Saying Yes in a Time of NO

THEN

When our son was an infant, he became very ill with a mysterious gastro-intestinal disorder that no one in the medical world could figure out.

He was in an out of the hospital so often during this period, that our overnight bags were always packed. When home, whether for a week or ten days, he was hooked up to various machines that fed him intravenously and beeped loudly when they thought they detected an obstruction. 

This period of our life was the Year of NO.

No answers.
No diagnosis.
No knowing how long it would last.
No predictability.
No routine.
No “normal” baby milestones.
No clarity.
No guarantees of recovery.

And somehow, during this extremely difficult time of NO, we managed to miraculously say YES to any and all offers of support – and to actually CREATE support where there was none.

If our friends stopped by on their way to visit family across the country and offered to cook up a stack of meals and deep clean our kitchen, we gratefully said YES.

If someone offered to bring over dessert and have tea with us on the same dining room table where the baby was splayed out while I hooked him up to his evening tubes, we said YES.

If someone wanted to take a turn cuddling him while at the hospital, or bottle feeding him the latest disgusting formula to see if it would stay down, we said YES. Washing dishes? Sterilizing bottles? Mowing the lawn? Calling the phone company? YES. YES. YES. YES. YES.

Not only did we do this unprecedented and unlikely thing, but we went another radical step further and HIRED A CHEF! This chef, whom we found online, would come over on Sunday afternoons and cook up a week’s worth of delicious, freezable meals for us to defrost every day. 

Yes, we were extremely lucky to have the resources to do so. However, only a few months out of grad school, we actually had little disposable income and hardly any savings.

Yet, somehow, during our year of NO, we had the uncanny wisdom to see that we were in a dangerous state of zombie apocalypse every evening, which resulted in greasy takeout or frozen dinners, further enhancing our zombie state.

And the best part is that we had NO SHAME. 

Mind you, at any other time in our life, this would have been impossible. In our family, guests were doted upon – and certainly not allowed near the kitchen sink. Friends were entertained while children were tucked away in their cribs, not displayed in all their medical glory on the table. 

In our previous life, and in the future life which followed that period, we were STRONG. We could do it all by OURSELVES. We deep cleaned until you could see your freckles in the bathroom faucet. We threw themed parties with rad finger foods and butcher paper on the walls that guests could paint. We did the supporting, not the other way around. And we certainly did not HIRE people to make us food.

But in our year of NO, we had a sick baby and each other to take care of. We had to do more than survive. We had to find a way to say YES to life.

NOW

Now, 18 years later, we find ourselves in another Time of NO.

For some of us, there is:

No work
No play
No touch
No security

For many of us, there are:

No answers
No tests
No knowing how long it will last
No predictability
No routine
No normality
No clarity
No guarantees 

And again, my husband and I find ourselves needing to move beyond what is customary and usual – to move beyond the pretense of safety and independence that keep us both lonely and hidden. We find ourselves needing to be more deliberate, assertive, and yes – courageous – in figuring out what feeds us, what helps us feel better, and what gets in the way of us going for it. 

We find ourselves asking, in small wavering voices at first, and then in louder and more confident voices as others join in: What supports do we need? What are the barriers in the way? How do we band together to find the YES behind every chorus of NO?

This means enlisting other people (ugh-how cringe-worthy) and making agreements with them to reach out to us, to hold us accountable, to poke us, to problem-solve with us, to hold the tiny trembling embers of our intention with us.

Because the thing we actually want to do most in a time of NO is hide from everyone and everything that is life-giving and say YES to nothing.

The examples of what is most supportive and how to band with others to get there will be different for everyone.

So far, for me, it has meant figuring out a list of what feeds me and taking it one item at a time.

For instance, writing is one of the things that feeds me but I have not written for four months. So, I began by sorting out what has supported my writing in the past, what has gotten in the way, why it is not working right now, and what may help me get out of the slump; then making some false starts that led nowhere; talking to a friend about it; bumping into and purchasing the Right to Write by Julia Cameron; figuring out what I need in order to do the exercises in the book successfully; making multiple failed attempts to create 30 minutes of uninterrupted morning time to do the exercises; and finally, with agreements from family, creating the 30 minutes of time, doing the exercises, and Woo-Hoo  – writing this essay!

