Coaching for Nonprofit Leaders

Based in Austin – Specialized in Empathy and Self-Compassion

Making requests is NOT about getting what you want. It is about building relationships.

Making requests is NOT about getting what you want.

Making requests is about collaboration. More precisely, it is about building relationships. It is about turning to your friend, and engaging them in a creative process to support all needs, yours, theirs, and those who are impacted by your strategy, even those in future or far away places. (After all, you don’t want to walk away happily with your solution, if others suffer the consequences of your choices).

Image courtesy to everydaylife.globalpost.comI believe it takes honesty and empathy to build relationships.

Honesty, so you can share your feelings and needs, and where you are coming from. Empathy, so you can listen wholeheartedly to what comes up for them as they hear more about your inner world.

Imagine a friends tells you -in a moment of disconnect- that you’re full of yourself.


That hit you unexpectedly hard. You wait with responding, till you received enough empathy for your pain. Then you invite your friend for tea. You remember Thich Nhat Hanh’s invitation to start with appreciation, so you start by telling your friend how she contributed to your needs. This first step immediately conveys you’re invested in the relationship, that you care about her, and that you’re talking about her behavior, not her as a person. It helps your friend to open up to your request for help, and not close down in anticipation of an attack on her as a person. This is about connecting, not criticizing.

The second step is sharing a regret, something you wished you had done differently. This shows you acknowledge you are in this relationship together, that you are co-responsible for the dynamic.

Then, finally: the request. Simply observation, feelings, needs. “When I heard you say I was full of myself, I felt hurt, upset and anxious. I want to be seen for my sincere intention and efforts to contribute to joy. I want acceptance and understanding when I fail to do so. What did you hear me say?”

I LOVE that question! Just checking how your message was heard. Did they hear blame? ‘I feel, because you did.’ Or did they hear self-responsibility? ‘I feel, because I need.’

The second question? “How does that land for you?”

After all, you want to build the relationship, so you want to understand what is going on for them, before you continue with a solution request. You want to establish connection, before you try to resolve the situation. You want to bring your relationship to the next level.

Honesty and empathy it is all you ever need.


You want help to be honest and empathic in your relationships? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.

Everything always starts with connection

You want to ask for a raise. You have been working in this job for several years, and you feel confident that you add value. You want appreciation for the unique qualities you bring to your clients, acknowledgment for the results you’ve accomplished, and support for your financial sustainability.

You feel anxious even thinking about it. Expressing yourself vulnerably, is just not something you’re good at. You have some shame around your feelings and needs, and you fear rejection, ridicule or simple lack of interest. How can you ask for support for your needs?

It starts with connection.

Everything always starts with connection:

Sharing your feelings and needs. Your fear, your anxiety, your vulnerability. Your needs for acceptance and support. Maybe just your needs, if your boss is not a touchy-feely person.

You can ask for a reflection to make sure that the message intended is the message received. The other person might hear blame, or that you’re playing the victim, or a demand, even if that was not your message. Asking for a reflection allows you to clarify your message.

You can also ask for a response. Maybe she feels irritated, upset, or embarrassed. Maybe she needs understanding, connection, or acceptance. Giving her space to tell what’s going on for her deepens the connection.

This connection creates a context for your request.

Well. That’s easier said than done!

At least for me. I so often struggle with asking for what I want, that I often don’t even try.

The Mediate Your Life Intensive helped me.

We did a neat exercise: ‘the need behind the no’. You share your need for appreciation, acknowledgment, and support. You share your vulnerability and anxiety. You make a present-tense, action-oriented, positive-language request: “I want to earn $20 an hour starting next week.”

Your practice partner says ‘no’.

Hum? That’s not what you want! You’re stuck… Now what?

Well, the simple next step is to ask your partner which needs would be unfulfilled if he would say ‘yes’! Invite him to think of something that would support his needs and your needs!

To you it probably sounds as simple as 1+1=2. For me it was an eye-opener.

Engage your partner in a collaborative effort to brainstorm solutions that nurture ALL needs.

Not just his, not just yours, but everyone’s.

I’m gonna practice this right now with you, hoping to support your need for choice, and my needs for connection, acceptance and support.

It’s about my blog. I feel tender, excited and honored when I imagine you subscribe to my blog, because you find it funny, interesting, and encouraging. More subscriptions help me build an ‘author platform’ and -eventually- publish my book. Are you willing to decide today if you want to subscribe? I post five blogs a week, it is free, and you can always and easily end it. And if not, are you willing to share in one sentence why not? To support our need for understanding, and hopefully connection?


Empathy helps. It always does.

You wake up in the morning and you are already dreading the conversation with this parent in the afternoon. You fear he will blame you for the poor grades of his daughter. You don’t like these difficult conversations. You anticipate conflict, and want connection. You want tools to listen to and talk with the angry parent and maintain your inner calm.
Maybe it is not a parent, but your boss. Or your colleague. Or your spouse. Or even yourself.



