Category: Conflict Resolution

Evolution. What does it really mean? The first creature we would recognize as human called homo ergester first appeared in Africa two million years ago. Not long when compared to the Oldest species that inhabited earth over 600 million years ago. These species include sharks, ants, Jelly Fish and Sponges among others. The phrase survival of the fittest is what has been described as the outcome of how species with certain talents and capabilities are able to manage environmental threats and reproduce and therefore continue to prosper as living creatures rather than die out or become extinct.

 

Environmental threats exist no matter what. Any time there are multiple interests or forces at work, there is conflict. It is believed that Conflict is a result of various reasons. Malthus, the eminent economist says that reduced supply of the means of subsistence is the root cause of conflict. According to him, conflict is caused by the increase of population in geometrical progression and the food supply in arithmetical progression. According to Charles Darwin, the biological principles of “Struggle for existence” and “the survival of the fittest” are the main cause of conflict. Sigmund Freud and other psychologist hold the view that the innate instinct for aggression in man is the main cause of conflict. So we know conflict is an inevitable fact of life. However, in spite of the various causes the dynamic of conflict is founded on one main phenomenon; Power.

 

Even, in job related or interpersonal relationships where there is no tangible resources to be controlled per say such as money, food, autonomy, process, etc. the exercise of power could involve control of intangible resources such as decision-making, attention, freedom, time, love, etc. even though it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, in an abusive relationship whether a bully-type dynamic at work, an abusive personal relationship or an abusive marriage, one party establishes a pattern of unhealthy control. Even though there might seem to be times of peace and affection, these good times linger in the shadows of the subtle or not so subtle controlling tactics the abuser uses for the purpose of getting his or her own way.

For example, an abusive spouse may prevent his (or her) partner from seeing family members, going out with friends, or going back to college. He may try to regulate the people his spouse talks to, where his spouse goes, or how and when his spouse spends money. He may demand all of his mate’s attention. He may put his spouse on an irrational guilt trip for talking to or doing things with other people. He may consider his spouse’s needs as an infringement on or a betrayal of his own needs. He may act insanely jealous and falsely accuse his partner of cheating on him. He may constantly monitor and check up on the whereabouts of his spouse. Many are known to lash out and belittle their spouse when they don’t get their own way or when they feel betrayed or abandoned. Others threaten to divorce or to physically hurt their spouse or destroy a cherished possession, all in an effort to intimidate and punish their mate.

 

So let’s take some evolutionary theories regarding conflict resolution; Darwin’s theory regarding conflict for example. What does the term “fittest” really mean? Is it referring to our physical embodiment, like our body mass index, speed, skeletal build, or height? Is it referring to our cognitive intelligence like the size of our brains, how good we are at problem solving or finding food during difficult times? Or is it referring to our ability is to prevail through the process of conflict against the opposition or worst yet predators? The answer cannot be our physical embodiment because if that were the case, the dinosaurs would not have gone extinct. In fact one of the most successful species that has ever lived, the ant is one of the smallest and most fragile species. The answer also cannot be our cognitive intelligence because our mammalian brains evolved to the cerebral capacity they are today only since 200,000 years ago, while the successful species described above were around way before our time and have continued to prosper.

 

So how does this relate to survival of the fittest you ask? According to the various personality inventories, with the DISC being one of them and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator being another one, it has been studied that certain personality types are more likely to be entrepreneurial. According to Timmons New Venture Creation: entrepreneurship for the 21st century, entrepreneurship is “the ability to create and build something from practically nothing. It is initiating, doing, achieving and building an

enterprise or organization, rather than just watching, analyzing or describing one. It is the knack for sensing an opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction and confusion. It is the ability to build a ‘founding team’ to complement your own skills and talents. It is the know-how to find, marshal and utilize resources (often owned by others) and to make sure you don’t run out of money when you need it most. Finally, it is the willingness to take calculated risk, – both personal and financial – and then do everything possible to get the odds in your favor.”

Entrepreneurs take a stance on their vision, even if it means they might fail. Dozens of studies over the last three decades link risk-taking propensity with entrepreneurial achievement. Tony Tjan calls this trait guts: the ability to take action. An entrepreneur, he sums, must have “the guts to initiate, the guts to endure, and the guts to evolve as a new company changes”; we call it being emotionally intelligent. The ability to take risk in spite of fear, the ability to curb anxiety in spite of uncertainty, the ability to cope in spite of failure and the ability to persevere in spite of failure.   Two out of the four Emotional intelligence characteristics involve recognizing emotions in oneself and being able to work through them in spite of how difficult they may be in communicating with others.

