Letting go of grudges and resentments—a key to transforming communication

October 2, 2011
Holding grudges is letting someone live rent free in your head.

photo by Kanchana Joseph

Holding grudges is a very human thing to do, but it creates a number of problems for the individuals who hold them and for the people they are in relationship with.

As the quote someone sent me on Facebook states,  “Holding a grudge is letting someone live rent free in your head.”

People often think they should keep holding onto grudges until they get an apology or some other kind of compensation. They think they will lose out if they let go.

But we don’t have the power to make others do what we think they should, so a positive outcome from “nursing” the grudge is unlikely.  If these people need something they can’t get AND can’t let go, they are stuck. And these grudges persist, taking up space in mind and heart that could better be used for love, discovery, growth, and fun.

When held for long periods of time, the grudges tend to expand and people’s lives became smaller and more miserable. They can lose contact with friends and stop activities that previously brought them joy because the resentments block everything. Often they start to have physical symptoms as well.

When clients come to me for help with relationships clogged by resentments, we look  together at this negative impact, and how letting go would benefit them. Then, if they are willing to go further, we begin to look at how they can change.

Here are some actions I’ve found helpful for those ready to take additional positive steps:

1)    Be willing to change behavior and thinking toward that person instead of letting past experiences control present interactions. This takes practice and further awareness.

2)    Examine your contribution to the problematic interactions and change it, regardless of whether the other person is willing to change. It “takes two to tango”, so when one person changes, the dynamic changes, even if the other person is exactly the same.

3)    Ask  what your own needs are and find ways to honor them and get them met. We all deserve to take our true needs seriously.

4)    Since the person you are focused on may be unwilling or unable to meet those needs, explore alternative ways to get the need met.

5)    Let go of expectations of the other, and instead send good thoughts, wishes, or prayers for the other person’s healing and wellbeing, even if you don’t mean it at first.

These simple yet powerful steps are  not always easy to implement, even with support and guidance. However, in my experience the willingness and courage to walk this path leads to a saner, richer, and more satisfying life.

Lorraine Segal and Conflict Remedy, are based in Santa Rosa, California. Lorraine provides one on one communication coaching, training, and mediation by telephone and face to face. She also teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University.

To schedule a free initial telephone session or get more information, you can reach Lorraine at (707) 236-8079, e-mail lorraine@conflictremedy.com  or contact her through this blog.

© Lorraine Segal http://www.ConflictRemedy.com

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“Use Your Words” works for adult and teen conflict, too

September 5, 2011

teen helps others resolve conflictI recently read an article by syndicated columnist and distinguished pediatrician, T.Berry Brazelton titled “Use Your Words,” a now classic phrase that parents and early childhood educators use with 3 and 4 year olds all over the U.S.  As I read the article, I was struck by how practical his conflict resolution process is for adults and teens as well. Here are his steps, with the word “child” omitted:

  1. Stop mid conflict and hold back on action.
  2. Analyze the situation: ”What’s going on? What am I doing or about to do?”
  3. Ask yourself: “What do I want? What am I feeling?”
  4. Express your feelings.
  5. Become calm enough to listen.
  6. Finally, be ready to negotiate and find solutions.

He adds that examples or short lists of possibilities may help coach children younger than three who are still mastering the ability to express themselves with words.

In my experience, it isn’t only young children who struggle to express themselves appropriately. When triggered emotionally, any of us can find it difficult to speak our truth clearly and calmly.

If we had all learned this process thoroughly as toddlers and practiced consistently in our lives since, what wonderful communication experts we’d all be as teens and adults. Some do learn this early on, but it isn’t often reinforced as we get older nor is it part of  the K-12 curriculum kids are tested on.

Teens and adults have some special challenges in following these guidelines that three year olds do not.

  • Teen brains, especially the logic and decision making center, are still developing, so adolescents tend to react from their emotional center( the Amygdala), which makes calm assessment more difficult.
  • Adult brains have well developed habitual pathways for responding to high conflict situations, which we tend to follow unconsciously even if they don’t serve us any longer.

