Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try and how sincere your intentions, your efforts to connect and support are not enough. What you wish for doesn’t happen, and you receive a response you wished you hadn’t received. Ouch moments. My friend doesn’t want to continue working together. An old panic comes up “You did something terribly wrong, you are a bad person, and because of that you don’t deserve connection, acceptance, belonging. Out with the bastard, off with her head!” A fear of rejection, ostracizing, and finally, lonely death. I know this fear too well, and it has determined many of my actions.

Marshall Rosenberg calls this emotional slavery. We think we are responsible for the happiness of the people around us and we go to great lengths to make sure they are happy: our sense of worthiness and emotional safety depend on it. We think they feel, because we do. So if they feel angry, sad, lonely, we did something fundamentally wrong. We have yet to learn that they feel, because they need and I feel, because I need.

There is freedom, an immense freedom, once we learn that we are not responsible for what we other people feel, that they feel because how they perceive their needs being met or unmet. As soon as we understand that their pain tells us something about them, not us, we can listen with care and compassion. What is going on for this person? What is the precious, tender message behind her complaints, blame, anger?

Image courtesy to WikimediaA few years ago I bought a bougainvillea. I was happy and took good care of her. I didn’t cut her back, I didn’t fertilize her, I made sure her feet were wet all the time. The bougainvillea wasn’t happy. She hardly bloomed, her stems were lengthy, her leaves droopy. And instead of taking her message personally (who does that anyway, with bougainvilleas?), I heard her complaints as the bougainvillea telling me something about her. I got it and immediately started to learn about bougainvillea care taking. Who doesn’t want to see their bougainvillea in full bloom? So the next year I let her roots dry out a little, I cut the stems back ferociously in spring, I fertilized her with special bougainvillea fertilizer. And she blooms as only a bougainvillea can bloom. Abundantly for months, and months, and months.

When we receive messages as people trying to tell us something about themselves, we have the freedom to contribute to their needs, or not. Without fear of rejection. Just a choice what makes life more wonderful in this moment.


You want help to make contribute to life freely? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

%d bloggers like this: