Want to know how to handle difficult conversations, when you're not in a room together? Or how to communicate your return-to-the-office policies without triggering people job-hunting? Or how to prevent the conflict that's looming for two of the hottest - and most-ignored - topics that are facing offices? In today's Lockdown Leadership Conference interview with award-winning mediator, Marie Coombes, we're talking about:
Creating Change Without Conflict And Handling Difficult Conversations To
What We Cover In This Interview:
- What are difficult conversations?
- What's the current big topic that workplaces are avoiding, and how will that trigger problems?
- How can virtual leaders manage those who want to stay home-working vs those who want to come back full time?
- Strategies for communicating properly to avoid conflict
- Managing upwards – raising difficult topics with your manager
- What's the next big topic that we need to proactively handle, to avoid creating a two-tier workforce?
Watch The Interview:
Note: the video also has captions, to aid accessibility.
[00:00:07.650] - Clare Josa
So good morning, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm thrilled to be able to talk with Marie Coombes today. She's an award winning mediator trainer. She's also a mental health first aid, a trainer. And she specialises in helping people to have the conversations that we've convinced ourselves a difficult in ways to prevent conflict, to facilitate deeper connexion and to restore that sense of calm. So welcome, Marie. It's wonderful to have you join us.
[00:00:35.390] - Clare Josa
[00:00:37.270] - Marie Coombes
.Absolutely fantastic to be here. You know, I love talking to you.
[00:00:41.780] - Clare Josa
And Marie, one thing that I've never asked you that I'd love to start with today is how on earth did you end up as a mediator trainer by accident?
[00:00:51.980] - Marie Coombes
Pretty much before I opened up my company, I worked for Royal Mail for 17 years. And I was in a really, really low key position back in 2014 where they were setting up an in-house mediation session. And I kind of like the idea of of mediation. You know, it kind of fitted with my mentality and helping people pull through sort of difficult situations, left it right until the very last minute to apply applied along with 700 other people, 10 jobs.
[00:01:23.150] - Marie Coombes
And I got one of them. And I have never looked back. It was the best decision I ever made.
[00:01:27.800] - Clare Josa
That's fantastic. I had no idea about that, Marie. And one of the things everybody listening and watching I love about Marie is that Marie is very grounded and down to earth and practical. So where the conversation, you know, the topic of difficult conversations can get quite esoteric and quite left brained and quite model based. When you work with Marie, you just feel safe. Yeah. You just know there's not going to be any drama and I just feel held.
[00:01:54.120] - Clare Josa
Yeah. I've never had to work with you as a mediator, which in some ways is fortunate. But just just the conversations that we've had, you just feel safe to be able to open up and be you, which is a real gift, Marie, that you share with the world.
[00:02:07.040] - Marie Coombes
Absolutely. And it's at the heart of everything I do as well. I am on a mission to make people feel safe.
[00:02:12.650] - Clare Josa
Thank you. So, Marie, I'd like to start with what is your definition of what are difficult conversations?
[00:02:20.840] - Marie Coombes
It's it's anything that invokes the for the Fight-flight-freeze or for response. And it's those conversations we avoid that we think that we're going to get in an argument with anything that we have fear of, you know, fear of the consequences of speaking up. Power struggles are a big thing as well. Obviously, talking to your manager or feeling that somebody else has has more power than you. It doesn't even necessarily to be a manager subordinate relationship issues if you perceive that they have more power than you.
[00:02:51.380] - Marie Coombes
So it's pretty much anything that invokes those photographs and automatically triggers that response in your brain. This is going to be difficult.
[00:03:00.320] - Clare Josa
OK, so the kind of thing I'd expect people to be seeing that. And you can tell me if you see this is is something I talk a lot about with clients called the Flinch factor. Where you think about the conversation is something tightens in your body is that could be really useful. Early warning sign. If you're thinking about that conversation, you kind of go, oh, in your body is like, OK, this is where I need to go and listen to what Marie has to say.
