[Advice] The Best Advice of 2016

By | Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Persuasion, Platform Building, Problem Solving, The Future & The Singularity, Truth, Virtue

It’s hard to know what the best advice is. After all, it’s been a long 2016, and its shaping up to be an even longer 2017.

Here is a list of some ideas to keep you going in the year to come. Or too look back on and wonder what I was thinking:

Relational resonance—The reason that litigation is such a poor method for resolving disputes is because of most—if not all—disagreements, fights, and “differences of opinion,” are about relationships, built on reciprocation and maintained through common resonance.

What do you do after you thin slice another party in conflict? — Thin slicing is at the core of the old saying “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” Yet, here’s the challenge: If you can’t even handle being challenged on your thin-slicing tendencies daily, then expecting that a candidate running for office, a celebrity, or some other person to do what you cannot, is a childish expectation.

No more looking…just leap…— Having the courage to make a change, take an action, do something generous, collaborative, or outrageous, and to do despite the dominant culture of your organization is the essence of leap day. This courage has nothing to do with looking (you’ve already spent an inordinate amount of time looking already) and has everything to do with stepping out and saying: I made this.

Doing what you’ve always done— Intentionality is the watchword in conflict. But, you do have an alternative. You can always keep intentionally doing what you’ve always done and hope that changes will result.

We are surrounded everywhere by the remains of “average”— We are surrounded by the remains of “ok” in a time when “ok” is no longer good enough. And when the disconnect between “ok” and reality reaches a breaking point, we get demagogues, marketers, con men, flim-flam men, and others selling us a bill of goods, rather than the hard truth: “Ok” was never good enough and doing “just a little better” than last year isn’t going to get the same outcome financially, morally, ethically, or materially anymore.

There is a difference between broadcasting, sharing, and interacting, both in the physical world and in the digital world— Broadcasting, sharing and interacting are happening at all levels in our society; and, our digital tools have provided us with the ease of communicating faster and faster. But this also means that our responses to conflicts in our lives become more shallow and immediate, even as the reactions cut us emotionally at a deeper and deeper level.

What are your core values? — Values are not positions (which are often about personal (and sometimes public) identity or maintaining “face”) nor are they about interests (which are often flexible, negotiable, situational, and impersonal). And too often in our public language, at work, at school, in social media, and other places, we use the language of principles to talk about positions—or even worse, to justify mere interests.

There are no shortcuts to accomplishing anything. Boy, do I wish that there were…— The quality, or trait, of getting up and doing what needs to be done, particularly when you don’t want to do it, is sometimes called “will” or “grit” or “courage.”

But these are fancy labels for something a lot deeper that we can’t really describe. And anybody who wants to make a dent in the universe, no matter how big or small, must possess this trait in great quantities if they are to make the dent they want to make.

The impresario’s dilemma is balancing between quantity and quality— When there is so much ephemeral stuff (such as content, ideas, and art), considerations around quality become the watchword for monitoring and disengaging with ideas that we find to be reprehensible. But keep in mind that, once you increase the quantity, quality only suffers when caring about the outcome takes a second place to getting the outcome to happen.

The leap (hey, I wrote about leaping again this year!) from the inside to the outside is going on right now— The deep revelation of the revolution called the Internet, is that it continues to demonstrate that networks are the most valuable resource that an individual, a corporation, or a government possesses to leverage innovation, change, and advancement.

The fundamentals changed this election year. This is rarely a metaphorically bloodless act. And it was not bloodless this year…— People place a lot of importance in understanding, revisiting, and honoring the fundamentals of a problem, because they come, not from conceived wisdom, or even perceived wisdom, but from received wisdom.

Demanding a return to the fundamentals can be a callback to received wisdom, but only if the current problem resembles a past one in any kind of way. And problems involving people, rather than processes, are constantly in flux.

Conspiracy theories abounded at the end of the year. So, here’s a tip about how to deal with all of that…— The standing rule is that people tend to most easily believe in conspiracy theories that they create, and tend to reject the conspiratorial thinking of others.

