8 Steps for Transforming Conflict into Collaboration

Why is conflict so hard for us, why IS it such a big deal?  We mostly agree it is part of life, but why do we layer it with such avoidance, such drama?

A big reason we make conflict so hard is that we have it when shouldn’t, and we don’t have it when we should! Why, oh why, do we so readily slide into conflict with our in-laws, but are loathe to raise conflict with our teenaged children when we suspect them of something dangerous, ill-willed or premature?

It is easier to engage in conflict with people and issues that we can readily hold at arm’s length, and harder with the people closest and most important to us.  While this may be true, it is no excuse to avoid getting in there and working things through, however awkward and awful it feels, with the people we love and the concerns most important to us.

And that’s the easy part to fix!

Our relationship with conflict gets more complicated as we delve into the individual, inconsistent, unpredictable, and culturally laden patterns about how we engage conflict. Some of these are hard-wired, some are environmental, others are situations and some are just force of habit.

5 conflictWomen and men have different neurophysiological patterns of conflict engagement, and resolution- that’s worth at least a million arguments alone!  On top of that, how we were raised, early life messages about anger, about expressing emotion and how we developed our early self-concept, most importantly, how we interacted with or siblings!

Now add our situational patterns of conflict: big family events (e.g., weddings, funerals and holidays), when we’re tired, hungry, feeling unappreciated, just lost a client or gained 5 pounds, it impacts how, when and why we engage in conflict!

So, we agree, conflict is a complex and multi-faceted thing.  Perhaps that answers the initial question about why we layer so much onto it!

If we also agree that we have 100% control over how we engage conflict, then we are capable of using it as a tool for improvement, opportunity- even collaboration!

We all know of times when we fully engaged in a conflict and came out in a more positive place than we could ever have landed without it.  When conflict led to more creative results- or a breakthrough that literally blew out of all of the committed, focused energy and passion!  What have we missed, at work, and at home by avoiding conflict?

8 Steps for Transforming Conflict into Collaboration

  1.   Move quickly into conflict.

Don’t let it fester, then blow your stack.  This invariably leads to bells you cannot un-ring, words you cannot take back.

  1.   Adopt a position of extreme listening.

Hearing on as many levels as you can, and making sure you are fundamentally clear on the other person’s position is essential. Slow down and check, ‘this is what I am hearing you say.’

  1.   Stay committed to a shared vision or outcome.

Even when you feel irritated, and want to stomp your feet and yell “objection!” What’s the anticipated outcome? What shared investment, hope or aspiration do you both have?

  1.   Be relentlessly positive!

It is difficult to engage in ugly conflict with Mary Poppins. Be positive, if nothing else, it will unlock the other person’s conflict patterns, and require them to experiment with new ways of interacting with you.

  1.   Use your funny!  

We don’t think of using humor in conflict, because we are often too mad to find our funny.  But, it’s there.  Fund your funny and use it to disarm conflict patterns for both of you!

  1.   Breathe! Move! Walk around!

Sometimes physical movement helps us feel ‘unstuck’ from our position, from our worries or fears- and sometimes it helps us see a new perspective- to literally ‘move forward.’

  1.   Moderate your talker.

In the midst of conflict is not a good time to yammer on just to hear yourself talk.  In fact, less is more.  If your are both listening more than talking, there’s a good chance the outcome will be a positive one, at least we know the reverse is true!

  1.   Celebrate your success!

When you stay with a conflict through to its end, and find yourselves in a better place, celebrate!  Talk about what being in the conflict was like, and how you might engage in it differently next time. Appreciate the willingness to engage and the strengthening of partnership that results.

Lean into conflict, make it your friend, your ally. Let it teach you that true collaboration is borne of hard work, some sweat and the willingness to BE present and engaged with others in real and meaningful ways.  Without conflict, that kind of meaning can be elusive, momentary.  

