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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rules of Engagement in Conflict--Rule #10

Rule of Engagement in Conflict #10 calls for all of us to stop the tit-for-tat interactions that are common in disagreements--especially in marriages.  If someone says something to you about yourself that you don't like, the most common response is to point out to that individual that they do similar things.  Instead of stopping to digest what has just been said, our natural response is to get defensive if we have not trained ourselves to be accepting of other people's opinions of us.  We say, "Yeah, but you..." and the other person fires back with the same.  Next thing we know, nothing's getting resolved, and no one is holding themselves accountable for their behavior.  It is easy to point a finger at someone else without considering the legitimacy of what the other person is saying.
     Let's face it--it's hard to hear less than glowing remarks about our actions.  We'd like to think we do almost everything right, and somehow it's the other person's fault for taking what we say the wrong way or misinterpreting our good intentions.  We don't often stop to think that we may have led people to feel or respond to us in an undesirable way because of something we said or did.  We tend to place the onus back on the other person for not getting it right.  When they bring it to our attention, we get defensive and upset.  Then we look for ways to point out some shortcoming of theirs while ducking responsibility for our own actions.  "How dare you say that to me when you do..."
     In conflict, this can go on forever.  That's why some people have told me they can argue for hours.  They won't let up or go to bed without trying to "resolve" the issue because they're mad!  But the fact is, this kind of behavior never leads to resolution.  It usually ends up with a lot of hurt feelings because both sides have said too much, made too many accusations.  Hurtful things you can't take back.
     So here's what needs to happen:
     Listen first.  The key to any debate, argument or disagreement is to listen.  Then consider the value of what's being said.  Whether you agree with it or not, try to understand what the other person is conveying.  Can you see from their point of view how you may actually be acting in the manner they said?  In fact, are you behaving that way at the time of the conflict?  Some people will deny that they're hard to talk to while they're being hard to talk to!  The fact that the other person has a problem with you means that an actual problem exists.  In order to resolve it, you can't deny their complaint or overlook it just because you don't like to be considered as part of the cause.  People who are successful at resolving conflict achieve that success by listening first and immediately thinking through the possibilities.  They hold themselves accountable and try not to match one negative comment with another.  They ask themselves, "Did I really do that?" and "How could I have said or done that better?" and "Even though I didn't mean it that way, I still owe this person an apology because I offended them."
     If we all sought ways to be peacemakers, peace and mercy would prevail.  Conflict would shrink, and everyone's individual space could contain a little less drama.  Try it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

