Coaching for Nonprofit Leaders

Transform Conflict into Collaboration

The one thing you can do when you have lied

“Did you see the email I sent you? I was wondering if you were back from the Netherlands?” My best friend invited me for lunch. We are enjoying a chia bowl.

I had seen it. Two days ago. But I felt too discombobulated to reply after my traveling. And I didn’t want to answer without offering a time-slot to get together.

Don’t ask me why. I could have just written: “Great hearing from you! Yes, I am back and I would love to get together.” But I didn’t.

Her question comes as a surprise. I feel ashamed that I had been unresponsive. In a split second, I hear myself say: “No, I haven’t.”

As soon as I do, I regret it. And I feel stuck. I want to be honest and I’m afraid that admitting my lie would spoil our delightful lunch.

Coming home, I realize that I want to tell her the truth to support my self-respect and integrity. I also dread doing it. It’s like eating a rotten sandwich and knowing you will feel horrible. The difference is that I trust that she will empathize.

Fortunately, I have enough practice with Nonviolent Communication to know that the dread is a messenger of precious, universal, human needs. I ask David, my husband, and Saskia, my sister, to help me find those needs.

Their empathy helps. I see how much I care for her and how much I want to be seen as a caring and responsive friend.

It takes some deep breathing to overcome the fear of being found out as a person with no integrity. When I call her, I tell her that I had read the email when she asked about it. She laughs: she has been in similar situations.

After I hang up, I have grown an inch. I choose my values over my fears. I feel super proud of myself.

I am not sure that I could have done it without my supportive community. They always help. They encourage me to grow into who I want to be and accept me even when I carry shame for my actions.

You might benefit from such a community too. Whether you want to be honest, be an advocate for racial justice, lose weight, apply for a new job, or work on your marriage.

A community helps you clarify your values and aspirations, encourage you to face your fears and act with integrity anyway, brainstorm to find strategies that help you live your purpose, and celebrate your success and oops as learning opportunities.

The October 5, 2021 I’m starting a new coaching group: Pledj. It’s an acronym of Peace, Love, Equanimity, Delight, and Joy. This is for you, if you want to live in integrity and work on your aspirations.

Some details:

  • Six bi-weekly group meetings on Zoom
  • You will be paired with an empathy buddy for the in-between weeks
  • Topics like failing and learning, feelings and needs, emotional liberation, shame and self-worth, autonomy, and purpose.
  • Max six participants, one spot left
  • $438 in full or monthly payments of $75

Bonus: you will have access to a virtual platform so you can stay in touch with each other.


Email me

The one thing you can do when you lied

“Did you see the email I sent you? I was wondering if you were back from the Netherlands?” My best friend invited me for lunch. We are enjoying a chia bowl.

I had seen it. Two days ago. But I felt too discombobulated to reply after my traveling. And I didn’t want to answer without offering a time slot to get together.

Don’t ask me why. I could have just written: “Great hearing from you! Yes, I am back and I would love to get together.” But I didn’t.

Her question comes as a surprise. I feel ashamed that I had been unresponsive. In a split second, I hear myself say: “No, I haven’t.”

As soon as I do, I regret it. And I feel stuck. I want to be honest and I’m afraid that admitting my lie would spoil our delightful lunch.

Coming home, I realize that I want to tell her the truth to support my self-respect and integrity. I also dread doing it. It’s like eating a rotten sandwich and knowing you will feel horrible. The difference is that I trust that she will empathize.

Fortunately, I have enough practice with Nonviolent Communication to know that the dread is a messenger of precious, universal, human needs. I ask David, my husband, and Saskia, my sister, to help me find those needs.

Their empathy helps. I see how much I care for her and how much I want to be seen as a caring and responsive friend.

It takes some deep breathing to overcome the fear of being found out as a person with no integrity. When I call her, I tell her that I had read the email when she asked about it. She laughs: she has been in similar situations.

After I hang up, I have grown an inch. I choose my values over my fears. I feel super proud of myself.

I am not sure that I could have done it without my supportive community. They always help. They encourage me to grow into who I want to be and accept me even when I carry shame for my actions.

