Monday, September 11, 2017

Conflict Resolution

Interesting stuff happens in our brains when we find ourselves in a conflict situation. These responses are automatic and take a great deal of self awareness to change.

Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they’re overwhelmed by stress:
  • Foot on the gas. An angry or agitated stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
  • Foot on the brake. A withdrawn or depressed stress response. You shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
  • Foot on both gas and brake. A tense and frozen stress response. You “freeze” under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.
Stress interferes with your ability to resolve conflicts by limiting your ability to:
  • Accurately read another person's nonverbal communication
  • Hear what someone is really saying
  • Be aware of your own feelings
  • Be in touch with your deep-rooted needs
  • Communicate your needs clearly

The message for me from this information: Let some time pass before trying to resolve a conflict so the stress level can go down and clearer thinking can prevail. One strategy for kids and adults could be to remove them or ourselves from the situation and then simply say "Let's talk about this in a few minutes" or some other appropriate time in the future. 

Malcom Gladwell's 10,000 Hour Rule

I've often heard people say "I wish I knew how to play the piano". I've been tempted to say in response "You could, if you were willing to spend the time to learn." Some people are inclined to think that it is a matter talent that makes a good piano player. But Bryan's piano teacher once told me that his brother was much more talented at piano than he was but wasn't as good a piano player now.

Talent can play an important role but it can also be a hinderance. When something comes to us easily we may not learn how to engage in the diligent work that is required for the development of true greatness. And diligent work is required!

Elder Cook said this in April 2017 General Conference. "When we watch a great athletic or musical performance, we often say that the person is very gifted, which is usually true. But the performance is based upon years of preparation and practice. One well-known writer, Malcolm Gladwell, has called this the 10,000-hour rule. Researchers have determined that this amount of practice is necessary in athletics, musical performance, academic proficiency, specialized work skills, medical or legal expertise, and so on. One of these research experts asserts “that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything.”

Elder Cook went on to compare the establishment of foundations of faith to the preparation and practice required to obtain peak physical and mental performance. Preparation and practice are essential to both.

We are sometimes blessed with sublime spiritual experiences and they are precious to us. "But for enduring faith and to have the constant companionship of the Spirit, there is no substitute for the individual religious observance that is comparable to physical and mental development. We should build on these experiences, which sometimes resemble initial baby steps. We do this by consecrated commitment to sacred sacrament meetings, scripture study, prayer, and serving as called." That is how we build "an immovable foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."

He said he has come to understand that "almost every decision we make in [our lives] depends on three issues: (1) Was Jesus Christ divine? (2) Is the Book of Mormon true? (3) Was Joseph Smith the prophet of the Restoration?" We must find the answers to these questions for ourselves. And when we do we must consistently fortify our foundation of faith by putting forth the same effort that is required for the strengthening of any talent.

From Elder Cook - "Just as repetition and consistent effort are required to gain physical or mental capacity, the same is true in spiritual matters".

"I believe that weekly participation in sacred sacrament meetings has spiritual implications we do not fully understand. Pondering the scriptures regularly—rather than reading them occasionally—can substitute a superficial understanding for a sublime, life-changing enhancement of our faith."

"My plea is that we will make the sacrifices and have the humility necessary to strengthen the foundations of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. "

I testify that "Faith is a principle of power" that will bless our lives beyond anything that we can imagine. And it can be be fortified through simple but consistent and prayerful application of the things Elder Cook teaches in this talk.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Immaculate Perception

"Immaculate Perception" is a phrase I heard used in a class about communication and emotional intelligence given by Richard Himmer at Education Week last year. I thought it was a great way to describe a common problem. We are often so self absorbed that we don't realize that we may not know or understand as much as we think we do about another's failings. Our perception of things is just that - our perception. And it is often too tainted by our limited perspective to be safely trusted. Anytime we become so sure that we know exactly what another person is thinking or feeling, we are in danger of this phenomenon. That kind of understanding comes only after we have been able to humbly ask the kind of questions that lead to understanding. It comes only when our only desires are to truly understand rather than accuse.

This is a great quote that also describes "Immaculate Perception":
"I know you think you understand what you thought I said. But I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant" - Robert McCloskey

Monday, September 12, 2016

How can we have Influence?

