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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Shift Your Point of View

Kym Dakin has a new game out for groups looking to process a difficult issue.  It's called Shift P.O.V. and it's available for sale here.

Shift P.O.V. is a nice reminder that there are 3 types of people when it comes to change:  1. Activators, 2. On the Fence, and 3. Skeptics.  Often, we can forget that there is any "normal" type other than the one that resonates with us.

I am an Activator.  I love change.  I even love change for the sake of change.

My husband is a Skeptic.  He hates change.  He is a creature of habit and he loves his routines.

We're both too opinionated to be On the Fence too long about anything.

When it comes to change, we can drive each other crazy.  I want to jump right in and he wants to just stay put.

When we're at our best, when we are respectfully speaking to each other about a potential change, recognizing that we each come from very different perspectives on the issue, we can have amazing, rich conversations.  He is able to see complications that I would either 1. never see or 2. happily ignore or 3. have already developed a work-around for and we can discuss how best to handle those complications.  I am able to see opportunities that he would either 1. never see or 2. happily ignore or 3. have already decided aren't worth the risk involved in the change and we can discuss those opportunities in greater detail.

When we are not at our best, Shift P.O.V. has tools that could serve as a gentle reminder on how to get back there.  There are Random Factor cards that require you to physically move (which can help with processing and also with relieving tension).  There are Random Factor cards that ask you questions designed to engage your human brain (as opposed to the reptilian brain that is in control when we are triggered).  And there are Random Factor cards that help you to intellectually process what is happening (again, engaging your human brain as opposed to your reptilian brain).

Shift P.O.V. requires you to take on another person's point of view and discuss the issue from that angle. Although it's designed for use with a facilitator in a work setting, it could be used in a work setting without an outside facilitator with some work-arounds.  It also could be used by a couple or a family to have a difficult conversation, though it would take more tweaking.

I invite you to take a look today.


how changing your habits can cause conflict with others

I was a recent guest on Beth Myers' new radio show, Conflict, broadcasting each week out of Portland, Maine.  We talked about how any change that you make in your life may cause conflict with those around you when you disrupt their patterns of behavior.  While you can mitigate this to some extent by having conversations before and during the change process, if you are in a relationship with a person who does not like change and/or who looks to control others, this can lead to significant conflict.  You can listen to the show here.


conflict on the radio January 15, 2015, at 1:00 pm

Join Beth Myers and me on WMPG radio on Thursday, January 15, at 1:00 pm as we discuss how conflict can interfere with New Year's resolutions.  WMPG broadcasts live out of Portland and Gorham, Maine, on 90.9 and 104.1.  You can live stream here.


Is Conflict Causing You to Rethink Your New Year's Resolution?

It’s January, the time when New Year’s Resolutions are made … and broken.

Even with our best intentions, with our best efforts, we break New Year’s Resolutions.

We can create a new habit for ourselves (and only ourselves) in 21 days.  Given 21 days in a stress-free environment, supportive of and conducive to creating lasting change, most of us could create new habits.  However, those habits would be put to the test as soon as we were back in our old environment with the people, places and things that trigger our old, bad habits.

In a recent article, NPR indicated that 20% of Vietnam veterans self-identified as addicted to heroin when they were in Vietnam.  They went through a detox and recovery program in Vietnam and returned to the United States.  A year after they returned to the United States, only 5% of them reported having relapsed.

This is an incredibly low relapse rate.  And it points to how much our environment plays a part in creating and sustaining our habits. 

Our environment is filled with people, places, and things that trigger our habits.

When we are inspired to change how we interact with others in our current environment, sometimes in our optimism, we forget that we are not dealing with only our habits.  We are dealing with the habits of everyone with whom we come into contact.

Let’s suppose that you have a habit of taking care of others’ needs before your own.  You resolve that this year, you will look out for your needs.  You will make your needs just as important as everyone else’s.  You will learn to say, “No.”  You will advocate for yourself.

You mark the new year, the new you, by asking your husband to walk the dog, since you always walk the dog and it’s actually your husband’s dog. 

Your husband doesn’t want to walk the dog.  That’s why you walk the dog.  He has never had to walk the dog.  He doesn’t like to walk the dog.  For years, you have walked the dog.  His expectation is that you will forever walk the dog.

Even the dog expects you to walk the dog.  The dog is looking at you expectantly, waiting for you to grab the leash and go.

You stand firm.  You are asserting your needs now.  He should walk the dog.  Why can’t he do just this one thing?

He doesn’t know where this is coming from.  He hasn’t made walking the dog one of his New Year’s resolutions. He hasn’t made greater receptivity to your needs one of his New Year’s Resolutions.