 

One particular article has actually emphasized that these four personality types are more likely to be financially successful. But let’s put money aside and concentrate on just the entrepreneurial personality type for now, because as we know money can come from doing good and doing evil and it can do good as well as do evil. We believe that the “entrepreneurial spirit” or personality in this case, is not just relevant to the world of business, but rather to any venture that requires similar skills such as starting a new relationship, or a marriage and working though and nourishing it to flourish year after year. The four MBTI personality types ENTPs, ESTJs, ENTJs, INTJs, and ISTJs which are entrepreneurial are all curious, creative, take responsibility, and are decisive. According to Gallup, knowledge seekers increase their company’s chance of survival. Likewise, a 2015 Slovenian study revealed that entrepreneurial curiosity is positively correlated with company growth. According to the Journal of Small Business Economics as a result of these four sub personalities, they are Persuaders (enterprising) as measured by the Holland Occupational Themes. However, persuasion can either be tied in with psychopathy, machiavelian and/or narcissism or it could be tied in with conscientiousness, social helpfulness, and absorption; a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy. In reviewing the Big Five personality components, Contrary to expectations, a study in the Journal of Business Venturing found a negative relationship between the entrepreneur’s openness and long-term venture survival. On the other hand, according to the Journal of Management Decision, creativity was the single most critical and prevalent trait associated with entrepreneurship. However, in a recent study in the issue of Harvard Business Review, Target Training International Ltd., a research firm, a multi-variable analysis of a group of serial entrepreneurs identified five personal skills that clearly made them unique. The above personality traits applied but according to the study, the glue that held them together was “Personal skills” — often classified as “soft skills”. These include effectively communicating, building rapport, and relating well to all people, from all backgrounds and communication styles. Our research at Center for Work Life in working with hundreds of executives over a period of 18 years has found similar results.

 

It is believed that personality traits are usually pretty stable. However, interpersonal skills as practiced through emotional intelligence training are learned and open to change.

 

So how does this all tie in with our original question of what is evolution? Whether in the work place or in interpersonal relationships with friends, spouses or loved ones, we are constantly striving to either survive or evolve. Of course, similar to many other aspects of life, this is not an all or none dichotomy, but rather a spectrum. In Darwin’s terms, these two concepts were one and the same, but we say they are very different when it comes to social and psychological development. There is a difference between the individuals who tolerate, hide, ignore, avoid and stay on their own path when the evidence clearly calls on them, versus those that turn the system up side down because they strive for a different vision and are unwilling to take it as is. They resist control and instead choose cooperation.

Of course in symbiotic relationships where there is equity or a balance between give and take the power is distributed equitably.  We believe that Emotionally intelligent individuals are the highly evolved members of our society and of our species. Remember the sponge we talked about earlier? The one who has lived on earth for over 600 million years ago? What is the secret to its long and prosperous existence? It has been studied that as sponges feed, they filter out tiny particles of organic matter from the water. Researches believe, millions of years ago these particles would have included dead microbial matter, which rots and consumes oxygen. Sponges helped to clean water of this material. Without all of the rotting going on, the water would have experienced a significant decrease in oxygen levels.

More oxygen in the water then set the stage for more complex life forms to emerge, such as the first predatory animals with guts that started to eat one another, marking the beginning of a modern marine ecosystem, with the type of food webs we are familiar with today. So rather than merely surviving, the most successful species on the planet, thrived by “thinking” outside of itself and enterprising on the vision of coexistence, support and a symbiotic relationship with other species that it yearned to neighbor some day. So in spite of having no IQ at all, no cerebral cortex, no significant size or particular muscular strength, the sponge could just have been the most emotionally intelligent species that lived.