The trouble with our concerns about fake news is that they come from a place where critical thinking has been reduced in favor of playing to (and supporting) audience attention spans that rival hummingbirds.

In 2017, let’s all commit to growing the size of our ears to hear, our eyes to read, and our brain to absorb, rather than just our voices to speak.

[Opinion] Show MBA’s the Way

By | Active Listening, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Education, Entrepreneurship, New Posts, Old Posts, Organizational Development, The Future & The Singularity, Workplace Development

MBA’s have a responsibility to save the world.

But they can only do that if the door is opened to them to believe that they can save the world.

For that door to open, someone must show them the way.

And then, when the way is shown, the door opens and the long process of saving our organizations begins.

Don’t believe me?

Well, this fall I had the honor of teaching Conflict Management Strategies for the Corporate World to a cohort of MBA students at Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY. While it wasn’t always comfortable, for the 34 students who attended the class, their lives (and perspectives) around conflict, peace, and strategy were change.

This is feedback in their own words:


 

“This class has taught me a lot of content that I would have not been able to learn in other classes especially the art of negotiation and how to properly apply it. I never would have imagined a class like conflict management would allow me to gain a new perspective of the kind of person I am and how I can apply myself in the business world.

I was actually able to apply some things I learned in class to my friends who were in a toxic environment at work and showed them videos that were part of this course.

To further elaborate on this story, my friend eventually was motivated enough to leave the company and landed an offer at a better company with a flat culture and a director that has an external locus of control as compared to his old manager. The structure of this class gave the students the opportunity to engage with each other and grown to be comfortable enough to speak and discuss different topics openly. In addition, the interactive simulations such as, the quarter negotiation and the Chestnut village, were exercises completely different from the traditional learning style. Not only was I learning how to negotiate, but how to better communicate with others and read non-verbals. The readings were informative and were further elaborated in class lectures.

I would highly recommend this class. This class is a great mix of lectures and interactive simulations. It has definitely brought me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to better understand the person I am in terms of conflict management culture. I now understand the significance of conflict culture in a firm and how that may affect my future decisions in my career path. I just wish I had the opportunity to take this class earlier. In addition, this class is about becoming agents of change for the generations to come and break the barriers of the norm.”

 


 

“This class was very interesting and very informative for me.  I took Negotiations last semester with [professor name redacted] and when I switched into this class I was afraid there would be a lot of overlap in the class content, but there honestly has been little to no overlap.  The biggest similarity was our Chestnut Village negotiation, obviously.  I learned SO much more from you about negotiations, conflict, etc than I did from my previous class, so I am very happy I decided to take this course.

Everything about the class content was beneficial and was designed to make me think.  Your teaching style makes the class extremely comfortable.  I think that the class structure was great.  I really enjoyed the open forum feel, where everyone was building on each others ideas and opinions and although there were clearly some tensions between the students, the structure allowed for everyone to still put forth their opinions.

The content was delivered really well and even though you are not requiring us to take long tests based on memorization, everyone is always ferociously writing, which shows that we want to know what you are saying and internalize it.

I really enjoyed the negotiation, but I think it would be great if you also required us to partake in a conflict type simulation.  It would take on the same format, but would require us to respond with how we would handle the situation- it might be cool to provide a conflict to us on the first day and then provide that same one to us on the last day and see how the answers change.  It would be interesting for us, but I also think you would really enjoy seeing how much of an impact you have had on our way of thinking.

I would 100% recommend this class to someone else in SOM.  I personally think it is the first class that critically made me think about the way I handle every situation in my life. I am also taking a leadership class and I learned and absorbed close to nothing in that class, whereas in your course I have become more self-aware and understand why I act the way I do in the workplace.  I really feel as though this should be a required course for everyone before they graduate, whether it is undergrad or grad.”

 


 

“Literally everything worked for me in this class. I usually prefer to just go to class and not participate because most classes are boring and quite useless, however this class is the complete opposite. Content, structure, direction; the class is set up perfectly to engage students and force discussion, although I don’t feel discussion was forced as multiple students in the class actually were interested and learned a great deal (including me).

