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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Principles of Stress Management

Here are some more principles to assist with stress management. This topic is coming to an end an soon we will begin something else insha'Allah!

Develop Self-knowledge

This involves knowing your capabilities and your limits, your personal temperament and typical coping style, and your values and goals.


You may feel comfortable with some of your characteristics, less happy with others. In either case, to effectively manage stress you need to be aware of your own optimum stress level and coping style, as well as the goals and values that guide your reactions.


Everyone has their own temperament, style of managing stress, and value system. You need to develop strategies relevant to your personal style and compatible with your personal values, otherwise you are not likely to use them.


Self-acceptance and confidence


Accept yourself for who you are, with your limitations as well as your strengths. Do not attempt to take on more than you can handle, you do not have to be perfect, just be the best that you can be. Do not measure yourself according to other people or their expectations. Have enough confidence in your abilities, skills and talents and do not wish to have what you think other people have.


Tolerance for frustration and discomfort


The ability to tolerate frustration and discomfort is central to stress management. High tolerance will keep you from overreacting to things you dislike. It will help you tackle problems and issues rather than avoid them. It will enable you to take risks and try new experiences.


Moderation


The principle of moderation will help you avoid extremes in thinking, feeling, and behaving.


Why moderation is important to stress management?


Extreme expectations - too high or too low, will set you up for either constant failure or a life of boredom.


Addictive or obsessive behaviour can take control of you, creating new distress. Unrestrained eating, drinking or exercising will stress your body and lead to long term health complications.


Emotional and behavioural responsibility


People who see their emotions and behaviours as under their control are less prone to distress than people who see themselves as controlled by external forces. The principle of responsibility can help you take charge of your emotions, your actions, and in turn your life. It involves taking responsibility for (1) what you feel, and (2) how you act.


To be emotionally responsible is to believe that you create your own feelings in reaction to what life throws at you. You avoid blaming other people - your parents, partner, or anyone else - for how you feel.


Behavioural responsibility means accepting that you cause your own actions and behaviours, and are not compelled to behave in any particular way.


Flexibility


Flexible people can bend with the storm rather than be broken by it. They know how to adapt and adjust to new circumstances that call for new ways of thinking and behaving. They have resilience - the ability to bounce back from adversity.


The principle of flexibility


To be flexible is to be open to change in yourself and in the world. As circumstances alter, you are able to modify your plans and behaviours. You are able to adopt new ways of thinking that help you cope with a changing world. You are able to let others hold their own beliefs and do things in ways appropriate to them - while you do what is right for you.


Adapted from the book: “Good Stress: The Life that can be yours”, by Wayne Froggatt, Published by HarperCollins New Zealand, Auckland, 1997.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eid Wishes

A Ten Step Guide To Coping With Stress

Here are ten simple steps to dealing with stress, I hope that you find it useful:


1) Avoid caffeine.
This is a stimulant, so therefore they cannot calm you down. If you’re stressed, steer clear of coffee, tea, soft drinks with caffeine, etc and keep yourself well-hydrated by drinking water instead.

2) Work off stress with physical activity.
Pressure or anger releases adrenaline in the body. Exercise helps to reduce it, and produces ‘good mood’ substances in the brain. So go for a brisk walk around the block when you feel tense, and try some regular exercise.

3) Relax with a stress reduction technique every day.
Try a simple breathing exercise – it’s very easy and can even be done at any time and place. It will help to calm you down.

4) Get enough sleep.
Sleep is essential for the body to function properly. If you’ve habitually skimped on sleep, you probably won’t even remember how it feels to wake up fully rested. Give it a go for a week; and see if there’s a difference in how you perform during the day.

5) If you’re ill, rest.
Don’t just carry on regardless. Working will tire the body and prolong the illness. So recognise that you have limits and don’t carry on as if you were firing on all cylinders.

6) Agree with somebody; once in a while!
Life shouldn’t be a constant battleground. So even if you disagree with someone, avoid conflict by just agreeing or keeping quiet. After all, they have a right to their opinion, just as you do.

7) Learn to accept what you cannot change.
This philosophy will help you avoid unhappiness, cynicism and bitterness.

8) Listen to your body.
When you are tired, hungry or thirsty, do something about it. Also recognise stress and anger in your day and counter it immediately with a brisk walk, ten minutes’ in deep relaxation or whatever works for you.

9) Learn how to say ‘no’. Simple, but effective. Where a ‘no’ is the appropriate response, say it without guilt.

10) Manage your time.
Take one thing at a time. Don’t overdo things. Create time buffers to deal with unexpected emergencies. And, recognise that your day to day problems and responsibilities are the things that cause stress in your life. Tackle them with a system that works for you.

A simple method is to:
- List the things that you need to do.
- Put them in order of importance
- Decide what you need to do yourself, and what can be delegated.
- Decide which needs doing today, next week or next month
- Decide what doesn’t need doing after all, and drop it from the list..

Your mountain of tasks is now in some sort of order. This should help. The list used to control you. Now you control it. And you’ve lost the stress that it caused you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Managing Stress


There are a number of different strategies for coping with, and managing stress. It is important to realize that no single method suits everyone: a combination of approaches is generally most effective. Also, what works for one person does not necessarily work for someone else.


First we will re-look at the ABC Model which was previously discussed in an earlier post, this time we will apply it to stress management:
 
ABC MODEL

 A- ACTIVATING EVENT (events in people’s lives, events that might be distressing or troublesome for them).

B- BELIEF SYSTEM (person’s beliefs about the events that occur in their lives).

C- CONSEQUENCE (emotional and behavioural reactions which most of the time are dysfunctional or problematic if the event is experienced as distressing).

We have no control over A, the Activating event, it will happen anyhow, however, our beliefs about events will determine the consequences and therefore if we change our negative beliefs then we will be changing the consequences as well.

Now let's look at an EXAMPLE of how we can apply this to stress management.

