home to a large number of fan emails concerning a meme I shared more than a week ago. In that meme, a woman in a wheelchair was standing up to reach for a bottle of liquor in the store, and the caption said something about a miracle in the alcohol aisle. To this I added a quip about her being touched by the holy spirits…

After I’d posted the meme, I noted in the comments an inordinate amount of very uncivil behavior on the part of many fans, including both those who demanded I take it down and those who said I should leave it up. I also received a good deal of email IN CAPITAL LETTERS asking me if I would feel the same way if someone called me FAG or a JAP. Now, I took down the meme from my timeline shortly after it went up, but I admit I was decidedly irked by the tenor of some of those criticizing me. In that moment, I posted a follow up telling fans that perhaps they should “take it down—a notch” which, in retrospect, was not the most sensitive response.”

Just like the Black Milk Team, Takei initially went into defence mode, telling his fans to “take it down a notch”, in other words, devaluing and dismissing their concerns. Unlike Black Milk, Takei then reflected upon the feedback from his fans, and on his own reaction, and decided to take a different, more constructive approach – he apologised.

He BIFF’ed that meme!

US author, attorney and mediator Bill Eddy developed the BIFF response formula, which can be applied to any mode of communication. BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm, and is the subject of Eddy’s book BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns (available from Unhooked Books)

The aim of a BIFF response is to diffuse the conflict, end a ‘high-conflict discussion’ and perhaps even solve the underlying problem. A BIFF response can also give you a great sense of relief.

Whether it was his intention or not, Takei’s open apology is a BIFF response.

Brief:

At 511 words, Takei’s apology is long for a social media response, and is certainly longer than the 2 – 5 sentence Eddy suggests; however it needed to be that long to convey all that Takei wanted to say, and is no longer than necessary.

Informative:

The post includes a lot of useful information on the subjects being discussed, delivered in plain English and without frills. Providing useful information shifts the discussion away from subjective opinions and focuses it on objective matters.

Friendly:

Takei manages to blend informal and formal language in a way that makes the reader feel as though Takei is speaking to her/him directly. For example:

“Now, before all of you go and start defending my right to post what I want, I want first to thank the many fans who wrote in with the hopes of educating me on the question of “ableist” bias…

The fact that I was surprised by the response the wheelchair meme received indicates that I do indeed lack knowledge, and some sensitivity, over what is clearly a hot button issue, and that I and others can take this as an opportunity not to dig in, but rather to open up to the stories and experiences of those in the disabled community. I appreciate those who took the time to write in. I wish I’d had the chance to respond sooner, but until today I was not able to go through all the mail I’d received…

Very well then, carry on, friends. Carry on”

This is a rare skill, and may be one reason why his online following is so high. As Eddy notes in his book, adopting a friendly tone is often the hardest part of the BIFF response, because truthfully, we often want to lash out and ‘take down’ the person to whom we are responding.

By adopting a friendly tone, you reduce the risk that the other party will take (further) offence, and avoid giving them (more) fuel for their anger/hurt/upset. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that the conflict will fizzle out without the need for further interaction.

Firm:

“The goal of many BIFF responses is to end the conversation – to disengage from a potentially high-conflict situation. You want to let the other person know that this is really all you are going to say on the subject.” (Eddy).

Takei achieves this, delivering firm messages to both those who criticised him for sharing the meme and those who ‘took his side’ against the critics:

“So to those who were hurt by my posts on this issue, I ask you please to accept this apology. To those who think I shouldn’t have to apologize, I want to remind you that I get to decide what I apologize for, so there’s no need to come to my defense.”

You can BIFF too

Using a BIFF response requires the ability to step back from the situation, analyse what is really going on, and formulate a cool, calm response.

I recently helped a client to craft a BIFF response to diffuse a conflict brewing between two commenters on her Google+ page. Once the post went up, the commenters took their dispute elsewhere, preserving the friendly, collegiate atmosphere she has so carefully nurtured on her own page.

For more on the BIFF response, check out Bill Eddy’s article here.

Share your BIFF

Have you used a BIFF response? Did it work? Share your BIFFs in the comments below.

This article was originally posted at Australian Mediation Perspectives on 15 August 2014

How to avoid Christmas Conflict with people you can’t stand but have to see

No Conflict Christmas Countdown with Rebecca Carroll-Bell the Everyday Mediator

Christmas conflict follows a pattern. Spot the pattern and avoid the conflict.

Sometimes the only way to avoid Christmas Conflict is for you to change the way you respond to others. Think about the comments, actions or behaviours that upset and angered you. It’s probably more or less the same thing they say or do every time. How do you usually respond? How can you change your response to diffuse the conflict before it flares up?

Responding to Christmas CONFLICT

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Does it really matter? Is it really important that you are right and show that they are wrong? Are you responding just to be right? What do you lose if you refuse to be drawn into the argument and move away instead?

Is there a real issue being discussed, or are they just being difficult? What does it matter if they maintain their own opinion (no matter how wrong their opinion may be)?