Ready to Make Conflict Your BFF? Join us on 13 and 14 October 2016 for The 5 Must Do’s of Courageous Women Leaders.

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Posted in Business Training, Presentations and Workshops, Professional Development

3 Ways To Improve Your Presentations

1. Invite the audience to join and shape your presentation.

It’s one thing to prepare and deliver a one-way presentation, and there are times when that is exactly what’s called for (Eg., TED talks). However, most business presentations call for us to be responsive to the needs and responses of our audience. Watch, listen and ask people for real-time feedback if engagement seems low, and follow their behavioral cues to deliver the kind of presentation that has  he power to engage, and even transform your audience.1 not_holding

2. Make friends with your nerves. 

What happens when we fight our nervous energy? It typically wins and we end up with more, not less, of it! I have a friend who talks about nervousness as ‘energy waiting to be committed.’ In this framework, anxiety represents our passion, our commitment to doing well, and the genuine hope that all will go well and the audience (or customer) will be thrilled with our performance.

3. Be You.

There is a reason YOU are presenting! Maybe you are the expert or you tell a great story and know how to inspire people, whatever it is, YOU are the presenter. Over the years, we’ve seen hundreds of people lose their energy and character the minute they step behind a podium. Take a deep breath and push that podium aside! Use your humor, your authenticity, your endearing social awkwardness, smarts, joy- whatever it is that is the mark of who you are- use it to connect with and serve your audience.

Ready to take your Presentation Skills to the next level? 

Sign Up for Presentation Skills Intensive. We’ve taken the best of improvisational theater, speech and language pathology and good business practice to create an amazing day of experiential learning.
Posted in Business Training, Presentations and Workshops, Professional Development

Dear Teen-aged kids…

That's one fabulous bunch of teen-agers-- photo courtesy of their grandma Nancy

That’s one fabulous bunch of teen-agers– photo courtesy of their grandma Nancy

Dear Teen-Aged Kids,

I have always told you that some things in our lives as a family will change, and some things will stay the same.  The one thing that will always be same, (all together now…) is that we love you, and feel blessed to be your parents every day of your, and our, lives.

Then what’s changing, you ask?

You.

You are changing, and growing up.  There have been moments when we thought this might never happen, and times it felt like it has happened all too fast.  But happen it has.  So, some basic rules have changed in our home now, let’s review together so we are all clear.

  1. You are responsible for your own crap. I don’t know where your cleats are, and if you leave your laundry basket next to the washer, the only thing that will happen to it (besides the continued molding of your sweaty clothes) is that I will steal your sweatpants, because they are way comfier than mine.
  2. Want money?  Get a job. That’s how people get money in the big world, where there is no such thing as ‘allowance.’ So ask me for extra chores, mow some lawns or paint fences, but don’t think I’m going to give you money every time you shovel snow from your own driveway, or vacuum the house through which you walk in muddy shoes.  You live here, we feed you, educate and house you, so pony up on the chores, just because you can.  Hold out your (even metaphorical) hand after begrudgingly raking a leaf or two, and expect us to slap a rental invoice into it. Do whatever chores are asked of you, anticipate a few, and your life will be happy and bright.
  3. Get up in the morning on your own.  You know already that I will be super happy to see you, and love to make breakfast for you if there’s time, mostly just to get a few moments to chat with you before the day begins. This does not mean I want to be the one to wake you up, because I don’t. So set your own alarm, and don’t let it go off for 40 minutes straight, because that makes my happy morning squirrel mood turn into angry grizzly mean mommy mood. And please pick an alarm tone that is tolerable to the human ear, as in NOT the ‘meow meow meow’ Purina Cat Chow theme song.
  4. I am sorry you are sick, and will always do my best to take care of you.  Yet, I no longer need you to tell me before you are going to vomit.  This is especially true when you are in your bedroom at the other end of the hall next to your own bathroom, and you make the high risk, dicey trip to my bedroom to tell me something that cannot stop, nor delay the inevitable. In fact, it only increases the chances of you vomiting in my bedroom, effectively trapping me in there to clean my way out.

