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! juliamenard.com
HEN arrives at the full moon -
because light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: May 14, 2014 - Year 12, Issue 5
Table of Contents:
1. HEALTH - Self-Compassion
Recently, I have found myself caught up in a frenzy of busy. This might sound familiar to you, as "I'm busy" seems to be the new "I'm fine."
At the moment, I'm writing you from a beautiful retreat centre in my hometown.
What a difference a day aside in retreat makes.
As the day is slowing down, my distance and capacity to reflect on my life is increasing. Things become more clear in reflection.
One pattern I'm noticing is the tendency to lose patience with myself when I become too busy. I lack self-compassion. A recent example: I had two engagements competing for the same time slot. Should I do a parenting task or avoid disappointing a colleague with a commitment? This priority challenge sent me into a spiral of self-recrimination - "Why can't I decide?", "I shouldn't have committed to the one priority!", "I shouldn't have committed to the other!"
This continued until a friend pointed out my self-talk, gently, and invited me back to self-compassion. “Remember to go easy on yourself” she intoned. "Be kind."
Her compassionate advocacy for myself was all I needed – that time.
That was about a week ago. Then this morning, in getting ready for this retreat, I had again packed a lot of living into the time before the retreat started. It was supposed to start at 9, but I'd committed to helping my neighbour set up for a yard sale (from 6:30 am) and then to drive across town to drop my daughter off somewhere. Of course, I was running late. On the way to the retreat, I noticed I was starting up again: "Why did I book in so many things to do?", "Shouldn't I have known better?", "What was I thinking? On the day of the retreat!"
But now, having sat for a just few hours, I am content. I can see how much I needed to get away. And I can see clearly that the last thing I need when I am already stressed is to chastise myself. What I want to hear in those too-busy-moments is something like: "Oh honey! It's alright. You are alright. It'll turn out alright in the end."
The next time you might start to feel the “too busy and now irritated with self” phenomena – maybe it’s time for a retreat? It is an age-old way to reconnect with ourselves.
In the meantime, if you need a reminder, like I do, of perspective and self-compassion – check out this video.
2. ENVIRONMENT - Heart Coherence
This short clip from the HeartMath Institute is a great explanation for why it’s important to work on our own heart “coherence.” Heart coherence is a term the HeartMath folks use to mean an alignment between our minds and our hearts.
Check out the 7-minute clip - It's an inspiring explanation of how taking care of one's own mental and emotional state and putting one's own heart coherence right impacts a wider social heart coherence. Impacting social coherence impacts the magnetic heart coherence field globally. It's another way of saying - be calm and compassionate locally, impact positively globally!
"You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself."
… Nelson Mandela
3. NEGOTIATION - Gossip at Work
One issue that seems to be a problem in many workplaces is “gossip.” In fact, in the new bullying and harassment policies released by WorkSafeBC recently, “spreading malicious gossip” is listed as a possible form of it.
Most of us wouldn’t see ourselves “spreading malicious gossip” when we are simply “venting” or “unloading” with a colleague. And, in fact, we will probably never be rid of gossip. Gossip actually feels good. We are social mammals, and gossip creates a social bond between those who are gossiping. We release feel good hormones like progesterone when we are talking about other people together with those we feel a connection with.
At the same time, because gossiping comes with a cost, and can turn “malicious” – it’s important to raise it as a point of discussion, exploration, clarification....in all workplaces and teams.
If the gossip is something that is positive, or looking for “perspective” or in the spirit of concern for the other – then it can have a positive effect.
However, if there is stress involved in the telling, something different can happen. It’s easy to start to create an “other” – someone different from me. That’s another common impulse for us and one that leads to making the other wrong - an enemy and excluded. Social isolation is painful. We feel social threat in the same area of our brain as pain – intended or not - real or perceived.
It’s not always our intention to harm someone with our gossip however. More often than not, we don’t feel good and we’re hoping someone else can help us. Yet – in matters of bullying and harassment anyway – pure intentions are not enough. If it has a negative impact for someone else, it counts!