Another example has been the scheduling of specific weekly support calls with two friends by phone (instead of Zoom) so I could walk outside while talking to them and so I did not have to reach out to them when I feel low, because that is the one thing I won’t do when I feel low. 

The examples are not important. What is important is asking the questions and saying YES to the small shy answers we hear, saying YES to our children’s attempts to find what works for them, saying YES to creating support and accountability from people we trust. 

For me, saying YES to support in a time of NO feels both scary and celebratory, both counter-intuitive and totally instinctual. It is a stretch into the unknown and a tiny act of rebellion against the darkness. 

Ten Tiny Ways to Grow Hope

The restorative theme for April is Breaking Bread.

The short description in the Breaking Bread slice of the wheel is: “Committing to connection, celebration, appreciation and fun.” This month we will touch upon some of these themes as a way to help get us through the April challenge.

As I mentioned in “The Courage to be Playful“, human beings cannot thrive without play. They also wilt without the knowledge that they are valued, appreciated and wanted.

As we enter the home stretch of the school year, we may find ourselves swinging between extremes of exhaustion and discouragement one day, and “too busy to smile – getting it done” another. We may find it hard to find hope or enthusiasm and feel ourselves slipping into resignation or “just making it.”

That’s why April is a great month to remember that micro-connection, celebration, gratitude and fun are like vitamins for our soul. They give us energy and hope and remind us that in the end – what we need is to be seen by each other.

TEN IDEAS FOR GROWING HOPE THIS MONTH

Try a different one every day, or choose a few to try DAILY.

  1. Stop and say a small kind word about someone’s work, art, or cooking.
  2. Let someone know you are happy for them (we all need to work on our vicarious joy muscles!)
  3. Write something positive on social media.
  4. Schedule in a tiny celebration of someone you care about (birthday? 5k? kid got license? doesn’t need to be a big reason for a tiny celebration).
  5. Compliment someone in front of others OR in a group email.
  6. Bring a snack to share to that thing you are dreading (you know which one).
  7. Begin a 21-day Gratitude Challenge if your appreciation cup is low (I am beginning one today with a long-distance friend from Portland. Such a nicer way to hear about her day for 3 weeks!).
  8. Make time for coffee or muffins with someone you’re worried about OR someone who makes you smile (kid OR adult).
  9. Express empathy or gratitude to someone in a position of relative power. Empathy does not flow uphill easily (Kit Miller).
  10. Do something playful you wouldn’t usually do (splash in the rain, slide down a stair rail, eat with no silverware, see other ideas my family tried in Courage to Be Playful).

How are you growing hope this month? 
I’d love to know.

The Courage to Be Playful

As you’ve probably noticed, this month’s theme has been courage.

One of the origins of the word courage is the Old French “cuer,” meaning “heart.” We have marked February by opening our hearts to love and history, and by asking our hearts to take small difficult steps towards something we have been avoiding.

We began the month by delving into the idea that fear, and not hate, is the opposite of love. We then looked to the science of courage, which showed us how to practice our “couraging” by connecting to our values and taking small do-able steps.

We will conclude the month by talking about the courage to be playful and how it can be another doorway into difficult conversations or reconnection.

Traditionally, at least in the midwest states where I do much of my work, February and March are two of the toughest months of the school year. One administrator calls this period “Funky February”, claiming that the days between President’s Day weekend and Spring Break are always the longest and hardest for both staff and kids. 

This also appears to be true for our household. February and March seem so long and gray and dreary. That is why now – more than ever – we need to remember the importance of playfulness.

WHY PLAY IS CRUCIAL

It turns out that play is a human need, much like touch. Remember those orphan babies that failed to thrive because they did not get held enough? It seems that humans, including adult humans, also need play.

Play helps adults be more productive and improves their mental health, while play deprivation in rats and monkeys has been linked to poor social development. Playfulnesshas even been shown as a preferable quality in romantic partners in one European study.

