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Conflict Resolution: The 5 Essential Skills

The Short Advice Conflict Resolution

Conflict management is an extremely important consideration for the well-rounded individual.

Simply avoiding conflict is not a viable solution in many circumstances, and certainly not one that is recommended. The longer we let our problems stew, the less likely we are to manage them in a rational, and solution-focused manner. And that brings us to our first essential conflict resolution skill:

1. Address the issue early.

Nobody is perfect. People will make mistakes and they will inevitably upset you. But communicating your feelings earlier, rather than later, can save you (and others involved) much heartache. A dangerous assumption that people often make is that their feelings are known, without them ever having communicated those feelings. “She knows what she’s doing, and she knows its upsetting me.” Hmmm, this may be so, but then again, it is equally as likely that the person is unaware of the stress they are causing. Or maybe there is an underlying issue contributing to their behaviour that you are unaware of. Either way, if you raise the issue early you allow the chance for everyone to better understand the full scale of the situation, and people’s emotions towards it.

2. Stick to the point.

Perhaps someone that you are not particularly fond of is doing something that you are also not stoked about. Always remember that the issue is with what the individual is doing, not who they are. It’s still okay not to like someone. There are a lot of people in this world, and we can’t be expected to get along swimmingly with everybody. But, we do owe all of these people a certain degree of respect, that is ultimately theirs to lose. So, set the example and treat the person with dignity as you address the actions that you have taken exception to. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be stern, or direct. Each situation will have to be judged on its merits of course, but you should always be mindful of presenting a factual, and less-subjective argument where possible.

3. Mind your delivery.

To ‘stick to the point’, is to focus on the actions and facts, not the individual’s personality with whom your qualm is with. To ‘mind your delivery’ is to be conscious of the way in which you communicate this message. Now, there are a thousand ways to deliver the same message, but only a few ways to deliver it well. Even the right message can be counter-productive if not delivered tactfully, so always bear this in mind when making your point. Whilst sarcasm can be heaps of fun, it’s generally not a good way to let someone know that they are in the wrong. Nor is yelling and berating. Rather, you should aim to take an informative, and educational tone (without being condescending). You are not assuming knowledge, but rather, informing them of the situation as you see it, and your emotions towards said situation. This is information that would be reasonable to assume this person does not know. Your calm and informative tone will hopefully encourage them to respond in a similar manner. We do all of this with the aim of creating a constructive conversation, rather than an emotion-fuelled argument.

4. Stay rational under emotional duress.

When we are trying to manage situations of conflict, we must also manage our emotions at the same time. It can be difficult to think clearly and make rational decisions when we are under such pressure, and so it is important to recognise that there is a tendency for people to become irrational during times of conflict. Unless you are made of stone, you have experienced this phenomenon before. You’ve said things you wished you hadn’t. You’ve done things you wished you hadn’t. So, as stated in a previous post about sustainable change, learn from your mistakes. Take a breath, and refer back to skills one, two and three. It’s okay to slow down and take your time. You don’t need to rush to a solution, because it may not be the right one. Next time you feel yourself becoming a bit agitated, change your tact, and remind yourself to be solution-focused.

5. Know when to walk away.

You can’t win them all. Well, it’s really not about winning or losing, is it? The right outcome for a situation of conflict might see you having to take responsibility for some wrong-doing. That is perfectly reasonable. But every now and then, we may find ourselves butting heads with an individual who is not as well-versed in conflict resolution as ourselves. Some people may simply be unwilling to allow you the chance to address your issue properly. Or maybe you are unable to appropriately manage your emotions in order to remain rational. Whatever the case, it is important to recognise when you are figuratively ‘banging your head against a brick wall’. In other words, you need to recognise when an argument is no longer constructive. Walking away might mean suggesting that the conversation be continued another time, after both parties have had a chance to consider the situation. This all depends on your relationship with the person in question, and the weight of the issue. If it is someone close, and likely to bother you in the future, it needs to be revisited. Don’t leave the matter unresolved.

Final note…

We hope you enjoyed reading about our 5 Essential Conflict Resolution Skills. If you have a specific matter of conflict you’d like some help with, head over to the homepage and give us the short story, and we’ll reply within 24 hours with the short advice. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

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Change Dynamics: Creating Sustainable Change

Change dynamics

Firstly, don’t change for anyone else.

Change must come from within. Sure, someone or something might prompt you to make a change, but unless you truly believe that there is need for change then it won’t be sustainable. Perhaps someone you care about is particularly disenchanted with something you’ve said or done. Maybe they have highlighted this as being a recurring issue that you need to address. If this encourages you to reflect on your behaviour, and you conclude that there is indeed need for change, great. But ultimately, it must be your decision. Just remember, you may not be the only one that stands to gain from your positive change. So be wary of who you allow to influence your decisions, and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

So, you’ve established the need for change.

