The 3 Cs of Collaboration: From Combative to Collaborative with Teresa Harlow (Inspiring Women, Episode 58)
On this edition of Inspiring Women, mediator, coach, and author Teresa Harlow joined host Betty Collins to talk about her work championing conflict resolution & collaboration among co-parents, co-workers, and clients. Teresa discussed the three C’s of collaboration, civility, communication and caring, how to communicate in a healthy way, and much more.
The host of Inspiring Women is Betty Collins, and the show is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Betty’s Show Notes
Teresa Harlow, the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Combative to Collaborative: The Co-Parenting Code, gives inspiring advice and strategies on how to transform combative relationships into collaborative ones.
Drawing from her 30 years of experience in the entrepreneurial and corporate world, Teresa shares her three C’s of collaboration – civility, communication, and caring – and discusses how to overcome the challenges of negative social media communication and nurture a respectful, collaborative relationship with others. We explore the power of collaboration and how it can open new possibilities in our relationships.
Get ready to take away powerful advice to help transform your relationships and communication!
Hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and Director at Brady Ware and Company. Betty also serves as the Committee Chair for Empowering Women, and Director of the Brady Ware Women Initiative. Each episode is presented by Brady Ware and Company, committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home.
For more information, go to the Insights page at Brady Ware and Company.
Remember to follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. And forward our podcast along to other Inspiring Women in your life.
Betty Collins: [00:00:02] Has anyone ever inspired you to change your life that made you more fulfilled? Well, as a leader in your business and in your community, what are those questions that you ask yourself on a daily basis? It’s these questions that we explore on inspiring women. I am your host, Betty Collins, and I’m a certified public accountant, a business owner and a community leader who partners with others who want to achieve remarkable results for themselves and their organizations. I am here to help inspire you to a positive step forward for a better life. Well, today, we’re going to have a great discussion on toxic communication. Yay. Right. But it is something that’s so needed in our society today, of course. And we have Teresa Harlow with us. You’re going to really, really enjoy her. Everyone knows that toxic communications can destroy relationships. The teams, it can even sink your business. What are you doing to ensure that your team knows how to prevent or defuse hostility? Yay, or move from combative to collaborative when tensions flare? So whether Theresa is co-parenting, running a business or working with large corporations, she has been transforming the combative relationships into collaborative, collaborative relationships.
Betty Collins: [00:01:22] See if I can say that again. While achieving extraordinary results for over 30 years, I admire anyone who can write a book, and she has one called Combative To Collaborative The Co-parenting Code, and it’s stayed on Amazon’s bestseller list for over 17 months. And it’s endorsed by Gary Chapman, amazing author of The Five Love Languages, and Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. So, Theresa, welcome to our show today. I’m so glad that you’re here for my audience. I think they’re going to find this very, very needed. They’re going to find that anything that you can get helps and tips we want to do. And at the end, we want to make sure they know how to get your book, where to get your book and your contact information. Sure. So we’re going to just jump right in. But tell us just take 30 seconds. Tell us a little bit about you. What do you do for fun? You know, that kind of just 30 seconds, 45 seconds of a little about you.
Teresa Harlow: [00:02:19] Well, what do I do for fun? Well, winter is a little bit difficult for me because, well, I’m a boater. Okay?
Betty Collins: [00:02:26] So not a place to boat. Ohio is not a place to boat. Yes. Right.
Teresa Harlow: [00:02:29] Right. So in the summer, we do a lot of that and travel to the Tennessee region and also northern Michigan and do water skiing and wake surfing and wakeboarding. Very nice. And of course, we have three kids between us and they’re all grown. So we’re constantly jetting off to see someone or spending time watching my son and his band up north and oh, very nice, Cleveland. Okay, so we do a lot of that.
Betty Collins: [00:02:56] There’s nothing like saying grown children. There’s nothing like saying adult children with jobs. That is the best, right? Yeah. Although I’m not real.
Teresa Harlow: [00:03:05] Fond of the idea. My son is now 29 and holding, as I’ll say now for the rest of my life. Yeah.
