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Full Webinar Transcript

Laura Thompson: (02:03)
Welcome everyone. We are so thrilled you are here today. Please go ahead and share in the chat where you’re from. We’re hearing some people from, I saw Idaho, I saw Kentucky, I saw New York. I saw somebody say cold Ohio. I’m shivering for you right now as I’m in California. So thank you so much for joining us today. We are thrilled again that you are here. My name is Laura Thompson. I’m the Marketing Manager here at Healthy Pro, where we do menu planning and nutrient analysis software primarily for school districts, but also CACFP centers, catering companies, food service management companies, etc. Today we are going to be talking about key communication concepts for effective conflict resolution with David Dowling. And I am so excited for this webinar today. We have done maybe about 40 different webinars here at Health-e Pro, and this is the first time we’ve done one that has been with a presenter outside of child nutrition.

Laura Thompson: (02:57)
And part of it was because of the response that many of you have given to us. At the end of these webinars, we have a survey that you can say what topics would you like us to cover in future webinars. And several of you had mentioned in the past, how do I have these hard conversations with people on my staff? So that is part of why David is here today. David is a dear friend of mine. I have known him for maybe seven or eight years now. We go to church together every week and he is a skilled conflict resolution specialist. This is what he does. So as far as housekeeping for today’s webinar we are recording this session, so if you have to step out, if you have to leave or if you want to pass this along to a colleague or a friend, we will be making this recording available for everyone who registered.

Laura Thompson: (03:41)
So keep an eye out on your inbox tomorrow. We will be passing that along tomorrow as soon as the recording is done processing. I’m going to introduce David and then he’s going to give the presentation. And then we’re also going to have some Q&A at the end. So if you have any questions, and we got hundreds of questions of how do I handle this kind of situation as you were submitting your registration for this webinar. So we’re going to, those very much came in certain buckets, so we’re going to be trying to tackle those. But if you have any specific questions you would like us to role play, put those in the Q&A box and we will tackle those at the end. And then we’ll have a wrap up. And again, there is going to be a survey at the end of this webinar. So if you have some feedback or thoughts on what you would like to see at a future webinar, please fill out that survey and we’ll use that to inform future webinars that we plan here. So again, if you have any questions, go ahead and put them in the Q&A box. At the bottom there is a chat box and a Q&A box. And we ask you to put specific questions in the Q&A box, because with the number of people that we have on this webinar, it can get a little unwieldy in the chat box. So if you have a specific question that you’d like us to tackle, please put it in the Q&A box.

Laura Thompson: (04:48)
All right. So as far as introduction, David Dowling is a dear friend of mine and he is just a master at conversation and question and clarity and understanding of people. And so I am so thrilled to introduce him today. He can do his full introduction as far as what his expertise is and schooling is in. So David, take it away.

David Dowling: (05:07)
Thank you, Laura, thank you so much for that introduction, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here with all of you today. I know that we’re on multiple time zones. I loved it as I looked at the chat, all of you coming in from so many different parts of the US and so welcome. I I really do appreciate you taking time out of your very busy day to meet with me. You can see there that I am a mediator and I’m also a law school professor. So my area of expertise is mediation, negotiation, conflict and dispute resolution skills. So that’s primarily what I work within. I teach classes at Pepperdine as an adjunct professor there with the Strauss Institute. And then I also work in special education. A few years ago I got invited to be a part of a program in special education, and it really has blossomed into me providing training.

David Dowling: (05:56)
So I do professional development training. I mediate cases between school districts and parents where conflicts have arisen and they need somebody to come in and be neutral there. And one of the things that I’m very proud of is recently I had the opportunity to travel to Kiev, to Ukraine right now during the war and to teach a class to a group of law students there. And that was definitely a life changing experience. By way of a little information for you all, I am not originally from the US so I grew up in Dublin, Ireland. Every once in a while you’re going to hear some words that will come out. It might sound a little funny, I might say things slightly differently, so please forgive me for that. It’s just who I am. And as I always say to people, my accent tends to come out a lot thicker usually when I’m yelling at one of my four children, which happens a little bit more often than I probably should be doing.

David Dowling: (06:49)
But you know, that’s what having kids is all about, right? So let’s jump in. I’m excited to present this topic to you today because this is something that I’m very passionate about. And I think the skills that we’re going to touch on today are so important. We have a limited window of time today. We really could do so much more with this. And when I was going through the questions that you shared, as Laura said, we’re going to touch on some of those at the end. There’s really so much fun that we could explore in this. So let’s jump in and get started. So what are the attributes of a good communicator? We’re going to explore this and think about our good communication skills. A lot of the questions that came in said, how do I deal with this? How do I address these things?

David Dowling: (07:29)
How do I- and really that comes back to how we communicate and how we navigate those conversations because some of those conversations it’s like a minefield. You don’t know where to put your foot because you’re never sure what your next word or statement is going to result in. Is it going to create more conflict or is it going to create an opportunity for conversation? So we’re going to think today a little bit about what the attributes or qualities of a good communicator, what that looks like. So let’s jump in. So we’re going to look at communication one-on-one, we’re going to talk about BRT. I’m going to explain what BRT is for me. Active listening – now, I’m going to spend a little bit of time this morning on active listening or today on active listening. And why? Because I think that being a good listener is one of the best attributes, qualities that anybody can have.

David Dowling: (08:19)
And it really makes a difference in our difficult or conflict conversations. So when you feel like you’ve got to have a difficult conversation, if you feel you’re involved in a situation that’s a conflict, try to step back and provide more of an opportunity for you to be a listener rather than talking. We’re going to explore the idea of asking questions. What kind of questions can we ask? How we can ask questions that can help us in facilitating and opening up the lines of communication rather than breaking things down, clarifying for understanding. And then finally, we’re going to look at compassion and kindness and thinking about what we need to do, how we can incorporate those attributes into our communication. So what is BRT? Well, BRT is building relationships of trust. So let’s think about this. How do we build relationships of trust?

David Dowling: (09:15)
Well, that comes down to very small things. It’s the little things that make a difference. It’s the little things that can help us in some of our conversations. And why does it matter? Well, if I want you to work with me, there’s got to be a feeling of respect and trust in the relationship. Sometimes it’s easy to think, well, look, you’ve got to do your job. You’ve got to do the things that are expected of you. We’ve all been there where you turn up and it’s like, get on with your job. But if I don’t feel that I have a relationship with you, if I’m frustrated, if I’m upset about certain things, it’s not as easy for me to feel connected to the work that I’m doing. And sometimes we feel like there’s no respect for who we are and what we bring to the job workplace.