Incorporating play into education can also help middle-school and high school students learn content.

Just as importantly, playfulness can help us get over the hump of a rough day or turn a criticism into a connecting moment – by creating laughter or lightening the mood.

Although being silly or goofy is NOT natural to me, I have been trying to include playfulness in my work and home life this month in small purposeful ways. As you can see below, these playful actions built on each other, eventually shining their way into difficult conversations and making heavy things a bit lighter. Some examples from this month are below:

For some of you, being playful with your students, at home, or with colleagues is a natural way of being and you just need a reminder to do your thing (OK – GO DO YOUR THING!)

However, as I mentioned, I am not playful or goofy by nature. Sure – our family does “Full House” Appreciations and 180 Questions at meal times. However, even our “connecting activities” seemed to sag under the gray clouds of February.  

It seemed that I needed a bit of en-courage-ment to bring more playfulness into my life. I needed to just start somewhere. 

GO FOR IT

A couple of years ago I read an essay in the NY Times in which the author granted people permission to make a change they really wanted (based on a study by Freakanomics author Steven D. Levitt). It seems that many of us need a Permission Fairy – someone to grant us the permission to make our own wishes come true.

I have talked to teachers who say they long for the days when the curriculum was less confining and they could drop what they were doing (on a bad day) and just play a game with their students. I have talked to parents who wish they were having more fun with their kids or parenting was more joyful. I believe that we need those games and moments of lightness MORE desperately now than ever.

So please, consider this letter to be your permission to courageously begin injecting more play into your work and home life.

And yes – feel free to borrow any of our goofy dinner ideas as a start!

Shifting from Drama to Dialogue

We often express irritation and exasperation with other people’s “drama”.
However, how careful are we in avoiding the pitfalls of drama in our own lives?

WHAT IS THE DRAMA CYCLE?

I am thinking of drama as being characterized by negative side-talk, vilification, righteousness, and increasing escalation. That means that, in a conflict, we are participating (or supporting someone else) in:

  • talking about people behind their backs, often in ways that are sarcastic, caustic, highly charged, and one-sided
  • making someone into a villain 
  • justifying how we (or those we “support”) are “right” to make the choices we did and think the thoughts we are thinking
  • adding fuel to the fire by expressing horror, outrage, adding more examples of villainy, pulling more people into the issue, creating “sides”, engaging in retaliation, and/or freezing others out

We can tell that we are engaging in drama, versus trying to address an issue, because we can see an ESCALATING CYCLE in which the issue gets worse and everyone feels MORE upset and more entrenched over time.

Drama can feel “delicious” and even a bit addictive, because it activates our emotions and taps into our needs for belonging and validation. 

In other words, the behaviors above are an understandable response to feeling alone, confused, and hurt. The behaviors are a signal indicating that we actually need more support, company, understanding, and safety.

Unfortunately, over the long haul, drama LOWERS a group’s sense of safety and belonging by creating divisions, eroding trust, and inducing fear.

Thus, over time, the negative drama cycle contributes to a culture of conflict rather than a culture of collaboration.

WHAT IS THE DIALOGUE CYCLE?

The dialogue cycle is definitely less “sexy” and appealing in many ways. This is because dialogue is an INVESTMENT into each other and into our group’s culture. 

Dialogue is something to which we COMMIT, even though it may not feel as pleasurable.

Dialogue is characterized by:

  • curiosity in other people’s perspectives
  • self-responsibility (for our parts in the issue)
  • getting to “understanding without agreement” (Kit Miller)
  • sharing “truth with love” – with the goal of improving what matters in our group

We can tell that we are engaging in dialogue, versus drama, because we can see a DE-ESCALATION in the conflict over time, and an increase in collaboration and constructive solutions.  

While seeming to be time and energy intensive, over the long haul, dialogue improves team morale and a sense of safety by creating cohesiveness, building trust, and increasing creativity and hope.

Dialogue is something to which we COMMIT AGAINST THE ODDS, as part of a desire to create a culture of learning, growth and connection.

In my 25 years of experience, dialogue about difficult issues is not something that ever “feels good.”