[00:03:24.590] - Clare Josa
Thank you. Now, I know you said just when we were chatting before we got on life interview, there's some research that you've been reading about that absolutely blew my mind.
[00:03:35.690] - Marie Coombes
Yeah. So there was a study done by 18 months ago now where they were investigating why why people avoid the conversation. Out of that study, 80 percent of people were avoiding difficult conversations, which didn't surprise me in the slightest. What did surprise me was some of the other figures, one in 10, delay that conversation for at least a year and a further one in 10 delay it for at least two years, which that is a terrifying statistic because those people that are delaying those conversations are stuck in that forever.
[00:04:09.950] - Marie Coombes
So they are stuck in that situation. Every time they see that person, every time they have to have an interaction with that person, it immediately triggers one of those photographs again, because they know that they're avoiding that conversation.
[00:04:21.770] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. And that really is shocking. I mean, yeah, it also kind of doesn't surprise me because we do put those conversations off. We convince ourselves how horrible it's going to be and we turn it into a really big thing. And I know that also with your background as a mental health first aid, a trainer, you must see a direct link between people putting off those conversations and mental health.
[00:04:44.480] - Marie Coombes
Absolutely. It's a cause and effect relationship. If you already have a mental health condition remaining in that place, where you're avoiding those conversations will make it worse. And if you don't have a condition that increases our stress, responses and stress over time can develop into a mental health condition. So, you know, tackling early, regardless of the fact that. It may give you some short term difficulties in the long term is going to be a benefit to everybody.
[00:05:11.730] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. And the increase in anxiety that we get from being in that Fight-flight-freeze response with the Sympathetic nervous system triggered the whole time can have a knock on impact. So many other areas in our lives and relationships that have nothing to do with the past. And that that difficult conversation is with. So Marie, we're looking at #makinghybridwork and going back into the office potentially or potentially less. What are the kind of topics that you're seeing coming up at the moment that people are potentially avoiding having difficult conversations over?
[00:05:42.840] - Marie Coombes
So the big thing during covid has been that conversation remotely, we were talking just before about the tone of emails, that's probably been one of the biggest issues I've seen in a lot of the conversations I've seen is everybody relying on email a lot more. And we never know the tone that that email should be coming across on because we're not sat there having the conversation. So you receive an email. If it's from somebody that you're avoiding a difficult conversation with, you're already a lot higher in terms of your reaction than you would be if you told me face to face.
[00:06:16.740] - Marie Coombes
And it's it's very much about reading those emails, reading that written communication and not really understanding where it's coming from. And that's triggering a lot of a lot of difficulties between people at the moment. The other kind of things, I mean, communication in general has always been a big issue in mediation because it's the first thing to go when people have an issue with each other, whatever that issue might be, perception gaps, those gaps in perception between what one person thinks and what somebody else thinks is a recurring theme.
[00:06:46.440] - Marie Coombes
I always talk about three truths that your truth, the truth and the truth and conflict is never about the truth. It's always about understanding each other's truths. So that's another big issue. The ones I'm starting to see come through now. Menopause. We have an ageing workforce. There's a lot more women in that menopausal area in the workplace. And if you're a man, you might be sat there thinking, oh, God, not you. That doesn't affect me, but it does if you manage somebody who is going through that.
[00:07:15.210] - Marie Coombes
So that's going to be a bigger ticket issue over the next sort of three or four years, along with mental health being an increasing issue as well. We've only just touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of mental health at the moment and those people returning from furlough as well. That's I'm starting to see that being an issue because there's resentment between those of Hybrid working thinking that those sorts of home have been a home for the last 18 months when actually they've sat at home, have wanted to be at work.
[00:07:42.510] - Marie Coombes
So there's resentment in the other direction as well. So they're kind of the big things I'm seeing at the moment. And there's other things that I can see on the horizon which are really going to cause issues as well. But we'll talk about that in a minute.
