Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation
HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping the Workplace Engage - One Tough Conversation at a Time! juliamenard.com
HEN arrives at the full moon -
because light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: November 17, 2013 - Year 11, Issue 11
Table of Contents:
Tough Conversations Group Coaching
Remember - the group coaching tele-course on Tough Conversations starts Wednesday, November 20th - from 7 - 8 pm PST and runs for 5 consecutive weeks. Sign up here and receive a $100 early bird discount.
For more details on what is offered in the course, click here.
1. HEALTH - Dying Well
I had lunch with a friend the other day who’s Dad has Alzheimer's. Our conversation led from one thing to the other until we soon arrived at dying with dignity. Her Dad is in a care home with others suffering from severe memory loss.
Every now and again, he's lucid enough to know he's in a place with others who are sick like him. He's lucid enough to know he cannot leave. He's lucid enough to know he's with complete strangers - with no sense of family or familiarity - however dim.
I'd never really thought about dying with dignity before, though my friend has. She'd been diagnosed with a debilitating disease in her late teens, and so turned her mind to how she could live out her days without being a burden to herself or others. It turns out, the disease she thought she had - wasn't – so she didn’t get to that point. That's the good news! As a consequence, however, she had given the idea of dying with dignity a lot of thought over the intervening decades.
Coincidentally, earlier that day, I had a conversation with a neighbour about her dog who had died a few months ago. She told me, in a hushed, tender tone, what a privilege it was for her to be there when her dog died. She and her husband had brought their dog to the veterinarian's together and had been with her dog as the first and then second injections were administered - first to send the dog to sleep and then for him to die. She said she thought the "dog was ready to die” and that she “didn't want him to suffer”.
Yet, applying this same logic to human animals seems to generate a lot different reaction. I wouldn't say I am "for" assisted suicide - but today's two conversations got me thinking.
So, I looked up the right to die movement in Canada. This website tells you more if you are interested.
Although I wouldn't say I'm ready to sign up myself, the conversation with my friend gave me a sad sort of satisfaction that there might be other options than simply suffering in our old age. Because our society is so death-phobic, these kind of conversations do not happen that often.
However, they are life-inspiring conversations to have! When my Dad died 13 years ago, I went to a hospice support group for 8 weeks. Our group loved the opportunity to talk about death, dying, grieving and living so much, that we all signed up for another 8 weeks!
Would I wish dying, suffering, death on anyone? Absolutely not. At the same time, dying truly is a part of life. And especially at this time of year, when there is so much dying around us - the leaves on the streets, the flowers, vegetation of all sorts. Embrace it!
There is life in the dying.
"The people who pretend that dying is rather like strolling into the next room always leave me unconvinced. Death, like birth, must be a tremendous event."
... J. B. Priestley
2. ENVIRONMENT - Farm and Profits
There is a trend afoot – and that trend is to return to smaller scale farming for our food systems.
British Columbia has been a leader in this area. This is large part because, in the 1970’s, the provincial government set up an independent governing body to oversee requests to take farmland out of the land reserved for farmland.
It was established because there was growing concern in B.C. about the 6,000 hectares a year of prime agricultural land then being lost to development. Now about 500 hectares are removed annually.
The Agricultural Land Commission has enabled more farmland to remain intact because it exists independent of government or economic interests. Its sole purpose is to think about the interests of farming, farmland and consequently, food security.
Now, with economic pressures being what they are around the world, the Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm is asking the BC government’s Cabinet to make some fundamental changes to the Agricultural Land Commission because:
“The Agricultural Land Commission legislative mandate is too narrow to allow decisions that align with the priority for economic development."
The number of changes are designed to give others (municipalities, the Oil and Gas Industry, and provincial government) control in taking land out of the reserve.
At a time when courage and innovation are required to be creative in the face of the need to be economically competitive, The Minister’s starting assumption is surprisingly outdated.
His statement (quoted above) is reflective of that “either/or” type of thinking which generates conflict and leaves no one truly satisfied. It goes something like:
It is “either” the environment or economic development.
What happened to the unifying paradigm of sustainable development?
Given Mr. Pimm worked in the oil and gas industry for most of his career before taking on the Agriculture portfolio, it would make sense that he may have a strong economic development perspective. He sees “one side” of the issue.
Does farming not bring in economic development? Does new development need to happen on farmland? Does farmer need to be pitted against developer?