David Dowling: (09:59)
So what are some small things that we can do to build a relationship of trust? Well, it’s about connecting with people and seeing them for who they are. Paying attention to the small things. When I mediate cases, when I am working with people, I try to focus on little things with them because they’re coming to me in moments of conflict. I’ll always remember I did a mediation one time, and this woman stepped out into the court hallway and she stepped out and we started the process and I’m walking her to the room and it’s very daunting. We’re in this big old courthouse. And I looked, she was maybe in her late fifties, early sixties. But she had these converse high top kind of running shoes on. And they were bedazzled, like the whole thing. There wasn’t a piece of it that wasn’t covered in some kind of rhinestone or glitter.

David Dowling: (10:45)
And I looked down at these shoes and I said, “I love your shoes. Those are amazing.” And that just lit her up because what she felt then was I saw her for who she was. I saw her and I recognized something. She put those on that morning feeling like she was going to go into court, into this really difficult environment. And she wanted to put on her coolest, funnest shoes to lift her spirits. And by seeing those, I instantly created a relationship of trust with her. She wanted to work with me. And it’s small little things that we can do. Acknowledgements, recognizing things about people how I carry myself, how I look at you when we’re talking. Sometimes people feel like, well, you don’t respect me because you don’t even look at me when you’re talking to me, your body language when you’re sitting with them.

David Dowling: (11:33)
So we’re going to think about how, how all of this impacts when we’re in there and we are navigating these difficult conversations. So active listening, let’s think about what are the qualities of a good listener. So I want you to start thinking about what you think are the qualities or attributes of a good listener. And I’m going to go through a list of some things that I think makes a difference for somebody to be a good listener. So good listeners, stop talking and give themselves a chance to really hear what others are saying. All right, so what do we mean here? Well, a good listener – what do we essentially do? We shut up.

David Dowling: (12:11)
Have you ever been in a conversation with somebody and you are trying to share something and they just want to keep talking? And you think, just stop for a second. Just listen to me. And it is a constant problem that we have in our conversations, in working with others, but a good listener what we’re going to do is we’re going to stop talking and we’re going to let somebody communicate and we’re going to listen. We’re going to sit back and just allow them to communicate so that we can hear what they’re really saying. Good listeners listen with their ears, their eyes, and their bodies. So eye contact. I did a class a long time ago with a student and I said to him, we were training on how to communicate effectively. And I said, one of the key things you have to understand when people are communicating is that only a portion of what they’re communicating or conveying to you is in the words that they use.

David Dowling: (13:04)
A bigger portion of what they’re trying to communicate is in the pitch of their voice, the tone of their voice, the pace of their voice. It’s in their eyes, it’s in their body language. And so he was sitting there and every time somebody was talking, he put his head down and took notes. So what the person talking was getting was the top of his head. And I said, I need you to lift your head and look at this person while they’re talking to you. Maintain good eye contact. So we come in the next time we’re doing one of these sessions and he sits down and he’s got his pen and he’s got his paper. And he sits down at the table and the person like you sits across from, and then he sits down and he goes like this, right? And he’s taking his notes and he’s staring.

David Dowling: (13:43)
And I said, whoa, hold on a second. I said, you just creeped me out. Like that was bleeding creepy. Like if you creeped me out, how does the other person sitting across from you feel? How do you think they feel? That’s not good eye contact. That’s creepy eye contact. There’s got to be a balance here. Good eye contact doesn’t mean staring somebody down, but good eye contact means maintaining a healthy engagement with the person across from you. But as I was working, and I do a lot of work with people in special education, and somebody said to me, but David, some people can’t, as they’re listening this eye contact, it’s a difficult thing for them to do when they’re listening. They might need to look off like this. And I thought, you’re exactly right. I need to be mindful of my eye contact and my body language, but I need to be respectful of where somebody else is.

David Dowling: (14:32)
So if somebody’s not giving me good eye contact, I need to be respectful of the fact that maybe it doesn’t work for them to be able to communicate in that kind of way. Now we use our bodies for listening, right? Our body language. I did a program for about five years, and I would go into juvie hall. Usually at this point what I’ll say is, anybody ever spent any time in juvenile hall and people will raise their hands because they’ve done work or whatever else, and then they kind of go, wait, no. I mean, I worked there, but I spent five years going into juvenile hall and working with that population in there. And it was amazing. These wonderful young men, young women who were incarcerated for so many different reasons. And when we would go in and meet with them every time I would sit across from like this and they would sit down in their chairs, and hopefully you’ll be able to catch this on the camera, but they would sit and they would lean back and they would put their heads back like that.

David Dowling: (15:21)
And this was their body language when I would come in to have an important conversation with them. And I wanted them to understand that our body language, how we sit, makes a difference. When my teenager, I have two teenage boys right now, when my teenager, my 16-year-old approaches me how his body language is framed, makes a difference in how receptive I’m going to be when he’s talking to me. And I couldn’t go into this population and say sit up in your seats, pay attention to me. They’re not going to respond to that. So what I had to do was think about a way that I could model it for them and demonstrate to them. And so I’d say to them, if I came in here today, and I asked you to share a story about somebody that’s important to you, somebody that means something to you.

David Dowling: (16:05)
And for a lot of these young men and young women, it might be their mother or their grandmother who’s raising them, who’s bringing them up. And I say to them, if you were sharing an important story about somebody that you love and care about, and I’m sitting like this, do you feel that I respect you? Do you feel that I respect your story? And they’d say, no. They’d say, well, so if I sit up in my seat like this, if my body language is positive and turned towards you, if my eyes are maintaining good eye contact, and as you’re sharing your story, if I sit like this, does this demonstrate respect to you? And without fail, every single time these kids would be sitting like this and I’d be talking to them, and then they’d do this.

David Dowling: (16:54)
And then every time we would come in, they would sit directly across from me with positive body language and respect. How you engage with others, demonstrates respect for them. And that might be very important to them. How you encounter them with your eye contact, with your eyes, with your body language. It makes a difference. Good listeners put aside their own views and opinions for the time being. I say that this is a big challenge. This is a big challenge, especially in a year like 2024. This is an election year. It’s hard for us to put aside our own views and opinions, but sometimes people just want us to listen. I call this married life, right? And let me give you an example of this. So I’ve been married for 25 years and I’m a slow learner. And it took me a long time to figure this one out.

