Archive for June, 2016

This is why you will lose your argument

Friday, June 24th, 2016

So the Great Barrier Reef has not been listed as endangered by UNESCO. And same-sex marriage is high on the national agenda. Care to argue the case? Careful, there’s a minefield ahead.

There is one thing that is poorly understood about arguing in the public arena. It is the reason that a strong case will often lose its momentum and that an obvious logical conclusion will be missed. It is one of the reasons our political leaders fail utterly to have a reasoned conversation with the population and with each other. And it’s why denialists on just about any issue can sidestep rational debate.

It’s called the “point at issue” and describes what the argument is actuallyabout. If you move away from this simple idea, the argument will be lost in a fog of related but unnecessary issues.

Finding the point

Before we can argue, we must actually agree on something: what we are arguing about. If we can’t do this, and then stick to it, there will be no progress.

Let’s consider the Great Barrier Reef as an example. Some media commentary would have us believe that the fact the reef was not listed means any concerns about its well-being are entirely misplaced.

This misses the point completely. As many articles have pointed out, that the reef has not been listed does not mean any environmental concerns are unjustified.

The point at issue is whether the reef meets the UNESCO criteria for listing as endangered. It is another point entirely to say the reef is not at risk. Conflating the two muddies the waters.

As another example, imagine someone comments that locking up refugees is psychologically damaging to them. Another person says that the policy is much better under the current government than it was under the last.

The argument has shifted from whether the processes is damaging to who manages the process best. It is not the same thing. If that is not noticed, the argument usually degenerates and we are no closer to finding the truth of the original claim.

For a third example, the federal treasurer, Joe Hockey, recently had to defend spending his accommodation entitlements when he is in Canberra on a house owned by his wife. He tried to argue the necessity of politicians to be able to claim expenses as they move into the capital for parliamentary business. But these are two different points. Arguing the second does not progress the first.

Deniers of climate science engage in shifting the point at issue as a standard part of their argument technique. One example involves moving from the fact that there is a rapid shift in global temperature to that climate has always changed.

Another example is moving from consilience and consensus in climate science as indicators of the degree of confidence within the scientific community to trying to make the debate that consensus is not proof. In both cases the latter point is true, but it’s not the point under discussion.

Changing the point at issue often flags an attempt to move the argument onto more favourable ground rather than engage with it on the offered terms.

Focusing our thinking is not easy

This type of intellectual sidestepping is the root of the straw man argument. It is the source of the common phrase “beside the point”, indicating that it is not directly relevant.

If we follow this path, the original argument remains unaddressed and we have only the illusion of progress.

The trick is to recognise when the point at issue shifts, but to do this you need to be very clear at the start about what the original argument is. If you are not clear, you are vulnerable to defeat, losing to an argument that was not your point in the first place. Recognising this shift is a surprisingly difficult thing to do.

One of the reasons we do not focus well on the point at issue, and are sometimes very bad at defining it, is that our minds range across related topics very well. We see connections, implications and perspectives on many issues. This is a useful tendency, but one that needs to be curbed to develop a sharp argumentative focus.

If the point at issue is that smoking is bad for you, don’t start talking about the individual liberty to smoke. If it’s that biodiversity in forests is important, don’t make it about logging jobs. If it’s about how well a political party is doing a job, don’t turn it into a comparison with the other mob.

Stick to the point, sort it out properly, and then move on to the next one.

How we frame an issue can define the argument

Finding the point at issue is also a matter of framing the issue correctly.

Realise, for example, that the point of not teaching Intelligent Design in science classes is one of quality control, not of academic freedom. Or that teaching about religion in schools is not the same thing as instruction in specific religions. Or that same-sex marriage is about equality of rights, not degrading them.

As Christopher Hitchens so succinctly put it when considering the issue of homosexual marriage more than a decade ago:

This is an argument about the socialisation of homosexuality, not the homosexualisation of society.

Politicians are masters at changing frames and the point at issue. Witness the use of phrases like “what the public really wants to know” or “what’s really important here” to avoid addressing the issue raised in an interview.

Journalists are often very lax about this, allowing the point at issue to change without bringing it back and pressing for an answer to the original question.