The Table Below Gives a simple example of how people can easily become stressed out according to their particular belief system about an event:

From this example we can see how a different belief system can help to reduce stress. You can try to apply different examples to this model and see what you come up with. Most of the time you will find that stress can be reduced when people change their negative or demanding belief systems. 

In stress management its very important to look at peoples belief systems about things and situations. This is because often people have irrational beliefs or assumptions about the way things should be. These irrational assumptions often puts pressure on them and causes stress. Stress can be reduced and even avoided if these irrational assumptions are changed to rational assumptions.

Exercise:

-Use the stressors that you have previously identified and apply it to the ABC Model.

-Your stressor will be the activating event, focus on what belief system you have been making use of, is it rational or irrational?

- Think about the alternative? How can you change your belief system, what will happen if you change it? Think about how your stress levels will decrease.

- If you’re feeling stressed out, it is very likely that you are making use of irrational belief systems, using an alternative, more rational belief system will help to reduce and perhaps even alleviate your stress.

Below is some examples of Irrational Beliefs or Assumptions and a Rational Alternative:
  
Think about this and consider the difference it makes to a person's stress levels when their irrational assumptions are changed to rational ones. Can you see how people can easily add extra stress to their lives by holding on to irrational beliefs?

Someone recently told me that "we should strive for excellence and not perfection". No human being is perfect and trying to be perfect adds stress to our lives. We should try and do the best we can in life, but then we have to leave things in the hands of Allaah (SWT) and accept our own shortcomings. This will help us to think about things in a more rational way and Insha'Allah will thus help to lower our stress levels, making us calmer and more peaceful.

May The Almighty Allah help us all!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Effects of stress on the body

Here are some effects of stress on the body. It's important to know this in order to understand exactly how stress impacts on your life.


The central nervous system:
Anxiety, worry, insomnia and a complete nervous breakdown are all possible when prolonged or undue stress causes a reaction that can be likened to a faulty electrical system.

The skin:
Hives and certain types of eczema can occur as the skin seeks to assist the vital organs and processes of the body with an outlet for acute and chronic stress.

The digestive system:
Indigestion, cramps, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation may all be linked to undue stress, although other lifestyle and health factors may be implicated.

The respiratory system:
Breathing tends to be more superficial when stressed, resulting in poor oxygenation and faster ageing. Constricted airways are associated with conditions like asthma and croup, which are both life-threatening.


The spinal column:
Muscle tension and spasms caused by stress lead to conditions like migraines

The effects are not always the same for everyone and stress will manifest differently for different people, the above is just some common effects.

It will be helpful to monitor the way your own body reacts when you are under stress. This should give a good indication of your stress levels and what you can do to reduce it.

Insha'Allah in the next post we'll begin with some stress management techniques. Until then, May Allah (SWT) shower His Peace and Blessings on you and give you ease!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stress Management continued... Symptoms of Stress

I hope that the last post on stress was helpful in getting people to begin to understand their own levels of stress and their reasons for stress. Insha'Allah in this post we will focus on the Symptoms of Stress.

When a person experiences too much stress over a long period of time, it starts to affect the person’s mental and physical health. It is therefore important to learn how to deal with stress before it affects your health.

Symptoms of stress- are the outcome of a person’s failure to adapt either physically or mentally to a stressor that has become too big for the human coping mechanism.

The Symptoms of Stress can be divided into three stages, going from mild to more severe:

First stage symptoms
 Constant irritability with people
 Difficulty making decisions
 Loss of sense of humour
 Difficulty concentrating
 Lack of interest in pursuing previously pleasurable activities
 Feeling tired even after an early night and finding it increasingly difficult to get up in the morning


Second stage symptoms
 Lack of appetite
 Craving food when under pressure
 Chronic insomnia or waking very early in the morning (e.g. 1:00 am) and being unable to resume sleep for several hours
 Nervous twitches, nail-biting or other repetitive, unconscious actions
 Headaches and migraines
 Eczema and asthma
 Tendency to sweat for no apparent reason


Third stage symptoms
 Change in appetite and weight
 Change in sleep patterns
 Restlessness or inactivity
 Fatigue and loss of energy
 Ongoing feeling of guilt or worthlessness
 Depressed mood or feeling down



- Which of these symptoms have you experienced in your life?



- Think of a stressful situation when you showed some of the symptoms listed above.

If you manage stress effectively then you should not even develop symptoms in stage 2 and 3.

If your stress levels have reached stage 3 then it is becoming very dangerous and you will need some sort of intervention before it becomes extremely serious.

Insha'Allah in the next post we will look at effects of stress on the body and then we will move on to management of stress.

Please feel free to leave comments and questions.




Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome to Stress Management

Okay, so I know that my last post on this blog was really a very long time ago,  since it takes me a while to research my topics, I don't always have the time to put up posts here, but insha'Allah I will be posting regularly on here again.

I've decided to begin a series of posts on stress management, it seems that some people have found the posts on anger management to be quite useful so I hope that people find this series useful as well.

This post will just begin to introduce the topic and we will look at it in more detail in the posts that follow. As always feedback is welcomed!

*************************************************
What is stress?

 Everyone experiences stressful periods in their lives.

Stress:- Stress is continual worry about something. Stress prevents you from relaxing. Stress happens when you feel you cannot cope with the demands of a situation.


Positive stress:- Initially, mild stress can increase creativity and encourage productivity. Mild stress can be good for a person.


Negative stress:- Negative stress happens when someone feels powerless to cope with a problem. If a person experiences this kind of stress for a long time, it may lead to illness.

Why is it important to manage stress?


When you are stressed your body produces too much cortisol and adrenalin. These are the two major stress hormones. Cortisol is the worry hormone produced by fear and results and results in symptoms of anxiety. Adrenalin is the fight-or-flight hormone which prepares the body to react physically to a threat. If you fail to adapt to your stresses, your body can produce too much of these hormones for too long. This results in physical symptoms and even changes that lead to stress-related illnesses. Chronic stress, has been linked, for example, to high blood pressure and heart disease. High stress levels have also been found to trigger asthma attacks. Long periods of stress can also have a negative impact on your immune system, weakening your resistance to infection as well as your ability to recover. This is why it is important to learn how to manage your stress.