As humans, we have achieved so much through the art, science and technology. However, the illusion of control, or the misrepresentation of the power to guard resources has led us to kill, repress, exclude and severely harm our own kind. Rather than control, what if we shared our resources, capabilities, and strengths with others. Rather than possess, what if we freed rights and took responsibility not just for ourselves but also for other human beings and species. What if we learned to be better communicators? Being intelligently aware of our own challenges and communicating them while seeking others challenges and empowering them. Interestingly, it turns out that fortunately we have the wiring to do just that. As opposed to homo ergaster and homo erectus, as homo sapiens we surpassed the test of time and were the only species that continued to live on the planet as descendants of apes some 6 million years ago. But why? Homo erectus was slightly bigger and more powerful than Homo sapiens, so why did we survive when they did not? The most simple answer could be that this happened because we had bigger brains. But it turns out that what mattered was not overall brain size but the areas where the brain was larger. “The Homo erectus brain did not devote a lot of space to the part of the brain that controls language and speech,” has said John Shea, professor of paleo-anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York.

“One of the crucial elements of Homo sapiens’ adaptations is that it combines complex planning, developed in the front of the brain, with language and the ability to spread new ideas from one individual to another. Planning, communication and even trade led, among other things, to the development of better tools and weapons which spread rapidly across the population”.  

 

One could argue that not all people have the luxury or even want to be emotionally intelligent, because they have to be strategic. Our response: strategy or strategic action is associated with a competitive advantage-seeking behavior to create value.   If that value were one sided, meaning just valuable to us, or worst, gained at the expense of disvaluing others, that value would surely be short-term. And value, which is short-term, is not value at all. Hence true gain in competitive advantage utilizes Emotional Intelligence within all strategic decisions to create influence rather than control and hence a win-win for all.   Sponges could have ruled the planet. They could have reserved all of the earth resources for themselves. But they were the active agents that oxygenated the ocean around 600 million years ago and created a world in which more complex animals could evolve, including our very ancestors.

Work and Live Your Relationships Like a Sponge

Work and Live Your Relationships Like a Sponge

     During the past few years, I have increasingly come across more and more individuals, both men and women who have expressed “boredom” with their relationships or worst yet, with their marriages. In the tradition of research, I sought to discover what were some of the reasons for the boredom and here is a compilation of some of the reasons I was able to find:

-Busy schedules

-A lot of routine and predictability

-Tedious repetition

 

                     -Lack of surprise or delight in the relationship

                    -All Efforts toward providing for the family financially

                    – The males perception of the females’s lack of hobbies outside of the marriage and family

                    -The females Perception of the male’s lack of initiative and planning for joint and dynamic

                      activities whether as a couple or as a family 

     According to an article in www.foryourmarriage.org, “for some couples boredom is accepted as suffering to be endured. Common passive ways to escape boredom are to sleep or daydream. Other couples expend considerable effort and expense to remedy boredom through elaborate entertainment. These are only temporary fixes, however, since boredom is not so much dependent on one’s environment as a lack of imagination. You might say it is actually the person him/herself who is dull”.

     In a 2014 article in the Huffington Post, a 24-year-old male complains anonymously about the fact that he’s become so bored in his relationship with his wife, that he is considering divorce. His chief complaint: “she’s not passionate about anything, but us”. He goes on to say that although he doesn’t mind that she doesn’t work outside the home, and he’s the breadwinner, but he does mind that “she is not even passionate about a hobby”. Within that same thread, interestingly, a commenter on the thread, a female responds that “may be it’s not her and may be it’s you”. She says this after she says that her husband chooses to go party with his friends in an irresponsible manner, and hence she feels she needs to be the responsible one. We say, it’s probably a combination. It takes two to Tango as they say.

 

     Why not both parties put some effort? And no it’s not just about “spicing” it up with sex toys and other “extracurricular” activities, because those can eventually lead to boredom as well. How about instead, we start by avoiding what we should do, and do what we feel, and treating the relationship like it’s a person rather than a thing. Many couples assume that a good relationship just is. It’s fun, loving, exciting, etc. etc. all on it’s own.  They assume that if their relationship gets stale, it’s a bad relationship and it’s written in the stars. Not True. It was during the Season 6 and Episode 15 of Sex and the City that I first discovered the verb “shoulding”. The episode basically described that as women, we are particularly vulnerable to doing what we should be. For example, the show mentioned, should be married before our 30’s, having a steady income and a high profile job by the age of 30, and children before the age of 35, etc. Samantha had just been in a clinic testing and a not so pleasant experience hit her in the face. Later on, in observation, Carrie reflected in her column and wrote, “Why are we shoulding all over ourselves?”