[00:07:54.000] - Clare Josa
So one of the things that I'm definitely seeing with my clients is what you've just said about fellow returners is we need to be having conversations to rebuild those teams. You can't just bring people who've been furloughed back into the office or remote working and expect them to feel included. Yeah, Imposter Syndrome rates, for example, amongst furloughed workers are skyrocketing because they've been out of the organisation for potentially a year or more. They feel that everybody else has moved ahead.
[00:08:20.880] - Clare Josa
What I know. What if they realise I'm no longer good enough at my job? Similarly, we've got the people who've been on their knees potentially working 14 hours a day with the perception that the people who've been furloughed have been sat at home on holiday, whereas actually, as you say, they might have been stuck in a tiny flat with no God. We're going stir crazy wanting to be back in the office. So when we're looking at things like this, how to communicate, how to rebuild teams, to avoid conflict, to prevent resentment, what is your advice on that?
[00:08:52.830] - Clare Josa
Communicate properly, to be able to avoid that conflict and to be able to rebuild those teams.
[00:08:58.890] - Marie Coombes
So for me, it's twofold. One is the psychological side and one is the communication side. So in terms of the psychology, it's about understanding that we all have a desire to be psychologically safe and the kind of tenants and psychological safety security, having a stable job, having a stable situation, having controls autonomy is a big thing as well. Being able to control your environment, being able to control what happens to you and fairness. That's a huge thing in terms of psychological safety of people do not feel they are being treated fairly or if they feel that others around them are not being treated fairly as well, that can have a major impact on all psychological safety.
[00:09:37.560] - Marie Coombes
And what that does is it triggers the a response in terms of the communication side of things. Never, ever have a conversation. And the information always sort of say, you know what, we're not going anywhere with this conversation and that's going to take five minutes. I'll go grab a cup of tea and then we'll come back and start again. Never, ever feel like you have to force a conversation like having the proper communication, great trust and rapport.
[00:10:02.970] - Marie Coombes
It builds that connexion. Having a proper, empathic conversation builds connexion. So it's very much about finding the right time to have a conversation as well. Don't try and have a conversation five minutes away from a meeting. Find the right time to have that conversation where you can be in a safe environment, where you can be in a productive environment, and also confidentiality is a huge thing about communication. If you're talking about difficult things, you need to know that you are in a confidential environment as well.
[00:10:32.580] - Marie Coombes
It's also about listening to people, not listening to respond. How many times have we been stuck in a conflict situation? And we've been sitting there thinking, oh, God, how am I going to respond to this? Instead of actually listening to what's happening, listening to what's being said, so it's about an active listening, actively engaging in the conversation, and the final thing for me is about self-awareness. So it is very much about understanding yourself.
[00:11:00.060] - Marie Coombes
And one thing that I talk about a lot, both is mental health, first aid and also as a human being is our frame of reference. We all come from a frame of reference. We all come from a set of beliefs, values, upbringing, childhood, all those kind of things that make us who we are. And being aware of our reaction are triggers to things can have a big part of having a productive conversation with somebody as well.
[00:11:24.510] - Clare Josa
That's really, really important stuff if you see the frame, that frame of reference, that self-awareness is understanding potentially what we are projecting onto the conversation, taking that out so we can really listen to hear and it's being able to listen, to hear without getting defensive, isn't it? Because it's not really about us. If somebody got pain inside, it probably isn't us. Yeah. So taking it personally, I can imagine, would actually increase the conflict.
[00:11:50.230] - Clare Josa
And it's having that maturity and self-awareness, as you describe it, to be able to to say this isn't about me, I'm getting me out of the way and I'm open to that being a solution to this.
[00:12:00.960] - Marie Coombes
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. The first thing I do when I'm a mediator is I put my mediator persona on. And part of that is this isn't about me. This is about the two people in the room. This is very much about helping them rebuild. Their communication is never about you. It is always about somebody talking from a position of what they need, their underlying needs. And part of that is psychological safety.
