Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ask the Right Questions, Receive Better Answers – Part I

Here’s the scenario: It has just come to your attention that a customer filed a complaint about Mr. Smith, one of your employees. While your gut tells you that the customer may have overreacted a bit, there’s enough information to warrant a meeting with Mr. Smith. You know from past experience that he’s somewhat sensitive to criticism, but you have several legitimate concerns. How can you get the information you need without triggering a negative response from Mr. Smith?

Ask the Right Questions

Here’s another common office dilemma: You are meeting with a vendor who’s behind schedule and over budget on a project. You don’t want to jeopardize the job and you don’t want to burn a bridge with this company. However, you’re not at all satisfied with the way things are going and you need to take some answers back to your VP of Operations. What is your best approach?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Why Most People Avoid Conflict… and Why You Shouldn’t

If you can think and talk, and if you ever come in contact with other people, there is the potential for conflict. Conflict is an inevitable, completely normal part of the human condition, yet most people readily admit that they intentionally avoid anything that even remotely resembles disagreement or confrontation.  In fact, much of my work in relational counseling and coaching involves helping people to understand – and even embrace – the value of conflict and overcome the fears that feed their aversion.

avoid conflict

There are a number factors that can influence conflict avoidance, such as self-doubt, lack of assertiveness, inadequate communication skills, fear of rejection, disapproval, criticism, loss of security and more.  In other words, people avoid conflict in order to minimize perceived threats to their self-esteem and sense of well-being.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sticks and Stones: The Power of Words

When most couples begin marriage counseling they typically report experiencing very low levels of marital satisfaction, which is not surprising.  It’s also not that surprising to have some couples tell me upfront that they are already giving divorce serious consideration, but thought they needed to at least be able to tell their children and families that they gave counseling a try.

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One such couple recently told me that the majority of their conversations were filled with sarcasm, criticism and other negative forms of communication and neither one could stand the hurt and anger any longer.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Escape the Argument Trap

A Strategy Guaranteed to STOP the Endless, Pointless Arguing With Children and Teens

As a father of three children who are young adults now, I know all about the temptations that can lure you into the Argument Trap.  You know what I mean; those circular, relentless conversations that leave you battle-weary and sometimes cause you to say and do things you regret.  Even though I spend nearly every day helping people improve their personal and professional relationships, I can still fall prey to these temptations if I’m not careful.

However, as a veteran parent, I have found a strategy that virtually guarantees that I won’t fall into this trap again:  I’ve memorized 10 very simple, but critically important questions.  Most of the time, recalling even two or three of the questions can be enough to head off a fight and set the stage for constructive dialogue.

If you want to stop the arguing in your home, review this list of questions every day for the next 30 days and watch the transformation begin.

1.  Am I under control?
2.  Am I setting a good example for my child?
3.  Have I carefully listened to my child’s thoughts and feelings?
4.  Have I sincerely acknowledged and empathized with my child’s feelings?
5.  Do I understand my child’s underlying need or want and have I acknowledged it?
6.  Have I expressed my thoughts, feelings and rationale clearly and honestly?
7.  Is the limit or boundary I set reasonable for my child’s age?
8.  Have I taken advantage of the teachable moment?
9.  Am I making sure to address my child’s behavior and not attack my child?
10. Am I ready and willing to follow through with appropriate discipline?

You CAN break free from the Argument Trap… begin your escape today!

Live, Work

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Secret to Eliminating Destructive Conflict in the Workplace

When two or more colleagues come to my office, either voluntarily or by referral from their employer, one of the most often identified coaching goal involves learning how to effectively confront problems while eliminating destructive conflict.  There are many reasons for why destructive conflict occurs in the workplace, but there is really only one effective way to consistently decrease it.

Most conflicts start when one person speaks up with a concern or complaint.  Too often, the message is delivered in a harsh, critical fashion which increases the likelihood of a negative or retaliatory reaction.  Very quickly, the emotions of both parties begin to overflow the banks of self-control and good judgment.

In an effort to help coworkers change their destructive pattern of communication I encourage them look at the complaint, no matter how it is delivered, as an expression of emotional hunger.  If your body doesn’t get the food it needs, you will experience physical hunger and your stomach will growl.  When an emotional need is not met, the “growl” usually occurs in the form of a complaint or criticism. So when your coworker whines, gripes, nags or complains it may reflect a need to be emotionally fed and nourished.

But here’s an unfortunate reality: When I ask the colleagues to describe a recent conflict, I often find that once a complaint has been expressed (translation: “I’m hungry.  Please feed me!”) I find that most people ignore the request and begin feeding their own needs instead by defending, blaming, criticizing and explaining.  Often, they will react with a counter-complaint of their own which conveys the message, “My hunger is more important than yours and your needs don’t matter to me.”

You can see now why it’s so easy to become offended and to quickly ascend the emotional escalator.  After all,

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Husband Won’t Help Around the House – Part 3

In my first two posts addressing the question of how to get your husband to help around the house, I talked about two key components to the answer.  First, get rid of the mindset that you are a Volunteer Coordinator and replace it with a Partnership mindset.  The second part of the answer involves being open, honest and direct with your spouse about what you think, feel and need from them and when understanding is achieved, ask for agreement.

