Communication Tips

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.