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: April 15, 2014 - Year 12, Issue 4
Table of Contents:

1. HEALTH - I Am Enough

A few years ago, a book came out called The Four Agreements. In it, the author created four principles that are supposed to help you live a happier, more whole life. 
The book was referenced in a course I was taking recently so I had occasion to review the agreements. The one that jumped out at me is the last one called:
“Always Do Your Best.”
The author elaborates: “Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”
When I started asking myself about doing my best, I realized I come up short. In fact, I would say I rarely think I’m doing my best – because there is always more to give. I could be doing more, caring more, earning more, being more. My “best”. 
Rather than being a principle to avoid self-judgment, I discovered it can also be a hidden reason to bring  on self-judgment.
Believing that “doing one’s best” doesn’t exist - can be liberating. Why can’t you just be doing what you can, with what you have, where you are? Could it be that you can’t do any more - or else you would do more? 
Can’t you being you be enough?
In a consumer society where we are often told we are not enough (until we buy this particular product or service) – saying “I am enough” can be a radical act.
Having said that, there is a paradox. On the one hand, you don’t want to expect unrealistic things of yourself and then feel badly when you don’t achieve them (getting an always-too-long-to-do-list done, for example). On the other hand, holding yourself in high regard, with high expectations of yourself and your potential can help you be the person you want to be.
The discernment, for me, is to expect the best from yourself. This isn’t believing that you will always do your best – but that whatever you do, it is your best.

You are enough.
This is a subtle but powerful distinction. If I believe everything I do is my best, there is forgiveness built in. I can still expect great things of myself and at the same time expect that what I’m doing now (in the present) is also my best.
Go out and allow yourself to be enough!
"Our entire life consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are."
… Jean Anouih

2. ENVIRONMENT - Let's Grow Community Intelligence

I was at a planning meeting recently for the food growing/food security group I’m part of. We asked each other what drives us to grow food. What stood out to me was the deep connection there is between growing food and growing communities. One invariably is linked to the other. No matter the outcome to our environmental crisis and maybe especially as our global environment deteriorates further, we need each other more.
That’s why I celebrate finding structures which support more community building. Since the connection between disaster and community came into high relief that night, I've become crystal clear community building grows our food and community building is what we need more of. So growing our collective intelligence in community building only makes sense in an individualistic culture.
I cam across one such process recently called “Search Conferences”. This methodology has been around for decades, but I’ve only just learned of it – via a book called Large Group Interventions by Bunker and Alban.
A Search Conference is “a participative planning method which enables communities and organizations to identify, plan and implement their most desired future. This kind of process would be interesting for any community group" 
(Bunker & Alban, 1997).

I loved this example as it involved mobilizing neighbours to grow food (one of my passions).

One story of a Search Conference application can be useful for any community wishing to come together. A group of residents got together to discuss what they wanted for their community. 150 people showed up and they were split into 3 groups of 50 each running parallel. 

The event started with food – always a good idea. There was a pot -luck dinner. That gave people an opportunity to socialize informally before “getting to business”. After the dinner, people got into a large circle and told stories about the history of the community and events that stood out for them regarding what that community was all about. 
The next day, each group talked about what values they shared as well as discussed what was going on in their environment - potential threats and things that affected their community now. Then they brainstormed what they wanted to create as a community. 
Turned out there seemed to be an alignment and agreement amongst all three groups of 50 people about what the community wanted. They reconvened as the whole group of 150 people, to go over the goals and ended up with eight strategic goals.
The community goals including things such as “sustainable agriculture, sustainable architecture, a new self-governance structure, infrastructure issues (water, roads, sewer) and the social infrastructure (education and health).”

They each signed up to work on a strategic-goal task force.  After three months, all the task force action groups came together to report on what they had done, what they were still planning to do and what help they needed. Each month, the local newspaper reported on the activities of each of the groups, so the whole community kept up to date. Six months later, the agricultural group had formed a seed bank, the wilderness group had mapped some wilderness areas, and another group had been working on a new governance system that included meetings and allowed for more true citizen participation.
What’s most important, I think, is not so much how anyone could or should follow the exact system that a “Search Conference” could provide. What is most important is that we become more literate about how to build and nurture communities. Any of us can get an idea here, pull a seed of an idea help build our communities.
Together, we can learn from each other how to make more networks.
For more information on Search Conferences, click here.
“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”  
… Wendell Berry

3. NEGOTIATION - Listen with Curiosity

When I'm called in to help work relationships which have gotten unproductive or toxic, one of the things I do is coach the conflicted parties before they enter into any kind of joint meeting. One of the things we tend to work on is how they can express themselves in a way that ups their chances of being heard. We talk about listening with curiosity.

