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: December 13, 2016 - Year 14, Issue 12
Table of Contents:
1. HEALTH - Stop Reptile Politics
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” … Martin Luther King Jr.
There is no doubt Donald Trump is a fighter. He attacks people by calling them names (like “pig” and “devil”) and by threatening to harm them (by “locking" them up, “deporting" them, etc).
This approach is the antithesis of what we teach in the field of conflict resolution - one of our foundational principles is: “Separate the Person from the Problem.” This might seem familiar to you, especially if you know kids, as this is what we are taught in parenting classes. I remember parenting expert Dr. Allison Rees holding up two hands and saying: “Here is your child” - motioning to her right hand. Then: “Here is your child’s behaviour” - motioning to her second hand. Then back to her original hand: “Your child.” Then her second hand: “Your child’s behaviour.”
Calling people names and threatening to harm them stimulates our reptilian brain and survival tendencies. These are primitive parts of who we are and parts of us that we don’t have a lot of control over. I remember one time when I blurted out a small white lie in front of a whole class of people just because I was embarrassed about the timing of something. This was not, I assure you, something I wanted to do. But out it came from my mouth before I could do anything about it! Perhaps you can relate to saying or doing something that you really would not want to do but it “just happened." That is our survival gear kicking in, despite our rational best intentions.
What breaks my heart is that calling people names and threatening them is not okay. We know this in the workplace and we know this in the playground and we know this in the home. It’s not that “bad behaviour” doesn’t happen in these arenas - we have these pesky things called emotions and they do get in our way (as I outlined above). However, in the workplace, on the playground in the home, we know it’s not right. We know it’s not optimal to call people names. To threaten others. To act in ways that really is our lesser selves - literally. We are not acting with our full brain, without a fully integrated wise brain.
What has my heart stumped is how it is so many of us see his behaviour, in a political context, as okay. I used to think it was basic common sense that it’s not okay to attack people. Now it seems there is a whole nation next door, and more frequently people here in Canada, who are not even seeing Trump’s behaviour as problematic.
The most recent example was a speech Kevin O'Leary did, another "brash" businessman hoping for political leadership, here in Canada. He said about a negotiating action our Prime Minister took - that it indicates our Prime Minister "would have to be a total incompetent to do that... You would be someone who has never negotiated before... And it's a shocking surprise now that we see his deficiencies... He's a fine surfer dude. But he is killing our country."
This is Reptile Politics. The words in this speech, and in the speeches Trump has given, excite our brain. They cause our heart rates to increase and to have stress responses. Notice it yourself. They are subliminal manipulation. What happens in your body and brain when you hear these words? “total incompetent.” Or “never negotiated before.” Or “it’s a shocking surprise… deficiencies… surfer dude… killing…” Our responses are completely involuntary - we have no control over that. The newest example of that is an experiment done where the word “no” was flashed across the screen and involuntary responses occurred as a result of that one word alone. This is exactly how Trump got elected and my belief is we need to call out this behaviour. This behaviour is not okay. Please, Mr. O’Leary, do not call people names. Do not support people who cause us to be polarized and hate one another. Say something about this too, please. Let’s start standing up for civility in politics now - the way that we do in the workplace, on the playground or at home. Or else - Mr. O’Leary and Mr. Trump will be serving up a whole era of hatred. Not okay.
The etymology of “trump” tells us that in the 1500’s trump was synonymous with “triumph” as well as "deceive and cheat”. According to one on-line dictionary, to “trump” means to "outrank or defeat someone or something, often in a highly public way.”
Can love trump hate?
One person who thinks so is Van Jones. He wants an inclusive country where "everyone gets treated with dignity and respect.” So, he's starting love armies - which he defines as "national teach-ins ... once a week... standing up for the most vulnerable: Muslims... Jewish people, women, trans people, black protestors. And once a week, give the whole country a chance to show a whole lotta love – both to demonstrate and deepen a solidarity with those groups, all under one hashtag. #LoveArmy … an opportunity to reassert at a values level.”
Jones talks about disagreeing "beautifully and passionately” - not by hating each other, or calling each other names - but through dialogue and "constructive disagreement."