     Relationships are hard and marriages even harder. This is of course because the investments are stacked up higher. So, in addition to constant problem-solving, Perseverance, and an attitude of “I’m in it to win it” are key during the hard/boring times. As long as you know the relationship is good for you, and I want to emphasize the importance of that differentiation, keep the friendship and the passion alive.

     Here I venture to going in to the topic of Relationship Rut with some of those views but also taking a global view because let’s face it, a 50% divorce rate is not anything to brag about. First comes love, then comes marriage, has turned in to first comes divorce and then comes bankruptcy. What gives?

     I want to first begin with a preface; that not every happy relationship has to end in marriage. Not every happy marriage needs to have offsprings, (one of my favorite parts of the Lion movie was the part where actress Nicole Kidman playing the role of Sheru’s adoptive mom tells him that adopting him was a choice and it was not because her and her husband could not bare children). Also, not every long-term marriage is a successful marriage just because it has lasted. The point is that, we as a species, have many facets to us and one of those facets is our need to relate and feel understood by our partners. We’ve been acculturated to not just mate and then leave one another, but rather to pick a mate and live our lives as partners, and if we decide to procreate, raise our offsprings together. But the trouble is that the work that goes in to that, did not come with an owner’s manual.

     Different cultures and peoples of the world, have lived, loved and perhaps married in their own way and have tales to tell. Those tales have given life to today’s values and as 21st century inhabitants of earth, we live the luxury to pick and choose which values work for us and that we “should” rather than fall into. Even back in the days when options were next to none, and oppression pressed like a cloud hard on women, as per an article by PBS Khadija, the first wife of the Prophet Muhhammad,  a confident and shrewd businesswoman, first hired the Prophet to lead her trading caravans, and then although many years his senior, proposed marriage to him. She was also the first person to convert to Islam.  If she could choose the way she lived her life and led her relationship, then we all can as well.

                                                                                                Here are my top 10 recommendations for 

How to avoid relationship Rut:Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 3.09.28 PM

1.Treat the relationship like a Person not like a thing! Think, Plan, Act is what we call them. Think about how your significant other makes you feel and how you want to make her feel. Plan dates, outings, communication points, getaways for her alone and for you both. And finally, play your part by executing those plans. And if you see shortcomings as far as what they can do better, don’t hold back. After all, a large part of conflict resolution in any relationship is to foresee and plan for positive outcomes rather than avoiding the uncomfortable conversations.

 

  1. How ya doin? Whether by phone or in person, ask your partner, what’s new in their life at least once a day and listen with intent. This helps you keep a pulse on the relationship, and you are a pro-active rather than passive participant. Because women are more communicative, most men falsely believe that they are in charge of the relationship and they wait and wait for the female to express their wants and needs. And that is not only boring but also not very satisfying for the woman.
  1. Confucius says. As a cultural group, Asian Americans are sometimes referred to as the “model minority” This is based on their relative success (in business and education), strong family ties (and low divorce rate), and low dependency on public assistance. As a group, Asian Americans have the highest percentage of marriage (65 % versus 61% for whites) and the lowest percentage of divorce (4% versus 10.5% for whites). No culture is perfect because, as we know, no human is perfect. But, being that cognitions give life to behaviors, it is noteworthy to know some of the cultural values that may help with keeping the longevity in Asian relationships. According to www.healthymarriageinfo.org , one such value differentiation is the fact that Asians do not believe that love in a relationship needs to be vocal; in other words, they believe that rather than extroverted expressions of love, a good relationship is based on silent, yet persevering acts of self-sacrifice and long-term and undissolvable commitment. See other values here.
  1. Singin’ in the Rain. You know that one song or series of songs, which as soon as you hear immediately, brings up a warm feeling to your heart or a fond memory of a happy occasions? What if you could actually duplicate that feeling and multiply by 10? Take some time to make a playlist of favorite songs you both love. Make one list of slow and one list of fast songs and call them “Our songs”.
  1. Vents without borders. One of the biggest complaints that exist in relationships goes like this:

          “he never listens to me”, or “she is always complaining”.

          These statements are one of the reasons boredom creeps in. And in addition to boredom, a myriad of              

         possible other not so positive feelings such as resentment, or annoyance.   Freud the father of

         psychoanalysis believed in a process called Free Association. This is basically where you vent and vent

         and vent and allow your thoughts and feelings freely flow and get expressed without feeling judged or

         interrupted. Almost Everyone’s phone comes equipped with a voice recorder these days. Rather than

        call up your friend, your family member or your partner after not having seen him or her after

        however  long it may be, use the recorder to your hearts content to vent and vent and vent some more.

