How to Make a Good (and Bad) Apology

SMU Dispute Resolution professor John Potter recently sat down with Justin Martin of KERA to discuss apologies and why are sometimes so difficult to make.

KERA News by Justin Martin

We’ve all made mistakes — it’s a part of being human. Apologizing for those mistakes is part of being human, too, but it’s not always easy.

We’ve seen an avalanche of apologies and pseudo-apologies made in the last few months — think Harvey Weinstein or Al Franken or, closer to home, Congressman Joe Barton.

SMU professor John Potter is an expert in dispute resolution and conflict management. He says to deliver an effective apology means considering what the person needs to hear rather than what you want to say.

“For most people when they apologize, they’re apologizing for themselves, saying they what want to say,” he says. “The key to an effective apology is saying what the person you’re apologizing to needs to hear — very different perspective.”

He says that disconnect can also lead to a bad, or ineffective, apology.

“We’re pretty sensitive to something when it doesn’t sound right and we just turn away from that person, when in fact, what that person really wants more than anything else is to be engaged, to be connected to the person they’re expressing regret to, so their relationship improves,” he says.

Potter says it’s easy to use an apology the wrong way and make things worse.

On how social media has changed the apology: “Social media changes everything when it comes to apology. Think of it this way: Imagine I write a book, it goes on a library shelf, and a hundred years from now, someone can find that book and read what I said. On the internet and in social media, that apology lasts forever and ever and ever, so if you don’t get the words in order correctly, if your words are not clear, if you’re ambiguous, then you have set yourself so far back you can’t recover. Clarity in a social media apology is paramount.”

On when you should make a face-to-face apology: “You should make a face-to-face apology when the relationship matters to you. If you’re my friend and we’ve been friends most of our lifetime, and I’ve done something harmful to you, this is not the time to send a text message. On the other hand, if we happen to work in the same building and I parked in your parking place and you’re mad at me, OK, a text message apology is just fine.”

On cultural differences in the apology: “There are cultural differences. Here is what I will normally will do in my own work: If I’m creating, writing, coaching someone on apology in a different culture, I’ll try and find an advocate in the culture to work with me, so I can go back and forth with that person to make sure the context is correct, make sure the tone is correct and that it’s more effective.”

Race & Reconciliation Symposium – April 7th

Join us April 7th for the Race & Reconciliation Symposium, presented by Peace is Possible. 

The SMU Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Center is partnering with Peace is Possible for this one-day event designed to educate and develop community leaders that are passionate about dismantling racial divisions within our society. Topics and activities include: presentations from academics and thought leaders, dialogue processes, and learning opportunities centered around the importance of personal narratives and how they enable common understanding within communities. Creating positive change starts with understanding the problems and a willingness to engage with them in meaningful ways. Many of the speakers live and work here in North Texas, and represent social justice efforts being carried out right here in DFW.

From the Peace is Possible website:
“The Symposium is designed to educate, motivate, and inspire positive change in the North Texas community. Participants will learn the importance of personal narratives as it relates to understanding the lived experiences of those individuals whose narratives are too often missing in history. Actionable ideas will be presented to help attendees begin to shift from consciousness awareness to being agents of positive change in their workplaces and communities. Participants will learn from thought leaders and academics, participate in dialogue processes, and, ultimately, have the opportunity to become peacemakers in our shared North Texas community.”

Registration for the event is $45, and includes a light breakfast and lunch. Come learn how to engage your community as a peacemaker, and create positive, equatable change at the Race & Reconciliation Symposium.

Continue reading Race & Reconciliation Symposium – April 7th

Want to enhance your career success in Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management? Try Change Management!

Original Blog Post by SMU DRCM Dr. Robert Barner

If you are in the DR program you already have a very credible knowledge base for helping others work through conflict. The only thing you lack is a structured set of tools for managing change.

So you are part way through the DR certificate or Master’s program and you are now starting to think about how you intend to apply your certificate or degree to your career. Are you planning to set up your own mediation or conflict management practice? Considering looking for a corporate job in HR, training, or a related field?

