Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

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.

When was the last time you turned toward conflict?

When was the last time you felt angry with someone? Do you remember your response? Did you close off and suppress your anger to maintain some sense of acceptance, emotional safety, peace? Or did you blame, judge, criticize in an effort to support your needs for transparency, being heard, emotional safety? Or, maybe, did you turn toward your friend, expressed yourself with compassion and listened with respect to understand your friend better and restore the connection?

Image courtesy to Wikimedia.orgJohn Gottman has 40 years of relationship research under his belt. Married couples, friends, siblings, co-workers, parent-child relationships. You name it, he researched it. He describes all interactions between people as bids for connection. “Honey, will you pass me the sugar?” “Dad, I need help with my homework.” “Will you come to my birthday party?” Even a bitchy “You’re late.”, or an enraged “Get of my back, f*ck off with your anger.” are bids for connection, a longing to be understood for our experience.

It took me a while to get the concept. Usually I see anger, dishonesty, blame as clear signals to disconnect, and I feel relieved to do so. One less conflict in my life.

The truth is, it doesn’t work that way. When we habitually turn away or turn against bids for connection, including conflict, we have less and less intimate relationships that help us weather the storms of our lives.

Let’s take the example of “F*ck off with your anger.” Not the most inspiring bid for connection, and we can respond with empathy and compassion. “I hear you’re fed up with the way I express my anger. Do you want more respect, harmony, support for your sense of well-being?” Sounds pretty open, doesn’t it? That’s what turning toward does. It conveys a message of acceptance, ‘your experience matters to me’, and a willingness to understand and restore the connection.

Turning away shows up as silence, disregarding, interrupting, being preoccupied. Turning away seems to be devastating for relationships, because the implicit message is ‘I don’t care about you, or your experience. You don’t matter.’

Turning against is more contemptuous, belligerent, contradictory, domineering, critical, or defensive. There are many flavors. It could sound like this “As if you’re such a sweetie-pie.” “What did I do? Nothing! It is you who is angry!” “You’re blowing it out of proportion, as usual, drama queen.” Painful responses, because I am arguing your experience. In the long run partners lose trust that they’ll be heard, and they’ll retreat within themselves and withdraw emotionally.

What is your habitual response? Turning toward? Turning away? Turning against? And how does that impact your relationships? Do they deepen, grow stronger, build up trust? Do they evaporate, dissolve, disappear? Or does conflict, distrust, withdrawal increase?

You want help to give turning toward a try? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.