David Dowling: (17:42)
My wife would sit there and say to me, Ah, this thing is going on, right? This person, I have this problem, I have this challenge in life. This is happening with something at home or with work or whatever it might be. And as she’d share her problem, I’d jump in and be like, well, this is what you need to do. This is how you’re going to fix this problem. This is because I’m a fixer. This is what’s going to make a difference. And every single time she’d say, I don’t need your opinion. I don’t need you to fix my problems for me. I just want you to listen. Just listen to me. If you just listen to me, that’s all I want. I can fix my own problems. I know how to deal with this. I just want to talk to you.

David Dowling: (18:22)
And sometimes people come to us because they just want to talk and they just want to listen. And they don’t need us to jump in and fix their problems. So I guess my message with this one is, don’t be like, David, learn this quality much faster. And understand that sometimes if somebody wants your opinion, and if somebody wants you to help them figure out how to fix the problem, they might engage and ask you, what do you think I should do? If they’re not asking that question, just listen. So good listeners control their impatience because they know that people listen faster than they can talk. Don’t jump in, don’t finish somebody’s sentences for them. Don’t assume that you know what somebody’s going to say. A couple of years ago I was at a networking thing and I was talking to these two young men and as they approached me, and I got to introduce myself to them and said where are you from? And the first one shared where he was from, and the second one started to share where he was from. And there was a pause, he stopped.

David Dowling: (19:26)
And I really wanted- my instinct was to jump in and say, did you forget where you came from? Babu boom, you know, little comedy dad joke moment. But I didn’t. I stood there and I wished I was patient. And as I stood there, what started to happen was he started to form the words in his mouth. And I realized that he had a stutter. He had a speech impediment. And had I been impatient and jumped in, I would’ve thrown him back to how he felt as a child on the playground with kids bullying him and attacking him for how he communicated. And I would’ve walked away from that conversation feeling horrible that I had done this in this moment. And what I learned from that is that sometimes we need to be patient and allow people to communicate, allow people to talk and just finish their own sentences.

David Dowling: (20:17)
A good listener’s purpose is the opposite of a debater. We’re not there to debate with somebody. Sometimes a lot of your questions, a lot of your concerns came up about conflict in the workplace. And sometimes people might come along and they might want to share something. They might be frustrated about the way something’s going. They might be frustrated about the way some procedures happening, some new rule change, whatever it might be. And as they come over to share, what I’m going to do is correct them and put them on the right path. And they don’t want that. They just want to unload. They just want to share. They just want to say, do you know what this is? This is bothering me. This is frustrating me. And my instinct is to turn around and be, do you know what I have to do? You don’t even understand.

David Dowling: (21:02)
Do you know what we have to, and now I’m debating, now I’m arguing with them. And that elevates the conflict, elevates the opportunity for defensiveness. I’m defensive because of what they’ve said, and now they’re getting defensive because they think that they’ve just come along to have a conversation. I approach Laura and I’m like, Laura, you know what? This thing is just frustrating me. And then Laura gets defensive. So now what do we do? We start in what we call the defensive spiral. She’s getting defensive. I’m getting defensive. Are we making any sense? Is anything healthy coming of this? No. But if I just approach Laura and go do you know what Laura? I’m so fed up with this. And Laura goes, I understand, I hear you. Thank you for sharing. And I kind of go, okay, thanks for listening. Maybe that’s all I needed was for her to just listen to me.

David Dowling: (21:49)
And I didn’t need for her to get defensive and start down this path. Good listeners train themselves to hear what is not said as much as what is said. A lot of times when people come to us in conversation, when they come to us frustrated, I might say, this thing’s annoying me or I feel unhappy with this situation. But there might be something else going on there, there might be something else going on in the workplace environment. There might be something happening. I always use the example of the employee that comes in and says, and this is really a good clarifying and understanding question. I want a pay raise, right? I want X amount in a pay raise. And I can turn around and be like, look, you know what? Things are tough right now. Things are tough across the board.

David Dowling: (22:36)
We can’t give you a pay raise, sorry, boom, out done. That employee’s going to get up and walk out and feel like I didn’t respect them. I don’t appreciate them, I don’t value them. They’re going to leave and think, well, I need to find another job. Maybe what I need to do is say, okay, hang on a second. Why do you feel you need a pay raise? What else is going on? Is there something else happening here with you? And they might come in and say, well, actually, my kid is sick and we have insurance through work and it’s great and everything else, but the copays are going to go through the roof and some of the costs are going to be really burdensome for my family right now. And I might think, well, look, I I don’t want to give this person a pay raise. That’s a lot of money to give.

David Dowling: (23:18)
What if we, what if we change your insurance? What if we look at seeing if we can do something different with the insurance to help out with that a little bit? Because the cost of moving them from one insurance policy to another, an HMO to a PPO might not be great, but it’s going to be a lot better than giving them the pay raise. Now what happens is that person feels seen, heard, valued, and appreciated. They’re going to walk out thinking, I work for the best place. They understand my problems and my challenges and they want to help me. And now I want to work harder than ever. So by exploring the why, what, what about this is important to you? Or help me to understand why you’re bringing this to me. Might open up the possibility for somebody to take a different perspective on how they work.

David Dowling: (24:04)
Good listeners focus on a person’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior, feelings. Oh, I work in law. I teach lawyers. Feelings are so hard, right? It’s like you got feelings, you got problems. I don’t really care. I got a job to do. But sometimes we got to step back and go, this seems to be upsetting for you, or you seem to be angry about this. Help me to understand where that’s coming from. And the person goes, yeah, I’m angry. I’m upset. Okay, so tell me what’s going on. See how my voice, when I’m asking those questions, tell me what’s going on. It’s warmer. It’s calmer because if somebody’s like, I’m frustrated, and I’m like, well, why are you frustrated? Now we’re escalating and what I can do is use my voice to deescalate. Right? Good listeners. Pay attention to the verbal and the nonverbal cues.