But the good news is that we and our brains always have the ability change, grow, and  create new patterns. Right now is the perfect time to learn to “use your words” effectively.

A communication skills class, or work with a communication coach or counselor can help  almost anyone expand their conflict toolkit and practice navigating difficult interactions with more clarity and gentle strength.

Lorraine Segal and her business Conflict Remedy, are based in Santa Rosa, California. She teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University. She provides conflict coaching and mediation for parents, teens, and others by telephone as well as face to face. Contact her to find out about workshops, small coaching groups or to schedule a free initial telephone session. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  lorraine@conflictremedy.com  or this blog. Next parent–teen communication workshop is Sat. Sept. 17 10AM-1PM at Sonoma County YMCA. Next class at SSU, Communication Skills in Conflict Resolution starts Sat. October 1, 2011 9AM–5PM.  See UpComing page for more information.

© Lorraine Segal http://www.ConflictRemedy.com


The World Cup of Forgiveness

August 14, 2011

Forgiveness and Hope SoloA story in my local newspaper about last month’s women’s soccer world cup offers a beautiful example of letting go, forgiveness, and fresh starts.

Hope Solo, star goalkeeper for the US women’s soccer team, has a half brother she was estranged from.

David had avoided her for the 17 years since he was a teenager, bitter and angry that their father had abandoned him, but stayed for a while with Hope and her mother.

But then he saw interviews she gave in the lead-up to the 2011 soccer world cup and was touched by similarities between them. He broke his long silence and sent her a text congratulating her and wishing her luck in the championship game, ending by saying, “I will be a better brother.””

Although he wasn’t really expecting a response, she texted him back quickly, saying, “And I will be a better sister. I love you.”

It would have been easy for her to hold on to bitterness about all the years he had cut himself off from her, but she didn’t.

It would have been equally easy for him to stay mired in resentment about his childhood or, overwhelmed by regret about their estrangement, let it continue.

Instead, he found the courage to reach out, and she responded to his overture. They were both willing to forgive and make a fresh start, not letting the past limit the possibility of future closeness.

The new beginning between Hope and her brother David is an inspiring example of what can happen in difficult or broken relationships. With willingness, clarity, and support many people can follow their path and heal ruptured connections .

Some information for this post from   Press Democrat “Hope Solo: ‘I will be a better sister'”–Bob Padecky July 20, 2011 

lorraine segal conflict remedyLorraine Segal and Conflict Remedy, are based in Santa Rosa, California. Lorraine provides communication coaching, training, and mediation by telephone and face to face. She also teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University.

Upcoming Free introductory workshop: The Heart of Communication, a healing journey from strife to harmony.Workshop includes a guided visualization. Two opportunities to take:

  • In Santa Rosa, California on Tuesday August 23rd 2011 at 6-7 PM.
  • Teleseminar  on Thursday September 8th 6-7 PM Pacific, 7-8 C, 8-9 E

Contact Lorraine to register for a free workshop (space limited) and get location information or to schedule a free initial telephone session. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  lorraine@conflictremedy.com  or this blog.

© Lorraine Segal http://www.ConflictRemedy.com

 


The Heart of Communication, moving from strife to harmony

July 17, 2011

How can we open our hearts and minds to clear, transformative communication? How can we move from anger and resentment to compassion? From blocks and misunderstandings to connection and empathy? What are the skills and  awareness we need to walk this path while honoring and expressing our inner truth?

These questions have been central to my own spiritual quest and are always the focus of my work as a communication coach, mediator, and teacher.

There are four steps that represents the essence of this process to me.

  1. Listen deeply–to your own spirit and to the words and meaning of others.

 Listen to your own spirit

We cannot communicate our feelings, wants, desires, frustrations to others unless we know what they are. We have to look within. Why is a comment so upsetting or irritating? Is it triggering a past hurt or our unmet expectations? What are we yearning for?

Listen to the words and feelings of another

Everyone has their own longings, their own history, their own story. Can you detach from your own story and listen to theirs? Understand what they need and want? What their wounds are?