One of the skills of advanced argumentation – and of good journalism – is knowing how to keep things on track. This includes the ability to recognise when the argument shifts and to say “that’s not what we are talking about”.

It also includes knowing how to go on and explain to people that their argument may be relevant to the topic in general but it’s not relevant to the specific point at issue.

You might like to argue that many of the topics I’ve mentioned should be explored in full. That we should talk about biodiversity and jobs when discussing forests, for example. But if you think that, you missed the point at issue of this article.

There’s no reason not to pursue other arguments and other points at issue, but let’s take them one at a time for the sake of clarity and improvement. This is what will improve public debate and better hold politicians to account.

That’s what I’m talking about.

 

Author,
Peter Ellerton
Lecturer in Critical Thinking,
The University of Queensland

A Survival Guide For Managing Difficult People

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

They’re sarcastic, cynical, and negative, but you don’t want to fire them. Hope and help for managing people who drive you nuts.

Ideally, when you’re leading or working with a team, you have a group of people who work in good faith to get the job done well—and get along while doing so. Then, there are those folks who are just miserable. Perhaps they’re cynical or sarcastic. They may be negative, unreliable, or gossipy. Sometimes, they’re even worse—engaging in backstabbing or trying to undermine your authority.

Of course, you’re not going to get along with everyone at the office, but if you’re a leader, you’re in a position to take action to mitigate the damage these dismal souls can do, says Elizabeth Holloway, PhD, professor at Antioch University’s PhD Program in Leadership & Change and coauthor of Toxic Workplace! Managing Toxic Personalities and Their Systems of Power. As you begin to use your authority to deal with your challenging team members, there are some helpful steps you can take.

FIGURE OUT WHY THEY ARE DIFFICULT

Some people are unpleasant and some damage the organization, says Michael J. Beck, founder of Michael Beck International, a Portland, Oregon-based performance consulting and employee engagement firm. Try to get to the bottom of why your employee is acting out. Is he or she dissatisfied with the work or the company? Is there an issue going on at home? Beck says asking good questions and observing the employee in action can give you some insight into whether you’re dealing with a difficult personality or another issue that can be fixed.

LEARN THE TYPES

Personality tests like the DiSC profile can be useful in gaining insight into your workers, their preferences, and how they like to communicate, says Gerald Bricker, principal of Aadvise Consulting, a business coaching firm in Northville, Michigan. Such insight can be difficult for people to articulate, and these tests can give you a bit of insight that might otherwise be hard to obtain, he says. There is also a body of research and writing about how to manage different personality types, he adds.

If there’s a clear understanding of that person, what their makeup is, and how best to communicate with them, that will go a long way toward helping to overcome those challenges, he says.

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR DIFFERENCES

Sometimes, simply calling out the fact that you and your colleague have different approaches can be enough to defuse the tension, Beck says. Say something like, “Boy, we really have different styles, but let’s see how we can work through this.” That way, you’re not delivering negative criticism, but you’re recognizing the fact that there’s an issue, he says.

HEAR THEM OUT

Bricker says that, many times, people who seem to have personality issues are people who feel like they’re not being heard or are unhappy with their work. They feel like they’re not being heard or respected. In such a case, Bricker suggests having a private conversation and just listening.

“Once they’ve had a chance to air out their thoughts and their feelings, that really contributes greatly toward solving the problem,” he says. You can gain insight about what the problem really is and take steps toward solving it.

BE OPEN TO CRITICISM

Once you have that sit-down, Bricker says you might have to hear some things that aren’t very pleasant. Sometimes, employees have legitimate complaints about the workplace, company culture, or supervisors. (That might be you.) Then, you’ve got to figure out a way to deal with it, he says.

“Sometimes, that might mean explaining in very clear, rational terms why things are the way they are. It may mean looking into what they have to say and understanding that something was overlooked,” he says.

DELIVER CONSTRUCTIVE NEGATIVE FEEDBACK

Holloway says that managers need to be trained in giving negative feedback effectively. Simply calling out someone for bad behavior often doesn’t work. Instead, relate it to the bottom line. For example, point out that when the employee responds in a certain way, it shuts down conversation and makes meetings less effective.