I was blessed to be able to attend a sisters leadership training on Saturday night with Elder Christofferson, Bishop Causse and Elder Wilford W. Anderson of the Seventy. It was awesome. Interestingly, though I loved all of it, it was Elder Anderson's words that struck me most. He spoke about having influence and then taught more about it in answer to a question that was asked later in the evening. So here is my summary of what I got from it.

3 observations about how we can have influence.
1. Guilt; guilt is a good thing when it is leads to repentance. That is it's purpose. Godly Sorrow leads to repentance. But guilt can be a terrible thing, a tool of the adversary, when we experience it because of the behavior of others. Guilt is intended to lead us to repentance - we can't repent for others. I may have missed some of his point about how this is connected to having influence except that we can't be consumed by guilt for what others are doing.

2. Focus on the heart:  In the world, influence is thought to flow from important or powerful people but it is opposite in the church. It flows to the righteous not from them. To have influence we need to focus on the heart; we need to bring in light. The economy of God is different from the world. We love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) We must use the attributes found in D&C 121 - persuasion, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness etc. Scolding doesn't bring light and change hearts.

3. We have time. We can't be in too big of a hurry. It takes time to change hearts. But we have time. We have eternity. It doesn't take much time to change conduct. We can do that pretty quickly if we try to use force. But that doesn't lead to lasting change and often has the opposite effect. We mistakenly focus on conduct and try to force change. We must respect the agency (and needs and feelings) of others.

Elder Anderson spoke of his father. He said his father never answered with a yes or a no to a request to do something. He always asked questions exploring the ramifications of the request. For example, when he asked if he could go camping for the weekend with his friend's family, his father ask lots of questions such as: Do you have some responsibilities at church this Sunday to prepare the Sacrament? Answer; Well yes but I can get my brother to cover for me. Q: Will you be able to attend church on Sunday? A: Well no but we can read a few scriptures and that will be good enough. After asking several other questions, his father would say, "Well if it were me, I wouldn't go." Elder Anderson usually ended up making the right decision.

So here is the key: To fortify homes, we need to fill them with the Spirit of the Lord. A change in desires is what we would like to have happen. We should do what we can to facilitate what happened to the people after King Benjamin's great address found in Mosiah 5:2-3.  - We believe all the words spoken to us. We know of their surety and truth because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in our hearts that we have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually. We ourselves, through the goodness of God and through the manifestation of his spirit, have had great views of the future.

That's what we want to have happen for our children or for anyone we would like to influence for good. Anger, scolding, disgust (sarcasm, criticism) are just the opposite of what is needed. Ill will offends the Spirit. The Spirit leaves. The Spirit of the Lord is our only hope so we must fill our homes with the Spirit of the Lord. Charity is our best chance at dispelling the darkness. (Charity suffers long and is kind, is not easily provoked, is not puffed up, is not concerned with self interests, doesn't think evil of others, bears all things, endures all things, hopes all things. Charity never fails)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When Mercy Becomes a Man Eating Weed

Here is a quote I first read and loved many years ago. It's from C. S. Lewis about mercy and justice. It's taken from an essay called "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment". Reading the whole essay helps in understanding the quote. And though his examples relate to the justice system, the principle is true in all situations. What I get from it is that there is a sternness that can save and a niceness that is capable of destroying the very one it purports to help. Mercy and Justice are linked together. The Plan of Salvation promises both and because of that we can have faith that ALL things will be made RIGHT in the end - WHATEVER that may mean. There is right and wrong and we're better off when we know the difference rather than going through life unable to see "things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13). There WILL BE a judgement bar, a time to make an account. The law of the harvest demands that we WILL reap what we sow. It can't be any other way. Without it faith is vain.

Love is the constant that makes both justice and mercy work. It is Christlike love that loves the sinner but doesn't condone the sin or the wrong behavior and instead teaches the way to happiness.

"Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful. That is the important paradox. As there are plants which will flourish only in mountain soil, so it appears that Mercy will flower only when it grows in the crannies of the rock of Justice; transplanted to the marshlands of mere Humanitarianism, it becomes a man-eating weed, all the more dangerous because it is still called by the same name as the mountain variety. "

Link to the whole essay:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Parenting Strong Willed Children

These are notes from a class I took at Education Week last year. The presenter was Kevin Hinckley.

