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: March 5, 2014 - Year 13, Issue 3
Table of Contents:

1. HEALTH - 3 States of Awareness

As some of you know, Judy Zehr and I have been working on an e-book together which we are calling “Hold On To Yourself – Through Difficult Conversations.” Last month, I included an excerpt from Chapter 1. This month, it’s an excerpt from Chapter 2. We’d love to hear your feedback! Enjoy!
It’s easy to fall into chronic busy or numbed out states, where we don’t know whether we are stressed or not unless it’s really obvious. When it’s really obvious, it’s often too late to catch ourselves in a place where it’s easier to handle.
In this chapter, we are going to move deeper inside ourselves. You will learn about stress states so you can recognize the signs within yourself when you are moving from one state to the next. To hold on to yourself when the going gets tough, you need to strengthen your awareness of the “you” that you are holding on to.
3 States Described
Because our brains are such complex systems, each moment is a unique choreography of electrical charges and impulses, chemicals releasing and inciting other chemicals and speed of light transactions. To simplify, we’d like to suggest that at any given moment, based on a whole lot of factors beyond our control, our brain is in one of three states. We are either in a state of being that is:
  1. Balanced - which means we are in a state of general well-being. Here the brain has minimal stress hormones operating, and we are in “neural integration.” This means our hemispheres are communicating, our pre-frontal cortex is “online” and we are processing information and experience in healthy ways. We can speak openly and with compassion. We are connected to self and to others. We feel free to share our ideas, feelings and needs, and listen to the other person’s perspective with understanding. We are in a state of balance when we are feeling secure, worthy, respectful and connected.
  2. Triggered - which means the brain has perceived a threat, and our stress hormones and neurochemicals are beginning to be impacted. When we are triggered, our focus, feelings, and thoughts, as well as our body’s physiology, automatically begins to change. We are moving into the stress response. We may begin to doubt ourselves, have feelings like worry, fear, anger or guilt arise and begin to not feel safe. It starts to become harder to listen to the other person. We may be beginning to judge the other or to defend ourselves. The perceived threat could be to identity, self esteem, point of view, security, or even our very lives. Our bodies and conditioning are beginning to take over. We are moving toward our unconscious, fight/flight/freeze/submit posture. This is our point of choice.
  3. Out of Balance - which means the stress hormones and neurochemicals have ramped up so much that we are completely in our fight/flight/freeze/submit reactions. Our feelings are either completely ramped up or completely shut down – depending on our survival tendencies and patterns. When we are in this state, we can no longer even hear what another person is saying. We’re no longer “rational” so there is no point trying to pretend we are or to keep the conversation going. We’ve forgotten our message and are instead caught up in a past memory loop. Our thoughts in this state are going to be negative, judging, blaming, repetitive, and narrowly tunnel-visioned. These kind of behaviours, in ourselves or others, are signs that our fight/flight/freeze/submit response is fully activated. Our usual self is no longer home!
Being able to identify which state we are in is very useful. The stress state we are in impacts our thoughts, feelings and behaviors; it affects our very perception of the other and life itself.
Holding on to yourself in difficult conversations means developing enough self-awareness to notice when your state is changing from balanced to triggered in particular. In that triggered state, you have more choices about what you can do to rebalance yourself.
Holding on to yourself is also about noticing when you, or another, has moved into that out of balance state. That’s a full-blown stress response. It’s not the time to keep talking. That’s not the right strategy when people are that upset. We need time and space to calm down. Increasing our self-awareness about what state we are in enables us to choose the right strategy for the right brain state.
It is only when you have enough awareness to notice you’re losing your grip on yourself in the first place, that you can take any steps to bring yourself back to a more balanced state. That’s where we start. 
“There is zero correlation between IQ and emotional empathy. They’re controlled by different parts of the brain.” 
… Daniel Goleman