Good start. Critical self-reflection is indeed a sign of intelligence. And as a contrast, one of the biggest cop-outs is “everyone should love me for me!”. Well, that may be true in many cases, but not if you’re a selfish, nasty individual. So anyway, you’ve highlighted an area of your life that you believe could use some improving. Is it an area that you have direct control over? Hopefully. Relying on other people’s change in order for yours to be successful is not a wise move. This should be a consideration before you embark on your important and life-changing journey. Okay, you’ve established that your change is necessary and in your direct control. Now you need to develop a course of action that will help guide your change.

What does your area of change physically look like?

That is to say, what actions are you trying to change? Your area of change will likely relate to a particular pattern of behaviour, so you need to understand specifically what actions you need to change. You should also consider the situations in which you are likely to perform these actions, so that you can be aware of when these negative behaviours are most likely to strike. Once you’ve considered that, you then need to consider those actions that will embody your new and positive change. Consider why these actions are important to your overall success, and the resulting positivity that will come of them. Now all you need to do (in a nutshell) is sub-out the bad actions for the good ones…

Is sustainable change really that simple?

You probably already know the answer to that question, so we won’t patronise you by saying ‘no’. In our article about laziness, we noted that creating a new habit can take some time. Changing or breaking a pattern of behaviour can also be challenging, and won’t happen overnight. It will take hours of critical self-reflection, and possibly some foreign and uncomfortable situations. Whilst we are speaking quite broadly, these feelings of discomfort/uncertainty are generally a pretty good sign that you’re on the right track. After all, it can be quite confronting to reflect on a situation from your past and realise just how far you once were from the person that you are trying to become. There may even be times when you once again find yourself making the same poor choices that you have been consciously trying to avoid. Absorb the negative emotions that come with this, and accept the consequences. Remember the disappointment and use it to motivate you. There is an element of trial and error in most things we do in life. So, do not judge yourself on your mistakes, but rather on the way in which you respond.

Accepting past mistakes (and their consequences).

Again, our mistakes do not have to define us. But whilst you’ve been on your journey towards enlightenment (good for you), your mistakes of the past have not been erased. Nor will they. Ever. Whilst it would certainly be convenient to simply say ‘I’ve changed, therefore I should not face consequences’, it may not seem particularly fair to the person/persons that you once wronged. Imagine a system where inmates could be paroled on account of their personal belief that they had changed (Australia circa 2050 if our justice system continues to head in the current direction). If you are truly committed to positive and sustainable change, you need to understand the following dynamics of control: The control that you have over your actions, and the control that you do not have over the consequences of your actions. Take responsibility for your mistakes, and rectify them/seek forgiveness where possible, but never deny them. This is an important learning mechanism that can be a major driver for sustainable change.

A final thought…

Be the change that you want to see in society. Lead from the front, and don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know to be right and true. Absorb the negative emotions that come with each of your inevitable failures. This must happen before you can experience true success, just ask MJ. Have the strength to be accountable for your actions, and remember that it is okay to adjust your behaviour and your views, as you learn more about the world and your environment. And, whilst you embark on your journey of change, your idea of what success looks like might also change too. Finally, you will make mistakes, so pride yourself on how you respond to them.

Thank-you again for reading! We really hope that some of today’s post was of benefit to you. Perhaps you’d like to leave us a comment below? Until next time…

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How To Live A Happy Life Starting Today

Being happy

Is being happy a basic human right?

No. Although, it would be fantastic if we were all inherently happy by nature, and could live happily ever after in our pineapples under the sea. But unfortunately (and fortunately) happiness is something to be earned, much like anything worth having. So where does the ‘fortunately’ part come into it? Good question. We are fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to earn our happiness. Some people have greater opportunity to achieve a state of relatively steady happiness, whereas others may have to work much harder to find this…

So, how do I find my happiness?

Another great question. It is easy to dwell on the aspects of your life that you may deem to be unfair. It is also easy to consider the trials and tribulations you’ve had to face as a result of being born in the time, place and environment that you have found yourself in. Naturally, we tend to compare our situation to that of others who are quite privileged and well-off. A much harder thing to do though, is to be grateful for the opportunities that we have been given. If you choose to focus on this, then you’ll be one step closer to earning that relatively steady happiness that we mentioned earlier.

Okay, so to be happy, I need to be grateful… Then what?

