February 2019 President's Message

      We have such wonderful members in our chapter! This year we are focused on helping women find their voice, which is one of the key values for the American Business Women’s Association.  We are so fortunate to have a diverse group of women who meet each month to share their personal and professional journeys.  This year has been challenging for me personally with juggling family, career and work as it is for many of our members. We are fortunate to have a strong group of women, who are there for each other and who step up to assist each other.  For this I am so grateful!  It is comforting to know that there is a strong network of women who are there for each other. 

     At the January meeting, Kim Torres, a member of our chapter presented a professional development session during the meeting on communication through conflict.  She shared through her work as a mediator, lessons learned and important tips that we can all apply to our daily lives.  As I was talking with one of my co-workers about what we learned, we both agreed that one of the big “take a ways” for us from the presentation, was that when there is a conflict, the first response is an emotional one. 

     During the emotional part of a conflict, sharing facts before acknowledging the emotion only further embeds the emotion through a chemical reaction in the brain, thanks to dopamine.  I recently experienced this first hand when flying back from the D.C. area.  As I went through TSA, another passenger took my bag by mistake.  As you are aware, when you are screened by TSA, they advise you to put everything in your bag as you go through the scanning machines.  Everything was in my bag, including phone, ID, money.  The police officer kept saying that he was sure after reviewing the video tape that it was an accident, which was only further upsetting. I felt like he was not hearing me as to how serious this was.  The police officer was very professional and very nice.  Two hours later as they were calling the last boarding of my flight, my bag was returned to me. 

     In her presentation, Kim shared that in emotional situations the first step is to empathize with the person and acknowledge the emotion.  You do not have to agree with the person, but it is important to acknowledge their emotion.  In my case, I was looking for understanding that this was a big deal to me.  Think back to a time when you have had an emotional response to a conflict and then identify how you were feeling at that moment.  Now, imagine a situation when a person has come to you and they are upset.  Think about what you can say to them, to acknowledge their emotion before trying to work toward resolution.   Kim also shared many great tips and practical examples from her experience as a mediator to help in these situations.  It is usually easy to express what should be done, however it is much more difficult to figure out how to do it.  This is one of the reasons I learned a great deal from Kim’s practical examples.  I have learned that it takes a lot of practice and constantly learning new things from each other.  For this reason, I am so grateful to ABWA and to the network of women in our chapter.  Together we learn from each other and continue to grow in our personal and professional lives.  Sometimes in life we trip and fall, but when we have a strong support network, we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and lean on that network for support.

     A great resource for those that want to learn more about communicating through conflict is the book, “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson.  There are also great videos on YouTube on the topic of how to demonstrate empathy.  I am looking forward to seeing each of you at our next meeting and continuing this journey together.  Thank you for all that you do, and know how much I appreciate each of you and taking this journey with you!

~ Cindy Schmitt


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