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 - 
because light transforms darkness.   

Full Moon: December 25, 2015 - Year 13, Issue 13
Table of Contents:

Welcome to the Christmas Day edition! Not since 1977 have we had a full moon on Christmas Day and we will not have one again until 2034! Today is a special day - thank you for reading HEN and making my existence more special by your interest. I hope I do the same for you! Look around you and see each thing as special. It is and you are.
Happy Holidays!  
- Julia

1. HEALTH - Four Practices for Health and Happiness

My friend and fellow mediator, Brian Frank, was telling me about hearing the U.S. Surgeon General talking about his agenda for the health of Americans: to achieve greater health through being happy. Brian was able to tell me, right off the top of his head, what four practices to cultivate for greater health. There is something helpful about having a simple formula to remember and, hopefully, to practice. 
According to Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, happiness is not an emotion but a perspective that can be cultivated using four practices:
  • gratitude exercises
  • meditation
  • physical activity
  • social connectedness

In a society that doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there is even a connection at all between our emotional well-being and our physical health, how refreshing and exciting to have a Surgeon General advocating for prevention!
Check out this short video of Dr. Murthy sharing his 4-point plan. Simple!
“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product”
… Eleanor Roosevelt

2. ENVIRONMENT - Net Zero Energy Homes

I recently heard the term “net zero energy homes” – which is apparently a home which produces as much energy as it receives.
Ironically, one of the first net zero homes built in Canada was in my old neighbourhood of Riverdale in Edmonton, Alberta and actually on the very same street we lived on (only a few blocks and one decade away).
The Riverdale project is a duplex, so the size seems modest and reachable. It was actually built as a “demonstration” project in 2008 for the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation, to see if the idea of a net zero energy home was feasible.
What’s required?
There are 3 essential steps:
  1. Energy conservation – cutting down the use of energy for appliances and insulating the home, roof and windows, for example.
  2. Passive Solar Energy - capturing free energy through large south-facing windows, for example
  3. Produce renewable energy – using solar panels as the final (not the first) step

Here is a quick summary of net zero energy homes.
Since housing accounts for 15 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and 17 per cent of Canada’s secondary energy use, this is a good place to look. And although putting all 3 steps into place might seem like a far-away dream to some of us, it all starts with imagination!

“Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.”
… George Lucas

3. NEGOTIATION - Political Brains

Did you know our brains can look different depending on how we vote?
Firstly, what I've noticed the last few years is that Canada has started to adopt a similar approach to politics as our American neighbours - where we have a strong divide between those who identify with the Conservative Party (Republicans) and those who identify with the Liberal or NDP Parties (Democrats). There seem to be more extremes in our political views in Canada than there were and birds of a feather have started to flock together. I have a few friends who support Conservatives and most of my friends support Liberals or NDP. My “left-leaning” friends can’t believe I know anyone who is a right-winger. My “right-leaning” friends can’t believe I’m not Conservative.
How can we get back to a country where we debate ideas and not character-assassinate and judge each other for our politics? I’m particularly concerned with death-threats being uttered to politicians in Alberta. That’s not very Canadian.
It’s too easy to say “It’s a new era of non-divisive politics!” That doesn’t mean anything to a section of our country who voted Conservative. There was a time, before the Harper era, where there were right-leaners and left-leaners and lots of those in between. Somehow, it seemed to me, many of us were vaguely in the middle – with those on either extreme pushing and challenging us all in good ways.

What happened?
It is time now, more than ever, to become more conscious of our increasingly different ways of talking politics in our country. According to one article in Discover magazine, various studies have converged to show that liberals and conservatives do indeed have predictable patterns of thinking – which may be a way to bridge us back to more understanding.
Those self-identifying as liberals tend to have a larger and/or more active anterior cingulate cortex and conservatives are more likely to have an enlarged amygdala.
The implications for communicating with each other are complex, just as complex as the brain is. Yet, we can attempt to start to think of each “side” as having different needs when communicating.
With a more active anterior cingulate cortex, the liberal thinker’s tendency, there is a tendency to lean more towards emotional regulation, and detecting errors – whereas a more active amygdala is focused more on fear and the storage of emotional memories. So liberals are swayed more with data (generally) and conservatives more with emotions (generally). 
There is even a whole new field of study called “political neuroscience” which is attempting to understand how different political brains work. Having said that, there is also plenty of caution out there saying the brain is way too complex to stop it and isolate aspects of it in a moment in time. 
Oversimplification can be as problematic as insight.
So, my invitation to you is to look around you. Is every friend you have of the same political persuasion? Where are the spaces for a diversity of political perspectives to come together and share their ideas? Stand up for complexity! Stand up for compassionate communication! Stand up for mutual purpose!
"It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."  
… Charles Darwin


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



Are you avoiding any conversations you know you should have?

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