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Help Me Understand!

Birds     Quick question: how much of the interpersonal conflict you experience in the average day is based entirely (or almost entirely) on misunderstanding? If you answered “about 99%” then join the club.

It seems to me, thinking about a typical day, that I seldom get into real conflict over what I would call issues of substance. Oh, sure, now and then we’ll find ourselves in an honest, substantive argument about “real issues”…but the kind of conflict that drives us nuts, especially between co-workers, friends, even spouses, is the kind that is generated and perpetuated by one misunderstanding after another. He says something she misunderstands, which prompts her to say something he misunderstands, which causes him to react, which causes her to react, which quickly escalates into (a) a full-blown screaming match, or (b) the chilly fog of the silent treatment.

Nowhere is this more evident than in marriage, that closest of interpersonal relationships. My wife and I teach a marriage course, and without going into too much detail, one of the fundamental starting points for couples to understand is that men and women hear things differently. If I say something to my wife that she perceives as somehow unloving, she will react, sometimes with angry words, glaring eyes and confrontational gestures and body language. She’s reacting because I’ve hurt her feelings and she’s trying to connect with me in order to resolve things; but instead of realizing that, I get offended because her response seems controlling and disrespectful to me. I feel like she’s mothering me, scolding me, and trying to control me. That’s not her intention at all! But in the heat of the moment, do I stop and consider the source of her hurt and her anger? Nope — I get defensive and react to her reaction, and the cycle starts to escalate. My (unintentionally) unloving behavior triggers her (unintentionally) disrespectful reaction, which causes me to behave (unintentionally) even more unlovingly, which triggers an even more (unintentionally) disrespectful reaction, and so on in a spiral of angry conflict.

In his classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand — then to be understood.” Nowhere does this apply more urgently than during conflict. In order to break the cycle of misunderstanding, I need to stop reacting and start thinking, “Where is this anger coming from? How much of it is due to my insensitivity? Can I defuse the anger by owning up to my share of the responsibility?” Asking these questions is the first step toward breaking the cycle of misunderstanding.

My opinion based on years in the workplace is that some of these male-female differences apply outside of marriage as well as inside. Men, in my experience the women with whom you interact will tend to value face-to-face communication, and they will often want to talk through arguments in detail and bring things full circle. Women, sometimes the men you work with will go silent on you, not because they are trying to be difficult but because they may be angry and need time to collect their thoughts and cool down. Give them some space! Men may also be the ones to say “Drop it! Forget it!” during conflict, because, for them, the issue is resolved. It’s over — let’s move on! This can be highly frustrating if you’re the one who wants to talk it out, until you realize that he doesn’t need to talk it out. When he says, “Forget it,” he means it!

This is a topic that we could discuss endlessly, of course, but the point is clear: if you’re in the middle of a conflict, will you be the one to break the cycle? Remember the old-fashioned signs at the railroad crossings, the ones that used to say “Stop! Look! Listen!”  That’s a great recipe for defusing conflict. If you can learn to stop reacting, start looking and begin really listening, you can figure out the root cause of the misunderstanding and steer the relationship back onto firm ground.

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Posted by on June 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Primum Non Necere = “Don’t Lose What You’ve Got!”

hippocrates       I’m sure we all recognize the name Hippocrates. He was the father of modern medicine. He was also the father of modern sales and fundraising.

You say you never heard that last part before? Well, it may not be entirely true, but there’s one thing old Hippocrates said that we in fundraising and sales would do well to remember. In Latin the saying is rendered, Primum non necere — in English we say, “First do no harm.” I would prefer to translate it, “Don’t lose what you’ve got!”

If you’re in sales or fundraising you know all too well the relentless need to bring in new business and new donors. In order for our organizations to grow, or even to avoid shrinking, the pressure is more or less constant to generate revenue from new sources. I’m not arguing with that — but I am suggesting that, as we focus our efforts on new clients and new donors, we must not overlook the ones we already have. Just because a donor has supported your organization for years or a client has given you their business season after season doesn’t mean we can ever take them for granted, not for an instant. If you’ve ever had a steady client decide not to renew because someone else came along and took away the business while you weren’t paying attention, you know what I’m talking about.

For me the truth behind the axiom “First do no harm” is simple: it means, first, pay attention to the relationships you have. Shore them up. Keep them vital. Keep reminding these clients and donors why they want to do business with you. Avoid relationship complacency at all costs! Seems to me that there are at least four reasons why it’s imperative that we work hard to avoid losing what we’ve got.

Current clients can decide to go away. This seems obvious but it bears emphasis. Let’s say you have an In Kind client who gives your organization $25,000 worth of goods and services every year. Because it’s not cash, it’s easy to take it for granted and assume that In Kind gift will always be there. But one year that client is going to be preparing their budget, and if you haven’t done a good job of keeping the relationship active and reminding them of the benefits they enjoy by doing business with you, they may decide to terminate that deal. Your boss may suddenly have to start writing a $25,000 check every year, and she is going to wonder why you blew the relationship! So I need to continually re-sell the clients I have.

Current clients can be encouraged to grow.  Again, this is obvious to those of us who have been around the sales/fundraising block a time or two. Generally speaking, which is easier to find — a brand new dollar from a brand new source, or a dollar increase from a source who already has a relationship with you? As you cultivate current relationships, you clearly need to avoid pushing too hard, but you also need to avoid being fearful. Asking for a larger gift or a larger sale, when done properly and appropriately, can be your quickest route to increased revenue.

Current clients can be encouraged to refer. Few things are more gratifying to a sales rep or fundraiser than a referral. It means someone we already call on felt good enough about our relationship to tell a friend! But let’s not assume that referrals will happen in a vacuum — instead, I have to be reminded of the need to stay in touch with current donors, give them success stories, and reinforce the importance of their gifts. Then I’ve earned the right to ask for those golden referrals! But if I’m not cultivating those current relationships, I’ll bet those referrals will be few and far between.

Current clients provide a vital base of support. Even if present clients or donors never change their spending or giving from one year to the next, those dollars are vital to your success. Treat them with honor and care and attention! Again, reminding donors why they give, or clients why they do business with you, helps keep those current dollars flowing. If that flow stops, your work just got a lot harder!

So let’s all get out there and find those new sources of revenue! But in the process, remember, friends, Primum non necere — “Don’t lose what you’ve got!”

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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