REALIZE THAT NO ONE IS INDISPENSABLE

It might feel like that difficult employee is impossible to fire because he or she is so good at the job. But Toxic Workplace coauthor Mitchell Kusy, PhD, also a professor at the Antioch leadership program, says that you have to look at the overall cost to your organization. In research for the book, he and Holloway found that 12 percent of individuals leave their organization because of toxic personalities. If your difficult employee is driving out other employees, it might be time to say goodbye, even if it’s a challenge in the short term.

 By, GWEN MORAN

Healthy Ways To Deal With Emotional Pain And Grief

Monday, June 13th, 2016

FRIGHTENED

How do you deal with emotional pain? The kind of pain that sits in your heart and occasionally (sometimes without warning) breaks your heart just a little bit, and you feel an overwhelming urge to cry. Many of us can relate to that.

Let’s consider the unfortunate events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001. I knew none of the people who died personally — but that does not stop the pain. I expect that had I known anyone on a more personal basis, my pain would be just a little more intense. During a time like that, it is hard to believe that it can be more intense. Yet, as we all know, life must go on for those of us who were left behind.

The question is, “How do we continue on when we are in pain?” Valid question, and here are a few of the solutions I offer to people:

It is OK to suffer from pain. Do not believe that you do not have the right. Perhaps you do have a family member who passed away or a beloved pet that died. As children we were embarrassed to cry in front of people, and we have carried on that belief into our adult lives.

It is OK to cry or hurt. So the first solution is to stop trying to cover or bury your emotions — instead, allow them their freedom at the appropriate time.

The reality is that your bully, or your difficult person can cause you an incredible amount of emotional pain. It isn’t the same as death, but emotionally it can be just as exhausting.

My grandfather passed away while I was in England working for some clients. I knew he was dying, and had made the decision to leave on the business trip anyway. I did say goodbye to him — and discussed my decision (with their full support) with my dad and family. I was hoping that he would wait a little longer (20 years might have been nice), but his time came just after I arrived in London. I found out the news during the lunch break of one of my all-day seminars.

Obviously, I had to continue on during the day and not let my emotions take control. I was allowed to feel pain — just not right then. I applied a little trick that I share in my stress management programs: I took the emotional feeling (in this case, sorrow) and put it into an imaginary “box” in my head. I closed the lid on the box and picked a time later on when I felt I could open the lid and deal with the emotion.

 

The mistake that some people make is to never open the box.”

 

I had to continue on with my job. I also needed to cry and deal with my own sorrow (and guilt, in this case). So I allowed the emotion to sit in the box, and I would deal with it when I was alone in my hotel room.

We can do the same thing with the emotional pain that our bully/difficult person causes us. Allow yourself to close it up sometimes, so that it is not affecting all areas of your life. Give yourself permission to be happy, even though you are dealing with an incredible amount of pain and emotional turmoil. Don’t let your bully/difficult person ruin every aspect of your life.

The mistake that some people make is to never open the box. As far as dealing with emotion in a healthy way, it is imperative that you go back to that box fairly soon after you closed the lid. You will notice that this technique works when you are dealing with the death of a member of your immediate family. It amazes me how well people stand up at the wake, and the funeral, and many don’t cry at all. They will, it will just be at a time of their choosing.

The next technique is used when the emotions are stronger than the lid on the box. Your tears just come anyway. I happen to be quite good at a silent cry. You know the kind — you are driving down the highway singing away to a song, and before you know the tears just start on their own. Of course, that works great for many of us (especially if we are in the car alone). But sometimes, those tears just start in a meeting, while working at your desk or while walking down the hall.

My solution is to let them come! While the tears are streaming down your face,take deep breaths (you need oxygen to steady your emotions). The next step is tocontinue doing what you were doing (and pretend that you are not crying). Honestly, just keep going! So what if you are in the middle of a conversation? Just keep going! Pretend you don’t notice.

Your voice will waiver, your hands will shake and the tears will fall. Keep going. This will probably only last for 15 to 30 seconds if you don’t call attention to it (really — it doesn’t take that long to get back into control — I dare you to try it!. The person you are speaking with will probably ask you if you need a minute — the answer is “no.” Keep going.