Thus, to me, dialogue is not something we learn to LIKE as much as something we learn to VALUE.

DOES THIS MEAN I CAN’T VENT ANY MORE?

No. It does not!

Sharing concerns, getting emotional support, talking things through, and getting input on difficult issues are critical ways of connecting and becoming better leaders. Not all venting is created equally, though.

Most kinds of venting escalate us and entrench us further in our negative and righteous thinking, rather than shifting our perspective.

To engage in the kind of venting that helps rather than hinders, try approaching venting with a different intention.

Think of the kind of support you might get from a useful podcast, a great essay, an interesting book, or an insightful mentor. What you probably gain in all these cases is learning and enlightenment through reflection and a focus on solutions.

SHIFTING FROM DRAMA TO DIALOGUE: THREE SMALL STEPS

The shift from drama to dialogue happens over time as we make multiple small choices to do it differently.

Here are three small steps that can serve as a reminder or support in your own shift:

1) COMMIT to shifting from drama to dialogue in your own work and personal life – rather than focusing on the “ridiculousness” drama of other people around you. We begin with ourselves and our own integrity, modeling and walking the walk in small ways every day. Even more powerful is to see whether a small group of colleagues or friends want to join you in this.

2) CONVEY what you want from others, rather than letting them assume or guide the conversation into habitual territory. Let people know you want to end up with some reflection and understanding, rather than feeling escalated and righteous at the end.

Here are some phrases I have used or have heard others use successfully:

  • “I want to vent for a bit and then move on to problem solving, if that’s ok”
  • “I want some fresh perspectives on this mess, without making myself or the other people seem like stupid idiots”
  • “I’m wondering whether I am paranoid, but I don’t think it will be helpful for us to de-humanize the other person together, if you know what I mean”
  • “I need some strategies that don’t escalate the situation further but also give me some relief because I am at my wits end!!”
  • “Hey – I know it’s hard. But I believe in the power of talking it through. I can help.”

3) CAPACITY – learn some new ways (or refresh your current skills) for having difficult conversations, listening for understanding without agreement, and telling truth with love.

Although there is definitely an art and science to constructive dialogue, many of us know more about it than we care to admit. For instance, most of us probably know that it is helpful to:

  • Eat before having any difficult conversations!
  • Schedule a time rather than improvising or bamboozling someone in the middle of something else
  • Get in the zone by doing something that grounds us, or being very clear and focused about the goals (increase understanding, truth with love, etc.)
  • Take turns to listen and reflect meaning
  • Have someone who is not directly involved support the dialogue, even if it’s simply witnessing the conversation with a peaceful presence, or giving everyone some small reminders

Working on moving from Drama to Dialogue in your life? Let me know how it’s going (elaine@conflict180.com).

Beyond “I Like Your Shoes”: Aligning Feedback with Values

The restorative theme for March is Value-Driven Effective Feedback.

Often, when we hear the word feedback, we imagine a formal evaluation meeting or slightly disguised criticism.

However, feedback is actually neither of those things. Feedback is simply information from the environment about the IMPACT of our actions and choices.

PDF version of “Informal Value-Driven Feedback” handout


Read more below…

For this reason, feedback is happening ALL THE TIME.

When we make passing comments to colleagues or students in the hallway, when we respond to someone’s answer in class, or when we tell someone why their behavior is not working – we are giving them FEEDBACK about WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO US.

However, unless we are prepared and PURPOSEFUL about our feedback, our messages often contradict our actual values.

For instance, we say that attendance and engagement is important to us. 

Yet, when we see a student in the hallway or a colleague in a meeting we say “I love your hair!” or “Cute hoodie!” – INADVERTENTLY giving them feedback that what matters around here is how we look. This is totally normal and not a reflection on our character. Physical compliments are low hanging fruit and an easy way to express warmth. Thus, if we are not PREPARED with a different message, we are more likely to focus on appearance as a way to be friendly.

As another example, we say that we care about “growth mindset“.  In a nutshell, this means praising hard work and effort rather than correct answers.

