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!

HEN arrives at the full moon - 
illuminating the dark.   

Full Moon: February 25, 2013 - Year 11, Issue 2
Table of Contents:

HEALTH - Intention vs. Effect

In the 1960's, John Wallen came up with a theory that basically said most conflicts are misunderstandings. Whether you believe him or not, his theory, called the "Interpersonal Gap", is one of the quickest ways to generate a sense of personal power in conflict. Seeing choices in conflict strengthens a sense of an "internal locus of control." Having that feeling can help decrease stress and increase our confidence.

Here's how it works: Wallen said we all have intentions behind our actions - but intentions are hidden (until we say them out loud). Behaviours - our actions - are public: everyone sees those. The impact of those actions are also hidden - unless we share that.

The misunderstandings mount when we keep our intentions and the impacts unsaid. Instead, we tend to assume others have negative intentions when we have a negative impact - so clam up and don't say anything (or go to our friends to complain about those assumed negative intentions). Because we are upset, we don't tend to share the impact.

Conversely, when someone else might suffer as a result of our actions, we tend to focus on our positive intentions and not really on what the unintended consequences might be.

The key is making a commitment to share both intentions and impact.

I heard a great illustration of this theory in action recently.

I heard a story of someone's boss who had contacted him early in the week, and asked if she could talk with him. The boss didn't mention what the topic was and they weren't going to get a chance to talk until the end of the week.

Needless to say, this person sweated bullets all week. When the dreaded day and conversation finally came, it turned out the topic was very minor.

This person decided to dig deep into his courage, and ask his boss if she'd be willing to hear some feedback on their interaction. This was a brave move - as there are inherent risks in bringing up such a conversation with a boss (see article on Risks and Benefits for help!).

The boss said yes.

This person started with intentions. He wanted to assume the best of intentions (like he would have done for himself) - so he said right off the bat that he was sure his boss didn't intend to worry him needlessly (of course not).

Then, with that out of the way, he shared his best intention in bringing up the conversation in the first place. He said he wanted to let her know about his thinking on something as he really valued their relationship and wanted to be clear. He said he wanted to share the impact as she probably didn't know (she didn't). He said when he got the request, he started thinking that perhaps he'd done something wrong (because he was committed to doing a good job), and therefore started to feel worried. To the boss, this had been a little thing - to the employee, it was not.

He also asked for what he wanted instead - to be told what the topic was or to be asked to talk closer to the day.

The boss thanked him and left. However, a short while later, she returned.

She clarified that although that wasn't what she intended, she appreciated the feedback so that she could know how it landed (independent of intent). She said she should know better, and it drove home how her position alone could trigger stress, and would make sure in the future, to spell out why she wanted to meet.

In case you are thinking this boss is a saint (which might be partly true) - remember that how the conversation was delivered was a very big part of the success of that communication. The employee's capacity to express the impact of another's actions - while assuming neutral or positive intent - gave him a sense of confidence and empowerment. He wasn't blaming or angry. He wanted to be more clear.

In fact, we all could benefit from that kind of feedback on our own communication with others so we can know how our intentions land. If we could get more curious about how others are experiencing our actions - while keeping it separate from intention - we'd also get a lot more meaningful connection.

"We don't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts."
... Pema Chodron

ENVIRONMENT - Eating Sunflower Seeds is Political

When I was a kid, one of my happy memories is lying back on my bed with a good comic, a bag of sunflower seeds and a bowl ... life was complete!

There only was one brand in Canada back then - a small company out of Saskatchewan called Sid's.

I still indulge in sunflower seeds from time to time - though the comic books have long ago been traded for weightier tomes.

Sid's disappeared in the early 1990's and another Canadian brand dominated the scene - Spitz - out of Alberta.

Recently, I was in my local grocery store when I saw a new packet of sunflower seeds. I was surprised and delighted to see a new brand. And the price was right - much cheaper than my regular brand.

When I got them home and started to open them, however, everything came together in one gestalt: they were cheap, they were new on the market, and they didn't look like any kind of sunflower seed I'd seen in this part of the world before.

Sure enough - I checked the label and they were grown in China. Given sunflower seeds grow prolifically in Canada - I've even grown my own and shared some with our birds - that seemed odd.

Yet, this is one alternate future: we can make consumer choices without thinking, without checking - and we support agriculture that is not local that easily.

Another future is one that has us buying and therefore supporting local crops and local economies.

The irony is that the Alberta sunflower seed company, Spitz, which bought out Sid's in the early 1990's sold Spitz International to the American multinational PepsiCo in 2008. The Alberta farmer, Tom Droog, was recently quoted on a blog as saying he wished more young people would get into agriculture.

Maybe he'll teach a young farmer to start another Canadian sunflower seed company!