Identify your stressors


The factors in your life that cause stress are called stressors.


Begin by first identifying all the sources of stress in your daily life. Look back at the questionnaire How Stressed are you? This might help you to identify your main stressors. Keep a diary or make a note of it every time an event makes you feel stressed. Once you know the things that make you feel stressed, you can start to deal with them.


- Think about your life for a couple of minutes and identify your stressors:

 - At home
- At work /School
- Elsewhere

Make a list of your stressors in the different environments, it also helps to state how these stressors make you feel and what your reaction to them are. You can draw up a table with STRESSORS, FEELINGS and REACTIONS. This might make it easier for you to begin to understand your reasons for becoming stressed out.


- Identify people who are responsible for causing the stress. What is their relationship to you?

- Are you happy with the way you react to these people?
- For each example, suggest ways in which you can avoid or reduce the frequency of such stressful situations. 

Different Types of Stressors
People experience a variety of different stressors in their lives. Examples of stressors include physical, emotional, social, environmental, personality and vocational stressors. People often also experience a crisis that causes stress. No one is ever completely free of stress, regardless of their age, occupation, status or wealth.
The table below provides an example of these different stressors.


This may help you when you are identifying your own stressors.


When stressors are caused by circumstances beyond your control, they are called external stressors. Examples of external stressors include weather that is too hot or too cold, too much responsibility, long working hours, living in difficult circumstances or being physically or mentally abused.

Internal stressors are mental and physical factors that cause stress. Mental factors include personality traits, such as when a person is over-sensitive or a perfectionist. Physical factors include having a physical disability or chronic illness, or even not feeling good about yourself on a physical level.

 Activity:
Make a list of your personality traits that make you vulnerable to stress. You can start thinking about changes you can make in yourself that will help you to deal with stress more positively.


In order to deal with stress, the root causes of the stress need to be identified and understood, once you have done this, you can move on to finding positive and constructive ways of dealing with stress. Insha'Allah in the next post we will look at symptoms of stress and then move on to the effects of stress.


For additional information on stress and To take a short quiz to help determine if you are stressed or not you can follow the links below:


http://www.lessons4living.com/stress_test.htm


http://www.stress-management-for-health.com/stress-quiz.html


Until next time, May Allah (SWT) shower His Peace and Blessings on us all, and may He help us to remain positive and content, Insha'Allah Ameen!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Further Suggestions for dealing with anger and conflict



Finally we have come to the end of anger and conflict management. I do hope that someone has found it useful. To end of here are some final tips and suggestions:
**************************************************************************
The way you typically express anger may take some time to modify. Some extra suggestions include:



 Keep a diary of your anger outbursts, to try and understand how and why you get mad.
 Take regular exercise, go for a run or play a sport. People who are stressed are more likely to experience anger. Numerous worldwide studies have documented that regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels.
 Use the "empty chair" exercise. Pretend you're sitting across from the person you are angry with and say what's on your mind. Who is this person?
 Write a letter to the person you are angry with. You could describe your anger right now, at the time of the anger event. You can destroy it/you can save it/you can mail it at a later date.
 Use positive self-talk, e.g. "I am able to choose my anger style." and "I am angry but I'm not going to let it take over me”.
 Involve an objective third party. Ask someone you trust to be a sounding board. Who might this be?
 Stop thinking about your anger and focus on something positive. The aim is to convert the anger into something more constructive. Different people have different interests or hobbies. Perhaps your feelings can be redirected into one of your hobbies - something creative such as art, music or drumming, dancing, sports, writing, etc.
 If all else fails - thump a cushion, kick a bean bag (DON'T do anything that will hurt yourself or someone else)
 Forgiveness is very important for you to deal with your own anger. Once you have forgiven, you will be free to move forward and deal with your feelings. Do not underestimate the importance of forgiveness.


(Information taken from BUPA’s Health Information Team, 2004)
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Remember the following advices:
"Indeed, anger is from the evil and, without doubt, the evil is created from the Fire. Only water can extinguish fire. Therefore, if anyone of you feels the rush of anger. Let him perform ablution”, and “When you feel angry, keep silent.” {Hadeeth of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)}

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has been reported to have said:
“For the person who restrains his anger, Allah will restrain punishment over him on the day of Resurrection”.

“Do not remember past disputes” [Luqmaan (A.S)]

“As long as possible try not to start fights and arguments.”
[Luqmaan (A.S)]

“When you feel angry, keep silent.” {Hadeeth of the Prophet (SAW)}

According to Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar (RA) the messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “To restrain anger in order to please Allah is more excellent in the sight of Allah than to swallow back anything”.

“If anyone of you gets angry and he is standing then, let him sit down. If it subsides, well and good, otherwise he must lie down.” {Hadeeth of the Prophet (SAW)}

“Don’t get angry with anyone in the presence of your guests.” [Luqmaan (A.S.)]

“Speaking without thinking is like shooting without aiming.” (William Gurney Benham)

“Conflict is like fire, it can keep you warm, and can cook your food, but if it gets out of control, it can burn down your house.” (Free to Grow Lifeskills)

“Self-control is the ability to keep it cool when someone is making it hot for you.”



May Allah help us all to deal with anger and conflict in a constructive manner.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dealing with Conflict-Step 4- Work on Negotiating

Once you have successfully gotten through the first 3 steps, you can begin to focus on step 4 which is “working on negotiating”. It is important that you have first mastered the first 3 steps because negotiation will not be able to take place if for instance, one person has not been listened to and understood or the other person has not assertively expressed their needs. Furthermore, if you have not managed to achieve step 1 which is “staying calm” then all the efforts to resolve conflict will be useless. Negotiation therefore comes at the end, when the people involved in the conflict have managed to calm themselves, when they have listened to and understood each other and when both parties have communicated their needs and wants in an assertive manner.