Yet, how often in class or during a professional meetings do we inadvertently show enthusiasm for the right answer rather than praising courage and validating effort. How often do we say: “First of all, I appreciate your courage in responding. That was a tricky question and not many people even raised their hands.”

OR “First, I appreciate your honesty. It’s not easy to be the first one to give an opinion that goes a little outside the group. And yes – I can see how that character was both generous and a little selfish at the same time.”

If this is intriguing to you, your challenge for the month of March is to work on aligning your comments (your informal feedback) with your values.

Let me know how it goes!


In other news, have you seen this lucid and powerful piece about Restorative Justice in the NY Times?

Reckoning With Violence by Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow)


 “… Fully 90 percent of survivors [of violent crime] in New York City, when given the chance to choose whether they want the person who harmed them incarcerated or in a restorative justice process — one that offers support to survivors while empowering them to help decide how perpetrators of violence can repair the damage they’ve done — choose the latter and opt to use the [RJ] services.

… Ninety percent is a stunning figure considering everything we’ve been led to believe that survivors actually want. For years, we’ve been told that victims of violence want nothing more than for the people who hurt them to be locked up and treated harshly…”

READ THE ESSAY HERE

Finding the Courage to Start

Courage Rosa Parks

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Faith is taking first step_King

This month’s theme is “small courageous conversations” because fear, and not hate, is the opposite of love.

Courage is often described not as an absence of fear, but as the ability to act in the face of fear.

The science of courage tells us that we are better off taking small courageous steps and building a HABIT of courage – than planning large courageous acts that are too daunting to attempt.

Science has also shown that we are better able to overcome our fear when we link small courageous acts with organizational or personal values. By being value-driven, our courageous acts become moral or ethical acts – bolstering our determination to act.

It is also important to remember that courageous conversations are not a synonym for “conflict conversations”. Asking for something we need, getting feedback about our work from an ally, or reaching out to get support are all examples of small courageous conversations.

PERSONAL EXAMPLE

As a personal example, one series of small courageous conversations I have been practicing this month is asking people for feedback on a Restorative System model I have been working on for almost a year. The model is a wheel with 12 spokes which describes 12 commitments that can help people create a more restorative organization or classroom. Ironically, shifting to seeing feedback as a “gift” is one of the first commitments.

As you can see below – another commitment is “trying small courageous conversations.”

Breaking Good Feb 9 2019
Restorative Wheel PDF


Receiving honest feedback on our work is a courageous act for many of us, especially when we are trying out something new.

Becoming clear about how the model was linked to my values helped me gather the courage to start bringing it into the light. Specifically, one of my value-driven goals is to “nurture the creation of restorative systems”. This means that in addition to coaching individuals to be more skilled with conflict and communication – I want (very much!) to support the creation of restorative organizations and classrooms.

By thinking of the model as something that was clearly yoked to my personal values, I gained the courage to start showing it to one person, then another, and finally to whole groups of people. This resulted in great feedback and many improvements to the model – which further supported my goals and values – and boosted my courage to keep going.

In this way, small courageous steps can help us practice “couraging” and build our courage muscles.

What are some of your value-driven goals?

What are some small courageous steps you can take this month to support these goals?

Good luck and let me know how it goes.


Still looking for last minute Valentine’s Day gifts?

Try a gift that has been shown to increase happiness (reprinted from 2018):

Which Gifts Increase Happiness_2018


NEW FOR 2019

Elaine is honored to be part of a
year-long RJ Webinar and Mentoring Series
with 12+ global Guides.
Webinars start at $15/month.
Small group mentoring starts at $25/month

connection series banner

Get small group mentoring with Dominic Barter, Kay Pranis, Joe Brummer, and others working on restorative justice in schools and communities.

Most session recordings are available to participants who cannot make the calls.

Choose from 4 Membership levels ($15, $25, $40 or $100 per month).

Learn more and register here


 

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More tools, tips and articles at: Conflict180.com/Tools

If Fear Is the Opposite of Love

Fear Dr. King
Courage King.png
courage angelou.png
Courage Hurston
When I was younger I learned that hot was the opposite of cold, fast was the opposite of slow, and hate was the opposite of love.

