Wednesday, October 28, 2015

UFO Method to Eliminate Arguing

We all argue. Well, for sure we all disagree. Arguing is an option. We can peacefully debate opposite sides of a topic and without having it escalate to anger, shouting, name-calling, and hurt feelings. Yet oftentimes it does. When people do not feel as though they are being heard or understood they become upset. They are concerned that what matters to them will be overlooked and their needs will not be considered.  So they increase the volume or use stronger words or statements in an attempt to get their point across. The other party feels as though they are losing control and seeks to regain the upper hand and thus begins the argument. One or both parties make three key mistakes: 1) They view their disagreement as a win/lose situation and therefore fight to achieve victory; 2) Assume that a disagreement involves one side being right and therefore the other wrong. Each will fight to maintain that their position is the more valid one.  3) In not feeling heard, the individual feels disrespected and devalued. Being acknowledged is one of the fundamental needs of all human beings and allows one to feel a certain amount of safety and trust within the relationship. 

Three key mistakes, three simple tips that can eliminate the need to argue forever.  U~F~O: Understanding; Firm and Fair; Optimum Outcome.

1. Understanding: it is critical to listen to understand the other person's position, needs, beliefs, and feelings. Too often, we listen with the intent of responding which indicates that our reply holds greater importance than what the other person is sharing with us. This creates feelings of being minimized and devalued. Those who do not feel important do not feel safe and will fight harder to protect their rights.
2. Firm and Fair: ask yourself, "Is what I'm seeking to attain from this discussion fair and reasonable at this time, under these conditions, with all parties concerned?" Being fair to all those involved shows respect and integrity and pays huge dividends. It's also critical to be firm in the way in which you are being treated and in what you are seeking. Let the other party know how you want to be treated, and what issues you are willing to compromise on as well as which ones are non-negotiable.  Keep in mind, that as time progresses, circumstances often change and these issues may need to be readdressed.
3. Optimum Outcome: seek to find the solution that will best serve all parties. This can only be accomplished when both sides understand and value each person's unique perspective and needs. Each individual must have some of their needs met on some level in order to feel satisfied so a compromise is generally the best path to take. Chose the solution that has the most value for all parties and causes the least amount of hardship or harm to all those concerned. 

Eliminating arguments requires a few simple precautions coupled with some straightforward strategies. Do not invite your ego to the discussion as it is more concerned with the self than doing what is right and best for all parties. Approach the discussion from a place of caring and generosity. Always consider the other person's feelings and needs equally as valid as yours. Concern goes a long way.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

2 Timothy 2:23-24 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone...

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How To Communicate Rationally When You're Angry

Communication is difficult for most of us. It is one of the most necessary interpersonal skills we need yet few have ever been formally trained in. For most, it's a learn-as-you-go process. What makes effective communicating so challenging is that we all converse on different levels and employ varying styles. To know each person's preferences and make the necessary adjustments to accommodate their needs takes a special proficiency, one that few are interested in developing or are ill-equipped to implement. Even under the most comfortable conditions we can find ourselves becoming irritated. Add to that the element of anger and frustration and the process becomes exasperating. Is it possible to communicate rationally when one or both parties are angry? Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

1. Remember that communication is a process of sharing thoughts, feelings, and ideas in an effort to better understand the issue at hand as well as the other person. It's not about arguing or fighting.
2. Listen not only with your ears but with your heart as well. Listen with the intent to understand rather than formulating your response. Remind yourself that the other person's position, feelings, and needs are as valid to them as yours are to you. Be compassionate and empathetic.
3. Say what you have to say in the most respectful way possible. There are multiple ways to express the same thoughts. Choose the one that will garner the most benefits rather than hurt or offend the other person. Psalms 141:3: “Help me to guard my words whenever I say something.”
4. While it is important to be truthful, remember that most truth is actually perception or opinion. Be flexible and open-minded to hearing an opposing position.
5. Learn to speak without offending, listen without defending. James 1:19: “You should be quick to listen and slow to speak or get angry.” Listening open-mindedly is an art that enables us to learn about ourselves.
6. Avoid accusations and assumptions. Deal with facts only.
7. If you or the other party find yourself becoming agitated, stop and take a break. Practice the SWaT Strategy.* Keep the conversation brief to avoid unnecessary stress or gaffes.
8. Refrain from using the terms right or wrong. Unless the issue is a moral one, most differences are simply that - differences. Right and wrong are not relevant and to engage in a competition of this nature is ego-based and counter-productive.