I hope so!
2. ENVIRONMENT - Green Collar Economy
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ... Martin Luther King, Jr.
Van Jones is the man who wants to start a #LoveArmy in response to the deep, darker shifts happening in North American culture. Van Jones is also a Yale-educated lawyer, a political commentator on media outlets like CNN, as well as an activist and New York Times Bestselling author. He is an environmentalist, having written a book called The Green Collar Economy and served as President Barack Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs.
His ideas are provocative and fresh. He launched many non-profits linking eco-justice and eco-economy ideas. He started a Green-Collar Cities Program to help cities build local green economies and a program to assist green entrepreneurs.
As Van Jones himself says:
“We are entering an era during which our very survival will demand invention and innovation on a scale never before seen in the history of human civilization. Only the business community has the requisite skills, experience, and capital to meet that need. On that score, neither government nor the nonprofit and voluntary sectors can compete, not even remotely.
So in the end, our success and survival as a species are largely and directly tied to the new eco-entrepreneurs—and the success and survival of their enterprises. Since almost all of the needed eco-technologies are likely to come from the private sector, civic leaders and voters should do all that can be done to help green business leaders succeed. That means, in large part, electing leaders who will pass bills to aid them. We cannot realistically proceed without a strong alliance between the best of the business world—and everyone else.” -The Green Collar Economy
I love the idea of holding businesses to be environmental leaders. In the age of corporate takeovers, this vision is a reframe on the fears many of us have about how our democracies are being eroded by special-interest over the public good.
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3. NEGOTIATION - Trauma & Recovery
“Recovery can only take place within the context of relationshps; it cannot occur in isolation.” … Judith Herman
A colleague of mine was sharing some highlights from a book she read recently that seems useful in helping engage others in conflict. The book is a long read, but I was lucky enough to make a few notes from the summary my colleague was sharing.
The book is called Trauma and Recovery – The aftermath of violence by Judith Herman. Herman is a psychiatrist, lecturer and author, has researched trauma and its impact on our brains extensively and is a recognized expert in the area of trauma. She has described symptoms of trauma and suggested ways of working with trauma. I have attempted to put into my own words some of what I found useful. I do want to say trauma is a big and complex topic so any attempt to summarize, synthesize or share any gems I might find useful may be limiting or too simplistic. So I do want to say any errors of understanding are fully my own.
To start – here are some possible symptoms of trauma. Herman suggests using a trauma frame helps to make sense of a collection of behaviours.
- Overall, Herman calls trauma a “disorder of disempowerment and disconnection.”
- People can feel a strong sense of disconnection from their workmates, for example. There is also a kind of emotional numbing, not having the power to resist the overwhelm from the trauma.
- Conflict Avoidance – Those who have suffered a trauma will not have learned how to deal with conflict safely especially within the family so they avoid conflict through aggression or passive aggression.
- Hyper arousal – Those who’ve experienced trauma are more highly attuned to the possibility of danger in their environment so are, in a sense, always on the alert for danger. This can make them easily triggered to others’ behaviours and even to certain images (which may have more dangerous meanings for them than might appear on the surface).
- Relatedly, they can easily misinterpret behavioural cues and see small issues as large disputes.
- There may be strong feelings of shame, guilt, inferiority, and inability to trust others. This is often unconscious or beyond their control.
Some of the important take-aways from Herman’s work is that using a trauma lens can shift our point of view from thinking someone is simply being “unreasonable” or a “difficult person” to seeing certain problematic behaviours as a symptom of trauma. Of course, none of us are armchair psychologists, and labeling someone is reductive as best, harmful at worst. Having said that, some of the suggestions for how to work with trauma can be instructive for any of us.
Herman suggests one of the most important things in working with someone who may have suffered some sort of trauma is to create a bond. For managers or mediators, this means taking our time in relationship building to create that bond - where we are there to support them and support them and support them. It is useful to allow them the space to be able to tell their story and to have their story validated and acknowledged.
For me, one of the strong lessons in learning a bit more about trauma is to not underestimate the power in giving people an opportunity to be heard.
“All bad behavior is really a request for love, attention, or validation.” … Kimberly Giles
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training