About Me

Meredith Richardson, Esq., is a conflict management specialist.  She works as a Mediator, Facilitator, Trainer, Conflict Coach, and Collaborative Lawyer in Maine and New Hampshire.  Follow her on facebook as Meredith Mediates: http://www.facebook.com/MeredithMediates.  To receive monthly tips on conflict and upcoming events and retreats, email her at meredithmediates@aol.com.

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Tap Dancing Through Conflict

What do you do when you feel like your personal boundaries are being violated?

It depends.

I was recently caught in this situation.  I had certain needs and expectations and they were repeatedly bumping up against the needs and expectations of another.  I felt like my personal boundaries were being violated.  They weren't being violated a lot each time that they were violated, but they were being violated frequently.  It was making me irritated.

Picture yourself on a bus which is not crowded.  A person comes and stands right beside you, with full body contact.  You move over.  The person moves over to again stand right beside you, full body contact.  You move again.  And the person comes to you again.  That's how it felt on an invisible level.

Had it been someone with whom I am close, like my husband, I would have said something.  Had it been a co-worker with whom I had regular contact, I would have said something.  Where the relationship is important, the need to work together going forward is strong, the benefit would outweigh the cost of the difficult conversation.  It might not even be that difficult a conversation, if we were both able to remember the best in each other throughout and refrain from being triggered.

Had it been someone with whom I have little or no relationship, I probably would have said something.  Again, the benefit would likely outweigh the cost.  If there is no relationship to lose, and the gain is that this person might refrain from this behavior in my presence, that's an OK trade off.

This person, though, was in the tenuous realm of someone I will see from time to time but not frequently.  We don't have to work together on a regular basis.  We don't have to see each other on a regular basis.  However, we do have a tenous relationship.  If I said something, I might jeopardize the relationship for others as well as myself.  If I said something, I might have to spend a lot of time repairing a relationship that wasn't much of a relationship to me at all.  When I did a cost-benefit analysis of having a frank discussion about boundaries with this person, the potential cost outweighed the potential benefit.

And so I tap danced. 

I am a proponent of full, frank discussions to move through conflict.

I am also a proponent of picking your battles.  

When you are feeling triggered by someone, look at the cost and the benefit of having a full, frank discussion about it.  Then choose accordingly.  Sometimes, you'll need to have the discussion.  At other times, you'll need to tap dance.


FREE conflict coaching November 20, 5-7 pm EST

FREE conflict coaching at my office tomorrow, November 20, 5-7 pm. Just in time for Thanksgiving!


5 Proactive Tips to Minimize Holiday Conflict

For many, the scariest holiday isn't Halloween.  It's the one that is spent with the toxic relative(s).

There are many things to love about the holidays:  family time, decorating, shopping, cooking, eating, gift wrapping, etc.

There are also many things to hate about the holidays:  family time, decorating, shopping, cooking, eating, gift wrapping, etc.

While the holidays can be a time of great celebration, they can also be a time of anxiety, stress, and despair.  And conflict.  With all those emotions swirling, there is always the potential for conflict.

Top 5 proactive tips to minimize holiday conflict:

1.       Take time for self-care.  What do you need to feel nurtured, whole, and complete? 

During the holiday season, even if we love the holiday season, we are usually squeezing more into our days than usual.  We can start to feel over-committed and overwhelmed.

Schedule time for self-care.  It can be something small like meditating for 5 minutes when you are feeling overwhelmed.  It can be something big like an hour massage.  Whether it’s getting together with a friend, reading a book, watching a movie, snuggling on the sofa, going dancing, listening to music, or so many other things, just do it and do it 100% guilt-free.

When we are at our worst, our conflict management skills are also at their worst.  Do what you can to be at your best.  You’ll be at your best with conflict as well.

2.       Be strategic in your invitations.  Take a good, hard look at how your holidays have gone over the past couple years.  Is there anything that you can do to improve them?  Do you really have to invite that person that you despise?  If you do, can you put appropriate buffers around that person, around yourself, and/or around others who might be triggered by that person? 

