In the Short Rows

We are finally getting there. In the short rows. The short rows is a farming term for the rows at the edge of a plot that are shorter due to odd angles of land. It means we are almost finished. In fact, I hope that when this publishes (I’m usually a few weeks ahead on my posts), that my head will be resting on my king size bed pillow with a view of Lake Wackena. We will hopefully be at least sleeping at the house and eating and relaxing there. My husband, dog Baci and I have been displaced by Hurricane Matthew for almost 6 months. Actually, it will be 6 months to the day on April 8th. It’s been a challenge and a half.


Our generous friends have rented out their lovely in-law to us, and it’s nice to have a private place to call “home”, or as we refer to it, as “Camp Matthew.” We’ve basically gone from 3000 square feet down to about 600. From two computers, two printers, two television sets, a gas range, four bathrooms and three couches down to one couch, one television, electric range, one bathroom, one computer and printer. This would normally be a piece of cake for a week or two. Or the original guesstimate of 2-3 months. But it’s turned out to be 6 months.


This is what I’ve learned about being in the short rows:


Focus.  I have been driving my husband nuts.  I ask a thousand questions a day about the house. “What about the closets?” “What about the vent cover in the garage?” “Should we fix the light in Benson’s room now? Or later?” “Have you watered the plants?” It’s endless. He stops me in the morning and says exactly what we are working on. Yesterday we did an inventory of everything (at the moment) that we need for the house and then we went to Lowe’s and bought it. This morning we moved all the furniture from one bedroom to another. Thank God my husband has focus because I am a scattered mess. So when it comes to a big project at work or at home, make sure you have someone who can focus the team (especially if I am on it).


Positive.  I recently found out that one of my top five strengths is positivity. Thank goodness for that! In fact, one day a few weeks ago, we had a setback on the delivery of the linchpin cabinet we needed for the kitchen. Nothing could continue until we had that cabinet. Well, my husband started grumbling about the cabinet and looked at me and said, “Don’t get all positive on me.” So I went off on a tirade basically, that went something like this: “This sucks. We are never moving back in that house. We are going to be living on top of each other forever.” He stopped me. “Ok. Ok. You can stop now.”

It’s funny how we need some glass half full people around. It keeps everyone’s spirit alive.


Lead.  I’ve learned to give up the leadership to my husband. He used to be a contractor and is incredibly knowledgeable about all things construction. In fact, he is usually referred to as MacGyver. Duct tape and a popsicle stick? Kevin will figure out how to fix the water heater. This morning, he figured out how to get an enormous, awkward treadmill through a door that was too small, without any equipment except a hammer and screwdriver. He didn’t even damage a single freshly painted wall. I was there to “help” but I know he would have done it single-handedly nonetheless. Find out the best person to lead this particular team and let them lead.


Visualize.  Every morning for the last few weeks, I’ve been visualizing laying on my bed back at the house and staring out the window at the lake. My husband and I have been repairing on the deck for the last two nights. We are “acting as if” we are back at home. When I started visualizing being back in the house, the log jam that was holding us up cut loose. The cabinet that was missing in action finally was delivered and everything started falling into place. Half the house was carpeted last Friday and the rest will be done tomorrow. We quit waiting on the fireplace and decided we could move with the carpeting in or without it. I coach several clients who worked on acting “as if.” They get stuck and can’t sell the house or get the job of their dreams and then they start acting “as if” and suddenly they are in forward motion.


I’m really getting excited that we will be home soon. There are a few more hoops to jump through like counter-tops and some plumbing fixes but we are really close! We are almost out of the short rows and onto living on the Lake instead of with the nightmare of the Lake.

5 Ways to Humanize Conflict

You don’t agree with the trajectory of a project at work so you make up excuses to miss the meetings. You don’t want to openly disagree. You don’t want to upset the apple cart. You start talking behind the project leader’s back. You keep quiet at the meetings you do attend. You become passive aggressive. Sandbag as much as you can on your end. This ensures the project doesn’t succeed so that you can be smug when it fails.

This is all created by your conflict avoidance. Let’s be realistic. Most of us are conflict averse. We don’t want to hurt our boss’ feelings. We don’t want to make someone angry. We don’t want to make our coworker feel bad. And we don’t want to be part of a losing project. But there is a way to humanize conflict and have it be a win-win situation.


Here are the ways.

1. Seek first to understand. Habit 5 of Steven R. Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” Most of us approach conflict to try and make our case. We want to be understood first. When we change that up and attempt to understand first, it has an enormous impact and builds trust.

Ask open ended questions and respond with a summary of what you heard. “Can you tell me about this project from the beginning?” “How do you feel about the data?” “Are there any other resources available?” These questions aren’t accusatory or judgmental. They are just about gathering information and understanding.

2. Humanize your opponent. In The Great Courses’ Your Best Brain, Dr. John Medina brought up a study done by two groups of business school students from competing universities. Group A was given a fictitious issue to negotiate via email with no other information. Group A was negotiating with someone who was essentially anonymous to them. Group B was told to exchange pictures and to reveal something about themselves before moving forward with the negotiation. Group B was humanizing their counterpart in the negotiation. The result? Group A had an impasse rate of 29% and Group B had an impasse rate of 6%. Remarkable! So if you are trying to resolve an issue with someone who is not in the office, or a customer via email; try and use their correct name (no one likes their name misspelled). Include your photo in your signature line. Be human.

3. Everyone is right…partially. This is a tenant of CRR Global. Everyone wants to be right. Like all the time. No one wants to go around being wrong. It’s human nature. So think about it. Is this really just you trying to be “right” versus what is best for the company? Can you admit that you might be 1% wrong and let it go? Sometimes we find conflict when there doesn’t need to be. We don’t need to crucify someone for misfiling the file; or changing the venue for the presentation because it wasn’t the one we picked.

4. Conflict norms. Patrick Lencioni espouses using conflict norms for a leader with his team. As he states, “To effectively make conflict a core part of a team’s culture, we suggest establishing ’conflict norms.’ Conflict norms are a handful of expectations the team establishes and commits to in order to engage in healthy conflict during team discussions.” Lencioni’s suggestions that the leader end the debate or discussion with the phrase, “Do You Support the Direction?” and make sure everyone responds. Another is for silence to imply you agree and making sure there are no offline discussions. You know – the meeting after the meeting. Make sure you have conflict norms for your team.

5. Positivity is infectious. Try and harvest what is good. What’s going well. Positivity builds rapport amongst the team. Think about people at work that you get along with. People you would go to the mat for. Odds are you have a good rapport with them and you have a positive relationship. They aren’t busy throwing other people under the bus or blaming everyone else for everything They are acknowledging what is going right. This builds rapport for when you need to step into conflict.

I have to say that our cable was out the other day and the customer service rep said to me “Catharine (see #2), please tell me about the issue (see #1).” After I explained the issue she said “Catharine, I am sure this is frustrating for you (see #3).” I felt heard, empathized with and humanized. I didn’t get angry. Amazing what word choice can do for a conflict.