This idea of listening with curiosity comes from my experiences coaching at The Centre for Conflict Resolution at the Justice Institute. My job there is to work with learners who are practicing how to do interest-based negotiation and/or mediation. I sit with four or five students for a whole day and help them work through tough conversations, stopping and starting and analyzing what goes into making them productive. 

One particular story brings this whole idea of listening with curiosity into clear focus. The story is that many years ago, I was coaching someone who was having a hard time hearing the other person. The questions he was using were leading ones - the kind familiar to a trial lawyer. We all knew what he was getting at because closed, leading questions telegraph the thoughts of the questioner. 

It wasn't going over well with the other person playing his opponent. 

On a hunch, I asked the person trying to practice his skills if he could do two things:
  1. I asked him to stop, put one hand on his belly (and a second hand could go on the heart area) and to feel his feet on the ground (tapping them slightly or pushing them in the ground is ever better). And take a deep breath or two.  
  2. Then I simply asked him to take a good look at the other person across from him. Did he have any idea how his words were landing on that person?  No. What did he think the other person was thinking, feeling, wanting? No idea. Okay then, I invited: "get curious". This little phrase "get curious" is one of our mantras at the Centre.
After those two prompts, he started back into the role play. Lo and behold – it was like a tiny miracle had happened! He was asking open questions – the kinds that make another person want to open up. This skill was something he apparently had no idea how to do only 2 minutes previously and now was able to connect easily through hearing with curiosity.

Needless to say, I’ve repeated this little intervention with other students over the years many times - always with good results. Try it:

The next time you notice the other person not listening to you – stop yourself. You could put one hand on your belly, maybe a second on your heart. Feel your feet.

Then take a good look at that other person. Are you curious about their world? If not, get curious! Let me know what happens!

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer."
… Henry David Thoreau


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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?
  • Did you know the longer you avoid conflict, the bigger it usually gets?
  • Have you noticed the more you put into your relationships at work, the easier your life gets?
If this is you, here are 3 ways you can take concrete action towards your desire for productive, effective, and healthy work relationships in 2014:


Change is hard. Change by yourself is harder! Changing a difficult relationship at work takes consistent effort. With so many priorities competing for our attention, it’s easy to let our work relationships take a back seat to putting out fires. Yet healthy relationships are key to productivity and even happiness at work! That’s where coaching comes in. Coaches are trained to listen to your situation, help you get clear on the action required, and hold you accountable to get your plan moving! I offer 3 easy coaching packages – click here to find out more.


Did you know managers spend an average of 50% of their day dealing with conflict? Yet most leaders receive minimal - or no – training on how to analyze and manage conflicts productively. So instead they spend their days putting out fires – dealing with the recurring complaints their hear from bickering direct reports or trying to manage up or with their peers. There is a better way! I’ll be starting new training for 2014. It's not location specific, so join up here.


Some people prefer the convenience of studying on their own. If that’s you, I’ve created TWO self-study courses for you! The first one – Making Tough Conversations Great comes in 10 easy to read modules where you learn the Tough Conversations systems with actionable, practical steps. This e-course also comes with a free personalized one-on-one telephone coaching session with me – valid for up to 10 weeks after registering for the self-study course. To find out more, click here.
You can also sign up for a second course I collaborated on with colleague, Judy Zehr – a psychotherapist and expert in neuroscience, emotional regulation, and mindfulness. Together we’ve created a value-packed self-study program designed to help you keep your cool in hot conversations. A must for anyone who has to face stressful conversations. Click here to find out more.


Marla Sloan and Clare Sprowell have crafted a beautiful looking and elegantly working process to help people engage conflict kinaesthetically! This “Mediator in a Box" is a tool people can 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.

If you are curious about what they are offering, you can check out Mediator in a Box

I’d love to hear if you buy it and what you think!

“There's nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.” 
… Brad Meltzer

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