David Dowling: (24:53)
That body language, when people just ’cause somebody crosses their arms, doesn’t mean they’re defensive. They probably are, but it might mean they’re cold or they’re uncomfortable. And this is a body protection thing. They’re protecting themselves because they’re unsure what’s going to happen. And good listeners resist distractions and take action to remove their distraction from their communications with others. So what is the biggest distraction in our communication with others? These little fellas see this- these devices. This is the biggest distraction in our communication with others. If you are a parent, if you have children and they come up to have a conversation with you, and this is in their hand as you’re talking, it is so annoying. But what I want you to think about is what this does when we’re having important conversations with other people. My phone’s always on silent because I teach. So if it’s in my pocket and it’s on silent and you call me, now it’s vibrating.

David Dowling: (25:47)
Where’s my attention? Where’s my focus? Well, it’s on my vibrating phone. Now what I’m thinking is, who’s calling me? I wonder what’s going on. I really should check it. Am I listening to you? Am I paying attention to you? No. If you come in to have a meeting with me and halfway through that, I’m pulling this up to check what text messages are coming through. Are you going to feel like I care? Are you going to feel that I’m paying attention, that I’m connected to our conversation? No, you’re not. And that will disrupt our flow. It will impact our ability to have a good relationship and a good conversation. So we’re going to look at some different types of questions that we can ask when people come in different ways that we can ask our questions. We’re going to talk about open-ended questions, non-judgmental questions, neutral, specific and summarizing or reflective, which is a good active listening technique that we’re going to explore.

David Dowling: (26:39)
So open-ended questions. This encourages somebody to share more information. Let me just tell you an important point. And I teach young lawyers and I say to them all the time, information is power. The more information I have, the better equipped I am to understand what the problem is, what’s going on, and how I can help whatever the conflict, whatever the situation is. So when people come to me, I don’t want to ask yes/no questions. I want to sit back essentially and say, help me to understand what’s going on. Or can you give me more information about what’s happening here? And then let people talk, be a good listener, let them open up. Because the more they share, the more information I have and the more information I have, the more I can think about how to resolve or work with this conflict or work with this situation that people are dealing with. Non-judgmental questions.

David Dowling: (27:31)
So a good question is non-judgmental and avoids making assumptions or placing blame. Is that your second donut this morning? That’s a judgmental question. Have you been to the gym since the start of the year? That’s a judgmental question. Maybe both questions my wife has asked me recently. We won’t get into that. But I want you to think about the questions in the way you ask your questions in the workplace. Are you asking questions like you already know the answer? Are you already making assumptions? When somebody comes to you in the workplace, are you putting me on the defensive with how you ask your question? Neutral- a good question is neutral and does not imply a bias toward one side or another. The goal is to understand the situation objectively without any preconceived notions. When I’m asking my question, especially if there’s a workplace conflict, right? If there’s a workplace conflict, am I engaging in this in such a way that when I talk to one person, they feel like I’ve already decided and the other person’s right and they’re wrong?

David Dowling: (28:42)
Is that how I’m asking my questions? I’ve developed over the years – so I’m a mediator and I work with people I love conflict. Can I just say I love conflict? Other people’s conflict? Let me just clarify. I love other people’s conflict. My own conflict. I hate, I avoid at all possibilities, head in the sand, don’t want to deal with it, especially if it’s to do with my teenagers. But other people’s conflict I love. I love engaging with people because I love thinking about how I can help people resolve their issues and their problems. But over the years, I’ve developed what I like to call resting mediator face.

David Dowling: (29:17)
And what does that mean? Well, when I’m engaging with people, my facial expressions, how my facial expressions work can reveal a lot. My wife simply by being married to me and raising four of my kids, she’s developed, and Laura can tell you this, she’s got these two very deep lines right here, right? So when she, when she just looks at you, her brow just goes like this. Like these deep, deep bridged, right? So when she’s talking with people, they’ll look at her and go, are you really worried? Are you angry? Right? Because she just looks like she’s really off and upset about things, right? I don’t have that problem because a lot of sunscreen and moisturizer, right? Has prevented. No Botox, but just it’s very, very calm being me. But when we ask questions, are we asking them in a way, are we communicating in a way that conveys, that we’re nonjudgmental and that we do not have any bias?

David Dowling: (30:08)
Can I give you a little game? I saw somebody do this. I thought it was brilliant. And it can be a fun thing if you have a department, if you have a crew, if you have a group that you work with, it’s a good thing to do, especially where maybe you have a management team and you’re thinking about what can we do to make our relationships better with the team and whatever else. So here’s the little trick is you take the distraction device, right? The cell phone. And what you do is you have everybody in their own little office, in their own little space at home, whatever it might be, set up the phone and they’re going to turn it on and they’re going to open up the camera and record themselves. So they’re going to hit video record and talk directly to it and ask questions that you might typically ask in the workplace.

David Dowling: (30:45)
How do you deal with this? How did you handle that? Whatever it might be. And they’re going to ask those questions. Then once you’re done asking the questions, you’re going to rewind the video, but you’re going to start the video over. And then you’re going to put it on mute. And then you’re going to look at the video of yourself. Look for your facial expressions, look for your hand gestures. Do you think that you’re asking really nice calm questions, but your hand gestures are like this and your brow is all furowed and your eyebrows are raised? And if, if without hearing the questions, does it seem like what you’re asking and your facial expressions in your body or language reflect the message that you’re trying to get across, then what you’re going to do is you’re going to start the video over. This Time you’re going to unmute it, but you’re going to take the phone and you’re going to put it down so you can’t see yourself and you’re just going to listen to your tone, your pace.

David Dowling: (31:37)
How am I asking these questions? Does it sound like I’m calm and I’m neutral? And here’s the team piece to it. Then what you do is you have everybody kind of write down and assess the things that they thought that they did well and the things that they need to work on. And then as a team, maybe I’d come back and say, what do we think about how we communicate? How can we learn from this exercise? How can we learn from how we communicate with others and the message that we convey? Because I might think that I’m a really calm, easy going when I’m asking my questions. My face says I’m welcoming and I’m easy. But in reality, what other people could be picking up could be very different. So specific. A good clarifying question is specific and focused on a particular issue or a point.

David Dowling: (32:21)
What you’re looking to do is when somebody’s sharing something is try to really understand what’s happening with them. So go down deep and ask a clarifying question and then to demonstrate that you’re a really good listener, what you’re going to do is be reflective or summarize. So if somebody comes in and says to me, I’m really frustrated with the way these things are happening, or I’m upset with what’s going on over here, or the way that this person spoke to me, what I’m not going to do is respond. What I’m going to do is say, if I understand you correctly, here’s what’s upsetting or frustrating to you. And I’m going to reflect back or summarize back because it helps them to feel like one that I’m listening and two, we’re on the same page. So this is just a good attribute for being a good listener.