It's best to communicate when both parties are calm, open-minded, and rational. However, if anger begins to surface, one can still move forward effectively if they choose to practice the above mentioned techniques.  But be forewarned: anything said or done in anger can be extremely damaging and cannot be undone. Therefore, proceed cautiously, taking great care to preserve the integrity of both parties and maintain a mutually respectful relationship. 

Lord, let every word I speak be tempered with kindness.  

*Stop, Walk, and Talk, from The Secret Side of Anger by Janet Pfeiffer
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The "Need" For Anger

 I'd be hard-pressed to find someone who never got angry. Even Jesus expressed anger while here in the physical world. Not all anger is obvious nor acknowledged. Passive/aggressive anger, for instance, can go undetected by those experiencing or receiving it. Sarcasm, sabotage, ignoring someone, so-called constructive criticism are all forms of covert anger. 

Some view anger as powerful; others  consider it evil or wrong. But like all emotions, anger is very important and necessary.  Feelings are nothing more than messengers: they let us know how we perceive external situations, the value we place on them, and their importance in our lives. They reveal issues, beliefs, and truths  within us that we may or may not be aware of. They are in essence our most valuable teachers.

For instance: If a coworker comments that I look as though I've gained weight and I become offended, that could be an indication that I am sensitive about my body image or worried about my health. If on the other hand, I respond good naturedly with, "Yeah, I had a feast on our cruise! Time to hit the gym!" it's clear that I am comfortable with who I am. Either way, I've learned how I feel about myself in relation to weight and body image.

Anger, in its simplest form, is a sign that there are unmet needs. And defining our needs is critical, for if I don't know what I am seeking how can I acquire it? I get cranky (not nasty) when I'm tired which suggests that I need sleep. As long as that is available to me I'm fine. But if I'm deprived I run the risk of being snarky with whoever is closest to me.

There is a significant difference between what I need and what I want. The number of wants far outweigh needs, of which there are only a few basic ones. Needs are absolutely essential for  our well-being and survival. I need fresh drinking water, clean air to breathe, healthy food, protection of harm; I need love and human contact. Everything else is pretty much a desire rather than an essential. A woman who attended a workshop of mine years ago stated that she was angry because she needed a new Mercedes but couldn't afford it. I reminded her that what she really needed was a safe and reliable method of transportation and other vehicles were capable of providing that. What she preferred was a car that was out of her price range. This distinction helped her to decrease her anger and replace it with gratitude that she could easily purchase an adequate car.

Here's are some key questions to consider when anger arises:
First: what is it that I need? 
Second: are my needs fair and realistic, at this time, in the way I desire, under my present circumstances, with all those involved? 
Third: if they are, what steps must I take to secure my necessities? 
Fourth: if they are unrealistic, how can I readjust my thinking to be comfortable with my current circumstances?

Like all emotions, we need anger. It reveals what matters to us and to what extent; it alerts us to the fact that, by our standards, something is wrong. Its purpose is to motivate us to bring about positive change. People who are outraged over the despicable treatment of our veterans view public policy and programs as seriously insufficient and offensive to those who have given so much to our country. If we felt complacent we would do nothing to improve upon the situation. "That which you accept you will never change." But those who feel enraged are more likely to take action, guaranteeing our service men and women receive their rightful care and services. 

Anger is meant to motivate us to make positive changes in our lives. It's never intended to hurt any living creature or damage property. It is a powerful emotion that propels us into action: the more passionate we are about an issue the more enraged we become and the more energy we direct towards correcting an injustice.  

One need not fear anger, deny it or judge those who experience it. When it arrives in the inbox of your mind, open it, read it, and decipher its message. Then determine where it belongs: do you label it with a red flag for priority and address it, or classify it spam and delete it? Put everything into perspective and handle accordingly. Anger really is your ally. 

Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

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