       And once   your venter is emptied out, you will notice a sense of relief, which will allow you to be less

        neurotic, and more relaxed.  

  1. Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Depending on our current sense of self, and previous experiences with certain tasks, we constantly go from the feelings zone to the cognitions zone. In other words, sometimes we want our partners to be compassionate and just listen, and sometimes we want our partners to help us problem solve. Rather than just vent without purpose, first decide in your own mind which zone you are in before you bring your partner on-board, this way you avoid the pitfall of feeling unheard or thinking your partner is unable to help you.
  1. Simon Says. Share where your head’s at. One sentence is all it takes. Ex. “I have had a very exciting day and I feel very energetic!” , “I Have had a very demanding day and feel exhausted!”, “I’ve Had a situation with a coworker and feel furious!”, “”our daughter has been nagging for the past hour and I feel depleted”. Etc. etc. This emotionally intelligent technique accomplishes two things at the same time: a) it allows you to acknowledge your feelings, and b) it informs your partner what they can expect and what you can expect of them. This step should definitely be done after you’ve already done#3. Then, you start with the sentence, ask for a time line of 5. 10, or 15 minutes for yourself, and then you end with one sentence that summarizes how you feel/think as described in #4 and provide that information to your partner. Ex. I feel stuck with a situation at work and need your help to problem solve. Or Ex. I am very pissed with something that happened today, and I am sharing that with you so you don’t think it’s about you.
  1. Rome was not built in one day. Romance is not just hugs and kisses, flowers and chocolate. It is common interests. You don’t have to hibernate the entire week or the entire month, because you are waiting for that vacation, that event, or that invitation. Live your life for today and build everyday moments together. Build a bucket list of everyday activities, fantasies, places, or discoveries you both like to make together and depending on your schedule, designate one day of the week to take turns and do them together.
  1. Knock it out of the park. For those week days where you have had a very busy, stressful and possibly annoying work day, have on reserve a brainless exercise where you both let off some steam while having a fun and silly time. Yes, rather than the usual “lets have dinner and veg in front of the T.V., how about some of these activities: playing a favorite video game from your “Our Songs” library from #2 above, taking a 15 min walk holding hands, observing the scenery around you and not saying a single word, playing a favorite relaxing/up beat tune (depending on your energy level) paired with a nice glass of wine, cup of relaxing hot tea, or warm milk with honey and ginger and dancing together, etc. etc.
  1. Surprise, Surprise. Many couples, especially those with small children fall into the rut of thinking they need to do every task in their household before venturing to make love with their partner. Big Mistake! Locks, music and action is what we say! Sex before anything else. Saving the best for last is not always the way to go people! Remember the scene in Pretty Woman, where Richard Gere returns to the hotel after work, and Julia Roberts or Vivian as she is called in the movie greets him with her nude body, wearing nothing else, but a tie she has bought for him earlier in the day and Kenny G is playing in the background? Close your eyes for one minute and imagine one of you at the stove, and the other walking through the door. You exchange a quick hello and a quick glance and then off you go to the routine of homework, getting food on the table, then clearing the dishes and cleaning and before you know it, it is 8pm and time to go to bed. By this time, your passion has been replaced by stains on your shirt from cooking, tired feet and over stimulation from adhering to everyone’s needs except for yours and sex seems like another task. Flip the switch and put that fun activity first and what you have is more love in the kitchen, more peace and relaxation over dinner around the kids, and more smiles. Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 3.13.42 PM

And oh yes, do not bring the Tube into the bedroom. I repeat do not bring the Tube into the bedroom This includes, laptops, smart pads, phones, and even books, yes I said even books. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary and retreat cave. The only stimulating and entertaining thing in it should be the two of youAll and all, do not treat your marriage as a finished product, but rather as something to cultivate. That is a realm of Confucianism as opposed to the western thought as well; marriage is the beginning of a love affair rather than a happy ending to a romance.