When we choose to focus on the opportunities that are accessible to us, we begin to realise just how vast the possibilities are. What is it that you want? And don’t say money. Woops, you already said money, didn’t you? Okay, let’s back track then… What is it that you need? If you’re accessing the internet to read this article, then it’s likely your primary needs as a human being have already been met. Fantastic! That is definitely something to be happy about. So now lets pretend that all you have is the bare minimum to survive. Food, water, shelter. What is the next thing that you want? (Probably some clothes) But as you start to acquire more of the things that we as human beings want, rather than need, your priorities begin to change. And so, your list of wants becomes greater… Now lets throw the internet into the mix. All of a sudden, you can Google P-Diddy’s yacht party or some exotic travel destination, or every other amazing thing in the world that you don’t have/haven’t done. What a disaster! Now you have become an absolute beast of wants with an insatiable appetite for more, and the happiness that was waiting just around the corner seems miles away. What you need readers, is a reference point to gauge your happiness. These reference points are more commonly referred to as goals.

You need to set goals and have clear priorities.

How you choose to do this is entirely up to you. You can write them down (recommended) or you can simply verbalise them. Your goals can relate to any aspect of your life, so try not to focus solely on financial goals. Perhaps friendship is an area of importance to you? Maybe you would like to spend more time with your family? These may be your priorities, and a specific goal may be to visit your grandparents every week for dinner. Our relationships with those we love are a good place to start. This is something we have direct access to, to make a positive impact right away. The next step is to separate your goals into two categories; short and long term. For example, if your goal is to be a rockstar, then you might be sorely disappointed at the end of the year, when you are still blogging about rockstars in your parents’ basement (we do not blog in anyone’s parents’ basement). So instead, it is a good idea to have smaller goals like ‘become proficient on the guitar‘. Now you have the ‘what‘, so all you need is the ‘how‘. Using our guitar proficiency as an example goal again, we might break it down into tasks like ‘learn the major scale‘ and ‘practice fingering exercises‘. These tasks are realistic, yet challenging. They will provide the motivation needed to progress towards the ultimate goal of becoming a rockstar.

When should I begin my quest for happiness?

Today! Happiness is waiting just around the corner for those who choose to get out there and earn it. That is to say, happiness is a choice. Your friends will probably tell you that you deserve to be happy, and you might want to believe them. But if you’re not willing to take action, despite the vast opportunities that you have been gifted, do you really deserve to be happy? Don’t answer that question. Instead, start building your happiness now, brick by brick…

As always, thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this article, we’d love to hear your say in the comments section below.

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Building Resilience in Children: 5 Strategies

Building Resilience in Children The Short Advice

What is Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to find solutions in difficult situations. It can help us to manage stress, deal with change, and work through the harsh realities that life sometimes presents. Building resilience in children is about creating a culture and environment that supports them towards supporting themselves. Creating strong and independent thinkers might even help to reduce the over-diagnosis of mental health conditions, and over-prescribing of potentially damaging/addictive anti-depressants. In the current state of mental health awareness, never has there been a better time to promote the development of resilience in children, in order to support good mental heath in the years to come.

Building Resilience in Children

The 5 strategies for building resilience in children listed below describe some of the ways to improve a child’s ability to manage their emotions, difficult circumstances and challenges they may face. Other strategies for building resilience and self-confidence from a military perspective are listed here in a previous article, which may also be relevant.

1. Encourage Physical Activity

Exercise is an obvious place to begin building resilience/mental toughness in children as it can force individuals to operate, and pursue success, outside of their comfort zone. Physical activity provides challenges that can be equally as (if not more) mentally demanding as they are physically. This crossover between competitive sport and real life challenges can be seen as a valuable tool in the development of resilience. Challenges presented in sport can instil values of hard work and courage, encouraging individuals to overcome positions of (relative) adversity. The analogy that this provides for everyday life and it’s many trials and tribulations is invaluable. In this environment, children can learn to appreciate the value of their own hard work, and their ability to succeed if they are persistent in their approach.

2. Breed Independence

Decision-making, independent thought, critical thinking. All things that should be encouraged when building resilience in children. The ability to problem-solve can be a pre-determining factor of resilience, highlighting the importance of independence. Adults can assist the development of such independence in children by allowing the freedom of trial and error. As adults, we need not solve all of our children’s problems immediately, but rather let them solve them on their own where possible. It also helps to positively reinforce these problem-solving skills by giving praise, highlighting the effective skills that the child has demonstrated. In short, let kids make mistakes (within reason). AND let kids solve the problems arising from their mistakes. The perfect segue for our next point…

3. Teach Accountability

Accountability is pivotal to a resilient mindset. If you are in some way responsible for your decisions, responses and circumstances, than you have the power to change them. On the contrary, if you are led to believe that these things are out of your control, then resilience goes out the window along with accountability. You are powerless, and can only hope for your problems to disappear… Teaching young people to own both their successes and their failures is an important step towards building resilience in children. You did it, now you fix it. If you can’t fix it, you can seek assistance to help fix it. But what you don’t do, is give up and wait for a solution to appear. Mistakes have consequences, the same way inaction has consequences.