10 Signs That You Lack People Skills

I am often amazed by how many people work in jobs or serve in some capacity where their priority is supposed to be the needs of other people, and it is clear they are not people-focused.  They are in customer service, at the check out counter, in supervisory positions, in ministry, healthcare, and other places that require they help those around them.  They fail miserably and have that perplexed look like they don't understand what went wrong when people complain.  If this is you, well, let me help you out.  Below are ten signs that you might lack people skills:
  1. You think of your needs first before anyone else's.  Those who are people-focused will put other's needs ahead of their own when appropriate.  I'm not suggesting people should deny themselves in order to please others, but if an opportunity presents where a more immediate need arises, the one who has people skills will try to find a way to help the other person first.  Those who practice this skill best will anticipate other people's needs and meet them before they are even asked.
  2. Your tone and word choices don't consider other people.  When you speak and offend others regularly, it might be because you haven't thought about how hard your words land when you throw them at the other side.  People-focused individuals will at the very least ask themselves:  "If I say this, how will it come across to the other person?"
  3. You are not sensitive to what matters to other people.  A friend's low life boyfriend has finally broken up with her.  Secretly you're elated because you never liked the jerk in the first place.  If you have people skills, you will find a way to be empathetic at a time when your friend is in pain.  If you lack people skills, you'll likely say something like, "Good riddance.  I don't know why you put up with him this long!"
  4. When you see an opportunity to be helpful but you aren't.  Oftentimes in the workplace, there is a coworker on the team who has fallen behind but does not ask for assistance for some reason.  You can see where this thing is not going to end well for her, but you do nothing.  You essentially feel like that's her problem so she needs to fix it.
  5. When you'd most rather be by yourself than with a group or crowd.  This sounds a lot like being introverted, but people who lack people skills aren't necessarily introverted.  Introverts can hang with crowds, but probably for a shorter amount of time than an extrovert (they won't stay until you tell them they have to leave like extroverts) and not as frequently (happy hour every Friday with the office crew might be a bit too much).  The one who lacks people skills doesn't want to be a part of the group for selfish reasons.  They can't be the center of attention and monopolize the conversation or they may feel some people in the group are "too sensitive" so they stay away.
  6. When you are generous but not nice.  People give to causes all the time just to be generous.  Perhaps you were asked by a coworker or family member to contribute, and you do.  But you have a nasty streak that comes out without a lot of provocation.  You give to a cause out of obligation rather than compassion.
  7. When collaboration is exhausting.  Those who are not people-focused tend not to do well collaborating.  They may feel forced into working on a team because of a special project, but they don't necessarily want to.  It is a chore.  They will likely rub people the wrong way because of a negative attitude, rude talk or a disappearing act that leaves everyone else feeling like they've been disregarded and left holding the bag.
  8. When you are more interested in receiving credit for hitting a goal rather than giving recognition to people that helped get you there.  Oftentimes, when an individual is not focused on others, they are focused inward.  They are concerned for self primarily, and they pay attention to only what will benefit them.  They are not willing to share success with other contributors.
  9. When getting tasks done is shown more importance than people's needs being met.  When you are a leader and are more concerned about day-to-day operations getting accomplished but you neglect that a parent wants time off to attend a child's graduation or pick up a sick kid from school or miss a day to attend training, you are not people-focused.
  10. When you have a hard time showing empathy for someone who is in crisis.  You see people's issues as their own and you "don't want to get involved".  You may say, "I feel bad that happened to him, but that's not my problem."
Do you have others to share?  Add to this list or comment on any of the ten above.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rules of Engagement in Conflict--Rule #9

     The one thing I can say with certainty about humanity is that we love to judge one another.  We have no qualms about looking at what other people do and then voicing our opinion about it.  Our opinions are largely derogatory unfortunately.  Gossip abounds and is viewed negatively by almost everyone, but it's like a sickness without a cure.  We are compulsive with it.  It is a habit that is hard to break because the lines are blurred between speaking about the things that people do that aren't right, and complaining about what people do that we don't like.
           In a disagreement, telling people that they are the problem will and does escalate an already volatile situation.  Any statement where one person is passing judgment on another will surely spark ire in the accused party.  Therefore, rule #9 in the Rules of Engagement in Conflict is to take judgment out of the conversation.  Statements like, “the problem with you is” or “if you hadn’t…” or “it went wrong because you…” are pretty much guaranteed to invite resistance from the other party.  No one wants to be blamed for anything that goes wrong.  Any time the word "you" is thrown in the mix, it sounds like an accusation.  Accusations put people on the defensive.
          Judgment makes one person appear to feel superior to the other.  There's a sense of "I don't make the same mistakes you do, therefore, I'm better.  Get your act together."  To pass judgment is to look at an individual or situation and insert your personal assessment as if you're qualified to make it.  It's usually unsolicited, and it's usually without a lot of basis in fact.  It's often conjecture and personal opinion.  As a result, the other person who obviously has their own views on the matter counters what the first person has surmised and does so angrily.  Then boom, there's the making of a heated argument.
      Judgmental statements in a disagreement sound like, "You think you know everything."  Or "You're always trying to control everything."  Or "He's a micromanaging boss."  All of these statements pass judgment on the other party, true or not.  They are all 100% negative.  Even if each statement could be proven, the accuser could never do so because they've already blocked the chances of getting to the truth by making an inflammatory statement immersed in judgment.  A better way would be to say, "I appreciate how much you already know about the topic, but there are some things you may not be aware of."  Or, "One way things would probably work smoother is if you allowed other people and their ideas to take place without interference.  You may be surprised by what would come of it if given the opportunity."  Or even, "Your trust in us is badly needed in this situation.  We believe if you permitted us to do what we are capable of doing, that would free you up to do the important job of leading in other areas.  Don't worry, we got this."
      Avoid any verbiage that sounds like finger-pointing.  Save yourself from the muck of useless arguing and debates.  Give yourself the chance to get along with other people by avoiding those pitfalls that come with judgmental language.  Try it.