Betty Collins: [00:03:11] There you go. I’m good with it. My son is 31 and 30. My daughter is 30, so I’m right where you are. So. But good boating is a blast. Mid Lake Michigan is beautiful. All that’s just gorgeous up there. So but we’re going to talk about the fun stuff of confrontation, not necessarily confrontation, but toxic. Right. And how do we become collaborative? Collaborative. So your professional background is really varied. How did you end up on your current journey? Let’s talk about that.
Teresa Harlow: [00:03:38] Well, I like to say that my professional journey is a maze. Not amazing necessarily, but a maze, because I like that, you know, I kind of come in and out of two things that are that I have a love hate relationship with both entrepreneurship, starting businesses as well as corporate America and being an employee with a larger company and and really, I love how as an entrepreneur, you get to be creative and, you know, create something from nothing, right? And that’s kind of beautiful. And you get to follow a passion that you have personally and turn it into something that helps others. But let’s face it, having a business is hard, right? And you are your own support system. You don’t have technical support, marketing support and all that. Of course you can hire those things out, but as a solopreneur, you have to to think about all that. And there are no perks. You know, paid vacations are are something that don’t come with the territory.
Betty Collins: [00:04:46] Right? You take the vacation, but when you’re not working, no one’s getting paid. Right, Right.
Teresa Harlow: [00:04:50] Right. And then, you know, in my corporate journey, I was in that environment for a good 35 years. And I would. Really do quite well leading large teams. But I would come to a point where I felt like I was limited either creatively or just in where I wanted to take my passions. And, you know, while I love the perks and the paid vacations that come with corporate America, it can be stifling in that sense. And so I, I decided in 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, know everybody.
Betty Collins: [00:05:28] A lot of people did. Yeah.
Teresa Harlow: [00:05:30] To step away from corporate America after my what I call my third tour of duty because it really felt like I had achieved what I was going to accomplish there. I was really ready to move on. And. And. Just come to a better place and being able to fuel that passion and bring it all together, really. So, you know, the book is about co-parenting, but it deals with relationships and moving from combativeness with someone to collaborative behaviors. And I found I was also living this pattern in my professional journey, bringing people together, figuring out how to overcome interpersonal relationship obstacles and turn foes into fans. And so after so many people telling me that they felt that I had something to share, I decided to combine all of those creative talents, my passion for it, and what I learned both in my personal and professional life with relationships and pour it all into this business.
Betty Collins: [00:06:46] Yeah. Well, today’s environment is nothing but combative. It doesn’t seem to matter what you’re looking at, whether it’s your school boards or your schools or your community or, you know, it goes beyond politics even and in business, definitely. Right. And people just they’re not knowing how. It’s like we have forgotten, forgot how to be professional and positive. Right. Or just interactive. The interactions of today can be positive, yet we can still feel different. We can still be different. But we we’re missing that. Right. So what prevents people from interacting more positively, professionally and personally? What prevents that?
Teresa Harlow: [00:07:32] Well, I kind of package it as what I call the three C’s of collaboration, civility, communication and caring. Right. And when I talk about civility, I’m really talking about the basics, politeness, courtesy, maybe a little empathy, just really understanding that things are happening to people around you and you have an impact on that. With every interaction you have, even with the person you pass on the street and they always say, you know, smile can be contagious. Right? And so I think we’ve we’ve lost a little bit of that awareness of of the need for civility. And also, I feel like we’ve really with all the abundance that we have of communication methods, right? You’ve got email and text and social media and all these ways to interact with each other. We’re doing it worse. And there’s just really a decline in our communication skills because so many of those modes are are really one sided. You put it out there and then you wait for a response as opposed to having conversations. So it’s a lost art, having a conversation. Our kids grow up texting each other and on social media and these things and we, you know, adopt slang sorts of interactions and lose sight of really the protocols that that make up language that is comprehensive and and caring.