[00:12:25.660] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. And if we look at, you know, most of us have heard of Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs, there's a reason why safety and security is at the bottom of that pyramid because it is the foundation for all of our other experiences in life. We've got a great one here in the comments. Judith Glaser's work on conversational intelligence is a great read and complements what Marie's just mentioned. Listening to Connect. And I know you and I both talked about Marshall Rosenberg Non-Violent Communication.
[00:12:53.590] - Clare Josa
It's what you were just saying here is it's about that the conflict comes because we don't understand each other's needs. And I'm guessing a lot of the times that I've seen in my client what we don't actually know what our needs are, so we're not articulating them in a way that allows other people to meet them. And the job of you as a mediator or if you're training people in an organisation to be able to facilitate those conversations, is to help people really see those unmet needs that have been creating the perception of conflict.
[00:13:21.130] - Marie Coombes
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. One of the one of the key things I do is I speak individually with people and we work through from the story, which is usually 20 minutes of what I like to call verbal diarrhoea, which is where everything just comes out. And as a mediator, I'm trained to spot the unmet needs. And then we talk through those to the point where the story that somebody comes in with is very, very different from what they are taking out of that meeting, into the joint meeting of a mediation, very, very different.
[00:13:53.530] - Clare Josa
You say this is such an important thing to be doing. And obviously I know most of us aren't qualified to be doing it the way you do. But if somebody is in a management position and they don't have the benefit of maritime first, then I guess for them they could still there would be huge benefit in them talking to both parties individually rather than just bringing them like two fighting dogs into the arena. And as you say, is that that vomit of I need my story to be heard.
[00:14:19.090] - Clare Josa
Nobody's listen to me unconditionally on this before I need to get it out, because until somebody has been heard, they're not going to let go of the story. Then, as you say, being able to understand what are the needs that meant the story was created and is being fed. And then that's the point at which you mediate from and when you've heard the story without engaging in the drama of it, then the person feels they've been heard and they can let go of some of the emotional attachment if I guess then the mediation or the discussion is much more likely to be successful, Marie.
[00:14:53.440] - Marie Coombes
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. But the joint meeting always starts with something called uninterrupted speaking time, which is an opportunity to speak and be heard, because, as I say, we're always listening to respond rather than listening to hear. So people are effectively in the nicest possible way forced to listen. Yeah, that is a real golden moment in a mediation because you do you see that realisation? Oh, my God, I didn't realise. I don't know.
[00:15:19.660] - Marie Coombes
Yeah, I often.
[00:15:21.640] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. And if you're leading that discussion, whether it's somebody like you, Maria, or whether it's a line manager or somebody in an H.R. team, what's really important, I guess, is to make sure that when somebody has that realisation, it doesn't then cause them to shut down with the guilt and the shame of I can't believe I did that. Therefore, I'm an awful person. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it's happened. We're going to deal with it.
[00:15:43.180] - Clare Josa
You move on. Absolutely. Absolutely. So one of the big challenges I'm hearing from my audience and from my clients is having those conversations. Output's Yeah. Is being able to raise difficult conversations with your line manager, your direct your managing partner or even the CEO. And I was working with a client just yesterday where her difficult conversation to say no to meetings. Yeah, she's just been promoted into a global role. She now has seven hours a day of back to back meetings, wakes up first thing in the morning.
[00:16:15.640] - Clare Josa
The first thing she thinks is what work will I get done tonight? Yeah. Yeah, this kind of thing is becoming increasingly common. Leading to mental health issues and burnout, productivity issues, performance issues, team problems, absenteeism, what would your advice be for those of us who need to raise that difficult topic with our line manager, where there might not be somebody there to facilitate to have that courage to be able to have that conversation and not be the statistic that's put it off for two years and then leaves the company because they didn't want to raise the conversation.