Commit this to your brain, tattoo it on the back of your hand, if necessary:

If you have even the tiniest hint you might vomit, RUN directly to your own bathroom and lean in full part over the toilet, as if your life depends on your accuracy.  Do not pass GO, do not collect ME- just go!  I will hear you, trust me, and will come with my maternal sympathy noises and cold, damp washcloth.

  1. And while we are on this, do not wake me up during the night to tell me that you cannot sleep.  Because then (just doing the math) we will both be awake, one of us unnecessarily and PS, she will be mad.  When should you wake me up during the night? Good question.

Let’s review together: The house is on fire.

Really, it’s THAT short of a list.

Here’s why:  Once you wake me up, I cannot go back to sleep.  Somehow waking me up and gathering my sympathy lulls you into dreamville in about 3 nanoseconds, while I lay there in wide eyed pre-squirrel anticipation of the day until … the day arrives.  This is because I woke up with you a quadra-ba-jillion times as a baby, enough that I am effectively programmed not to sleep through anything.  Like the butterfly wing-flap effect, when a baby cries in Papua New Guinea, I wake up in Troy, New York.  It has taken me nearly 20 years to be able to sustain even a tiny momentum of nano-sleep, so please don’t mess with it.

Not that my sleep is any more important than yours just because I have to get up and work to pay the bills and put food in your collection of bottom-less pitted bellies, while you while away the hours watching Spongebob and making a moderate attempt at succeeding in high school.  But it is more important, so treat my sleep like a precious gem, or like your airsoft gun, or even the really nice car you could have someday if you added a even a pinch more effort to your recipe for adult success.

There. Are we clear? At least I feel better.

Love, Mom

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Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Not. Me.

Spongebob Squarepants- image courtesy of Larry

Spongebob Squarepants- image courtesy of Larry

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

Apparently my husband and children, that’s who.

And Spongebob Squarepants.

If you thought I didn’t understand ‘the Cougar thing,’ you can only imagine where I land on this one.

For those of you who don’t know, Spongebob is a cartoon sponge, like a kitchen sponge. Sort of. When I fact checked this with one son, he was dangerously close to chastising me: “No! He’s a sponge– all sponges are from the sea except spongecake which is totally different.” I imagine his IQ rolling backwards with every episode, like an old fashioned odometer, or those Kmart ‘roll back’ signs.

Spongebob has a job at the Krusty Krab as a fry cook. His best friend is Patrick, a starfish, and Spongebob serves as the nemesis of the sarcastic, and somewhat mean Squidward (who also works at the Krusty Krab).

I fought Spongebob’s presence in my home for years. I cringed at the sound of the theme song (which I can sing in Hebrew, incidentally. Don’t ask.) His voice? I’d take nails on a chalkboard any day.

Then I remembered the best way of ‘helping’ my kids like something less, is for me to like it more! When they got addicted to “Trivia Crack,” I joined. Crickets.

When they played Danza Kuduro constantly for a week, I downloaded and played it twice while making dinner and dancing to it, and I never heard it again. Ever.

Not even on the radio.

And, my secret weapon: when they are arguing on a car trip of any length, I start talking in a loud voice about human reproduction and I am guaranteed silence, it may be a horrified silence, but it’s still a quiet silence, and that’s all that matters. I can get two good hours of ‘frozen man’ quality silence from the mere mention of the human menstrual cycle.

I know what works, I just need to use it! Watch out Spongebob… here comes mama!!!

Spongebob- drawn by my son, Jamison. :-)

Spongebob- drawn by my son, Jamison. 🙂

“Hey! Mom’s watching Spongebob! BEST DAY EVER!!!!

Uh oh… not what I anticipated.