If you really do need to stop, do so. Don’t feel that you need to explain to your co-worker why you are crying. Just tell them you’ll be back in 10 minutes ready to continue. But try talking right through it — you can do it. Ever had to give eulogy? Of course we cry during that, but we have to keep going. And after a little while, our normal voice returns and we get control again.

To summarize:

1. It is OK to suffer from pain and to cry or hurt. Don’t apologize for being an emotional person. Take pride in yourself. You are a caring and loving individual. Why should we apologize for that?
2. Don’t try to cover or bury your emotions.
3. Take deep breaths, but let the tears come anyway.
4. Keep doing what you were doing before the tears started!

A book that helped me a lot is called Emotional Confidence by Gael Lindenfield (Harper Collins Publishers). I picked it up in London after my grandfather died, but you could get your bookstore to order it for you.


 

Rhonda Scharf Headshot

The Secret to Dealing With Difficult People: It’s About You

Friday, June 10th, 2016
Do you have someone at work who consistently triggers you? Doesn’t listen? Takes credit for work you’ve done? Wastes your time with trivial issues? Acts like a know-it-all? Can only talk about himself? Constantly criticizes?Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don’t, it’s deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being. At the most primal level, it can feel like a threat to our very survival.

This is especially true when the person you’re struggling with is your boss. The problem is that being in charge of other people rarely brings out the best in us.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton saidway back in 1887. “There is no worse heresy than the office that sanctifies the holder of it.”

The easy default when we feel devalued is to the role of victim, and it’s a seductive pull. Blaming others for how we’re feeling is a form of self-protection. Whatever is going wrong isn’t our fault. By off loading responsibility, we feel better in the short-term.

The problem with being a victim is that you cede the power to influence your circumstances. The painful truth when it comes to the people who trigger you is this: You’re not going to change them. The only person you have the possibility of changing is yourself.

Each of us has a default lens through which we see the world. We call it reality, but in fact it’s a selective filter. We have the power, to view the world through other lenses. There are three worth trying on when you find yourself defaulting to negative emotions.

The Lens of Realistic Optimism. Using this lens requires asking yourself two simple questions when you feel you’re being treated badly or unfairly. The first one is “What are the facts in this situation?” The second is, “What’s the story I’m telling myself about those facts?”

Making this distinction allows you to stand outside your experience, rather than simply reacting to it. It also opens the possibility that whatever story you’re currently telling yourself isn’t necessarily the only way to look at your situation.

Realistic optimism, a term coined by the psychologist Sandra Schneider, means telling yourself the most hopeful and empowering story about a given circumstance without subverting the facts. It’s about moving beyond your default reaction to feeling under attack, and exploring whether there is an alternative way of viewing the situation that would ultimately serve you better. Another way of discovering an alternative is to ask yourself “How would I act here at my best?”

The Reverse Lens. This lens requires viewing the world through the lens of the person who triggered you. It doesn’t mean sacrificing your own point of view but rather widening your perspective.

It’s nearly certain that the person you perceive as difficult views the situation differently than you do. With the reverse lens, you ask yourself, “What is this person feeling, and in what ways does that make sense?” Or put more starkly: “Where’s my responsibility in all this?”

Counterintuitively, one of the most powerful ways to reclaim your value, when it feels threatened, is to find a way to appreciate the perspective of the person you feel devalued by. It’s called empathy.

Just as you do, others tend to behave better when they feel seen and valued — especially since insecurity is what usually prompts them to act badly in the first place.

The Long Lens. Sometimes your worst fears about another person turn out to be true. He is someone who bullies you unreasonably and seeing it from his perspective doesn’t help. She does invariably take credit for your work.

When your current circumstances are incontrovertibly bad, the long lens provides a way of looking beyond the present to imagine a better future. Begin with this question: “Regardless of how I feel about what’s happening right now, how can I grow and learn from this experience?”

How many times has something that felt terrible to you in the moment turned out to be trivial several months later, or actually led you to an important opportunity or a positive new direction?

My last boss fired me. It felt awful at the time, but it also pushed me way out of my comfort zone, which is where it turned out I needed to go.

