Broke Down

The engine temperature gauge began to rise from its normal position. I watched it slowly climb and then quickly peg the HOT red zone. I immediately pulled over to the side of the busy road into a side street of a calmer neighborhood and shut the engine off. Steam rose from under the hood. Something bad had happened. Was it a burst hose or something worse? I put my emergency flashers on, then got out and raised the hood. Water and coolant from the radiator was on one side of the engine and chassis of the van. The steam was thick, too thick to see the source of the leak.

I returned to the driver’s seat and called my son for help. He is good with almost anything mechanical and I knew he would be a good adviser to me. We agreed that I would let it cool down while he drove to meet me and look at it.

So far this is a pretty common story for most of us that have driven older vehicles. The reason I am telling you about this break down is the surprising reaction I received from people who passed by.

Their reaction? None.

That is what surprised me. Cars, trucks, walkers, joggers of both gender and of all ages looked in my direction for a moment then went on their way. No, good neighbor questions like “Hello, are you ok?” “Do you have help coming?” “Anything I can do?” were offered.

Very surprising.

My son arrived, helped me find the broken hose, took me to the auto parts store, put the new one on and followed me home. Granted, he is my son and a gifted mechanic, so I wouldn’t expect everyone to have been able to do that for me. But, not one offer of concern from the residents of that community?

I am still very surprised as I write about it.

As I waited for my help to arrive I watched the strangers pass me. The lack of concern, or even eye contact left me sad. I wondered if I had called out for help would one of them responded? Probably, but I waited to see if anyone would check on me; a stranger without my request. Would they take the risk of having their plans for the moment delayed? I am not a scary looking guy; at least I have never been told that I am, but maybe there is a fear that runs deep now in our society that overwhelms the good neighbor in us. Or is it busyness?

Jesus told a story to the expert in the law who had asked Him, “And who is my neighbor?” The answer was the person who showed kindness and mercy to a person in need.

“Go and do likewise”, Jesus concluded.

If we are to be followers of Him, then we will do what He had commanded.

My story ended well, yet it motivated me to help others by being a good neighbor. It makes me urge you to do the same when you can.

A New Name

RingsI changed her name today. Finally. It’s been official for several weeks.

She’s been on my mind about her travels, her return to the USA and settling into her new home.

The transition in her has been gradual, consistent, and wonderful to watch. She has had the same name for 22 + years so changing it was something that didn’t come automatic for me.

Yesterday I told Siri to call Emily Branson. The name appeared on the screen of my phone, the number was dialed and began to ring. Then I remembered — that wasn’t her anymore. Emotion stirred in me for a moment as I waited for her to answer; it was like time flashed through all the years with her in my mind.

“Hello Dad!” What sweet words to hear.

I think I choked out a “Hi, honey”. I do remember confessing immediately to her that I had not changed her name in my phone yet. Her familiar giggle warmed me inside.

After our brief call I set my phone down. I was busy, but not enough to have taken a couple of seconds to go into my Contacts and make a change. But I wanted to wait one more day.

The ceremony was finished, I had placed her hand in the hand of Josh Smallbone. I joined my wife and his parents in a prayer of blessing over them. I wrote them a letter and gave it to Josh in a Baton to symbolize the hand off of my protection of her to him.Parent's prayerThrough the Doors

Yet, my phone still held her close from the past. I reflected with it about her. It shared the emails, texts and photos of Emily Branson. Sweet memories; thank you phone.

This morning my phone and I released her to be the new person she will become and I am so happy for the expansion of my relationships, not the end. I gained a son, I didn’t loose a daughter. They both gained a great spouse.

Life transitions are constantly happening to us. If you are a follower of Christ reading this, I urge you to think of the change you are going through as His Bride.

Revelation 2:17 tells us “…and to each one who is victorious I will give a new name engraved on a White Stone.”

I believe that Josh and Emily will have many joys and will be victorious over the challenges in their marriage until physical death parts them. I hope and pray that your relationship in your marriage to Christ will do the same.

How wonderful the day when Jesus says, “I changed his/her name today”. Then you hear the Father call you by it and you say, “Hello Dad!”

The Clasp

clasp \ˈklasp\

: a device for holding together objects or parts of something (such as a purse, necklace, belt, etc.)