If you want to increase your chances for career success, perhaps it is time to consider broadening your tool belt a bit, starting by learning some skills in organizational change management. Let me explain.

For 30+ years I worked as a corporate executive in the HR sub-fields of organizational and leadership development. One of my big responsibilities in each of these positions was to help organizations think through the best way to manage change. In each of these situations another leader held the responsibility of being the project manager. These were the people who built the project plan, established milestones and cost estimates, and negotiated with vendors. But quite often these companies realized that change = conflict. Employees resist change when those changes are not clearly communicated, when there is little opportunity for employee input, and when there is no opportunity to coach leaders in how to effectively guide their teams through the change process. That is when they would approach me to offer suggestions and provide tools that would increase the chances that the organizational change might be successful.

And that’s where you come in. If you are in the DR program you already have a very credible knowledge base for helping others work through conflict. The only thing you lack is a structured set of tools for managing change.

Think about it this way…If you are setting up your own practice, you will probably be charging about $150 – 250/hour for your services, with a typical mediation service netting $400 -$800. A change management project typically takes 6 to 18 months, with a change manager contacted at a hefty rate to provide support at each stage of that project.

On the other hand, if you are NOT thinking about hanging out your shingle, you are probably considering exploring employment opportunities in HR or related professions. In this case, change management skills can be an invaluable means of separating you from the other job candidates. I know, because I operated at the VP level for the last 15 years of my corporate work experience, and hired many full-time and contract support professionals.

For all of these reasons I am inviting you to sign up for the next Organizational Change Management course I will be conducting through our program in the upcoming May Term 2018.

This course is only available only once a year, and the next course will be conducted in the weekends of May 11-13; 18-20 (with registration March 19-30). You can obtain additional information from Jessica Lunce, our Program Manager at jlunce@smu.edu.

The bottom line – don’t wait until you graduate to figure this out. If you have been wanting to expand your career horizons, then perhaps this is the “change” that you have been waiting for. Hope to see you there!

SMU Dispute Resolution students and guests share insights from Rwanda experience

SMU Dispute Resolution faculty, students and guests, in collaboration with ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries), recently traveled to Rwanda to deliver peacebuilding and peer mediation training. After returning to Texas, the group shares their individual experiences with the Rwandan people and insights on what we could all learn about peace.

SMU Group, in collaboration with ALARM, (Left to Right): Elizabeth Blake, Ben Voth, Chris Snyder, Betty Gilmore, Husain Abdullah, Sarah Davenport, Samreen Hooda, Ashley Aguilar, Lori Anne Shaw

Dr. Betty Gilmore, SMU Dispute Resolution Program Director
“I believe that we learned more from the Rwandan people than they learned from us. Despite unthinkable adversity, there are many areas in which the country is thriving. The entire nation has committed to sustainable peace.

What touched me most was the resilience of the human spirit and the ability of people who have caused such harm to each other to come together to rebuild a nation. I hope that we can all learn from the gift they have given us with their example. If a country learning to forgive under such extreme conditions can heal, why can’t we? We must put aside our differences, look for the things that unite us, and realize that we are better together.”

To read more about Dr. Gilmore’s experience, visit: http://www.smu.edu/News/2017/betty-gilmore-rwanda-18april2017 

Ashley Aguilar, MA Dispute Resolution, Class of 2017
“I have never witnessed selflessness like I did in Rwanda. This quality was exhibited by everyone I encountered. Every person was more concerned about the well being of those surrounding them, than that of themselves. I’ve seen people with this quality before, but never have a seen this in everyone surrounding me on such a large scale. The Rwandan people have shown me what it truly means to live selflessly. We could use selflessness to build peace here. If we could teach more people the benefits of perspective taking and vulnerability and shift the paradigm, then I think selfless acts and decisions could follow. Imagine living each day for something more than just yourself. I felt blessed to be a part of it.”

