Communication Tips

Sparkles and light spewing from a theatre stage. Text in the center is: Open-ended questions by Barbara Sugarman Grochal. There are seats in the foreground.

Mediation Techniques and Resources for everyday situations and conversations

Tip: Open-ended Questions (Video)

 Open-ended Questions Video

Open-ended questions are an integral part of of the mediation process and are quite useful in everyday conversations. Asking open-ended questions provides an opportunity for the speaker to clarify and provide additional information. The responses can help the listener and speaker better understand each other and the situation.

In the video linked above, Barbara Sugarman Grochal shares her excitement for open-ended questions and explains how mediators use them and how employees can use them in everyday conversations. The resources provided in the video are listed below.

Barbara Sugarman Grochal is a mediator with the Workplace Mediation Service and the Director of School Conflict Resolution Education Program at the Center for Dispute Resolution University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (C-DRUM).

Workplace Mediation Service:

Aisha Samples, MS
410-706-4270
mediation@umaryland.edu 

The Workplace Mediation Service is part of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (C-DRUM).

Resources for Open-ended Questions

To learn more about the open-ended questions check out these articles:

Enhancing Mediator Neutrality Through Question Asking by Pamela Lehman, Norman R. Page

https://www.mediate.com/articles/pagelehman.cfm

Additional Training Materials for Module 3, Topic I: Conflict Resolution Techniques 

http://www.mediation-time.eu/images/TIME_Repository_Module_3_Topic_1.pdf

 

 

Sparkles and light spewing from a theatre stage. Text in the center is: Reflective Listening by Prof. Deborah Thompson Eisenberg. There are seats in the foreground.

Mediation Techniques and Resources for everyday situations and conversations

Tip: Reflective Listening (Video)

Reflective Listening Video

Is being heard and understood important to you? How about for someone who is talking with you? As mediators we want our participants to feel heard and understood. We facilitate that by using reflective listening to indicate our understanding of what was shared. Reflective listening can be also be used in professional and personal conversations to improve communication.

In the video linked above, Deborah Thompson Eisenberg explains how to listen effectively and understand what others are saying. The resources provided in the video are listed below.

Deborah Thompson Eisenberg is a mediator with the Workplace Mediation Service and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM).

Workplace Mediation Service:

Aisha Samples, MS
410-706-4270
mediation@umaryland.edu 

The Workplace Mediation Service is part of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (C-DRUM)

Resources for Reflective Listening

To learn more about the reflective listening check out these books:

Sharon Ellison, Taking the War Out of Out Words: The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (2002) 

Douglas Stone, et al., Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (2010) 

Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It (2016)

 

 

Red and white life ring floating in the water under dark blue sky

Tip: Three Resources to Help You Swim Calmly through the Sea of Conflict

Conflict and waterways have a few things in common. They’re easier to navigate and transcend when we have the appropriate skills, equipment, and confidence to swim in the deep and shallow ends. I am a mediator and my conflict management skills are significantly better than my swimming skills. If I actually had to swim through a deep conflict I would want the supports of a life jacket, a rescue boat behind me, and a swim coach next to me. When it comes to conflict, UMB has resources and people who are trained to help keep employees afloat and headed in the right direction.

So get suited up! And before you get in the water let’s review three different resources that are available to help you: the Workplace Mediation Service, the Employee Assistance Program, and the Office of the Ombuds.

Workplace Mediation Service: Do you and others need help identifying the water’s undercurrents? Does the thought of making waves make you feel nervous? Try the Workplace Mediation Service for assistance with improving interpersonal relationships and communication. Like with synchronized swimming, everyone gets in the water at the same time and gets personal attention. Whether you feel most comfortable in the shallow end or the deep end of a conflict, our mediators are there.

Employee Assistance Program: Do you need help gauging the depth of the water? Want to float yet feel scared or uncomfortable without a swim vest or kick board? For individual attention and tools try the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP supports the behavioral health needs of the UMB community. EAP counselors help employees assess the problem and provide short-term counseling as needed.

Office of the Ombuds: Do you need help navigating the water? Want a lead swimmer and don’t know where to find one? Try the Office of the Ombuds for individual assistance and help navigating the system. The ombuds helps employees confidentially examine options for resolving concerns, provides shuttle diplomacy when appropriate, and offers information about University and departmental policies and procedures.

All of these services provide support for UMB employees and:

  • Are open and available during the episodic teleworking period
  • Can help you better understand situations, which improves communication
  • Prioritize your privacy
  • Provide information about other services
  • Can help when you feel stuck or unsure

 So, take a deep breath, think about whether you could use help navigating a situation, and call one us.

