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: September 8, 2014 - Year 12, Issue 9
Table of Contents:

1. HEALTH - Walking Out Conflict

When we are in conflict, our cortisol levels rise and all manner of dumbing down occurs in our brains. Stressed brains simply do not learn the same way. Conflict is not an intelligence and health enhancer.
One new revelation in neuroscience is how much exercise positively impacts our brain. Much research has shown this correlation in the past, but a new survey of scientific research published between 1990 and 2012 establishes a positive link between academic success and physical activity. Activity increases blood-flow to the brain, creating new neurons in the hippocampus that enhance attention span, memory, and creative-thinking skills.  
Charles Hillman is leading the way for research on physical activity and learning. Here’s a picture from one of his studies which shows visually the difference even just 20 minutes of walking makes to our brains. 
If all this is true, is this an implication for how we approach conflict? Of course it is! 
When I’m engaged in helping people work through their disputes, I can tell when the energy is flagging in the room. Most of us can tell, but probably because I taught aeorbics for 10 years, I’m not afraid to point it out.
I may even suggest breaks more than most folks might think is necessary. The research on the importance of moving our bodies is key. If conflict makes us less capable and erodes our ability to think well, then moving our bodies builds up our capacity to think well and to come from a resourced state.
So, the next time you find the temperature heating up in your conversations, take a break! Even better, take a walk! Better still, break out a sweat. And for extra points, walk with your opponent. Don’t talk “shop” – just walk, connect, relax.

I guarantee you that you will re-enter the discussions more resourced. And your outcomes will be better, too.
“The way exercise changes our brains is more effective than wine, medicines, and doughnuts.”
... John Ratey, author of Spark

2. ENVIRONMENT - Who's Negotiating for Our Land

It’s been a while that I’ve been thinking we are in the sixth extinction of our species. Although there is an element of defeatism in this belief, at the same time, it’s made me come to a key realization: all we have is the short-term. None of us actually even know if we’ll be alive tomorrow. 
So what?
This attitude has made me want to make today and tomorrow just that much better. Although we all know we are going to die some day, it doesn’t mean we can’t give today our all.
Which brings me to priorities. Preserving the land and relating to the land and communing with the land - needs to be a priority. Caring for our most vulnerable and those without a voice needs to be the priority of a caring and just society. 
Our land and our animals don’t have a voice. So who will speak for them?
I will. And you will. 
One way is to pay attention to what we are choosing, and negotiating for, our priorities. Most recently, I heard a story about our federal government having an estimated $6.4 billion budget surplus. What I heard along with that story is that the federal government is considering using the surplus to enable individuals in our society to pay a few less dollars in taxes.
This struck me as a priority put on individuals. The value of taking care of ourselves is important. And, we also need to take care of our communities - include caring for our land and for our most vulnerable.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has already stepped forward and asked Ottawa to use $12 billion a year of that surplus for roads, transit and other infrastructure in Ontario. Federal Finance Minister Oliver quickly responded he couldn’t meet that request and fairly meet the other provinces’ infrastructure needs. But you can bet that’s just the opening volley in a negotiation that will result in some dollars being allocated to roads.
So who is stepping forward to negotiate for more money for our land and our animals? For example, in 2014 Parks Canada will receive $29 million less from federal coffers than it did last year. There are plenty of places to advocate for money allocation that would fit under making our environment healthier.
So far, in addition to those in the third sector, those obviously speaking out for our land and animals have been our indigenous population.
We’ve lived here long enough. Maybe it’s time we joined them.
“It’s healthy for Canadians to understand the facts when it comes to taxes so the public can decide what’s fair and necessary.”  
 … Joe Oliver, Finance Minister for Canada

