22 posts categorized "RESOLVING CONFLICT"

June 10, 2013

Ten Reasons to Stop Avoiding Conflict and Start Dealing with Issues

IStock_000010586566_ExtraSmallThere are countless people who believe that the best way to handle conflict is to not have any. When things get tough, their choice is to duck, avoid, distract or disengage, in the hope that the issue will resolve itself. If the issue doesn’t resolve itself, they feel a sense of relief that at least they succeeded in avoiding conflict. 

The unfortunate truth about conflict, though, is that not talking about conflict often creates more conflict—either internally, externally or both. 

Stop fooling yourself into thinking that avoiding difficult conversations is doing you any favors. If anything, ducking is causing you more problems then you realize. Below are ten reasons to stop avoiding -- and start having -- adult conversations.

  1. Avoiding difficult conversations makes solutions almost impossible. It’s very difficult to solve a problem if you’re not willing to talk about it.
  2. When you stay silent in response to conflict, inherent in your silence is acceptance. If you don’t like the behavior, stop silently acting as if you do.
  3. The more you ignore issues, the bigger they grow. The issues you ignore today will likely drive you crazy and harm your life tomorrow. Tomorrow may be a day from now, a week from now or even five years from now…and, tomorrow will come. 
  4. The bigger the issues grow, the bigger your resentment is likely to get. It’s almost impossible to continually avoid addressing poor treatment or upsets without getting resentful. Avoiding conflict with others externally doesn’t mean you won’t feel the turmoil internally. 
  5. You teach others how to treat you. In your effort to avoid conflict, you often teach a very warped lesson to others about how you like to be treated.
  6. The more you duck and avoid, the more others get away with their behavior and the worse they treat you.
  7. The worse others treat you, the worse you feel about yourself and your relationship. Your attempt to avoid conflict at all cost, in an effort to save a relationship, ironically ends up rotting out the relationship. 
  8. The more others treat you poorly, the more angry and resentful you’re likely to become. The angrier you become, the more likely you are to oscillate between silence and blowing up--neither of which are effective.
  9. Your anger is, in part, at yourself. You can only take so much poor treatment before the wisest part of you gets angry at your lack of self-care.
  10. If you avoid conflict in one relationship, you are likely to avoid conflict in all relationships. Your avoidance is about your edge, not about the other person’s behavior.

Avoiding conflict is a seductive pull for many people. On the surface, it looks like doing anything to keep the peace is the smartest choice. When you look beyond the surface, however, the reality is that this tactic seldom keeps the peace for long. 

Stop ducking. Trust that you are mature enough to handle an honest conversation about a difficult issue and then step in and respectfully have the conversation. Handle a moment of discomfort now and avoid years of anger and resentment later.

Challenge: Notice all the things you do and say to avoid conflict. What impact does your avoidance have on your life and your relationship? Start to take baby steps to stop avoiding and start dealing.



April 11, 2013

How to Handle Passive-Aggressive Behavior

IStock_0rollingeyeXSmallI work with couples all the time who are impacted by the sting of passive-aggressive behaviors, which is why I’m writing this post. This post is for those people who are friends with, living with or family members of people who deal with anger and upsets in passive-aggressive ways. 

Here are the best tips I know for ways to address this kind of behavior head on, using compassionate accountability rather than a hammer. 

  • When in doubt, check it out. One of the crazy-making things about passive-aggression is that it’s seldom acknowledged yet often felt; it’s “hidden” anger. The first move, therefore, is to take the covering off the anger simply by naming it, “I’m making up that you’re mad because I asked you to help. Are you?” The more you name it, the more you increase the other person’s consciousness—and have your own back. 
  • Don’t mind-read. The work for people who struggle with being passive-aggressive is learning to speak their truth in a direct and purposeful way rather than indirectly and unconsciously. Do not alter your behaviors based on what you imagine the other person is upset about. Tell them when they’re ready to talk to you about what’s upsetting them that you’re open to hearing them. Until then, don’t chase them to try to make them feel better.
  • Check your responses. Be sure that on your end, you are respectful. It’s not uncommon for passive-aggression to show up with people who struggle with overt aggression and reactivity. You are responsible for being safe in your relationships...and yelling and screaming is not safe. Clean it up.
  • Practice compassionate accountability. Have empathy for your partner’s struggle with conflict while also holding them accountable for handling it responsibly and respectfully. Know when to check it out, make a request for change and/or set a limit. Do all of the above using a grounded powerful strength (GPS), not an aggressive strength.
  • Be the mirror. When you feel the sting of people side-swiping (biting comments, rolling eyes, silencing, snide remarks) simply hold up a figurative mirror and name what they’re doing. Three examples include: “You’re rolling your eyes;” “Wow, that was biting;” “You won’t even look in my direction.” 
  • Have an honest conversation. Find a good time to have an honest conversation about the impact of the passive-aggressive behaviors on you and your relationship. Be clear about what you would like to see be different and what you will do about it if it doesn’t change (e.g. “If this doesn’t change, I want to separate” or “I will no longer chase you down to see if something’s the matter. From now on, I will assume if you’re not speaking about a problem, then everything is ok.”
  • Explain the degree of seriousness involved.  If you’re thinking of leaving the marriage because of this issue, state that. The other person has the right to know how high the stakes are so they can decide how much they’re willing to lose. 