Workplace Mediation Service: 410-706-4270

Employee Assistance Program: 410-706-2606

Office of the Ombuds: 410-706-8534

 

Workplace Mediation Service:

Aisha Samples, MS
410-706-4270
mediation@umaryland.edu

The Workplace Mediation Service is part of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (C-DRUM).

lots of food ingredients on a tableTip: Cooking and Conflict Management

By now many of us have started to get adjusted (or resigned) to our current work and life situation. Being around the same people all the time, in a confined place, or separated from loved ones, during a stressful time is the ultimate recipe for conflict. People are coping in many ways, one of which is cooking.

Cooking is a wonderful way to pass the time, manage stress, learn math and chemistry, and feed others. This month's Communication Tip is a recipe for Conflict Management Cake using staple “pantry” ingredients. Try our conflict management recipe and let us try yours. Create your own recipe and send it to us at mediation@umaryland.edu. We will post a sample of the recipes on our website so UMB employees can experiment with the recipes at home and work. No prior baking experience required!

 

Toby’s Conflict Management Cake Recipe


 

Ingredients

· 4 cups Patience                 

· 3 T Forgiveness (add more to desired taste)

· 3 cups Listening  

· 2 tsp Accommodating
· 3 cups Self-awareness · 2 tsp Collaborating
· 4 cups Compassion · Dash Apology
· 1 cup Humor    


Directions 

Preheat oven.

Step 1: In one large bowl combine patience, listening, and self-awareness. Stir until evenly combined.

Step 2: In a second bowl whisk together compassion, humor, and forgiveness. The ingredients should be just combined and not overworked.

Step 3: Fold the ingredients from the second bowl into the first until they reach an even consistency.

Step 4: Add accommodating, collaborating, and apology. Stir until combined. Walk away and let the ingredients sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Pour combined mix into a round cake pan and bake for, you guessed it, 19 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool and enjoy!

 

We would like to try your conflict management recipes. Send your recipes to mediation@umaryland.edu by May 7, 2020. We will post a sample of them on our website for others to try.

Finally, remember the Workplace Mediation Service is available to provide remote mediation services. If you have a workplace conflict please contact us to learn more about mediation.

 

Workplace Mediation Service:

Aisha Samples, MS
410-706-4270
mediation@umaryland.edu

The Workplace Mediation Service is part of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (C-DRUM).

Tip: Look, Listen and Connect your way to Conflict Prevention

Disagreements are a normal part of life, but few of us take pleasure in them. Most of us reflexively minimize or ignore a problem at first—yet that strategy of delay and denial often means disagreements grow from molehills into mountains. Instead, let’s take Ben Franklin’s approach, recognizing that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. What can we do to prevent our molehill disagreements from rising to mountains of disputes?  Take more time to Look, Listen and Connect.

Look  Car accidents and earthquakes aside, few problems truly come out of nowhere, and if we’re honest we can usually identify when misunderstandings first emerge. If you feel yourself stewing about a colleague after a frustrating meeting or pounding the keys to respond to a blame-shifting email, take a pause and take another look. Is there an underlying issue that’s going unaddressed? A leadership style that promotes dysfunction? A work schedule causing stress-filled responses? Look also means holding up a mirror to yourself.  What role are you playing in maintaining a conflict—whether it’s gossip by the elevator or quietly delaying on a project?

Consider:

  • offering an acknowledgement of another’s hard work,
  • inviting others to help identify the problem, or
  • apologizing if you haven’t been your best self.

Listen  Listening may be our greatest communication tool, but research shows we don’t do it very well. We don’t pay attention and we don’t retain what we hear. Too often we follow Fran Lebowitz’s dictum: “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”  If we jump to conclusions after the first sentence or just wait to defend our settled views, we aren’t listening effectively. Staying present in a conversation demands attention to the verbal and non-verbal expressions of the speaker, gauging the important ideas expressed, and clarifying our understanding before responding with our own ideas. Consider listening as if a good friend was telling you some bad news or you are trying to understand the words to a new song.  

Connect  21st century technology creates enormous efficiencies in communication and office management, yet the digital world feels a pale substitute for true human connection. Does this matter in our workplace? You bet it does. Social connection affects workplace collaboration, team cohesion, and personal happiness. According to Ariana Huffington, “One of the biggest consequences of all of this technology entering the workplace will be the premium placed on essential human qualities, like creativity, decision-making, empathy, and collaboration.” We may not gather at the water-cooler anymore, but we can take the time to greet our co-workers by name, engage in workplace social opportunities, and try a little small talk—digital or face-to-face--before the meeting starts.

