Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

About Elly

Why you learn from me to use conflict as an opportunity

    • Are your team members yelling at you?
    • Is your supervisor demanding too much of you?
    • Do team members undermine each other?
    • Do you find the work environment so toxic that you are ready to leave?
    • Does this leave you so stressed and depleted that you don’t have the energy to enjoy your family?

And enjoy your weekly communication tips

Do you want to avoid deadly communication mistakes?

I see many clients struggle with conflicts

Your conflict might be with your team member, CEO, or even with yourself. Some conflicts are in your face, others are less visible. You might hope these conflicts resolve themselves by ignoring them and getting on with your tasks. 

But they won’t. They become bigger problems if you don’t address them. The incident becomes a pattern, hurt feelings turn into enemy images, the discord sets off a chain of animosity.

I feel surprised how many leaders postpone addressing these issues. Because the solution is pretty simple.

You don’t need someone to criticize your leadership style. Or tell you what to do. Let alone a miracles doctor who holds your hand.

All you need is an objective person to talk with about your challenges. A person who asks the right questions. Who hits the pause button so you can reflect on your priorities, boundaries, leadership style. So you can decide how to move ahead.

Clients tell me how working with me has helped them peak in their ability to communicate with others, get connected to the key movers and shakers that help them get things done, transform team conflict into collaboration, and make good relationships even better.

What others say about working with me:

I was so pleasantly surprised at how much progress I could make, I didn’t realize I had that much potential for growth.

I really benefited from understanding that while my intentions are good, the way that I present my intentions, was a barrier for me getting through to people. And being able to shift just in a very short time, over a couple of weeks that we have worked together, doors have opened. And that’s something that will continue to pay benefits.

I am also establishing some guardrails for myself. Having some guiding questions or some norms to keep in mind when I’m working with difficult people, that is really beneficial. Being able to bring structure to things that are kind of messy really helped me. So being able to stop trying to force my own beliefs and values and my expectations of excellence, or accountability on others.

I began to view them with a little bit more optimism and kind of have a little grace. I’m kind of meeting them where they’re at instead of writing them off and not trying to get somewhere with them.

For example, when I stopped trying to get a key stakeholder in my boat and decided to get in their boat, that was where we had a breakthrough. I now have regular standing meetings with that person who is much higher than me on their organizational chart than I am in mine. And they have connected me to key doers and movers and shakers within their organization to start getting things done.

Just being able to communicate more effectively got the right people in the room, things started happening. And as a result, on a systemic level, we can affect change that will be beneficial.

Coaching has been most beneficial to me as a middle management person. This type of coaching can help you find the words that they can hear. To speak in a way that they will listen in the midst of crisis. 

You know, I think that I’ve been very receptive to this because of your approach, I immediately felt rapport. Immediately I felt like I can be 100 percent vulnerable, 100 percent honest with you. And that is something that is very unique. To be able to establish that from day one was really powerful. 

One of the good gifts is that I feel very grounded. I feel very connected with myself. I feel a sense of renewed purpose for the work that I do and commitment to my own values.

Megan Elkins

Director Talent Pipeline Success, Workforce Solutions, Austin

I think the other real benefit was just a different way of thinking about things. So thinking about conflict in a meeting with multiple people in a different way, more as an opportunity to figure out how to collaborate.

I really liked the stuff around Nonviolent Communication, thinking about the needs and strategies.

Once I started seeing conversations with people through that lens, it made them more collaborative. I had more empathy for the people that I was working with, whether that be co-workers or clients. I then was able to not just solve problems, but find solutions together to figure out what met both people’s needs, even if the strategies sometimes are going to be different.

Sofia Barbato

Director Supportive Services, Foundation Communities, Austin

Leiden University, the Netherlands

Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation

Credentialed Mediator with Texas Association of Mediators

About Elly

When my dad was 11 years old, the Gestapo broke into their home. They searched for his dad, who was a key member of the Liberation movement. They turned everything upside down, till they found my grandfather.

Then they left.

Terrified, my dad looked through the attic window and saw how his dad was pushed into the truck.

He never saw him again.

My grandmother was left behind with 10 children, the youngest only a few months old. Their house was bombed, they were evacuated 200 kilometers from their home, and when they finally came back, they found their house, orchard, and stable in ruin.

So Remembrance Day always was a special day for us. Every year at 8:00 pm, the whole nation comes to a stop to observe two minutes of silence to honor everyone who died in the Second World War and beyond. But my dad never talked about his dad. And neither did my mom.

My grandfather was a sacred secret.

One that inspired me quietly.

He was my hero. He stood up for compassion, inclusion, and care for those who are vulnerable. He died for his principles and was a source of consolation for fellow inmates to his last day, even for his guards.

I always wanted to be like him.

Only my circumstances were different, and I was different. I grew up in peace and never had the guts to travel to war zones and risk my life.

My inspiration became my self-judgment. Not knowing how to honor his legacy without going to the front lines of conflict, I was at a loss. I became a jack of all trades. I started a PhD-student in Political Science. Then a domestic worker for elderly people. Working with refugee children in Croatia. A Director of Activities Program in a mental health facility. A consultant.

And always this nagging evaluation that I wasn’t honoring my grandfather’s legacy.

Till it dawned on me that it was not about the what, but the why and how of what I did.

