Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

A pole is not a pole

Don’t think you know what people are talking about

Even if you’re absolutely sure you understand the words they’re saying, those words can have a very different meaning to them than to you. “Well, how is that important?”, you might ask. Let me tell you a short story.


Last week, I was camping. When I checked in, I received a green reservation card “to clip on the pole”. I felt confused about how to do that. The poles of my tent are round and on the inside of the outside layer, so I how can I clip that card on the pole?

Eventually, I decide to shove the card under my ground cloth and trust they will find it, if they want to check my reservation.


The next day, new campers arrive. As I walk to my tent, I see those same green reservation cards. Clipped on the pole. But not the pole I thought the registration lady was talking about. Nope. The pole at the entrance of their camping spot. With two clippers. And the number of their site. Never even thought of looking at that pole. Let alone check how to clip my card on it.

Same word, different meaning

It dawns on me that even a simple word like pole, has a different meaning to the registration lady than to me. And because the meaning seemed so obvious to me, it never occurred to me to ask questions what she meant with it. As a result, I got confused and couldn’t implement what she was asking me to do.


This was a pretty innocuous misunderstanding with no consequences. And we can all think of situations, where the consequences can be more harmful.

When someone is calling you a jerk, you’ll probably get defensive. You either withdraw or turn against them. You disconnect or you call them names, or worse. As a result, conflict lies around the corner.

Reflect, before react

The solution is to reflect, before we react. You either literally use their words, or ask about their meaning. “You want me to clip this card to my tent pole?” (“du-uh, no, silly, the pole at the entrance of your tent spot”). “What do you mean when you say I’m a jerk?”.

In the reflection of their words they have a chance to self-connect and check if they’re expressing themselves in the way they want to be heard. Sometimes people realize they mean something different, when they hear their words reflected back.

And reflecting gives you a chance to take a deep breath, calm yourself down, and connect to your values, before you react.

Contact me

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, I can tell you from more than 11 years of practice it isn’t. We need sincere dedication and perseverance to make this a daily habit.

Schedule your discovery session to see if I am your accountability partner to help you make this your daily habit.

Let me know how this landed for you: shoot me an email.

Listen to this newsletter

Now you can listen to this edition!! Download the recording here.

Parenting Group

I handed off the parenting group to Kayla Rose Yoder, one of my students in Nonviolent Communication and a dedicated mom who I deeply admire for the level of unconditional respect for and support of her three year old.

She starts Tuesday, April 23. She asks $195 for the whole series. Contact Kayla with any questions.

True love

Image courtesy to WikimediaThich Nhat Hanh has a beautiful story about true love. It resonates deeply with me, because I so wish to love others in a way that nurtures and supports their unique needs, celebrating the preciousness of their unique life. And I so wish to be loved in that same way.

There once was a rich man, who had all the wealth in the world, except for the love if his son.

His son had run off when he was 15 years old, and wandered the world in poverty for 50 years. In search of work, he lands at the doorsteps of his father’s palace, not knowing this is his father’s residence. When he sees all the rich and important people gathering for a meeting with his father, he gets scared and runs away.

In a split second his father recognizes the beggar as his son and sends his servants after him to bring him back home.

When the son sees the servants, he gets terrified. He fears he will be falsely accused of theft, and punished accordingly.

As the servants bring him back, the father sees his mistake. In his immense love for his son and his longing for connection, he acted in a way that terrified his son. He realizes he needs to build a bond based on where the son is at. He understands his son won’t believe this wealthy man is his father, so instead the father treats him like a beggar. Seeing the low self-worth and lack of self-confidence his son has, he offers him the lowliest of tasks: dragging out the pig’s dung. His son accepts and works diligently and sincerely at the job. His father recognizes the moment to ask his son to take on more responsibilities. His son can gladly accept and performs his new duties with equal commitment. The father keeps adding responsibilities, to contribute to his son’s sense of competence, confidence and self-worth. After a while the son runs the whole estate.

Then, at his death bed, the father reveals the true nature of their relationship. By that time the son is able to hear and accept this as the truth.

We, too, can find the skillful means to support our loved ones to open up to their true nature: children of God, heirs of Buddha, soul mates of Christ.

May we all wake up from forgetfulness and realize our true nature.


You want help to support your loved ones with understanding? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to help you on the path of true love and understanding.