Teresa Harlow: [00:09:06] And I think even starting with our our education system, I remember my son was like in fifth grade and fifth, sixth, seventh. And I remember when I was in school, I was diagramming sentences and understanding the structure of the English language and how to put it together in ways that people would understand what I was saying and the way I intended to. And I really felt like they weren’t doing that. They weren’t correcting grammar, and I was like, What is going on? But, you know, I think that that education is one area, but just in, in how we interact with each other, we need to practice that more, right? So the third one being caring is really about that idea of empathy and treating people the way you would want to be treated. Right. And how we’ve lost sight of that, in favor of thinking about where we want to go, what we’re doing. And so I really would love to see empathy be re infused into our everyday interactions. You know, thinking about the words you say, the actions you take, how do those land on the other person and would you want that to happen to you? Yeah.
Betty Collins: [00:10:27] You know, I think when you talk about live conversations, we just don’t have and you’re going to say something, you’re going to act totally different when you are live. Right. And I think that is part of the art of conversation has gone away because it is we’re going to do it and we’re going to wait for a response. And there’s no skin in the game because you’re not looking at that person. Yeah. You know.
Teresa Harlow: [00:10:46] Facing.
Betty Collins: [00:10:47] Someone, right. Right. Today I had a very interesting interaction. I had ordered stuff from Neiman Marcus or Marcus. Neiman Marcus. There we go. There we go. And I had one of the packages come. Didn’t really pay attention to that, the fact that I hadn’t gotten the other one. And so a woman from probably a half a mile to a mile away calls me and I see the number and I’m like, I don’t know who this is, should I pick up? But I’m trying to be more about someone’s reaching out to me, I’m going to pick up. So I pick up and she said, I’m so-and-so from Blacklick and I think I have your package. I said, Oh. And I said, She goes, Yeah. I think the driver probably was having a bad day and we just need to get the right packages. Do you by chance have my package? I said, I don’t. She goes, okay, well you’ll see another package on your on your doorstep today. Have a great day. And it was just refreshing. Yeah, it was just refreshing. It just that’s what we need to get back to. Even a neighbor call. I mean, I don’t know how she got my number even, except it must have been on the package. I don’t know. But it was. It was just as you’re talking about, having conversations, she just didn’t get mad at the FedEx guy. She just didn’t come and keep it. She didn’t just throw it. She reached out. Was intentional about having a positive conversation. She could have been a really negative. Right.
Teresa Harlow: [00:12:05] Well, and, you know, I, I think that even those I’ll say casual interactions we have can be really changing to someone’s day. Like if you have to call tech support or customer service because maybe you have a problem with Neiman Marcus or something. You know, if I’m feeling really reactive, I will tell someone if I’ve been going rounds with someone with a company for a while and then I have to call again, maybe I might give them fair warning. Look, I’m a little on edge about this so that if I do come across a little harsh that they realize it’s not directed to them. But, you know, just remembering that there’s someone on the receiving end of what you’re doing.
Betty Collins: [00:12:51] Do you think and and I’m digressing a little bit, but it kind of dawned on me when you said this. So you’re talking about people put it out on social media of all kinds, whether it’s I mean, doesn’t matter if it’s LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram, TikTok, you name it, there’s all those venues, emails. I think we’re just used to seeing the bad behavior. We’re we’re seeing the negativity that we don’t even know maybe that we’re being negative when we put it out there because that’s just what we’ve gotten used to.
Teresa Harlow: [00:13:22] Yeah, there’s actually some level of acceptance that I think is damaging.
Betty Collins: [00:13:26] Yeah, Yeah, for sure. Well, you know, we’ve talked about how do we what prevents people from interacting a lot of is just they’re not interacting. Right? We’re living in kind of a negative world. What can we do to overcome these obstacles?
Teresa Harlow: [00:13:41] Well, I have a whole long list that I call Lessons for Mom. And it’s not me. Not me, the mom. They come from my mom. They come from your mom. They come from all of our moms or other caregivers that raised us. And these are basic things. I’m not I’m not inventing anything new here. I’m reminding people of basic principles. We were taught when we were very young, things like, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything, right? And you need to practice to get better at something. So if you have a difficult relationship with someone, don’t shy away from it. That may be what you want to do, but it’s not going to improve if you don’t practice interacting with that person to learn more about them. Right. And understand what motivates them, what triggers them, and how you can overcome those things. And then above all, treating others the way you want to be treated. The golden rule is, is that and it’s it’s interesting because the more I say it, maybe it’s because it’s in my head so much. I see more and more authors and speakers and and others talking about that leaders. And I’m glad that I’m hearing it more and I just hope it sinks in.
