Connected Principals Posts



It’s inevitable. Sooner or later there will be conflict. People will have differences. Disagreements will erupt. Mistakes will be made. Stuff happens.



But we can sharpen our skills to be ready when unhealthy conflict begins to rise. And we can use our tools to keep dialogue open and productive. Disagreements don’t have to turn destructive. 



A difference of opinion doesn’t haven’t to escalate into a damaged relationship. The phrases I share below have worked well for me, for the most part. Tone of voice and body language are critically important too.



It doesn’t matter if the conflict is with a student, a colleague, or a parent, it’s so important to listen carefully and let the other person know you are listening carefully. 



Listen carefully and practice empathy. Try to fully understand where the other person is coming from.



Here are 11 phrases that might be helpful…

1. “Let’s work together to solve this.”



All of the problem-solving to address an issue shouldn’t come from one side or the other. It’s not me vs. you. It’s us vs. the problem.



2. “I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let’s look at the facts.”



Our natural tendency is to become defensive when someone challenges us. Take a tentative stance at the start. That shows you’re open to listening.



3. “If I’m wrong I want to correct it and make it right. I may be in error.”



If you start to defend your position right away you set yourself in opposition to the other side. When we set ourselves in opposition to another, it’s their instinct to cling to their ideas and defend them whether there is truly any merit to them or not.



4. “Let me see if I got that.”



Or “Let me see if I understand you correctly?” Listen actively. Acknowledge what the other person is saying. Instead of defending or explaining, start by paraphrasing. Repeat what they’ve said to ensure that you’re getting the right meaning. Ask clarifying questions. It makes the other person feel heard. It shows you are listening.



5. “What’s your biggest concern?”



Sometimes when people get upset they vent about all sorts of things that may be related and may not be related. This question helps focus on what the real issue is.



6. “How are you feeling about that?”



Again this question is acknowledging that there are strong feelings as a result of the situation. It’s good to validate the feelings someone is having. It doesn’t mean you agree with what needs to happen, but you are trying to understand how they feel. 



7. “What would you like to see happen? What would make you happy?”



Sometimes when I ask this question after I’ve listened carefully for a time, the person will say they don’t really want anything to happen. They just wanted to express their frustration. And sometimes there are specific requests. This question get possible next steps out on the table. 



8. “Is it possible that we could…?”



Or “What if…” Help introduce new possibilities to the situation. In emotionally charged situations, people often get locked into seeing things from only one perspective. We’re looking for a creative solution that is win/win.



9. “I’m willing to discuss this as long as needed until we’re both satisfied how it’s resolved.”



I love to say this when I can tell things are really heated. It immediately says to the other person that I’m not going to be your opponent in this discussion. I’m not going to allow this to be an argument. It almost always diffuses the situation.



10. “Let me think about this some more. Let’s try again later.”



Sometimes, even when I’ve tried to maintain dialogue and approach the problem with as much diplomacy as possible, we still can’t seem to either deescalate or find acceptable solutions. Then it’s time to say let’s both think about it some more and try again later.



11. “Do you feel like the situation’s been handled fairly?”



It’s very rewarding when a conversation that could be angry and awful ends up being successful. It actually builds a stronger relationship. Conflict can make us stronger. Sometimes I will even ask if the other person feels it’s been handled fairly. If they can’t say yes, then maybe we need to talk some more.



Don’t allow yourself to become an opponent in the conversation. If people sense that you are defensive, they will set themselves in opposition to you. They will cling to their ideas and defend them no matter what. Even if there isn’t merit to the concern, they will fight for their point of view. They won’t care about what’s right. They’ll only care about being right. They’ll defend the most ridiculous claims and blunders simply because they view you as an opponent.



And conversely, if you truly listen and avoid becoming an opponent, people are far more likely to admit errors of their own. If they are handled gently and respectfully, they will be more open to listening to your perspective too. But make sure they’ve had plenty of opportunities to be heard before you expect them to hear your point of view.



