Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's Not You, It's Me!

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s at work, in our personal lives, or at city hall—most of us have been asked to work collaboratively with those who are labeled “difficult people.”

So what do you do? What’s the best approach? Are there ways you can turn bad experiences into productive ones? Dr. Neil Katz says yes!

Dr. Neil Katz
An innovator in conflict resolution for more than 40 years, Dr. Katz currently serves as professor and chairperson of the graduate department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University and consults with organizations on these issues.

He will be the keynote speaker at the League’s 2014 Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials and was kind enough to answer a few questions on how best to manage differences:

Dr. Katz, you’ve worked with a range of public, private, and nonprofit clients on conflict management training. Are there particular challenges that are unique to the public arena? 
Yes! Public officials have a special challenge in their need to manage contentious situations because of: their many stakeholders, the passion and degree by which their constituents want to express themselves and influence policy, and finally—their exposure and accessibility.

Your upcoming workshop at the League’s Experienced Officials Leadership Conference will focus on what participants can do personally to manage difficult people and dysfunctional behaviors. What approaches do you find to be most effective in helping public officials deal with challenging personalities?
Approaches that have a good chance of success include a combination of staying resourceful oneself, channeling the high emotional energy of self and others, excellent rapport skills (especially reflective listening and pacing/matching), assertion, and interest-based problem solving/negotiation.

What is the single most important thing that elected officials should keep in mind when confronted by a difficult person?
The most important message is not one we like to hear: the only person in any situation we have control over is ourselves—our best ammunition is a well-developed conflict management skill set!

If you’d like to learn more, please join us at the 2014 Leadership Conference for Experienced Officials on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 in Brooklyn Center.  Exploring your own emotional reactions and communication style—and understanding how shifting your behavior can influence others in a positive way—is a great way to start the new year!

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