Negotiation has been defined as follows:

“Negotiation is a form of decision making in which two or more parties talk with one another in an effort to resolve their opposing interests…a process by which a joint decision is made by two or more parties.”(Pruitt 1981, pp xi-xii in Anstey, 1998, p. 91)

“Negotiation is a process for resolving conflict between two or more parties whereby both or all modify their demands to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise…a process of adjusting both parties’ views of their ideal outcome to an attainable outcome.” (Kennedy et al 1987, p.14 in Anstey, 1998, p.92).

The Process of Negotiation

Three things have been identified as helpful in the negotiation process. (Gift of the Givers: Self Discovery and Growth Course Manual, 1999).

1. Compromise
The parties negotiate with each other until they arrive at a solution that is acceptable to both. In the process both give up something of their original position and meet each other half-way in an attempt to be tolerant towards each other.

In the negotiation process you can make a list, (mentally or you can write it down) of all the things that you are willing to compromise on.

You should not put things on the list unless you are absolutely sure that you will be able to give it up.

2. Accommodation

Both are willing to give, and to accommodate the other’s point of view, and yet to be honest about stating any specific uncertainties they may have.

You have to be able to accommodate the other person by understanding their wants and needs and meeting these needs and wants to a reasonable extent.

It is essential in the conflict resolution process for both parties to compromise something in order to accommodate each other. If this is not done then there will not be successful conflict resolution.

After having listened to and understood the other person’s requests, make a list of the things you think you can give to them. Once again you should only put things on the list that you are absolutely sure you will be able to give to the other person. It is very important that you keep up to the things you promise to do.

3. Seeking alternatives
Parties look for a solution that will have the greatest significance for them. They are concerned about the issue, the problem that needs to be solved and about what will be best under the circumstances.

 When seeking alternatives it is crucial that both parties are equally involved.
 You can sit together and brainstorm about possible solutions.
 The atmosphere should be a pleasant, happy one and both parties should feel comfortable to share their thoughts.
 After brainstorming, all the suggestions can be evaluated. The advantages and disadvantages of all the suggestions can be looked at.
 Thereafter the solution that seems most acceptable to both parties should be chosen.
 The Plan has to be carried out and each person should accept responsibility and try equally hard to keep to the plan.
 There should be no blaming each other.
 Remember all this is being done in order to achieve peace.
(Gift of the Givers: Self Discovery and Growth Course Manual, 1999).

References for this post:
-Anstey, M. (1998). Negotiating Conflict. Cape Town: Juta & Co,Ltd.
-Gift of the Givers Careline. (1999). “Self- Discovery and Growth Course”.

  Unpublished Course Manual.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Communication Styles


In the last few posts we looked at different communication styles, in this post we will summarize these and end off with Changing your Communication: Step 3 of Anger and Conflict Management. Here are some exercises to do in order to end of with communication:
       *****************************************************************************
In the following exercise, state whether the response given in each situation is assertive, aggressive, passive or manipulative.


1. You are part of a group that deals with helping to better the community that you live in. This group has meetings once a month. The date is being set for the next meeting. You really want to attend, but you can’t make it on the proposed date. Everyone else has accepted this date. When the chairperson of the group says; “Is that OK for everyone, then?”


You say; “Well alright, as it seems to be convenient for everyone else.”

2. Jack is having trouble getting started on an assignment that he has to do for school. He doesn’t really know where to begin because he has skipped many classes lately. He just felt that school was boring and decided not to go.

He says to Janet; “I’m useless at doing assignments, I have no idea where to begin, I wish I didn’t miss so many classes but I have been having so many problems at home. My dad beats me up a lot and will do it again if I fail. Won’t you please do the assignment for me?”

3. Rajesh works in the computer field. Part of his job is to go out and install computers for people. He has taken very long with installing a computer. His manager asks him what went wrong when he was installing the computer.

He says; “You wasted a lot of my time! You never even told me he didn’t have the area ready, and the people who work there don’t have any idea what they are doing, they should all be fired, they are just useless!”

4. Somebody in your neighbourhood asks you for a lift because she works in the same area that you do. You don’t mind giving her a lift but you don’t have enough time in the morning to go an extra 10 minutes to pick her up from her house.

You say; “I don’t mind giving you a lift, but you would have to find your own way to my house.”

5. Fatima is on an important call with her sister when her husband interrupts and asks her something.

She says; “Can’t you see I’m busy, my sister really needs to talk right now! I will answer you later, just wait OK! I can’t even have a conversation in peace!”

6. Naledi works at a clothing store. A colleague of hers hears her dealing with an awkward customer. Afterwards they praise the way she handled it.

She says; “It was nothing really, I only really came in at the end.”

7. Ahmed is a trainer who trains people to run HIV/AIDS workshops. He sat in on a workshop presented by one of the people that he trained. He felt that it was highly successful.

He says; “I think that was a really good presentation. I particularly liked the way that you made the material come alive.”

8. A salesman has been pushing hard for you to buy a piece of equipment. You are not sure; besides, you had thought of looking at several makes before deciding.

You say; “Well, I suppose it’s more or less what I’m looking for. I was going to look at other makes, but perhaps this will be OK.

9. A friend of yours has put your name down to help out at a community social function without asking you.
You say; “Look, why didn’t you ask me first, instead of dropping me in it?”


10. Samantha is really busy with her school homework. Her younger sister Jill comes to her and asks for help.

She says; “No, I can’t help you, ask somebody else! What the hell is wrong with you, cant you see how busy I am? You just have to be a pest, don’t you?”

NOW LET'S SEE IF YOU GOT IT ALL RIGHT!