You might benefit from such a community too. Whether you want to be honest, be an advocate for racial justice, lose weight, apply for a new job, or work on your marriage.

A community helps you clarify your values and aspirations, encourages you to face your fears and act with integrity anyway, brainstorm to find strategies that help you live your purpose, and celebrate your success and oops as learning opportunities.

The second week of September I’m starting a new coaching group: Pledj. It’s an acronym for Peace, Love, Equanimity, Delight, and Joy. This is for you if you want to live in integrity and work on your aspirations.

Some details:

  • Six bi-weekly group meetings on Zoom
  • You will be paired with an empathy buddy for the in-between weeks
  • Topics like failing and learning, feelings and needs, emotional liberation, shame and self-worth, autonomy, and purpose.
  • Max six participants, one spot left
  • $438 in full or monthly payments of $75

Bonus: you will have access to a virtual platform so you can stay in touch with each other.

Leave a comment if you have an interest in joining.

Honor Culture and Conflict Coaching

On the day my neighbors move out, I hang out with the kids while they pack their car. At the end of their final check through the house, they turn off the air conditioner.

A few days later, a handyman paints the kitchen cabinets and turns it back on. This makes sense, it is 86 degrees outside.

The next day I still hear the air conditioner running. Since I know there is no one in the house, I get triggered by thoughts around the waste of energy. But, maybe I am mistaken and there are folks back working in the house today.

Three days later, I still haven’t seen any cars on the driveway or heard any sounds in the house. I get upset enough to go over and see why the AC is running 18 hours a day while no one benefits from it.

I ring the doorbell. No one answers. I walk around the house. No one there either.

I do see a leaking hose and washed-off paint on the lawn. And a completely open kitchen window. A freezing air greets me as I walk toward it.

Thoughts about global warming and polar bears losing their habitat race through my mind.

I owe it to them to do something about it. I climb through the window and turn off the air conditioner. It was set at 68 Fahrenheit. No wonder it’s running day and night.

I only think of the Texas Castle Doctrine when I climb back outside. It’s a law that allows Texan homeowners to use deadly force to protect themselves against an armed intruder. I think of myself as an innocent, albeit somewhat weird, lady, but how would they know I wasn’t carrying a weapon?

It’s something I never, ever was afraid of in the Netherlands. Not that climbing through windows was my habit, but walking around the house or peeking inside when looking for your neighbor is quite normal over there.

And I certainly was never afraid of someone pointing a shotgun at me.

That’s because the Netherlands is primarily a dignity culture while Texas is mainly an honor culture.

This is what Ryan Brown, a Social Psychologist and Managing Director for Measurement at Rice University writes on his website about honor cultures:

“Social scientists say that a society exhibits an honor culture when the defense of reputation plays an incredibly important role in social life (in more technical terms, reputation maintenance is a “central organizing theme” in that society). For men in a typical honor culture, the kind of reputation that is highly prized is a reputation for toughness and bravery. Men in honor cultures want to be known as someone that others ought not to take lightly.

Because of the importance placed on reputation maintenance, honor cultures allow or even expect people to defend themselves aggressively when threatened, even if the threat is not a physical one. So, when men in an honor culture are insulted or their honorable qualities are called into question, they often go to extremes to prove their mettle.”

Honor culture impacts how vulnerable populations are treated. People who can’t protect life and stock might be loved, but they are not respected as members of society. Often suicide rates among older men are high, mental health issues are not addressed, and sharing your feelings and needs is seen as a weakness.

In such a culture, it can be hard to get support for your organization’s mission around dignity for those at the bottom of societies’ hierarchy, racial justice, and ecological concern.

Schedule a coaching package with me, if you want to explore how to navigate the influence of culture on your impact.

You get 10% off if you enter “honor2021” in the coupon field. So that is $810, instead of $900.

The coupon expires on Juneteenth 19, 2021.

Read more about Texas “Stand your Ground-Castle Doctrine”.

“Actually, this one”

Eddie, my 2-year old neighbor kid, is fascinated by anything garbage. Garbage trucks, garbage men, garbage bins.