: a strong hold with your hands or arms

Clasp is a word that we don’t use very often. It is a noun and a verb.

Think about it for a second. When was the last time you thought about the clasp on your jewelry? Probably when you were trying to attach the two ends of the chain. Or when you saw that it had made its way to the prominent area of display instead of its relegated area of the back, out of sight position. We don’t think about a clasp until it doesn’t work, or will not close easily, or it is being seen instead of the item of intended demonstration and admiration you chose to put on the necklace or bracelet.

On clothing it is banished to the backside, as hidden as possible, doing its job of holding two ends together. Without any appreciation, the clasp provides security and function to the form of the design.

There is one type of clasp that does command attention. A belt is promoted in its work with a buckle that is part of the look. And though a buckle might be considered in the clasp family, it is an exception to the overall rule of “out of sight, out of mind”, “not to be seen or heard”.

So, Clasp the noun. Generally unappreciated, unnoticed, only recognized when it is needed to go to work and not thought of again unless it doesn’t work.

Clasp as an action. Though we don’t usually say, “I want to clasp your hand”, nor would it sound right in the popular Beatles song, it can be a very comforting move from one person to another. Not a hurtful grab or mean stronghold, a clasp can be the support needed to steady or pull up someone who needs a hand.

I asked someone recently, “When was the last time you thought about a Clasp?” ‘A what?’, they replied. “A clasp”, I said. There was a pause, then they said, ‘I don’t know, what’s your point?’

And so began my desire to write this blog about clasps. What is my point, I wondered. I don’t know that I have one. It could be that I sometimes champion the causes of the underdog, down-trodden, oppressed, forgotten, hurt, unappreciated, and lost. But dwelling on a clasp? Yes, it is somewhat odd, yet maybe somewhat necessary to remind myself and a few readers that there are many unrecognized things, and people, in the backgrounds of our lives that work away providing form in our function, security, order and ease. Maybe my clasp focus will help call out our appreciation for other small things in life.

Another point might be that sometimes we need a clasp physically. A hand up from a stumble, an embrace of greeting to feel loved and welcomed. If I see you and say, “Hey friend! Give me a clasp!” You will now understand what I mean.

So, clasp but not least; try to notice the unseen or unappreciated today. Gratitude may occur when you least expect it!

Two Apologies

Early in my business and leadership training one of rules of engagement was to “never lead off with an apology!” It was based on the perspective that you would appear weak in your position at the table. Showing vulnerability was forbidden, even fatal. Grip the hand firm, chest out, push hard, back off only when you had dominated and still could maintain control.

I have seen that work best in security and law enforcement. It has several flaws as a strategy for leadership in the workforce, home and community. One of my mentors; a man’s man, a pastor with a brilliant mind, a strong delivery of the truth, a facts/logic approach and a desire to build disciples taught me so much by what he shared about his mistakes. He was able to “find a kernel of truth in every criticism” and he would sometimes lead off a meeting with powerful men by sharing  some vulnerable weakness he had, or a recent mistake he had made. “Didn’t that weaken you in their eyes?”, I asked.  No, he smiled and said.  ‘Actually I gained the upper hand because I had so thrown them off by my approach that they went from standing on the balls of their feet ready to pounce to rocked back on their heels.  In that split second, I then asked them a question about them.  It opened them up to share with me and enter into a whole new level of discussion and honestly.’

That is amazing.  It is counter-intuitive.  Not what the leaders tried to instill in me years ago. My friend showed that you could lead with a weakness that becomes the platform for truth and realness in the conversation, negotiation, teaching, etc.

I know a debate could flame up over what I have just shared, but I can also tell you I have used this approach with success. One of the best areas of example is with the marriage ministry work my wife and I have done over the last 18 years. Giving the couples in the group a few ways that I/we have done things that were not helpful in our marriage right at the first of our time together brought the level of anxiousness down in each person. They heard what they instinctively already knew that there are no perfect marriages and that they were not alone in their relationship struggles.

There is much to talk about around that, and if there is interest I can blog about it in the future.

This message is to share two apologies I gave to strangers; well, actually they were really new friends I had come to know, trust and even care about over a short, intensive two-day retreat. The last night of the retreat I felt a burden to ask for forgiveness to both women and men.