Betty Collins: [00:15:06] Well, I think we need we on the positive side on collaboration. We need to speak louder for those who are negative and on the combative side. And if we speak louder, it’ll change and turn the course. My mother always used to say this, and we still say this to this day. She’s 86. She says False cheer is better than real crabbiness And she had that on her bulletin board for I can’t remember when it wasn’t there. Right. And she would Sunday mornings, you know, there were eight of us and getting up and going to church was in one bathroom. And you and you didn’t. I mean, you dressed up, right. Everybody went. And my mom. The false cheer is better than real. Crabbiness. We’re going to church. Everyone getting in the van. Get your smiles on. And you just that was just how you you thought whether you wanted to smile or not, whether you were happy or not. Sometimes that false cheer is better than the crappiness. Let’s go.
Teresa Harlow: [00:16:00] Well, it starts there, right? And, you know, there is something to be said for faking it until you make it right?
Betty Collins: [00:16:08] Right. I’m not saying you live there. You got to deal with problems. Absolutely. But in the basics, everyday routines, right? Yeah. So are there things we do unwittingly that triggers others to respond negatively to us? What do we do to set those triggers?
Teresa Harlow: [00:16:25] Well, so whether it’s in business, I was a people manager. Yeah, you’re a people manager or in your personal life where you’re coming to your spouse or your children or whomever in your family. When we want something, we come at them. If we’re if we’re more of a managerial sort, we may say, Hey, I need you to do this or you need to stop doing this. And we start there rather than setting up the conversation so that the other person is prepared to receive us and and understands that we’re not a threat to them. So I like to suggest that people start by remembering one, that everyone brings something to the table, and you can acknowledge that to start your conversation, I mentioned my son’s in a band and he started his first band when he was in fifth grade. Okay? And I was I was in bands before too. And so I sat the boys down and I told him, I said, There’s two things you guys all need to remember to do. One, leave your ego at the door. And that’s a hard thing to do when you’re dealing with something artistic because it is very personal, right? And two, remember, everyone brings something to the table and hopefully it’s different than what you bring to the table so that you you complement each other.
Teresa Harlow: [00:17:55] So don’t get upset because someone else doesn’t do exactly what you do. Look to what it is they do contribute and acknowledge that. So setting up a conversation that way by a simple acknowledgement, Hey, thank you for meeting with me today. Maybe all you can come up with if you’re really in conflict with someone, but it’s a start that that sets the tone. And then as the conversation progresses, remembering to I think we we tend to forget to listen. Yeah, we’re so caught up in thinking about what we’re going to say in response. We prepare our case, you know, that we actually don’t stop and hear what they’re saying, right? And we can then further acknowledge, Hey, I heard you. Now, that doesn’t mean you agree with them just because you acknowledge you heard them, it just lets them know that you’re listening. Right?
Betty Collins: [00:18:54] Right. You know, you’ll find this hard to believe, but I am a talker, so most people don’t think I listen. But a lot of times I really I’m already thinking something else in my mind. Why they’re finishing. Oh, yeah, a lot of people do. It’s a skill that we need to get back to the art of if we want to become more collaborative, right? Yeah, for sure. And I know when you talked about I’ve read a book and I’m going to have her on my podcast, She was at the Women’s Leadership Conference for Brady where last year and she has five core components to, to getting along with people. And one of them is the worst thing is not the only thing. Yeah, it’s not the only thing about that person. Right. You know, or about the situation. You have to sometimes just get pat, sometimes it’s hard to get past it. It depends on what it is. I’m not saying you just go, Oh, that’s just their worst characteristic, let it go. But it is helped me in approaching people because there’s other things than that.
Teresa Harlow: [00:19:51] Well, it can give you perspective, right? Yeah. Because then you’re not just focused on that that conflict. Because you know what I say when it comes to conflict and overcoming it is if you want to resolve conflict, then don’t focus on the conflict. Right? Focused on resolving it. So if you’re constantly thinking about what you don’t like about someone, then that’s where you’re going to live, right?
