Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

NEW! The conflict translation app

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.

You can’t wipe a butt on Zoom

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.

Here’s one good reason to blame and bitch as much as you want

Our lease won’t be renewed. By April 30, we have to move out of the home we’ve lived in for the last seven and a half years.

My mind goes into overdrive and is bombed with angry thoughts, judgments, blame, and enemy images about the whole situation. Feelings of shame volunteer as the red button for a nuclear missile, ready to destroy whatever is in the way.

Despite 11 years of practicing mindfulness, my loving-kindness for our shared humanity flies out the window like a white balloon trying to defend itself against the missile.

I bitch, blame, and complain with my younger sister. And my older sister. With my best friend. And another best friend. My neighbors. My mindfulness community.

It’s a soap opera of jackal shows, as Marshall Rosenberg would call it. He used jackal puppets to represent that part of ourselves that thinks, speaks, or acts in ways that disconnect us from our awareness of our feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of others.

The jackal doesn’t have a lot of empathy for others nor for ourselves. It rather points out what’s wrong with everyone. It divides the world into good guys and bad ones, victims and perpetrators. Usually, the jackal places us in the first camp, but not always.

To symbolize empathy, Marshall Rosenberg used the giraffe. With its big heart, it has the capacity to love everyone. And its long neck helps it to see the beautiful, universal, human needs of everyone.

But sometimes jackals are all we have. If they take over the stage of our mind, we need giraffes in the audience to translate the bitching, blaming, and complaining into precious, beautiful, universal, human needs.

Fortunately, my family and friends are up for the challenge. And with each conversation, my jackals relax. They are being heard for their precious needs in their tragic expression of unmet needs. The threat of a local nuclear war dissipates.

When we see and accept the needs in our bitching, blaming, and complaining, we can make requests of ourselves or others. And requests have a higher likelihood to get people excited to meet those needs than guilt-tripping, blaming, or shaming them.

If you have your own jackal show running on Broadway, you want to sell tickets to a giraffe audience that can translate your script about what’s wrong with everyone into a script about what would make your life more beautiful.

But pay attention! Some jackals dress up like giraffes and instead of offering empathy, they offer sympathy, one-upping, commiserating, consoling, or advising.

That’s why we start each Leadership Circle for Nonprofit Leaders by agreeing that we bring giraffes to empathize.

After all, we don’t want to blow up our theater by feeding angry thoughts, judgments, blame, enemy images, and shame till they explode.

In the first week of May, we start a new circle. Six bi-weekly sessions, max eight participants.

Schedule your free discovery session to check that your giraffes follow our dress code.

Marshall Rosenberg is the founder of Nonviolent Communication. Watch this video in which he explains the jackal show.

Our lease won’t be renewed. By April 30, we have to move out of the home we’ve lived in for the last seven and a half years.

My mind goes into overdrive and is bombed with angry thoughts, judgments, blame, and enemy images about the whole situation. Feelings of shame volunteer as the red button for a nuclear missile, ready to destroy whatever is in the way.

Despite 11 years of practicing mindfulness, my loving-kindness for our shared humanity flies out the window like a white balloon trying to defend itself against the missile.

I bitch, blame, and complain with my younger sister. And my older sister. With my best friend. And another best friend. My neighbors. My mindfulness community.

It’s a soap opera of jackal shows, as Marshall Rosenberg would call it. He used jackal puppets to represent that part of ourselves that thinks, speaks, or acts in ways that disconnect us from our awareness of our feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of others.

The jackal doesn’t have a lot of empathy for others nor for ourselves. It rather points out what’s wrong with everyone. It divides the world into good guys and bad ones, victims and perpetrators. Usually, the jackal places us in the first camp, but not always.

To symbolize empathy, Marshall Rosenberg used the giraffe. With its big heart, it has the capacity to love everyone. And its long neck helps it to see the beautiful, universal, human needs of everyone.

But sometimes jackals are all we have. If they take over the stage of our mind, we need giraffes in the audience to translate the bitching, blaming, and complaining into precious, beautiful, universal, human needs.

Fortunately, my family and friends are up for the challenge. And with each conversation, my jackals relax. They are being heard for their precious needs in their tragic expression of unmet needs. The threat of a local nuclear war dissipates.

When we see and accept the needs in our bitching, blaming, and complaining, we can make requests of ourselves or others. And requests have a higher likelihood to get people excited to meet those needs than guilt-tripping, blaming, or shaming them.

If you have your own jackal show running on Broadway, you want to sell tickets to a giraffe audience that can translate your script about what’s wrong with everyone into a script about what would make your life more beautiful.

But pay attention! Some jackals dress up like giraffes and instead of offering empathy, they offer sympathy, one-upping, commiserating, consoling, or advising.

That’s why we start each Leadership Circle for Nonprofit Leaders by agreeing that we bring giraffes to empathize.

After all, we don’t want to blow up our theater by feeding angry thoughts, judgments, blame, enemy images, and shame till they explode.

In the first week of May, we start a new circle. Six bi-weekly sessions, max eight participants.

Schedule your free discovery session to check that your giraffes follow our dress code.