Answers: (1. passive; 2. manipulative; 3. aggressive; 4. assertive; 5. aggressive; 6. passive; 7. assertive; 8. passive; 9. assertive; 10. aggressive).
    *****************************************************************************
Communication Self-Assessment:
Review the 4 different ways of communicating and evaluate where you fit in. Think about what description best describes your way of communicating in a conflict situation.

Remember that you can have a mixed way of communicating as well. Look out for this. You may be a “mixed communicator”.

  • Write down your personal way of communicating in a conflict situation:
  • How far away are you from assertive communication?
  • Make a list of the things you would need to do/ the changes you would have to make in order to become an assertive communicator.
Changing your communication will be a difficult process but it is not impossible. If it is important to you to have better relationships and to deal with anger and conflict better then you will try very hard to make the change and YOU WILL SUCCEED! Good Luck with all your efforts.


MAY ALLAH MAKE ALL OUR EFFORTS EASY INSHA'ALLAH!

In the next post we will look at the 4th and final step towards dealing with anger and conflict: Negotiation

Friday, June 25, 2010

Communication Style 4- 'The Assertive Communicator'

This is the last style of communication and I've decided to save the best for last. In this style of communication both parties win and there is mutual gain as well as mutual respect, this is something that we should all try and work towards achieving.


Description

 Understands, believes in and accepts own rights.
 Understands, believes in and accepts the rights of others.
 Communicates openly and honestly.
 Respects self and others.
 Likes and feels good about self.
 Communicates with the party concerned.
 Listens and talks.
 Expresses positive and negative feelings.
 Matches verbal and non-verbal behaviour with content of message.
 Voice is steady and firm.
 Tone is modulated, rich and warm.
 Speaks fluently with few awkward pauses.

Advantages

It fosters fulfilling, deep and intimate relationships. Less preoccupied with self-consciousness, anxiety and less driven by the need for self-protection or control.
 The assertive person can “see”, “hear” and love others more easily.
 Fears and anxieties are reduced. Don’t approach others with fear of being hurt or controlled.
 You live your own life and more of a person’s needs are fulfilled.

Disadvantages

 Your life will be disrupted to some extent and you will feel the pain associated with honest and caring confrontation.
 There is a personal struggle involved in changing one’s own habitual behaviours.
 Being authentically yourself can be a painful experience. You need to risk disagreements knowing that some conflict is necessary to build a significant relationship between equals.
 It involves becoming vulnerable in significant relationships.
 It brings you face to face with your true values.
 A lot of willpower is necessary.

Achieving this style of communication takes hard work and practise, but the benefits are many and insha'Allah with a sincere intention, Allah (swt) can make things easy to achieve.

In the next post I plan to put up some practise examples on assertive communication, Insha'Allah!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Change is good for you


So I know that my next post was supposed to be the fourth and final style of communication, but Insha'Allah we'll get to that. For now you would have noticed that the look of this blog has changed. It's actually a long story, sort of, but let's just say after searching relentlessly for a template such as the one I have now, I gave up and settled for the previous one. Then, my sister decides to explore things (don't know if that's good or bad), but anyway, through her exploration she finds that we can change things around at ease, and so it is that I came across a template that I wanted for this blog to start with.

Now although I think it looks much better, it was a little difficult to change because, well, we get stuck on old things don't we? Kind of like life itself. After much contemplation though, and looking at the pro's and con's I decided, what the heck, this change will definitely be for the better, and I'm happy I decided that.

This reminds me of life, how we think that change will complicate our lives, but when we actually accept that change may be better, we may be pleasantly surprised. You see the monotony of life can easily get us down, making us feel depressed even, and somtimes even just a small change in our everyday lives can make a huge difference.

I remember reading a beautiful book; When you hear hoofbeats think of a Zebra. I'm sure some of you have also read it. This book dealt with the same topic and the advice given there was change your routine, even if in small ways, change the way you think, change your expectations about things, because only through chnage can we learn and grow.

So, I hope that you like the changes I've made to this blog, and Insha'Allah it will remind you of the fact that change can bring positivity and light into your life. After all, human beings have the ability to experience so many things, why should we restrict ourselves.

Insha'Allah my next post will go back to communication styles, but for now, remember that change can be good for you, and perhaps this will help you if you're stuck with some old way of dealing with things, whether it's your communication style or how you deal with anger and conflict, or just how you treat others, sometimes, when we change things about ourselves, the results are positive for us and for everyone else around us.

I leave you in peace, May the Almighty continue to shower His Blessings on us all!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Communication Style 3- "The Manipulative Communicator"


Description

 No understanding of and no conviction in belief of own rights.
 No understanding or acceptance of rights of others.
 Unwilling to communicate honestly.
 Indirect communication with party concerned.
 Differing verbal and non-verbal behaviour are obstructive to content of message.
 Voice whining and sing-song.
 Lack energy and vitality.
 Anticipates questions and answers.
 Mistrusts self and others.

Advantages
 Others tend to comply with their wishes out of guilt or anxiety.
 They are able to satisfy their needs in the short term to a large extent.
 They do not have to reveal their true feelings to others and risk vulnerability.

Disadvantages
 People avoid them in the long run.
 They make other people feel bad about themselves, but also resentful of the manipulator.
 They do not ever develop a sense of the legitimacy of their own rights and wants.
 They are not able to share their true feelings with others in an atmosphere of trust and caring.
 They are always afraid of being caught out and rejected as a result.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Communication Style 2- "The Aggressive Communicator"

Description

 Insists that own rights are superior.
 Ignores and violates the rights of others.
 Communicates with inappropriate honesty.
 Overpowers others.
 Non-verbal behaviour overemphasizes verbal content of message.
 Interrupts and talks over others.
 Tone often sarcastic and cold.
 Voice firm, harsh and loud.
 Speaks quickly and fluently with few awkward pauses.
 Almost always win arguments.