[00:16:51.870] - Marie Coombes
Yeah, absolutely. So my first thing would be tackle it early. Something will only get bigger if it's not talked about. So regardless of whether it's upwards, downwards, left or right, tackle it early, don't allow it to fester, because that's when a difficult conversation becomes an impossible conversation. And all of a sudden, it's two years later, there's something within the complex splits, vehicle conflict styles and sometimes understanding what your style of dealing with conflict is can support how you have that conversation.
[00:17:25.560] - Marie Coombes
So I will say conflict probably not like this conflict is inevitable. It's whether it's constructive or destructive. That is the key point here. OK, the reason why we talk about constructive and destructive conflict is because we all come from that frame of reference. So it's about how we react, not necessarily what the actual issue is, that's quite often the difference between constructive and destructive conflict. So having an understanding of that or the person's conflict style, whether they are a shark, which is kind of like the fight response, whether they're a teddy bear, which is the fawning response or whether they're a collaborator, that can help you prepare for that conversation and prepare your style to match their style.
[00:18:08.690] - Marie Coombes
OK, because what you're doing then is you're appealing to that underlying needs. It is about understanding their needs and goals as well. So what is their life like? What is their work life like? Is what you're going to talk to them about going to make things more difficult or more easy, understanding how that's going to impact on their needs and goals and then understanding then how they may react to it. And it is about respect and empathy as well.
[00:18:33.650] - Marie Coombes
Brene Brown talks about empathy, building connexion. And it's also one of those where an empathic conversation is never one that starts with at least. So it's all about having the right level of empathy and having respect for each other's time as well. I mentioned earlier on about picking the right time to have a conversation. It's exactly the same. Managing opposite is managing down to a certain extent. It's picking the right time and then being mindful of each other's time because we're all busy.
[00:19:02.730] - Marie Coombes
Every single one of us is busy. But what we can do by having the conversation early is we can save a bigger amount of time later on. So it's that short term pain for long term gain.
[00:19:15.350] - Clare Josa
This is brilliant. And I love that whole thing about the two types of conflict and how actually it's about how we experience and process it rather than the actual topic. I'd love to hear from those of you who are alive with this chat. What are your thoughts on that, on those two types of conflict and the role that we play in it? And Marie, building on something that you said earlier about that kind of 20 minutes of vomit, but getting it out there that people need to have that verbal diarrhoea.
[00:19:42.740] - Clare Josa
What would you I mean, I'm thinking and I could be wrong. I'm not media trainer, but I'm wondering if you need to have that difficult conversation with your boss, whether it's worth finding somebody who's a trusted friend that you could have that verbal diarrhoea with before you go into the meeting with the boss. So when you go into the meeting with the boss, you've got the emotions out of it. What would your thoughts be on that?
[00:20:02.330] - Marie Coombes
I personally would would probably recommend that. I mean, I'm a big one for having mentors. I'm a big one for having somebody is there as a coaching relationship. So definitely that if I had to have a difficult conversation, I would always and I've still got a mentor now. I would always go to my mentor first and say, look, this is what I'm dealing with. I'm not quite sure how to deal with it. This is this is everything that is going on.
[00:20:25.970] - Marie Coombes
And then we would have that conversation so I can distil down. To be fair, I naturally distil now and naturally go for my unmet need first because I recognise it straight away. But obviously if you if you're not trained in that skill, you will probably need somebody to help you having that conversation, taking time to plan the conversation and that will be part of that plan.
[00:20:45.650] - Clare Josa
And that's brilliant. And what you're saying about, you know, you've got the stage where you can now just say, oh, is this need that's creating that particular story? You know, I talk about Mind-story drama how so much the pain we experience is actually the what you feel that we're doing in our heads. And most of us don't even realise we're doing that and that it becomes our truth. Yeah, it is that drama story. But what if he does this or she says that suddenly we forget that was just an imagination?