Elizabeth Blake, MA Dispute Resolution, Class of 2017
“The Forgiveness Villages in Rwanda in which victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide live and work together were by far the most bold and courageous systems of peace and reconciliation implemented in country. Our group was able to visit one of the Forgiveness Villages in Nyamata, Rwanda to hear testimony from victims and perpetrators. They use civil discourse processes as a means speak their truth, share their personal narratives, hear testimony of victims AND perpetrators, and work toward peaceful resolution, and ultimately forgiveness and repentance.

Americans generally do not participate in civil discourse as a means to understand other perspectives, and American media tends to promote political and social polarization. Hatred and division have become the norm in American culture. Civil discourse involves great courage, compassion, and desire to understand the other person. Rwandans have mandated conflict resolution curriculum in schools as a means to teach children from a young age how to listen for understanding, show compassion for the other, and resolve conflict in their families and communities. Imagine the compassion, tolerance, and cohesion the next generation of Americans would have if we started teaching them conflict resolution when they first start school. Imagine the possibilities!” Continue reading SMU Dispute Resolution students and guests share insights from Rwanda experience

How to recover from your own Oscars-worthy blunders

Dispute Resolution Professor John Potter offers tips on how to give an effective apology. 

Dallas Morning News by Leslie Barker Garcia

Few of us (and that’s being generous) will ever present an Academy Award for best picture. Even fewer will muddle the name on the top-secret card, as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway did in Sunday night’s Oscars ceremony.

But we’ve all had plenty of mortifying moments we wish we could take back, or that make us wish we could slink out the door under the red (or shag; we don’t care) carpet. They’re part of life; they’re part of being human. We make mistakes that we can neither erase nor go back in time to do differently.

What we can do is apologize. But we need to do that correctly so we don’t find ourselves apologizing for the apology.

As an associate professor in dispute resolution and conflict management at Southern Methodist University, John Potter talks about apology a lot. So who better to turn to for insight on the apology factor in Sunday night’s show?

Continue reading How to recover from your own Oscars-worthy blunders

How to keep today’s tension from stealing our souls

Dispute Resolution Professor Angela Mitakidis offers conflict resolution tips to help ease tensions in our daily lives. 

Dallas Morning News by Leslie Barker

Originally Posted: February 2, 2017

Nearing the end of a recent morning run — one in which, weary of hearing news on the radio, I had pulled out my earbuds miles earlier — I saw my across-the-street neighbor Rick gazing intently upward.

With my ears now open to sound, I knew right away what he was doing: Seeking the source of the sonorous song filling the sweet, soft, morning air.

I had barely a tenth of a mile left to go, but instead of finishing, I stopped. How could I not? Rick turned his eyes toward me long enough to say hello, then, a few seconds later, got that  “Aha!” look on his face.

 “There it is!” he proclaimed, pointing to the upper branches of his all-but-bare tree. “Would you listen to that robin?!”

I squinted, but couldn’t see it. Truth to tell, I didn’t need to. That exchange, barely a minute long, reminded me of this:

Life is found in moments, especially in those that unite us. Not in snark, not in sniping, not in the uncertainty and fear and vitriol that taints our Twitter feeds and Facebook posts, but in those times we find a way to stop the torrents surrounding us.

Continue reading How to keep today’s tension from stealing our souls

Now Accepting Deposits for Summer Study Abroad 2017 in Athens, Greece

The SMU Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management is pleased to announce the study abroad course option for Summer Term 2017 will be located in Athens, Greece. The new course, led by Dr. Betty Gilmore, will focus on the use of dialogue as a tool for peacebuilding in divided communities.

The course, Building Peace Through Understanding: Using Dialogue to Bridge Cultural Divides, will run from June 17 until June 24. Students participating in the course will have the incredible opportunity to work with an NGO conducting dialogue processes with local community groups on polarizing issues. In addition, student participating in this course will have the option to use the course to fulfill the internship or independent study requirement.