What if we thought of gossip as a symptom of stress - that something is bothering us? If there is a lot of gossip going on – perhaps there is a lot of stress happening. When we are in stress, we tend to engage in black and white thinking (caveman thinking - going deeper into our brain).
When we gossip and we’re stressed, we are undoubtedly telling only “our side” of the story. The person we’re complaining about probably doesn’t even know they did something to upset us. So they don’t get a chance to clarify their intentions or (ideally) for any of us to learn and grow.
When we gossip in stress, we are also stressing out the person we’re talking to. Emotions are contagious. Our listener might be listening to be supportive to us. In our society, we tend to only have “two sides” – either my side or the “other’s”. So usually our listener won’t be challenging our perspective, but agreeing with it. Usually our listeners will agree with our indignation. They will join us in our piece of the truth. Then we have two sharing one perspective. And possibly more as the gossip spreads to others.
Where does it stop?
Whether you are the gossiper or the listener of gossip – here are some ideas for how to start to turn around the momentum back to healthy social bonding:
- Start to consider whether gossip could be a sign of stress – either your own stress levels or those in your team. Could this be possible? Could there be factors other than just this one person that are feeding into that sense of stress? Are there any systemic factors? What else could be going on which is causing depletion and not being able to engage from a resourced place?
- If it’s to vent, going to a colleague might not be best choice. It might be better to share your frustrated feelings with someone who can help you figure out what to do about the situation (as opposed to simply venting – which provides a bit of a safety valve but does nothing to advance the issues). That person might be a coach, counselor, a trusted friend or spouse. Or it might be your supervisor – who is there, at best, to support you and coach you in either engaging in the tough conversation or in helping to move things to a more productive place. Choosing an outside friend, family member, supervisor or trusted professional might give you a better perspective. There's also less collateral damage of spreading stories.
- When you notice yourself starting to gossip about a colleague to another colleague, stop. Ask yourself if this is the right person to be talking about this with? You can also ask yourself if you are looking for some strategies to help you engage more constructively with the issue - or are you wanting to vent? Another way of thinking of this question is: “Am I wanting to talk about this person for their benefit – or for my sake?” Always choose the high road!
- It might help to go for a walk, journal or meditate to clear your mind and emotions. I like the short one-minute technique to help center yourself from the HeartMath Institute called FreezeFrame.
- You can read a book, or take a course. Check out my e-course on how to have a difficult conversation.
- If someone comes to you starting to complain about someone else (“gossip”) – firstly check in with yourself about whether you have the resources to engage in such a conversation at the moment. If not, you are free to negotiate the timing! You’re also free to let the other know that you talking about that other person is depleting your energy too. This could be a way to transition into a conversation about how to change the dynamic of simply complaining together.
- As a listener, if you are willing to help, you can ask the other what the risks are of bringing up the conversation with the “problem” person. Make sure to also ask what some benefits might be of bringing up the conversation. This helps the person start to consider what motivation there might be in facing the tough conversation.
- For either the gossiper or listener, ask what the intention is in having this conversation together. Keep asking until you get to the best intentions – sometimes they are buried deep. Look for them. Remind yourselves of them. They are there! You can also ask what the best intentions could be in bringing up the conversation with “the other”. What are the “wants”?
- It also helps to start sorting the problem behaviours from the problem people. There should be no problem people. Too much (or too negative) gossip starts to turn people into problems. From there it’s a slippery slope to camps, divisions, isolation. Keeping the focus on the behaviours - keeps the focus on what can be done something about.
I hope some of these ideas have been helpful. I really do love to hear from you!
“In communications that are difficult or draining, ease into the heart and find something to appreciate about the person you're dealing with, or find a feeling of compassion or kindness. This will clear your mind and give you the coherence you need to know what to say next. That's energy efficiency at work.”
… Doc Childre and Howard Martin (HearthMath Institute)
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training