Quit Keeping Score

It’s Christmas morning and you realize that you spent $100 more on one child than the other. Ugh. Will your daughter think you love her less? You have definitely done the dishes AND laundry every day this week and your spouse took the garbage out once. Hmmm. Seems a bit unfair. You never seem to get invited to that charity golf outing where all the deals are done. But Bob? Yeah, he gets invited every time. What you are doing is keeping score. The problem is if you are ahead or behind, it’s just not helping you.

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There is a cost to all this score keeping. And you are the one who pays the cost. First of all, you damage your self-worth. In keeping score, you are feeling less than by comparison. Second, the information you are scoring against is always flawed. It’s just your perception. Maybe Bob is a horrible golfer so he’s getting invited to make everyone else look good. Maybe your spouse spent three hours in the rain at a baseball game for your kid. Your kids never saw the price tags of their presents and don’t equate money with being loved. Lastly, it doesn’t move you forward. In fact, it puts you in a negative spiral, where you are constantly comparing yourself to confirm that you are overworked and underappreciated. Not a good space to be in.

So here is the antidote to keeping score:

  • It’s an inside job.  Who is exactly keeping score? You are. It’s starts with you acknowledging that you are doing it. I used to resent doing the dishes. I grew up in a family where Mom cooked and Dad washed the dishes (pretty remarkable since my dad was born in 1925). I have expected in my married life that my spouse would do the dishes. And if he didn’t? I resented it. That resentment was not hurting anyone but myself, and it would snowball into who bought groceries, vacuumed and took the kids to doctor visits. As Byron Katie, author of Love What Is, wrote, “What I call ‘doing the dishes’ is the practice of loving the task in front of you.” Resenting it or loving it is an inside job. Choose love.

 

  • Catch yourself doing something right.  It’s easy to get caught up in the negative. You can’t seem to get the DVD player to work or you still haven’t figured out pivot tables in Excel. Think about what you have been successful at. It’s funny. I’ve been writing this blog weekly for over 5 years and have been read in over 100 countries. That’s pretty cool. In fact, it’s awesome. But I completely forget about how amazing that is in my day-to-day life until someone makes a comment. It takes a moment. Like when I ran into someone who had been a reader of mine for years in Chicago (yes, you Chris) and he told me how much he loves my blog. And for a brief moment, I felt like a Rock Star! Tally up what you’ve accomplished. Maybe you tried a new recipe or made someone’s day by calling them out of the blue. Take stock and tally up what you are doing right.

 

  • Be present.  Truth be told, I now enjoy washing dishes. It’s a moment to be present, and mixing warm water with soap is a lovely experience. It’s a moment for me to get out of my head and back into my body. Listen to the water, feel the suds on your hands and the ceramic of the plate. As Byron Katie posits, “We are really alive when we live as simply as that — open, waiting, trusting, and loving to do what appears in front of us now.” Washing the dishes is about living and loving what is present now.

 

  • Break it into pieces. I travel fairly frequently and I used to hate returning home to a mountain of unsorted mail, a full suitcase of dirty clothes and a dishwasher full of unclean dishes. It can be overwhelming. The secret is to piece it out. One task. Run the dishwasher. Sort the mail. One piece of mail here, one over there. Sort the laundry. One load of laundry at a time. In the age of rapid technology and moving at breakneck speeds, it’s all about breaking things down into doable chunks. Even better if you can have a smile on your face and take pleasure in the task and your accomplishments. Escape the overwhelm by doing one piece at a time.

 

  • Be grateful.  When you notice that your spouse mowed the lawn, thank them. When someone compliments you on your facilitation, thank them. Gratitude really takes you out of score-keeping so long as you don’t add anything on like “Thanks for doing the dishes. Will you go clean the garage now?” Nope, that is not straight-up gratitude. Don’t qualify it. Just say thank you, be genuine and be done. And put a period at the end of the sentence. Express gratitude without trying to score a point.

 

As I ask my coaching clients frequently, “Who are you in control of?” The only one you can control is yourself. Keeping score suggests that you can have an impact on the final score. The only score you are in control of is your own self and how you respond. What do you keep score on?