 

With the New Year, comes the promise of new hope and new beginnings.  However, it could also mean repeating old habits and avoiding the same old patterns unforturnately.  How about a dose of spring cleaning before March comes around?  How about openning that old closet, and taking out the baggage that is taking unneccessary space there?  By baggage of course we mean issues not the Samsonite kind.  One of the reasons we all love spring is because nature is rejuvenated and new buds are flourishing everywhere.  Why not apply that to our lives?  Groom the old, and invite freshness and hope in to our lives.  You know that topic, relationship, or issue you have been harboring?  How about you nip it, do something about it and start anew?  don’t be part of the 95% statistic that has a fear of conflict.  

Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship. We’ve all been witness to or been a participant in a situation where two or more people have had clashes in their ideals, and we’ve also seen, how without the proper intervention, how quickly it can turn into intense personal animosity.

Conflict is one of the most misunderstood topics. The reason for that is because many people incorrectly assume that conflict always ends negatively. Whether among colleagues, friends, or couples, unless one has absolutely no opinions about anything, nor any ideas to contribute, nor desires or preferences, or a personality for that matter, at some point in time, they will be faced with a situation where they will be in a disagreement with someone else. Yes, that’s correct, conflict is exactly that; disagreement(s).

Unfortunately, the fear of conflict leads many individuals to choose the path of least resistance and avoid facing the underlying issues leading to conflict. However, this is not really a solution.  It is simply a derailment or delaying the inevitable.  Unless, the individual has absolutely absolved the issue at hand on their own, the avoidance ultimately could mean two things: a. that they are tolerating it without understanding it, which will eventually lead to resentment, or b. that they falsely believe they have “tried” to resolve it and hence give up on the idea because they feel defeated.  Sound familiar?  well, that’s because it happens everyday in marriages, family relationships and offices.  We know, because it always eventually finds its way to our offices, and we eventually sit at the same table with it.  And trust us when we say, status, or position or academic background don’t make it any better.  In fact, research shows the higher one goes up the ladder of an organization, the lower the leader’s practiced EI skills could become.  

The truth is that conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Oh, and another thing: different personalities don’t have to mean unresolved conflicts. When resolved effectively conflict can in fact,lead to more cohesion, and trust in the relationship. In a sense, there is a feeling of being understood which can only result from a place of self-awareness and problem-solving attitude. There is a sense of confidence and self-efficacy because the dialogue involved in correct conflict resolution provides insight into the fact that one is able to achieve one’s goals without undermining others.

In interpersonal relationships of all kind, there is an increased sense of mutual respect, and a renewed faith in the relationship when people work things out. Research has shown in fact that a woman’s perceptions of intimacy in a couples’ relationship after a conflict has been effectively solved.

On the other hand, we have also seen some individuals who are too ready and eager to get in to conflicting situations. If you have ever seen or been one of these people, it is important to know that picking battles is very important. The reason for this is that a large part of effective conflict resolution comes from aligning goals. An individual with strong interpersonal skills or more specifically one with a strong background or training in Emotional Intelligence, has a good temperature read for what is a situation that needs attention and conflict resolutions strategies and one that needs more of a come in to terms strategy. Good conflict pushes individuals to examine their goals and expectations closely, helping them assess what is, really important to them. This also means, the sense of surrendering parts that are driven by ego or selfishness.   If the perception that others have of you is that you like to “pick fights” like the Grouchy Ladybug (we use this book in our training because it does a great job of demonstrating the concept, making it very succinct to relate to), then unfortunately, it will be interpreted that your goal is not conflict resolution but perhaps conflict in an of itself. In this circumstance, you are in a sense inviting ego, selfishness or self-preservation to step in and block any openness to negotiation.

Yes, conflict can be damaging. If not handled effectively, it can quickly turn into personal attacks, break down of trust, and disengagement from work or the relationship.  One major culprit is low emotional intelligence (EQ).

The key is to nip it at the bud. The downward spiral can be stopped if the correct interventions and communications are utilized and key processes are put in place.

Here are some specific steps that we have incorporated into our conflict resolution programs:

 

At the inception of conflict, people can quickly become entrenched in their positions. Soon, tempers and voices rise and defensive or aggressive behavior gives rise to uncooperative body language. Therefore, the first step is to separate the people and the emotional components from the problem and instead focusing on just the problem itself. The priority is to develop an understanding of the other’s position, and together reach a consensus.