My friend [student name redacted], who literally hates class and school, has said on multiple occasions that this is the best class he has ever taken, and I agree. If you got him to come to class and be engaged, you are doing something right.

Definitely best class I have taken, useful, intellectual, meaningful. Also I think papers are the best way to go about grading this class and the group discussion quizzes really took out the stress factor and enabled people to think critically and share ideas.

Other students might complain about having to participate, the simulations, etc. but I would take the criticisms with a grain of salt. This class is great and I feel the only criticisms are going to come from students who don’t see the value in what you are saying and how incredibly intelligent the discussions we have are.

We just had to register for classes for next semester and I recommended this class to every person who was talking about registration, not realizing that the class was not being offered here next semester :(. A couple of them texted me on registration day asking where the class was and I then realized I had gotten their hopes up for an awesome elective. But yes, I certainly would recommend this class as an elective. The School of Management should be begging you to teach this class every semester; it should actually be a required class in the graduate curriculum.

Best class I have taken at Binghamton [University] by far.”

 


Show the MBA’s the way to save the world, and they will run with it.

[Strategy] Truth and Fairy Tales

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Dysfunction, Leadership, New Posts, Old Posts, Persuasion, Relationships, Speaking, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy

The uncomfortable truth is that an understanding and appreciation of the impact of human emotions is required to address the conflicts of the present day.

The comfortable fairy tale is that everywhere human beings are freed from the impact of their emotions by more economic choices, more scientific knowledge, and more opportunities to engage rationally with an ordered world.

The uncomfortable truth is that people very often refuse to change their behavior and walk the hard emotional path from awareness to competency unless a radical catastrophic (either positive or negative) personal or social event occurs to them.

The comfortable fairy tale is that humanity (both individually and collectively) is trending inevitably toward an integrated, united, globalized mindset, less captive to the paradigms, conflicts, and drivers of humanity’s conflict-ridden past.

The uncomfortable truth is that some people don’t want resolution (or closure) to the conflicts they are experiencing, and seek instead to inflict the consequences, process, and results of their personal conflicts on others.

The comfortable fairy tale is that resolution would be easier to get to if only irrational actors ceased acting irrationally through the auspices of more knowledge, more data, but less received, conceived, or perceived wisdom.

The uncomfortable truth is, the more that we think about the very nature of the human beings with whom we are in constant contact (and with whom we are in constant conflict) the better we get at managing, not the conflicts of others, but the reactions in ourselves.

The three areas in which we grow are often overlooked, but as conflicts, and the confusion about why they occur, increases, these areas will become more critical to engage in with mastery:

Intentionality—no more accidents. Yes, it seems exhausting to always be consciously aware of what we say, what we do, what we think, and what we feel. But it’s equally exhausting to experience the results of a lack of intentionality.

Self-awareness—physician heal thyself. Yes, it might be a more entertaining and distracting approach to be filled with the noise of others (and the constant pitch of the world). But healing yourself requires coming to terms with the signal coming from inside yourself.

Hearing—rather than listening to speak. Yes, it requires patience to listen to others with whom we disagree, and with whom we agree. But when we miss a critical conflict message because we didn’t hear it, we will have to be far more patient with the consequences as they roll out in our lives.

As the framing of more and more comfortable fairy tales run up against the wisdom of uncomfortable truths, it becomes imperative for those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear, to become more strategic around these three areas.

[Opinion] All Others Bring Emotions

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Blog, Brain, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Dysfunction, Leadership, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Stress, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Truth

Pursuing the chimera of “Big Data,” means little in the face of human irrationality and unpredictability when the impact of emotions is removed from the analysis.

Emotions are everywhere, and all around us, driving our reactions to events, our desires to record and document those events, and our drives to connect with each other.

But there is little appreciation of the impact of emotions, as the explanations for people’s individual and corporate reactions to conflicts and strife, have been reduced to little more than economic reasoning (Marxism), or scientific surety (Darwin, et.al).