What other people think of me is none of my business – Wayne Dyer

Are you having trouble wrapping your head around that?  I did.  I still do.  I’m not sure if it’s my upbringing.  The Wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident and What will the neighbor’s think kind of upbringing. My parents are always passing judgment on whether or not so and so is too thin or too fat or spending their money unwisely.  I know when I dress in the morning, I’m wondering what people will think.  Is the skirt too short?  Is the blouse too tight?  I’m not paralyzed by this but as I read that statement I realize it’s a monologue that goes on in my head unconsciously.

Actually, the source of this valuing other’s opinions above all else is Junior High School life at its finest.  I was in 7th grade in the 70’s.  Bell bottoms and corduroy were the rage.   I had purchased 10 pairs of corduroys in 10 different shades with all my hard earned babysitting money.  I cared a lot about blending in.  God forbid I walk into the cafeteria and stand out by wearing a dress.  My world centered on what others thought about me;  if I gained weight or lost weight, had an opinion different than theirs, had a bad hair day…the list goes on and on.  Heck, I do that today.  Has anyone noticed I lost 5 pounds?  Should I point it out?  Am I expecting too much?  Do people really notice me? I realize I spend a lot of time and energy wondering about others’ opinions.

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Here are some ways to let go of the importance of others’ opinions:

  1. Realize that this is self-inflicted pain. Bryon Katie’s book, Love What Is, posits that the suffering is in your head. The first question of “The Work” is “Is it true?”  When I work with clients, I hear all kinds of statements that are causing the client pain.  “She doesn’t like me,” “He wants me off the project,” and “They think I’m incompetent.”  How can you verify that, that is true?  Realize that believing it is true is in your own head.  You are suffering from your own beliefs and thoughts.
  1. Beware of how you accept both criticism and compliments. These are two sides to the very same coin. Someone can be validating you and giving you feedback that sounds like or is actually a critique.  Whether it’s positive or negative it is an opinion that you could potentially benefit from and has no bearing on who you are.  You are still you.  If you are focused and enamored only with praise, when you are criticized you will roll down the other side of the hill and be thrown off your game.  I believe a simple “Thank you” for either is just fine.  Temper your reactions and how you internalize feedback. Find a way to benefit from the critique of those whose opinions you trust.
  1. Let go of the battle. In Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart, he writes, “Let go of the battle. Breathe quietly and let it be. Let your body relax and your heart soften. Open to whatever you experience without fighting.” Fighting requires a lot of energy. It’s exhausting to spend your day worrying about what everyone else is thinking.  Put down your armor and let go.
  1. Be skeptical. As written in don Miguel Ruiz’ book, The Fifth Agreement, “Doubt takes us behind the words we hear to the intent behind them.  By being skeptical, we don’t believe every message we hear; we don’t put our faith in lies, and when our faith is not in lies, we quickly move beyond emotional drama, victimization, and the limiting belief systems our ‘domestication’ has programmed us with.” When you find the truth for yourself you are free to live without regret and fear.
  1. Let go of attachment. Kornfield has some wonderful meditations in his book. One of them is letting go of anger. He writes, “The strength of our anger reveals the strength of our attachment.”  It’s amazing how many things I am attached to and how much suffering it causes.  It’s my control freak inside who doesn’t want to let go.  But this constant striving to control the thoughts of others is unobtainable.  This is a huge insight for me.  It’s futile. Don’t attach.
  1. Be careful of your own language. My daughter made me aware of this. I would say “Have you lost weight?”  She asked that I say, “You look healthy.”  You might think that it’s a compliment but as she explained, it’s also a value judgment.  It is essentially saying that you were or weren’t thin enough before.
  1. Give up the idea of perfection. I think about this when I meditate. I feel like when my thoughts wander (and they always do) that I am not being perfect at meditation.  So what?  It’s the same with your self-dialogue.  When you are trying out #1-#6, let go of being perfect.  So when you start worrying that your boss thinks you’re incompetent, acknowledge that you let that thought slip in and maybe you can avoid it the next time.  Perfection is exhausting.

All of this can be difficult to try and implement.  It’s a habit that you’ve likely been doing since you were a child.  Changing your thoughts takes patience and trial and error.  We are all just works in progress. How wonderful it is that we have others to help us!