4. Talk About the Tough Things

This doesn’t mean that you need to sit your 6 year old down and tell them that you’re going to die one day, just like grandma did. However, there will be times throughout a child’s life when they are faced with some of the more harsh realities of life. It is important that adults help children to make sense of these difficult concepts, like death and dealing with loss, rather than avoiding them. But it’s not just life and death, its everything in between too. Whether you like it or not, children will be competing for jobs, partners, houses and all the rest. And nobody said it better than Mick Jagger… “You can’t always get what you want”. A concept that the toddlers of the world are currently struggling to understand. Stand your ground, parent!

5. Lead by Example

One of the most important considerations of a positive culture and environment is leadership. If you are able to demonstrate the above attributes, than the children who look up to you have a better chance of doing the same. Resilience is the product of many positive attributes. It’s more complicated than it seems, and so developing it takes many experiences and years of good practice. The understanding is developed over time, and solidified by the continued displays of resilience exemplified by the actions of a great leader. Before we begin building resilience in our children, we must first develop it ourselves.

Final Note

Nothing happens overnight. Building resilience in children is something that should be practiced throughout childhood, and hopefully adopted by the child as they transition into adulthood. Creating an environment for your child that is conducive of a resilient mindset is the first step towards fostering a generation of independent and empowered problem-solvers. Be sure to head over to our article on expert fatherhood tips as well, for more info on the importance of parental leadership. Thanks for reading!

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Laziness: How To Overcome It In 4 Simple Steps.

Laziness: How To Overcome It In 4 Simple Steps.

“But exercise is hard!

It’s not laziness, it’s because I have a job… I have friends and a family and a partner – I’m too busy. How will I find the time to take care of myself? And what about all those delicious things that I love to eat? And all of those really easy things that I love to do?”

It’s true, it is easy to do easy things.

But they’re often the things we need to do less of. But why should we stop doing these easy things if they make us happy? Because they deliver short term happiness. Quite often, these easy things can simply be a form of escapism, helping us to avoid our responsibilities. It’s unsustainable, and will not bring you long-term happiness.

To give you the short story…

People are lazy because it is easy to be lazy. If fit, healthy and respected were the steamed broccoli, then laziness is the chocolate bar. We all WANT to eat the chocolate bar, but the broccoli is what we truly NEED. There is no shortcut, you can’t take a pill to fix the problem. So now, let’s have a look at our 4 simple steps to defeat laziness…

The 4 Simple Steps to Overcome Laziness

1. Identify Areas to Change

Be honest with yourself. You know the ways in which you can be lazy. List these bad habits, and short-term plays for happiness. Then, set yourself some goals, some things you would like to achieve, or simply ‘get done’. As with any process of change, the first move is to identify where we have gone wrong, and accept that there is need for change. If you are not willing to commit to the idea, your change will be unsustainable and simply will not work.

2. Create Good Habits

We are creatures of habit. Now that you have identified areas to improve, you need to implement a plan to kick these bad habits, and exchange them for positive ones. Maybe you sit on the couch every night watching reality tv and eating ice cream… We’re not saying give it up for good, but exchange some of this time for a positive habit. Perhaps some exercise? Schedule this into your week, as a way of countering your bad habit. Do this for each short-term play for happiness that you have listed above… Maybe you could learn a language? Clean your apartment? Visit your grandparents? Sometimes the things that seem the most tiresome and difficult are things worth doing (We didn’t mean it like that, grandparents). But don’t give up after a few days, studies suggest making/breaking a habit takes approximately 66 days.

3. Don’t excuse yourself

You will be too tired. You will be too busy. You will be any number of things that will stop you from engaging in your new good habits and leaving your negative ones behind. Simply being aware of these excuses will help you recognise when you are falling into old habits of laziness. So now that you are aware, the next time you hear yourself excuse your laziness, push yourself (see mental toughness) in the right direction, rather than giving in to the easy option. It sounds simple enough, but thats not always the case. This means the level of satisfaction you will get when you are strong enough to challenge yourself will be even greater.

4. Evaluate and Refine

Success will look different for everyone. Measuring your success will depend on your initial reflection, and goals that you set for yourself. An evaluation of your success means an honest reflection of how you have been working towards these goals, and how well you have been able to commit to the action of breaking your bad habits, and forming new ones. This step should be happening throughout the process of change, with constant evaluation. It’s also good to formally sit down after a period of time (maybe a few weeks), to note how you’re tracking. You should also take note of how your change is making you feel (better, we hope!).

Final note…

Nothing happens overnight (thanks Dad). Give it some time, you may lapse, but don’t use that as an excuse to quit. Commend yourself for each small victory, and marvel in your ability to create positive change… Also, if you feel so inclined, we’d love to hear what you think in the comments below. Thank-you, and good luck!