Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

This is how hairspray in your armpit can help with your sense of community

I’m getting ready for my first in-person meeting with my fellow mediators since the start of the Covid-lockdown in 2020.

Meeting in person requires a different prep than meeting on Zoom or with a mask. No garlicky hummus for breakfast. Flossing my teeth to remove celery leftovers. Ironing my skirt.

And putting on deodorant to prevent yucky body odors. I haven’t used the deodorant in a while as I’ve been home most of the time. So I feel surprised that it smells like my hairspray.

I don’t think much of it, till I’m on my bike. All of a sudden I realize that it is hairspray. On my last trip I had filled the travel bottle, that I normally fill with deodorant, with hairspray.

In my eagerness to be on time, I didn’t pay attention. I was too excited to finally see my friends in their fullness and not just as two-dimensional faces in a square box.

Fortunately, the bike ride is only five minutes and it’s barely 80 degrees. Not enough to trigger a sweat, so the deodorant wouldn’t have made much of an impact.

What does make an impact are the smiles, hugs, “Hey, can you pass the pizza”, and talking and laughing with the people left and right of me.

Meeting in person is so much richer than virtually. It’s easier to use our sight and hearing to understand someone’s experience. We can convey closeness by handshakes and hugs. We see our shared humanity when we pass the bowl of chocolate around.

That’s why the second leadership circle for nonprofit leaders will be in person too. We start in the first week of May.

Current participants appreciate the warmth and closeness that comes from being in physical proximity and value the community-building component.

They find relief in hearing that they are not alone and that their peers are experiencing the same challenges as they do. Seeing the common threads in those challenges inspires fresh perspectives. They value a sense of peace, knowing that others are struggling with similar issues.

Now, this is not for everyone. For one, this circle is only for nonprofit leaders in middle or upper management. For two, it takes the right personality to get something out of this type of group.

That’s why you can schedule a free discovery session to see if you have that kind of personality.

Schedule your free discovery session.

P.S. I might bring vegan pizza to the first meeting. And I promise that I will use the right deodorant.

“It’s okay to be white.” Really?!

There’s a Ziploc bag on our lawn. With a stone in it. And a leaflet. “You don’t have to feel guilty because you’re white”.

I see one on my neighbor’s lawn too. And on Gloria’s. And Gregg’s. And Matt and Mei’s, and their four and six-year-old daughters. I pick them up one by one, I don’t want the girls to accidentally see them.

Some have the most egregiously racist cartoons I have ever seen. Worse than the ones I’ve seen from the early 1900s. Some have a swastika. A white mother, her blond hair braided in typical nazi style, holding a white baby. Underneath it: “Stop white genocide”. Sender: the Aryan Freedom Network.

My amygdala is running in overdrive, triggering my flight reaction. My prefrontal cortex and hippocampus are taking a back seat.

I text some trusted neighbors for advice. Within minutes, it is reported to the police and the Anti-Defamation League. Two hours later we have an impromptu neighborhood gathering with our council member Kathie Tovo.

When I arrive, I see some 40 people in the circle. Kathie shares that we are not the first neighborhood to be hit with these hate bombs. My neighbors respond resolutely that we will do what it takes to keep our neighborhood free from hate, racism, and white supremacy.

When I summarize what everyone has said, it is clear which actions we agree on.

We put up signs “Neighbors United Against Hate” and “All Are Welcome, Except White Supremacists”. A group app is created to keep each other informed. We reach out to those most at risk. A meet-and-greet is adopted as common practice.

When I leave, I feel so grateful that we came together to listen to each other, generate new ideas, and came up with a plan.

You too might benefit from the wisdom of others: your neighbors in the nonprofit world.

Your rock will be different than mine.

It can be a CEO who is constantly pushing through new policies and pushing out your colleagues as a result. Or the nagging thought that you don’t bring enough of yourself to your team. Or the hours you spend to resolve conflict within your team.

But like the Ziploc bags, there are overall similarities between them.

Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to people who have had a similar experience? Someone who can listen and maybe share how they responded?

Coming together won’t change your situation, but it can be so empowering and relieving to know you’re not alone.

The Leadership Circles for nonprofit leaders offer that. In April I start a new one. Contact me if you have an interest.

Schedule your interview here.

How my toilet visit at La Palma can help you with conflict resolution

Habits are hard to break. And when they have been cultivated over the years, your body will execute those habits without your mind ever having to think about it.

Driving our car is an example. Brushing our teeth. Chopping the veggies. And throwing toilet paper in the toilet bowl after wiping our butt.

Usually, that’s not a problem. But here on La Palma, it is. The sewer system can’t handle more than a few sheets a day. In each and every bathroom, there is a friendly reminder to throw your paper in the wastebasket.

Of course, I’m all for keeping the sewer system unclogged, so I am adamant about complying with the request.

Unfortunately, I fail more than 70% of the time. No matter how mindful I’m breathing while on the potty, how much I use the tools for building new habits, and bang myself on the head when I fail: my hand automatically drops the paper in the loo.

Since I’m not willing to drag them out, I regretfully have to flush them away, keeping my fingers crossed that the sewer system doesn’t spill over on my bathroom floor.

As yucky as all of this might sound, it can be a good image to keep in mind, the next time you react to anger and criticism.

If building new toilet habits is hard, building new conflict resolution skills is even harder because our needs for respect, self-worth, and emotional safety are on the line.

We need to pay attention to the friendly reminders for mindfulness, or we end up seeing those needs float in a yucky interaction.

Worse, the communication channel gets clogged with enemy images and future interactions will be contaminated with the residues of this one.

There is a better response: empathy. When we listen to the precious needs behind the tragic expression of unmet needs, we can drop our judgments and evaluations and decrease the risk that we have to get down on our hands and knees to clean up the distasteful remains of our relationship.

How important would that be to you? Which relationships could benefit from your ability to stop your habitual reflex to conflict and instead choose a mindful response? How would your life be different?

If you imagine life would be yummier, you might enjoy signing up for my free webinar “Mindful Conflict Resolution”.

Not only will you hear how to empathize skillfully but you will also get two other tools to help to transform conflict into collaboration. Make sure you reserve your spot: I only have a few left.

This is what Charlie Rice says about the webinar:

“I appreciated that you kept the discussions pretty brief and spent most of the time going over your material. These strategies will really help me going forward and it is so nice to have a framework to practice.” – Charlie Rice, Austin

Sign up here.

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”.