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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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.



Happier Holidays Using the 5 Love Languages

In his books, Gary Chapman introduces us to 5 Love Languages: 

1. Words of Affirmation

2. Quality Time

3. Receiving Gifts

4. Acts of Service

5. Physical Touch

The premise is that people speak different languages when it comes to love.  While some receive words of affirmation and feel loved, others need quality time to feel loved.  Similarly, some will provide acts of service to show love, while others will use physical touch to show love. 

Christmas time can be incredibly stressful when it comes to gift giving.  If you know someone's love language(s), you could give the best gift ever.

How do you determine the person's love language? 

1. Look at what the person does to show love.  This may provide insight into the person's love language.

2. Think back on what has made the person happiest.

3. Think about what the person has requested or complained about over time.  You may have negatively characterized it before.  Now, you can simply see it as the person needing to feel loved in that person's language.

Is the person fishing for compliments?  The person has Words of Affirmation as a Love Language.

Does the person complain that you don't spend enough time with him/her.  The person has Quality Time as a Love Language.

Does the person ask for your stuff or ask you to buy stuff for him/her?  The person has Receiving Gifts as a Love Language.

Does the person have a "Honey Do" list for you?  The person has Acts of Service as a Love Language.

Does the person need to be physically close to you and feel disconnected from you without physical touch?  The person has Physical Touch as a Love Language.

When you show love to someone and you don't do it in that person's language, the person receiving the love may not understand it for what it is - love.  The person may not appreciate it, even though you have gone to great trouble to make it happen. 

If a person needs Quality Time and you spend extra hours at work to buy that person a great piece of jewelry, you may feel that you have done all that work for nothing.  You may have even made things worse - taking away Quality Time that the person needs in order to give a different type of gift. 

If a person needs Quality Time and you take the day off from work to spend with that person, you may have given that person the best gift ever.

Similarly, if someone receives love through Receiving Gifts, you better choose a great gift.  Words of Affirmation or Physical Touch will get you nowhere.

This holiday season, before you go shopping, spend a little extra time figuring out the Love Languages of your loved ones.  Then, give the gift of love in the language of the person receiving the gift.  You may be amazed at the results.


my least favorite part of conflict

My least favorite part of conflict is not the conflict itself, nor is it any argument that may result.  It's the aftermath.  It could be that the conflict remains unresolved.  It could be that things were said that deeply hurt one or both people, and that hurt feelings have been lingering for quite some time and only recently voiced.  

Whatever it is, in these situations, the conflict has not come and gone like a quick rainshower.  It was more like a hurricane, and there was damage left in its wake. 

Now, it's time to figure out how to move forward.  

It's time to figure out whether and how much to trust the other person again.  

If you do choose to maintain the relationship, then each must set about repairing the relationship so that each person involved feels able to trust again.  

And in the meantime, while you are in the midst of repairs, there is that ache of missing someone, of missing the closeness in a relationship.  

That's my least favorite part of conflict.  That ache.


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!