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Perspectives

Our blog about communicating throughout conflict

Toward or Not Toward?

Have you seen our latest course, How to Lead Effective and Engaging Meetings? If you have, you'll probably recognize the first element - purpose. And you may remember the tools we talked about to help with it. So, today I want to explore a couple different styles of motivation, because motivation can act as a purpose in some conversations.

In the course, we mentioned that we're aiming for the "highest positive purpose." Yet, when it comes to motivation, there are two types: away and toward.

Toward motivation is the positive motivation, where someone is aiming to accomplish something, often to work toward something else. They may, for example, want to lose weight in order to be healthier, look better in their clothes, etc.

Away motivation is the incentive to do something in order to get away from or prevent something else. For example, some people want to lose weight so they don't have knee pain or have trouble keeping up with their child.

When we are first getting started on a...

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The Truth About Interruptions...and Dogs

When I get on the phone with a friend whom I haven't talked with in a while, we rarely finish a story or discussion without having taken a few "detours." It's almost like word association, where a word or name comes up and the other person immediately cuts in, interrupts, with a story.

That's okay when we're just catching up. Then, we don't always have to finish. And if we really do want to finish what we were saying, we can come back to it. But that isn't always the case in professional conversations or when there is disagreement.

When there is a conflict where mediators, attorneys, or police become involved or a professional conversation or disagreement , there's usually something at stake. People are often outcome-focused then. So, when they're interrupted, it frustrates their goal. It also annoys them because they don't feel heard or respected.

When we don't feel heard or respected, we tend to repeat ourselves and talk louder. We may even talk faster in an effort to not be...

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Why Texting and Guns Don't Mix

It's not often that I start out with a disclaimer, but here it is: This is not an argument for or against gun control. If you choose to comment about that, as always, keep your comments respectful.

Since the advent of texting and instant messaging, there's a lot of what I call, 'micro-communication.' It's so short now people aren't even spelling out words. Just by itself, this abbreviated communication gets us into a lot of trouble.

Conflict happens because of the lack of communication, not the presence of it. And even with the telephone, face-to-face, and email communication, there were gaps in communication.

The challenge with gaps is that our mind fills them in. It fills them in so quickly and subconsciously, in fact, that we aren't even aware that assumptions have been made. And because of that, we don't verify assumptions. Those gaps, filled with unverified assumptions, expand during micro-communication.

The assumptions may be exponential though, in comparison with the increase...

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How Christmas with Family Turns into WWIII

I wonder how many people have referred to family arguments as WWIII. It's about as common as saying something is, "cute as a button."

Now, you and I both know that most buttons are not cute. But in a way, WWIII has been started at the dinner table, especially at holidays. Family is a large part of many people's world, so if you or a person you care about don't get along with another person you care about, I can see that being like a personal world war.

That's pretty easy to create; it's just escalation. One person lobs a conversation starter. That triggers the other person, who reacts in kind. Conversation can't stay the same, though, when energy is put into it. So, eventually someone will take the "high" road, escalating the volume, intensity, speed, etc of the conversation. Boom! Fireworks.

Not only is it easy, it almost seems natural. Instinctive. No malice aforethought required. In fact, most of these wars are started with good intentions.

Conflict often starts when someone is...

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Warning: Online Schedulers May Reduce Efficiency and Satisfaction

Efficiency is something many professionals aspire to. But what does it mean to be efficient? It's not just about completing tasks as quickly as possible. When other people are involved, it's also about communicating effectively, and technology may be setting us back in this. Take the online calendars such as Calendly or Acuity, for example.

The calendar may save time and reduce the frustration of going back and forth, but when people send a link with only a message of "Here's a link," that, alone, is not efficient. If you do that, you miss an opportunity to connect. And that may actually set you back in the long run because you fail to connect well and consistently. If you've ever been annoyed by an automated receptionist, you know what I'm talking about. The automated receptionists make us feel like a number, like the company's time and efficiency is more important than ours, right?

