My neighbor Jing walks around the block every night around 7:00 pm. She loves talking with the neighbors and uses a translation app to improve her rudimentary English. It’s a slow process, but I enjoy chatting with her and contributing to her fluency.
Today, I only have time for some simple greetings. It turns out her English is worse than I thought. She looks at me in bewilderment when I tell her, “Nice to see you.” She doesn’t answer my question, “How are you?” And when I say, “See you later,” she waves at me in confusion.
As I’m biking off, I realize that I wasn’t saying any of these things. Instead, I said, “Goed om je te zien.”, “Hoe gaat die met jou?”, and “Tot ziens!”
Without realizing it, I was speaking Dutch. Given that I had just come back from two weeks of taking care of my parents 24/7, with my sleep deficit and jetlag, it’s not surprising that my brain is foggy and doesn’t realize it’s back in the States.
Had I paused and checked if she understood me, I would have known that what I wanted to say was not what she was hearing.
Fortunately, our connection is positive enough that my blunder doesn’t have much of a negative impact.
But when relationships are under stress, misunderstandings aren’t brushed off lightly. Every interaction gets filtered through the lens of emotional baggage and enemy images, distorting confusion into malicious intent.
You don’t hear what the other person is saying as a tragic expression of unmet needs. You hear it as blame, defensiveness, criticism, contempt. Left to your own devices, you spiral down into mistrust.
Mediators have known this for a long time and have designed processes to help people resolve their conflicts in constructive ways. A mediator’s calming presence and firm leadership reduce the risk that conflicts turn into a screaming match.
As a credentialed mediator with the Texas Mediator Credentialing Association, I know the process and have improved it with the insights of Nonviolent Communication and Thich Nhat Hanh.
The result is a facilitated dialogue that nurtures mutual respect, dignity, and emotional safety and supports participants to find solutions that meet as many needs as possible.
As Catherine said:
“Working with you was pivotal for me. It helped me get over the enormous hurdle of really feeling heard and seen by my ex-husband, and helped me to finally feel forgiveness in my heart. I’m happy to report that my relationship with him is in a really good space, and also that our daughter is doing very well.
I will forever treasure you and the gift you gave me, of a framework for knowing and naming needs and feelings, and for making all the difference in what many people thought was an impossible situation for me. For that, I am profoundly grateful.”
Contact me if you want to know how my services can help you transform your conflict into collaboration.
Some things you just can’t do on Zoom. Like holding your friends’ hands while saying grace for food. Tucking your baby in at night and singing him a lullaby. Taking out the trash for your elderly neighbor.
So when my dad gets hospitalized in June, I fly out to support him and my mom. Calling him on the phone won’t get his hair brushed. Seeing my mom on Zoom won’t get her to the hospital. Empathy won’t help with cooking dinner. I need to be there in person.
Zoom is great, but not for everything.
The same is true for email. Wonderful if you want to appreciate what your colleague did. Use it to inform others of your upcoming travel plans. Very practical for sending your team the agenda of the meeting.
But don’t use it to express frustration or resolve conflict. Then the ‘enter’ button is your enemy. With just one click on a button, you risk ruining a relationship that probably already is challenging.
“Message sent, is not always message received” is true for any communication. But even more so with email. You cannot check the facial reactions as you talk, you don’t see the shift in body posture as you deliver your message, and you can’t notice the change in breathing as you share your frustration.
So it is very hard to know that your message is received the way you intended, not even if you ask them to email back a summary of your key points. How do you know they didn’t just copy and paste your text, let alone have true empathy for the underlying issue?
But resolving conflict by phone isn’t necessarily a good alternative either. Even though it has the immediacy of the interaction and the nonverbal cues of your voice, you don’t know if their silence means that they are reflecting on what you said or have put the phone down to do something else.
The best way to resolve conflict is to meet in person. Especially if you use Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Beginning Anew.” It is a sequence of sharing appreciation, regret, and then requests. The focus is on improving the relationship by nurturing honesty and empathy so that your requests are true requests, not camouflaged demands.
With practice, this process becomes second nature. But you do need to know that you are practicing the right way. That’s where coaching with a mindfulness coach comes in.
Since 2011, I have practiced with Thich Nhat Hanh’s community and taught many of my clients how to use this process. If you want to see if working with me would help you too, you can schedule a free discovery session with me.
It could help you wipe off the yuck of even the most contaminated relationships!
Use this link to schedule your free session.
Our landlord is coming over to walk through the house and yard to see what needs repair after the winter storm.
We haven’t had visitors for a year. The house has experienced a “Covid effect”. Items are scattered within easy reach, the living spaces are clean enough for our standards, and the off-camera parts are less presentable.
Just like Zoom-calls: our hair is combed, teeth are flossed, and our shirt looks clean, but we might be a little long between showers, our favorite sweatpants have holes, and the back of our hair isn’t trimmed.
In the few days before his visit, everything comes to a halt and we begin a decluttering and cleaning frenzy. By the time the landlord arrives, it’s as shiny as if Obama himself is coming over for a photoshoot.
We feel utterly satisfied with the result.
But not so much with the process.
If only we had listened to KonMari and gave everything away that didn’t spark joy. If only we had kept a regular schedule for cleaning and tidying. If only we had kept our backlog of chores in check.
If only, if only, if only.
In the busyness of everyday events and without the impetus of visitors, we were absorbed with what was right in front of us. The urgent distracted us from the less urgent, although equally important: order, harmony, and peace of mind.
I wonder if I am the only one who postpones the less urgent in favor of the urgent because we don’t see the price we pay for the postponement?
If you want to make sure that the important things get done with less stress, a coaching package might be your thing.
Some clients tell me a weekly review of their circumstances and choices is the best thing they have done for themselves in a long time.
Like having a visitor come over, the scheduled sessions of a package help you become clear about your intention, values, and priorities. As a result, you know what to ask for, of yourself or someone else, to accomplish your goals, and when to relax and celebrate you moving toward them.
This is what Maureen van den Akker, Senior Copywriter at Food Cabinet, said about working with me:
“What I really liked was that you just listen very well. And even though I sometimes found your questions difficult, I could somehow find out more about myself. And maybe start to appreciate myself more in the sense that I am a nicer person than I think I am. I got more out of it than I thought before we started. Those few conversations really took me a step further.
“The main result of working with you is seeing that I am not looking for something that is somewhere far on the horizon, the woman I want to be: confident and comfortable to be herself, who has the courage to be vulnerable. That she is not somewhere far away, but that it is somewhere in me and that it depends more on the circumstances whether she comes out.
“And that I can influence those circumstances. And maybe I can train it too, by taking a step every now and then. Looking for a situation where I feel vulnerable and then noticing that nothing bad happens after all. Maybe that’s how the self-confident me can come up more often.”
Do you want to talk about how this might work?
- Email me
- Or call me at 512-589-0482
- No strings attached, I always like talking to you even if you end up not working with me.
P.S. Current packages have 6 sessions to be scheduled within 8 weeks for $840. Only sign up for it, if you believe the value you will get is worth 5 times your money.
P.S. The idea of the urgent and important comes from general Eisenhower.