Do you have other ideas for disarming conflict? What’s been your experience with handling conflict successfully? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 11 Helpful Phrases for Disarming Conflict

I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a group in Yellowknife, NWT this past week and it is easily the furthest north I have ever been in the world. As a Canadian, I have experienced cold, but the participants were raving about the unseasonably warm weather in November as a beautiful and toasty … [Read more…]

Read More Sometimes the “Work” is Really the “Learning”

I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a group in Yellowknife, NWT this past week and it is easily the furthest north I have ever been in the world. As a Canadian, I have experienced cold, but the participants were raving about the unseasonably warm weather in November as a beautiful and toasty … [Read more…]

Read More Sometimes the “Work” is Really the “Learning”

How do engage students while also understanding the unique challenges and strengths of Generation Z students? Several years ago, I was introduced to Dr. Tim Elmore through his curriculum and online resources for leadership. He is known as an expert in researching generational trends and is the author of dozens of books on developing leadership. […]

Read More PMP:134 Creating Engaging Cultures with Dr. Tim Elmore

I remember I was about to speak at a conference and before things started, the crowd of educators was loud as they were connecting and having conversations with each other. …

Read More When Kids Lead

I remember I was about to speak at a conference and before things started, the crowd of educators was loud as they were connecting and having conversations with each other.  Educators don’t get the chance to talk to each other on a personal or professional level as much as I am sure many would appreciate so … [Read more…]

Read More When Kids Lead

I love the holiday season. I love shopping for the perfect gift, at the perfect price, for the perfect “OH!” when they open it. I love celebrating my big Wolves and my small Wolves. I’ve done big things for my staff and some smaller type of things. Things that are all drawn out, and things that take just a few minutes, […]

The post Three ways to celebrate your staff in December at three different price points, plus a free download! appeared first on Technically Yours Teamann.

Read More Three ways to celebrate your staff in December at three different price points, plus a free download!

Last week I shared out the following tweet: #ThoughtForThe Day: Labeling some staff as model teachers, rockstars, etc. can work against us. After all, what message does that send to the rest of our team? Let’s expect every teacher to […]

Read More Rockstar or Not a Rockstar?

I remember first watching this Seth Godin Ted Talk, “Stop Stealing Dreams” and how the first part made me think (taken from the transcript posted here): Good morning, boys and girls. [Audience: (Murmur)] That was terrible. You’ve learned how to do that from a young age. You’re supposed to say, “Good morning, Mr. Godin.” So let’s try … [Read more…]

Read More Teaching Responsibility or Compliance?



Last Christmas, we decided to add a new Boston Terrier puppy to our family. His name is Rudy. There have been many times over the past months that Rudy has tested our patience. And he’s tested the patience of our older Boston Terrier, Max, too.



He’s chewed up the house. He’s been slow to house train. He’s been quick to disobey. He’s a little too affectionate. He’s in your face affectionate. It’s cute and annoying at the same time.



But a few months ago we noticed something was wrong with Rudy. He was having problems with one of his back legs. It would happen occasionally, and he would limp around on three legs for a while, and then he was back to his old self.



But the problem became even more frequent. A trip to the vet revealed Rudy’s leg problem was Patellar Luxation, a knee cap that was dislocating. The leg would not get better on its own and needed to be addressed surgically.



So Rudy was scheduled for his operation.



After Rudy had his surgery, the vet said we needed to keep him from using the repaired knee. “No using that leg,” he said. 



Just how are you supposed to keep a dog from using a leg? Hey Rudy, no using that leg, okay? 



But turns out that wasn’t a problem. Rudy didn’t want to use the leg. I guess it was pretty sore, and he quit using it entirely after the surgery. 



Even weeks later, after several visits to the vet, Rudy was still not using the repaired leg. The vet suggested several ideas for getting him to start using the leg again, including swim therapy in our bath tub. Seriously.



