Newsletter
Vol. 8, Issue 1
       April 2010

Greetings!

Welcome to the Working Dynamics newsletter. Our goal is to highlight how we can communicate more effectively to have stronger work relationships and manage conflict constructively in the workplace.

I hope you'll find our suggestions useful and contact us when we can help.
 
Susan Gunn
Working Dynamics
 
In This Issue
Communication Trust
Making an Apology Stick
Book Review: Developing Your Conflict Competence
About the Publisher
Communication Trust
When trust is broken, the "business" of your team breaks down. It may come to a complete halt or may limp along with serious deficits in collaboration, decisions, and innovation. Business is conducted through relationships and trust is the foundation of those relationships. When trust erodes, people take fewer risks, generate fewer new ideas, and communicate less.  
 
Teams can build and maintain communication trust through daily actions.According to trust experts Dennis Reina and Michelle Reina, communication trust specifically refers to a type of trust that includes sharing information, telling the truth, admitting mistakes, giving and receiving feedback, and maintaining confidences. 
 
Consider for a moment, do employees in your workplace...
  
  • feel safe to ask questions?
  • honestly speak their mnds?
  • challenge assumptions?
  • raise issues?
  • give and receive feedback?
  • acknowledge they don't understand and seek help?
Working Dynamics can help you assess communication trust in your workplace and begin the process of rebuilding trust in relationships. Contact Susan Gunnto learn more. 
 
 
Making an Apology Stick
Apologizing can be one of those small acts that build trust. However, calling an apology "small" is deceiving; a good apology can have a huge impact when communication is stalled and one or both parties feel hurt or misunderstood. Yet, crafting a good apology can be tricky, and some efforts may not be as effective as you intend.  
 
Anyone who has every been on the receiving end of a sincere apology will attest to its positive power. Tension almost melts away when a conflict partner makes the first move, takes responsibility for his or her actions, and says "I'm sorry." 
 
What makes a good apology?
In Developing Your Conflict Competence, authors Craig Runde and Tim Flanagan say "When it's clear that one party has said or done something that hurt the other, an offer to accept responsibility goes a long way toward re-engaging in a meaningful discussion." The apology should make it clear to the other person that you understand what you have done that has harmed them and that you are sorry for it. Flanagan warns "An apology offered with an excuse is not an apology at all."
 
Test 
yourself. Which of the following do you think are good apologies and which are excuses?    
 
  1. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize that I hurt you. Please forgive me."
  2. "My mouth just engages before I think sometimes. I'm very sorry."
  3. "I apologize. I was having a really bad day."
  4. "I've been under a lot of stress at work lately. I didn't mean to come across that way."
  5. "I am sorry. What I said was mean. I know that I hurt you. I hope you can forgive me."
  6. "When you yelled at me, I should have kept my cool. I apologize."
  7. "Everything happened so fast. In the heat of the moment I probably said some things I shouldn't have."
  8. "Did I really sound angry? I was just trying to be very clear."
  9. "Sorry. It was just one of those things."
  10. "I'm sorry. Let's focus on the future rather than on the past, okay?" 
The correct answers may surprise you. In the authors' estimation (and ours), only one of the statements constitutes a "good" apology and one that will work. Here's a quick review with brief statements and/or explanations:    
  1. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize that I hurt you. Please forgive me." (Not realizing or remembering may be true, but ultimately it is an excuse.)
  2. "My mouth just engages before I think sometimes. I'm very sorry." (It's my mouth's fault, not my fault.)
  3. "I apologize. I was having a really bad day." (Bad days don't excuse poor behavior.)
  4. "I've been under a lot of stress at work lately. I didn't mean to come across that way." (It's my job's fault, not mine.)
  5. "I am sorry. What I said was mean. I know that I hurt you. I hope your can forgive me." (This is the only good one. It acknowledges the damage, accepts responsibility, and seeks forgiveness.)
  6. "When you yelled at me, I should have kept my cool." (But you were wrong, too.)
  7. "Everything happened so fast. In the heat of the moment I probably said some things I shouldn't have. (Probably?)
  8. "Did I really sound angry? I was just trying to be very clear." (Let me rationalize my misbehavior.)
  9. "Sorry, it was just one of those things." (It's no big deal that I hurt you.)
  10. "I'm sorry. Let's focus on the future rather than on the past, okay?"  (Get over it already.)
Good intentions alone often aren't enough. We all do best when we learn how to communicate more effectively and practice the skills we learn. Working Dynamics will work with you individually (as a coach) and with your team in group settings (training or facilitating groups in your organization). Contact Working Dynamics for details.
 
 
  

Book Review:  Developing Your Conflict Competence 

 

Developing Your Conflict Competence is a practical, hands-on resource for leaders, managers, team members, and everyone within an organization who wants to sharpen skills and learn to respond to conflict with confidence. Conflict competence involves the ability to develop and use cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that enhance productive outcomes of conflict while reducing the likelihood of escalation or harm. They set out to show how to improve cognitive skills, how to develop emotional intelligence as it relates to conflict, and how to interact using constructive approaches to conflict. The authors have delivered page after page of "how to" information in the form of checklists, exercises, and stories.

 

This is authors Craig Runde and Tim Flanagan's third book on conflict competence following Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader and Building Conflict Competent Teams.  Their strategy worked beautifully. By sharing their own experiences bringing the conflict competent model alive with clients and including favorite exercises and learning techniques from colleague practitioners, they've created an unusual and valuable resource - one that will lead many on journeys to conflict competence. Read more... 

 
 
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Thank you!


About the Publisher

Susan Gunn is president of Working Dynamics, a Richmond, VA, consulting firm. Working Dynamics provides a full range of assessment, development programs, and conflict management services for organizations in business, government, and nonprofit sectors to reach their goals using conflict in its most productive forms. Learn more at workdyn.com.  

 _________________________
 

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low...and we reach it."

 -- Michelangelo
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"Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow."

 -- Alice M. Swaim 

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"Don't wait for your ship to come in--swim out to it."

-- Anonymous

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