Most of us have or have had at least one strong willed child. I think these ideas are good for lots of situations even if you don't necessarily consider your child a strong willed child.

Parenting Strong Willed Children

Remember: We’re trying to train a spirited horse without breaking them

Top down discipline = more bruises
Laze faire/no rules = Kids dominating isn’t good either

Characteristics of strong willed children: How to identify strong willed children
      "Difficult"or "Stubborn"
       Often different from your other kids
       Spirited and courageous
       Want to learn things for themselves rather than accept what other people say
       Test the limits over and over
       You are not the boss of me – desperately want to be in charge of themselves
       Must be right
       Focus and obsess on ideas or things
       Have big passionate feelings
       Prone to power struggles with parents

They can accomplish great things. But,if they buy into the notion that they are the problem or a troublemaker that is a big problem!

Recognize your “awfulizer”. It’s like a magnifier, We are able to think about a million things at the same time, gather all information and project a path. The “awfulizer” kicks in and we jump to all kinds of awful conclusions. We start to imagine all the awful things that are going to happen to our children if we don’t correct them. So we set up more strict rules – we start to over control and that leads to even more power struggles.

Top Ten Survival Guidelines for parenting strong willed kids:

1. Create Structure with their collaboration; with routine and rules.
         These routines and rules need to be able to be revisited
         They must be consistently applied
         The child needs to know the why of the rule
         The rule needs to be about taking care of a problem – it's not about inflicting pain or punishment

2. These children are experiential learners
         They learn by doing – even failing
         Walk through it afterward with them and ask “Is that what you wanted to have happen?” “What can you do differently next time?”
          They will learn from experience but they may have to learn it over and over. They will learn it when it’s worth their effort.
         Remember – do less than 80% of the talking; ask open ended questions, questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.

3. What they want most is mastery over things
         They need wins; they need people and places where people say “That was awesome!”

4. Provide Choices and Options
         Avoid choicing traps – proper choicing is not a game. Choicing Traps: Empty choices, Over using choices, Options you don't want them to choose, My way or the highway choices, One that is really a punishment, Not age appropriate, Options that are meaningless      
         Not being open to their suggestions leads to lots of resentment.
         Allow them to modify their choices
         Move the parent from being the problem to being the cheerleader, the collaborator; Work together to work out a plan.
         Instead of being the “NO” person – learn how to be part of the solution

5. Don’t Push Them into Corners where they have to oppose you.
       HOW you parent is just as important as WHAT you parent
       Ask yourself “Is this a hill worth dying on?”
       Speak in still, soft tones
       Don’t confront when still angry – many decisions don’t have to be made immediately
       Ask yourself important questions like:
           What triggers YOU and makes YOU mad?
            What do YOU do when YOU get mad? Yell, anger, withdraw, sarcasm?
            What coping skills are YOU modeling?

6. Let Them Save Face
       Don't make everything a win/lose

7. Listen to them and Repeat Back what you are hearing – Listening Trumps Solving!
       If YOU solve it – they don’t own it

8. Really Try to See Issues from their point of view

9. It’s About Discipline (teaching) NOT Punishment
      Relationship not force
      Escalating to more severe punishment doesn’t work
      It is not the severity of the consequence that matters. It’s about making amends. It’s about teaching them to take responsibility. It’s not about teaching them to be afraid or resentful.

10. Offer Large Doses of Respect and Empathy
        Calm, Communicate, Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

      They often run into bumps with other people. Be the bumpers on the bowling alley.   

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Speak Out with Words of Love

President Gordon B Hinckley, 

“I plead with you to control your tempers, to put a smile upon your faces, which will erase anger; speak out with words of love and peace, appreciation, and respect. If you will do this, your lives will be without regret. Your marriages anfamily relationships will be preserved. You will be much happier. You will do greater good. You will feel a sense of peace that will be wonderful.” GC, October 2007; Slow to Anger

“I have never accepted the principle of “spare the rod and spoil the child.” I will be forever grateful for a father who never laid a hand in anger upon his children. Somehow he had the wonderful talent to let them know what was expected of them and to give them encouragement in achieving it.

I am persuaded that violent fathers produce violent sons. I am satisfied that such punishment in most instances does more damage than good. Children don’t need beating. They need love and encouragement. They need fathers to whom they can look with respect rather than fear. Above all, they need example.” GC, October 1994, “Save the Children”