Friday, November 30, 2018

11 Helpful Phrases for Disarming Conflict


It's inevitable. Sooner or later there will be conflict. People will have differences. Disagreements will erupt. Mistakes will be made. Stuff happens.

But we can sharpen our skills to be ready when unhealthy conflict begins to rise. And we can use our tools to keep dialogue open and productive. Disagreements don't have to turn destructive. 

A difference of opinion doesn't haven't to escalate into a damaged relationship. The phrases I share below have worked well for me, for the most part. Tone of voice and body language are critically important too.

It doesn't matter if the conflict is with a student, a colleague, or a parent, it's so important to listen carefully and let the other person know you are listening carefully. 

Listen carefully and practice empathy. Try to fully understand where the other person is coming from.

Here are 11 phrases that might be helpful...

1. "Let's work together to solve this."

All of the problem-solving to address an issue shouldn't come from one side or the other. It's not me vs. you. It's us vs. the problem.

2. "I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let's look at the facts."

Our natural tendency is to become defensive when someone challenges us. Take a tentative stance at the start. That shows you're open to listening.

3. "If I'm wrong I want to correct it and make it right. I may be in error."

If you start to defend your position right away you set yourself in opposition to the other side. When we set ourselves in opposition to another, it's their instinct to cling to their ideas and defend them whether there is truly any merit to them or not.

4. "Let me see if I got that."

Or "Let me see if I understand you correctly?" Listen actively. Acknowledge what the other person is saying. Instead of defending or explaining, start by paraphrasing. Repeat what they've said to ensure that you're getting the right meaning. Ask clarifying questions. It makes the other person feel heard. It shows you are listening.

5. "What's your biggest concern?"

Sometimes when people get upset they vent about all sorts of things that may be related and may not be related. This question helps focus on what the real issue is.

6. "How are you feeling about that?"

Again this question is acknowledging that there are strong feelings as a result of the situation. It's good to validate the feelings someone is having. It doesn't mean you agree with what needs to happen, but you are trying to understand how they feel. 

7. "What would you like to see happen? What would make you happy?"

Sometimes when I ask this question after I've listened carefully for a time, the person will say they don't really want anything to happen. They just wanted to express their frustration. And sometimes there are specific requests. This question get possible next steps out on the table. 

8. "Is it possible that we could...?"

Or "What if..." Help introduce new possibilities to the situation. In emotionally charged situations, people often get locked into seeing things from only one perspective. We're looking for a creative solution that is win/win.

9. "I'm willing to discuss this as long as needed until we're both satisfied how it's resolved."

I love to say this when I can tell things are really heated. It immediately says to the other person that I'm not going to be your opponent in this discussion. I'm not going to allow this to be an argument. It almost always diffuses the situation.

10. "Let me think about this some more. Let's try again later."

Sometimes, even when I've tried to maintain dialogue and approach the problem with as much diplomacy as possible, we still can't seem to either deescalate or find acceptable solutions. Then it's time to say let's both think about it some more and try again later.

11. "Do you feel like the situation's been handled fairly?"

It's very rewarding when a conversation that could be angry and awful ends up being successful. It actually builds a stronger relationship. Conflict can make us stronger. Sometimes I will even ask if the other person feels it's been handled fairly. If they can't say yes, then maybe we need to talk some more.

Don't allow yourself to become an opponent in the conversation. If people sense that you are defensive, they will set themselves in opposition to you. They will cling to their ideas and defend them no matter what. Even if there isn't merit to the concern, they will fight for their point of view. They won't care about what's right. They'll only care about being right. They'll defend the most ridiculous claims and blunders simply because they view you as an opponent.

And conversely, if you truly listen and avoid becoming an opponent, people are far more likely to admit errors of their own. If they are handled gently and respectfully, they will be more open to listening to your perspective too. But make sure they've had plenty of opportunities to be heard before you expect them to hear your point of view.

