The Conversational Peacekeeper

March 20, 2017 § Leave a comment

Have you ever been pulled into the middle of a discussion with opposing views or been on the opposing side of a discussion with someone?  Perhaps it was at work, home, or even a Facebook post. Perhaps you’ve even been hit square on with comments or views that are in direct opposition of what you believe, think, or feel to be true.  How do you handle these situations?   Do you fire comments back from a place of emotion?  Do you contemplate what the other person is saying to see if there is some truth to the comments?  Do you remain quiet and not voice your thoughts only to harbor resentment and ill will towards the other person?

Here are some tips to consider implementing the next time you are faced with a potentially volatile conversation.

  1. Choose humility. Disagreements or full blown arguments usually involve an attitude that says, “I’m right, you’re wrong.”  Sometimes difficult discussions turn into debates because someone wants to “win” the conversation.  Discussions that lead to mutual understanding, connection, and growth of the relationship need to involve humility.  You can’t change how the other person is going to approach the conversation, but you can choose to approach it in a manner that says, “your view is important and at this point in the discussion, I’m going to put your thoughts above my own for the sake of getting to common ground.”  How the conversation goes forward, first begins in your mind so learn to train yourself to think of others before yourself for the sake of the common good.
  1. Listen with intent.  The kind of listening where you’re actually paying attention to the other person rather than thinking about what you are going to say next.  You’ll know if you were able to do this or not by what comes out of your mouth.  If you ask follow up questions to what the other person has just said, then you were really listening to them.  If you make a statement that is contrary to what they just said, then you were formulating your argument mentally, rather than listening.  Try not to share your view until you are fully able to grasp what the other person is saying. Keep asking following up questions of the other person until you are able to paraphrase back to them what you thought you heard.  This has two purposes.  First, it will allow you to better understand the other person’s view and know where they’re coming from.  Sometimes people do not articulate what they really mean the first time but by asking follow up questions you will be better able to get to what the real issue is.  Second, if there is emotion in the conversation, it calms the other person down and allows them to know that you want to understand their viewpoint rather than argue with them.
    Woman holds her hand near ear and listens carefully
  1. Give the other person time to share their thoughts. Try not to interrupt when the other person is speaking.  Allow the person to express themselves fully even if it takes time to do so.  Keep in mind, as you are intently listening, that you may not get to express your thoughts at all at this point in the conversation.  Be okay with that since if you were to get to express your thoughts at this point anyway, the other person would most likely be thinking of their retort rather than actually listening to what you are saying.
  1. Be empathetic. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  While you may not possess the ability to “share” the other person’s feelings, you can at least understand them.  Showing signs that you care about what the other person is saying will redirect the other person’s conversation from one that may be combative to one that is more peaceful.  If you don’t actually care about what the other person is saying, see tip #1.
  1. Share your opposing viewpoint and thoughts only after adequate time has been given to the other person to express themselves. Have you paraphrased back to them what you think you heard and responded with genuine interest and care?  You’ll know how the rest of the conversation is going to go based on whether or not the other person asks to hear your thoughts or not.  If they don’t, then consider that they may not be at a place yet to actually hear what you are going to say.  Perhaps it may be best to take a break from the conversation to allow their thoughts to linger awhile.  This doesn’t mean that you’re “weak” or that they “won,” it simply means that you are aware that with the level of emotion that is present, getting to a place of mutual understanding and agreement will be nearly impossible until a later time.
  1. Try not to make the points of disagreement personal. Rather than saying things like, “I think you’re wrong,” say things like, “I don’t see it that way.”  Someone is more apt to see your point of view and even eventually agree with you, if they don’t feel personally attacked.  The goal is to keep the emotion to a minimum when discussing a topic that has the potential for an emotionally explosive reaction.
  1. Be genuine. Don’t ever feel as though you have to keep your thoughts to yourself just because someone else doesn’t agree with them.  Just know that if you blurt them all out the minute you think or feel them, the reaction of the other person may not be as favorable as what it could be had you waited and implemented tips 1-6.
  1. Practice listening. If you are not a natural listener then it will suit you well to practice this skill.  Listening is the main skill necessary to keeping peace.  Find someone you trust and tell them that you want to practice listening with them.  Let them share a story and then you state back to them what you think you heard. Let them critique you and share their thoughts, in a caring manner, on how they think you listen on average.  Be open to their feedback and know that it’s a skill that takes time to do well.  Even small improvements in this area will make a big impact on the relationships in your life.  Epictetus was on to something when he said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”


Cindy Wubben
Cindy Wubben
Director of Human Resources – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

Kids are Geniuses

March 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

Kids are geniuses. I have four kids, which generally leads me to be around kids a lot of the time. Lately, I’ve come to realize that they often teach me much more about the world than I teach them. Hence, kids are geniuses.

This makes me think back to the book All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Folghum. When I was younger, this poster was everywhere, and being around the kindergarten age, I really didn’t understand what it was all about. Now, as an adult, it makes much more sense. Here are a few of the quotes from the book:

  • Share everything.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out into the world, watch for traffic.
  • Hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder.

Here are a few things my kids have taught me lately that I would add:

From the 10-year-old, I have learned new responsibilities can be very exciting. Often as adults we get overwhelmed by our responsibilities and the thought of blog-kids-are-geniuses-2taking on more. Not a 10-year-old. Recently, he needed to be at baseball practice a few minutes after my husband and I get home from work. We needed him to cook part of dinner so he could eat before he left. Cook…on the stove…by himself. He was so excited to be given this responsibility! The idea of taking this on leads him to independence, which is something that excites a 10-year-old and makes a parent realize he will turn into an amazing adult.

From the 8-year-old, I have learned the power of goal setting and positive thinking. She is the most driven 8-year-old I’ve ever met. She is a gymnast. Gymnastics is lots of fun, but the training is difficult. She is in the gym five hours each week, and that’s not counting all the flips she is constantly doing around the house. About a month ago, she decided it was her goal to move up to the next level. She wrote her own goals and has been diligently working on them. She is also one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met. She truly loves life and loves to keep those around her positive. She leaves encouraging notes around the house, tells others she loves them and appreciates them freely, and always has a smile to offer.

From the 4-year-old, I have learned it’s good to follow the rules…most of the time. At four, he is testing his independence. He knows the rules and recently has discovered life is often easier if you follow them. After all, spending four minutes in time out or having electronics taken away is never fun. However, he has also realized sometimes it’s not worth it to follow the rules. Sometimes it’s more fun to jump into the pool in your clothes. Sometimes you just don’t want to eat your vegetables. Enjoy life…have fun…sometimes follow what your heart wants even if your brain says it’s not the smartest choice.

From the 2-year-old, I’ve learned it’s important to forgive. The 2-year-old room at daycare can be brutal and tons of fun all on the same day. Biting is common among 2-year-olds, and there is another little boy in my son’s class who loves to bite. Inevitably, about once a week he gets bitten…hard…it leaves teeth marks. The ironic thing is that this little boy is also one of my son’s closest playmates. They love to play together. My son never holds a grudge. It’s just not something a 2-year-old does. Just play and have fun without reservation.

My list is endless. There are many times it feels like the adults of this world have become mean and disrespectful. They are ungrateful for everything they’ve been given. There is so much we could learn from the young hearts around us. Here is a parting thought from Robert Folghum’s book:

Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then laid down with our blankets for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Jenny Smith, CPA
Jenny Smith
Senior Manager – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith

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