Challenge: Although passive aggression can be extremely frustrating, yelling and complaining about it just keeps it going. Be calm and forthright in your approach and deal with it head on and in a respectful manner. When talking doesn’t work, know when to set limits and up the ante when necessary. Good luck!

November 12, 2012

Mean Girls at the Office: Your Silence is Acceptance.

IStock_00contemptllI was recently reading a book about how to handle mean girls at work. Much of the advice in this book was about how to placate, ignore and avoid upsetting these women (who were co-workers, not bosses). When all of the above failed, the book recommended handling your upset by going for a walk or exercising. I couldn’t believe it. I have to say I have not felt so angry at a book in a long time. I found myself writing such comments in the margins as: “Are you kidding me?” “Yuck -- this is more silencing!!!” “Conflict-avoidant.”  After a few pages of my responses I had to laugh at myself and show my husband my little rants. However, I wasn’t laughing at the content and advice in this book. I’m aware that countless women will be reading this book and trying to incorporate the author’s advice into their lives and I know they won’t end up feeling better about themselves.

This post is an attempt to get a different voice out to these women, because, frankly, another book telling women to silently accept mean-spirited behavior may just lead me to pull my hair out.

First off, when you are faced with a “mean girl” at the office, your first move needs to be to get grounded. Before you respond in any way, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is about her, not about you. Even if there is truth in what she’s saying to you (i.e. you did make a mistake), you have to know that being cruel, shaming or mean-spirited is not an okay way to handle things. So, while the mistake may have been your fault, her mean put-you-in-your-place response is 100% about her. Know this, live this and be comforted by this. Hold yourself in warm regard despite your mistake and do not for a moment allow this woman to get you to think less of yourself.

Continue reading "Mean Girls at the Office: Your Silence is Acceptance." »

August 28, 2012

Do No Harm: A Silly Platitude or a Much-Needed Guideline?

IStock_0womanandangrybossallIn my experience, both in the world and in my practice, one of the core places where men and women struggle is in the way they respond to conflict and upset.  Far too often, both men and women deal with upset by responding in the extreme.  They often yell, scream and control or they silence, placate and over-accommodate.  Naturally none of these moves is particularly helpful and all of them are often harmful.  Sometimes the person is the victim of harm (due to silently accepting poor treatment) and sometimes the person is the perpetrator of the harm (by aggressively responding to poor treatment).

I’m currently leading a teleclass titled “Finding Your GPS” (Grounded Powerful Strength).  A GPS is about walking in the world differently and at its core is the principle of Do No Harm.  Handling upset and conflict without doing harm seems almost unheard of today.  Whether it’s countries at war, politicians fighting during an election, couples trying to heal from an affair or bosses reprimanding their employees, people have given themselves the green light to harm one another.  It’s as though, in the heat of the moment, “anything goes.” 

Below are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

•    Politicians bad-mouthing one another for the purpose of increasing their chances of getting elected.
•    Spouses yelling, screaming, name-calling and even throwing things due to discovering an affair.
•    Countries hunting a leader down and killing him in retaliation for that leader killing others.
•    Friends bad-mouthing one another in response to gossip.
•    and on and on…

Continue reading "Do No Harm: A Silly Platitude or a Much-Needed Guideline? " »

April 25, 2012

Finding Your GPS (Grounded Powerful Strength): Stop Behaving In The Extremes

IStock_00angry womenlIn our world today, very few people have mastered the art of standing up for themselves.  After working with hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years, I’ve found that people typically land in one of three groupings when it comes to having difficult conversations or handling difficult situations:
1.    The “take no sh*t” group.  This is the group of people who will quickly react in anger to hurtful behavior or issues of disagreement.  If someone speaks to them disrespectfully, this group often will quickly shut that person down, fight back, get defensive, yell, scream or intensely storm out.  
2.    The “create no waves” group.  This group tries to do whatever is necessary to keep things calm.  They can duck, walk on eggshells, placate, make empty promises, silence or try to appease others.
3.    The "teapot” group.  This group slowly simmers by silencing, placating and letting things go for a period of time, only to later escalate and blow up.