We don’t have to agree with another or see the world as they do to listen compassionately. Having someone truly listen to us is powerful and healing even if (or especially if) they don’t say much, but just show their empathy and attention.

 2. Speak your truth gently 

With more understanding of ourselves and others, we can sort out what is our part and what it is we really need to tell the other person. Then we can express our feelings, positive or negative without attacking or needing to prove we’re right.

3. Embrace imperfection No one and nothing is perfect in this world. We are all perfectly human, which means we make lots of mistakes that we need to forgive ourselves and others for.

4. Let go

It is wonderful to clearly express our feelings and be heard. But, we can’t control the other person, their response, or the world. We have to let go of our expectations and our desire for a certain outcome from our conversation with them. And for our own sanity and well being, we need to let go of bitterness and resentment, which hurts our hearts and energy.

These four action steps are simple, but not easy. Each takes willingness, courage, persistence, patience and practice. It is a cyclical rather than a linear process that can deepen and enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.

Lorraine Segal, heart of communication coach

Lorraine Segal, communication coach, teacher, mediator

Lorraine Segal and Conflict Remedy, are based in Santa Rosa, California. Lorraine provides communication coaching, training, and mediation by telephone and face to face. She also teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University.

Upcoming Free introductory workshop: The Heart of Communication, a healing journey from strife to harmony.Workshop includes a guided visualization. Two opportunities to take:

  • In Santa Rosa, California on Tuesday August 23rd 2011 at 6-7 PM.
  • Teleseminar  on Thursday August 25th 6-7 PM Pacific, 7-8 C, 8-9 E

Contact Lorraine to register for a free workshop (space limited) and get location information or to schedule a free initial telephone session. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  lorraine@conflictremedy.com  or this blog.

© Lorraine Segal http://www.ConflictRemedy.com


The Healing Power of Apologies for Parents and Teens

June 26, 2011

An apology can bring powerful healing to conflicted relationships. I was privileged to witness this recently in a juvenile diversion mediation.

In the mediation for a teen offender and her victims, one thirteen year old girl I’ll call Rebecca took a photo with her cell phone of her friend, another young girl I‘ll call Ashley, semi-undressed in the locker room at their school. Rebecca meant it as a joke, but as frequently happens with teens, had not thought through the possible consequences of her actions. Ashley’s mother and the school principal took the invasion of privacy and possible distribution of the photo very seriously, and Rebecca was arrested.

Rebecca and her parents were all present at the mediation with Ashley and her mother.

As soon as we had gotten through the preliminaries and Ashley’s mother had a chance to speak, she immediately offered a sincere, generous apology to Rebecca’s parents.

She said she had done what she needed to do to protect her daughter, that without knowing the exact nature of the photo or how far it had spread, she had to take action. But, she knew from what her daughter had told her that Rebecca was a good person, and she was very sorry for the extreme consequences and trouble that had followed for Rebecca and her parents.

The energy in the room shifted dramatically. Rebecca’s parents apologized right away in response, saying they had wanted to before the mediation, but weren’t sure they were allowed to approach Ashley’s family.

Rebecca, who obviously felt horrible about what had happened, readily apologized to Ashley, and agreed to write a letter to her as well.

Since everyone involved was willing to accept responsibility for their part and graciously accept the others’ apologies, all we mediators had to do was let positive results of the initial apology unfold and watch the transformation that followed.

Although Ashley’s mother knew she had done the right thing for her daughter,  she also had the integrity and detachment to separate that from the impact on another family. Rebecca’s parents were concerned for their daughter, but  acknowledged that she had done something wrong for which she deserved negative consequences. The two girls now had an opportunity to mend the rift in their previously close friendship.

I am always grateful to witness communication miracles like this, especially as they stand in stark contrast to other mediations where parents and teens  can’t or won’t recognize their part.

When I was first learning how to be a mediator, a wise teacher told me,”Apologies are like gold, to be cherished and applauded.” I once again got to see for myself the clarity and healing a sincere apology can bring to a difficult situation.