But Rudy still refused to use his fourth leg. He was a three-legged dog, it seemed, forever.



However, it was clear from our trips to the veterinarian, Rudy’s leg had healed properly. He was simply choosing not to use the leg. He had created a limitation in his canine brain that he was a three-legged dog. He had created a new identity that kept him from reaching his full capacity.



Would Rudy ever walk on four legs again?



And then, in a matter of a couple of weeks, Rudy started testing the fourth leg a little more. He pushed out of his comfort zone and into his growth zone. The video clips below were shot on the same day in the span of about an hour. You’ll see his three legged routine and then what’s possible when he pushes past the limits. Rudy was very capable it seems.






When Rudy got past his limits, he was running around like any puppy should. He was back to annoying all of us again, in his regular way. He was starting to utilize his fourth leg to its full capacity.



But here’s the thing, how many of us are choosing, perhaps unintentionally, to be three-legged dogs? Could it be that most of us are only using a fraction of our true capacity? What might be possible if we would only test our limits and continue to learn and grow?



I think most people are only operating at a small percentage of full capacity. And I think most schools are only operating at a small percentage of full capacity. We’re probably capable of so much more. Our schools are probably capable of so much more.



Sure, we’re trying to make progress, but we’re walking on three legs. We’re trying to make things better, but we need to make ourselves better. Change you first.



What we really need is to cut loose and run on all four legs. And we need to create conditions where other people are able to reach their capacity, too. 



So how can you reach your capacity? You have to get started on a path of growth. Break through your limits with the following…



1. The BELIEF that you need to get better.



If you think you’re doing just fine on three legs, you’ll never find your true capacity. You’ll just keep limping along. You need a vision of what’s possible. Moreover, you also need the belief that things CAN get better. Don’t allow your past performance to limit your future possibilities.



2. The DESIRE to want to get better.



Growth is the more difficult choice. It’s easier just to be satisfied, either intentionally or unintentionally, with how things are. We have to crush apathy and reject mediocrity. We have to desire excellence. You have to commit. You have to really want it.



3. The WILLINGNESS to take action to get better.



You have to test your limits. You have to see what that fourth leg is capable of doing. Sometimes it feels really risky to step out in faith. It might hurt. But you must take action. Destiny is about decisions. It might be hard, but it’s worth it. 



4. The WISDOM to learn how to get better.



There is a certain wisdom and humility needed to recognize that we’re not currently all we could be. We’re probably capable of more, if we’re honest about it. We must therefore seek out opportunities to learn from others. We must apply the things we learn. We have to pursue growth intentionally. 



5. The DISCIPLINE to follow through and be GREAT.



Living a no limits life requires discipline. A new direction requires discipline. Full capacity requires discipline. You have to eliminate the choices that aren’t leading you toward your capacity. You have to be relentless to achieve the results.



What are some ways you want to test your limits? What are some ways you need to test your limits? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Are You Reaching Your Full Capacity?

The article, “The Most Important Skill at the Office Isn’t Being Taught in School” (it’s curiosity) stuck out to me not only because of the focus on curiosity, but I believe in the inaccuracy of the title.  From my perspective, I have seen more of a discussion in schools on having students ask great questions … [Read more…]

Read More Where Curiosity Will Lead Education

Five years ago this month, our son Jack was diagnosed with a rare disease called Kawasaki that brought our normal world to a stand still as we circled together searching for answers and praying for his healing. The disease inflames the blood vessel, and if untreated, it can be fatal. As I look back at […]

Read More PMP:133 Three Reasons to be Thankful

I have been an advocate of technology in education for a long time. But I have been an advocate of “people” for my entire career.   People > Technology The…

Read More Using Technology to Humanize

I have been an advocate of technology in education for a long time. But I have been an advocate of “people” for my entire career.   People > Technology The reason I bring this up is that I have seen a lot of pushback on the idea of “personalized learning” (this is a fascinating article … [Read more…]

Read More Using Technology to Humanize