Do you have other ideas for disarming conflict? What's been your experience with handling conflict successfully? I'd like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Are You Reaching Your Full Capacity?


Last Christmas, we decided to add a new Boston Terrier puppy to our family. His name is Rudy. There have been many times over the past months that Rudy has tested our patience. And he's tested the patience of our older Boston Terrier, Max, too.

He's chewed up the house. He's been slow to house train. He's been quick to disobey. He's a little too affectionate. He's in your face affectionate. It's cute and annoying at the same time.

But a few months ago we noticed something was wrong with Rudy. He was having problems with one of his back legs. It would happen occasionally, and he would limp around on three legs for a while, and then he was back to his old self.

But the problem became even more frequent. A trip to the vet revealed Rudy's leg problem was Patellar Luxation, a knee cap that was dislocating. The leg would not get better on its own and needed to be addressed surgically.

So Rudy was scheduled for his operation.

After Rudy had his surgery, the vet said we needed to keep him from using the repaired knee. "No using that leg," he said. 

Just how are you supposed to keep a dog from using a leg? Hey Rudy, no using that leg, okay? 

But turns out that wasn't a problem. Rudy didn't want to use the leg. I guess it was pretty sore, and he quit using it entirely after the surgery. 

Even weeks later, after several visits to the vet, Rudy was still not using the repaired leg. The vet suggested several ideas for getting him to start using the leg again, including swim therapy in our bath tub. Seriously.

But Rudy still refused to use his fourth leg. He was a three-legged dog, it seemed, forever.

However, it was clear from our trips to the veterinarian, Rudy's leg had healed properly. He was simply choosing not to use the leg. He had created a limitation in his canine brain that he was a three-legged dog. He had created a new identity that kept him from reaching his full capacity.

Would Rudy ever walk on four legs again?

And then, in a matter of a couple of weeks, Rudy started testing the fourth leg a little more. He pushed out of his comfort zone and into his growth zone. The video clips below were shot on the same day in the span of about an hour. You'll see his three legged routine and then what's possible when he pushes past the limits. Rudy was very capable it seems.



When Rudy got past his limits, he was running around like any puppy should. He was back to annoying all of us again, in his regular way. He was starting to utilize his fourth leg to its full capacity.

But here's the thing, how many of us are choosing, perhaps unintentionally, to be three-legged dogs? Could it be that most of us are only using a fraction of our true capacity? What might be possible if we would only test our limits and continue to learn and grow?

I think most people are only operating at a small percentage of full capacity. And I think most schools are only operating at a small percentage of full capacity. We're probably capable of so much more. Our schools are probably capable of so much more.

Sure, we're trying to make progress, but we're walking on three legs. We're trying to make things better, but we need to make ourselves better. Change you first.

What we really need is to cut loose and run on all four legs. And we need to create conditions where other people are able to reach their capacity, too. 

So how can you reach your capacity? You have to get started on a path of growth. Break through your limits with the following...

1. The BELIEF that you need to get better.

If you think you're doing just fine on three legs, you'll never find your true capacity. You'll just keep limping along. You need a vision of what's possible. Moreover, you also need the belief that things CAN get better. Don't allow your past performance to limit your future possibilities.

2. The DESIRE to want to get better.

Growth is the more difficult choice. It's easier just to be satisfied, either intentionally or unintentionally, with how things are. We have to crush apathy and reject mediocrity. We have to desire excellence. You have to commit. You have to really want it.

3. The WILLINGNESS to take action to get better.

You have to test your limits. You have to see what that fourth leg is capable of doing. Sometimes it feels really risky to step out in faith. It might hurt. But you must take action. Destiny is about decisions. It might be hard, but it's worth it. 

4. The WISDOM to learn how to get better.

There is a certain wisdom and humility needed to recognize that we're not currently all we could be. We're probably capable of more, if we're honest about it. We must therefore seek out opportunities to learn from others. We must apply the things we learn. We have to pursue growth intentionally. 

