The conflict zen blog

Vote for my book’s cover design

book input, please!

My latest book, The Conflict Pivot: Turning Conflict into Peace of Mind, is sitting on the editor’s desk (well, in her computer). That means I’ve finally got my nose out of the writing app on my MacBook Air and am turning my attention to the many final details…including the all-important cover design.

I’ve decided to crowdsource the cover design in order to make some really good suggestions to the publisher. Out of 86 entries received by designers from around the world, I’ve narrowed the options to three. And this is where you come in, I hope.

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The dance of criticism


Muhammad wrote me with the question, “What amounts to criticizing?” He told me about a difficult situation with his son, with whom he’s presently living. He wrote,

I came across your “Conflict Habits” information on my computer from when I don’t recall, and after reading it (excellent information) I have a question…

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Ting, the chinese character for “to listen”

ting - to listen

Have you ever seen the Chinese character ting, to listen? Many of you will have seen this already, I’m sure. For those of you seeing it for the first time, I hope you enjoy it and save a copy for yourself.

I don’t know how it is I’ve blogged here for so long and shared the following in workshops for so long, yet somehow never posted it for you. Consider the oversight rectified…

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The argument culture

two origami cranes

“The argument culture urges us to approach the world—and the people in it—in an adversarial frame of mind. It rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done: The best way to discuss an idea is to set up a debate; the best way to…

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When the past holds you fast

knotSiblings who have inherited a family business approach me for help. Each makes a case for why the other siblings shouldn’t have power, shouldn’t be trusted, and are damaging the business. They are, of course, playing out a lifetime of wounds not forgotten.

Their coalitions change and morph, several against one, then several others against a different one. They are playing out decades of frustration with each other and while they maneuver and fight, their business is in ever deeper trouble.

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Great conflict resolution starts with great problem finding

problem finding

A group of students at the Art Institute of Chicago approached two large tables holding 27 random objects. They’d been asked to select some objects and draw a still life. Some examined just a few items, selected ones that interested them, and got right down to drawing. Others handled more of the objects, turning them over many times before selecting the ones that interested them. They rearranged their chosen objects several times and took longer to complete the assigned still life.

Two University of Chicago social scientists were watching.

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Why learning conflict resolution skills won’t help

conflict resolution skills

The way you view conflict has a tremendous impact on the way you respond and react to the conflicts in your life. Learning better, shinier, or newer conflict resolution skills won’t make the kind of difference you think it will, unless you also reconsider what you believe about conflict in general.

If you view conflict as a fight, you ask yourself…

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Help create a great conflict resolution playlist


What songs would you put in a playlist about conflict and conflict resolution?

I’m rebuilding the conflict resolution playlist I use in courses and workshops and I hope you’ll help make it a really good one. After I’ve gathered everyone’s ideas and create the playlist, I’ll share it for everyone’s use.

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Stop rehearsing your conflict story

conflict story

A client told me the story of a conflict with her brother. She told me the story first before we began working together. Then she told me again during our first session. The story — sometimes with new details, sometimes with the same phrasing repeated — came up repeatedly.

Of course, each time she told what happened, she polished the story more, just by the act of re-telling. She wasn’t trying to polish it, of course. She was trying to understand it, to figure it out, to get it to give up its secret so she could know what to do. It is something we do.


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The 5 types of listening

The 5 types of listening

When you say you’re listening, which type of listening are you really practicing?

Some years back I saw Stephen Covey speak and he talked about types of listening. He described a listening continuum that runs from ignoring all the way over on the left, to pretend listening (patronizing), then selective listening, then attentive listening, and finally to empathic listening on the right.

He drew a vertical line between attentive listening and empathic listening. Everything to the left of that line, he said…

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Freeing yourself from the keeper hole of conflict


Conflict is filled with resistance: Resistance to their wishes, resistance to their perspective, resistance to the anger we’re feeling, resistance to continuing, resistance to stopping, resistance, resistance, resistance. But the real way to free yourself from a conflict that’s keeping you stuck is not to resist, but to practice radical acceptance.

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How to find hope in the face of conflict


When a conflict looms large it can begin to feel like the only thing left between you. That’s an error of perception, of course. You are not one-dimensional figures with a single agenda; neither of you has become that. The conflict has lured you into a false way of viewing the other person, as though there is nothing else important about them anymore. Don’t let it.

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The problem with totalizing

totalizing road sign

“Nice job with the facilitation,” the university president said to me. “We got where we needed to get and you played an important role in that.” I began to smile at the compliment. What he said next, though, froze the smile on my face.

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Change your words, change your world

change your words

How we frame matters. How we frame our offer, our doubt, our idea, our concern can make the difference between being heard and being ignored, between interest and aversion, between succeeding and stumbling.

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Connect with me on social media


Did you know that I post additional conflict resolution, negotiation, and communication tips and ideas elsewhere on the web?

I use several social media platforms regularly and I tend to use each a little differently. Here’s how I use each one. I’d love to connect with you on one or more of these platforms!

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When conflict is real but not true

real but not true

How would your life be different if some of the conflict you experience turned out to be real…but not true?

You are on your way to a meeting and a person with whom you’ve had much tension approaches you, saying, “I have a question about the report you’re giving in a few minutes.” Or perhaps you’ve come home after a long day at work and, soon after you come through the door, your spouse says, “We need to discuss the credit card bill that arrived today.” Are you in conflict at that moment?

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Conflict is a thing of beauty


Relationship conflict is a thing of beauty. It is saying, I care enough about this relationship to conflict with you, to try to find the right dance steps with you. It is saying, I care enough about you that I feel able to reveal myself as I am even when my behavior is imperfect. It is saying, we can be unified not by having to think alike but by the recognition that pairs are made up of two individuals.

Workplace conflict is a thing of beauty. It is saying…

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Help me find an image for the book cover!


I’ve been working to wrap up my second book, The Conflict Pivot, and I’m far enough along in the process that I’m starting to muse about the cover design. I’ll be able to make some suggestions to my publisher; they’ll have their own ideas, too, of course. I’m pondering the best image to convey the idea of pivoting. Who better to ask than you?

Here’s how I describe pivots in the book:

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