Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Offering your request with Santa-Claus energy

When I first started my vegan diet, back in 2008, I felt self-conscious and even a bit embarrassed by my vegan choice. I thought I was too much of a burden for others, and if not, certainly a weirdo. someone from another planet. Whenever I asked for support, I carried some shame in my request, and even the mildest “No, so sorry, gosh, I wished I knew how to make you vegan food” confirmed my belief that there was something wrong with me wanting what I asked for. I was more or less convinced that I was not worth the trouble to accommodate my wishes. I tried to escape situations where I needed to speak up for my truth, so I would not feel the pain of my own lack of self-acceptance.

Reading The World Peace Diet transformed my fear of rejection and disconnect. The more I read about the horrors animals face as food commodities, the more joyfully I embraced my vegan preferences. In no way did I want to contribute to suffering, if the alternatives were so easy.

Image courtesy Creative CommonsI changed from a self-conscious mumbling “Do you have vegan food?” into an enthusiastic, happy vegan. The level of self-acceptance changed the way I make requests. I am so excited about my choice, that I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to accommodate me. I offer my request with Santa-Claus energy: “Ho Ho Ho, hi there! I am so excited about my vegan diet! I am happy I don’t eat meat, fish, birds, eggs, milk, cheese, or any other animal product. I love veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains and beans. This chicken salad looks yummy. I wonder if you can make me one without the chicken, or the sauce, and give me an extra doses of avocado and sesame seeds instead?” And yes, for sure, they come back with the most beautiful dish on the table in a restaurant that hardly even has vegetarian food.

When you offer your request with Santa-Claus energy, as an unique opportunity to make your life more wonderful, a gift for them to contribute, you’ll probably get all the collaboration and support you want. Try it out. And if you need help to let go of your shame and embarrassment: contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.

I want to matter to myself

I want to ask for a raise. I don’t receive my pay check as appreciation for the value I add. I think my empathy and mediation skills are unique and contribute to the emotional, social, and academic development of my clients. I empower them to be autonomous, authentic, and responsible. I teach them to include all needs and figure out strategies that work for everyone. I want to be seen and appreciated for these qualities.

I talk with my empathy buddy about this. I tell him I should earn more, that I deserve it with the level of commitment I have for my clients.


I just read in Nonviolent Communication that ‘should’ and ‘deserve’ language conveys that a request is actually a camouflaged demand.

I fall silent. I check in with myself. I am making a demand. I am so scared I will hear a ‘no’ that I am using force to get a ‘yes’. I’m too afraid to hear the ‘no’ as proof that I don’t matter, that my employer doesn’t care about my needs.

“Mattering to whom?” my buddy asks. Duh. To my employer, of course! I need to know that I matter to them.

Then I fall silent again… Or is it mattering to myself? Am I afraid that I will walk out on myself, as soon as I hear a ‘no’? Am I scared that I will give up on myself and my needs to accommodate the relationship?

Image courtesy to

Silence… Yes… That’s it… And I realize that if I matter to myself, I would use this request as an opportunity to express what’s alive in me, what my inner experience is. Not to get what I want (NVC is never a good tool for that purpose), but to be known for who I am and what I need. To create a relationship that’s based on honesty and empathy.

And all of a sudden I realize that this conversation is actually a chance to support the inner child in myself. The little, stuttering child who so often thought she didn’t matter, that no one cared what was going on within her. Who was too scared to speak up, because she feared disconnection. This is the time to invite the adult within me to squat next to her and encourage her to speak, to help her find the words. This is not about a salary raise, this is about healing. Learning to ask for what I want, in a way that conveys to myself that I matter. That’s all that matters.


You want help to matter to yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

Can advice be true empathy?

Something is jammed in my neck. It is stiff and painful. I can turn it -carefully- to the left and right. I can bend it forward. I can hardly bend it backward. Drinking my tea is a challenge.

Image courtesy to Flickr

Image courtesy to Flickr

I tell my husband about it. He immediately comes up with advice: take a ten minutes very hot shower, roll your back, let me give you an ortho bionomy  treatment.