5 Ways Making Your Bed Will Make You a Better Person

Full disclosure, I am a reformed bed maker. I never made my bed as a kid, teenager, college student, newlywed or mother. Ok. I made my bed after washing my sheets, but beyond that or having company over, never. I would think, I’m so busy, there isn’t enough time, no one will know the difference. Then I dated a guy for several years who was probably best described as OCD. I learned a lot from this guy including, how to do perfect laundry (hint: hang everything immediately), how to make the perfect margarita (hint: fresh lime juice) and how to make your bed every day. Actually it wasn’t literally how to make your bed but more so the habit of making your bed. I began to appreciate the Zen of making your bed and, eventually, it became my habit as well.5 Ways making your bed will make you a better person

At least once a week, I leave the house before my husband is out of bed. When I arrive home, if the bed is not made, I feel let down. So no wonder that meeting didn’t go well. I immediately repair the situation and make the bed. Whew. Relief. As my husband says, the shui is back, as in feng shui. Feng shui is an eastern philosophy of positive energy flow. Regardless of what some Taoist said 3,000 years ago, a made bed feels better.

So here they are. The rationale behind making your bed everyday:

1. Productivity. Charles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habit says “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” This has been true for me. I am more productive when my bed is made. There is a sense of satisfaction that if I can make my bed, I can get all sorts of things accomplished. It’s the added advantage that it’s normally accomplished first thing in the morning and sets the rest of your day up for success.

2. Head. Karen Miller in an article called Your Bed is Your Head, says “Transform your reality. Face what appears in front of you. Do what needs to be done. Make peace with the world you inhabit. Take one minute—this minute right now—to enfold your day in dignity. Tuck in the sheets, straighten the covers and fluff the pillows.” I get this. Here is one of the largest objects in your life and it is at peace. There is space. Make your bed to clear out your head. It allows you to address those things that need to be tended to.

3. Chain reaction. Small habits start a chain reaction of big transformation. Duhigg says, “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.” Keystone habits beget other habits so if you eat a nutritious smoothie in the morning, you skip going to Starbucks, you read a book instead of watching TV and on and on. It’s like lighting a fuse to momentum. I write better when my bed is made. I feel like exercising, eating better, working harder, being better. So a two minute task can do all that? Let’s do a temperature check. Is your bed made right now? What is the chain reaction either way?

4. Impact. In Gretchen Rubin‘s blog Make Your Bed, she says,” Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, picking one little task to improve your situation, and doing it regularly, can help you regain a sense of self-mastery. Making your bed is a good place to start, and tackling one easy daily step is a good way to energize yourself for tougher situations.” It seems so small. So mundane. It’s almost like it builds resilience. Hmmm. Instead of having a V-8, make your bed.

5. What is. When I first married my husband, I struggled with trying to get him to make the bed. He frequently slept later than I and my expectation was that last one out of the bed makes it. Well, this was not a priority for him. I held a lot of resentment if he didn’t make the bed. I’ve let that go. As Byron Katie posits “Love what is“. I can spend all day wishing and praying or nagging and cajoling or I can let go and love what is. Find the joy in tasks like making the bed. There are plenty of other tasks that my husband does so ‘what is’ might be me making the bed. ‘What is’ are the two minutes in my life to embrace the simple elegance of making the bed. Set yourself free and love what is.

My kids, as young adults, still don’t make their beds. And I’m not about to twist their arms. The minute they head back to college or their apartment from vacation, I head up to their rooms to make their beds. I don’t know if there can be better energy or chi by proxy through my efforts but I sleep so much better knowing that in the bedrooms above me, there is order and space. Do you make your bed on a regular basis?

7 Steps to Conquering Stage Fright.

I was presenting to a group for the first time last week and while the slide said “Relationships – How to Be a Real Success”, I said something like, “Sex is real important in relationships” (I don’t know what I actually said because the embarrassment basically erased my memory). And the crowd erupted.  I went three shades of red.  We were all laughing, especially me.  It was easy from there.  Isn’t that crazy?  Somehow I connected to the audience because of my blunder.  I became a human in everyone else’s eyes.

I’m a big Zoe Keating fan (a fabulous avaunt-garde cellist).  She apparently has suffered from performance anxiety and was written about in an article by Therese J. Borchard in World of Psychology called Conquering Performance Anxiety: A Primer for All Phobias.  What is interesting is that she conquered her fear by not performing in front of a group of people that she knew but by “busking” (street performing) at a BART station in San Francisco.  She conquered her fear by playing for an uncaring audience because once they started leaving some money and showing appreciation for her playing, she was emboldened.  Even if she made mistakes, they still thanked her for her playing.  Being a parent of a musician, I can tell you that you don’t notice mistakes as the listener, but as a musician, it’s all you pay attention to.