Marshall Rosenberg is the founder of Nonviolent Communication. Watch this video in which he explains the jackal show.

Our lease won’t be renewed. By April 30, we have to move out of the home we’ve lived in for the last seven and a half years.

My mind goes into overdrive and is bombed with angry thoughts, judgments, blame, and enemy images about the whole situation. Feelings of shame volunteer as the red button for a nuclear missile, ready to destroy whatever is in the way.

Despite 11 years of practicing mindfulness, my loving-kindness for our shared humanity flies out the window like a white balloon trying to defend itself against the missile.

I bitch, blame, and complain with my younger sister. And my older sister. With my best friend. And another best friend. My neighbors. My mindfulness community.

It’s a soap opera of jackal shows, as Marshall Rosenberg would call it. He used jackal puppets to represent that part of ourselves that thinks, speaks, or acts in ways that disconnect us from our awareness of our feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of others.

The jackal doesn’t have a lot of empathy for others nor for ourselves. It rather points out what’s wrong with everyone. It divides the world into good guys and bad ones, victims and perpetrators. Usually, the jackal places us in the first camp, but not always.

To symbolize empathy, Marshall Rosenberg used the giraffe. With its big heart, it has the capacity to love everyone. And its long neck helps it to see the beautiful, universal, human needs of everyone.

But sometimes jackals are all we have. If they take over the stage of our mind, we need giraffes in the audience to translate the bitching, blaming, and complaining into precious, beautiful, universal, human needs.

Fortunately, my family and friends are up for the challenge. And with each conversation, my jackals relax. They are being heard for their precious needs in their tragic expression of unmet needs. The threat of a local nuclear war dissipates.

When we see and accept the needs in our bitching, blaming, and complaining, we can make requests of ourselves or others. And requests have a higher likelihood to get people excited to meet those needs than guilt-tripping, blaming, or shaming them.

If you have your own jackal show running on Broadway, you want to sell tickets to a giraffe audience that can translate your script about what’s wrong with everyone into a script about what would make your life more beautiful.

But pay attention! Some jackals dress up like giraffes and instead of offering empathy, they offer sympathy, one-upping, commiserating, consoling, or advising.

That’s why we start each Leadership Circle for Nonprofit Leaders by agreeing that we bring giraffes to empathize.

After all, we don’t want to blow up our theater by feeding angry thoughts, judgments, blame, enemy images, and shame till they explode.

In the first week of May, we start a new circle. Six bi-weekly sessions, max eight participants.

Schedule your free discovery session to check that your giraffes follow our dress code.

Marshall Rosenberg is the founder of Nonviolent Communication. Watch this video in which he explains the jackal show.

Our lease won’t be renewed. By April 30, we have to move out of the home we’ve lived in for the last seven and a half years.

My mind goes into overdrive and is bombed with angry thoughts, judgments, blame, and enemy images about the whole situation. Feelings of shame volunteer as the red button for a nuclear missile, ready to destroy whatever is in the way.

Despite 11 years of practicing mindfulness, my loving-kindness for our shared humanity flies out the window like a white balloon trying to defend itself against the missile.

I bitch, blame, and complain with my younger sister. And my older sister. With my best friend. And another best friend. My neighbors. My mindfulness community.

It’s a soap opera of jackal shows, as Marshall Rosenberg would call it. He used jackal puppets to represent that part of ourselves that thinks, speaks, or acts in ways that disconnect us from our awareness of our feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of others.

The jackal doesn’t have a lot of empathy for others nor for ourselves. It rather points out what’s wrong with everyone. It divides the world into good guys and bad ones, victims and perpetrators. Usually, the jackal places us in the first camp, but not always.

To symbolize empathy, Marshall Rosenberg used the giraffe. With its big heart, it has the capacity to love everyone. And its long neck helps it to see the beautiful, universal, human needs of everyone.

But sometimes jackals are all we have. If they take over the stage of our mind, we need giraffes in the audience to translate the bitching, blaming, and complaining into precious, beautiful, universal, human needs.

Fortunately, my family and friends are up for the challenge. And with each conversation, my jackals relax. They are being heard for their precious needs in their tragic expression of unmet needs. The threat of a local nuclear war dissipates.

When we see and accept the needs in our bitching, blaming, and complaining, we can make requests of ourselves or others. And requests have a higher likelihood to get people excited to meet those needs than guilt-tripping, blaming, or shaming them.

If you have your own jackal show running on Broadway, you want to sell tickets to a giraffe audience that can translate your script about what’s wrong with everyone into a script about what would make your life more beautiful.

But pay attention! Some jackals dress up like giraffes and instead of offering empathy, they offer sympathy, one-upping, commiserating, consoling, or advising.

That’s why we start each Leadership Circle for Nonprofit Leaders by agreeing that we bring giraffes to empathize.

After all, we don’t want to blow up our theater by feeding angry thoughts, judgments, blame, enemy images, and shame till they explode.

In the first week of May, we start a new circle. Six bi-weekly sessions, max eight participants.

Schedule your free discovery session to check that your giraffes follow our dress code.

Marshall Rosenberg is the founder of Nonviolent Communication. Watch this video in which he explains the jackal show.

