You Cool In Conflict? 3 Important Things You Need To Know NOW

imagesLet’s be honest, how cool are you in conflict?   When you find yourself in uncomfortable conversations, maybe even confrontational conversations, does your blood start to boil, your body heat up, you get animated, maybe even say something you don’t mean?  Or do you find yourself getting ‘cold’, walls go up, avoiding others, perhaps even disengaging?

We all struggle in conflict.  And how we deal with it can make or break everything: job, account, relationship, trust, opportunity, health.. you get the picture.   Don’t worry, we are here with THE 3 most important thing you need to know to keep you cool in conflict.  Ask a question, ask a question, and then ask ANOTHER question.

So let’s say someone says something that for whatever reason pushes your buttons.  You know those times when you may be in a hurry and don’t have time for someone’s idea, or a comment is said that goes against how you want to proceed and your buttons get pushed.  Once these buttons are triggered watch out!  This is when we make those comments, typically based on judgments (those in our heads) that take the conversation to a new and very uncomfortable place.  That place from which it is difficult to extricate yourself without a loss of respect on the part of someone, that place where words are said that later you wish you could pull back into your mouth, that uncomfortable, frustrating, unpleasant place.

We believe you can detour right around “that place” maintaining respect for all concerned AND stay feeling good, no buttons pushed to ‘high’.  How to do this?  When someone makes a comment and you hear it in a way that you can feel those buttons begin to be touched, ask an open question.  What can you be curious about?  What do you want to know more about?  How can you gain clarity to truly better understand their perspective?  Once you have asked an open question and listened to their response, ask another open question and focus on listening to their response.  You will notice the dimming of those emotional buttons.  A third question is often needed so go for it!  Then again take the time to really listen to their response.

In the Globe and Mail (9/16/13)  under Freak Leadership trainer Dan Rockwell advises Tips To Improve Your Listening Skills.  He says “test and explore rather than defend”.  We have learned that when in conflict, exploring another’s answers with open questions will enable you to better understand their perspective, what they are trying to say and also test any assumptions you may be creating in your own head.  By exploring their head instead of staying in yours, you will better understand them, their ideas, their point of view.  This understanding will lead to greater clarity and an opportunity to better appreciate each other.  You will no longer need to react to their words in a way that causes your emotions to rise and words to be uttered you may later regret.

PS- Discover 3 Massive Mistakes Most Professional Women Make

How to help your child succeed

On the heels of last weeks Being Schooled! The assumptions of a parent & how they are serving us” we wanted to share with you the article “How to help them succeed?  Talk, talk, talk,” by Adriana Barton (Globe & Mail Friday Sept 7, 2012).

In this article Adriana Barton says “to boost academic achievement (in their kids), one of the best things parents can do – according to at least two decades of research – is talk to their kids about school”.  However, it’s not just what you talk about, it is how you do it.   For all you parents who tire of grunts, “fine” or “I don’t remember” when squeezing information out of your kids about their day, we have help for you.  In this article, Carl Corter, a professor at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto shares with us the importance that parents express genuine curiosity about their child’s day “including the child’s play time and social experiences”.  According to Dr. Corter, our common strategy to get the after school scoop with “how was school today?” is “too vague to spark a meaningful exchange”.  He goes on to suggest that parents dig deeper and be more specific, curious in their daily discoveries which will spark more interest for their kids to share.  Open questions such as “What kind of activities did you do in science class today?” and “How did you and your friends figure out how to build such a strong bridge out of Popsicle sticks?” are questions framed in terms of discovery and are more likely to engage a response.  Another great question we loved from the article was “What cool things did you discover today?”.  We have yet to meet a child who doesn’t want to share their new “cool” discoveries with others.

We love this approach of fine-tuning open questions and taking curiosity one-step further to learn new discoveries about your child’s day. On the way home from school today I decided to jump in and try this new technique, so I asked my 6-year-old son what cool ways his new 1st grade teacher was teaching the class.  While his response was limited to “my teacher is pretty strict this year” he did follow-up (unprompted) with all the new “cool” things that he was allowed to do in 1st grade that he couldn’t do in Kindergarten, sharing things I didn’t even consider to ask about.  Curious to know what makes a 1st grade teacher strict, I did probe deeper and he was more than willing to share with me all the reasons he felt she was too strict.