The online schedulers seem to be used most when first meeting a person because people schedule the...

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Lessons on Conflict from Natural Disasters

Looking at videos of people dealing with effects of hurricanes and earthquakes, one thing stands out...People going to great lengths to help people and animals. Something about natural disasters sets us up to reach out.

These are urgent situations, so the mind doesn't have time to figure out a plan. Usually what happens, instead, is we get one step at a time. And that's probably best, because sometimes the steps seem to go against logic. But if we're already down that road and in over our head with no better plan, we might as well follow through.

But what would happen if we did that even when there wasn't a massive incident we were already involved in?

Generally, when I commit to something before I have a chance to overthink it, I play a bigger and better game. And that's what we're seeing now in the various events that have hit recently - people jumping in without overthinking, and it's allowing them to do more than they might have imagined. We can do the same during conflict.

We...

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You Can't Unring a Bell, So Make Sure They Ring the Right One!

People love texting and live chat. Neither are likely to be involved in the legal field, but that technology still has an influence on client expectation. It's sped up the pace of service and communication in other industries. And even though on one level clients understand that the same will not apply to legal services, the energy is still there. 

People get impatient if they don't receive a quick and accurate response. You can't promise to respond within 4 hours and miss that window. If you do, people will go on social media, complain to the bar, complain to their friends, etc.

But if you promise to respond in 24 hours and respond in 20 minutes, people may still go to the same outlets to complain. Even if you exceed the expectations you've set, faster than you can say, "I'm calling now," they've launched their attack.

The bell has been rung. The damage is done. When clients become emotional, it's like the world suddenly is on the slide under a microscope, and the only visible...

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The Danger of Labels

Since the deadly protest rally in Charlottesville, people have been referring to people who have supremacist ideology as "white supremacists" or "neo-nazi's." But labels, those or otherwise, run a dangerous risk of backfiring.

When we label someone, it becomes their identity. The only thing people see, then, is that one characteristic. So, that becomes their only source of power.

That's a problem because it causes them to hold tightly to that. So, the label almost becomes a dare. They dig their heels in, defending all that is.

But it doesn't just affect them; it affects our ability to work with them because we can't see other aspects of them.

If you're thinking, "That's fine. I want nothing to do with them," consider that to the extent we can find common ground on other issues, we stand a chance of affecting this belief of theirs, too, or at least putting it on a back burner.

And by creating a label, there are now only 2 groups: those who are, and those who aren't. But some people who...

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The Three Bears and Client Communication

Attorneys are in the business of representing clients. They serve. They're not the boss; they're partners. Nonverbal and verbal communication must match that status.

Sitting in his office, I wasn't there as a consultant or coach; I was there as a client. I'd heard good things about him. People said, "He's one of the best."

But when he put himself on a pedestal, I wasn't impressed. Standing while I was sitting, he literally talked down to me. He wasn't in rapport. And when he opened his mouth, things went from bad to worse.

He started the conversation saying, "Let me tell you what I know because that will save us both some time." I don't think he realized there're two interpretations for that. Neither is fitting for a professional, though.

In law, a lot of information needs to be manipulated. But in order to best accomplish that, we need some context. I mean, you can't just put ducks in a row for someone unless you know if they want them alphabetically or by height! So, ask questions...

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Beware of the Egg

Currently, 12 republican members of the Senate are meeting behind closed doors, drafting their version of the health care bill. This issue affects the public health and U.S. labor and economy massively, yet it doesn't even have the benefit of hearings in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Without those hearings, the Senate will have trouble relating to their constituents' needs because they haven't heard them on the issue. Receiving one-way voicemail or email messages, especially on this issue, isn't enough to qualify.

People don't always know what to say or how to say it, and their unique circumstances may require dialog for the senators to understand them. That's especially true on an emotional, complex, and individual issue like health care. And even if the senators were receiving all the information well, it'd still leave the people without any feedback. (They may receive a stock email that doesn't pertain to their message, but that doesn't let them know their...

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