Conflict does not have to be destructive – if it’s acknowledged and worked with. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in all of us to want to avoid the tough conversations – as individuals and even if our job is as impactful as a Minister.
The conflict being avoided here is one over farmland and money. They do not have to be in conflict, however.
Is there not a way, for example, to create a dispute resolution system as an adjunct to the Agricultural Land Commission to deal with the mounting tensions between the old and gas industry and the farmers and ranchers in BC?
From what I understand, even certain municipalities are against making the kind of legislative changes to the Agricultural Land Commission which would decrease the ALC’s power.
There is a conflict going on – there is no doubt about that.
One way of dealing with the conflict is to come to a quick solution by making sweeping changes, approved by Cabinet.
A more prudent approach may be to halt any suggestions to change the legislative authority of the Commission, and instead start to investigate the nature of the dispute. That is:
Why are these changes being proposed? Whose interests are needing to be met? How can all the interests – the need for economic development and the need for food security/autonomy – be explored?
As Dr. David Connell, from the University of Northern BC says:
“Underlying this type of conflict is a societal debate about what is in the best interests of the public, rather than conflict among private interests. It's this public debate/conflict over values and the place of food and farmland within society which is intriguing.”
Dr. Connell has also just launched a new study entitled:
“Are governments doing what Canadians want with respect to farmland?”
He is examining how the changing role and value of farming in Canada may affect agricultural land use within and across national, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions. As someone who studies these issues, he says:
“The average Vancouverite visiting a farmers’ market because she values ‘eating local’ might be surprised at how much prime farmland has been overtaken in the Fraser Valley for commercial, residential, and industrial interests.”
Dr. Connell says the biggest cities in Canada are situated where they are in part because that is where the best farmland is located. Consequently, as cities expand, land identified as being some of the most fertile in Canada is being replaced by developments such as golf courses, condominiums, and shopping malls.
This is conflict!
My hope is that Cabinet can view Minister Pimm’s proposed position as a call for attention to be brought to the battles being fought over food “VS” the economy.
The answer isn’t to run away from the conflict with a pre-mature solution – but to run to it. Let’s acknowledge its existence and get on with working to transform it. And the best way through is dialogue, consultation, collaboration.
“We get stuck by holding on tightly to our opinions and plans and identities and truths. But when we relax and are present and open up our minds and hearts and wills, we get unstuck and we unstick the world around us."
… Adam Kahane
3. NEGOTIATION - Mediator in a Box
Last month, I had the pleasure of traveling up to Campbell River to deliver a workshop on dealing with/facing/engaging difficult work conversations – for the non-profit sector.
When I went up, I brought with me some examples of a product that two sisters created called “Mediator in a Box.”
Marla Sloan and Clare Sprowell have crafted a beautiful looking and elegantly working process to help people engage conflict kinesthetically!
As I was preparing for, and then delivering, my workshop, I realized that this “Mediator in a Box’ was a tool people could use to practice having those difficult conversations. It was originally designed to help two people resolve their own conflicts together and has been tested to do just that.
It’s the idea of using it as a way to walk through a process to practice that caught my imagination.
And the imagination of others as almost every person I showed the Mediator in a Box to – bought one!
The premise is simple: If we are led through a process, we can arrive at a more productive result than re-creating old destructive patterns. The process Marla and Clare designed has 7 distinct steps:
Clarify how you want to speak with each other. The Mediator in the Box suggests two guidelines – respect each other and listen without interrupting.
Each of you write out the problem as you see it and then share what you’ve written.
Each of ask yourself what is important to you about the situation and write out your answer.
When done, one of you read what you wrote to the other. The listener repeats back to the speaker’s satisfaction (asking “is that right””) and record it. Then the listener asks at least two other curiosity questions (questions suggested) and records this last bit of information too. Then switch.
The parties look at the answers uncovered and brainstorm together possible solutions.
Evaluate the solutions looking for workable solutions.
Write out the specifics of the best solution – your agreement.
To go through these steps with the aid of cards, puzzle pieces, and sticky notes – all customized to the situation – is a real treat!
If you are curious about what they are offering, you can check out Mediator in a Box. Marla just told me they re having a Christmas sale too!
Mediator in a Box is 40% off until December 15. That makes each Box $38 — and still includes free shipping!
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training