I received some helpful advice in a training course for DiSC by Inscape Publishing several years ago which was, “It’s all about them.”  When you focus on the audience and your only intention is to bring knowledge, skills or a new awareness to the group in front of you, the fear is damped down.  Squashed like a grape.

So how can you squash your fears and minimize your stage fright?  Here are a couple of ideas.

1.  Meditate.  Even 5 minutes a day can improve your focus.  It builds the gray matter in your brain and keeps the “stage” clear in your prefrontal cortex.  When you can focus, you are keeping your lizard brain at bay.  The more you practice meditation, the better the benefits.  You don’t see the Dalai Lama stressing out and having performance anxiety.

2. Beliefs.  My daughter told me the other day that she was nervous about midterms.  She said, “I’m bad at taking tests”.  If you believe that you are “bad” at taking tests, you will be.  If you believe that you are going to be nervous when you speak in front your Rotary club, you will be.  As Byron Katie prescribes, do the turn around.  Say to yourself that you are awesome at taking tests, inspiring at speaking in front of an audience, or that you’re going to rock this interview.  You gotta believe.

3. ReappraisalDavid Rock promotes this in his book Your Brain At Work. When you go on high alert because you feel a lack of control and uncertainty (such as getting on stage in front of a group or taking the SATs), try and re-frame your thinking.   I remember being given the advice that you should imagine that everyone is naked…really?  Now that is scary.  Try and reframe by saying to yourself, “Everyone is excited about what I’m going to say” or “I am really prepared for this test and I’m going to give it my best”.  When you can reflect and re-frame, you dampen down the fear response.

4. Transparent.   The audience cannot see inside your head.  Taylor Clark wrote in his book Nerve about the “illusions of transparency” bias. Put simply, we tend to believe that our internal emotional states are more obvious to others than they truly are. Outside of blushing and nervous twitches, the audience has no idea if you are calm and confident or shaking in your boots.  Assume the former and move on.

5. Move.  If you sit in the wings of the stage gnashing your teeth, you will raise your heart rate and stress level.  Take a ten-minute walk and get the blood flowing to your gray matter.  In fact, put your iPod on and listen to some uplifting music while you take that walk.

6. Alcohol and Caffeine. Your adrenaline is high enough.  There is no reason to pump up your system so lay off the Mountain Dew, espresso and dark chocolate.  You don’t want to be a jittery mess.  A shot of tequila or glass of Merlot is a not good route either.  You want to be on top of your game, so keep your gray matter in top form.

7. Prepare.  Run through your materials.  Don’t over think it but make sure you feel comfortable.  I find that I am always better the second time I give a training or speech.  I know where the lulls are, what questions come up and what material to throw out.  It’s the same when you take an exam for the second time in a class. You know what the professor is looking for the second time around.

Try one or two of these the next time your stage fright shows up.  Build from there. You can tame your fear with a little practice.

How do you conquer stage fright?

Stress buster

I had the privilege of hearing Jon Gordon speak at a Capital Associated Industries conference recently.  He is the author of several books but the one quote I took away from the lecture was “Be positive! You can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time.” How true is that!  When was the last time you were stressed while praying or meditating? So when you’re running late for work; be thankful that you have a job and a car that’s working.

be positiveJon Gordon’s recent book is “The Positive Dog”. It talks about how positivity in your relationships and at work will not only make it better for you but for those around you as well.  Haven’t we all been there?  You know who the Debbie Downers of the world are; and you try and stay clear of them.  The guy who is constantly saying that the sky is falling?  Yeah.  Skip lunch with him.  You’ll have a gun to your head if you hang out with him for too long.  Positivity rules.  And it is the ultimate stress buster.

Here are some tips on how to increase your positivity:

1. Stop.  The minute you start catastrophizing some adverse event, you need to STOP.  In Martin Seligman‘s book “Learned Optimism”, he recommends physically hitting the wall and saying “Stop!”  If there isn’t a wall handy, try a rubber band on your wrist and snap it (hard) and say “Stop!”  As Seligman says, this disrupts the thoughts.  So if you are thinking your daughter was in a car accident because she is 10 minutes late, just smack yourself and say “Stop!”

