About Me

Meredith Richardson, Esq., is a conflict management specialist.  She works as a Mediator, Facilitator, Trainer, and Conflict Coach 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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Friday
Apr292016

How Work Conflict Makes You Unwell (And What To Do About It)

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness: 

1. Emotional:  How well you deal with stress

2. Financial:  How satisfied you are with your financial situation

3. Social:  How connected you feel to others and how supported you feel by them

4. Spiritual: Your sense of meaning and purpose in this world

5. Occupational:  The satisfaction and enrichment you receive from work

6. Physical:  Exercise, diet, sleep, and nutrition

7. Intellectual: Creativity and learning

8. Environmental: Being in environments that nurture and support you

If you were to rate each of them on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, what would you rate them?

When you are in conflict at work, 3 of your wellness dimensions are under attack:  occupational, emotional, and social.  You may find that you just don't enjoy your work anymore.  You may find yourself having to spend extra time and energy coping with the stress, both in healthy and unhealthy ways.  You may feel your sense of connection with your co-workers has evaporated.  With 3 dimensions impacted, your intellectual abilities may also be stymied at work, meaning a 4th dimension is also adversely impacted.  This may be the point where you want to run away, the critical mass breaking point.

What can you do?

1. You can look to address the conflict directly on your own.

2. If that is impossible, you can look to address the conflict directly with some help.  You could ask a supervisor for assistance.  You could ask an outside professional, such as myself for assistance.

3. You can look for another job.  If that would impact your financial wellness, you can try to hold out at your current job until you find the next one.

4. You can look to beef up other areas of your wellness dimensions to help you through the rough patch. 

Maybe you start going to church or temple or mosque or synogogue or any other place in which people gather in worship, increasing your spirituality demension, looking for people with whom to increase your social dimension, and perhaps increasing your emotional dimension in terms of developing additional skills and strategies to cope with stress. 

Maybe you start a book group or take a class, increasing your intellectual dimension and perhaps meeting new people to increase your social dimension.  

Maybe you take up gardening, increasing your environmental dimension and your physical dimension.

Maybe you nest at home, creating a living space that boosts your environmental dimension with a pleasant, stimulating environment that supports your well-being.

Maybe you take up yoga, meditation or mindfulness to boost the emotional dimension.

Maybe you join the gym to boost the physical dimension and decrease stress, boosting the emotional dimension.

Maybe you spend more time with friends and/or family, nurturing the social dimension.

6. You can stay exactly where you are in misery. 

When you do this, you may find yourself doing things for short-term pleasure that may cause long-term harm to yourself.  You may eat more, smoke more, drink more, complain more.  You may have chronic headaches, stomache aches and/or back aches.  (There's a reason we call a difficult person a "pain in the neck" (or other areas).

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting different results each time.

What is one thing that you can do today to take care of yourself in a compassionate, caring manner? 

What is one thing that you can do today to boost one dimension of wellness for yourself?

Thursday
Apr212016

Increasing Honesty In Relationships At Home and Work

In his book, “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty,” Dan Ariely posits that we all are a bit dishonest, and the extent to which we are dishonest in any situation or across the spectrum depends upon our tolerance for dishonesty -- how dishonest can we be and still view ourselves as good people?

On one end of the spectrum, you have the sociopaths.  Lacking empathy, they can justify a good amount of lying and deception to achieve their goals.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the saints, those who would almost never tell a lie.

In between, you have the majority of the population, and even that is a wide spectrum.