I love it. I love all his advice and faithfully follow up on all his suggestions.

Sometimes advice is much better than just empathy.

Marshall Rosenberg defines empathy as the ‘respectful understanding of what others are experiencing’. It is the slowing down to really get what it’s like to be the other person, to see their world through their eyes, to imagine walking in their shoes.

My husband could have responded with guessing my feelings and needs, our usual form of empathy. ‘I hear you’re in pain. Are you confused what happened? Are you worried about your neck? Are you scared you have a herniated disk and your insurance won’t pay for treatment? You want health, reassurance, physical safety?’ What if he had walked away, after I affirmed that he got it?

I would have felt sad, lonely, confused, maybe even frustrated that I didn’t get the support I so desperately wanted.

For me, true empathy always leads to the opening of the heart and a natural longing to relieve suffering and to contribute to life. For me, true empathy is not only guessing feelings and needs, it is also guessing the implicit, unspoken request hidden in what’s being shared. For me, true empathy leads to an openhearted curiosity to figure out how to support the other person’s needs and honoring your own. My husband got that without many words. He acted on it right away with his advice and offer for treatment.

Sometimes, advice is the natural result of true empathy. And more than welcome.

Thank you, David, my neck is much better and my trust that I can heal much increased.


You want help to empathize with implicit requests? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


The need behind the no

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

You feel anxious even thinking about it. You feel scared they’ll say ‘no’. You feel afraid you won’t get support for your needs, because they don’t really care about you. You ask, they say ‘no’, and that’s it. Done and finished. Thank you so much, and goodbye.

Gosh, asking certainly has been a challenge for me. I often skipped the asking part, went straight into demands or into disconnection, too afraid to hear ‘no’.

In the Mediate Your Life retreat we did a very helpful exercise: ‘the need behind the no’. You express your feelings and needs and make a present-tense, action-oriented, positive-language request. Your practice partner says ‘no’. If you are triggered, you can move to the mediator chair and do a self-connection practice. As soon as you are calmer, you ask your partner which needs would be unfulfilled if they would say ‘yes’. And then you invite them to think of something that would support those needs and your needs.

To you it probably sounds as simple as 1+1=2. For me it was an eye-opener. Invite your partner to work with you on finding strategies that work for everyone. Not just for them, not just for you, but for everyone. Make it a collaborative effort, a mutual partnership to nurture all underlying, human needs. What a shift from thinking that I alone was responsible for figuring it out. What a change from thinking that it was either/or.

Let’s apply this insight right away. With you.

When I imagine you’re reading this blog, I feel tender, shy and happy, as my needs for appreciation, connection and to be known for my work are being met. My request is that you sign up as a follower of my blog to nourish these needs. If you have already done so, I ask you to share my blog with someone else. If you say ‘no’ to my request, which needs do you think would be unmet by saying ‘yes’? And what do you think would work better to support both our needs?

I would love to read/hear your response! (And I want to acknowledge how tender I feel just asking. I imagine I am not the only one who feels vulnerable when asking. There is a rawness of the open heart when we share what we truly want.)


You want to learn to work with the need behind the ‘no’? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be humble to work with you.

Day 9 My Journey into Wholeheartedness

Yep, I changed the name.  Rejection doesn’t ring true to me.  I don’t believe there is something like rejection, just someone who says ‘no’ to what we ask.  And it hurts, because we think it is about our worth.  We think we are not worthy enough, that we don’t matter enough to receive a ‘yes’.  That’s a misconception.  Our worth has nothing to do with it.  It is just someone whose needs are not met by our request.  That’s all.  We can  find another request that works better for them, or we find another way to get what we want.

And that’s where wholeheartedness kicks in.  I commit myself to have the courage to stand up for my truth, to express myself authentically and to ask for what I truly, truly want.  I honor my own vulnerability and chose to live a life based on my values and dreams, not my fears.

That’s my journey into wholeheartedness.