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Communication and Conflict Newsletter, Issue #001 -- Birds and Bullies
January 02, 2008

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Newsletter - Birds and Bullies

Conflict Resolution in the Bird World
(or how to find a win/win solution with someone who seems to be a bully.)

I usually spend some of the Christmas period at my parental home in Surrey, South East England. Outside the kitchen window there is a bird feeder suspended from an apple tree. One year I was watching a Greenfinch perched on the ledge at the bottom of the feeder happily pecking away at the peanuts and seeds contained in it.

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As time passed there were a range of other birds such as Blue Tits, Sparrows and other Finches that hovered close by hoping for a look-in but he refused to budge. At one time, 2 Chaffinches sat atop the feeder waiting for him to move but after one failed attempt to hustle him away, they left.

I watched, amazed at how assertive he was, and even started to have thoughts that he was a bit of a greedy bully.

But then a little Coal Tit flew in to the other side of the feeder and instead of trying to muscle the Greenfinch out of the way, he grabbed on to the wire that held in the seeds and nuts and began to happily feed away on them.
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The Greenfinch was entirely unperturbed by this and within another minute or so he flew on his happy way, filled to contentment.

This struck me as quite a lesson in what we sometimes describe as 'getting our needs met'. In the human world, someone acting like the Greenfinch might be demonised as a bit of a bully or of being greedy and selfish or of wanting more than his fair share.

But the little Coal Tit taught me that by finding another way of approaching the situation, both he and the Greenfinch were both able to meet their needs without upsetting one another.

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He found a win/win solution to the situation while all the other birds that approached the Greenfinch were trying for a win/lose outcome - and they kept losing. They only tried one approach and it was one that had to mean there was a winner and a loser.

The Coal tit didn't enter into a competition about it. He just found another angle of approach that didn't even need to involve the Greenfinch, and yet both ended up having their needs met. Better still, the Greenfinch didn't have to fight off any pesky interruptions to his mealtime.

I was left wondering who, in fact, was doing the bullying. The happy Greenfinch was just eating until he was full enough to meet his needs - albeit assertively. The other birds were, on afterthought, the ones who tried to use the power play and the conflict as competition approach.

Perhaps they were the bullies after all.

Can you remember a time when someone you know seemed to be hogging the goodies? Did other people try to 'win' the goodies away from them by the use of force, or by shaming them for being greedy or chastising them for being a bully or some other competitive approach where the person with the goodies was expected to give them up rather than share them? And as a result they didn't, and a struggle ensued, in whatever way that showed itself.

Was there anyone who had the insight to find a different angle of approach to the situation, just like the Coal Tit did?

The Communication and Conflict Newsletter is no longer published (January 2013) but you can now sign up for its successor CAOTICA which is also authored by Alan Sharland, author of the Communication and Conflict website and Director of CAOS Conflict Management. Click on the banner below to visit CAOTICA.......
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Ideas and Information

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Trainers and Facilitators

4-word build

This is an excellent exercise for promoting a shared understanding of any idea or concept that you might be working with in your workplace or classroom.

Alternatively, any situation where a group of people have a shared issue but may be experiencing differences and conflicts in connection with it.

Click here to find out more about 4-word build.

Recommended books this month:

1. Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success in Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time - this is an excellent book which promotes a thorough examination of how we communicate, a review of the consequences of ineffective communication, and, in my view most importantly, a consideration of the conversations we must have with ourselves.

2. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (How to Help Your Child) - this is a great book that gives excellent ideas for ways of communicating with children (that could be just as useful with adults!) that remove the need for shouting and controlling and using sanctions in our relationships with them.

For more books that relate to communication and conflict go to the Books page on the website.

Principle Focus

Each month I will review one of the Principles of Effective Communication to see where it has relevance in different areas of our lives.

This month the Principle is:

That we speak only for ourselves
(Using 'I' statements)
Quotation Corner:

If you want to meet someone who can fix any situation you don't like, who can bring you happiness in spite of what other people say or believe, look in a mirror, then say this magic word:


Richard Bach: Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul - The Lost Book from Illusions

Some links that you may find interesting......

The World Directory of Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs Bringing together the world of blogs that cover mediation, arbitration, negotiation, conflict resolution, and people-focused innovations in the practice of law.

Transforming Conflict is an excellent organisation which works with young people in educational settings, promoting restorative approaches to conflict.

Byron Katie, founder of The Work, has one job: to teach people how to end their own suffering. As she guides people through powerful process of inquiry, called The Work, they find that their stressful beliefs—about life, other people, or themselves— radically shift and their lives are changed forever.

So, how did you like it?

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