Every Friday he puts on his “I love garbage” t-shirt, his “garbage fan” baseball cap, and follows the garbage truck with his dad.

Sadly my neighbors are moving out today. I am hanging out with Eddie, while they pack.

Since it is garbage pick-up day, we walk around the block, looking for the garbage trucks. They haven’t come yet.

Eddie doesn’t care, garbage bins are just as exciting. He stops at every bin, points at them, and says “Actually, this one”. Maybe a bit more like “Ashually, cis one.”

“You want to see what’s inside it?”

He looks at me stunned, clearly not expecting his dream to come true.

“Yeah.”

“Step back a little, so your face doesn’t touch the bin. I think it’s dirty.”

He happily obliges, knowing that he won’t get to see the treasures inside unless he does. With his hands behind his back, he looks at it for more than 10 seconds. Mesmerized with the white trash bag that’s in it.

“Actually, this one.”

He runs off and points at a compost bin. Same instructions, same mesmerized look. He carefully examines the leaves, grass, orange peels, and rotting kale. It is clearly the most interesting thing he has ever seen.

“Actually, this one.”

He runs over to each bin on the street and looks at its contents with the same delight as if he is looking at the cutest puppy on planet earth.

Even when bin number 19 is topped with fermenting pizza and wriggling maggots, he doesn’t back away with the slightest glimmer of disgust on his face. He looks at it like a professor studying his favorite topic, hands on his back, enthralled with magical bins.

Gosh, if I could have the same earnest wonderment when hearing criticisms, blame, demands, anger.

Just like trash, these are experiences that people dump on the street, maybe in your ears. My instinctual reaction is to back away with disgust. Or annoyance or frustration. Maybe even some righteous indignation that I deserve better than this “verbal abuse”.

But Eddie inspires me to have more openhearted curiosity and listen a little better. Perhaps not take these tragic expressions of unmet needs personally. To understand that they contain a precious request, “Hey, I want to process these painful feelings and unhelpful thoughts. Can you help me to figure out a better way to meet my needs?

In my free webinar “Tragic Expressions of Unmet Needs”, I offer insights and practices to help you be an empathetic listener to anger, blame, demands, and criticisms.

Hopefully, you walk away with:

  • Understanding what a check-engine light has to do with needs
  • A simple trick to translate blame and accusation into requests, without manipulation
  • A neat cheat sheet to put up on your fridge for when you get stuck, so you avoid using words that will make things worse
  • The one thing you need to do whenever you hear criticisms, blame, demands, and anger and have more closeness
  • The fun of failure applause so you feel excited to keep practicing empathy for hard-to-hear messages, even when you fail

Friday, May 21, 2021, from 9:00-10:00 am CST.

Sign-up here.

Listen on Spotify

by Elly van Laar

Don’t worry, your unpleasant feelings are here to stay

Fun fact one, at least for me, since I love gardening: St. Augustine grass grows well in the shade.

Fun fact two: St. Augustine spreads by stolons, also known as runners: “mother” clones that form “daughter” sprouts which spread and weave soft, thick mats of greenness.

Fun fact three: these stolons put out thin, almost invisible roots that grow at least 10 inches into the ground.

St. Augustine grass is here to stay. That would be great if I want to see my water consumption triple in July and August. And not so great since I want to be eco-conscious and want to make my yard drought-tolerant.

Since I am crazy about attracting butterflies, birds, and bees, I decide to replace part of our lawn with a bed for native plants that attract them. After the heavy rainfall this weekend, the soil is soft enough to dig up the grass in a spot more or less 6 by 12 feet.

I start super enthusiastically. Halfway through and covered in mud, I am totally discouraged, At 6:30 pm and 3 hours into the project, I only removed half of the grass.

Since my goal is to end up with flowers and wildlife and not perfection, I change strategies to “good enough”.  I remove enough grass to help the native plants establish themselves but not more. I will defer to pulling out grass if it comes back.

This change in strategy reminds me of facilitated dialogues.

In this work, the goal is to create enough compassion and understanding to help you find solutions for your issues.