David Dowling: (33:05)
Okay? So clarifying – clarifying questions are essential in dispute resolution because what they try to do is help us to better understand the other person’s perspectives and needs. These questions allow us to confirm our assumptions and clarify any confusion or misunderstanding. When somebody’s talking to me, right? So I’m sitting there having a conversation with Laura, and Laura says something to me, and I kind of go, whoa, okay, I think Laura just thinks I’m a jerk. Now what I’m going to do is I’m going to get defensive and I’m going to be like, ah, and I’m going to attack back. What I could do is I could say, hang on a second, Laura, I just want to confirm when you just said that it sounded like you were calling me a jerk and Laura might go, no, no, no, no, no. I’m sorry. What I’m saying was this situation is ridiculous, not you.

David Dowling: (33:49)
The situation we find ourselves in, because Laura might use a a statement like ridiculous, stupid, whatever, right? She might use some strong language and I might say, okay, she’s attacking me. But if I stop and say, hang on a second, I just want to be clear what are, what are you trying to say here? And Laura might say, no, no, no. I mean the situation, I’m sorry David, you and I, we’re good, but the situation’s kind of ridiculous and dumb but I might turn around and say, Hey Laura, it sounded like you were calling me stupid. And she might go, yeah, did you not know that? Let me be clear. You’re an idiot. And she wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s better for me to understand and to clarify and to be on the same page rather than to make assumptions, right?

David Dowling: (34:29)
So clarifying questions also show that we’re actively listening and engaged in the conversation. As somebody is sharing something and I come back and say, Hey, you talked about this. I want to ask a little bit more about that. It helps to build that relationship of trust because they feel that I care, they feel that I’m listening. So we’re going back to that BRT – building a relationship of trust – in asking clarifying questions, in demonstrating that I’m a good listener. It shows somebody that I care and it allows them to open up and feel more comfortable in the conversation. Alright? So my guess is that some of you have to work with people and respond in emails. And a colleague and a friend, Bill Eddie, he put together this acronym, it’s BIFF, right? And we’re going to go through, so when you get those emails, I actually got an email the other day from a client.

David Dowling: (35:17)
I do family and divorce mediation. I do all sorts of different kinds of mediations. But when you get those emails where you have to scroll on your phone because it’s that long, right? This person has written their own like War and Peace. And so you get a really long email. So what Bill Eddie says is that you should respond, but when you respond, you should be brief. Don’t respond with your own. Don’t sit there typing out the next Harry Potter novel, right? Don’t be doing that. What you want to do is be brief. You’re going to be informative, okay? So you’re going to key in, be short, be brief, be informative, you’re going to be firm. Here’s what we can and can’t do. Here’s what I can and can’t do. And then you’re going to be friendly. Hello Laura, thank you so much for sharing your concerns with me. Here’s what’s going on.

David Dowling: (36:06)
Here’s what we can do. I look forward to working with you on this. Take care. And so that’s from Bill Eddie. So I want you to remember this. When you’re communicating in emails, I want you to be BIFF – brief, informative, firm and friendly. It’s easy. And each time you sit down to compose an email, think about it. One of the things that can happen is, and maybe not in your world, maybe in your world, I don’t know, but I get those emails. You know, when you get those emails at like eight o’clock, nine o’clock at night and it’s a really tense email and somebody’s quite angry, and you think to yourself, if I respond to you now, you’re going to assume that every time that you send off an email, I’m going to jump to and respond to that. I’m just going to immediately respond.

David Dowling: (36:49)
But if you’re anything like me, I know that if I don’t respond now and wait til tomorrow when I get into the work tomorrow, a million other things are going to hit the roof and I’m going to be distracted with all these other things. And now I won’t get back to your email and you’re going to feel angry. You’re going to feel offended. So what I’ve discovered is, and you all know this already, is now our email allows us to schedule send, but here’s a little trick. Are you ready? Don’t automatically open it up and hit schedule send, because what it tends to do is say 8:00 AM tomorrow morning. So if Laura sends me an email at 8:45 PM and I hit respond immediately, now she thinks I’m going to respond straight away. If I schedule send and just hit schedule send, it goes for 8:00 AM she’s going to go, well, did he just come in and the first thing he did was respond to me?

David Dowling: (37:40)
Well, now he’s just jumping to my every whim as well. So what I do is I schedule send for 8:47 AM and you can go in and you can play with the little numerals in there. And so I send it for 8:47. So it seems like I came in, I read your email, I had other things to do, but I responded in a very respectful early time. I can do it for 10:30 AM whatever it might be. I’m doing this the night before, so at 8:30 PM when I get your email, I schedule it for the next morning at a timeframe that looks like I’m being respectful, but I’m not jumping to your every whim. Alright? So let’s talk about collaborating and being collaborative because sometimes in our groups, in our team environments, it’s tough. And what we want to do is show that when we have issues that have come up, we are willing to work together.

David Dowling: (38:32)
So what we want to do is point out common goals and interests. What we want to do is help everybody to see and understand we’re here together, we’re working together. We all have a vested interest in making whatever this is happen. This is something we all want to do. Remind everybody of those shared interests, we all want this program to succeed. I get that you’re frustrated, I get your feeling like you’re not being respected, whatever it might be. But we’re all in this together. We’re all working together. So let’s remember that right point down, positive relationships. You and I have always worked well together, or I know that you and Laura have had a really good relationship in the past and I hope that you’ll continue working well with me. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate and recognize where there have been good positive relationships. If people are angry or people are frustrated, or I know that in the past you’ve been able to get here on time, you’ve been able to work well within this environment.

David Dowling: (39:25)
I know that there’s something, what’s going on right now. So I’m not assuming that your personality, because now you’re coming in late, that’s just who you are because you’ve always been really good and really on time what’s going on right now. So, point out the positive point out agreements as they occur when you’re working with people, if you’re in conflict, if you’re far apart, small agreements might be happening in there. We might not be able to reach a full resolution, but what we want to do is build off of the positives, the small agreements that we’ve reached. And how do we do that? Well, we’re going to put a marble in the jar with every agreement. And so let me just show you. See this little picture over here. It’s a jar with marbles. I want you to think of if you had an empty jar with you, and when you’re working with your group or whatever it might be, every time you’re able to make something good happen, you take a marble and you put it in the jar.