Advantages
Aggression secures the material needs and objects you desire.
 You have a greater capacity for self protection.
 Through domination and control you get your own way.
 You are usually very active in shaping your own destiny.

Disadvantages
 Aggression provokes fear. Many people act with aggression because they want to hide their weakness.
 Aggression creates it own opposition and fosters its own destruction.
 Aggression often results in a lack of control. The underdog often gets the best of the aggressor in subtle ways.
 The aggressor tends to suffer from guilt feelings.
 The aggressor is dehumanized.
 People become alienated from the aggressor. It undermines love.
 It creates an unsafe society.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Communication style 1- 'The Passive Communicator'

Description

 Unsure of own rights.
 Believes rights of others are more important than own rights.
 Gives in to what others want.
 Easily taken advantage of.
 Afraid to communicate honestly.
 Avoids direct communication with party concerned.
 Non-verbal behaviour undermines content of message.
 Remains silent when something bothers you.
 Little movement, tense and rigid.
 Voice flat and monotone.
 Voice drops away at the end.
 Apologizes a lot.

Advantages
 Conflict is avoided.
 Your need for belonging at all cost is met.
 There is comfort and security in maintaining a familiar behaviour pattern.
 You shoulder less responsibility.
 You can control others as they feel the need to protect you.


Disadvantages
 You live an unlived life.
 People lose respect for you.
 You repress (keep in) and internalize anger and negative emotions. This is very destructive for you personally.
 Diseases caused or aggravated by submissive behaviour include migraine headaches, asthma attacks, many skin diseases, ulcers, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and hypertension.
 Psychological problems include; low self-esteem, high anxiety, depression and inhibition.

Dealing with conflict-Step 3- Changing your communication-Introduction


The way in which people communicate in conflict situations plays a very important role. For instance, if both people are aggressive and screaming and shouting at each other then the conflict will never be resolved it will only worsen. Likewise if one person is passive and quiet all the time, then it will be easy for the other person to bully. In order for conflict to be managed properly and eventually resolved, both people or parties involved have to ensure that they communicate in a polite, understanding, accommodating and respecting manner.

Townsend (1991) describes four basic responses to conflict situations. They are the assertive, aggressive, passive and manipulative response styles. (Dynamic Growth Training, workshop notes). These four styles or ways of communicating will be the focus of this section.

Insha’Allah these 4 styles will be discussed in the next 4 posts.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dealing with conflict-Step 2-Listening to understand-Part B


We all see things differently. Even with simple things in life, we all see things according to our own experiences, feelings, thoughts, or opinions. We therefore can never take it for granted that the other person is seeing things the same way that we are. In a conflict situation it is more common for the two opposing people or groups to see things differently. Conflict resolution will only be successful when we can identify and understand the other person’s way of seeing things. Sometimes we might not be able to identify the other person’s way of seeing things; in that case we can always ask them to tell us how they feel and see things. The inability to see the other person’s point of view will result in a block, as we will not be able to move forward in order to resolve the conflict. When we attempt to go into the other person’s world and understand their point of view, the person will recognize and appreciate our attempt, even if our attempt is a small one. This might help to soften the person and the person in-turn will be more willing to understand us.

Think about a conflict situation like an optical illusion where there are more than one pictures within the same picture. Very often people are only able to see the one picture and unless they open their minds up to the possibility that there is another picture, they will argue relentlessly that the illusion presents only what they see. It is only when they open up their minds and begin to really look for the other picture or pictures that they actually do see it. This is exactly the same with conflict. If we close up our minds to an alternative picture, then we will remain stuck on our limited idea of what we think is going on, but when we open up our minds and truly make an attempt to see the other persons point of view, then we will begin to see the bigger picture and this will make it easier to deal with the conflict.

YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO AGREE WITH THE NEXT PERSON BUT AT LEAST RESPECT THEIR POINT OF VIEW.

Listening to understand involves listening on three different levels:
1. Listening to the actual words the person is saying
2. Listening to their body language
3. Listening to their tone of voice

When you listen to all these three things together, this should give you a clearer understanding of what’s really going on with the next person. Sometimes these three things do not match; for instance, someone may be really angry but they do not want to say it and so they pretend that they are not angry, but their body language and tone of voice may not match what they say. Therefore we have to pay attention to all these things in a conflict situation.

Insha'Allah in step 3 we will focus on communication.

May Allah Almighty bestow His peace on us all- I leave you with some wise words:

“Conflict is like fire, it can keep you warm, and can cook your food, but if it gets out of control, it can burn down your house.” (Free to Grow Lifeskills)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dealing with conflict-Step 2- Listening to Understand-Part A

We very often underestimate the importance of listening. Listening to someone makes a huge difference because the other person feels that someone is actually interested in what they are saying. By listening to someone, you are giving them the space to express themselves, their inner needs, their issues and problems and their personal beliefs and opinions. The person is made to feel comfortable and more at ease once they know that someone is genuinely interested in what they want and need. This is especially true in a conflict situation. When people are angry and in a conflict situation, they very often do not listen to each other, this elevates the anger and makes the situation worse as people feel that what they are saying is not regarded as important.


“How many people do you know who listen to you properly? Most of us know very few. Quite apart from wanting air time to speak about their own thoughts, feelings and experiences, many people we know will put their own ‘spin’ on what we say rather than listen accurately and deeply to us” (Nelson-Jones, 2000, p.123). Even though we all say that we listen to each other, we very often do not listen properly, and we listen hastily and miss out on important information. In addition, we sometimes misinterpret and misunderstand what the other person is saying to us. Instead of listening and understanding the other person’s point of view, we listen and interpret according to our own opinions, feelings and ideas. “Listening to understand” is therefore very different from “listening” because when we listen to understand we begin to see things from the other person’s point of view instead of our own. In a conflict situation, only if we listen to understand will we be able to resolve things.

Listening exercise
The following exercise can be used to illustrate how often people don’t listen properly and how important information can easily be left out or misinterpreted.