Scholarships available for current Dispute Resolution master’s and certificate students. Cost and additional information can be found on the Dispute Resolution Study Abroad webpage.

COURSE DESCRIPTION
Globally, we are faced with difficult public issues stemming from intolerance, shifting political climates, inequity of resources, and civil unrest and immigration. This, among many other complex issues has created intense conflict and polarization in communities, threatening to tear the fabric of society apart and often resulting in violence. This course will explore a valuable and effective tool for promoting equilibrium; it is through the use of dialogue processes. This is a powerful form of peacebuilding that brings divided communities together and often results in appreciation of differences and lasting peace. Greece has been in the throes of the crisis for some time, and they have reached out to various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to assist in dealing with the critical problems dividing their communities. Students in this class will examine methods for building peace through understanding and communication as well as participate in an incredible opportunity to work with an NGO conducting dialogue processes with local community groups on polarizing issues. Since Greece is not the only nation facing conflict, the skills learned from this course will be transferable to all community conflict.

 

SMU Dispute Resolution Students and Faculty Ask, “What Are You Bringing to the Thanksgiving Table?”

You have selected your dishes and decorated your home, but have you prepared yourself for the conflicts that come with large family gatherings. 

SMU Dispute Resolution graduate students, led by Prof. Angela Mitakidis, share their tips for keeping family conflicts to a minimum at the Thanksgiving table and throughout the holiday season.

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Take off Your Coat at the Door: Look past how your guests may present themselves – some may be wearing a “coat” of financial stress, work issues, relationship problems and so forth. Relieve them of their coat of burdens right up front by greeting them with an attitude of gratitude for their presence in your home, joy in your eyes to see them and a lift in your voice as you welcome them in. No one can resist a warm welcome and it will set the tone for the spirit of Thanksgiving right at the door.

Decorate Your Home with a Grateful Heart: A grateful spirit must start with you. You cannot control the behavior of others, nor can you compel another person to feel or demonstrate gratitude. You can only control your own behavior. So make a choice before your guests arrive to focus only on what you are grateful for and watch it spread throughout your home.

A Table Runner of Peace: As guests begin to sense the attitude of gratitude in your home, it will become a theme that will run through your conversations, jokes, comments and behaviors . If conflict arises, you will already have set the “table runner of peace” and that will give you the courage to verbalize a gentle request for a focus on all that we are grateful for.

Continue reading SMU Dispute Resolution Students and Faculty Ask, “What Are You Bringing to the Thanksgiving Table?”

SMU Conflict Resolution Author Series Presents Dr. Robert Barner

SMU Conflict Resolution Author Series presents
“Building Collaboration from the Ground Up: Team building tools for everyone”

You’re invited to attend the SMU Conflict Resolution Author Series featuring SMU Dispute Resolution Lecturer, Dr. Robert Barner, and his book, Building Better Teams.

bobcoverbuildingbetterteamsEVENT INFORMATION
Free Lecture & Book Signing
December 14 at 6:30 p.m.
SMU-in-Plano, Great Room
5228 Tennyson Parkway

RSVP to drcm@smu.edu

ABOUT THE PRESENTATION
Today almost everyone is faced with situations in which they have to get things done through teams. Whether it is the project team you are leading at work or your local PTA organization, at some point in your life you will find that you are working in a team that tests your skills in team collaboration.

For many people, the term “team building” leaves a bad taste in their mouth. If you have ever been to a team building session that either didn’t work or even made matters worse, you are not alone. In this talk the author will explain event why good leaders and good teams can experience difficulties in collaborating, and why team building often fails. You will then be introduced to a simple approach you can use for getting teams quickly back on track. By the end of the session you will walk away with five different techniques you can use for building collaboration in your teams, and you will have the opportunity to talk with the author about any difficult team building challenges that you are currently facing.

Continue reading SMU Conflict Resolution Author Series Presents Dr. Robert Barner