5. The DISCIPLINE to follow through and be GREAT.

Living a no limits life requires discipline. A new direction requires discipline. Full capacity requires discipline. You have to eliminate the choices that aren't leading you toward your capacity. You have to be relentless to achieve the results.

What are some ways you want to test your limits? What are some ways you need to test your limits? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Friday, November 9, 2018

7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity


Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven't considered. One of our core values in our school is "start with questions." We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 

But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.

So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success...

1.  Curiosity About Feelings

We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, "I'm curious about why I'm feeling this way." Be curious, not furious.

2. Curiosity About Relationships

Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it's necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, "I want to know more about you. You matter. You're interesting to me."

3. Curiosity About Perspectives

Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.

4. Curiosity About Habits

After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, "Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?" Let's be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking

What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren't willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren't willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.

6. Curiosity About How Things Work

Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I'm also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I'm curious about how student's motivation works. And I'm curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.

7. Curiosity About the Future

I'm curious about the future. I'm curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I'm curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today's decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.

Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Friday, November 2, 2018

5 Questions for Deeper Reflection


Reflection is important for growth. But we have to be intentional about it. Our reflection is meaningless unless we do something with it. It has to change us. Or, it has to help us change directions. Effective people are reflective people.

Many years ago I read Dale Carnegie's incredible book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Just this last week, I decided to start reading it again. Carnegie tells the story of a bank president who for many years made it a practice to reflect at the end of each week on every appointment he had in the previous week. He would ask himself the following questions:

"What mistakes did I make that time?"

"What did I do that was right--and in what way could I have improved my performance?"

"What lessons can I learn from that experience?"

The banker attributed his great success in large part to his system:
I often found that this weekly review made me very unhappy. I was frequently astonished at my own blunders. Of course, as the years passed, these blunders became less frequent. Sometimes I was inclined to pat myself on the back a little after one of these sessions. This system of self-analysis, self-education, that continued year after year, did more for me than any other one thing I have ever attempted.
It helped me improve my ability to make decisions--and it aided me enormously in all my contacts with people. I cannot recommend it too highly. 
I also try to make it a point to consistently reflect on how things are going in my work. However, I don't have a process as systematic as what's described by the banker. Maybe that's something I should consider.

This week as I'm reflecting, I thought of a few more questions to consider...

1. How is the reluctant learner experiencing our school (or your classroom if you're a teacher)?

We may think about how our students are doing overall, but I think we need to be especially attentive to how the reluctant learner is doing. If we create an experience that engages some of our most challenging students, that same experience will also probably benefit our other students too. We're aiming to create a place where even kids who "hate school" love to learn.

2. Am I measuring with a yardstick of my own years?

When I get frustrated with some of the behaviors I see in students, I need to be reminded that they are often acting exactly like 15-year-olds are inclined to act. That doesn't mean that I don't try to influence them to rise up, but I can't get frustrated when they don't think, or act, like me. That sounds ridiculous doesn't it? But I think we all tend to get frustrated if people don't act just like we think they should.

3. Do I have a healthy level of dissatisfaction with my own performance?

At the end of the day, it's important to be content with doing my best but to also be dissatisfied with how things are. I don't want to become complacent. And I don't want to beat myself up when I make a mistake. So be content, but never be satisfied. 

4. Are there ways I'm falling into binary thinking?

Binary thinking creates false dichotomies. It's either/or. Effective leadership almost always requires a more nuanced position. We can have fun AND have high expectations. We can use technology AND develop social skills and teamwork. We can encourage student agency/inquiry AND improve achievement. It's not all or nothing.

5. What specific strategies am I using to motivate students (and teachers)?

I'm thinking about the ways I influence student and teacher motivation. Am I doing it by connecting and building relationships? Am I doing it by clearing barriers and showing support? Am I motivating students by creating a positive environment? Just what are the specific strategies I'm using to motivate? Food for thought.

So how are you developing a reflection routine? Would you benefit from having intentional reflection each week? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...