If your husband is willing to meet your need for equitably dividing up the responsibilities around the home and is in agreement with the final “plan” you are well on your way.  Congratulations!  The next step is to periodically review the agreement to see if it is working out as you both had hoped.  If it isn’t, continue to modify as appropriate and revisit again in the future.

This last post is for those instances when you might meet up with a little resistance or opposition from your husband.  In other words, he doesn’t want to see things change.

I will list several common objections that often come up when wives attempt to partner more deliberately with their husbands when it comes to domestic responsibilities.  I will list each objection along with possible responses.  As you consider giving your husband “push back” on his objection(s), remember to apply the principle of seeking first to understand, then to be understood.  When a person feels heard, understood and felt they are much more willing to reciprocate the behavior.  To learn how you can help your spouse feel heard read, RAVE: Guaranteed to Reduce Conflict.

Common Objections:

“I can’t do it as well as you want it done.”

If you hear this objection it is important that you take a close look at

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guaranteed to Improve Communication

By far, the number one problem identified by married couples is that they can’t communicate effectively. It’s actually somewhat hard to believe that this problem is so pervasive in homes today when you consider that these same couples often claim to not have difficulty communicating with friends and co-workers. What’s up with this?

One of the main reasons couples have such a difficult time communicating at home is because their conversations involve “high stake” relationships along with “high stake” issues that are often highly emotionally charged.

I have found that one of the best ways to guarantee better communication when engaged in these difficult conversations is to learn how to be a skilled listener. I’m confident that if you consistently practice the tips below for the next thirty days you will see the quality of your communication improve significantly. Give it a try.

1. Listen twice as much as you talk

“It is far better to keep quiet and let people think you are foolish than it is to speak and have their suspicions confirmed.”

“The word “listen” contains the same letters as the word ‘silent’.”
Alfred Bandel

2. Commit to not interrupting

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” King Solomon

3. Listen for accurate understanding

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Stephen Covey

“Hearing is merely picking up sound vibrations. Listening involves understanding what you hear.”

4. Avoid mind reading and drawing premature conclusions

Acting as a mind reader or jumping to premature conclusions because you have “heard it all before” will likely take you down the road of misunderstanding.

5. Ask questions to gain more information and to seek clarification

The more fully and clearly you understand the thoughts, feelings and

Thursday, October 6, 2011

RAVE: Guaranteed to Reduce Conflict

When a couple comes to my office to work on their marriage, the most often identified counseling goal involves learning how to decrease conflict and improve communication.  There are many reasons for why destructive conflict occurs in marriage, but there is really only one effective way to consistently decrease it.

Most conflicts start when one of the partners speaks up with a concern or complaint.  Too often, the message is delivered in a harsh, critical fashion which increases the likelihood of a negative or retaliatory reaction.  Very quickly, the emotions of both parties begin to overflow the banks of self-control and good judgment.

In an effort to help couples change their destructive pattern of communication I encourage them look at their partner’s complaint, no matter how it is delivered, as an expression of emotional hunger.  If your body doesn’t get the food it needs, you will experience physical hunger and your stomach will growl.  When an emotional need is not met, the “growl” usually occurs in the form of a complaint or criticism. So when your partner whines, gripes, nags or complains they are really asking to be emotionally fed and nourished.

But here’s an unfortunate reality: When I ask couples to describe a recent conflict, I often find that once a complaint has been expressed (translation: “I’m hungry. Please feed me!”) I find that most people ignore their partner’s request and begin feeding themselves instead by defending, blaming and explaining.  Often, they will react with a counter-complaint of their own which conveys the message, “My hunger is more important than yours and your needs don’t matter to me.”  Ouch!

You can see now why it’s so easy to become offended and to quickly ascend the emotional escalator.  After all, your partner is refusing to feed you, and to add

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Resolving a Bad Relationship at Work

The average full-time worker with two weeks of annual vacation spends up to 250 days or 2,000 hours each year on the job.  Unfortunately, many employees spend this time interacting with co-workers they don’t get along with, making their work situation almost intolerable.

If you have a problem with a co-worker and you’re growing weary, don’t despair.  Although you can’t guarantee cooperation from the other party, there are some practical things you can do in an effort to turn the relationship around.  Review the tips below to see how you can confront bad work relationships.

1.  Take a good look at your own attitude and behavior first.

Before you complain or point a finger at your co-worker, take an honest look at how you might be contributing to the problem.  Are you letting your feelings make you snappy, over-sensitive, jealous or uncooperative?  Addressing your own negative attitude or behavior can often help decrease the distress brought on by the bad relationship and help you to address the only thing you really have control over – you!

2.  Stop the negative talk about your co-worker.

If you keep talking about the person you have a problem with you run the risk of being labeled as a whiner, complainer or troublemaker.  Gossip or other talk that criticizes or belittles your co-worker also has a way of coming back around and biting you where it hurts.  Take the high road and resist the temptation to spread the problem around the office.

3.  Keep your emotions in check.

Overreacting to a problem often results in a loss of your credibility and can diminish the significance of your complaint.  Make sure you are maintaining emotional balance in your own life by not allowing your frustration to turn into anger and your anger into bitterness.  Use