In the apology to women, I had not personally done a wrong to the people in the room, but as a man I chose to take the position to represent men.  The open acknowledgement of wrong and hurtful behavior to the women by others could be seen as a weak position to take, yet it was a powerful offering to bring forth healing and forgiveness. I am not recommending that you try to assume responsibility for your gender as a whole, but in this time and place it brought about a greater closeness between people.

In the apology to men, I share my regret of not hearing the counsel of those who tried to give it and the failure to try to offer the same to others.  As well as calling out the passive men who can make a difference if they would choose to.

Maybe it will have an effect on you, or someone you know that needs to here it.  It so, please share.

I apologize…

Ladies,

No men got together and voted for me to represent them to you, so I am saying this on my own. But, I don’t think I am alone is the words of feeling in this message to you.

For all the times that men have used you, abused you, abandoned you, lied to you, failed to stand, support, nurture, serve, and lead you;

For cowardness, weakness, denial, selfishness, withdrawal, anger, blame, lack of spiritual grounding and guidance;

For the times we pressured you for sex, caused you physical, emotional and spiritual pain, for not having self-control to honor, respect and cherish you, your virginity, your purity, your worth;

For when you have been alone, with danger and fears and we ran away instead of running forward to protect you;

For all the joy, dancing, and worship that you deserved to be join in with, but your partner refused;

For all these things and more, we were wrong.  I am sorry.  Please forgive us.

 

Men,

I apologize to you who are my senior in years that tried to model the way of true, godly manhood and I didn’t listen, look, and seek your ways and truth. I was wrong.  I am sorry, please forgive me.

To you who failed to lead me and my generation in the ways of God, your silence, apathy, indifference, fear, neglect, passivity, irresponsibility, and lack of courage has caused great harm.  I forgive you.

To my peers that I ran with but didn’t encourage and hold accountable to live as righteous men, to you who are younger that I have failed like my elders did me, I was wrong. I am sorry, please forgive me.

Who Do I Say I Am?

9567527_s“People-Pleaser” has been a label that I have carried for most of my life.  It is a part of the unhealthy self-talk that I have going in my mind.  I am guilty of personalizing events in life as personal rejections of me. This is a form of distortion where I will overestimate the extent an event or words said, (or not said,) are related to me.

You probably know someone who has this noise in their head sometimes too, I am sure of it.  If the people I am around are not in a good mood or if there is disharmony then I am very uncomfortable.  I will begin to ask myself if I am the cause of it somehow. That question can lead me down a slippery slope of negative self-talk. See if you identify the unhealthy thinking pattern I have struggled with as you read the descriptions below.

The Bible has a blueprint for replacing this faulty thinking and replace it with true beliefs. It comes from Scriptures that say we shouldn’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to take our thoughts captive and cast down our vain imaginations, knowing the truth will set us free…because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

So, how do we make that practical in our lives daily? Where do we begin? Start by looking at some of the typical lies that occur in our personal lives and relationships.

In the workbook, Intimate Encounters: Discovering the Secrets of a Really Great Marriage, Dr. David Ferguson lists six of the most common unhealthy thinking patterns that contribute to emotional pain. We all seem to fall victim to one or more of the patterns (listed below).

In order to stop the effects of these unhealthy thinking patterns, you must:

1. Identify which of these are most common for you.

2. Become aware of events/situations that trigger your thinking and emotions.

3. Recognize what you are saying about yourself. Your self-talk is a “belief” system about yourself.

4. Notice your responses in behavior and emotion to the event/situation.

5. Challenge your negative thoughts with truthful thoughts that you choose to tell yourself and then enjoy feeling positive!

It takes time, but this really will work. It has helped me derail these attacks on myself. By telling yourself truthful statements, you can change your thinking patterns.  It is not easy, but with practice and patience you can do it.

Two important tips:

1. Keep a journal for at least a week to analyze your own self-talk.  By realizing your unique style of dealing with life, you can make rapid changes in your attitude and behavior where it is needed!

2. Have someone help you with reminders of the truth as you attempt to confront these  distortions in your thinking patterns and self-talk.