Our lease won’t be renewed. By April 30, we have to move out of the home we’ve lived in for the last seven and a half years.

My mind goes into overdrive and is bombed with angry thoughts, judgments, blame, and enemy images about the whole situation. Feelings of shame volunteer as the red button for a nuclear missile, ready to destroy whatever is in the way.

Despite 11 years of practicing mindfulness, my loving-kindness for our shared humanity flies out the window like a white balloon trying to defend itself against the missile.

I bitch, blame, and complain with my younger sister. And my older sister. With my best friend. And another best friend. My neighbors. My mindfulness community.

It’s a soap opera of jackal shows, as Marshall Rosenberg would call it. He used jackal puppets to represent that part of ourselves that thinks, speaks, or acts in ways that disconnect us from our awareness of our feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of others.

The jackal doesn’t have a lot of empathy for others nor for ourselves. It rather points out what’s wrong with everyone. It divides the world into good guys and bad ones, victims and perpetrators. Usually, the jackal places us in the first camp, but not always.

To symbolize empathy, Marshall Rosenberg used the giraffe. With its big heart, it has the capacity to love everyone. And its long neck helps it to see the beautiful, universal, human needs of everyone.

But sometimes jackals are all we have. If they take over the stage of our mind, we need giraffes in the audience to translate the bitching, blaming, and complaining into precious, beautiful, universal, human needs.

Fortunately, my family and friends are up for the challenge. And with each conversation, my jackals relax. They are being heard for their precious needs in their tragic expression of unmet needs. The threat of a local nuclear war dissipates.

When we see and accept the needs in our bitching, blaming, and complaining, we can make requests of ourselves or others. And requests have a higher likelihood to get people excited to meet those needs than guilt-tripping, blaming, or shaming them.

If you have your own jackal show running on Broadway, you want to sell tickets to a giraffe audience that can translate your script about what’s wrong with everyone into a script about what would make your life more beautiful.

But pay attention! Some jackals dress up like giraffes and instead of offering empathy, they offer sympathy, one-upping, commiserating, consoling, or advising.

That’s why we start each Leadership Circle for Nonprofit Leaders by agreeing that we bring giraffes to empathize.

After all, we don’t want to blow up our theater by feeding angry thoughts, judgments, blame, enemy images, and shame till they explode.

In the first week of May, we start a new circle. Six bi-weekly sessions, max eight participants.

Schedule your free discovery session to check that your giraffes follow our dress code.

Marshall Rosenberg is the founder of Nonviolent Communication. Watch this video in which he explains the jackal show.

Our lease won’t be renewed. By April 30, we have to move out of the home we’ve lived in for the last seven and a half years.

My mind goes into overdrive and is bombed with angry thoughts, judgments, blame, and enemy images about the whole situation. Feelings of shame volunteer as the red button for a nuclear missile, ready to destroy whatever is in the way.

Despite 11 years of practicing mindfulness, my loving-kindness for our shared humanity flies out the window like a white balloon trying to defend itself against the missile.

I bitch, blame, and complain with my younger sister. And my older sister. With my best friend. And another best friend. My neighbors. My mindfulness community.

It’s a soap opera of jackal shows, as Marshall Rosenberg would call it. He used jackal puppets to represent that part of ourselves that thinks, speaks, or acts in ways that disconnect us from our awareness of our feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of others.

The jackal doesn’t have a lot of empathy for others nor for ourselves. It rather points out what’s wrong with everyone. It divides the world into good guys and bad ones, victims and perpetrators. Usually, the jackal places us in the first camp, but not always.

To symbolize empathy, Marshall Rosenberg used the giraffe. With its big heart, it has the capacity to love everyone. And its long neck helps it to see the beautiful, universal, human needs of everyone.

But sometimes jackals are all we have. If they take over the stage of our mind, we need giraffes in the audience to translate the bitching, blaming, and complaining into precious, beautiful, universal, human needs.

Fortunately, my family and friends are up for the challenge. And with each conversation, my jackals relax. They are being heard for their precious needs in their tragic expression of unmet needs. The threat of a local nuclear war dissipates.

When we see and accept the needs in our bitching, blaming, and complaining, we can make requests of ourselves or others. And requests have a higher likelihood to get people excited to meet those needs than guilt-tripping, blaming, or shaming them.

If you have your own jackal show running on Broadway, you want to sell tickets to a giraffe audience that can translate your script about what’s wrong with everyone into a script about what would make your life more beautiful.

But pay attention! Some jackals dress up like giraffes and instead of offering empathy, they offer sympathy, one-upping, commiserating, consoling, or advising.

That’s why we start each Leadership Circle for Nonprofit Leaders by agreeing that we bring giraffes to empathize.

After all, we don’t want to blow up our theater by feeding angry thoughts, judgments, blame, enemy images, and shame till they explode.

In the first week of May, we start a new circle. Six bi-weekly sessions, max eight participants.

Schedule your free discovery session to check that your giraffes follow our dress code.

Marshall Rosenberg is the founder of Nonviolent Communication. Watch this video in which he explains the jackal show.

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.


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