3 posts categorized "Family"

January 13, 2019

How Not to Be Stupid

How not to be stupid is a subject that is smart to think about. Stupidity is not lack of intelligence but a symptom of intelligence being overridden in a complex environment.

A recent post by Shane Parrish in the Farnam Street Blog describes an interview with Adam Robinson (@IAmAdamRobinson) who developed a definition of stupidity as “overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information”.

In other words, if something is crucial, it’s very important. If it’s conspicuous, it’s easily available and probably I already know it. Therefore it is stupid if I overlook or dismiss very important and easily available information which I already know. That stupidity can cause errors. If I am driving and make an error in changing lanes, it could lead to death or injury of me or someone else.

In his research Adam Robinson identified 7 factors which cause errors. These are

  1. being outside of your circle of competence, or outside your normal environment,
  2. physical or emotional stress, or fatigue,
  3. rushing or a sense of urgency,
  4. fixation on an outcome, or doing a task that requires intense focus,
  5. information overload,
  6. being in the presence of a group, where social cohesion comes into play, and
  7. being in the presence of an authority or expert, even if you are the expert.

Alone, each of these factors influence us powerfully to make mistakes. When the factors are piled together there is a dramatic increase in the odds that “you are unaware that you’ve been cognitively compromised,” according to Adam Robinson.

For example when I am driving, if I am in a hurry to get where I’m going and I am talking on the phone through the car’s bluetooth, I am much more likely to make a driving error.

Sometimes the stupidity is engineered purposely to defraud or manipulate. Sometimes it’s used for a more benign purpose, such as a magician providing entertainment.

Not being stupid is important. The third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind cancer and heart disease, is automobile accidents. Another chilling statistic is that “210,000 to 440,000 people die every year in the United States from hospital error.” I think the statistics for Canada are similar.

How can we avoid being stupid?

For me, I am going to try not to be stupid by being particularly aware of the risk of error when one or more of those 7 factors are happening.

For example, that means deferring decisions until I am rested, and not rushed. When I’m mediating, it means using the meeting time efficiently and avoiding a last-minute temptation to rush the details into a written agreement.  It means hanging up the phone when driving, if the traffic is unusual or I don’t know the area.

But often minimizing or eliminating the 7 factors isn’t possible.

When I am working – or driving - in circumstances where unavoidably one or more one of the 7 factors are occurring, it comes down to being alert to my tendency for errors and trying to make sure I do not overlook or dismiss information that is crucial and right there in front of me.

How will you avoid being stupid?

Read the full article by Shane Parrish here.

 

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If you are considering becoming a professional mediator, our schedule gives you the opportunity to complete sufficient training to apply for the Q. Med. designation this spring.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – March 20, 21, 22, 25, & 26 – 5 days – 40 hours.

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February 7, 2018

Just Listen!

The feeling that you are not being listened to is very frustrating. Relationships have been ended because of this feeling, in families, in workplaces and in business.

One reason this breakdown in communication occurs is that listening is not a skill generally developed and practiced. By comparison, reading, analyzing, and speaking are skills that are regularly part of educational programs.

Hearing is not the same as listening. Although it is a common saying, we seem to need frequent reminders. Just because I am speaking a language you understand and you can hear my words, I cannot be sure that you are listening to me. Vibration of the eardrums is not enough.

Many of us have not thought about how we listen. At the same time effective listening is the social glue that enables us to form meaningful relationships and connections.

Mortimer J. Adler wrote in How to Speak, How to Listen:

“We all realize that the ability to read requires training…the same would appear to be true of speaking and listening … training is required … Likewise, skill in listening is either a native gift or it must be acquired by training.”

Active listening is taught for use in many professional contexts and is applicable to any communication setting. An active listener listens with full attention, observe non-verbal components of what is said, clarify any unclear points, may paraphrase what is said, and ask the speaker to expand.

A mediator working with two or more people who are involved in a conflict, helps to resolve the conflict by facilitating active listening through words and body language, and in that way creates an opportunity for the disputing parties to understand one another.

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” ― M. Scott Peck

Listen Actively = Understand + Retain + Respond

Understand

First, we must understand what the other person is saying. In most cases, this occurs without a lot of effort. Some possible barriers which can limit comprehension, include:

  • Language
  • Use of jargon or slang
  • Differences in culture, age, education, or other factors not shared by both speaker and listener.

In Eyes Wide Open, Isaac Lidsky recommends simplifying understanding by asking “Can you explain that like I’m five years old?.”' Removing jargon and explaining things in simple language results in improved comprehension of complex topics.

Retain

As an active listener we must understand and retain what the person has said.

That retention of details cannot be limited to the part of what they said that is relevant to our reply. In order to listen actively we must focus on what the speaker said without thinking about what we will say next.

One of the challenges of listening is suppressing our ego long enough to fully consider what they said.  No matter how many times we may have heard from other clients or friends in similar situations, we do not know what this particular person is going to say until we listen to them.

Possible barriers to retention include:

  • Cognitive biases and selective listening (See Common Ground Blog, March 3, 2017)
  • Distractions, internal or external, such as fatigue, noise, or mobile devices.
  • Issues with memory, such as dementia.

Respond

Tell them what we understand. After listening to understand and retaining what we heard, then we need to communicate what we understand them to have said. This allows the speaker to assess your level of understanding.

“To be an active listener, we must try to go beyond the words and form a rich picture of the other person’s emotions and intentions,” in the words of Shane Parrish, Farnam Street Blog.

In responding we need to let the speaker know that we have paid attention to their words and also observed their non-verbal communication. When you disagree with the speaker, resist the temptation to try to add meanings to your response that align with your own perspective. This is not listening; this is debating.