“Wait, you have to see the one where the writer of Spongebob drops his pencil and Spongebob makes another Spongebob and they fight and he says, ‘where’s the leak, ma’am’ and the wrench lands on his head!!!’”

The hilarity is building. Now they’re talking and laughing over each other which is not uncommon, “Remember when the aliens invaded Bikini Bottom and if mayonnaise touched them, they melted??!! And when Spongebob got the submarine and was delivering mobile Krusty Krab krabby patties, but burned them, and Plankton was trying to sell chum and people were mad at Plankton and they sold the burned krabby patties to throw at Plankton? And…” (they are literally unglued with laughter), “when Patrick says ‘Whoever is the owner of the white sedan, you left your lights on’ (with a tuba on his head)…”

I am defeated.

I ask, “Why? WHY do you like this annoying whiney Spongebob character so much? And how did Mr. Krabbs, a crab, father Pearl the WHALE?” Just saying that makes me uncomfortable.

One son, apparently spending all of the big words he’s been saving this academic year, replies, “Spongebob represents the whimsical nature of children and the joy they take in creative fantasy.”

I look at him accusingly over the rim of my reading glasses, and he bursts out laughing.

“You look like Squidward when you’re mad.” The look on my face makes him laugh harder and he says, “Don’t be a Krabby Patty!”

My husband, Jon says, “It’s classic comedy—there’s the idiot, the idiot’s friend and the sane guy who has to deal with them. That’s me. I’m that sane guy.” I am staring at him blankly, pretty much confirming his point.

“I love Patrick because he is stupid and hilarious,” says another son. I catch myself daydreaming about the separate entrance we’ll need to the basement apartment of our home, where I am convinced this son will live out the rest of his days with some (idiot) friends.

Resigned, I realize that this is what they will remember of their childhoods. Not the vacations we saved for, or the trips to the Guggenheim and times we played Apples to Apples as a family and the creative Passover seders, or when Jon read them the ENTIRE Harry Potter series at bedtime over a course of two full years… they’re going to remember the episodes of Spongebob they watched together.

And I just need to get over it.

Because even though I don’t get it, they do. If Spongebob is this much fun for them to just talk about, I’ll do us all a favor and stay far enough away from him that it stays that way.

Are you on Twitter? Join the conversation! @CoreyJamisonLLC

This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.

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The fort, and other maternal contradictions.

The fort sleeper with his best dog friend.

The fort sleeper with his best dog friend.

Like many busy working moms, I do a lot of pretending like the state of my house doesn’t bother me- that I’ve ‘let it go,’ because ‘something had to give,’ and so it was my need for a tidy, clean, good-smelling house.

I have let it go, reluctantly, and someday I am sure I’ll have a really clean house, and there will be a part of me that is sad that the very people I get annoyed with for messing it up now, won’t be living here anymore to mess it up.

Motherhood is full of paradoxes, contradictions and ironies, for sure.

Last week, my son Josh spent an entire day building a fort with his little sister “Larry.” They used every dang blanket in the house (leaving every closet door and linen drawer open in their wake) and the construction process yielded much debris, which they did not clean up voluntarily. There was the requisite arguing over space and building strategy, a few tears and complex integration of other siblings into the real estate. It was so adorable. Contradiction #1.

Fort Wall Art: Don’t read this if you’re faint of heart.

Fort Wall Art: Don’t read this if you’re faint of heart.

Not shockingly, the kids built this ginormous fort it in my home office, something that both annoys me (does ANYONE respect that this is my actual WORK space??!) and brings me a ton of joy (I moved my office chair so I could see it and them better while they were building and playing in it). And that’s Contradiction #2.

The fort has been up for a week now, has gone through a major catastrophic demolition by force of nature (the dog), and two renovations, one of which included the construction of an addition. Josh has slept in it for a week. I’m not thrilled that he’s sleeping on the floor by a drafty window and on a pile of gross blankets covered in dog hair, dried playdough and used tissues. Still, it makes my heart happy when I look over the side of the fort walls and see his sweet face snuggled up there in the pile of pillows, with his arms around the sleeping dog. Contradiction #3.