The prerequisite to this of course always is to listen actively and empathetically, have a good understanding of your body language, and understand how to employ good emotion regulation including anger management techniques. Then, in particular, here are the steps:

  1. Decide whether the outcome or the relationship is the priority.
  2. If you decide that the relationship is the priority, ensure that you treat the other person with respect at all times and do your best to discuss matters constructively rather than in a way that leads the other person to react.
  3. Actually try to understand and listen to the other point of view.
  4. After understanding the point of view carefully, you should be able to understand, what the other person fears is at stake for them.
  5. Many times, just by getting to this step, you may realize that there was either a misunderstanding from the other person’s side, or that by giving them assurance, you can both be happy.  
  6. If not, then lay out additional facts, and review what both of you believe they are.
  7. Now provide solutions. And use the process of elimination to . Explore each of the options together and have an exchange as to why one option is better than another.
  8. Come to agreement. If you have followed all the steps and come this far, the last thing you want to do is assert your solutions is the better one. If you believe it is, you should be able to sell your position. And yes, in case you were wondering there is selling in negotiation.

Nine out of ten times, you can seriously prevent bad conflict from exploding in your face by using the above steps. Otherwise, chances are you may be faced with an opinion conflict, which usually means agreeing to disagree.

Real conflict resolution is not based on rank, or social standing, or other forces at work, but real dialogue. Both parties have to be willing to put the effort and the time, and be ready to surrender their position if proven wrong. But in matters of opinion, rather than fact, we always say, you are entitled to your opinion and leave it at that.

 

We are not the jack of all trades. But we are the conflict resolution experts. So when and wherever, feel free to reach out to us directly at (407)340-1228 or by info@centerforworklife.com

anigif_enhanced-15690-1394578851-1Who doesn’t like movies like Grease, Terms of Endearement, Tootsie, Clueless, or Men in Black? In fact these movies were the highest grossing movies in their category and are still the most highly rated clips in the media. However, the truth is that all these movies have one fact in common. They all make sexual harassment a joke.

Sexual harassment is, above all, a manifestation of power relations.  Treating sexual harassment is not a matter of one training course, but rather a fundamental shaking up of an individuals perceptions and attitudes about the target of their harassment.  For this reason,  sexual harassment training needs to be embodied within an overall communications training process supported by a ground-up process of inquiry, where the individual perpetrator can realize why they victimize. Without that piece of knowledge, the symptom rather than the actual disease is what gets treated and in fact even it doesn’t.  Because the individual perceives training as a punishment rather than an opportunity for growth.

The Legal Dictionary defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment. According to the Unites States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Regardless of the form of sexual harassment, it is illegal to purposefully harass someone at work in order to gain any type of sexual favor. However, many cases remain unreported because of fear of embarrassment or termination.k9563790

There are two types of sexual harassment, Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment. Quid Pro Quo Harassment occurs when a manager or supervisor withholds or awards job benefits on the basis of sexual favors. This includes work assignments, hiring, termination, promotions or demotions, positive or negative reviews, or any other job related benefit. On the other hand, if any rewards being withheld because the victim refuses to engage in the sexual favor, the company is would be considered guilty of sexual harassment. Both of these practices although very common in the work place, involve the risk of losing a job and with unemployment rate at a steady 7.4 percent, that isn’t something that most people consider a positive outlook.  Therefore, so many people keep quiet and remain victimized at their place of work.

 

So what is the root cause of sexual harassment, and why is it that it’s so common? From a social psychology perspective, the disconnect is in how people view hostility towards men and women. Research has indicated that stereotypes about socially appropriate gender roles for women and men are a driving factor, while the causes of sexual violence include socioeconomics, anger, power, sadism, sexual pleasure, psychopathology, ethical standards, laws, attitudes toward the victims and evolutionary pressures.

Traditional conceptualizations of sexism have focused almost entirely on overt hostility toward women. While historians, anthropologists, feminist scholars, and psychologists have previously suggested that sexism involves positive and negative evaluations of women.

Ambivalent sexism is a theoretical framework which posits that sexism has two sub-components: “hostile sexism” and “benevolent sexism”. Hostile sexism reflects overtly negative evaluations and stereotypes about a gender (e.g., the ideas that women are incompetent and inferior to men). Benevolent sexism represents evaluations of gender that may appear subjectively positive (subjective to the person who is evaluating), but are actually damaging to people and gender equity more broadly (e.g., the ideas that women need to be protected by men).

