Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

The essence of human bravery


“The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.” Chögyam Trungpa, ‘Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior’

I always thought that difficult conversations are those where I want to express scary honesty or expect to hear a message of wrongness.

I never realized that difficult conversations include those where someone expresses a view of the world, themselves or others that seems very different from what I hold to be true.

Last week I saw a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. I knew she was going through a rough time, and imagined she would like to be greeted with some kindness. I give her a hug and express my care for her well-being. She starts talking about all the suffering and fear in her life.

I feel overwhelmed. I didn’t intend to talk about how you have to protect yourself against others. That’s not my experience. I have found most people friendly, willing to help, and open for connection.

I struggle how to handle her truth and honor my experience at the same time.

Then I remember something I learned in the Mediate Your Life retreat. When you mediate conflict, make sure your needs are heard and included too. Empathize with the other, reflect back what she says, and share how that lands for you. Express what you want and ask what she heard you say. Alternate this cycle of expression, reflection, expression, reflection till you both feel you are heard. That’s the moment when you can brainstorm how to support everyone’s needs.

So I practice mediating my own conflict. I listen, and reflect back her despair that her situation and suffering won’t change. I ask if this is what she tries to tell me. It is. Then I tell her that I feel confused and want clarity what she is asking of me by telling this: maybe she wants understanding, support, to be heard? She reflects me back, and tells me that she wants acceptance. She is afraid I will reject her, because she shared her vulnerability and her uncensored enemy images. I hear her need for acceptance. I want acceptance too, for my limited capacity to listen to her suffering and ability to help her. I want support and time to process what I heard.

Now that we both have a sense we are understood, we brainstorm together what we can do or say in this moment that would nurture all our needs.

That is actually pretty simple. She wants to hear me say that I see and accept her pain and despair, and that I am open to future connection. That is piece of cake. I’m happy to say that, because it is true.

And you know what? Because I included my needs, I look forward to our next connection as a beautiful opportunity to practice human bravery.


You want to learn to include your needs in difficult conversations? Contact me 512-589-0482.

I’m cleaning up with joy and energy

FriendshipI like a clean and organized house.

I’m not such a big fan of cleaning myself.

I rather go for a hike, read De Groene Amsterdammer, watch a documentary. Sitting in the sun and listening to the birds is nice too. Or hanging out with family and friends, my favorite hobby.

I have many, many things I would much rather do than cleaning

Not so yesterday.

My best friend Afrien is gonna visit me. Six weeks from now. From the Netherlands. Her first trip overseas by herself, ever. It is a big thing for her.

It is a big thing for me too. She is my first Dutch friend who makes the trip, besides my parents and two sisters.

I love her dearly. We’ve been friends for more than 36 years, and we’ll be friends for the rest of our lives, I hope. We’ve known each other through graduation, lost loves, pregnancies, settling in, divorce and -now- emigration. We know each other to the core of our souls. We don’t need much explaining, we just have an excitement to share and a curiosity to listen.

Yesterday I have a completely new cleaning experience

I’m noticing with how much joy and delight I’m cleaning the guest room. Afrien is coming! I imagine how relaxed she will be having this room to herself. How well she’ll sleep, and energized she’ll wake up. How much she’ll appreciate the order and spaciousness.

I’m not cleaning a room, I’m expressing my love for her.

This is not have to, this is want to. This is not my habit energy of working hard to get acceptance, this is an excitement to contribute.

Gosh, I never expected cleaning to leave me this happy and energized.


You’re curious how to do your chores with energy and joy? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482.

All you need is a little help from your friends

Once upon a time, in a country far, far away lived a king

He was lonely. He had no one to share his life, his love and his kingdom.

One day he decides to straddle his horse and find himself a queen. He searches through forest and beach, through mountains and plains, through deserts and snow, and finally finds her on the other side of the ocean. He is infatuated by her smile. She falls in love with his humor, his hands, his wisdom.

He takes her home as his happy bride

Then, one day, disaster strikes. A tornado hits the kingdom and destroys the barns, the crops, their livelihood. The kingdom weeps and the king desperately seeks money to help his people. To no avail.

Creditors bang on his door and threaten to take his stove away. They come back and threaten to take his furniture away. They come back and threaten to take his palace away.

As he gets more afraid, he starts to bark. He worked so hard, he gave it his all, and it turned into dust. His barks call on storms.

As she gets more sad, she starts to cry. She traveled the world, she gave him her best, and it was not enough. Her tears burn holes in the ground.