[00:21:15.360] - Clare Josa
Yeah, I remember a situation once where I had a dream that my husband had behaved very unreasonable. And I woke up that morning and I was really cross with him for about two hours. And I couldn't shift the whole thing because the mind-story drama in the dream had been so real. I'd created the neural pathways that my brain forgot because there was such emotion with it. My brain forgot it had never actually happened. Yeah, so I really think, yeah, having this coach, this mentor figure, somebody you trust who isn't going to sit there and wind you up because we get physiologically addicted at a cellular level to the adrenaline and the court is all those stress hormones created by the mind-story drama.
[00:21:55.520] - Clare Josa
So do not have your pre-chat with somebody who's just going to help you to ease your way back up. It needs to be somebody who can do the unconditional listening. But I guess we don't. It's the individual also need to be open to letting go of the mind-story drama if we actually want to to ease that conflict.
[00:22:12.980] - Marie Coombes
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Because we cannot have those difficult conversations if we are personally stuck in that drama. It's like I said earlier, I'll never have a conversation, a difficult conversation in the height of emotion. Just take five minutes out to just go and censor yourself and then come back and start again.
[00:22:30.950] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. And definitely I love your advice, but don't have it five minutes before you walk into a big meeting. You have people that do, though. I'm just saying that with it.
[00:22:42.200] - Clare Josa
Yeah. And also, I think it's fair to to brief the person that actually I do want to talk to you about this topic, and I've been finding it quite difficult because the last thing you want is them thinking that you're just doing a catch up date and then suddenly to be splattered with a set of needs that they've got no idea even existed.
[00:23:01.280] - Marie Coombes
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. It's about making time, making time.
[00:23:07.070] - Clare Josa
And and us being the adults in that situation is owning our reaction to the situation and being genuinely open to that being an amicable solution rather than somebody needing to win and somebody else needing to lose. And that can be quite hard if the person's behaviour has been quite unacceptable.
[00:23:25.520] - Marie Coombes
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, one of the things I always encourage in those mediation style conversations, whether I do it one on one or whether I do it in a group setting, is speak from the I. Use I statements, I feel like this. I take ownership because that's one of the things we don't do in conflict, we immediately go to that blame place. We immediately try to blame somebody else. And it's not a it's not an issue in the sense of, you know, we all do it.
[00:23:53.690] - Marie Coombes
It's just the way we naturally sort of gravitate to. But it's about taking ownership of all them for what's going on.
[00:24:01.880] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. So we got some great comments here, it's like, yep, I recommend clients to practise, not to have a script, but to deal with the emotion before having the conversation for real. Absolutely. Might even practise it a few times. I write down the topics I want to talk to, talk through and keep those topics. And it's so important for us to to be able to be in that space where we say we move away from the blame.
[00:24:27.890] - Clare Josa
Yeah, that famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote, If nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent, it's a real rotten tomatoes moment for the word inferior, for whatever the emotion is we're feeling. Unfortunately, it's actually true. And if we're in a conflict situation, the other person might not even realise they're in a conflict situation. They might be blissfully unaware of the story and the pain that's going on inside for us. And we need to make sure we don't speak from the pain.
[00:24:54.050] - Clare Josa
We speak from that grounded sense of I'm taking responsibility for how I feel in this, but I do need you to understand my needs.
[00:25:02.690] - Marie Coombes
Yeah, definitely. And it's funny you should say that, because the amount of mediations I've done where one person has this 20 minutes of everything and the other person's "I don't know why I'm here". I've lost count of how many times that has happened. And then by the time we get to the joint meetings, it's like, "Ahh!"
[00:25:20.870] - Clare Josa
It's surreal, isn't it? And we can really find ourselves up about other people's behaviour without them having any idea whatsoever. And it doesn't mean it's OK.