Are you likely to change their view about the issue? If not, what is the point in arguing? Why not just say “ok, thanks for that” or “I see what you are saying.” You don’t need to agree with them, just acknowledge what they’ve said and change the topic.

Is the only real issue their personality? You can’t change that, so don’t waste your time trying.

Are they only expressing their opinion about you, your behaviour or your personality? You probably can’t change that either, so don’t waste your time trying.

Have you already given them an answer and there is nothing more to add? If so, there is no point repeating yourself. Acknowledge what they have said and move on to another topic.

How to diffuse Christmas Conflict

Can you identify the key to the conflict? Once you’ve worked out the kernel of the conflict, ask yourself does it really matter? How important is it to be right or to win the fight? Is it more or less important than getting through the day without an argument?

What is the other person likely to say to trigger the dispute? It’s probably more or less the same thing they say every time. How do you usually respond? How can you change your response to diffuse the conflict before it flares up?

Write out your new response and practice saying them out loud. Ask a friend or trusted loved one to help you practice. The more you get used to saying these new answers out loud, the easier it will be to say them “in real life”.

Let me know how you go. If you need some one-to-one support, get in touch and we can make a time for a coaching call. And please do share your successes stories in the comments below.

Until next time,

Bec

PS Have you downloaded you free Week-by-Week No-Conflict Christmas Countdown ? Grab a copy now 100% free of charge .

Change is Key: Change your conflict style for better outcomes

How to change your mind for better conflict management

Last time we looked at the neuroscience of change, and discovered that there are physiological reasons why many people find it hard to make and sustain change.

How we respond to and manage conflict is a habit, oftentimes a learned behaviour. To become everyday mediators, adept at managing and diffusing conflict, we may need to change our conflict style.

In this article, we will look at some techniques for creating new conflict responses.

You cannot change their conflict responses, only your own

Many people come to conflict resolution intending to change the other person’s mind, behaviour or entire personality. They often pull up short when they discover that neither they nor I have the power to change or control the other person.

What I can do is work with each party to the dispute, slowly changing each person’s mind, and gently supporting them as they achieve these necessary changes; because without change, everything remains the same and the conflict cannot resolve.

So, if you are reading this article to learn how to make someone else change their mind, then this may not be the article you are looking for.

If, on the other hand, you are ready to open your mind and accept that through changing your own approach you may trigger changes in others, then read on.

Change requires re-wiring the brain

An Illustration of the Brain

Image Source: labguest https://www.flickr.com/photos/35436795@N02/3302264930/ via Compfight http://compfight.com

As we saw last time, creating new habit, behaviours and responses requires changing neural pathways and connections. This draws on the brain’s resources – energy, focus, attention – and the process can be easily derailed by stress, distraction and fatigue.

It is commonly supposed that new habits can be formed in 21 days, or that a new routine will be embedded after 21 repetitions. Unfortunately, this is more a rule of thumb than a money-back guarantee.

 

Andrew May last year wrote:

“Bin the outdated notion that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit – some people can be stuck in some of the stages above for 21 years. A realistic, lasting change program will take most people between 3 to 6 months until they can say the changes have been embedded.” (via Executive Style)

Dr Jim Taylor of the University of San Francisco says it may take more like 6 – 12 months to see positive change.

So while there are no shortcuts – with the possible exception of hypnotherapy – there are some tools and techniques you can use to make the process easier, and that you can start using straight away in your everyday conflicts.

Start before you need it

For some of you reading this, the above advice comes too late, you are already deep in a conflict quagmire and you need to haul yourself out. Well that’s ok, the tools and techniques we are going to discuss will help you too; but ideally I recommend you start practicing managing and preventing conflict on less stressful, everyday disputes.

Write it down

You know your conflict style (fight, flight, freeze), and you have a pretty good idea of the conflict style you’d like to adopt.  Set aside a time and place when you won’t be interrupted and, using a pen and paper, write out how you would like to handle conflict from now on. Use recent examples from your everyday life and rewrite the scenario, setting out how you wish you’d have reacted. Perhaps your kids are constantly pestering you while you are trying to cook dinner and you end up snapping at them or telling them to Just. Be. Quiet. Now think about how you’d like that scene to play out, and write it as you might a scene from a play or tv show.

Have a plan

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes:

“[A] habit is a formula our brain automatically follows: When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD. To re-engineer that formula, we need to begin making choices again. And the easiest way to do this, according to study after study, is to have a plan. Within  psychology, these plans are known as ‘implementation intentions.’

In step 1 you wrote out how you’d like your responses to conflict to change. Read back over that ideal conflict resolution scenario and see if you can break it down into steps or processes.

Write out a step by step plan of what you can do to change your conflict response the next time you are faced with a dispute (because you can’t change others’ conflict behaviour, only your own).

Some people get a sort of ‘conflict stage fright’. They get tongue tied, can’t think of what to say, or find it impossible to keep their temper in check. If this is you, you may find it useful to write out a list of questions to ask and possible responses to give to the other person. If you know you have a confronting conversation ahead, you can prepare this list of possible questions and responses and take it with you. Perhaps you are conducting annual performance reviews and one of your staff has not been performing as well as expected.  Write out the questions you might want to ask them, and the feedback you want to give them.