Read the following and respond to each: Answer honestly, DON’T CHECK THE ANSWER’S UNTIL YOU’VE MADE AN ATTEMPT.

1. Is there any federal law against a man’s marrying his widow's sister?

2. If you only had one match and entered a cold room that had a kerosene lamp, an oil heater and a wood stove, which would you light first for maximum heat?

3. How many animals of each species did Moses take aboard the Ark with him during the great flood?

4. The Yankees and the Tigers play 5 baseball games. They each win 3 games. No ties or disputed games are involved. How come?

5. According to International Law, if an airplane should crash on the exact border between two countries, would unidentified survivors be buried in the country they were traveling to or the country they were traveling from?

6. You’re the driver of a bus. At the first bus stop, 10 people get on. At the second stop 12 people get on and 2 get off, at the third stop 5 people get on and 2 gets off, at the fourth 2 people get on, at the 5th, 1 person gets off, etc, etc… What is your age?

7. A man was driving with his son and got killed in an accident. The son needed an operation but the surgeon said: “I cannot operate. The patient is my son.” Who is the surgeon?

8. A man left his house and put the keys in his pocket. A thief came and robbed the house. How did he enter?
*********************************************************************************
This exercise illustrates how we think that we are listening to something but yet we still do not listen carefully enough. This leads us to miss out on important information. In addition, we listen according to our own point of view and according to our own beliefs, opinions and ideas. Because we don’t listen to understand we tend to misinterpret information and we hear things in a very closed and one-sided fashion. Our preconceived ideas do not allow us to open our minds and listen to understand the next person. We should remember that listening is not only done with our ears, but on a more holistic level, listening is done with our hearts and minds as well. This type of holistic listening should be an ideal that we work towards and will be especially helpful for us in conflict situations.


An important thing to consider when we are listening is that individuals see things differently and have different points of view. When we “listen to understand” we will need to try very hard to “go into the other person’s mind and heart” and try to understand their own personal world.


You will find that with time when you become more tuned towards focusing on finer details and when you begin to pay more attention to the actual content of what’s being said, then it will become easier for you to quickly reach the correct answer. This is exactly the same with listening to other people. When we pay attention to what they’re saying and when we truly listen with an open heart and mind, then it will become easier for us to resolve conflicts.


Answers to riddles:
1. There is no law against a man’s marrying his widow’s sister, but it would be the neatest trick of the week. To have a widow, he would have to be dead.
2. The match
3. Moses took no animals at all. It was Noah who took two of each.
4. Who said the Yankees and Tigers were playing against each other in those games.
5. You can’t bury survivors under any law-especially if they still have enough strength to object!
6. How would you know if it wasn’t mentioned?
7. The mother
8. The man put the keys in his pocket and he forgot to lock the door.


Insha'Allah in the next post- "Listening to Understand- Part B" we will discuss listening in some more detail.


Until then, I leave you in Peace! May the Almighty Allah shower endless peace and blessings upon you!
 
Image from: www.infrastructurist.com/wp-content/uploads/s...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dealing with Conflict-Step 1- Staying Calm

To remain calm in a conflict situation is the most important thing because only if you are calm can you work through the situation. If you remain calm, you will not let your angry feelings take hold of you and you will be able to be more rational. Staying calm is the first step to dealing with anger and conflict because nothing else can be achieved if you are not calm.

However; as many of us have experienced it is often difficult to stay calm. In conflict situations we can feel anger and aggression, which very often take over. If we just say that we will stay calm, we often don’t because anger gets the best of us. Therefore, we need to train ourselves to stay calm, so that we will be in control of the situation and the situation won’t be in control of us. This is important because when we are calm we have more options open to us, and can think more clearly.

It's a good idea to train yourself to be calm all of the time, not only in a conflict situation. The more you practice to be calm in everyday situations, the less likely it will become for you to react negatively in a conflict situation. Practising to be calm will help you in many different situations. At first you will find it strange to practise how to be calm, but after a while it will become easier as you become more accustomed to it.

Exercise
Here's a simple relaxation exercise that you can practise doing. Before doing the exercise, rate your level of calmness:

Rate the following:


“How tense, angry, frustrated, etc. am I feeling at the moment?”


0-----1-----2-----3-----4-----5-----6-----7-----8-----9-----10


VC                                       A                                       EAT
                    
VC= very calm
A=Average
EAT= Extremely Angry and Tense

This rating should also be done after the relaxation exercise in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the exercise.

Mindful breathing

Instructions:

1. Sit in a comfortable position.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Breathe in and out normally.
4. Focus all your attention on your breathing.
5. Feel the air pass through your nose as you breathe in.
6. Feel your lungs inflate as you inhale.
7. Feel the movement of your stomach as you breathe in.
8. Feel the air pass through your nose as you breathe out.
9. Feel your lungs deflate as you breathe out.
10. As you breathe, mentally say the words, “breathe in, breathe out”.
11. If your mind wanders and any thoughts come to mind, acknowledge the thought and then re-focus on your breathing. This may happen many times. Each time just acknowledge the thought and focus again on your breathing.

This can be done very easily in everyday situations in a less formal manner, and it is especially helpful when you are angry.

Tip to remember while doing this: As you exhale remember that anger comes from shaytaan and as you exhale, so too are you exhaling the negative energy which is making you angry.
 

Indeed, anger is from the evil and, without doubt, the evil is created from the Fire. Only water can extinguish fire. Therefore, if anyone of you feels the rush of anger. Let him perform ablution”, and “When you feel angry, keep silent.” {Hadeeth of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)}

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has been reported to have said:
“For the person who restrains his anger, Allah will restrain punishment over him on the day of Resurrection”.

Hope that practising this step goes well, dealing with conflict step 2 to follow soon insha'Allah

4 Steps to Dealing with Conflict

By now we have a good enough idea of what conflict is, what some reasons for conflict are, etc. Insha'Allah in the next few posts I plan to put up a 4 step approach to dealing with conflict. This approach is just a guideline and people should adapt it and use it within their own lives in the most suitable way.