Neither of which explain the passion of emotions, the irrationality of people at mass, or the unpredictability of human reactions. We desire this predictability (or at least governments and corporations do) to control and direct desirable outcomes; not to grow and enlighten people about themselves.

Instead of gathering ever more data points, arguing ever louder about whose facts are more truthful, or dismissing ideas that we believe are irrational, maybe instead, it’s time to do a deep dive into the oldest of all drivers of conflict in human beings:

  • Envy
  • Anger
  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Pride

They used to be called sins.

But in an era of economic causation, and fetishized data gathering, we dismiss the power of ancient drivers, psychological and otherwise, at our continued peril.

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 10 – David J. Smith

By | Blog, Earbud_U Podcast, Earbud_U!, Education, Entrepreneurship, Marketing for Peace Builders, Mediation, Negotiation, Old Posts, Platform Building, Podcast Archives, Podcast Episode, Selling for Peace Builders, Storytelling, The Future & The Singularity

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 10 – David J. Smith, Peace Builder, Consultant, Speaker, Educator and Author

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode #10 – David J. Smith

Some things, ideas, and even spaces are hiding in plain sight. Like the idea of walking in peace. Or building a career in helping people walk in peace.

The big question is (to paraphrase from the film The Prestige): Are you paying any attention?

Our guest today, David J. Smith is the author of many books on teaching peace. He most recently wrote the book Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace.

And he has come on at no better time than now, to talk about what really matters.

Look, I asked a podcast guest recently, “Why aren’t peacebuilders paid more?” and she gave that question an honest and thought provoking answer which you’ll have the pleasure of hearing next season.

I assert that the reason peacebuilder’s struggle to get appropriate compensation for the emotionally draining work that they do, is because we live in a conflict comfortable and peace skeptical society and culture.

David answers the question in another way on the podcast today.


Look, this is the last episode of our penultimate 4th season of the podcast, and I for one, could not be more grateful and appreciative of your ears, your attention and your focus this year.

Your feedback, as always, has been tremendous for a podcast that runs no advertising other than mine, and where I don’t come on the mike and ask you to donate to my Patreon page, or to rank me in ITunes, Stitcher or on Google Play.

Though the Earbud_U Podcast is available for download and rating on all those platforms.

Thank you for all your support in this self-funded effort, and we’ll be back in January 2017 with a new year, a new slate of guests, and even a new opening I’ve been working on.


Connect with David J. Smith in all the ways you can below:

Website: https://davidjsmithconsulting.com/

Peace Jobs Book Link: http://www.infoagepub.com/products/Peace-Jobs

Facebook (For Peace Jobs): https://www.facebook.com/PeaceJobs1/

Facebook (to Connect with David): https://www.facebook.com/david.j.smith.54584

Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidjsmith2013

Network Leap 2

By | Blog, Media, New Posts, Old Posts, Platform Building, Privacy, Problem Solving, Relationships, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Strategies, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity

The leap from here to there has never been closer.

Sure, leaping is naturally hard.

That’s why people caution other people, before they embark on a path they can’t see, into a future they can’t understand, with outcomes that are unimaginable, to “look before you leap.”

It’s been written before that, in the context of a conflict, this is terrible advice, most often given terribly.

In the context of the idea of the primacy of the network over everything else , leaping from the Internet “in here” (the greatest communications disruption tool invented by man yet) to the network of physical relationships, textures, and moments in the world “out there” (the physical world), it’s actually great advice.

The difficulty of leaping from inside the machine to outside the machine is misunderstood and underappreciated. Google is trying it’s best to make that leap, as is Facebook, but the real players in the leap from virtual to physical, might be platform builders who understand two things:

Connectivity is not a bug, it’s a feature. Too often in the non-virtual world, connection is now shifting from being treated as something to be hoarded (though there are still those who do that) to something to be freely shared. This shift is thought of by the hoarders as a bug in the system and they do all they can to wipe it out.