As you can imagine, none of these approaches is effective.  Too many people work in the extremes—either silencing and placating or snapping and bullying.  As a result, people either overshoot or undershoot in their responses to upset.  Too few people actually step in with a Grounded Powerful Strength (GPS). 

A Grounded Powerful Strength is calm, strong AND relational. The bottom-line rule in a GPS is DO NO HARM.  Regardless of how angry you are or someone else is, neither you nor the other person has the right to be verbally, emotionally or physically abusive.  Yelling, screaming and calling names are abusive—to others.  Allowing others to yell, scream and treat you poorly is abusive—to you.

Continue reading "Finding Your GPS (Grounded Powerful Strength): Stop Behaving In The Extremes" »

March 23, 2011

How Do I Intervene in Other People’s Behaviors? Part II

IStock_0angryparentlBelow are a few more tips on how to intervene in the bad behavior of others:
•    Your father is emotionally abusive to your mother and has been for years.  Every time you visit, he’s putting your mother down, ordering her around and snapping at her.  You find yourself not wanting to go over.  You also noticed that it takes you a couple of days to “detox” from that environment.  What are your options?
o    Hold a figurative mirror up to your dad: “Wow, Dad, that was mean.  Do you hear how you talk to Mom?” (Low risk).
o    Another low risk response would be: “Dad, did you mean to ask her if she would please bring you a drink of water?”
o    A higher risk response would be to directly set a limit: “Dad, it’s not okay to tell Mom she’s stupid.  And Mom, I hate watching you just take Dad’s treatment. As much as I love both of you, I’m realizing that I don’t like staying at your home because it’s too hard to watch you two interact for a prolonged period of time.”  The next time I come to visit, I’m going to stay in a hotel. (Moderate risk)
o    Finally, you can refuse to visit them together until your father can be respectful.  “Mom and Dad, I love you both very much and want to see you both.  However, I’m finding it difficult to be in the same room with the two of you together due to how you both are with each other.  Dad, you treat Mom terribly and Mom you just sit there and take it.  I realize this is your marriage and there’s nothing I can do about it, however, I don’t want to watch it anymore.  From now on, I will no longer be coming over to visit the two of you together.  I’m happy to have lunch with either one of you alone or to have one of you visit me at a time, but I’m no longer willing to just sit back and watch you two interact.  If things change, I will be happy to revisit this decision.” (High risk)

Continue reading "How Do I Intervene in Other People’s Behaviors? Part II" »

March 10, 2011

It’s None of My Business…Or Is It?

IStock_0ducking For as long as I can remember, there has seemed to be a pull for people to stay out of other people’s business.  I hear, “That’s none of my/your business” all the time.  For example:
•    One client comes into my office and says she saw her friend’s husband kissing another woman.  When I ask if she told her friend, she quickly says, “No. I don’t want to get mixed up in that.  Besides, it’s none of my business.”
•    Another client comes in and tells a story about her family on vacation in Florida.  Apparently her brother’s family was constantly yelling, fighting and snapping at one another in public and in the home they were all sharing.  When I asked if she tried to talk with her brother about the intensity in his family, she said, “No.  It’s not really my business.”
•    A friend was talking with me about her father-in-law’s emotionally abusive treatment of his wife (her mother-in-law).  It’s so bad that she has a hard time staying very long when she visits.  I asked if she ever says anything and of course she responds by saying, ”No.  It’s their marriage and none of my business.”

I could go on and on with countless stories of people staying out of other people’s business, but I think you get the gist.  When it comes to what is and is not your business, I have a very different take from most people.  I also feel very strongly about my take -- so be forewarned.

When poor behavior happens in front of me, I believe it becomes my business.  If I’m out with my family at a restaurant, or the like, and another family begins to make a scene, yell and scream at each other, etc. their business has crossed into my business.  They are now impacting my space, at which point I have the right to step in, should I so choose.  I do not believe that silencing myself and hoping they will settle down quickly is serving me -- or anyone else --  in that restaurant.  I also believe that my silence would send a clear message that the yelling is okay, warranted and acceptable.  But the yelling is not acceptable.

If I catch my best friend’s husband cheating on her, his behavior has now become my business.  It has become my business because it affects me.  I now have to either hold a secret, which will greatly impact my relationship with my friend, or address the issue directly in some way (speak to my friend’s husband or to my friend).  The idea that what he’s doing is none of my business is a crazy idea.  If it were none of my business, then it wouldn’t be affecting my life...but it is affecting my life.  When someone’s behavior impacts your life or your space, that behavior is open for authentic communication.

