Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Image courtesy to freedesignfile.comSo I here I am at Hoppin House trying to figure out how to talk with the parents of the kid, who apparently said “f… you” and support Maya’s needs for safety and respect, my need for acceptance and safety, and the parents’ and kid’s needs, probably for safety, acceptance and respect too. I am not looking forward to the conversation and need some self-connection first.

I breath in and out.

I remember Thich Nhat Hanh‘s advice to ask for help when you’re upset.

That I can do.

I walk up to the table. “Hi, I am Elly and I need your help. My girl…” I interrupt myself. The kid shows up. Maybe just five years old. I want to be transparent and support his sense of emotional safety. I don’t want to talk about him as if he were not here. I look him in the eyes and say gently “Hi, I’m Elly, what’s your name?” “AJ” “My girl is upset, because she heard you say ‘fuck off’.” “I didn’t say that! I didn’t say that! I didn’t say that! I didn’t say that!”, he yells. I see him fidgeting with his fingers, fumbling his shirt. I hear his mom tell him to apologize, and I remember “Empathy first.”

“Are you scared you will get into trouble with your mom?” He looks down, nodding ‘yes’. “Are you scared you will be punished?” Wildly nodding ‘yes’. “Do you want your mom to love you, no matter what you do?” His head still hanging down, nodding ‘yes’. “Maybe you want to walk over to your mom, and hear her say that she loves you?” Nodding ‘yes’, more quietly. He walks over to his mom, she looks at him, with some sweetness in her eyes. She seems to be telling him non-verbally ‘It’s okay, I’m not mad. Let’s work this out.’ I take a break. “Do you want your mom and me to know that you want to play in a way that works for everyone?” ‘Yes’ “Do you want me to go over to my girl and tell her that?” ‘Yes’ “Do you want to hear that I am not angry with you, and that I rather be friends with you?” ‘Yes’ “Can you look me in the face, and see I’m not angry?” He finally looks up, still a little scared, just a little puppy. He has a faint smile on his face. I touch his shoulders “Thank you!” He seems relieved as he runs off to play again.

When we leave an hour later, I say goodbye to a table full of smiling faces.


Do you want help to resolve conflicts in a way that creates connection? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.

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