Six Common Unhealthy Thinking Patterns (from Intimate Encounters,Chapter 13, Break Free from Unhealthy Thinking)

  1. Personalizing – Taking external events as personal rejections and attacks. Taking everything personally is a form of distortion in which a person overestimates the extent an event is related to him or her. Moody and easily hurt by so-called rejections. Filled with insecurities, they develop low self-esteem and may blame themselves for everything.  Others see them as “fragile,” overly sensitive, childish, even hysterical. Frequently “personalizers” felt rejected in childhood or came from highly critical home environments. Whether the rejection was overt and abusive, or more subtle and neglectful, the child grew up with negative self-talk, such as, What is wrong with me? I can’t do anything right.  It’s my fault.  Who cares about me? I’m worthless.
  2. Magnifying – “Makes a mountain out of a molehill!” They can be volatile with anger, unmerciful with self-condemnation, or “bottomless” with self-pity. Others may consider them self-absorbed, preoccupied with their own crises, whiny, and over-reacting. They may say things like: devastated, worst, ruined, terrible, horrible, awful. “Magnifers” may have developed this distorted thinking in a home environment where little things were blown out of proportion. Spilled milk merited a character attack; discipline was excessive and out of proportion to the offense; or one parent was preoccupied with loneliness, rejection, or fear, seeing catastrophes in every situation. Another common childhood pattern is the “overly responsible” child who filled a relational vacuum in his home, seeking to hold the family together by pleasing everyone or meeting one parent’s emotional needs due to a breakdown in the marital relationship. Such children often become overwhelmed by life’s events.
  3. Overgeneralizing – “History always repeats itself.” Generalizing is relying on past events to predict the future. This can undermine your worth, cast doubts on your adequacy, and prevent you from trusting others or yourself. With this self-defeating style of thinking, a person can conclude, “No matter what I do, I will never get along with that person.” “Overgeneralizers” carry around loads of anxiety, doubt, and fear. They hold onto past hurts, failures, and rejections, and recite them as evidence for their gloomy attitude toward the future. They figure, “Why try? The past will just repeat itself.” Other people view generalizers as fearful, untrusting, or unforgiving. They were often exposed to this way of thinking in their home environment.
  4. Emotional Reasoning – Seeing reality through the skewed perspective of your emotions. Convinced something is so just because you feel it. Or denying the truth because you don’t feel it. This unhealthy thinking can come from a past home life dominated by fear or mistrust, physical or sexual abuse, parents who hurled accusation at you, such as “I just know you’ll go off and get pregnant some day!” Or, “You’re going to turn out just like your (fill in your own negative role model here) if you keep this up!” And it can lead to growing up feeling a nagging sense of worthlessness and betrayal.
  5. Polarizing/Selective Abstraction – Perfectionist thinking pattern that views life as all-or-nothing, good-or-bad, black-or-white. More than a little difficult to live with, “polarizers” hold to rigid rules for evaluating their life and relationships; they classify events as right or wrong, good or bad; and they judge their performance (or other’s) on the basis of their own impossible standards. They feel no satisfaction in modest performance or genuine effort,and there’s little joy in success, since it was expected all along. But, when  they don’t attain their idea of perfection, they’re likely to suffer great anger and despair. “Selective Abstraction” is an offshoot of Polarizing. “Missing the forest for the trees.” Focus is on what is wrong rather than on what is right. They spend time and energy fussing and fuming over a few minor problems when they could have invested the same time and energy toward positive solutions.
  6. Minimizing – “It really doesn’t matter.” Denying or discounting any feelings associated with the significant events of their life. “Minimizers” tend to verbalize few emotions themselves and expect the same from others around them, often leaving loved ones lonely, frustrated, and feeling deeply wounded. Even during tragic events, minimizers often demonstrate little or no feeling. They deny that anything troubles them, and, when pressed to communicate, they may give facts, opinions, or data instead of vulnerably sharing their needs and feelings. Often minimizers come from homes where personal needs are neglected or overlooked. In an effort to avoid the pain of unmet needs, children in these environments will learn to deny their own needs, lose touch with their feelings, and reduce to a minimum their personal sharing.

As you read the traits of each of these unhealthy thinking patterns, do you see yourself in any of the descriptions? What effect has it had on you? On your marriage, children or other relationships?

Who Do People Say I Am? – Part 2

What Others Say About Me - part 2“Sticks and stones may break my bones,  but words will never harm me!”  Did you hear that saying when you were growing up?  Is it true? I will answer that one for you; no, it is not.  Words are powerful, strong, strengthening and destructive. The labels or descriptions we put on people can stick on them.  They can work their way deep into the mind and remain there for a life time.