Practice

Let’s assume you have a neighbour who is a noisy nuisance and you are fed up with their behaviour. You decide that you are going to go over there and have it out with them. You’ve imagined how you want the conversation to go, written out your plan and have questions and statements prepared.

Before you knock on their door, ask a friend or family member to help you rehearse. Ask them to play the part of the neighbour and practice telling them what you are going to tell the neighbour. Notice how it feels and how your “neighbour” reacts. You might want to tweak your language or delivery. Even if you don’t make any changes, rehearsing helps you to remember what it is you want to say so that when the time comes you are less reliant upon your notes and more able to speak to and actively engage with your neighbour. It also helps you to pick up again if you are interrupted. Plus it gives you a confidence boost, and you are less likely to get tongue tied or trip over your words if you have already said them out loud before in a calm and low-conflict environment.

Another way to practice your new conflict style is to consciously and mindfully use it in your everyday interactions. Next time you are having a difference of opinion about something, notice if you are about to respond in your habitual way, and if so, pull yourself up and make the change. Here are some opportunities to practice your new approach in circumstances that are relatively low-risk:

  • Discussing a sporting team’s performance or the outcome of a competition;
  • Deciding where to eat or what movie to see;
  • When someone is late and keeps you waiting (or perhaps you’re the one who is late);
  • If your significant other seems to be a in a bad mood or has had a rubbish day, and yet insists that they are “fine”.
  • Any time your kids (or your parents) are getting on your nerves.

By setting out the way you want to respond to conflict, having a plan to create that change, and practicing it in relatively low-stress, low-risk settings, you will be actively engaging your pre-frontal cortex (Reflective brain) at a time when the brain has the resources to devote to forming new neural pathways. Having begun this construction work early, when you are faced with a sudden, unexpected, or highly stressful dispute, you will already have these new habits to rely on.

If you need some help identifying your conflict style, planning or practicing your new conflict response, get in touch for some one-to-one coaching.

Until next time,

Bec, The Everyday Mediator

How to respond with calm confidence to conflict at work and at school in the aftermath of the Paris attacks

Australians have been shocked by the violent attacks across Europe and the Middle East this past weekend, prompting outpourings of shock, sadness and grief in homes, workplaces and the media.

Across social media people are waving the tricolour in solidarity with the French victims, and hashtags such as #prayforparis and #standwithparis were trending as people offering their support.

Peace for Paris image  by Jean Jullien via Twitter @jean_jullien

Peace for Paris by Jean Jullien via Twitter @jean_jullien

Social media users have also been quick to apportion blame for these tragic events, with views ranging from all Muslims are to blame to refugees are the cause. Calls have been made to close borders, tighten migration policies, and in Australia, memes and posts in the vein of “Love it or Leave” have popped up once again. One I saw today read “In Australia we drink alcohol, eat bacon and treat women equally. If you don’t like it, don’t let the door hit you on the way out” splashed over the Australian flag. Putting to one side the accuracy of these statements (ask my vegetarian feminist friends about whether Aussie women are treated equally), how helpful are messages of exclusion, intolerance and uniformity?

How to manage conflict in the aftermath of terror attacks

With emotions running so high, you may suddenly find yourself navigating conflicts and tensions that are usually well contained if present at all. Managers, teachers, parents and other leaders can minimise the harm and disruption caused by these simmering tensions by using some of these conflict management tips:

  • Never assume you know what is going on, why a person has acted in a particular way, or what has triggered the conflict. Ask open ended questions that tap into the emotions underlying actions. For example, instead of asking “what happened” or “why” it happened, say “tell me more about that”, “how did that effect you/make you feel?”, “what is/was the impact of that?, “What do you think will happen if this is not fixed/resolved/changed”, “How long has this been happening?”
  • Practice active listening; repeat back to the person what they have told you, using their own words. Avoid the impulse to translate or reinterpret their report into your own words. Using their own words show you have heard them and help to build trust and rapport between you. Check with them to make sure you have understood correctly.
  • When you think you have enough information, ask “Is there anything else?”
  • Acknowledge and validate their experience. You do not need to agree with them or say they are right; say something like “I can see why you feel that way” or “I understand this has been upsetting for you”.
  • As them what they would like to be done about it or to happen next. You do not need to agree with them or say they are right; just acknowledge their view and say you will consider it.
  • When you have a solution in mind, put it to them as a proposal, not an instruction or direction. Use the words they used in describing the conflict to you, and their desired outcome. Ask them “How would it be if…” or “What if…” This gives them some sense of control over the outcome.
  • Take time to consider your response. Tell the person you need some time to think and tell them when you will speak to them again. Letting them know when they will hear from you reduces tension and gives them back a sense of control over their day, which helps to keep them calm and prevent further conflicts breaking out.

For help and support managing conflict at work or at home, contact me for a free 30 minute consultation. Whatever the dispute you are facing, I am here to help.

Until next time,

Bec