David Dowling: (40:15)
Instead of looking at the jar thinking that it’s half empty, what we’re going to do is look at all we’ve been able to put into that jar. We may not be able to fill it, we may not be able to get a full resolution and agreements on everything, but what we’re going to do is say, we have worked well, we’ve accomplished a lot. We were able to do a lot of good things today. We started out here this far apart, and now we’re only this far apart. And instead of focusing on what we are far apart, what we’re going to do is focus on all the things that we accomplished in working with each other. So don’t focus on the unachieved negative, focused on the achieved positives, and then point out shared challenges. And this is going to help you in those difficult moments because people might come in and say, I don’t feel I get paid enough.

David Dowling: (40:57)
And you might be able to say, I agree. I think that unfortunately right now, the way business is going, so the shared challenges, things aren’t going as well as we want them to. We’d all like things to be going better or you know what this doesn’t work for me. I understand what you’re saying, but that’s the regulation that’s been set down from corporate. We all have to work within these regulations. So it’s not that it’s my thing that you’re competing with me or you’re dealing with me. What we are all dealing with is certain challenges. I call it the empty chair. So it might be, you know what, I would love to work with you. Unfortunately, Laura doesn’t make that possible, right? So Laura’s not in the room, Laura’s not part of the conversation. Laura’s in California somewhere. But what I might do is say, we have a common challenge and that’s trying to get Laura to work with us on this, right?

David Dowling: (41:44)
So we identify and work with each other. So it’s pulling together instead of pulling apart, instead of creating a them versus us situation, we pull together and we are together facing the challenges that we all have. Alright, I love this quote from Leo Tolstoy and he says, the kinder and more intelligent a person is the more kindness he can find in other people. Kindness enriches our life with kindness. Mysterious things become clear, difficult things become easy and dull things become cheerful. Well, how does this impact your job and what you’re doing? Well, let’s be honest. Some of the things that we engage in can feel mysterious or difficult or even dull. But if we navigate our community, if we work within our scale, our our environment with a level of kindness to other people, it’s going to make their job and our job a lot easier, a lot more cheerful, and it’s just going to help us all to accomplish the things that we need to do.

David Dowling: (42:50)
Having kindness instead of seeing the negativity, instead of seeing the challenges or the difficulty thinking about how to work with each other in a more kind manner, makes a difference to people in their jobs. So let’s talk about this compassion reciprocity. People have compassion for those who show compassion to them. Think about times where people have done something really kind, really nice, really thoughtful for you. It makes you want to do wonderful things for other people. So compassion fosters reciprocity. If I do good things for you, you’re going to want to do kind things for me. If I recognize you, you’re going to want to recognize me. It’s amazing how a small pat on the back, well done. Good job. I really appreciate you did that thing. I work in special education and the parents that I work with, and some of you might be parents with the child on an IEP and they’ll say to me, David, every week I get calls, your child was removed from the classroom, your child was sent to the principal’s office.

David Dowling: (43:56)
This is going on with your child. Your child had behavioral issues in class. And they say to me, I would love if every fifth call was your child had a good day. They stayed in their seat, they stayed in the classroom. Well done. We’re so proud of your little one today. Well, guess what? The same works for us. I get that I might be late and I get that I might have a bad attitude sometimes, but every once in a while, do you know what I would like? Even if you’re not kind of coming along with an award and going, woo-hoo David, you’re the best employee of the month, right? I don’t need that, that, but maybe what I need is, Hey, good job. I really appreciate how you did this task.

David Dowling: (44:38)
I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I’m grateful for what you did. Nice work. I see that you came in on time. I see that you worked well with that group the other day. I really appreciate that you did that. I’m going to go, woo, okay, I just got called out for something good instead of something bad. What are your acts of compassion? What are the things that you are doing for other people? What are the things that make a difference? And how do you feel when others show compassion to you? I want you to assess and evaluate this for yourself. Why do I have an elephant? Well, elephants have the biggest heart or one of the biggest hearts of land mammals. And what I’m asking you to do is increase the size of your heart, have more kindness and compassion for those that you work with.

David Dowling: (45:21)
So let’s finish up with the three E’s of good communication. Engagement. Everyone affected by the decision is given an opportunity to provide input and a chance to discuss all possible options available. Does that mean that they get to make the decision? No. But everybody who’s impacted by something that’s happening should be given a voice should be allowed to contribute and allowed to consider what options are available. Explanation. When the decision has been made, that decision and the process and reasoning behind it are made clear to everyone. Don’t make decisions and then make them mysterious so that people don’t understand what is expected of me. The who, the where, the how, the why, the when we make it all very clear why we’re doing this, what’s happening, and then expectations. Communicate specific expectations and goals and next steps to everyone. We’re going to make some changes. We’ve got some things going on. Here’s what’s going to happen. Here’s what I’m going to do and here’s what’s expected of you so that we’re all on the same page together so that we can all build and we can all learn from each other. It just makes a difference in how we work with each other. Alright, I think I’ve brought it in. Laura said to get to this point with 15 minutes left. I believe we have quite a few questions and we would like to be able to answer some of those questions, Laura.

Laura Thompson: (46:48)
Awesome. Thank you so much, David, for what you’ve shared so far. This has been fantastic. Jeanette, I echo what you said that this is exactly what I needed to hear as well and so much good valuable information for us to use. So David, thank you for that. We have gotten a whole bunch of questions as people were submitting, and if you have more questions, please submit them in the Q&A portion. One question I’d like to maybe start with and then we can maybe tackle a few other kind of role play type things. How do you go into a situation knowing I have to have this hard conversation with somebody? How do I prepare and how do I make sure that I keep my body language right? My tone right? How do I go into it when it’s hard, when there’s a lot on it, I want to make sure I’m gracious about it and full of compassion. How do I go into a situation like that?

David Dowling: (47:31)
Okay, excellent question. And while I’m answering the questions, what I’m going to do is, because I’m cognizant of the fact that people have to get off and get on with their job. So I’m going to skip to the next slide, which is my contact information. So if anybody needs to leave, that’s my contact information. If you have any additional questions, however, let’s answer this question. I go into situations where I feel like I, my mood, my attitude has to be positive. So the the two key things that I think make a big difference in difficult conversation is one, optimism and two patience, right? So I’ve got to be optimistic and I’ve got to be patient with this process. So if I’m having a bad day, if David is having- if I’ve been in bad traffic, if I’ve just had a bad moment at home, I have to think about how to change my mood.