3. NEGOTIATION - BC Teachers' Strike: 3 Tips from a Mediator

As some of you may know, we’ve got a fierce battle going on in BC at the moment. All our teachers in the public school system are out on strike and the educaitonal system has come to a grinding halt. 
By the time you read this, perhaps the teachers and students will be back in the classroom. Nonetheless, these 3 tips for how to break an impasse, is useful for any of us In a stuck position in our discussions. 
1. Stop Blaming – Start talking about impact 
It’s easy to tell someone else that they are wrong. Each side in a conflict easily slips into blame. It’s a common thing to do when we are in pain. And, it’s not helpful. It makes the other party feel defensive, not open. This can provoke counter-attacks and it certaintly doesn’t lead to any learning. Instead, express how the situation is impacting you. Speak about your experience, not about the other party’s. With the teachers’ strike, each side in this dispute, and all the followers in each camp, can get more vigilant about not blaming the other. A key to de-escalating the rhetoric is to shift from the language of blame to the language of commitment. What are you committed to? What’s important to you? What do you want and are hoping for? This more future-focused language also makes it easier for the “other side” to agree with you. What you focus on, grows.
2. Stop Pressuring – Start creating space 
Each side is trying to pressure the other side into agreeing to something. Have you come across this kind of dynamic in your own life? If someone starts pressuring and pushing you to do something, what’s your natural inclination? If you’re like most people, you’ll want to resist, push back, walk away or ignore. It’s the same dynamic with the teachers’ strike. The BCTF is pushing to force the government to negotiate. The government is pushing to force the teachers’ federation to negotiate. Both parties want to negotiate – but neither can easily agree to it if it’s expressed through pressure. A key way to de-escalate pressure is to stop demanding something happen, and refocus on what both parties want. This creates more space for something to happen. In this situation, the pressure is coming from the teachers being on strike. There’s a pressure to resolve the issue so the teachers and students can get back in the classroom. That’s not a helpful environment to negotiate in. That’s kind of like negotiating with a gun to your head. Way too stressful. To start to de-escalate, both parties need to separate the strike from the contract talks. Put the kids and teachers back in the classroom. Put the negotiators back in the negotiating room. Create more time and space for the discussions to happen.
3. Stop Demanding – Start dialoguing 
Each side is demanding agreement to their own solutions and rejecting the solutions from the other. What’s more helpful is to be flexible with solutions, but firm on the values driving those solutions. So, for example, the BCTF proposed the solution of binding arbitration. The government didn’t want that solution. Instead of seeing this as one party offering something and another party rejecting it, it’s more helpful to see it as one party proposing something that needs to be explored. Values drive our solutions and values are as important as how to implement them. The other party counter-proposed (more or less saying “no”). This also needs to be explored. As anyone in sales knows, the word “no” is only the starting point in a negotiation. Both sides need to start to get curious about what is behind their various demands. 
The key question to ask in any impasse is “What’s most important here?” If we ask that question with the last proposal for binding arbitration, one can guess for the BCTF, it might be quick resolution. For the government, saying “no” might be to maintain influence on the outcome. So, digging a bit deeper reveals two criteria for any new solution to be “win-win” - that is: quick resolution and maintaining autonomy. Another proposal is the BCTF would like Clause E80 thrown out. The government would like it kept in the discussions. What’s important to both here? The BCTF wants to maintain autonomy, the government wants quick resolution. They each want the criteria of the other!
Does this surprise you? It no longer surprises me. When you peel back the layers, you find in most disputes incredible common ground. Both parties want to get back to dialogue. Both parties want to maintain their autonomy. Both parties want to serve their constituents. They need to be exploring, clarifying and discussing each of their impasses in mediation. Both parties want to go to mediation. I think if they both pick up the phone, the mediator they first approached, Mr. Vince Ready, will answer.
“An ounce of mediation is worth a pound of arbitration and a ton of litigation!”  
… Joseph Grynbaum


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

  • Are you avoiding any conversations you know you should have?
  • Did you know the longer you avoid conflict, the bigger it usually gets?
  • Have you noticed the more you put into your relationships at work, the easier your life gets?
If this is you, here are 3 ways you can take concrete action towards your desire for productive, effective, and healthy work relationships in 2014:


Change is hard. Change by yourself is harder! Changing a difficult relationship at work takes consistent effort. With so many priorities competing for our attention, it’s easy to let our work relationships take a back seat to putting out fires. Yet healthy relationships are key to productivity and even happiness at work! That’s where coaching comes in. Coaches are trained to listen to your situation, help you get clear on the action required, and hold you accountable to get your plan moving! I offer 3 easy coaching packages – click here to find out more.


Did you know managers spend an average of 50% of their day dealing with conflict? Yet most leaders receive minimal - or no – training on how to analyze and manage conflicts productively. So instead they spend their days putting out fires – dealing with the recurring complaints their hear from bickering direct reports or trying to manage up or with their peers. There is a better way! I’ll be starting new training for 2014. It's not location specific, so join up here.


Some people prefer the convenience of studying on their own. If that’s you, I’ve created TWO self-study courses for you! The first one – Making Tough Conversations Great comes in 10 easy to read modules where you learn the Tough Conversations systems with actionable, practical steps. This e-course also comes with a free personalized one-on-one telephone coaching session with me – valid for up to 10 weeks after registering for the self-study course. To find out more, click here.
You can also sign up for a second course I collaborated on with colleague, Judy Zehr – a psychotherapist and expert in neuroscience, emotional regulation, and mindfulness. Together we’ve created a value-packed self-study program designed to help you keep your cool in hot conversations. A must for anyone who has to face stressful conversations. Click here to find out more.


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

I’d love to hear if you buy it and what you think!

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved through understanding.” 
… Albert Einstein

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