Hope all the steps help you to deal with conflict more effectively!!!

As always, COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What is Conflict?

Insha'Allah in the next few posts we will be focussing on conflict management as a follow up to anger management, as both are very closely related.


What is conflict


“Conflict is an interpersonal process that occurs whenever the actions of one person interfere with the actions of another.”


“Conflict is a psychological state of indecision, where the person, is faced simultaneously with two opposing forces of equal strength that cannot be solved together”.


“Conflict is a cognitive-affective process: it influences the emotions and the mind”.


In our everyday lives we are often faced with conflict. This can take the form of disagreements, clashes, struggles, fights and arguments. It is important to note that conflict can be either positive or negative. It may lead to the resolution of a situation, likewise it can also lead to a worsening of the situation, and perhaps even to violence and death.


The difference between anger and conflict


The basic idea that needs to get across here is that “anger” is an emotional state that occurs on an individual level whereas “conflict” occurs on an emotional, cognitive and physical level. Conflict usually occurs between people. (Although inner conflict within the person does also occur). Conflict usually occurs between two opposing groups or persons. It can perhaps be said that conflict is a reaction to anger, so anger comes first and conflict follows.


Reasons/ Causes for conflict


Sometimes conflict occurs on a larger scale. For instance, conflict can occur between social groups, race or religious groups, between governments, institutions and even between countries. Some of the reason for this type of conflict is discussed below.


Differing Goals
The most obvious source of conflict is differing goals between parties, especially when there is a scarce resource and people have to compete for the same thing. In other words, conflict might arise when there different parties want the same thing but for different reasons.


Structural imbalances: class conflict
Conflict might occur because of the imbalances in society, for instance when some groups are rich and others poor.


Threat to important values
People develop different ways of life, cultures, ideologies, religions, etc. When people differ about these things it can lead to major conflict because people’s inner values and belief systems are being challenged.


Scarce resources
When there are not enough resources like food, jobs, homes etc, then conflict is likely to result because people are fighting for these things and they are frustrated and driven by their needs. They are not thinking about having good relationships and living peacefully with people because their most basic human needs is not being met.


Co-ordination
Sometimes conflict can also occur between people in the same group, who believe in the same thing. They differ in the way that they want things to be done. So their goals are the same and therefore do not cause conflict but the way in which they intend to achieve their goals differ and cause conflict.


Advantages and disadvantages
“Conflict is like fire. A fire can be useful: it can warm you in winter or it can cook your food. But if the fire gets out of control, it can cause a lot of damage. It can destroy things which can never be repaired or replaced”. (Free to Grow Lifeskills).


Conflict can be good if it helps you to resolve certain problems and improve your relationships but if it becomes destructive instead of constructive, conflict can destroy your life, on a large scale and also on a small scale.


To understand your style of handling conflict you can follow the link below. This should give you a better understanding of  how you currently deal with conflict as well as what you can do to start dealing with it in a more constructive manner.


http://webhome.idirect.com/~kehamilt/ipsyconstyle.html


Once again if you'd like to discuss this further after having read this post or taking the conflict questionnaire, please feel free to e-mail me (zhassem1@yahoo.com), or leave me a message here:)


HOPE THAT YOU FIND THIS USEFUL!
References:
  • Anstey, M. (1998). Negotiating Conflict. Cape Town: Juta & Co,Ltd.
  • Gift of the Givers Careline. (1999). “Self- Discovery and Growth Course”. Unpublished Course Manual.
  • Free to Grow Lifeskills. “How to handle conflict”, Workshop manuals
  • Image 1 from: rickhill.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/15-confl
  • Image 2 from: scavenging.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/fire.jpg

Friday, April 16, 2010

Anger and Needs


Most of the time anger is related to a need. When the need is fulfilled then the anger will begin to disappear. Without understanding what the underlying need is, people may find themselves getting angry for many different reasons, a lot of the time. All these smaller reasons for getting angry may actually be related to one need. It is important to understand the needs which underlie your anger, without this understanding it will become very difficult for you to deal with your anger.

Exercise
Make a list of all the reasons that you get angry. If you have being keeping an anger diary or keeping note of your anger patterns then you can use this as your list.


Now try to look at these deeper, try to identify the underlying need behind your reasons for getting angry. You will probably find that once you look at the underlying needs, they will be similar for many of your reasons for getting angry.

Let me give you an example:


You’ve just spent the entire day cleaning your house, and then someone comes and leaves a mess, you get angry.


Your reason for getting angry is because the person messed after you spent so much time cleaning.


Your need behind the anger- The need to be acknowledged and appreciated, the need to get a break from your chores, etc.


Most times people try to deal with their anger by focusing on the REASON for getting angry and they overlook the underlying NEED. When they do this, the anger is dealt with on a outer level only and it will only last for a short while before the person becomes angry again, for a similar reason. Once the needs which underlie the anger is understood and dealt with, then anger can be released completely.


So now, whenever you get angry, take some time out to understand the need which underlies your anger, only then will you be able to deal with the anger completely. This is not always easy to do because we do not always understand what our needs are, once we become conscious of the fact that our anger is related to deeper needs then this will become easier for us- Insha’Allah!

If you would like to discuss this further or need help identify what your underlying needs behind your anger is , you can e-mail me on: zhassem1@yahoo.com or leave an anonymous message below.

May Allah Almighty make it easy for us all to get rid of our anger.

“When you feel angry, keep silent.” {Hadeeth of the Prophet (SAW)}

According to Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar (RA) the messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “To restrain anger in order to please Allah is more excellent in the sight of Allah than to swallow back anything”.

“If anyone of you gets angry and he is standing then, let him sit down. If it subsides, well and good, otherwise he must lie down.” {Hadeeth of the Prophet (SAW)}