[00:25:31.610] - Marie Coombes
But we're all having a different experience at the same practical scenario.
[00:25:36.360] - Marie Coombes
Absolutely. That frame of reference.
[00:25:38.960] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. So that's been really great advice. Anyway, so the next big topic, this is something you and I discussed the other day, that you see that we need to actually start having open conversations about now in the workplace. I'd love to hear from you on that.
[00:25:53.990] - Marie Coombes
Yeah. So the big ones that are coming through at the moment, there's two in particular. It's that return to work, the hybrid working. And the biggest thing that's going to cause conflict there is having those conversations. So one of the tenets of Psychological safety is fairness. So if you're having conversations with people about Hybrid working is about making sure those conversations are fair to everybody and understanding that some people are going to have greater needs and others. So some people are still shielding, some people still classed as vulnerable.
[00:26:21.680] - Marie Coombes
They're not going to want to be in the workplace, but they're also not going to want to be excluded or facing 20 questions as to why they're working from home five days a week, whereas everybody else has to be in three days a week or whatever, so that Hybrid working has the real potential to generate a lot of destructive conflict, a lot of destructive conflicts. The other one, and I think this is going to be even bigger, is the vaccine versus no vaccine conversation.
[00:26:46.430] - Marie Coombes
Now, I'm not going to get into to the merits of which ones. Right. In which one went wrong. The key issue here is that some people out there do not have a choice in terms of not being able to have the vaccination. So I have family members. I know Claire, we talked about this the other day, but can't have it for medical reasons. It's going to cause bigger problems than actually having probably covered would do so.
[00:27:07.520] - Marie Coombes
So in those situations, it's about having the empathy for those people and understanding that everybody makes a decision as to as to why they're living their life the way they are. We all should take responsibility for that decision, but it's appreciating that not everybody can make that decision. Some people have no choice.
[00:27:26.180] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. And I'm definitely seeing this as something that's going to come up as a hot topic. I'm totally with you on this summary is because there's been so much fear built up, particularly on social media and in the mainstream media, about vaccinated versus unvaccinated. It becomes such an immensely emotionally charged topic. And because it's coming from that place of fear, it's already triggered the Fight-flight-freeze-fawn mechanism. And I've already started hearing conversations of I won't be in an office with somebody who's unvaccinated because they might kill me.
[00:27:56.720] - Clare Josa
And I think we need as managers, as leaders to actually be managing that discussion now, saying, actually, here are the facts. Here's what we're doing to keep everybody safe. If you've been vaccinated, here's the stats on how safe you are. And actually, you know what, right. Does anybody have to know somebody else's medical history in the workplace? We need to be having I don't have the answers. Like you don't have the answers, but it needs to be something that's discussed in an organisation rather than imposed.
[00:28:27.230] - Clare Josa
And it's something that people need to feel safe talking about because there will be so much fear built up around the story that's in their head, because people have been through massive fear in the last fifteen months. If this gets projected into a workplace, you can imagine everybody. You can imagine how destructive that will be suppressed in a workplace. You can imagine how somebody who, for whatever reason, has not been vaccinated is going to end up being ostracised or bullied or harassed or excluded or forced to work from home when actually.
[00:29:00.830] - Clare Josa
They are desperate to be back in the office because they hate having to sit on their bed to work with their dressing gown in the background. Yeah, so there is no right and wrong on this. And it's really important for us to be having those challenging, courageous conversations now so that people feel safe. It's that psychological security again, isn't it, Marie?
[00:29:21.150] - Marie Coombes
It absolutely is. I mean, right. The bottom line is it's the word safe that we have to feel safe before we can move off that hierarchy of needs. And that's that's one of the essential tenets of Islam. And the last 18 months, we haven't been safe. I don't think any one of us has felt safe for the last 18 months. We turn into the workplace. I'm very lucky. I work from home, full stop. I'm self-employed.