Ariely lists 8 factors which increase a tendency toward dishonesty:

  1. Ability to rationalize.  If you can rationalize why you can do it and still be a good person, then it is much easier for you to do it.
  2. Conflicts of interest.  If it would be in your best interest to have something, but you could not come by it honestly, or at least not as quickly or easily honestly, then you might go for what is in your best interest anyway.
  3. Creativity.  If you are creative, you are better able to rationalize, so you can better find ways to have your cake and eat it, too.
  4. One immoral act.  It’s a slippery slope.  If I’ve already done this, then I’m already dishonest, and so it’s easier for me to be dishonest about the next thing, too.
  5. Being depleted.  If you are tired, you are less able to refuse yourself what you want.
  6. Others benefiting from our dishonesty.  Yes, the dress really does look beautiful on you.
  7. Watching others behave dishonestly.  If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I do it, too?  You’ve been desensitized to dishonesty.
  8. Being in a culture that gives examples of dishonesty.  Again, if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I do it, too?  Plus, in this situation, it’s socially acceptable to do so.

To his list, I would add that your earlier life experiences may play a part.  As a child, was it safer to lie or safer to tell the truth in your household?  If it was safer to lie, then you would likely find it easier to rationalize being dishonest, you would have grown up in a culture that gave examples of dishonesty (even if you no longer lived in one), and you would likely have watched others behaving dishonestly.

I would also add “poor impulse control” to the list.  It’s similar to being depleted, but the impairment is there continuously.  It makes it that much harder to tell the truth when faced with a conflict of interest.

Ariely provides 4 factors which decrease dishonesty:

  1. Pledge.  If you vow to do something, at least in the short-term after you have made your vow, you are more likely to do so.  That explains swearing an oath to tell the truth before you take the stand as a witness at trial.
  2. Signatures.  If before completing a form, you sign an agreement that you will complete it honestly, you are more likely to answer honestly.
  3. Moral reminders.  Any little reminder as to morality can help you to be honest.
  4. Supervision.  If someone is watching, you are more likely to be honest.

How can we apply this knowledge at home and at work?

Changes at Home

If you are concerned that your spouse is being dishonest with you, look at the factors which increase a tendency toward dishonesty.  How many of them apply?  What could you do to alter any of those factors?

For example, maybe you have a difficult conversation on her day off when she isn’t depleted so that she has the resources available to be truthful.

Maybe you change your TV patterns.  Are there any shows that you watch together that normalize dishonesty?  There’s probably a reason why my husband hates me watching, “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce.”  The name alone is enough to make him shudder.

What could you do to decrease dishonesty in the relationship?

Pledge to tell the truth at the beginning of a difficult conversation.

Add a little moral reminder in the rooms you use most.  Put your wedding picture up on display.  Put up a quote from your favorite spiritual source or a picture of something spiritually significant to you -- a church, temple, synagogue, mosque, etc., or something else entirely.

Changes at Work

If you are concerned about dishonesty in the workplace, again, look at the factors which increase a tendency toward dishonesty.  How many of them apply?  What could you do to alter any of those factors?

Supervision is key if you are concerned about dishonesty in the workplace.  Supervision give you a better understanding of which factors are contributing most to dishonesty within the workplace, while also providing its own deterrent to dishonesty in the workplace.

If you have people pledge to do something, make sure they renew that pledge regularly.  You can’t just pledge once and be done with it.  Pledge often until the behavior becomes a new habit.

Wednesday
Jan272016

The Worst Valentine's Day Ever

When you're young, the worst Valentine's Day ever may be the day at school when everyone got a flower or a card except for you.  That's pretty bad.

When you get a little older, your worst Valentine's Day ever may be caused by someone breaking up with you right before or even on Valentine's Day. That's an awful experience.

When you get older still, the court system (at least those in NH and Maine, where I practice) can help you to have the worst Valentine's Day ever.  Your divorce may be scheduled for Valentine's Day.

Every year, I am amazed to find family divisions of the courts open for business on Valentine's Day.  Who wants to be in court with an ex- or a soon-to-be ex- on Valentine's Day?  No one.  Who wants to have every Valentine's Day be the anniversary of their divorce?  Only those who 1. are lousy at remembering dates; 2. hate Valentine's Day anyway; or 3. appreciate the irony and can laugh about it.  For the rest of the population, Valentine's Day seems to be tailor-made for an administrative court day, where only emergencies are handled, and the rest of the day the court staff can catch up on paperwork and the judges can catch up on writing orders.