Access is a responsibility. Too often in the physical world the location where the fiber optic wire ends (the last mile concept) is thought of as the place where it’s not financially worth it (a profit can’t be made) to provide access to the people living beyond that, sometimes literal, “last mile.” This mindset is shifting, because the reality is that access is gradually moving from a limited privilege to a global civic good.

Once people, businesses, and networks wrap their heads around these two philosophies, and then are self-aware enough to act on them with intentionality, “look before you leap” will return to being the terrible advice it always was.

[Advice] Conspiracy Theories

By | Advice, Blog, Brain, Dysfunction, Education, Networking, New Posts, Old Posts, Persuasion, Platform Building, Problem Solving, Relationships, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Truth

The standing rule is that people tend to most easily believe in conspiracy theories that they create; and tend to reject the conspiratorial thinking of others.



The trouble with our concerns about fake news, is that they come from a place where critical thinking has been reduced in favor of playing to (and supporting) audience attention spans that rival those of hummingbirds.

The long read, the long form content, the long movie; the challenging idea, the scientific journal, the complicated path to learning a new language; these are all in competition against TL;DR (too long; didn’t read), the 30 second cat video on YouTube, the 6 second looping Vine video, or the easily shareable click-bait article.

Audiences have been convinced by both marketers, and journalists (just marketers in another way) that their thinking and content consumption choices are sophisticated. That they are able to sift through biases consciously (without relying on assumptions and inferences from facts not in evidence), come to rational conclusions, and then act on those conclusions to co-create an orderly world.

Oh, but were that so.

When audiences can pick their own personalized access to “knowledge” and can choose their own “facts” then news that comes from sophisticated marketers (some former journalists) and content creators, becomes the coin of access to the conspiratorial realm. And social cueing, confirmation bias, and attribution activates individuals in the audience to create their own, publicly viewable, and socially shareable conspiracy theories.

Not about aliens landing at Roswell.

Not about the Illuminati running the world.

Not about a rising one-world government.

Not about a coming cashless society.

But conspiracies about stolen votes, illegal voting (and voters), racialism, economic injustice, Big Pharmaceutical companies poisoning vaccines, Big Agricultural companies poisoning seeds, Big Banks ceasing to be allowed to failed, Big Governments seeking to curb natural rights, Big Faith seeking to curb libertine tendencies, and on, and on, and on.

This type of conspiracy theory mongering is particularly subtle and insidious, because it plays on the mistrust and biases audiences already have built in to their world-view and thinking, but it does the play at scale, and one-to-one. This creates a feeling of community (we’re in the know) while also creating a feeling of persecution (we’re on the outside of everyone else).

And people should have expected it. As more knowledge, has become more accessible to the common individual (if you have a smartphone in your pocket with Internet access, you have a supercomputer) we have been encouraged to embrace the conspiracies we like, share them with our friend circle, and then sit back and wait passively for reality to match our frames and worldviews. And when that doesn’t happen, we go back, double-down, and start the conflict cycle.

Mass media (led by the collapsing and panicking journalism field) is complicit in this as well, seeking to drive audience attention to ideas and concepts that are spurious, but that also generate clicks. This is because mass media content production can’t figure out (at scale) how to get audiences to pay for something they can get anywhere for free, but it’s also driven by the ego-based desire to be seen, be acknowledged as an expert, and to grow the network and personal brand of the content creator at the expense of the market, and the audience, gaining new knowledge, or being challenged in any meaningful way.

Fake news—and the environment that allows conspiracy theories to metastasize—is not going to go away. The echo chambers of social platforms are too powerful, with too many voices, too many passive audience members, and too many exclusively self-interested actors.

What is going to have to change is, as always, the hardest piece: Individuals are going to have to decide what they will absorb, what ideas they will believe, and they critically reject other ideas, based on objective evidence and proof.

But if individuals (and audiences) could do that effectively, the placebo effect long-ago would have ceased to be effective.

[Advice] Prepare for the Baby

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, New Posts, Old Posts, Peacemaker, Persuasion, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Resolution, Speaking, Storytelling

Before a new baby comes into the world, usually a family diligently prepares for its arrival.