A behavior is also open for authentic communication even if it is not happening in your space, per se, but is impacting the life of a loved one.  For example, if your sibling seems highly depressed, is struggling to take care of the children and is starting to use alcohol to self-medicate—your love for your sibling makes their struggle your business.  If they died, you would be left to pick up the pieces.  Why in the world would you not try to discuss this with him/her? 
I realize my thinking is very different from that of many people, however I encourage you to start thinking about how the behavior of others impacts you.  Taking care of yourself is always your business...and sometimes taking care of yourself requires that you step into other people’s business or that you take care of the business they have brought into your life.

When you do step in, however, do so with respect and compassion.  Always remember that poor behavior is not a green light for poor behavior of your own.  Step in with a clean energy and stay centered.

Challenge: Begin to pay attention to the concept of “It’s not my business” and how it plays out in your life.  How do you feel when you abide by it – might you be taking the easy way out?  How might you feel if you stepped in with authenticity and compassion (for yourself and others)?

January 11, 2011

Words Have Power: Lessons To Learn From The Arizona Tragedy

IStock_0policecarsll As much of our world recovers from yet another violent tragedy, I’m struck by the outlandish comments made by lay people, extremists and -- yes -- some of our nation’s potential leaders.  Since when has it become okay to slander, threaten, name call and even damage a person’s property because we don’t agree with the way they think?

The truth is that politics in our country today has become more and more contentious.  Politicians and we, the people, have become more and more oppositional, aggressive and downright threatening in our fight for what we believe.

Sarah Palin depicted Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the crosshairs of a rifle scope on a Facebook page and wrote: "Don't retreat! Instead - RELOAD!”  Really?  When a potential Vice President of the United States uses metaphors like this, you know things have gotten bad.  And, while I realize Sarah Palin did not literally want someone to gun down Rep. Giffords, the level of irresponsibility in this comment is jaw-dropping to say the least.  I’m no politician, but even I know that my words have power.  Have we really become so unconscious as to think that what we say doesn’t impact those around us? 

Continue reading "Words Have Power: Lessons To Learn From The Arizona Tragedy" »

December 27, 2010

How To Stand Up For Yourself Without Falling Apart


Below is a post from my new blog http://lmerlobooth.typepad.com/straight_talk_4_women/ Enjoy!

One of my blog readers wrote in to say that she’d like to stand up for herself at work but was fearful that if she did she would be too emotional if she stood up to them.  She’d been able to maintain her composure to date by ignoring her co-workers comments even though she felt degraded on the inside.  How could she learn to stand up without becoming tearful or emotional in the process?

This is a great question and one that many women struggle with.  The reality is that when we first begin to stand up for ourselves it can be a scary process.  The best way to limit the chance of becoming emotional in our response to mistreatment is by starting small keeping our replies short and to the point. Do not start by taking on the most difficult issues first.

Keeping our replies short and to the point will be easier to do for those who are good at thinking quickly.  For those who are not so good with thinking on their feet, take time to think about the usual ways your co-workers mistreat you.  Once you are out of their presence come up with a list of replies you could’ve made but were too afraid to say in the moment.  Sample replies include:
•    “Wow, that was mean.”
•    “Your mean-spiritedness is shocking at times.”
•    “I’m tired of your insults. When you’re ready to be civil let me know.”
•    “I’m fine with talking about my work when you can do so calmly and without putting me down.”

Continue reading "How To Stand Up For Yourself Without Falling Apart" »

November 12, 2010

All The Ways We Duck…And What It Costs Us


Time and time again, I’m hearing stories about people ducking in order to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, a possible conflict, an angry spouse, an annoying co-worker, etc.  Both men and women fall prey to the ducking phenomenon.  Not surprisingly, ducking works no better for men than it does for women.  Ducking is a bad move for anyone, regardless of whether they do it at home or work, or with friends, parents, siblings or children.

More often than not, the very thing that ducking is designed to do—get people off our backs—is the very thing it creates—people on our backs.  So many of us duck, though, because, in the short run, it does get us what we want.  It avoids a conflict, settles our partners down and gives us a respite from conflict...for the moment.  The problem happens later, when the issue resurfaces, when we didn’t do what we said we were going to do or when we refuse to discuss things in any meaningful way.

Here are several examples of the way we duck:
1.    Make promises we have no intention of keeping just to get someone to stop yelling, nagging or complaining.
2.    Avoid sharing information that we know will upset someone.  In other words, we partake in lies of omission and think it’s okay as long as it wasn’t an overt lie.
3.    Complain, rant and rave to our friends or co-workers about someone, yet never say anything to the person we’re upset with.
4.    Deny being upset with someone when they ask us directly, then go behind their back to tell others how angry we are.

Continue reading "All The Ways We Duck…And What It Costs Us " »

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