David Dowling: (48:16)
For me, I pop on some Whitney, right? So I put on some Whitney a little. “I Want To Dance With Somebody” in the car. I sing out loud and you laugh. But it’s true. I need to change my endorphins. I need to change my mood so that when I come in and I sit down, if I’m already feeling stressed and attacked, the minute you start talking to me, now I’m defensive and I’m feeling really attacked. What I have to do is change and alter how I am feeling about life so that when I come in, I’m feeling more positive. So that when you sit down and you’re like, David, I’m so frustrated with this, I don’t feel attacked. I kind of go, okay, let’s talk about it. And I’m willing to listen, but I have to remember that I need to be optimistic and I need to be patient.

David Dowling: (48:57)
I need to let people finish what they have to say. I need to sit, remember my body language, right? If I’m feeling good, I’m going to come in with a positive vibe. I’m going to remember where my pitch of my voice is. So if Laura starts talking and she’s like, I’m really upset about this. My response isn’t why, what’s going on? My response comes from down here. So I relax through my shoulders and my voice is in a warmer register. So it’s like, okay, I’m slow, I’m deliberate, I’m okay because I know that this isn’t about me. And this is a key thing to understand is a lot of times the reason that people are coming in anger and in frustration is it’s not about you. It might be about something’s going on work, it might have to do more so with their own family problems, I might be coming in and projecting the issues that I’m having at home in my workplace because it’s safe to do it here because at home it isn’t a safe environment for me. And sometimes in my role, I have to remember that, that it’s not always about me.

Laura Thompson: (49:59)
That is fantastic. And now I’ve got this great visual of you dancing in your car to Whitney. So that’s awesome.

David Dowling: (50:03)
Every time! If you’re ever next to me on the road, I will just be dancing to Whitney, Britney, Beyonce, all of those, the hits.

Laura Thompson: (50:13)
Another question that came through from a lot of people was, we have a really pretty positive team except for one or two people. How do we create a shift so that we can get all on the same page?

David Dowling: (50:24)
So one thing I will say is not everybody’s positive, right? Not everybody’s ray of sunshine, right? Some people just, that’s their dispositions. And what we can’t do is make everybody, you know when my kids were little, it was The Wiggles was the big thing, right? Can’t make everybody one of the members of the Wiggles, right? Those TV shows where everybody’s got a colorful shirt and they’re all like sunshine and happiness, right? Not everybody’s like that. Some of us like to be moody bastards every once in a while, and for some people it’s their entire personality. So what we have to do is accept people for where they’re at and not expect them to change for us, if they’re going to change, it has to be organic and it has to be for them. They have to see a need to change. Some people life isn’t a bed of roses. Some people have a lot of challenges. I’ll share personal experience, right? One of five kids. I come from the south side of Dublin. I grew up with an alcoholic father who was unemployed most of my life.

David Dowling: (51:35)
It’s not easy when you come from a certain background when you come with certain challenges. And I would go into class and kids sitting next to me in class, were doing well in school. And I wasn’t doing as well in school in what you would call secondary school, high school, I wasn’t doing as well because of all of the things that were going on in my life made me feel down and pulled me down and I couldn’t focus in the same way. So we can’t expect everybody to operate at the same level because we don’t know what somebody else’s home life and personal experiences. And they might be struggling emotionally. So I can’t expect for somebody who has other challenges, who have their own sense of where they fit in the world. And that doesn’t align with maybe where we see we fit in the world.

David Dowling: (52:26)
I might think life is good. I’m very fortunate, I feel very grateful for the things that I’m at now. But there have been moments where I’ve not been that person of sunshine. And so I get that one person on the team might not be all sunshine and flowers, but maybe what we do is we learn to love and accept them for what they bring. That diversity of perspective that they bring to the team, instead of expecting them to bend to us, we just take them in and let them be who they need to be right now. And with that acceptance, maybe they’ll figure out that they want to be more of the team.

Laura Thompson: (53:03)
That is beautiful. Thank you. A few others that came through were along the lines of, I need a little bit more support from my superiors in order to like enforce boundaries or get things done a certain way. How do I have those kinds of conversations with my boss?

David Dowling: (53:19)
Yeah, it’s difficult because what’s happening is for many of us is that we’re managing up and down, right? Because we’re managing these conversations with the people above us because we’re going in and they’re like, well, why aren’t things happening? Why isn’t the team like- and you’re like, “Support me!” And then we’ve got to take these policies and bring them down. And people are like, why are you giving me these policies? And it’s like, it’s not me, it’s them and they’re not supportive, right? So how do I get the folks above on board? Well, what I have to do is create this sense of, look, I love working here. I want to work with you. We, you’re asking me to implement these things. Help me to help you that Jerry McGuire, right? Help me help you. So let’s think about this creatively and let’s think about how we can work together to create a unified front.

David Dowling: (54:10)
A lot of what I can do is through modeling and through my verbiage, right, through how I communicate. So my words, how I frame things. I can go in and kind of go, okay, this is the job, this is the thing. What are you going to do for me? But if I frame it in a more positive way, if I frame it as we as a group, we can impact, how can we in working together, what are things that we can do? And by sending the signals and the messages I’ve got to relay this to the team and so I’m going to relay this on our behalf, right? So I’m talking about us as a group. And so that’s one way to get them on board. It’s never going to be easy because they feel that they’ve got responsibilities and they’ve got things that are frustrating for them.

David Dowling: (54:55)
But what we can do is change how we approach those conversations and try to engage in a more of a team building way that says we’re in this together. So help me think about and ask for their suggestions. When somebody puts something on the table and they say, look, this is what we think should happen. Instead of kind of going, okay, fine, now I have to think about how I can convey this message. Say, alright, I’m going to go and convey this to the team. What I’d love is your understanding of what you think would be a good way to convey this. So help me to sell it to them, right? You give me some creative suggestions and ideas. You want me to take this back to my team, to the folks that I work with. So how do you, why is this a good thing? Help me to understand. I would never say why is this a good thing? Right? But I think this is great. Can you help me to understand how you would want me to convey this and share this with everybody because I’d love your input.

Laura Thompson: (55:47)
Yeah, I’ve heard a phrase too that has worked well – help me make this case. Like what would be a good supporting way of making this case?

David Dowling: (55:53)
Right. I’ve got to go back and share this and I think that this is great. So I’d love your input because I have no doubt as you were putting these policies or these plans together or these changes to whatever you thought about how it might be received from the team that directly. So what kinds of things did you think about how you would convey that or share that? And they might really appreciate that you want their input on that.

Laura Thompson: (56:17)
Awesome. Another question- it came through a bunch of different ways, but the basic theme was how do I respond to someone when they say that’s not my job? And if you’re just trying to kind of get something done, maybe it’s not part of the job description right now, but it’s something that needs to get done at that moment. How do you handle a situation like that?

David Dowling: (56:35)
Yeah, I mean it’s true of all of us, right? A lot of what we do in life, that’s not my job, right? I mean like, that’s not what I signed up for, but I’m here and I’m doing it and instead of kind of going, I don’t care what’s your job or what’s not your job, get on with it. One thing you can say is I understand that and I appreciate that and you doing this would really help us out at the moment and that would be doing a solid for the team. And so I want you to know that I recognize that this may not be exactly your job and fall under the description of what you’re doing, but when you do things like this to help us out, it makes a difference. And I recognize it and I see it.

David Dowling: (57:19)
And we are grateful for it. So instead of kind of getting defensive and saying, just go do the bloody thing, what it is about changing it and saying, yeah, I know it’s not part of your job. And we don’t turn around and say, do you know how many things I have to do that are not my job? They don’t care. They don’t care about that. But what they want you to do is to see and recognize that they are doing something, they’re going above and beyond. And when somebody goes above and beyond, what do we have to do? Give them a pat on the back. And it goes back to those small things of recognizing people when they do things. Because sometimes I’ll do something that’s outside of my scope and I get nothing. I’ll do something that’s outside of my scope, I get nothing.

David Dowling: (57:58)
I do something that’s outside my scope, I get nothing. So now I’m like, what the hell am I doing this for? But if every once in a while you go, Hey, you know what, thank you. Here’s a $10 gift card for Starbucks, right? Somebody’s going to go, alright, thank you. You don’t have to give them pay raise. But little small things, I’m a sucker for like a swag, right? Like, you give me some kind of swag, like, ooh, here’s a logo on a towel. I’m like they appreciate me. Small things make a big difference to people. They feel seen and appreciated. You don’t have to give them a pay raise, don’t not give your people pay raises people. But swag goes a long way.

Laura Thompson: (58:40)
Amen. A question just came through from Eric and I saw this come through as people registering as well. This is a good one. When there is an employee that’s negative and is influencing or kind of poisoning the rest of the team, how do you deal with that so it doesn’t become more contagious?

David Dowling: (58:55)
Yeah. So what you really want to do is have a conversation with that person, right? Get to understand what’s going on with them, right? Because what you want to do is sit down with them, create an environment. And the other thing is, I’ll say when you’re sitting with people in some of those conversations, think about where you’re meeting, don’t meet in my office, you can see my degrees on the wall here. What that does is it sends a signal of, I’m better than you. Find a neutral spot, sit down with that person and don’t sit down and say, Hey, you’re being a jerk and you’re poisoning the well what’s going on? I know that there’s some frustration in the environment right now. Help me to understand where’s that coming from? And this person might unload and say, look, I don’t think that I’m happy with the way these things are happening.

David Dowling: (59:36)
Okay, let’s engage in a productive conversation. If you had the opportunity to change things, what would you change? And put them on their heels because a lot of times people are angry and upset about the way things are going, but they’re not sure how they would improve things. And so say to them, I’d love to hear, not that I can make changes or promise that I can make any changes, but I’d love to hear what you think we could be doing to make this environment better. Some people are just negative Nellie’s, some people are just always going to be no matter what. And that’s really thena workplace decision, right? We want to keep this person in this job and in this role if they’re going to continuously poison the well. And so maybe some changes need to happen. And again, going back to you’ve got to set boundaries and you’ve got to think about what’s in the best interest of the team versus the one.

Laura Thompson: (01:00:33)
And along those lines, when you’re figuring out boundaries, when there are rules that aren’t being followed, how can you bring that up and show that there are boundaries while still being nice and still being respectful, but showing that those boundaries need to be enforced?

David Dowling: (01:00:47)
Yeah, I mean, look, the rules are there for a reason, right? Rules are there typically for safety to protect other people, to be mindful for legal reasons, whatever it might be. And so, I mean, one of the things you can do is have like a little group discussion. What I would do is be mindful about how that’s facilitated, right? So if you want to have a group discussion around like, look, we, we’ve been aware that some of us are taking shortcuts and whatever else, but what you want to do is have it facilitated by somebody that might be a neutral. Okay? So let’s think about some of the things that are going on. Some of the things that are happening in our workplace. We’ve noticed from what I understand, there’s been some changes or some people not respecting rules. Help us to understand why.

David Dowling: (01:01:30)
What about these rules seems difficult to adhere to? And then it’s asking, why do you think we have these rules? What are they there for? And so it’s helping people to explore. Because if I can come to that conclusion, if you come in and tell me this rule is here for this, I’m going to go right? But if you engage with me and say, what do you think we have these rules? Why are they in place? This is the rule. And they might say, well, I assume it’s because of this, but I don’t get it. Well, what do you think would be a better rule? And then people often get stumped, I don’t know. Well, do you think that we need to have this? I guess so. So it’s engaging with them to think about what the rules are there for.

Laura Thompson: (01:02:06)
Awesome. David, thank you so much for your time today. This has been absolutely fantastic and based on the response that we’re seeing in chat and the Q&A and what has come through, I think it really resonated and it really hit well. So thank you so much and we’re seeing a comment even right now. This has been amazing, David. Absolutely amazing. So thank you so much for your time and your expertise and your insights and your role play today, David, because this has been wonderful and thank you so much to all of those of you who attended. If you have any feedback for us, please fill out the survey after the fact. If you want to hear more from David, we can get him back again. So let us know what you would like to hear in future webinars and we will create content that helps you in your day-to-day job. Thank you again so much and we will talk to you soon.

David Dowling: (01:02:48)
Thank you. You guys were amazing today. Thank you for your time and for joining us and I wish you well in your busy days and maybe we’ll have an opportunity to cross paths again in the future. Take care.

Laura Thompson: (01:03:00)
Thank you, everyone.