2. ENVIRONMENT - Incredible Edible Your Neighbourhood

There’s a small town in the north of England called Todmorden in West Yorkshire. They’ve been making a name for themselves as a town that has a vision to be food self-sufficient. Over the years their vision and their reach continues to grow. They have planted vegetables and fruit everywhere: in front yards, public places, police stations and even in the cemetery!
They started by asking a fundamental question: 
“Can we find a unifying language that cuts across age, income and culture that will help people themselves find a new way of living?” The answer for a handful of people in Todmorden was “Yes” and that language was “food.” 
They want to reconnect communities using food as the medium. They have been reskilling communities using local food, and trying to stimulate economic opportunities, no matter how modest, again with a focus on local food.
That handful of volunteers started with the belief that it was important for their community to take “personal responsibility” and invest in “more kindness to each other and to the environment.” They wanted to add more food onto three fundamental “plates”: their living community, their learning community and their business community.
One idea for their living community was to plant the town’s first community orchard. This was a planting of old English varieties of apples and pears – all around a municipal soccer pitch. The intention of these open and public food spaces, is to invite conversations, community and connection.
One idea they did to integrate food into their schools was to invite high school students onto their board and together grew an aquaponics system, an orchard and vegetables. Agriculture is now also being taught at the high school.
To integrate more food into local economies, one idea they’ve done is to create an “incredible, edible green route” for their “vegetable tourists.” This is a tour through the places in their community where people are growing food, chickens, bees - to learn and be inspired. Vegetable tourists are encouraged to stop at the local cafes and bakeries along the way. They also created an "Every Egg Matters" map – which features a listing of everyone in town selling excess eggs at their garden gate.
Because they are a small town, all their little initiatives have added up to a feast! As I look around my neighbourhood, I can see how much so many have done as well – with great creativity and gusto!
What’s cooking in yours?
“Eating is an agricultural act….It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world - and what is to become of it. To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction. By comparison, the pleasures of eating industrially, which is to say eating in ignorance, are fleeting.” 
 … Michael Pollan

3. NEGOTIATION - Conflict - Bring it On?

For a few years now, I’ve had the privilege of teaching a Masters level course in conflict at Royal Road’s Masters in Conflict Analysis and Management program.
One of the rich benefits is meeting amazing people like Karen Spears. Karen was a student in the program a few years ago and she has since completed her Masters. She recently shared with me a blog post that was published in her organzation’s internal newsletter.

I loved it so much I asked her if we could share it with you, my dear HEN reader! She agreed – so here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Conflict – Bring It On?
When I tell people I have a Masters in “Conflict Analysis and Management,” the most frequent response is a look on their faces that is either blank, or a combination of confusion and fright. While I take a breath and prepare to deliver my blurb, I can see them mental searching, which usually results in the questions: “You mean mediation?” or “What do you do with that?”
These are both excellent questions. Mediation is one practice on the wide spectrum of conflict responses, and the one with which I was most familiar before starting my program. As far as what type of work is done with that degree, my program had an amazing diversity of people including scientists, union activists, human resources professionals, military personnel and faith-based social service workers who all took the learning back to incorporate into their fields.
And what do I “do” with my degree? I look at things in a different way. I try to identify people’s interests (fears, hopes, wants) and recognize that they are coming from their own perspectives and life experiences. I try to listen, especially when I am challenged with viewpoints that are very different from mine. One exercise we did in our program was to pick a controversial, value-laden topic, partner up with someone with the opposing view, sit silently listening (other than clarifying to understand) until our partner had exhausted themselves on the topic and then finally paraphrase back their viewpoint. (I can feel my pulse racing just remembering the exercise!).
Another response I receive when I mention my degree is: “I hate conflict!” And, despite my degree, I do too.  While we probably all know people who seem to enjoy or thrive on conflict (maybe you’re one yourself), most people are uncomfortable with it, and some avoid it at all costs. However, one of the foundations of the program is that conflict is just “differences,” which are inherent in every relationship and every organization because we all have competing interests. How often do battles with your child (or other family members) boil down to your interest in safety (i.e., “please call if you’re going to be late”) competing with their own interest in independence and autonomy (i.e., “don’t tell me what to do”)?
That said, the outcome of conflict can be amazing! When there is capacity to manage it, we can improve — even transform — relationships and issues. In cases of citizens in conflict with governments and other organizations, conflict can bring about social and political change that benefits all of us.
While I may understand it a bit better, I am absolutely no expert at conflict (as my teenage daughter has been known to remind me). I will continue to try to incorporate what I learned, and what I continue to learn. And thanks to all of you for helping me along the way.
What do you think of when you hear the word “conflict”? Do you tend to compete, avoid or accommodate? Does it depend on the circumstances? Do you have any great conflict success stories to share?


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

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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

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… Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

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