The family prepares the environment that the baby will thrive in, from the set-up of the room to the clothes the new baby will come home in.

The family prepares their emotional life as well, changing their hearts and minds in preparation for a new life, a new voice, and a new perspective.

The family prepares their financial life, hopefully putting money aside, creating a savings plan, and otherwise prepping for the addition of a new person who will have needs and wants that must be met.

The family prepares their spiritual life as well, shifting their mindsets, their worship and even thinking about new traditions and how to integrate the new baby into their lives.

When a new baby comes into the world, a family prepares at all levels for the arrival of the baby.

In the Western world, there’s a reason that Thanksgiving precedes Christmas and Christmas precedes the New Year.

The transition from holiday to holiday is not about materialism, commercialism, or even marketing.

The transitions are about gratefulness (preparing the heart), arrival (the baby is born), and possibility (the future is bright).

In conflict, let us not forget the importance of growth into these transitions. Let us prepare our hearts, and our relationships, as diligently as we prepare for the arrival of a new baby into our homes, our communities, and our neighborhoods.

[Advice] Listening to Hear

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Negotiation, New Posts, Old Posts, Opinions, Relationships, Resolution, Speaking, Storytelling

Most of the time, in conflicts, we engage in listening to the other party long enough to create a counter-argument that supports the narrative we already have in our heads.

This is not active listening, it’s passive consumption of content while idly waiting for a turn to speak.

This passivity in listening is particularly acute when, in the middle of a statement (or idea) being expressed that we have already dismissed as irrelevant, uninteresting, or not fitting our narrative structure, we pull out the computer in our pockets and start surfing for distractions.

Or our eyes cease to focus on the person making the statement and we begin to look around the room.

Or we begin to fidget and move around, impatiently awaiting the end of whatever is being said.

Children tend to behave like this, and one of the functions of parenting is to curb such ADD-like behavior and channel the energy devoted to not listening to active listening.

And to hearing.

When adults behave like this (as increasingly we are seeing) it leads to the top three cause of conflict: miscommunication, poor communication, and fumbled communication.

There are some ways out of this, and the researcher in listening, Jim MacNamara, offers seven canons of listening (go and check out his talk with the London School of Economics and Political Science. It’s fascinating):

  • Recognition
  • Acknowledgement
  • Attention
  • Interpreting
  • Understanding
  • Consideration
  • Responding

To get to appropriate responding in a way that acknowledges what was said by another party, listening (which is an active, and transactional act) must become part of the listeners’ conversational DNA.

And in a communication world that rewards impatience, inattention, passive (or little) recognition, endless noise, a lack of consideration, poor interpretation, and inattentive responding, what are we as individuals to do to increase our listening, and decrease our speaking?

[Strategy] Communication Channel

By | Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Dysfunction, New Posts, Old Posts, Persuasion, Platform Building, Relationships, Speaking, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy

The voice is a communication channel.

So is a pen, a piece of paper, a keyboard, a desktop computer, or even a mobile phone.

So is a television screen, a computer screen, and a mobile phone screen.

The eyes, the hands, the body are communication channels.

So are mobile applications, Internet platforms, and even websites.

The ability to miscommunicate effectively comes about when we confuse the channel, with the message coming through the channel.

Or we confuse the medium with the message itself.

We seek nuance through these channels in a vain attempt to connect completely with another human being. The problem is that these channels are flawed because they are channels that exist of human making, human molding, and even human compromising. The nuance that we seek through using these channels—the clarity, courage and candor we ultimately seek—will not only come through such channels.

Conflict is easy when the medium and the message are confused. Conflict relies on obfuscation, confusion, miscommunication, and disconnection.

Blogging, tweeting, “facebooking,” Snapchatting, or using whatever the platform of choice to communicate with nuance, will result in more conflict not less. This is because nuance is sacrificed when using these platforms to communicate ideas that are easy to understand, but hard to manage, and may not ever result in resolution.

Reading is a communication channel.

So is thinking.