2. Truth.  As Byron Katie says in her book “Loving What Is”, is it the truth?  If you are telling your self that your boss hates you, that your spouse doesn’t love you or that you’ve blown your diet; take a second look.  Stuff a sock in your Inner Dictator, and ask yourself if it’s true.  Dust off the evidence and analyze what you know to be absolutely true.  What evidence do you have other than what your Inner Dictator has said?  The boss is in the middle of an acquisition and is overwhelmed.  Your spouse is working overtime and needs some appreciation.  One brownie and a glass of Zinfandel is not blowing a diet.  Make sure you know the truth.

3. Spill.  Set the timer, grab a pen and spill your guts on paper.  Dump all the worries, self-doubt and demons on some good old college ruled paper.  This is amazingly freeing.   Suddenly the stage of your prefrontal cortex is wide open, now that you have all the villains, bad actors and stage hands safely cleared off.  Getting it all on paper and out of your head is such a relief.  From there, light a match and literally “burn up your worries”. Spill your guts so you can look at the positive.

4. Blessings. Count your blessings.  Inspiring coach Michele Woodward recommends counting three things you are thankful for before you get out of bed in the morning.  Sometimes I cheat and count ten things I’m thankful for.  Being grateful starts your day off with optimism.  It might just be the roof over your head, your hardworking spouse and your dog (who is happy to see you no matter the circumstances…actually I’m usually the one that feeds her and she knows where her bread is buttered).  An attitude of gratitude is an attraction magnet.  Who would you rather hang out with, Sue Ann Nivens or Simon Cowell?  I’m guessing the one who counts their blessings.

5. Discourse.  Martin Seligman also recommends getting a close trusted friend and modeling the self talk in your head through some discourse.  Your role is to take the positive angle and your trusted buddy takes your normal self talk of pessimism. So your buddy starts off with “You messed up that project and everyone is disgusted with you. You are so lazy”.  You respond with, “It’s true I delivered the project late but the project itself was spot on.  I know my boss was upset it was late, but he appreciated the quality of the project.  I’m a hard worker.  I was just a little overwhelmed and that caused me to be late.”  The point is, that if you get good at arguing for you instead of against you (in your self talk), it will become second nature to stand up for yourself against your inner dictator.  Grab a buddy and engage in discourse.

It’s amazing how much stress can be created by our inner dictator.  Embracing optimism and positivity can have a huge impact on your ability to roll with the punches.  The most important thing that Martin Seligman has found in his research is that you can learn to be optimistic.  I hope a few of these techniques will help be a stress buster in your life.

Minimizing Stage Fright

I was presenting to a group for the first time last week and while the slide said “Relationships – How to Be a Real Success”, I said something like, “Sex is real important in relationships” (I don’t know what I actually said because the embarrassment basically erased my memory). And the crowd erupted.  I went three shades of red.  We were all laughing, especially me.  It was easy from there.  Isn’t that crazy?  Somehow I connected to the audience because of my blunder.  I became a human in everyone else’s eyes.

I’m a big Zoe Keating fan (a fabulous avaunt-garde cellist).  She apparently has suffered from performance anxiety and was written about in an article by Therese J. Borchard in World of Psychology called Conquering Performance Anxiety: A Primer for All Phobias.  What is interesting is that she conquered her fear by not performing in front of a group of people that she knew but by “busking” (street performing) at a BART station in San Francisco.  She conquered her fear by playing for an uncaring audience because once they started leaving some money and showing appreciation for her playing, she was emboldened.  Even if she made mistakes, they still thanked her for her playing.  Being a parent of a musician, I can tell you that you don’t notice mistakes as the listener, but as a musician, it’s all you pay attention to.

I received some helpful advice in a training course for DiSC by Inscape Publishing several years ago which was, “It’s all about them.”  When you focus on the audience and your only intention is to bring knowledge, skills or a new awareness to the group in front of you, the fear is damped down.  Squashed like a grape.

So how can you squash your fears and minimize your stage fright?  Here are a couple of ideas.

1.  Meditate.  Even 5 minutes a day can improve your focus.  It builds the gray matter in your brain and keeps the “stage” clear in your prefrontal cortex.  When you can focus, you are keeping your lizard brain at bay.  The more you practice meditation, the better the benefits.  You don’t see the Dalai Lama stressing out and having performance anxiety.