Then, one morning she wakes up and discovers flowers, where once there were holes. She sees the sun shine. She feels the warmth in her heart and the strength of her hands.

She is not alone in this. She has communities. She has friends and family. She can ask for help. She sits down and prays “Thank you for the prosperity I enjoy, the riches I can share. Thank you for everything I received and can give to others. Help me bring more prosperity and abundance into our lives.”

A kind soul from the East responds. “I am here to help. You are not alone. You have the answer in your heart. Your life energy will show you where to find the golden grain that will bring you wealth.”

And so the queen does. She helps a lady across the street and gets an apple. She plants the seed, and it bears fruit of silver and gold in the Fall. Enough to feed the kingdom.

Thanks to a little help from a friend.


All you need is a little help from your friends. Just ask.  Contact me at 512-589-0482 to see how I can help.


P.S.: Someone calls me as I write this blog. I just listen, open to celebrate her successes with Nonviolent Communication. At the end of our conversation I ask if she wants to engage my help. She says ‘yes’. The universe takes care of us in miraculous ways, if we are willing to surrender to life.


Grateful thanks to my beloved husband for his edits.

To live is to love and to lose

My friend left. For Ohio. 1600 Miles away. She packed her stuff, took her cats and drove off. I waved her goodbye this morning. I had to see her go away, to viscerally know that she left, that her house is empty, and that I can’t drop by for lunch.

I love her. She was my first and best friend here in Austin. She offered support, she inspired me, we juggled. But most of all, she was she. I realize that what I most appreciate about her, is not what she contributed, but whom she contributed: herself.

She lived a completely authentic life. She was independently herself. She made no compromises. Her first and foremost commitment was to be authentically herself. She pursued a musical career, when no one approved, she went to college in her forties, with two kids at home, she learned to fly a plane in her sixties, and now moves at 81.

She was upfront about her feelings, thoughts, needs, desires. I didn’t always like what she said, and I always respected it. There is something powerful when someone speaks their truth. You can take it, you can leave it, but you can’t change it.

She is my absolute role model for ferociously pursuing your dreams.

Wow. What a gift.

I miss her. I cried the full 30 minutes driving home. When I arrived, I sat in my car for a long time, lost, sad. I unpacked the loaf of bread, the avocado, the humus. Remnants of our last lunch together. I don’t have an appetite for it. Without her it can’t be yummy. I hardly even want to hug my husband. There is a void without her, a painful void.

Yet, I honor and celebrate her choice to follow her dream. I love her so much that I am willing to support any choice she makes, how painful it is for me.

Joan, thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being you.

To live is to love and to lose.

I am so happy that I love you, that I am willing to lose you.

This is for you, my beloved friend: Bach’s “Air” by Ton Koopman

Appreciation in 4 steps

There is a tender beauty in expressing appreciation. There is something precious in sharing how someone’s actions enriched your life. A little line of connection between two people on this earth, who care enough about each other to find joy in supporting each other.

Even if you only say “thank you”, you water the seeds of joy, love and trust within yourself. Appreciation reinforces awareness of everything you have and everything you receive that is positive, pure and good.

No matter how grim your circumstances seem, how dark your future, how gloomy your past, appreciation highlights the moments of joy, love and harmony that you do have.

My friend suggested four steps of appreciation. Three to express to your friend, partner, parent, sibling, neighbor. One to express to yourself.

1. Observations

You start with a specific observation of what the other person did. Simply, as if you are a fly on the wall who recorded the event with a camera. The less interpretations, evaluations, judgments, the easier it is for the other person to know what you are talking about.

2. Feelings

Then you share how you felt when you observed what happened. Maybe you felt happy, touched, relieved, proud, tender, joyful? You can use your physical experience to locate and connect to your feelings.

3. Needs

Then you share how the action of the other person nurtured a need in you. Needs are universal throughout space and time. All feelings point to universal, human needs we all share. Maybe your friend supported your need for support, acceptance, understanding, compassion? Sometimes sharing your needs feels a little vulnerable, because we own up to what is important to us. We are a little bit more seen than before, a little bit more naked.

4. Your contribution to the event

You end with acknowledging the qualities you brought to the table to invite this experience in your life. You appreciate your consciousness and choices that made this possible. Maybe you were courageous enough to ask for support. Maybe you are grateful enough to notice the unfolding leaves on the tree. Maybe you are helpful enough to support your friend in need. There is always something in you that made this experience possible.

You’ll notice a big shift in your experience of life, if you practice these four appreciation steps twice a day for one month. Start today. Life is too short to postpone what’s important.