 

Despite our best efforts, molehills sometimes do grow into mountains, and we may feel ill-equipped to resolve our workplace conflicts. UMB has a number of options, including the Workplace Mediation Service, to assist employees in addressing their concerns. Difficult conversations may benefit from the assistance of a trained, neutral mediator. Mediation is free, available and private.


Workplace Mediation Service:

Aisha Samples, MS
410-706-4270
mediation@umaryland.edu

The Workplace Mediation Service is part of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (C-DRUM).

Tip: Pathway to Navigating Difficult Situations

Have you thought about the feelings that activate your inner tiger (fight) or turtle (freeze)? Despite our best efforts, a difficult situation at work can get the best of us. We may react impulsively and later regret our actions.

By understanding the connection between our feelings and reactions, we can improve how we communicate in difficult situations. In fact, the body and brain give us hints about our feelings and our emotions play a major role in how we react.

Paying attention to the hints can help us navigate difficult situations better. Have you ever been in a tense situation and started sweating unexpectedly, noticed your heart rate increase, or begin fidgeting? If so, what were you feeling at the time? disrespected, overwhelmed, blindsided, embarrassed, or fearful. For more words that might describe your feelings, check out the Feeling Wheel:  https://www.ahaparenting.com/FeelingsWheel.

When you are ready to improve how you communicate in difficult situations, here are some things to consider:

  1. Start by recalling a few situations that didn’t go as you had planned. Pull from a mixture of professional and personal situations.
  2. Ask yourself, what was I thinking at the time? What was I feeling at the time?
  3. Next consider How did your body and brain respond? What hints did your body or brain give you?
  4. Explore the outcomes of the situations. Do you notice any patterns or similarities?

Once we have awareness of the connection between our feelings and actions we can begin to navigate situations differently. Ready for change? Use the resources below for more information about building your awareness and next steps.

 

Sometimes conflict arises in the workplace despite our hard work and best efforts, and we could use assistance. Consider the UMB Workplace Mediation Service as a free, voluntary and confidential resource.

Workplace Mediation Service:

Aisha Samples, MS
410-706-4270
mediation@umaryland.edu

The Workplace Mediation Service is part of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (C-DRUM).

Resources for Navigating Difficult Situations

Resources for Navigating Difficult Situations

Options for next steps in the list of “Ways to manage your emotions at work”

Emotions at Work published by Ceridian Corporation

More information about building your awareness

3 Ways to Better Understand Your Emotions by Susan David

How to Handle Emotions at Work By American Management Association Staff

How to Deal with Negative Emotions at Work BY Tchiki Davis

Need help communicating better in difficult situations?  The Center for Dispute Resolution offers communication skills trainings.

 

Tip: 3 Reasons to Communicate Your Appreciation at Work

Did you tell the cook how much you loved the Thanksgiving sweet potato pie? At work do you compliment your coworkers on a job well done? Try Positive Praise in the workplace, and the dinner table. Here are three reasons to share Positive Praise on the job:

Short-term Benefits: Positive Praise benefits the giver and receiver  It feels good to receive and give Positive Praise, positive feedback, and appreciation. Employees who receive Positive Praise are recognized and feel valued. Offering Positive Praise can boost your mood.

Long-term Benefit: Excellence in the workplace  UMB’s Excellence Core Value highlights that “Offering and receiving coaching and feedback are important parts of practicing excellence.” Coworkers, supervisors, and teammates are important sources of feedback. Positive feedback to a coworker or direct report reinforces professionalism, encourages repeat performances, and bolsters departmental excellence. 

Improved Workplace Communication  Staying silent breeds confusion. When we express our appreciation, we send a clear message. What comes from a clear message? Understanding. Sending clear messages is one way to improve communication in the workplace.

If you see something positive, say something positive.

Positive Praise can be effective in building a collegial workplace and promoting effective communication. Sometimes conflict arises in the workplace despite our hard work and best efforts, and we could use assistance. Consider the UMB Workplace Mediation Service as a free, voluntary and confidential resource.

Workplace Mediation Service:

Aisha Samples, MS
410-706-4270
mediation@umaryland.edu 

The Workplace Mediation Service is part of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (C-DRUM).

Resources for Positive Praise

How to share Positive Praise

  • Be specific about what you are praising
  • Say it out loud
  • Say it in person, when possible
  • Say it as soon as possible
  • Spread the word- share the praise with others

Starter phrases for Positive Praise:

28 Phrases the Most Likable Employees Use at Work by Marcel Schwantes

More reading:

Benefits Of A Year-Round Attitude Of Gratitude In The Workplace by Naz Beheshti

How Gratitude Can Transform Your Workplace by Kira M. Newman

Need help communicating your appreciation?  The Center for Dispute Resolution offers communication skills trainings.