"The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard."
... Joel Salatin

* This column is dedicated to Emily Morin and Mark Mitchell - two young, local farmers who died in a tragic fire recently in Victoria. *

NEGOTIATION - Vulnerability

My work is to encourage people to talk with each other. Yet, when it comes right down to it, it takes a lot of effort and courage to step up and have that tough conversation.

One thing I've noticed lately is how powerful it is to start with a "risk/benefit" assessment. Here's how it works:

Most people can easily recite what the risks are in bringing up a tough conversation. They range from "I've tried this before and it doesn't work" to "It's not worth the effort."

The truth is - it is a risk to bring up something that makes us feel vulnerable.

So what helps?

I ask people to get a sheet of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle to create two columns. Put "Risks" on top of the left column and "Benefits" on the right column. Then ask yourself what one risk is in bringing up the tough conversation. Then go to a benefit. Then a risk. Then a benefit.

Most people are able to generate a few risks and benefits - one of the tricks is to go back and forth (not to keep listing a whole bunch of risks, for example).

Once you have a few items in each column, step back and really ask yourself what is at stake - both in the risks and in the benefits. This is where people seem to get really clear. Often what happens is the risks - which seemed so big and such game stoppers - somehow shrink. What is the risk in feeling some embarrassment, really? What else?

For others, seeing their risks in comparison to the benefits makes them realize what's in it for them. Most people walk away from this exercise with a crystal clear idea of what the benefits could be in bringing up the tough topic - and uncover what their own best intention is in having the conversation in the first place. That's what makes the difference.

Brene Brown, the shame and vulnerability expert, cannot find one example of courage that is not based on sheer vulnerability. When she asked people where did they find the courage to go forward, they said they got clear that being courageous was more important than any of the risks. Brene said she realized that these wholehearted people got serious in their intention setting and values alignment to be able to muster the courage.

That's what a risks/benefits assessment does for you. Once you can identify how having that conversation is in fact a way of you walking the talk and living from your values, there is no stopping you!

She goes on to say, even if the courageous act doesn't turn out as you hoped, you were still brave.

So get clear on what's your best intention in engaging the tough stuff - and dare greatly!

"There's nothing more daring than showing up, putting ourselves out there and letting ourselves be seen."
... Brene Brown


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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training

I love to inject more collaboration into the workplace! If you think I might be able to help you realize that vision - please contact me. Tell me what you need and let's see how I can best assist you!

Learn How to
Make Your Tough Conversations Great!

Available in the following formats:

1. Individualized Tele-Coaching:

Some of my favourite clients are managers and other people-oriented leaders who value relationships highly and have figured out if they put attention into their relationships, they will get big dividends out!
In fact, managers spend 25 percent to 40 percent of their time attempting to resolve conflict (Washington Business Journal) - yet most leaders receive minimal - or no - training on how to resolve conflicts collaboratively.
If you'd like to enrich some of your relationships at work - whether with peers, clients, or your own boss, consider coaching.  I would love to support you in strengthening your key relationships at work.

If you would like to set up a time to talk about your needs in this area, just email me with "Coaching" in the subject line.

2. E-Course: 
10 week self-study course with Facebook Group Community
COST: $95 (+HST)

This self-study e-course is delivered directly to your inbox every week for 10 weeks.
For more details, click here.

To get going on this course, just email me and ask, or register online.

3. Local Workshops in Victoria on Tough Conversations: 

Available for organizations and individuals in Victoria, BC

  • Does conflict make you break out in a sweat?
  • When it doesn’t go well, can you feel a tension so thick you can cut it with a knife?
Most people loathe conflict.  I know - I used to be one of them!

But, through years of practice, and study, and working in the field as a professional mediator, trainer and conflict coach – I’ve seen the power in conflict – both to damage and enhance relationship.
It’s all in how you approach it!

I pride myself on creating a learning experience that is relaxed, safe, and relevant. Whether it's sharing self-management tips, discussing hot button issues or describing how to bring up a tough topic, there's no shortage of conversation topics.
Most importantly, this workshop offers a practical model for how to start and sustain a collaborative conversation. It incorporates interpersonal communication concepts from Interest-based Negotiation, Non-Violent Communication, and Clear Leadership.

Topics include:

  • Getting Out of Your Own Way
  • Separating Fact from Fiction
  • Linking Feelings to Needs

Stay Cool - Through Conflict!

Audio recordings, e-book, and audio tools with Julia Menard & Judy Zehr

COST:  $149 (+applicable tax)

We're offering Stay Cool - Through Conflict as an e-course, with a full course e-book and recorded sessions. We use concepts from stress science to give you the tools you need to hang onto yourself in the face of conflict. 
Click here to find out more and to register.

"Love who and what you are and what you do." 
... Louise Hay 

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