However, over time, I have come to believe the words of Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Waythat fear, and not hate, is actually the opposite of love.

Cameron talks about the way fear blocks our clarity and inner truth. She says that all of us have a compass which shows us the way north – and that fear is like static which obscures the needle from us. Thus, fear is one of the things that blocks us from right action.

As I have written previously in “Restorative is Not Gentle“, one aspect of being restorative is being courageous. It is having the fierceness to face the elephants in our midst and tell tell truth with love. It is being able to have courageous conversations that uphold the dignity of all involved.

Thus, taking restorative action may mean having the courage to face something (or someone) we have been avoiding – with the goal of clearing away some of the brambles and making a path forward together. It may mean reaching out, reaching in, or reaching through our fear.

If truth sends us a letter, will we open it and read it as though it comes from a close friend?

The antidote to fear is action

What is the smallest courageous action you are willing to take this week?

  • writing an email or text that is overdue?
  • reaching out to you-know-who to have coffee?
  • expressing regret for something you have done?
  • expressing affection to someone you have been forgetting?
  • reaching out for support from a small group of like-minded people?
  • role-playing a difficult conversation with a friend – with care for the dignity of all involved?
  • taking a baby step towards something that has been heavy in your heart?

If fear is the opposite of love, let us celebrate this month by taking small courageous steps toward becoming un-stuck and un-afraid.


NEW FOR 2019

Elaine is honored to be part of a
year-long RJ Webinar and Mentoring Series
with 12+ global Guides.
Webinars start at $15/month.
Small group mentoring starts at $25/month.

connection series banner

Learn more and register here

Get small group mentoring with Dominic Barter, Kay Pranis, Joe Brummer, and others working on restorative justice in schools and communities.

Most session recordings are available to participants who cannot make the calls.

Choose from 4 Membership levels:

Timely Topic
Intimate Circle
Deeper Dive
Connection series group membership

Learn more and register here

Join the 2019 RJ Connection Series

Elaine is honored to be invited as one of 12+ global RJ Guides for the 2019 Connection Series.

A 12-Month Ongoing Opportunity to Connect, Share, Solution-Build and Participate with a Diverse  Faculty & Global Community via Web- and Telecast.

The year-long series allows participants to choose from a monthly menu of webinars and small group mentoring sessions with globally recognized Guides in the fields of restorative justice and peace.

Membership starts at $15 per month.

Learn more here.

connection series quote

Connection Series Partners.jpg

Get Kids Involved in Interviewing an Elder

National Day of Listening.png
Download PDF version of Get Kids Involved.

MORE RESOURCES FROM STORY CORPS

StoryCorps Education World: lesson plans and resources to help young people:

  • Discover the power of their own voice
  • Learn about the importance of listening
  • Gain empathy and understanding for people who are different from themselves
  • Find strength in stories of people like themselves who succeeded despite personal challenges and social barriers.

One Small Step Project: supporting people across political and social divides in listening and civil dialogue.

StoryCorps Justice Project: preserving and amplifying the stories of youth and adults who have been incarcerated.


Carolyn and Kay

2 Steps to Better Parent Teacher Meetings

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or both, parent-teacher conferences (and meetings throughout the year) do not have to be stressful.

Instead, they can be an opportunity for everyone to get on the same page on how to best support our children.

This is because, underneath all the facts, figures, and rubrics, we care about the same fundamental things.

We want to support kids in values such as:

  • TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for their work
  • PERSEVERING when things are tough
  • BEING KIND and CARING
  • being a TEAM PLAYER

We want to have adults in the kids’ live who will:

  • HELP and GUIDE them
  • BE FLEXIBLE and UNDERSTANDING
  • BE FAIR and RESPECTFUL
  • BE SUPPORTIVE

The other thing we share as a “team” of adults are underlying feelings – such as WORRY, FEAR, CONCERN, HOPE, CONFUSION, and GRATITUDE.

These fundamental SHARED VALUES and SHARED FEELINGS can create a connecting language for us during parent-teacher meetings. 