Here's my promise to you.  If you mediate with me privately, away from the court system, I will never make you mediate on Valentine's Day.  Never, ever, ever.  I never want to be a part of your worst Valentine's Day ever.  Do you?

 

Thursday
Jan142016

Did your grandfather ever beat someone up?

In my family, my grandfathers sometimes engaged in physical confrontation with others outside of the home.  I know about this because of the stories that were told.

When my maternal grandfather was young and had been married just a few years, he became upset with his supervisor at work, lost his temper, and hit him.  He lost his job for that.  Even worse, because he was unemployed, he was then eligible to be drafted to serve in World War II, leaving a pregnant wife behind.  The moral of the story?  Even if you are really, really angry, and you will get really, really angry at some point, don't hit someone in anger.  It could result in an even worse outcome.

My paternal grandfather owned a grocery store.  One night, he and his daughter (my aunt) were working together.  She was on the register and he was out back.  He heard her scream, "Daddy!" and came running.  A man had my aunt pinned up against some of the shelving.  My grandfather grabbed the man from behind, pulling him away from my aunt, and threw and kicked him to the floor.  When the man would get up, my grandfather would again grab him and throw him to the floor, until, finally, he literally threw him out of the store.  The moral of the story?  Don't anger my grandfather.  Well, that and if someone were to attack, my grandfather was physically capable of keeping us safe and that is part of the job of fathers and grandfathers, to keep their family safe.

My grandmothers each play their own part in these conflict stories.  In the first instance, I know that my grandmother was very angry at my grandfather for the outcome of his punch.  She was left pregnant and alone until he returned from World War II.  Neither of their children was born when this happened, but the story has survived multiple generations, being told first to my mother as a child and then to me as a child.  My grandfather was not the hero in this story.  No one was.

In the second instance, my grandfather was seen as the hero.  I think that you can credit part of that to his rescuing my aunt.  In that, he was a hero.  However, the violence that he used against the other man may have been (and likely was) excessive.  That never comes up in the telling of the story.  It would be impolite (and unheard of in our family) to mention it while the story is being told.  My grandmother (and my grandfather) believed that he was a hero and this is the story that has survived multiple generations, being told first to my father after it happened and then to me as a child. 

Think about the stories that your family hands down from generation to generation about conflict.  What messages have you received without even realizing it?  What messages are you sending to your own children?  Do you want to send these messages or is it time to rewrite some of the stories?

Tuesday
Dec082015

when a former boyfriend gets added to the mix

The other day, I was catching up with an old friend.  She had recently returned from a conference led by her good friend (and former boyfriend) where she had had a really good time.  Her husband had suggested that they move (again) and she was not thrilled with the idea.  She was unhappy at her job as well.

I do a lot of divorce mediation.  I have heard variations of this story a number of times.  I already knew what happened next.  She decided that her former boyfriend was her true love and they should be together and live happily ever after.  Yes, she wanted to quit her job and move, but it was to be with her former boyfriend.  I was just waiting for her to say the words.

I was as wrong as wrong can be.

My friend and her husband are still happily married.  They are in the process of moving and looking for work in the new location.  The visit with the friend/former boyfriend was lovely, but nothing more than that.

We can make up some pretty big stories in our heads based on little concrete information.  Past experiences shape our stories, even past experiences that have nothing to do with the person currently before us.  I wasn't thinking that my friend was divorcing because of her behavior.  She is still on her first marriage.  I was thinking it because in my professional world, people divorce everyday, sometimes for reasons just like these.

We all make up stories in our heads as to how the world works.  Most of the time, we go along with our stories, not even knowing that they are there.  When we get something hugely, horribly wrong, as I did here, we have the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to make changes to our stories.

What stories do you tell yourself?