Lorraine Segal, Conflict Coach, Trainer, Mediator

Lorraine Segal and her business Conflict Remedy, are based in Santa Rosa, California. She teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University. She provides conflict coaching and mediation by telephone as well as face to face. Contact her to find out about workshops, small coaching groups or to schedule a free initial telephone session. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  lorraine@conflictremedy.com  or this blog. Next class at SSU, Communicating with Teens  starts July 30, 2011. See classes page for more information.

© Lorraine Segal http://www.ConflictRemedy.com


5 Steps to Effective Meetings

June 12, 2011

happy team after good facilitated meetingMeetings seem to be an inevitable part of life, whether you’re a stay at home mom active in your kid’s PTA, or the team leader of a big corporate project.

Unfortunately, not enough people have learned the process and skills for creating effective, productive meeting. These skills are rarely taught in schools, or in most professional training programs. As a result, all too many meetings are nightmarish time wasters or stressful battlegrounds.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Meetings can be smooth, productive and even fun. Any conflicts can be managed and lead to creative problem solving instead of confrontation and strife.

Here are 5 brief steps for creating an effective meeting.

1. Plan ahead. 

Successful meetings, especially of more than 2 or 3 people, don’t just happen, but require careful planning, no matter how effortless they appear from the outside.  The two most important parts of pre meeting planning are:

Prepare the agenda.

Meetings need realistic, clear agendas. Agenda items may come from the facilitator, past meetings, and/or participants. The purpose of each agenda item needs to be clear, and a realistic time must be set for each item. If there is too much material for one meeting, leaders need to prioritize and postpone some items.The agenda needs to be sent out ahead of time, or at least available on the board or copies at the beginning of the meeting.

Assign the roles. 

Essential roles for successful meetings include at least a facilitator, recorder/reporter and time keeper. It is a good idea to line people up ahead of time for all these functions, not just the facilitator.

2. Establish ground rules–and follow them.

Although the facilitator is running the meeting, all participants as well as leaders need to agree on and follow ground rules or guidelines for the meeting to be successful. For example, important ground rules generally include not interrupting and otherwise speaking and listening respectfully to others, keeping all comments on the topic and time limited (laser sharing), agreeing to hold the welfare of the whole group as top priority, being willing to let go of an individual desired outcome. The entire group may need some training and practice as well as ongoing reminders.

3. Keep the Time.

The facilitator needs to make sure the meeting starts and ends on time. The time keeper helps the meeting process by keeping track of the time for each item.

4. Keep the Focus.

Good meetings stay on topic and on time for each agenda item, although adjustment is possible if the group agrees . The facilitator has the main responsibility for keeping the meeting focused on topic, with participant support (see ground rules).

5. Close with action plan. The recorder/reporter needs to summarize the decisions and actions, including who is responsible for tasks and follow-up for action items.

Two more tips for successful meetings:

Ditch Robert’s rules; choose collaboration & consensus:

Many groups use Robert’s rules of order, because it is the only process they know. But, the collective wisdom of facilitation experts is that consensus and collaboration processes are far more efficient, effective, and satisfying. Skillful facilitation is even more important, however, in collaborative meetings.

Make sure you have a good facilitator.

Facilitation is an art and a skill that can improve with training and practice. Facilitators, like mediators, see ourselves as guardians of the process,  detached from the outcomes. It is impossible to facilitate well and passionately advocate a specific perspective at the same time.

Through preparing carefully, modeling respectful communication, making sure that participation is fair and full, handling transitions smoothly, summarizing and restating the will of the group, and making sure follow up actions are clear, facilitators can greatly improve the functioning & harmony of  meetings and the viability of groups.

Lorraine Segal

Lorraine Segal, Trainer, Coach, Mediator, Facilitator

Lorraine Segal is a conflict coach, trainer, facilitator, and mediator specializing in transforming communication for parents & teens, and others. Her business, Conflict Remedy, is based in Santa Rosa, California. She teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University. She provides conflict coaching and mediation by telephone as well as face to face. Contact her to find out about workshops, small coaching groups or to schedule a free initial telephone session. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  lorraine@conflictremedy.com  or this blog.

