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: April 22, 2016 - Year 14, Issue 4
Table of Contents:
1. HEALTH - Good Relationships Keep Us Happier and Healthier
Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist and the director of the Harvard Study on Adult Development – the longest study on adult development that has ever been done to date. This 75-year study on adult development started in the 1930s, tracked people from their teen years into old age and is still going on. Through the study, Waldinger has had the opportunity to review this unprecedented data on what makes for a happy and satisfied life.
In a TedTalk this year, Waldinger says the clearest message they got from tracking these lives is: “good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”
He broke this overarching discovery into three key lessons about relationships:
- Social connections are really good for us and the opposite, loneliness, kills. Those who were more socially connected were happier and lived longer than those who were more isolated than they wanted to be.
- It wasn’t the number of friends or family that people had which made them happier or healthier, or whether they were in a committed relationship. It was the quality of the close relationships that mattered. Living in the midst of conflict was bad for their health and living amongst warm relationships was protective. The study went back to look at whether they could predict who would live the longest, healthiest and happiest. What was discovered was that those who were most satisfied with their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.
- Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies but our brains. People in relationships which felt securely attached, where they believed they could count on these people in times of need, had the biggest impact.
Overall, Dr. Waldinger recommends “leaning into relationships.” He suggests something as simple as replacing screen time with people time or date nights or reaching out to a long-forgotten family member to dissolve a grudge.
“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.”
… Anthony Robbins
2. ENVIRONMENT - The Number One Thing You Can Do to Help Climate Change
Happy Earth Day!
A recent Business Insider article had this headline:
The most effective thing you can do to save the planet is shockingly simple
The message? “Don’t Eat Meat.”
Amongst the reasons the article mentioned was that it takes over 1800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat. In addition, the livestock sector is suggested to be the largest source of water pollution across the globe, with animal waste, antibiotics, hormones, fertilizers and pesticides used on feed crops and bacteria, viruses, and sediments from eroded land wash into our waterways, sometimes leaching into drinking water supplies.
According to a 416 page reported entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow” prepared by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock pastures and the crop fields used to feed them, take up a staggering 70% of farmland.
And, according to the research from this article, adopting a vegetarian lifestyle can cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by more than two-thirds.
That’s a dramatic impact!
Interestingly, the World Health Organization’s Fact Sheet for what a healthy diet is, does not recommend meat.
So, the next time you hear the news about climate change, decide to go vegetarian. It might be the most radical act you do!
“By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet.”
… Thich Nhat Hanh
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3. NEGOTIATION - Conflict Avoidance at Work - Don't Do It!
Recently, I had the privilege once more to spend a full day exploring, teaching and learning about how to approach difficult conversations in the workplace. The more I go into this subject, the more nuanced it becomes! Even though I’ve been delivering and refining this conversational framework and workshop for over 10 years, I’m always discovering new insights, questions, puzzles.
This time, the query that grabbed me as I reflected on mediations I’ve been involved in is: is it true that we generally don’t seem to want to have the difficult conversations at work?
My sense is we are a conflict avoidant species, generally speaking. Most of us are adept at identifying what could go wrong if we bring up a subject with someone (or if we try to broach it again). We’ve got the risk part of the equation down pat.
Take a look at these beliefs for why you shouldn’t bring up a difficult conversation and see if any are familiar to you:
- If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
- Better let sleeping dogs lie.
- It will go away on it’s own.
- It’s not worth the effort (energy/time).
- I will hurt their feelings.
- Why bother?
- I have brought it up several times and nothing seems to change.
- They will be upset with me and try to hurt me and make my life miserable.
- I will be seen as unprofessional if I don’t handle it right.
- It’s none of my business.
- It is no big deal (but then bad-mouth the person to others).
I’ve heard all these and more. I’ve used a few myself at times with my own difficult conversations.
Yet, as Cavell Boone, a Family Court Mediator for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and former Labour Relations Officer, has said:
“Conflict avoidance in the workplace is demoralizing, unproductive, and very costly, both directly and indirectly.”
So why are we avoiding?
There are many reasons, and some are valid. Conflict can indeed pass if left on its own and difficult conversations can often use some time for cooling down.
The challenge is when we go back to reflect on whether we should bring up the subject at some point – we hit our negativity-bias. As humans, our brains have evolved to focus on negative inputs over positive ones. We are primed to scan our external worlds looking for, and confirming, possible threats and risks. So, it is no wonder that so many conversations which should happen, and happen early, don’t happen at all.
In fact, an often-repeated story I hear from those who advise managers and leaders in the workplace is: a manager asks for some advice (whether calling Human Resources or their Coach or their supervisor) on how to approach firing someone.
The first question the Human Resource manager or coach or boss will ask (or should ask) is:
“Have you talked to the employee directly about your concerns?”
I have learned that, often enough to be surprising, the answer is: “No.”
I get it! Negativity bias is hard-wired into us and something we have to consciously work to overturn. Daily. Our “monkey minds” continually tell us it’s scary out there and we better do nothing so we can keep safe!
How do we overcome our negativity bias?
I am not advocating going around complaining about every little pinch that seems to bother us. That would probably result in a lot more negativity and grief in the world!
We can start, however, by accepting that conflict is inevitable in every workplace. At some point or the other, the “honeymoon” period will be over. That shouldn’t signal the beginning of the end, but in fact, a turning point to more intimacy and opportunity for further growth. Conflict is not only inevitable, but it is a gift.
A metaphor I’ve adopted for conflict the last few years, is to think of it as a strong river and me as a kayaker navigating the waves. Where would I be without the river? It carries me from one place to the next. It can be treacherous if I don’t have my helmet, safety jacket and paddles – so I make sure I’m prepared. But the river gives me excitement, it demands my full attention, and it promises to teach me things about myself and about life that I never knew possible.
One of my mediation clients exemplified this attitude. When given an opportunity to reflect on the conflict and difficult conversations ahead of her, she came into the conversation wanting to learn. What had she been missing that led to the situation at hand? What could she learn? How could this conflict show her where she still needed to grow?
Her approach and her questions led her to the fruits of conflict.
May they be yours as well!
As Cavell Boone also said: “My hope is that people come to accept that conflict is inevitable and that they can use it as a productive force for creativity and innovation.”
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training