The words used to describe you can build you up or tear you down. If you are spoken well of it can boost your self-confidence, stroke your ego, give you positive feelings of being respected, acknowledged, appreciated, approved, and secure. If you are criticized it can have the opposite effect.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How did others learn about you?
  • Do they know you?
  • Do they know things about you from personal experience?
  • Did they hear about you from someone else or from something written about you?
  • What is the nature of your relationship with them?
  • Does it matter to you what they say?
  • Is it true?
  • What if it is not?
  • Does it matter?
  • How will you respond?

There is another saying I heard growing up; *“To thy own self be true.”  No matter what others say about you, you know the truth about yourself. Sometimes we are unjustly accused, or unfairly judged, or misunderstood, or gossiped about by jealous or unhealthy people (see part 1). Mostly we are spoken of as a result of our personal choices in word and deed that others see or hear about.

What about your reputation? It is earned over time with a good one easily tarnished quickly.

Wikipedia says, “Reputation of a social entity (a person, a social group, an organization) is an opinion about that entity, typically a result of social evaluation on a set of criteria.”

A take-a-way from this Part 2: Usually what others say about you is what you have shown or said to them directly or indirectly. 

  1. As you are critiqued by the public what choices do you have?  
  2. Have you considered choosing to not be offended even when something said about you is offensive?
  3. If your criteria for how to be is clear to you, then what does it matter what other say?
  4. How will you live from this day forward to teach people how to talk about you?

* Original source is a line from Polonius in Hamlet.

Who Do People Say I Am?- Part 1

Angry WordsWhat I have learned overtime is most people don’t think about us or what we have done or how we are feeling as much as we may think they do! We may want; even need, more attention, acceptance, and approval from others, but having a hyper-focused worry, dread, suspension on how we are being perceived is a thinking path that leads to negative feelings, thinking and ultimately behavior.

It is also interesting to consider the person, or persons, that are talking about you.  According to 1 new research by a Wake Forest University psychology professor, how positively you see others is linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable you are.

Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality,” says Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study, about his findings. By asking study participants to each rate positive and negative characteristics of just three people, the researchers were able to find out important information about the rater’s well-being, mental health, social attitudes and how they were judged by others.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Peter Harms at the University of Nebraska and Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis co-authored the study.

The researchers found a person’s tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of the positivity of the person’s own personality traits. They discovered particularly strong associations between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable the person describes oneself and is described by others.

“Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits,” Wood says.

The study also found that how positively you see other people shows how satisfied you are with your own life, and how much you are liked by others.

In contrast, negative perceptions of others are linked to higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior. “A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively,” Wood says. “The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.” Given that negative perceptions of others may underlie several personality disorders, finding techniques to get people to see others more positively could promote the cessation of behavior patterns associated with several different personality disorders simultaneously, Wood says.

This research suggests that when you ask someone to rate the personality of a particular coworker or acquaintance, you may learn as much about the rater providing the personality description as the person they are describing. The level of negativity the rater uses in describing the other person may indeed indicate that the other person has negative characteristics, but may also be a tip off that the rater is unhappy, disagreeable, neurotic — or has other negative personality traits.

Raters in the study consisted of friends rating one another, college freshmen rating others they knew in their dormitories, and fraternity and sorority members rating others in their organization. In all samples, participants rated real people and the positivity of their ratings were found to be associated with the participant’s own characteristics.

By evaluating the raters and how they evaluated their peers again one year later, Wood found compelling evidence that how positively we tend to perceive others in our social environment is a highly stable trait that does not change substantially over time.

A take-a-way from this Part 1: What others say about you says more about them that you.

  1. Are you helped by considering that hurting people hurt people?  
  2. Does it help you not take offensive when someone is unjustly critical of you when you consider how it reflects on their own character?  Maybe pity for them can fill your heart rather than bitterness, resentment or anger?
  3. Would you be able to confront their hurtful words by doing kind things for them in return?

 

1 Wake Forest University (2010, August 3). What you say about others says a lot about you, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2010/08/100802165441.htm


	

My Clutch Awareness

Stick ShiftI sold my car with an automatic transmission and purchased a truck with a manual five speed transmission.  It has been several years since I drove a manual shift truck.  It brought back good memories.