You don’t have to dig up every trauma when you want to tell your teammate that you have gotten triggered when he talks more than 80% of the time in a meeting with 13 other team members. Instead, you can focus on how to meet his need for respect for his expertise and the need for respect for other team members.

When you want to tell your colleague that you rather work on a grant application than chat about what she did over the weekend, you don’t have to go into the details of how your pregnancy is impacting your attention. You can just agree to start your meetings with 2 minutes of appreciation to build trust and understanding.

You don’t have to share how your ex-partner’s angry outbursts got you to file for a divorce. It is already a win if you can talk constructively about how much time your daughter can be on social media when she is with him.

This is what a few happy clients wrote me:

“For me, the biggest thing is that we’re both trying so hard, and I think that is making the biggest difference. We’re both really committed to making it work. I have way more trust in A. than I did before. I’m hopeful, and I feel good about where this is going.”, S.B., Team leader, Foundation Communities

“I agree 100 percent. Last month was extremely hard to where I was taking it home, and I was replaying conversations, and it was stressful and almost to the point of me not wanting to work here anymore. So I feel like now we both can come in and do our jobs successfully since we both have huge responsibilities. We’re going through so much right now that for us to come in and be the best that we could be, something had to give with the tension that was in the air. I’m really grateful for our time with Elly, and I feel like we both can be more productive in our jobs through this process.”, A.O., Team leader, Foundation Communities

“The facilitated dialogues are very, very helpful and give me the promise of and the felt experience of an alternate way of interacting. One thing I have really appreciated about Elly is her neutral stance. Because I had very, very little sympathy for my ex-husband. In her neutral stance and giving equal time to paraphrasing him and me, she has helped me develop compassion for him. There have been times when I said: “You need to do this with him, You need not do this with him, You need to speak up.” I think I’ve tried to be directive with her because I know him well. I appreciate that she has resisted any temptation. She has not shown me or him a preference for one of us over the other. That’s a very new experience for me, which benefits me.”, C.M., Organization Development Consultant, Austin

Do you want to see if a facilitated dialogue can help you with your issue? Comment on this post.

Get moving!

My 90-year old uncle is the first to arrive at my Zoom-birthday party. Then my team leader from my work in mental health facilities. Third, my former buddy from my Dutch improv theatre group and her family.

And my beloved dorm friend, childhood friend, business buddy, brothers, sister+boyfriend, the American exchange student who lived with us when I was 16. The aunt and uncle I was a bridesmaid of at age five. Of course my hubby.

And halfway through the introductions, my parents join with party hats and plastic flower strings wrapped around their necks and sing a birthday song. 16 Screens throw their arms in the air and holler “Hieperdepiep, hoera! Hieperdepiep, hoera! Hieperdepiep, hoera!”

Three times because Dutch people like to party, even if only on Zoom.

And as much as I love all of it, I do miss in-person parties. Nothing can replace a hug, moving around from one group to another, looking into real eyes.

And the normalcy of silent moments, of quiet reflection before speaking.

This last year I have done all my coaching and mediation on Zoom.

It works, surprisingly, very well.

And I am ready for coaching in person.

More specifically, coaching while walking, so we can take our masks off and be safe. (But you can leave yours on, of course)

You might be ready for in-person coaching too and let the natural pauses in the conversation help you reflect on your goals and aspirations.

You might want some outdoor time after being stuck at home behind a computer while trying to homeschool your first grader for a year. Or sixth-grader. Or highschooler.

And even though you are proficient at participating in meetings on Zoom, even running them yourself, you might like to move your feet instead of navigating the software.

Enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of Texas spring after wearing a mask at work all day.

And let the environment inspire you to look at your situation from a fresh perspective.

You choose how long we meet, as long as it is more than 1 hour. You simply pay $175 per hour, prorated.

Since this is a new offer, I will pay for the time I spent biking or driving to our meeting place, as long as it is within 11.2 miles of my home (which will get us to McKinney Falls State Park, yeah!).

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.”

Since many of my clients are early morning people, I will meet you as early as 7:00 am.

Do you want to talk about how this might work?

  • Email me
  • Or call me at 512-589-0482
  • No strings attached, pinky promise: I always like talking to you even if you don’t want to take me up on this offer