The epic box house with electrical supply and complex tunneling… AWESOME! and MESSY!

The epic box house with electrical supply and complex tunneling… AWESOME! and MESSY!

This past December, the kids built a box home in the family room, and set it up with lamps, pictures on the walls and rooms with tunnel access, etc. It was right in the middle of the entranceway, and was in the way of everything- I tripped over it all the time, but secretly loved it, and was so sad when it came down. Do I hear#4?

The whole process surrounding both of these epic forts drove me nuts, and I loved it. I guess the upshot of all of this is that it’s hard to let go of personal standards, we’re parents and human beings at (roughly) the same time. Maybe the best we can do is live in the in between space, the imperfection of loving the things that annoy us as moms, and being irritated by the things we find adorable and sweet, and just letting that be what it is. Messy.

And fleeting.

I pray the kids will remember and laugh about these forts when they’re older, and hopefully it will get equal limelight with all the mistakes we’ve made as parents, and the stuff that’s gone wrong, the times they fought, or hurt each other’s feelings.

I hope they have these contradictory feelings about their own kids, wishing they’d just go to sleep, then standing over them as they sleep to make sure they are breathing, and looking forward to the morning when it’s (finally) time to snuggle and do crazy things to make them laugh all over again. I hope they try and try and try to teach their toddlers new sounds and words, then miss the quiet of a house without little people talking (loudly) to Elmo at 4:00 am. I hope they are so proud watching the beautiful young person they’ve raised walk across the stage at graduation, then sob all the way home from dropping them off from college, all the while appreciating the absence of teenage hormonally driven arguing, and at the same time wishing they were still tucked safely to sleep in their own little beds, so as parents, they can close their eyes at night and know for certain, all is well within their own four walls (and their heart).

It’s all about contradictions. So tonight, I lay my head down in the fort, wishing Josh was here to fill it instead of at his father’s house, but glad he has that time and special relationship with him, and still wishing he were here to make a giant, annoying mess like this all over again, that would bring me such joy.

Are you on Twitter? What are your contradictions? @CoreyJamisonLLC

This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.

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One beautiful thought

From the start, ‘Larry’ has owned her beauty, and may it continue every moment of her life!

From the start, ‘Larry’ has owned her beauty, and may it continue every moment of her life!

Yup, she’s choosing beautiful!

Yup, she’s choosing beautiful!

I typically rage against popular brand stuff and refuse to wear brand names that show on my clothes, even though my favorite designer routinely tries to sneak it into the design.

But, allow me a moment to just plain gush about Dove. I love their products, have used their soap for years. I pretty much love everything about the brand, but especially the commitment to women, self-love, kindness and beauty.

Dove’s mission: Dove has a vision of a world where beauty is a source of confidence, and not anxiety.

“5 million negative tweets about women were logged in 2014” says Dove. That sounds like a big number, but probably doesn’t compare with the number of negative messages I gave myself in the same time period. I work intentionally on this everyday, because I know that what I say to myself out loud, my children hear and inhale- and even what I say to myself in my own head has power beyond just not helping ME be as happy and healthy as I can be.

Dove’s website offers opportunities to post #speak beautiful words and selfies… and has created and distributed some of the most powerful videos about women and body image, self-talk and courage of our time.

Take a minute, love all over their site, cry over how we see ourselves through the Real Beauty Sketches, find hope in the responses to this latest creation, “One Beautiful Thought.”

Really. Take 2 minutes and watch it now- I promise it will be worth it.

Are you on Twitter? Follow the campaign! #SpeakBeautiful @CoreyJamisonLLC

This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.

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Happy not my birthday to ME!