Betty Collins: [00:20:14] I had someone say to me once, I was telling them, well, under these circumstances and they said, Stop right there. Why are you under the circumstance, why are you not over and ahead of Interesting. Yeah, it was interesting. It made me kind of stop and go, oh, maybe, maybe. But anyways, but triggers are something in our society today that just are real. And you’ve got to be so aware when you have triggered somebody so you don’t do it again because or talk to them about their triggering because you have them as well. Yeah. So you know, when when someone is unloading. That negative energy on you, right? Which people do. What are strategies that you’ve seen in your 35 years and in your business that you have today? What have you seen that works to help the recipient of the combative behavior?
Teresa Harlow: [00:21:02] Yeah. Well, and I’ll start by saying I learned some of these lessons the hard way in my earlier career. I was very reactive. You know, the same mom that told me, if you don’t have anything nice to say, told me to speak my mind, right? So I was like trying to come to terms with those two. Took me a while, but, you know, understanding that you. You don’t have to react. You have a choice. No one can actually make you angry. Novel concept. You have a choice. And so remembering that there is a cost to reacting, there is a consequence that lives beyond that moment. And by all means, if you are communicating in a way that is documented, whether it’s email or text or social media or something that’s memorialized, even a voice message that’s saved. Yeah, don’t memorialize bad behavior. I mean, because then it absolutely lives beyond the moment. And while we all can get caught up and say things we regret, if you do that in the context of something that is documented, then it can be turned around and used as a weapon well beyond what you intended to convey in that moment. Right. And so we have to be mindful of that. And if necessary, pause. Ask the person, can we take this up later? You know, make some excuse for why you can’t handle it right now or literally bite your tongue or do whatever you need to do to take that pause. Right.
Betty Collins: [00:22:47] Well, it is it’s a hard that’s a hard on both ends to even maybe you are being negative and combative and then you catch yourself. Right. And you can’t go maybe go back. You can’t go back. You can’t, can you? Can You sure have to go. You don’t have to go. Well, I’ve already done it. Too bad. So sad, you know.
Teresa Harlow: [00:23:04] No, you can you can say, you know what? I’m going down the wrong path here. Let me back up. And I’ve done that with with my staff. I’ve done that with my managers. Right. And just said, I think I’ve I’ve gotten off track here. Let me try to say this differently.
Betty Collins: [00:23:18] It can be it can be the little things. I mean, last week I had this meltdown and I run our office. And so I put out this email with really shouldn’t have done this, put this email to all of Columbus. Right. And because people had left dishes in the sink again in the kitchen. So I went, I had this whole thing of do not in caps, you know, blah, blah, blah, underline, highlight, just ridiculous really, at the end of the day. And then two minutes later my admin team comes running in my office. We got it. So it was really simple. We just put all the hardware in a box and put paper aware only and didn’t make a big thing. We have a lot going on right now. We don’t need to talk about whose cup is in the sink. Yeah, right. And why I just went off like that was. It just looks ridiculous on my part, you know? And it was email. It’s already there. I’m sure it was kind of a laughable moment for people. But it’s a simple thing like that, though, that we just do because it triggered me that once again, we have stuff in the sink and it drives me crazy.
Teresa Harlow: [00:24:18] You know, I have a I have a solution for that little let me hear it reactive kitchen because, you know. Well, no. So in my last role in financial services, I had really large teams and, you know, communicating with potentially hundreds of people in any given email. And, you know, I spend lots of time revising, revising, revising emails. But if someone triggered me, even if it was just to one person back to them and I felt triggered, I would write it exactly what I wanted to say and put my name at the top in the to nobody else’s so that if I accidentally hit send, it was only coming to me. And if I was feeling particularly triggered by something, I would write that email like that, get it off my chest, send it to myself, then read it and start to realize, okay, that whole concept of how are my words going to be received on the other end? If I read them, how do I feel as a result of reading them? And then I can start to calm myself down and be more rational and whatever I put out there. So next time, send that to yourself would not be a bad idea.