Empathy helps. It always does.



We all share the same human needs, and if we focus on those -no matter how the other person expresses him/herself- we immediately create connection. Because we understand what it is like to want support, or respect, or belonging, or to be heard, or to matter. We all have these beautiful, universal needs.



Now the discussion is not about being right or wrong, your way or the high way, it is about finding ways to support all needs. It is about being creative enough to find strategies that everyone likes.



And that’s possible.

Image courtesy to


Nonviolent Communication helps us to capture a language of feelings and needs that supports connection. It is easy to learn and effective to use. A community helps to practice this language in a safe setting, so we can experiment with new behavior and set ourselves up for success.


I am honored and happy to invite you to our Communication for Connection Practice Group. We meet every Monday, 7-9 pm, 6405 Culpepper Cove, Austin, TX 78730. Suggested donation $10. We can also work one on one to help you learn these compassionate communication skills.


Contact me if you want to see if the group or individual work is a good match for you, 512-589-0482.

Mediation between kids

Friendship“Informal mediation is sticking your nose into other people’s business without being asked.” (Marshall Rosenberg)

I often do informal mediation between my two nanny kids, with more or less success. Today I applied what I just read in the Mediate Your Life manual. When you mediate on the spot, between two parties who didn’t ask you to do so, you make quick, short, snappy empathy guesses and you go back and forth without asking the other party to reflect.

This suggestion turns out to be very helpful.

My usual process is to spend minutes empathizing with one kid, before listening to the other -often leaving the one not listened to more and more agitated as they hear their sibling say things that are totally different from their experience. Today I ask Maya to tell me the most important thing she wants me to hear. I listen to her frustration and upset, I listen to her needs. I get her. Then I tell her that I’m gonna ask Kiran the most important thing he wants me to know, before I get back to her for her second message. She is willing to wait. Knowing that I’ll be back is enough reassurance that she’ll get the listening she wants.

So I listen to him. I hear his feelings and needs. I get him and tell him that I’ll listen to Maya’s second message, before I’ll return to him.

Maya asks what Kiran said. I tell her that I’m not doing that yet. That I first want to understand the most important things of both of them, one message at a time, before I ask for reflections and responses. She settles in. I empathize a little bit more with her frustration and upset. I get her need for fairness. She relaxes into the experience of listening and support and waits patiently for my return after my second Kiran-round.

Kiran doesn’t have a second message. He is ready to play.

When I come back to Maya, she has received so much listening, acceptance, connection, understanding and support that she, too, is ready for something else.

And off they go, to color pages.

Life is so sweet when you have the tools to mediate conflict.


You want to learn to mediate conflict? Contact me 512-589-0482. I think I can help!

Mediating conflict with empathy, 2

Image courtesy to freedesignfile.comSo I here I am at Hoppin House trying to figure out how to talk with the parents of the kid, who apparently said “f… you” and support Maya’s needs for safety and respect, my need for acceptance and safety, and the parents’ and kid’s needs, probably for safety, acceptance and respect too. I am not looking forward to the conversation and need some self-connection first.

I breath in and out.

I remember Thich Nhat Hanh‘s advice to ask for help when you’re upset.

That I can do.

I walk up to the table. “Hi, I am Elly and I need your help. My girl…” I interrupt myself. The kid shows up. Maybe just five years old. I want to be transparent and support his sense of emotional safety. I don’t want to talk about him as if he were not here. I look him in the eyes and say gently “Hi, I’m Elly, what’s your name?” “AJ” “My girl is upset, because she heard you say ‘fuck off’.” “I didn’t say that! I didn’t say that! I didn’t say that! I didn’t say that!”, he yells. I see him fidgeting with his fingers, fumbling his shirt. I hear his mom tell him to apologize, and I remember “Empathy first.”

“Are you scared you will get into trouble with your mom?” He looks down, nodding ‘yes’. “Are you scared you will be punished?” Wildly nodding ‘yes’. “Do you want your mom to love you, no matter what you do?” His head still hanging down, nodding ‘yes’. “Maybe you want to walk over to your mom, and hear her say that she loves you?” Nodding ‘yes’, more quietly. He walks over to his mom, she looks at him, with some sweetness in her eyes. She seems to be telling him non-verbally ‘It’s okay, I’m not mad. Let’s work this out.’ I take a break. “Do you want your mom and me to know that you want to play in a way that works for everyone?” ‘Yes’ “Do you want me to go over to my girl and tell her that?” ‘Yes’ “Do you want to hear that I am not angry with you, and that I rather be friends with you?” ‘Yes’ “Can you look me in the face, and see I’m not angry?” He finally looks up, still a little scared, just a little puppy. He has a faint smile on his face. I touch his shoulders “Thank you!” He seems relieved as he runs off to play again.

When we leave an hour later, I say goodbye to a table full of smiling faces.


Do you want help to resolve conflicts in a way that creates connection? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.