 The same possible barriers apply to responding as to understanding and retaining.

 

“Anyone can talk,   

   but to listen is a gift,

     we should all exchange”

J. Benson, Haiku to Live By: Life affirming messages, to hearten your day

 

Build your active listening skills to resolve conflict.   Join us for Fundamentals of Mediation, a 40 hour, 5 day intensive mediation course. The next course dates are March 21, 22, 23, 26 and 27, 2018 in London, Ontario, Canada. Early registration discount ends February 12!

 

 

December 9, 2017

Gift- Giving Season Without Conflict: 5 Tips AND a New Year Challenge!

Surprisingly often we find ourselves in conflict with others about giving and receiving gifts. Gift giving seems like it should be simple and conflict-free.  We are making an effort to positively acknowledge another person with a gift.  However many of us have found it’s not that easy.

Woven in with the other social challenges of families and workplaces at this time of year there is the challenge of giving gifts. Recent discussion in the media about giving cash gifts with strings attached got me thinking about the complexity of gift-giving. 

Many retail businesses survive because of the spurt of purchases in the holiday gift-giving season. After all that’s the origin of the name Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., to recognize the day that the bottom line in retail business shifts from red to black. Gift giving is big business. It is estimated that Christmas gifts account for 5% of all consumer spending and about 8% of a family’s annual budget may be spent on Christmas gifts. Let’s not forget the other celebrations at this time of year which may include giving gifts, such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. That’s a lot of resources invested by gift-buyers.  Added to that is the effort and time invested in choosing and making gifts that cannot be valued with money.

Family members are the people to whom many of the gifts are given. According to Psychology Today, December 2016, “Four-fifths of all gifts given by adults over the year are Christmas gifts. Four fifths of all Christmas gifts are given to relatives, especially close relatives.  No wonder the choosing and buying of Christmas presents is such a big ordeal for so many and for such a long time.”(my emphasis)

Based on my experience as a mediator and dispute resolution professional, and as a giver and recipient of gifts, here are five tips to help navigate gift-giving season with less conflict.

1. Less is more

Don’t spend more to try to get them to like the gift (or you) more. At this time of year we are surrounded by advertising messages that encourage us to spend.  In contrast this is such an old concept that there is the popular wisdom of a proverb to illustrate it: "Small gifts make friends, great ones make enemies".  

 Modern research supports this. Studies found that there is “no relationship between the cost of a gift and the extent to which it is liked or preferred. The best predictor of how much a gift is appreciated is the amount of time, mental and physical effort put into choosing, making or preparing it.” 

 Think about some of the gifts you have received which you value most. A drawing from a child or a favourite food made by a grandmother are often the type of gifts that make us smile even many years later.

 2.  Enjoy the giving.

Giving a gift is an opportunity to express your bond with the recipient. Remember the gift includes your time and effort in choosing or making the gift.

There is no obligation to give a gift. If there’s an obligation it’s not a gift. The gift captures our effort to observe the recipient, and to choose a gift they want, or even better, a gift they didn’t know they wanted.

What you are really giving is your thought, the emotion you feel for that person. The action or the item is the representation of the thought.

Psychologists say it is often the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the biggest psychological gains from a gift, according to a 2007 article in the New York Times.

 3. Let go.

When you give, you have to let go. No strings attached. After the gift has been given, the giver has no more attachment to it. It’s not yours anymore!

Your gift might be as small as cookies you baked or as large as a new car. When they receive your gift, they can eat the cookies or throw them out. They can drive the car or sell it. And if your gift is cash, it’s up to them to decide what to do with it.

The only part that you get to keep is the happiness that giving brings you. See # 2. 

 4.  You know what gift you gave. You do not know what gift they got.

Dr SunWolf succinctly described the paradox of gifts. “I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.”

Consider your gift from the eyes of the recipient, as much as you can. How the recipient interprets your gift may be based on factors unknown to you and not within your control. Your brown paper wrapping to be planet-friendly may signal to them that you do not value the relationship very much because an ex in high school gave them an unpleasant gift wrapped in brown paper. Your gift of expensive jewellery to someone you met a couple months ago, may be seen as a level of commitment that is not shared.

  5.  Receive graciously.

 When you receive a gift, it is important to recognize the giver’s thought for you that is captured in the gift. If you make comments like “That’s too much”, “You shouldn’t have“, or “I didn’t want anything”, the underlying message the giver understands may be that you do not want their love. 

 If you receive a gift with a genuine, “Thank you”, and acknowledge the thought behind the gift, it allows the giver to feel the positive emotions that motivated them to give you the gift in the first place.

 In return for their gift, you give them back the gift of your thought and love for them.

 

Following these 5 tips is a good start to reducing holiday gift-giving conflict.

 

 New Year’s Challenge:  Do one small thing! 

What is one small thing you can do that will make a big difference for someone close to you?

You can start small. You can start today.   What change can you make that will create a big difference for someone close to you?   It might be stopping small annoyances with common sources of conflict like toothpaste tubes and toilet paper rolls.  It might be something more important like helping them out with chores.  It might be stopping smoking or getting more exercise or helping them to do that.  You might not even tell them that you have made this change, just let them experience the difference you made.  Think outside the box!  Likely this will be something that is not captured in a box or in the statistics about the economic impact of gift-giving season. 

Imagine what a positive impact you could have on the people close to you if you could do one small thing that will make a big difference for each one of them.

That’s the challenge I invite you to embrace for 2018!

 

Join us in London, Ontario, Canada for Fundamentals of Mediation on March 21, 22, 23, 26, & 27, 2018. Click here for more information.