3.       Be strategic in how you plan to attend events.  If you must spend time with someone who is triggering for you, how can you make it as easy on yourself as possible?  Can someone else host the event?  Can you set a time limit on how long you will attend (even taking separate cars from your partner if necessary)?  Can you have a friend on speed dial in case you need support?  Can you coordinate some form of in person support with your partner or another family member?

4.       Focus yourself and the triggering person on the triggering person's positive attributes.  If you must spend time with someone who is triggering for you, focus on that person’s positive attributes.  When we are triggered, we tend to see only the negative in the other person.  Make a list of all of the positive attributes of the other person.  When you are with that person, make it a point to actively seek out positive attributes in that person.  Ask the person questions that are targeted to bring out the attributes you most enjoy.  You will end up with a much more balanced view of that person and are likely to feel less triggered as a result.

5.       Time outs are for grown-ups, too.  If you’re having a tough day, don’t take it out on others.  Give yourself a time out.  If your partner, parent, friend, relative, coworker, etc., is having a tough day and starts to take it out on you, you may not be able to put that person in time out, but you can call a time out for yourself in that situation, too.

I’m offering two FREE group coaching sessions at my office to help you to navigate conflict.  What we will do will depend on the amount of people in attendance, so please RSVP!  You should leave with a better understanding of your needs and expectations in conflict, as well as the needs and expectations of others.

November 20, 2014 5:00 – 7:00 pm, just in time for Thanksgiving. 

December 15, 2014, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, just in time for Hanukkah and Christmas.

RSVP is appreciated but not required.  RSVP for one or both:  mailto:meredithmediates@aol.com



It's the negative judgments that get us into trouble.

It's been a long time since I blogged!

I'm not sure what happened.  I think that between writing a recent article for the NH Bar News, putting the finishing touches on a corporate training, and writing a presentation I'll be giving for NHCRA (the NH Conflict Resolution Assocation) in December, I may have run out of things to write, at least in the moment.

It may also be that I spent a fabulous week on vacation in New Orleans this month, which meant that my vacation provided no inspirational conflict stories.

My apologies.

I could go home and stir the pot with my husband, looking for trouble (and something to write), but I'd rather wait and let that conflict happen organically.

Today, let me just tell you a story.

I was having a conversation with a friend about another person who is an acquaintance.  We started off talking about some behaviors that person exhibits.  Then we started negatively judging those behaviors, that person, and we threw out a couple negative, descriptive adjectives to label them.  At the same time, I was noticing my body's reactions to this.

When we were simply talking about the behaviors, I wasn't feeling triggered in any way.  I was accepting that person as a person doing the best that person can do here on planet earth.

When we started assigning negative labels to the behaviors and to the person, it changed things. I wasn't as able to sit in my happy place, seeing this person as doing the best she can do.  All of a sudden, there was a little voice in my head, saying,"Well, she could do better than that; couldn't she?  I mean, how hard is it?"  

It's the negative judgments that get us into trouble.

We are all here doing the best we can in the moment.  If we had the capacity to do better, we would.

If you can hold that truth in your heart, at the same time that you are looking at the behavior, you will see the behavior differently.  You will see the person differently.  You will be looking with compassion, no matter the circumstance.  You will see the whole person -- the good and the bad and all the bits in between.

You may still come to the same conclusion.  You may still decide that you cannot or can no longer live with that behavior.

In the alternative, you may find that you focus more on the other person's humanity than on that person's flaws.  You may find there is more there that is lovable than you realize.  You may find that you have more patience with and understanding for the other person.

Or not.



Conflict Lessons from a Segway

  1.        Stand up straight.
  2.        Be centered.
  3.        You’ll spend a lot of time on your toes.
  4.        But don’t tense up.
  5.        You can’t move forward if you’re leaning back.
  6.        If you’re passive, you aren’t getting anywhere either.
  7.        Be aware of what is happening around you.
  8.        It’s probably going to hurt, at least a little.
  9.        Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

If you'd like to explore this list in more detail or if you're just looking for an excuse to ride a Segway and a team-building exercise like this seems like the perfect fit, give me a call: 207-439-4267.  Learning about conflict really can be fun, just as riding a Segway really can be educational.