2. Beliefs.  My daughter told me the other day that she was nervous about midterms.  She said, “I’m bad at taking tests”.  If you believe that you are “bad” at taking tests, you will be.  If you believe that you are going to be nervous when you speak in front your Rotary club, you will be.  As Byron Katie prescribes, do the turn around.  Say to yourself that you are awesome at taking tests, inspiring at speaking in front of an audience, or that you’re going to rock this interview.  You gotta believe.

3. ReappraisalDavid Rock promotes this in his book Your Brain At Work. When you go on high alert because you feel a lack of control and uncertainty (such as getting on stage in front of a group or taking the SATs), try and re-frame your thinking.   I remember being given the advice that you should imagine that everyone is naked…really?  Now that is scary.  Try and reframe by saying to yourself, “Everyone is excited about what I’m going to say” or “I am really prepared for this test and I’m going to give it my best”.  When you can reflect and re-frame, you dampen down the fear response.

4. Transparent.   The audience cannot see inside your head.  Taylor Clark wrote in his book Nerve about the “illusions of transparency” bias. Put simply, we tend to believe that our internal emotional states are more obvious to others than they truly are. Outside of blushing and nervous twitches, the audience has no idea if you are calm and confident or shaking in your boots.  Assume the former and move on.

5. Move.  If you sit in the wings of the stage gnashing your teeth, you will raise your heart rate and stress level.  Take a ten-minute walk and get the blood flowing to your gray matter.  In fact, put your iPod on and listen to some uplifting music while you take that walk.

6. Alcohol and Caffeine. Your adrenaline is high enough.  There is no reason to pump up your system so lay off the Mountain Dew, espresso and dark chocolate.  You don’t want to be a jittery mess.  A shot of tequila or glass of Merlot is a not good route either.  You want to be on top of your game, so keep your gray matter in top form.

7. Prepare.  Run through your materials.  Don’t over think it but make sure you feel comfortable.  I find that I am always better the second time I give a training or speech.  I know where the lulls are, what questions come up and what material to throw out.  It’s the same when you take an exam for the second time in a class. You know what the professor is looking for the second time around.

Try one or two of these the next time your stage fright shows up.  Build from there. You can tame your fear with a little practice.

How do you conquer stage fright?

What if you just said “No”?

I’m not sure why, but I have been the trigger person for most of my career.  The gunslinger brought in to say, No.  Human Resource professionals are frequently referred to as The Fashion Police (that skirt is too short), The Personal Hygiene Moderator (deodorant is a necessity), Policy Patrol (insubordination IS grounds for termination) and, worst of all, the b-word.  So why can’t everyone else draw a line in the sand? I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve asked myself that.  They are in avoidance

It’s so much easier to bring someone else in to say No.  You can stay at arm’s length, point the finger and, in essence, say, “This wasn’t my decision”.  Let someone else be the trigger person and stay clear of the wake.

Try taking a giant step forward and say No. Here are the reasons why you should:

1. Respect.  People pay attention to those who pull the trigger once in a while.  You earn the reputation for being someone who has a backbone and stands up for their principles.  People want you on their team when they know you can be counted on to make the tough decisions even if they are unpopular.

2. Honest.  We’ve all known people who are brown-noses.  How many corporate projects have you been party to that went in the wrong direction because no one in the crowd wanted to say No.  Earning the reputation for being candid takes a few No sayings. I’m not advocating just blurting out No but a well-polished, properly crafted No will increase your authenticity.

3. Less Bunkum.  I had to look up that one up in the thesaurus to keep this polite.  When you get the promotional phone calls for a vacation getaway; don’t hang up.  Say No and take my number off your list.  Disingenuous people stay away from No sayers.  They move on to fawn over someone else who doesn’t mind swimming in bunkum.

4. Relief.  Unresolved conflict can fester.  Be the one to step forward and make the decision.  Do you really want to be up at 3 AM worrying about how you tell the PTA that you want off the committee?  When you have given that well-crafted No; you’ll be sleeping like a baby.

5. Empowerment.  Saying No is gratifying.  You can look yourself in the mirror and know that you stood up for something; you stood up for your beliefs.  It might have been difficult (it almost always is uncomfortable…messy even) but once you get past the No, your self confidence will be rebooted.

6. Culture.  No one likes co-workers who get away with clocking in late, not pulling their weight, constantly stepping over the line that no one else would dare to cross.  That crowd; the group at large.  They are rooting for you.  They want you to pull the trigger.  Be the gunslinger for the 95% who are pulling their weight.  Raise the tide for the culture of your company.