Besides Television programming, another cause and arena leading to the rise of sexual harassment is on-line and gaming. There is no shortage of examples of harassment online, a Pew Survey published this week is the first of its kind to drill down into the level and types of online harassment. The report, which polled almost 3,000 Internet users, brings to light that women for the most part have it worse off than men, while most people don’t realize it.  Although men are more likely to report they experience harassment on the Internet (44 percent of men compared to 37 percent of women), as a general rule, more women have been targeted on social media sites (73 percent women vs. 27% men). Women also tend to face the most severe types of harassment, like stalking and sexual harassment, while men generally face milder issues like name-calling and public embarrassment. Young women are the most likely to experience this severe targeting, with a quarter of women between the ages of 18 and 24 reporting having been stalked or sexually harassed online. Furthermore, the representation and coverage of the matter in the newspapers is certainly very biased. In He Said, She Said, Let’s Hear What the Data Say: Sexual Harassment in the Media, Courts, EEOC, and Social Science, Joni Hersch & Beverly Moran explore the coverage of sexual harassment in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and whether it is consistent with sexual harassment as it is reported in three other sources: a 1994 United States Merit Systems Protection Board (USMSPB) survey, charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from 2006-2010, and complaints filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPa) from 2010-2011. The review of the media coverage suggests that sexual harassment is covered in an intensely local and episodic manner, with little recognition that sexual harassment is a national phenomenon that could be connected to “a larger, social, economic or political trend.” (P. 778.) In comparing the media coverage and the data sets, the authors found that while the reporting of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal generally does not mislead regarding the demographics of sexual harassment claimants, particular stories may downplay the seriousness of the factual allegations made in complaints. The article suggests that differences between the media portrayal of sexual harassment and what can be found in the data may result from the media’s focus on litigation. The authors note that a focus on pre-litigation harassment claims may provide a fuller picture of sexual harassment. The authors end the article observing that the focus on litigation leads to reporting that tends to miss “a sense of what happens before litigation and what sexual harassment means to victims in terms of their economic, professional, and emotional lives.” (P. 781.)

One’s view of sexual harassment can be highly variable depending on their position as it relates. The victim, vs. the perpetrator, vs. the organization vs. the human resources don’t necessarily experience the matter the same nor do they have the same outcomes in mind although they should. Regardless as a work life advocate, we suggest a No Tolerance policy with specificity and clarity in describing anti-harassment policies and procedures. The following information from the EEOC will serve your organization well: http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/model_eeo_programs.cfm#possible

Office Politics is the inevitable. If you feel uneasy with resolving conflict or looking at it in the eye, you certainly have a hurdle to jump over. Whether you believe in reincarnation, god, or simply the psychology of fear and life, they all basically say the same thing: What you fear most, will ultimately be a repeated theme in your life.

One of the reasons maneuvering politics seems a daunting task makes so many of us uneasy is that complex situations are difficult to read and impossible to control. There are personalities and then there are motivations, which co-habit within each of us and put with that limited resources, decisions, deadlines and power struggles, and anything can happen. But what if you were to take some of the guess-work out, but using a planning-based approach to managing politics? We’ve taught the same method to many male and female executives over the years.  Whenever there is anxiety associated with a situation, that anxiety is usually a result of lack of control. As human beings, for better or worst, we are at ease when we have a certain degree of control. Control and predictability go hand in hand, and if one was to create predictability into the most crucial of organizational interactions, the issue of control, would inadvertently be minimized.

Here is a method you can call on for yourself, the next time you are confronted with office politics and really would like to come out of on top rather than run away from. It’s a form of scenario planning if you will, and uses the power of psychology and emotional intelligence to  map out strategies in an algorithm format:

To keep up with the players and be in a position to advocate for your specific agenda, maps out potential scenarios according to three separate quadrants—personalities, motivations, and variables.

Lets say you attend an annual planning meeting that is fraught with politics. Here’s how you can do your homework. Map out the personalities involved to help you plan and strategize how each individual might react to your agenda. Then add in each individual’s motivations to analyze and compare what you believe each person would expect to accomplish. Finally, take an inventory of other relevant variables that you can anticipate. These are factors that might lead individuals to go one way or another as the meeting plays out. This process can help you create some real options, feel prepared, and remain calm and in control in most political situations rather than feeling ambushed, like a sheep among wolves.

Oh and the next time you notice politics at play, rather than maneuvering it, which implies a degree of passivity, think empowerment, and how you can play the game to come on top.

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