When I launched my own practice nearly a year and half ago, I started on a networking binge to build my contacts, and to find a place in the business community locally. For decades, my work had taken me around the country (and world!), so I knew relatively few people locally, and most of my closest friends (besides my sister) live within driving distance (miss you, Carol!)

During that first year, I met some of the most brilliant, compassionate, compelling women and men, and to my good fortune, many have become friends. This has surely been one of the many profound blessings that emerged from the courageous act of starting my career over again on my own.

Still, these new friends surprise me with their kindness, their attentions- even when they are certainly as busy as I am. They remind me that putting time and effort into friendships is essential, a priority that I don’t want to miss, because the resulting joy and fun and goodness multiplies the effort by a thousand fold.

Take this past Friday. My husband Jon and I were taking a much needed vacation alone to Mexico, and for the first time ever, we left the kids in charge of themselves and each other for 24 hours. We have a 19, 18 and 17 year old in the mix, the latter of whom it thoroughly rule bound, and very protective of the safety and wellbeing of his little sister (as are they all), an alarm and 2 dogs who enjoy the taste of human arm almost as much as feather throw pillows that I bought at Pier 1 NOT on sale because I liked them that much. So, we are good, right? Right. Sort of.

Friday afternoon, two of my ‘new friends’ stopped by the house to wish me a happy birthday because my co-blogger, Deb, had posted “have a happy day” on my facebook wall, leading them to believe it was my birthday. And, by ‘stopped by,’ at least one of them came from Saratoga, so it was a giant gesture of love and goodness. They were met at the door by Larry, trying desperately to control frothing, slobbering mad-like-those-Hunger-Games-scary-a$$-dogs-at-the-cornucopia, but failing and calling for her brother, the Protector-Rule-Follower, who proceeded to politely answer the door to these two beautiful women whom he later referred to as “those sketchy ladies who tried to tell me it was your birthday.”

Not that I know what ‘sketchy’ looks like, but I’m pretty certain it’s not this!

Not that I know what ‘sketchy’ looks like, but I’m pretty certain it’s not this!

If you know Kiki Wagner and Dana Moraci (both professional women quite active in the Make a Wish, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer effort, among others), you will find the mere use of the word ‘sketchy’ within a hundred mile radius of either of them downright hilarious. Like knee slapping, belly clutching, laughed-so-hard-that-tears-ran-down-my-legs kind of funny.

It was not my birthday, which comes in August (if August ever comes), but once labeled, I figured it was my job to own it, so I acted like it was and sang happy birthday to myself all day, which, for the record, tends to widely and publicly spread the belief that it actually is. Facebook posts wishing me a happy birthday started picking up, and before you know it, I was having a full on birthday!

Meanwhile, back on vacation, the laughter from the first day has tipped off a full on aesthetic “let yourself go” kind of week, like the kind where anything but the basics of personal hygiene go untended. By this point in the week, I‘m certain my eyebrows have taken over my face in true Muppet form, I’ve not even brushed my hair in some days, and I surrendered my make-up bag before we even left Troy. An inadvertent glance at the mirror on our last day in Mexico made me suddenly want to watch Castaway.

So, what this boils down to is gratitude. Gratitude for new friends, and long-standing ones. For the kindness of two women, whom I’ve just recently befriended, to come to my home, bearing gifts and kindness, just because they can, and they are. It reminds me to be a better friend, a better sister, even a better stranger to the people I love and know and meet.

And, mostly, their generosity of spirit reminds me to say thank you- often, much and all the time. Thank you for the goodness, and brilliance and strength that is your part in building this community, thank you for reading this blog, and for the opportunity to use my voice, and thank you for nurturing the friends and connections you have, that keep us knit together and all working toward happy, healthy lives for everyone.

Most especially, thank you Kiki, and Dana (and Andrea!) for showing me a kindness that lit a flame of gratitude that had gone exhausted with the rest of me, and at the exact moment I needed it.

This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.

Follow me on Twitter! @CoreyJamisonLLC

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