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leadership

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Working Effectively with Anger — The Solution Might Surprise You

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Anger seems to be all the rage these days (pun intended!), with many people in full-throated celebration of it. Rage and disdain have become acceptable expressions of anger. But are they effective?
 
The words anger, rage, and outrage are often used interchangeably but they are not the same. Anger is an emotion stemming from other emotions, including anxiety, despair, or frustration. I feel angry, for example, when something does not go as I expect and have planned for. My expectations have not been met.

Rage and the “dis- words” (disregard, disrespect, disdain), on the other hand, are expressions of anger. They are choices we make, without fully considering all of the choices available to us.
 
When we express outrage, we are choosing to shame another, and shaming rarely produces the results we want. Similarly, rage is an expression of anger that fills the space but is hard to work with. Disregard and unresponsiveness are frequently an avoidance of our own discomfort with a given situation. All of these responses are laden with judgment, usually without full knowledge and understanding of the complete picture.
 
The most effective way to deal with anger is to “look under the hood.” Examine why you feel as you do; not everyone feels the same for a given circumstance, and we all connect the dots differently. Consider your assumptions and what you do not know. Explore choices thoughtfully. In other words, work with the complexity and make intentional decisions about how to respond, keeping channels of communication open. By doing so, you are much more likely to achieve your intended aim, and also more likely to benefit from unexpected opportunities.

Many who read this post will nod and say: “Yes, that makes sense.” But mindfully attending to our emotions and responses is hard to put into practice without guidance. Coaching helps us to develop healthy and fruitful practices of reflection that lead to the outcomes we want. I have benefited enormously from the guidance of coaches and counselors over the years. We are all a work in progress, and we all benefit from coaching. (See our coaching services here, and particularly the quote by Atul Gawande.)
 
Anger is a natural emotion. How we respond to that anger is a choice. We have far more agency than we realize to modify a situation and create positive outcomes. Contact us to learn more.

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Copyright © 2019 Sharon V. Kristjanson. All rights reserved.

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Populism: Will You Join, Resist, or Help Shape It?

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Much is being said these days about populism: the championing of the common man in opposition to the established elite. Some view its growth around the world with alarm, while others see it as a necessary check on entrenched politics.
 
Populism per se is not the problem. The real threat comes from what gets wrapped up with populism, such as authoritarianism, blind confidence in one’s point of view, a weak commitment to the truth, and/or minimal reflection and engagement with other ideas.
 
Populism can completely overturn a government structure, or re-shape it at the margins. It can lead to more equitable policies, or more reckless ones. What matters is how we work with it.
 
I invite you to help shape populism. Join a growing movement of ordinary people who are committed to building bridges of understanding through Better Angels, a non-profit organization committed to depolarizing America. I have followed this non-profit’s growth since its humble beginnings in late-2016, and I’m impressed enough to donate some of my time to moderating their workshops for free. This is a populist movement I am happy to join.
 
You can also make a difference by participating in one of our Engaging with Difference® workshops to learn a set of higher-level communication and leadership skills that transform interactions into creative and effective collaborations. These skills are broadly applicable to daily interactions, not just political discussions.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you will engage with diverse viewpoints and reflect on them in new ways. This is an essential element of a healthy democracy.

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Copyright © 2019 Sharon V. Kristjanson. All rights reserved.

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Why I Do What I Do

Some think that People Beyond Politics™ (PBP) is about politics. It’s not. It is about people and how we understand each other when we have different perspectives. Only when we know how to explore each other’s frame of reference and context can we discuss politics (or any topic) in a meaningful way.

Last week I posted a video on our Facebook page from a TEDx Talk given by Paula Stone Williams, a transgendered woman who shares her insights about living both as a man and a woman in our society. At first glance, her talk might appear to be unrelated to People Beyond Politics™ – but it is spot-on. The takeaways, as I see them, are not just the points she makes about the topic, but also the way her grace and humor draw us in and invite us to listen. It is a powerful example of engaging one’s audience effectively, even on a controversial subject.

I have spent a lifetime learning about the many dimensions of communicating across differences, and I have seen the positive impact of incorporating this learning – both on myself and on others. These leadership and communication skills have transformed my life: they have reduced friction and frustration, and created a multitude of new opportunities for connections, growth, and change. I am convinced that these skills are crucial to making teams and policies more coherent and effective. In short, they are an essential ingredient for making the world a better place. This is why I do what I do.

I hope you will consider subscribing to our newsletter and participating in this growing community of people who come from all walks of life. We are from across the political spectrum, but we share a desire to build bridges, expand understanding, and make a difference, each in our own way.

This is where I wrote this month's blog-post and newsletter. :-)

This is where I wrote this month's blog-post and newsletter. :-)

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Copyright © 2018 Sharon V. Kristjanson. All rights reserved.

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