You try to explain to him that your needs are just as important as his needs. You are uncomfortable having this discussion. It’s so far out of your comfort zone to advocate for yourself like this.  It would be so much easier to just take care of the dog’s needs and his needs, as you have been.

He hears this as an attack on him.  It triggers a defensive stance from him.

And the fight is on.

Maybe he resists walking the dog the first day and you decide to assert your needs in other ways, but not with respect to dog walking because it’s just too much effort.

Maybe he agrees to walk the dog that day, but you have to have the same conversation the next day and the next and the one after that until he takes ownership of walking the dog.  It feels like a lifetime of agony.

There are an unlimited number of possibilities.  There is, however, one outcome that is highly unlikely – you assert your new need/expectation and he immediately jumps to meet it.  It’s not the pattern of your relationship to this point.  The pattern is that you walk the dog.

If you made a New Year’s Resolution to change some form of how you interact in the world (and, so, basically, if you made any New Year’s Resolution at all), it is highly likely that you will be dealing not only with how you process change, but also how those around you process change.  You will not be the only one out of your comfort zone.  Those around you will be knocked off balance as well.

You will be dealing with how people process this particular change and also how people process any change in their environment.  There will be some early adopters who will provide support and encouragement and want to change with you.  There will be some who hate change in general and/or hate this change in particular and who will remain entrenched.  And there will be those in the middle who will process change gradually.

I am not saying this to overwhelm you or to convince you that it is better to just stick with your current habits.

I am saying that if on a day in January, it felt like too much work to shift your pattern of behavior and you decided to take a day off, it’s OK.

I am saying that if on a day in January, you had a setback in terms of changing your behavior, it’s OK.

I am saying that if on a day in January, you received some unexpected backlash as a result of a change in your behavior, it’s OK.

All of that is to be expected.  It’s normal.  And it’s OK.

You can still make a change for the better for yourself.  There are 365 days in the year.  You can try again tomorrow.

P.S.  My husband has asked me to make it clear that this is a fictitious story, not inspired by any recent behavior on his part or mine.  He and I share the dog walking responsibilities.  We also each do dishes and laundry and preparation of meals.


What an 8-year-old Taught Me About Life

Last weekend, I was cajoled into playing the game of Life with two nephews.

I don't like playing board games.  I want to be someone who likes them, but I don't like them.

So, it took a lot of effort on their part to get me to play.  There were multiple asks and refusals before the answer turned to yes.  Was I rewarding bad behavior?  Probably.  I only see them once every couple of years, and I'm the aunt, not the parent, so cajoling is more effective from them than from others.

As we played, the competitive energy around the game rose in all of us.  I was the first offender.

When my sister said something I didn't like, I told my sister that if there weren't two little boys there, I had a rude gesture that I would use on her.

The boys promptly informed us that they knew the rude gesture of which I spoke.  The 12-year-old appeared to know it.  The 8-year-old may have just said he did so as not to be left out.

As the game progressed, the boys began to get physical with each other.  Not really physical.  Just a little physical.  Just enough to release some of that pent up, competitive energy.

When told to stop, the 8-year old said, "Playing games brings out the worst in us."

I started to laugh.

He said, "It does it to all of us.  You, too."  And then he mimicked me, "If there weren't two little boys here, I have a rude gesture I would make."  And again he said it, with head swivels for embellishment, a big grin on his face.

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

His statement, "Playing games brings out the worst in us," was an aha moment for me.

Playing board games like Life does bring out the worst in me.  I don't like sitting in competition with some, but limited, control over the outcome.  It brings up an ugly side of myself that I don't like to see.  And it brings up yucky feelings that I have no way to release.

"Playing games brings out the worst in us," normalized these feelings for me.  I am not the only one who feels a little yucky during the game as the competitive spirit takes over, while, at the same time, there is no clear path to controlling the situation so as to create the best possible outcome for myself.  The need to win can bring out the worst in each of us.

And yet, in our society, we play games like this.  I had to reach out to my friend, Amy McGarry, Esq., to gain some perspective on why we do this to ourselves.  

When we do so, we learn about ourselves and those around us simply by watching how we and others react to a bad spin of the wheel or a good card.  In our good moments, we teach each other how to play fairly, how to win with grace and how to lose with dignity.  In our bad moments, we teach each other how to cheat, how to trash talk, and how to lose badly.  We create artificial conflict and learn how to move safely through it and be close again on the other side.  In all of it, we find that good and bad feelings are mixed together, that a good laugh will dissolve most tension, and that we can get through even the bad times with some good times mixed in.

I think that my nephew and Amy may have found a way to get me to like board games.