The why was clear: I want to contribute to peace and understanding, a world of compassion, inclusion, and care. And the how became clearer with time: to use my qualities of deep listening, a sincere interest in others, genuine acceptance, a sense of humor, and a big smile for anyone on this path.

I have found nonprofit leaders to be my super clients. They inspire me with their courage, their willingness to self-reflect, and their commitment to never ever give up on their vision of a more just and peaceful world.

Working with my clients, this plain, ol’ Dutch girl can create the world my grandfather envisioned.

Talking to Elly resets you

Elly has such an amazing spirit and a true love for others. I am in awe of her ability to make me feel safe and heard. Talking to Elly resets you. After every session I felt at peace, grounded and more like myself. I cannot imagine where I would be in my life’s journey without Elly. I am so grateful to have connected with her. She is such a gift.”

Maria Letzerich

Attorney-mediator, Forcepoint LLC, Austin

Extremely Insightful and Perceptive

I have been working with Elly for several months now. I find her to be extremely insightful and perceptive. She truly understands the theories and methods behind Nonviolent Communication. I always finish a session with Elly feeling more in control of both my emotions and my destiny. She’s a fantastic coach. I highly recommend her.”

Deanna Couras Goodson

Health and Wellness Coach, Self-employed, Austin

“I never dreamed the conflicts and arguments in my relationships could be overcome. I felt locked in a frustrating cycle of trying to talk, but seemingly always ending in an argument or worse: feeling emotionally disconnected. David and Elly have shown me a truth that has changed my life. Through their Nonviolent Communication teaching and loving compassion, I have learned how to listen for the first time. To hear others and in doing so open a world of peace and connection with those I care about most. NVC is so simple, but so effective.”
Harlan Hatter, Participant Nonviolent Communication practice group


Term 1: Collaboration

We work together to get you closer to your goals. You are willing to be honest and vulnerable. I offer nonjudgmental listening and surprising questions. We help you better understand your dreams, values, underlying beliefs.

As a result, good relationships get better, key stakeholders connect you to the shakers and doers to create systemic change, you have more energy to enjoy your family, and your team actively works together to find solutions for the problems.

Term 2: Meet All Needs

We trust that we both contribute to each other. We share our positive intentions and efforts, and accept our limitations. We practice being honest if we want something differently, and open to feedback. We work together to create an empathic and compassionate space, so you can experiment and reach your goals.

Elly's Immutable Laws

1. Compassion reigns

I open my heart to the suffering of others and stretch myself to contribute and bring joy.

2. Empathy works

I always try to understand the needs under each behavior, even ‘tragic expressions of unmet needs’.

3. Failure applause

I am learning to celebrate all my failings (and gosh, there are so many of them!) as signs of expanding myself and taking on new and challenging things, not as a reflection of my self-worth. Yep, the growth mindset.

4. Gratitude saves the day

I am aware of how much I’ve been given to, even without asking: sun, life, my parents, siblings, food, safety. I practice generosity and share my riches with others.

5. Own my stuff

I am responsible for how I am feeling and what I’m needing. I work on my Judge-Your-Neighbor sheets to transform blame of others into requests for help. I reflect on what I can do better myself, without shaming, blaming, or guilt-tripping myself. (Failure applause really helps with that).

6. Pet every puppy and kitten

I cannot do great things, only small things with great love. Did you know that petting dogs and especially cats strengthen the parasympathetic nervous system? Great for relaxing.

7. Smile to every child

Dostojevski advised us to smile every moment of the day because we never know when a child sees us. And we want to instill in them trust that the world is basically good and that people are kind. This might be the biggest impact we'll ever make to the future of our planet.

Mutual Trust and Respect

"Power based on mutual trust and respect makes people open to hearing one another, learning from one another, and giving to one another willingly out of a desire to contribute to one another’s well-being, rather than out of a fear of punishment or hope for a reward.” Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication.

Mindfulness and Thich Nhat Hanh

How has Thich Nhat Hanh inspired me? Oh gosh, where do I start? So much! His teachings have completely transformed my way of looking at our humanity. I remember him telling about trying to hammer a nail in the wall to hang a painting. His right hand accidentally hits his left thumb. But his left hand doesn’t grab the hammer and hits the right hand back in retaliation. Or blames and criticizes the right hand for being so clumsy, stupid, morone. Nor does his right hand tell his left hand to stop whining and man up. Or apologize frantically.

Nope. His right hand immediately comes to the rescue to nurture his left hand. Why? Because they see that they are part of the whole, they see their interdependence. They see that the happiness and suffering of the left and the right hand are interconnected.

When I look at my fellow beings, this insight helps me to transform judgments and withdrawal into compassionate curiosity: “How can I help?”

Nonviolent Communication and Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall Rosenberg has an incredible amount of insights that I find super helpful to build positive relationships. Reflect, before react. See the beautiful, precious, human needs in every thought, word, or action. Even in tragic expressions of unmet needs. Feelings arise from our thoughts and our needs being met or unmet. What others are doing is never the cause of our feelings, at most the stimulus. Emotional slavery, emotional obnoxiousness, emotional liberation.

After 11 years of study and practice, I still find something new and fresh in Nonviolent Communication every day.


And then there is love. This tender, sometimes raw feeling of love. For ourselves, For our brothers and sisters. For future generations. For animals. Plants. Our planet. For our higher power. From our higher power. Love that inspires us to relieve suffering and bring joy. What a blessing to nurture love in this world.