Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation

HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping Leaders Collaborate - One Tough Conversation at a Time!

HEN arrives at the full moon - a time to engage the dark.   

Full Moon: January 26, 2013 - Year 11, Issue 1
Table of Contents:

HEALTH - Belly Breathing

Over the last 6 months, I’ve dived joyfully into the topics of neuroscience and mindfulness – mostly thanks to my wise colleague, Judy Zehr

It’s resulted in a course we’ve co-created called Stay Cool in Hot Conversations.

One of the lessons I’ve had affirmed about how to stay cool in the face of conflict is to practice and strengthen our “connection muscle” BEFORE the onset of an intense moment.

That’s why I was intrigued when I came across a quote by Thich Nhat Hahn (a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and author) suggesting just such a thing. His instructions are so clear and simple.

Once you read his words, I hope you too will be inspired to follow his 21 day suggestion. This one practice alone can bring you great dividends. Let me know if you do - I’m always interested in your feedback!

“I advise you not to wait until a strong emotion comes before beginning the practice. You'll surely forget to do it.

Learn it right now.

Practice fifteen minutes every day.
Sit or lie in a stable position and practice mindful breathing.

Enjoy your in-breath and your out-breath, and focus your attention on the abdomen.

Belly breathing can be very deep, very slow, and very powerful.

If you continue doing this for three weeks, you'll develop the right practice.

Then, when a strong emotion arises, you'll remember the practice and you will succeed in soothing your emotion.

Each time your emotion becomes a little less powerful. You don’t have to fight; you just allow the energy of mindfulness to embrace your emotion.

Then it will weaken and go back to the depths of your consciousness.”

… Thich Nhat Hanh

ENVIRONMENT - Seeds Matter

Last weekend, my neighbourhood hosted our very own “seed exchange”. This seed swapping extravaganza was organized by neighbours who have joined together in a group we call Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers
This “seedy event” has been growing by leaps and bounds for the last 4 years. Each year, we’ve hosted it in January – the perfect time (and prompt) to start dreaming about your garden! 
About 50 people turned out – many not even from our own neighbourhood. We usually get 20 – 30 people at our meetings. That tells me the appetite for seed swapping is high.
And, it was like being a kid in a candy store – so many seeds, so little time! Pulling together that many people all focused on sharing seeds is exciting. We had beet seeds, lettuce seeds, cucumber seeds – carrot seeds, chards, Chinese greens … I could go on!
The abundance evident through pulling together people with the express purpose of sharing and talking about seeds was everywhere! 
At the same time, although it seems like we have seeds galore and seeds forever (and for any of you gardeners as you recall harvest time, there is nothing more abundant than a plant about to seed!) – it’s not that simple!
There are many underlying implications about seeds that don’t seem evident to us average “garden-variety” seed shoppers and swappers.
The biggest issue is who owns “our” seeds?
Seed sovereignty is a growing concept - the idea that gardeners (and farmers) have the right to produce, propagate, exchange and sell our own seeds.
Today, our seed market is primary made up of large seed businesses (not our local seed exchanges or small, locally-sourced seed companies). Big seed companies produce uniform seed varieties, seeds with GMOs (which can cross-breed with non-GMO crops and run the risk of being patent-infringements) and seeds that “need” agrochemicals to go along with them.
The ability to exchange seeds freely in a casual environment seems pretty basic – but it is a privilege which could have a time limit on it. 
Many of us don’t realize that seeds sold as part of the bigger seed industry are licensed (have a patent). Large seed and biotechnology companies lobby for “intellectual property” over seeds – which gives more rights to the seed grower. 
There are ongoing changes in the seed industry which impact our right to use the seeds we find, exchange, or buy.
A landmark example to follow is presently before the courts:
In March 2011, a group of Canadian and American farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Company (the world’s largest seed and biotechnology company) to challenge the chemical company’s patents on genetically modified (GM) seed. The case is called “Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto.”
The key question in the lawsuit is: “Does Monsanto have the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's seed should land on their property.”
Monsanto has sued, or settled in court with, more than 844 family farms since 1997 over ‘patent infringement’ after their seeds naturally spread to nearby farms (according to one of the plaintiffs, Wood Prairie Farms). 
The risk of contamination is apparently high and once GM seeds are released into the environment, they cannot be recalled or controlled. Canadian farmers lost markets after a 2009 GM contamination of flax, and organic canola has apparently been virtually erased as a crop for farmers in Canada due to GM contamination. 
On January 10th, an “Oral Argument” was heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the ruling is now before 3 judges. They are expected to release their ruling within the next 3 – 4 months. Click here to read a summary article.
Seed sovereignty requires a change from large quantity and chemical intensive agriculture to locally-adapted agriculture. Seed sovereignty starts at home!

An act as small as asking a friend or two if they have any seeds to exchange (maybe meeting over tea and talking seeds together!) – can be powerful. Even just thinking about how you might save a few seeds this year from your own garden, is an empowering act. If you want a small, free handout about saving seeds (22 pages) – check out this link – (a pdf download - under Seed Saving zine – 4th edition).
In Canada, you can also attend a Seedy Saturday event – bringing together  seed suppliers, gardening vendors, and seed exchanges (the larger events usually have a program of speakers too). Seeds of Diversity keeps a complete list for Canada on their website.
“Life does not accommodate you; it shatters you. Every seed destroys its container, or else there would be no fruition.”  
… Florida Scott-Maxwell

NEGOTIATION - What is a Bully Anyway?

The term “bully” has become more and more common these days.
There is Pink Shirt Day in Canada, to raise awareness for “anti-bullying” (the next Pink Shirt Day is February 27). BullyingCanada.Ca is calling upon our federal government to implement a National Anti-Bullying Awareness Day in December, to be called Blue Day (complete with a national petition). The United States has its own such events, as do many other countries around the world.
The idea that we need reminders and encouragement to be more kind to each other is foundational. All the major religions hold it as central; some say we are born compassionate and it’s the core of who we are (through the layers of ego and pain). We all have “angels of our better nature” - to quote the title of an amazing book about the roots of violence.
At the same time, there are some inherent challenges with using the word bully. I can see at least two: 
Firstly, the word itself is loaded - no one wants to be called a bully, and no one wants to be bullied. It’s become a word that has stigma and shame attached to it – for both the “victim” and the “villain”. If we are so vehemently opposed to the very existence of a bully – it’s pretty hard to admit that maybe we have at some point, somehow, acted like one.  
We need compassion to engage the dark side – our own or someone else’s. Someone I was working with who was accused of being “the bully” once said, quite eloquently, that even the despised Gollum (Lord of the Rings) had a noble purpose! 
When we use the word “bully” like a noun (you ARE a bully) – there is not much room to BE anything else. And we begin to separate ourselves from the “other” (you are “bad” and I am “good”) – which is where violence begins in the first place. If I see you as “bad” and me as “good” – it’s easier for me to treat you harshly. As Gandhi said:  “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
The second issue with using the term “bully” is it is used very loosely. More pause is needed to clarify what behaviours are being talked about and what impacts are being meant. Instead, in some high profile cases of “bullying” - the word easily degenerates into counter-accusations, recriminations, and interpersonal mush (to borrow Gervase Bushe’s phrase).
If we believe that the primary intention when a harm is experienced is to “make things right” (a restorative justice orientation) – then how can we create spaces that encourage that? 
We need the opportunity to enter into a dialogue about what was done and what the impact was, to start to see things from another person's point of view. Calling “names” doesn’t provide that opportunity – the “bully” can then too easily deflect, shut down, ignore. No change happens!
Perhaps, instead of using the term “bully” as a noun, or even “bullying” as a verb - if we are to use the term at all – how about “bully” as an adjective? So – we could notice “bullying behaviours”. Maybe this might be the way to refocus us back onto specific behaviours instead of labels. 
One of the most powerful tools parties use in mediation, to help move towards resolution, is to separate observations about someone’s behaviour from interpretations, conclusions, or evaluations about those behaviours. The first kind of observation (the one without evaluation) is a lot easier to hear – and engage in meaningful dialogue about.  Whereas hearing about the judgments and evaluations the other has about our behaviours only triggers a defensive, shutting down reaction (so that we don’t engage). Dialogue stops; walls go up.
Here’s a list of behaviours that can cause harm - advertently or inadvertently - from the website (geared towards children but applicable to all):

  • Punching, shoving and other acts that hurt people physically
  • Spreading bad rumours about people
  • Keeping certain people out of a group
  • Teasing people in a mean way
  • Getting certain people to "gang up" on others 
The sites also lists four common types of bullying:
  • Verbal bullying - name-calling, sarcasm, teasing, spreading rumours, threatening, making negative references to one's culture, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, unwanted sexual comments.
  • Social Bullying - mobbing, scapegoating, excluding others from a group, humiliating others with public gestures or graffiti intended to put others down.
  • Physical Bullying - hitting, poking, pinching, chasing, shoving, coercing, destroying or stealing belongings, unwanted sexual touching.
  • Cyber Bullying - using the internet or text messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumours or make fun of someone.
Does this list help you identify what behaviours you might have engaged in, or experienced, or seen others engage in? Has there been a discussion about what’s going on, impacts on everyone, and deeper motivations of all? Can there be such a discussion - and how can you be a compassionate instigator of such a dialogue?
In 1996, I was involved with a national conflict resolution conference. Their slogan is one that carries great hope in my heart:

"People talk. People listen. Things change.” 


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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!

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  • Does conflict make you break out in a sweat?
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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.

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"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." 
… Mother Teresa

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