“Parents can best support a child by understanding that they are an integral part of a child’s learning process,” Dr. Corter says.  Much of that learning process begins at home.  Listening, asking open questions, being curious, testing assumptions not only nourish a conversation and the culture you are creating in your home, they are also the building blocks of successful communication skills that support any learning process.  Like with so many other things in life, it’s not just about what we do as parents, it’s how we do it.

How are you supporting your child’s learning process?  What are you curious about?


”Want better employees, Ask better questions”

We are constantly discussing the importance of communication skills and how they affect relationships and the culture in the workplace.  Organizational culture is fundamental to how the organization does what it does.  The ‘how’ is about relationships, how the members … Continue reading

Want to get or KEEP your job? The focus is on communication

We are constantly discussing the importance of communication skills and how they affect relationships and the culture in the workplace.  Organizational culture is fundamental to how the organization does what it does.  The ‘how’ is about relationships, how the members of the organization do what they do.  As a member of an organization, perhaps an ‘employer’, we wonder how often consideration is given to the culture of the organization when interviewing perspective employees AND we wonder how often perspective employees are curious about the ‘how’ of the organization, prior to joining it?

Wallace Immen’s article in the Globe and Mail “Want better employees? Ask better questions in job interviews”, published Jan 5, 2012, is an interesting example of this.  Now more than ever, the importance of how we show up in the workplace and how we communicate not only affects our relationships and culture, it could affect keeping our jobs.

Times are tough.  Organizations aren’t hiring as many people as they used to in the past and so it’s becoming increasingly important that they hire those few who are the ‘perfect fit’, meaning the ‘how’ of what they do meshes with the ‘how’ of the organization.  By meshing, we mean aligns sufficiently to ensure relationships can be built and the fit will ensure respectful communications with a common focus.  However, as described in this article, a study done by Leadership Coach Mark Murphy showed that at least 70% of employers aren’t quite getting it right, employees end up not working out and it’s not due to the lack of skills, it’s due to attitude.

According to the article, the study tracked 20,000 new hires (United States, Canada, Europe and Asia) over a three year period and within the first 18 months they found that 46 per cent of them had either been fired or received poor performance reviews.  Mr. Murphy goes on to say “I’m regularly told by employers that their low performers have really good job skills, but other factors such as being negative, feeling entitled, blaming or being change-resistant turned out to be the reason they didn’t work out”.  To us, this reflects a lack of alignment between the employer and employee in the ‘how’ of what they do.  If the ‘cultures’ of the two are not aligned, relationships falter.

What is needed at the interview stage to include the ‘how’ of the organization, the culture of the group?


How would you describe your organizational culture?  Looking at the group where a perspective employee will be working, how would you describe that culture?  What are the 3 non-negotiables of how work is completed?  Once these have been identified, look at how you can incorporate these into the interview, what open questions you can ask to ensure the perspective employees are asked about each of these non-negotiables?  For example, if an employee is expected to be a team player where innovation is created through collaboration, ask the perspective employee how they work in a team, even asking for examples of what has worked well for them in the past or ask them how colleagues, members of previous teams would describe them, how they worked together.

 Perspective employee:

You really want this job because you know you have the required skills and can achieve success when you look at the job description.  However it may be challenging to succeed if the culture of the organization does not align with you, ‘how’ you do what you do.

Reflect on what you need from a cultural perspective in an organization.  ‘How’ do you want to do what you do?  Once you have identified 3 fundamental needs for you, craft questions around them so you can be curious and learn about the organizational culture during the interview.  For example, if you need to receive feedback on what you are doing, you could ask the interviewers how the reporting manager communicates with their team, how the manager provides direction, supports learning for team members etc.  If feedback does not come up, you can then decide if this is a deal breaker or if you can learn and feel valued a different way.  Perhaps the manager could be open to providing feedback and you can ask this.  The clearer you are in the interview about your needs, the better the fit can be.  For example you could indicate you thrive in an environment where you receive frequent, specific feedback and wonder how this manager provides feedback.  You will be able to learn quickly if feedback is something she is comfortable with.

In either case, if the fit is not there, listen to your inner voice.  This may seem like the ideal job and yet maybe it is not.  If the alarm bells start ringing in your head, how can you continue to be curious and open to ensure you ask ALL the questions needed to dim down those alarm bells?

We want to hear from you, what’s working and what you find challenging?  What do you contribute to the culture of your organization?