[00:29:43.370] - Marie Coombes
I don't have to go into an office and work with people. But I have clients are expecting me to go into the workplace and I'm having to ask for risk assessments and make sure that everything is the same as the health and the normal health and safety in the workplace is important. This forms part of that for me. So it's about making sure I am safe and everybody needs to take responsibility for their own safety. But at the same time, organisations need to, as part of the psychological contract, as part of the Health and Safety at Work Act is part of all these are the things that underpin is making sure that people are safe at work and covid falls under that.
[00:30:17.750] - Clare Josa
Absolutely. And there are two levels to that safety aren't there, Marie. You've got the. Yeah, we've done the risk assessment. Here's the written document, if I will say that Psychological safety. And now we're going to discuss it. We're not just going to email that document round. We're actually going to talk about it, why it's got what it has in it and how how if somebody got concerns, how they can easily raise those without feeling judged, which I decide on whichever fence they are.
[00:30:41.990] - Clare Josa
Yeah. So, Marie, before we wrap up, I just want to hear from the group with us live. If you've got anything else that you'd like to ask Marie or anything that's been a light bulb for you today in this session, let me know via the chat. Emori, how can people get in touch with you? Because you and I have talked about how sometimes we think mediation doesn't happen until you hit, like, serious kind of court level conflict.
[00:31:05.690] - Clare Josa
And actually, the best time to bring you in is so much earlier in the process. How does that work for an organisation?
[00:31:14.510] - Marie Coombes
So there's still several ways to contact me. I have my website and my my details and my QR codes there as well, which will direct you to sort of getting in touch with me. But I'm one of those I I'm very much about. Prevention is better than cure. Understanding how to not avoid conflict because it's a conflict is inevitable, but how to make it constructive because constructive conflict, it drives innovation. It drives creativity. It drives engagement because people are allowed to speak and be heard as well.
[00:31:47.210] - Marie Coombes
So it is very, very much about encouraging people to speak up, but creating the environment. And that's the biggest thing that I can help organisations do, is create help them create that environment for constructive conflict, for constructive dialogue, for making sure that everybody feels heard and supported. But I am also there when things do go wrong and that extra level of support as well as on the whole process, that that's fantastic.
[00:32:12.920] - Clare Josa
We've got some lovely feedback by the comments from those who've been here live. Going to read more about conflict styles, apps. Love listening to you, Marie, on such an interesting topic of conflict and difficult conversations. I'm going to think about how it might be useful to help people increase their self awareness and help more constructive conversations. So Marie, people can find you over on LinkedIn. They can find you a wee WeRestoreCalm.com. And also you do offer half hour consultations to organisations as well, don't you?
[00:32:41.600] - Clare Josa
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So get in touch with Marie if you think this is something that your organisation needs to learn from or that your managers might benefit from some training in this, which right now, given the level of difficult conversations we're all going to be having, is essential because simply imposing decisions on people is the best way to make sure they leave. Then please do get in touch with Marie and Marie. If you could just wrap up by sharing that one thing that maybe you wish you'd known back at the very beginning of your career before you started out as a mediator on how to have these conversations, what would it be?
[00:33:17.800] - Marie Coombes
It's not personal. That's probably the biggest thing, because the amount of times I didn't speak up for fear of thinking that it was going to be a personal attack on somebody else or reacting in such a way when somebody brought up something with me, I'm one of those that in the past, if somebody criticised me for something, whether it was done correctly or incorrectly, I always went straight to the defensive. And now I appreciate is very much about it's not personal.
[00:33:45.630] - Marie Coombes
It's just about getting stuff out there, getting stuff in the open and being able to move on constructively.
[00:33:51.390] - Clare Josa
I think that is possibly one of the best bits of advice for life if it's not personal. It's such brilliant advice. Marie, thank you so much. It's been wonderful talking to you today. Thank you so much for taking the time. And everyone, you can find Marie and find out more about her work at WeRestoreCalm.com.
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