Next class at SSU, Communicating with Teens  starts July 30. See classes page for more information.

© Lorraine Segal www.ConflictRemedy.com

Prisoner of a Teen Brain

May 27, 2011

teen prisoner in handcuffsIs it right to lock up teens forever when their brains are still developing?

I read in the newspaper a few days ago that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled to uphold a life sentence without parole to a teen, Omer Ninham, who murdered a 13 year old when he was 14.

In their 5-2 decision they said that the attorney had ”failed to show that children 14 and younger deserve different constitutional status in homicide cases.” The ACLU, International Human Rights groups and the Equal Justice Initiative disagree.

Ninham’s attorney, Byron Stevenson, said,””Children are different than adults. Even when children commit very serious crimes, like the crime in this case, we have to think about their crime differently.”

From my understanding of teens and teen brain development, I absolutely agree.

The Teen Brain is a work in progress.

Scientists using modern non invasive imaging technology now know a lot more about the teen brain. Especially when children first become teenagers, their brains are reorganizing and changing more than they have since they were 18 months old. And their brains are very different from those of adults.

The back of the brain develops first.

Areas at the back of the brain, including the  cerebellum, related to physical activity, and the amygdala, which the center of emotion,  mature before the centers at the front. As a consequence of this incomplete development, teens process emotions and information differently than either children or adults.

Teen emotions overwhelm logic and clear decisions.

Teens primarily use the amygdala and emotion to process information, instead of the prefrontal cortex, center of logic, reasoning, and impulse control, which adults use. And, they misinterpret the reactions and emotions of others. This helps explain their different response to situations as well as their rapid emotional shifts.

Their emotions drive decision making as well. Their ability to make rational decisions and control their impulses doesn’t fully develop until they are about 25. When teens also use drugs or alcohol, as Ninham did, it further “hijacks the brain and it’s development,” according to Dr. Ken Winters, a teen development expert.

Teens can’t explain their bad behavior.

While I haven’t worked with any teens who murdered someone, I have worked as a mediator and communication workshop leader with a number of teens, some girls and many boys, who were in trouble and embroiled with the juvenile justice system. When in victim/offender mediations, I have asked the teen, “Why did you throw that trash can through the classroom window?” Or “Why did you steal those clothes from the store when you had money to purchase them?” Or “Why did you set that car on fire?”, they almost always say, “I don’t know.”

And they truly don’t know, because logic and reasoning had no part in their actions.

A lot of these teens in trouble are clearly good kids who made a big mistake because they lack the adult frontal cortex development to stop in the moment, to control the impulse, to think through consequences.

Teens are shocked by what they did and willing to change.

Teens often feel as bewildered as their parents and other adults at what happened. They are genuinely remorseful, particularly as they begin to understand the impact of their actions on others and on their own future.

In my experience, when they are given the opportunity to make amends, make restitution, and become contributing members of their communities instead of being the problem, they have tremendous willingness to do so.

Clearly teens, like all of us, must be acountable for their behavior. Murder is a horrible crime which calls for serious consequences. But teens are still very much learning how to be adults, and their brains are changing and maturing. I believe that to lock them up forever when they are still such confused and tender works in progress, is just plain wrong for them and for us.

Lorraine Segal is a conflict coach, trainer, and mediator specializing in transforming communication for parents, teens, and others. Her business, Conflict Remedy, is based in Santa Rosa, California. She teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University. She provides conflict coaching and mediation by telephone as well as face to face. Contact her to find out about workshops, small coaching groups or to schedule a free initial telephone session. You can reach her at (707) 236-8079,  lorraine@conflictremedy.com  or this blog. Next class at SSU, Communicating with Teens  starts July 30. See classes page for more information.

Some information for this post came from:

Wisconsin Court Oks life sentence for teen (article)

Dr. Ken Winters–A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain (video)

Inside the Teenage Brain–Sheryl Feinstein (book)

© Lorraine Segal www.ConflictRemedy.com