Looking back, the story I tell myself is that for all his deficiencies, I learned a lot from that boss, and it all serves me well today. I can understand, from his point of view, why he found me difficult as an employee, without feeling devalued. Most important, getting fired prompted me to make a decision — founding the company I now run — that has brought me more happiness than any other work I’ve ever done.


Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebookand connect with Tony at Twitter.com/TonySchwartz and Twitter.com/Energy_Project.

Positive Steps for Managing Conflict

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

10 strategies to help minimize the negative impacts of office tension

Situation: Morgan and Jose are arguing about which steps to take next to implement the Micah Project. Morgan wants to move ahead immediately; Jose wants to rethink the situation and perhaps consult with other members of the department to avoid making a rash decision. Morgan becomes impatient and blames Jose for dragging his feet once again. Jose doesn’t want to ruffle Morgan’s feathers, so he does nothing about the differences of opinion, hoping that Morgan will let up on the pressure. The result is a stalemate.

This is a typical situation where conflict freezes progress and stymies many managers. We must first ask why Jose, like so many other employees, does nothing. The answer is because he probably believes in some very common and unfortunate myths about conflict:

  • Conflict is bad and terrible things will occur if differences in opinion are aired.
  • Conflict will rip apart the team or its esprit de corps.
  • Other employees will be mad at him.
  • He would be calling too much attention to himself by making a big deal out of the situation.
  • It’s better not to engage in conflict; harmony must prevail at all costs.
  • The parties will never get over those negative feelings.
  • The issue will cause a chain reaction that will halt or delay productivity and involve other people.

At this point, you as the leader might be questioning your own views of conflict, as well you should. But do you know how to actually define conflict? No, it’s not some terrible, unmanageable, out-of-control creature. Conflict is simply defined as tension, which is neither good nor bad. Positive tension, that energy that leads to increased creativity, innovation and productivity, is a dynamic byproduct of two or more people sharing their views, even if their views are inconsistent or out of synch with each other. Negative tension is an unproductive, off-putting, harmful result of people not working together to arrive at a positive solution.

What causes tension? The list is endless and mostly individualistic. We all have our vulnerabilities and views that lead to tension, especially the more common negative tension. Most people experience negative conflict when they are supervised and fear an unfavorable evaluation. Similarly, tension arises when employees feel they are being compared with each other or are vying for the same resources, such as time, money, people or equipment. Other employees are conflicted when under deadlines, especially when they do not have the assistance of other helpful employees. Still others have great difficulty dealing with change; breaking or changing habits is almost always difficult. Even if a change seems to be positive, it often is accompanied by some form of conflict, simply due to the change or potential performance evaluation under a new system with new policies, processes or colleagues. And finally, negative tension easily and most commonly erupts with differences in opinions, especially those that are firmly held.

So what positive steps can leaders take to minimize the negative aspects of conflict?

  1. Realize that conflict is natural and happens all the time.
  2. Stress the positive aspects of conflict; just because tension arises, the world is not going to collapse. In fact, if handled well, conflict often leads to innovation.
  3. Realize that conflict can be handled in a positive way that leads to personal and professional growth, development and productivity.
  4. Encourage others to bring up conflict and differences. Allowing them to fester inevitably encourages them to erupt later, usually at a most inopportune time.
  5. Identify the root cause(s) of the conflict. You can’t begin to unravel the potential negativity in conflict and look toward progress until you determine the source of the issue.
  6. Look at the issue from all sides. Inspect the positive and negative factors that each party sees to fully comprehend what is at stake.
  7. Devise a complete list of actions to address the issue; ensure that each party believes that he/she has had input in the final product or decision.
  8. Decide on the step that best addresses and resolves the issue. Again, all parties need to see that they have had input into this step.
  9. Agree on whatever next steps are necessary to implement the mutually agreed-upon action.
  10. Review the process that you used to arrive at the final decision, hoping to implement a similar successful plan when negative conflict next arises.

An effective leader is willing to address spoken and unspoken negative tension and helps transform it into positive, productive tension that leads to increased understanding of the issues, the parties involved and the final outcome.

Article by,
DR. DAVID G. JAVITCH


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