I remember “back in the day” when I was learning to drive a car, the transition from “standard” to “automatic” was a big change.  Most of us learned to use the clutch and shift as part of driving.  The challenge of starting the vehicle rolling forward while stopped on a hill involved a developed skill of using two feet to operate three critical components, the clutch, the brake and the accelerator.  Sometimes I would hear of someone who cheated and put on the emergency brake to hold them while they disengaged the clutch and pushed in on the accelerator instead of the artful placing on your left foot on both the clutch and brake while your right foot “gave it gas”, as we would say.

(Come to think of it, we also had to parallel park for the driving license test too!)

These descriptions may bring back memories and stories from your past as you drove,  tried to drive , or rode with someone in a manual shift vehicle.  Times have changed with the easier automatic transmission cars.  Put it in Drive and go.

There are many advantages to not having to clutch and shift.  Stop-and-go traffic and a sore left leg are just a couple that come to mind.  But let me mention an advantage that I noticed as I returned to the shifty world of a manual five speed pickup truck.

When you are listening to the RPMs of the engine or watching the tachometer, you are focusing more on what is happening to the vehicle.  As you engage the gears you are engaged with the rhythm of the engine, you are aware of the road, the straight-a-ways, the curves, the hills and dales.

Being attentive to your driving is important.  When someone isn’t we usually hear the grim details on the news.  Texting, eating, putting on make-up, drinking a beverage, changing the station on the radio, talking on the phone (with or without ear pieces), etc. all take our minds away from the reality and danger of the hurling massive bubble we are traveling in.

My clutch awareness has helped me to concentrate more on what I am doing; driving.  I am safer on the road to myself, my passengers and others. It is a lesson that can be applied to life in general too.

Are you doing things in life that have become automatic and never cross your mind much?  It is easy to take those things for granted.  It is dangerous to not be mindful and aware of what we are doing.  In our busy, faster and faster world, may I suggest you put a clutch into your life.  Find a way to disengage the hard-driving and shift gears sometimes yourself.  You could find more control and appreciation come with it.

Which Way Do You Respond to Conflict?

5 Conflict responsesThere is good news about conflict What?  Yes!  It can bring understanding about yourself, the situation, and the root cause. Conflict can even bring people closer together with a stronger confidence in building trust, respect and support with each other.

It is common to say, “Conflict is inevitable!”… Duh.  I say that a lot myself. That truth alone does not help with managing it, but it is a start.  It is normal and healthy to have conflict. What we do with the conflict is very important for health within ourselves and in our relationships with others.

Most people I meet have not been taught what I am about to share with you.  I hope it becomes clear in the next few paragraphs, (with the help of the handy diagram I created) that you have five distinct ways to respond to conflict. The model is based on the good work of Thomas-Kilman and their Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). They identified five main styles of dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness. Their presupposition is that people typically have a preferred conflict resolution style.

Before we go further I want to make an important point that each of the five conflict responses are useful in different situations. Not one of them is bad, or wrong in itself. When and how often you use it is important.

The following definitions from the TKI will help you see the style.  I have renamed them in my diagram as a fresh look at the well-worn terms used to talk about it.  No matter what the label is, see if you can find the one that you most use. Once you know your tendencies, you can begin to explore what others use in your interactions with them. This information is vital to developing a conflict management strategy in your relationships.  I will be glad to walk you through how to apply this to your situation.  Give me a call.

Avoiding (No Way): People tending towards this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible, when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve the problem. However in many situations this is a weak and ineffective approach to take.

Competitive (My Way): People who tend towards a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position, rank, expertise, or persuasive ability. This style can be useful when there is an emergency and a decision needs to be made fast; when the decision is unpopular; or when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly. However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in less urgent situations.

Accommodating (Your Way): This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person’s own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” you gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes.

Compromising (Our Way): People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something and the compromiser (him or her) also expects to relinquish something. Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming.

Collaborative (New Way): People tending towards a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful when you need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off.

Once you understand the different styles, you can use them to think about the most appropriate approach (or mixture of approaches) for the situation you’re in. You can also think about your own instinctive approach, and learn how you need to change this if necessary.

Ideally you can adopt an approach that is appropriate for the situation, addresses the problem, respects people’s legitimate interests, and leads to mending damaged relationships.