It’s not easy.  But you need to do it.  Be the go-to gunslinger.  Everyone is waiting for you to be a No sayer.  Draw a line in the sand.

Unresolved Conflict: The Elephant in the Room

As a restaurant owner and Human Resource professional over the past 20 plus years, I’ve seen plenty of unresolved workplace conflict.  It’s like the kitchen garbage can with rotting shrimp shells in the bottom; everyone smells it but no one wants to deal with it.  So we let it fester and things fester.

Blood pressure rises, people start avoiding each other, less eye contact; our mind goes wild with what we figure the other person is thinking.  We think we know their true motivation as the paranoia mounts.

There were countless times I was brought in to end the avoidance….to get to the bottom of the smelly mess.  So how do you handle the conflict?  Here are some tried and true maneuvers:

1. Timing is everything.  Don’t talk to someone when they just get back from vacation and are buried in email and return phone calls.  Give them a day or two to dig out and take a temperature check.  Read their body language.  A little tension in the shoulders…using short curt sentences….relax and wait.  Sense of humor is back?  Just got a great sales report?  This might be your opening.

2. Privacy.  This  cannot be emphasized enough.  Don’t bring up the smelly issue in front of or within ear shot of any other human being.  Never.  Ever.   Their listening skills will be out to lunch and their blood pressure will shoot up.  No one likes to be embarrassed and if there is even the slightest chance that UPS delivery guy might walk by; relax and wait.

3. Facts.  Research your smelly issue thoroughly.  No hunches.  No assumptions.  No jumping to conclusions.  Do your best reconnaissance…you watch CSI…investigate.  This is especially true in the “he said, she said, they said and we said” type of smelly issue.  Find any and all witnesses and alleged witnesses (can’t tell you how many times in a harassment investigation that the “alleged witness” wasn’t even at work that day).  Don’t go at fact finding to just make sure you are“right”.

4. Suspend Assumptions. This goes closely with #3 but it’s imperative that you don’t decide the other person’s motivation; their ulterior motives.  You’ll have them being one step below Bernie Madoff if you’re not careful.  Empty your head of all your negative stereo types….like “Joe is always out for himself” or “Suzy is out to get me”….really?  You know all that?  As Byron Katie says at her website “the work”…”Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” Turn off mister ego and shut down your assumption machine.

5. Craft.  Think it through.  How are you going to broach the subject?  Maybe test the waters with another agenda item that isn’t confrontational like “I want to thank you for your help on the turnover report.  It really saved me some time and I got a chance to work on a more pressing project”.  A sincere, specific compliment is a nice lead in.  I can hear you nay-sayers out there…but I can’t think of anything nice to say.  Revisit #4.  Phrase the issue in terms of the other person’s viewpoint.  What is a reasonable explanation for their egregious act?  Give them an out like, “I’m sure you didn’t realize that when I was excluded from the finance team, I felt like you didn’t trust me”, or “I don’t think you are aware but when you told Suzy about the layoff plan, she assumed her job was in jeopardy”.  Think it through and craft the one or two sentences (no more) to summarize and present the smelly issue at hand (stay away from Never, Always and Should).

6. Love.  What are you crazy?  Love my co-worker, boss, workplace nemesis?  I don’t know why it works but if you decide you love someone, even your worst enemy ,the whole thing just works better.  Maybe it’s ch’i, but mentally embracing the other person (do not do this literally…for obvious reasons) helps you to be open to the possibilities; love your enemy.  Bob may never include you on the email with the financial reports but if you love him, it dampens down the resentment and blasts open the possibility of resolution. This also helps with #4.

7. Do it.  When you have completed the preceding steps; just do it.  Have the conversation.  Stay open minded and believe in a positive outcome.  Sometimes, OK a lot of times, it’s a complete surprise to the other person.  But it’s amazing how often people tip toe around an issue, especially a smelly one, and the offending person, had no idea that they angered you or that several people were avoiding them.  Most of the time people don’t realize how they are perceived and want to do their best.  Nine times out of ten, they apologize.  Give them the chance.

This might be messy the first, second or third time around.  But this is going to build trust in the long run.  You will be the Go-To person for conflict resolution and honest constructive feedback.  Slay the elephant.

Let me know what you think.  What workplace conflict are you dealing with?