Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Where is the We in Me?

Probably not in my thought that he abuses his power to exclude others. Nor in the thought that she should listen before she speaks. And certainly not in the thought that they should change their minds at minimum, if not their hearts.

I recognize all those thoughts as us-versus-them thinking. Right-wrong. Better-worse. More compassionate versus less compassionate (ouch, how can I think that as a student of Thich Nhat Hanh?).

And yet, my life would be so much simpler if I see myself as the protector of the underdog, and “THEM” as the bullies. What can I say? I fight for all that is good and pure, for inclusion and compassion, for mindfulness and loving speech. And they? They want more power. They want to exclude anyone they don’t like. They want to operate in secrecy. It makes all my anxiety, anger, and self-righteous indignation acceptable. Who wouldn’t be upset in the face of such ill-intent?

I am pretty sure that, since I have such an abundance of compassion, mindfulness and empathy, I should teach them to open their hearts, listen, and include everyone. I should show them how to transform our community in a delightful place of peace, harmony and joyful connection. I, me, Elly van Laar, the compassionate one, has the wisdom and they should listen.


So in my quest to make sure that everyone is heard, even those that speak in pretty unpleasant terms, I shut others up? In this mission to see us all as one, I am actually seeing us as the “we” party and them as the “them” party? In my care for the underdog (at least, in my view) I forget to care for the perceived bullies?

What if they are not the enemy? What if there are no underdogs and no bullies? What if I drop the compassion competition? What if there are just people who do their best  within the limitations they have? Who sometimes act and speak in ways I don’t like, and who always deserve a chance for understanding, support, acceptance, love, and belonging? What if I try to expand my inclusion to those I see as the bullies?

Gosh, I imagine I start listening to the “bullies”. I imagine I move over to their side and try to get what it’s like to see the world through their eyes. I imagine I see the beautiful, universal needs behind their feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and exasperation. I imagine I understand the values behind their unwillingness to enter into yet another dialog.

Yep, that’s where I should start. With listening.

Listening to understand. Not to reply. Just listening.

That is where I find the we in me

You want to learn to see the we in you? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

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