Betty Collins: [00:25:33] My admin team responded immediately because they just know me, right? But I apologize to them the next day because I figured probably that they would respond and take care of it instead. I could have just asked them, but I promised him I’d stay away from the sink. That’s my solution at this point, because right now. I just need to stay out of sight. Out of mind. Right. Just stay away from the sink. So. But, you know, let’s talk a little bit about your book. You wrote a really good book and the title. When I first saw it, I thought, oh, this is for people going through divorce. But let’s talk about why you wrote the book and that it’s out there and where can people find it and what what would be who would this book apply to besides everyone?
Teresa Harlow: [00:26:12] Everyone, Right. Well, I mean, it is and isn’t about divorce. It’s really more about the relationship with two parents that are continuing to raise children after divorce.
Betty Collins: [00:26:26] They have a.
Teresa Harlow: [00:26:26] Commonality. Yeah. And I find that people are people, whether it’s your co-parenting relationship or your business colleagues or clients or suppliers that the same basic premises hold true, and how people want you to respect them and listen to them and acknowledge what they bring to the table. Right. And with that, we had when I say we, my son’s father and I had heard many times as we raised him from the time he was six on up, how they wished their parent had done that for them after they divorced or they wished that they had were doing this with their ex spouse. And I thought, well, obviously we figured something out because people compliment us. Why not put this information out there so that it could benefit others? And while the book in its current volume, the co-parenting code, is focused on the co parent relationship, the the ideas of how to overcome conflict and move to more collaborative behavior apply. And I really delved into a lot of conflicts that, frankly, my son’s father and I did not face, but that maybe I came upon as a step parent or in other roles in my excuse me, in my life to move a conversation forward. And some of those took years. And I’ve had some relationships in my life that have waxed and waned.
Teresa Harlow: [00:28:13] And, you know, they go from good to bad. But anyway, the book serves to help people understand the behaviors they they may be demonstrating that will trigger another person unwittingly. They may not realize they’re doing that to also cover if you’re on the receiving end, because I frankly started off by saying in the book, don’t do this. Don’t do that, you’re doing this. And then one of my friends read an early manuscript and he had went through the whole journey himself as a co-parent. He said, This is great, but my ex wouldn’t have read this book. I’d have been the one reading it. What are you doing for me? So I went back and infused in the book, added to it. Here’s what you can do if you’re on the receiving end of this to redirect the conversation, to avoid those triggers and to take the interactions back to a more productive place. So I go through the do’s and don’ts of both sides of that so that people can feel they get something out of it no matter what part of the journey they’re on, whether it’s something they’re going through now, they’re separating, whether they’ve been divorced for years or if they have, you know, maybe re coupled. And the whole step parenting thing is a whole other book. Yeah. Yes.
Betty Collins: [00:29:45] So, Well, I appreciate you being you know, today’s world is more combative than it is collaborative for sure. And we need to figure out how to switch that and turn that. Yeah, you can get the book on Amazon. This is Teresa Harlow. H a r l o w. And where can people are you on Twitter? Are you where’s all your media? You’re everywhere.
Teresa Harlow: [00:30:08] Yeah my my website is Teresa harlow.com. I like to keep it simple. If you misspell it I think I own several versions of that. Okay. And on all the social media mostly under Teresa Harlow one, two, three except for on LinkedIn and and of course the books on Amazon.
Betty Collins: [00:30:25] They’ll find you to my audience I would tell you toxic communication, destroying relationships being on the negative side, being the person, putting people on negative side, etcetera. We need to be more collaborative, not combative. And so today it takes courage to do that. It takes courage to choose to be cooperative versus combative. So I encourage you to read the book. I encourage you to think through. I encourage you to look in the mirror and say, Is this something I need to do? Thank you for joining us today. We sure appreciate it. Thank you.
Teresa Harlow: [00:30:56] Thanks for having me.
Betty Collins: [00:30:58] As your career advances continue, your financial opportunities will continue to grow. Be prepared. Visit broadwayworld.com Backslash Resources to find Everything about inspiring women. This episode, plus an outline of Brady wearing company accounting services can be found in the episode show notes.