What Are the 2 Steps To Improving Parent Teacher Meetings?

Pair Share-2
1. SPEAK IN FEELINGS AND SHARED VALUES

When YOU speak, tell the other adult how their actions (or the child’s) are affecting shared values such as learning, belonging, care, dignity, team-work, and support.

This is more powerful than focusing on what rules are not being followed or how someone’s actions are “right” or “wrong.”

This is because human beings are more motivated by values and care more about how actions help build community. Rules and negative judgments are poor motivators for many people – and can create defensiveness and resentment.

If you have feelings to share about the situation, be clear and crisp about it – without expressing contempt or sarcasm. Connect the feelings to the values to make it clear that you are focusing on what’s most important.

Ex: “I feel worried because Kayla is spending so much time doing X instead of Y. I want her to be able to learn with everyone else. And I want her to feel included in the classroom.”

BONUS: Begin with a gratitude for something specific you appreciate about the other adult (their hard work, their patience, their care).

Listen2. LISTEN FOR FEELINGS AND SHARED VALUES

When others speak, seek to understand before sharing what’s important to you. Listen for the SHARED VALUES and FEELINGS – even if they are speaking in judgments. If you are willing, say back to them what you believe is important to them as a guess – not as an open ended question. This gives them the sense of being heard at a deeper, connecting level – and also gives them a chance to correct things if an mis-understanding is developing.

“Ex: Ok, so let me see if I understand you. You are saying that you want the kids to be able to work better together – like a team?”

That gives the person an opportunity to say that yes- they are focused on team work – or no – they are focused on the child being able to handle frustration without exploding.


MORE EXAMPLES

Pair Share-2   Listen

TEACHER SPEAKING IN JUDGMENTS AND RULES: 
The main issue is that John is talking too much (right vs wrong focus). He is a bright kid but he needs to stop (not inviting problem-solving together). I have talked to him several times and he’s continuing. It’s actually disrespectful to me and the whole class (labeling behavior instead of talking about the impact or how it gets in the way of learning, collaboration, etc).

TEACHER SPEAKING IN FEELINGS AND VALUES:
I’m worried about John because he is a bright young man and his talking is getting in the way of his learning and other people’s learning. I want him to be able to express himself but I also want him to know when it is time to settle down and work. I would like to put our heads together to figure out a way to support him (inviting parent as ally or partner instead of always having all the answers).

PARENT SPEAKING IN JUDGMENTS AND RULES:
Jeremy told me that you embarrassed him in front of the whole class (passing judgment instead of inviting teacher to collaborate). He doesn’t even want to go to school any more. I don’t know what’s going on in there but you people need to get your act together (judgment without curiosity). If you have something to say (aggressive), you can call me or you can talk to him privately. That kind of behavior is not acceptable from a teacher (right and wrong focus instead of how it impacts the child or family).

PARENT SPEAKING IN FEELINGS AND VALUES:
I am pretty frustrated (honest feelings without contempt or aggression) because Jeremy says that you talked to him about his behavior in front of the whole class (opening up possibility that there was a misunderstanding; not saying the teacher “embarrassed him” but just the facts). I know he can be impulsive sometimes (taking some responsibility) and that can get in the way of learning (focusing on shared value of learning in school). I don’t know what actually happened (humility, openness to dialogue) but he feels embarrassed about it (sharing feelings without saying teacher caused the feelings)and doesn’t want to go to school any more (fact). I’d like to hear your side of it (curiosity, openness) – and more importantly – I want to problem solve together (inviting collaboration) how we can support Jeremy in being his best self in the future (shared values).


WANT TO PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME?

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Many people tell me this sounds intriguing but they could use a little help with getting in touch with their feelings and values. This way of communicating is based on Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication (NVC).

This handout lists common feelings and values (called Needs there) on one page.

If you want to do a bit of prep before the meeting, this Self-Reflection sheet can help you get ready. You can even be brave and ask the other person to fill one out at the meeting.

Good luck and I’d like to hear how it goes.


How helpful was this 2-step guide to better Parent Teacher meetings?

Email me at: elaine@conflict180.com


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