4 simple stress-free holiday tips

red berries and snow

A writer for Coca-Cola asked me for some stress-free holiday tips. Here's my first tip and a link to the rest of the article: 1. Stay Well Fed Lenski’s top tip for keeping calm is fairly simple to achieve in a time of year when food is often abundant. “Don’t let yourself get ‘hangry,’” she says. “The self-control needed to deal with anger and aggression takes energy and our brains get that energy partly from glucose,” Lenski explains. “If we haven’t eaten properly, low blood sugar makes … [Read more...]

Conflict mastery with Cinnie Noble

sky and mountain reflecting on water

Every now and then a book comes along that belongs on everyone's reference bookshelf. The kind of book that will help you think better when you're stuck. The kind of book that will help you reflect more deeply when a conflict is taking too much space in your life. The kind of book that helps you discover your own answers instead of doling out advice that has a long shot of working in your life. Cinnie Noble's latest book, Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You, is just such a book. Listen … [Read more...]

New online conflict resolution course: Calm, Cool, and Collected

Calm, Cool, and Collected

December 12, 2014 -- I'm thrilled to announce my brand new online course on staying calm, cool, and collected in conflict, negotiations, and confrontations. As of right this second, I'm taking earlybird registrations for Calm, Cool, and Collected and I've got an introductory offer for those of you who sign up early. Calm, Cool, and Collected is an online course for people who want to... Crush their fear of conflict and be able to confront problems with confidence. Keep their cool and … [Read more...]

Mastering your inner game

inner game

Really good negotiation skills and knowledge won't completely do the trick. Learning the mechanics of confronting successfully usually isn't enough. Deeper conflict resolution toolboxes only get you part of the way there. You'll still be missing a crucial 25% (maybe even up to 50%) of the puzzle. Without that missing piece, you can't be fully on your game. And all the terrific conflict resolution and negotiation tools, techniques and skills in the world won't really make much of a difference … [Read more...]

In the midst of Ferguson chaos, an apology done right

Louis Head, image credit New York Times

It would have been easy for Louis Head to blame his raging words the other night fully on the grand jury. Or on the Ferguson, Missouri police department. Or on Office Darren Wilson. Or on racism and injustice. And if he had, there'd be a lot of people who would have given him a pass under the circumstances. But instead, Michael Brown's stepfather did something harder and he did it well. If you've been away from your television or the Internet or are outside the U.S., maybe you missed Louis … [Read more...]

Trigger stacking

trigger stacking

In February 2012, a large dog named Max had a drama-filled 24 hours and it ended in a good (if tragic) lesson about the dangers of trigger stacking. Max's day of drama began when he chased a fox out onto the thin ice of a reservoir. Then the ice broke and he spent 10-15 minutes in the cold water, struggling to survive, before firefighters were able to rescue him. Then he was paraded into the television studio of his local news affiliate, with people he didn't know, and unfamiliar sounds and … [Read more...]

Are you paying twice in a conflict?


Years ago, Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer had a major fire that destroyed most of what she owned. She contacted her insurance company and they came the next day to assess the damage. After reviewing the damage and her substantial loss, the insurance agent said a curious thing to Langer. He said that this was the first call he'd ever had where it turned out the damage was worse than the call had indicated. Langer's reflections on his comment are invaluable: She thought, Well, gee, … [Read more...]

Sure you understand the other’s perspective? Take this test


"I understand her perspective but she doesn't even bother to try to understand mine." Every mediator or manager has heard a version of this while trying to sort out a conflict. Sometimes a version even wanders beguilingly through my own mind. Maybe one has wandered once or twice through your mind, too. It's so easy to see the ways that they don't understand us. And so much harder to see the ways we fail our own standard. What we need is a sort of Turing Test for conflict, an unbiased … [Read more...]

Why I’ve turned off blog comments

At the cafe

Inviting comments on your blog is like inviting someone into your home. Come on in, you say, let me get you a cup of coffee, what's on your mind? Sometimes it's an old friend you're inviting in, sometimes it's a new one you trust to treat you right once inside. So turning off the commenting function, as I have done, is not something to do lightly. I've been pondering doing it for a couple of years, before a few big guns blogs made the decision to do the same. I'm not big on bandwagons for … [Read more...]

Intervening in conflict when it’s not your job, part 2


[ Intervening in Conflict When It's Not Your Job, Part 1 ] The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Terry Dobson's car was mostly empty and he gazed absently out the window. When the doors open at one of the stations, the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man wore laborer’s clothing, and he was big, dirty, and very drunk. The man swung at a woman holding a baby. She fell into the laps of an … [Read more...]

The uncommon art of masterful problem framing


Father Gregory Boyle is a master at the art of problem framing and reframing. He is a Jesuit priest who founded and runs Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program in Los Angeles. One morning during his days as pastor of Dolores Mission Church, he began the homily with a most unusual question: "What’s the church smell like?" When his parishioners avoided eye contact, looking everywhere but at him, he asked again. "Come on, now, what's the church smell like?" An old man who didn't … [Read more...]

Intervening in conflict when it’s not your job, part 1


When you've got conflict resolution skills, you can't help but notice all the situations around you that might benefit from your help. But how do you choose when to help informally and when to stay out of it? And, as a reader, Kate, asked, when is intervening in conflict the right call? "I just wanted to let you know that what I got from that course was some of the most useful, valuable information and the techniques we learned serve me every day. I find your newsletter and gems I pick up … [Read more...]

“I’m getting blamed for everything”

it's your fault

"I'm getting blamed for everything," she said. "Every time I talk to my husband about our problems, he blames me." She wanted to know, understandably, how to stop the cycle and the blameshifting. Mediators ask me how to manage blame too, how to get people off a cycle of blame and defensiveness. So I'm going to tell you my favorite approach. It's the one I teach most often to my clients and the one that gives them the biggest relief. It's the one I teach mediators how to use at the … [Read more...]

The secret mediators shouldn’t keep


We mediators are a confidential bunch, good at holding private what's been told in trust. But there's one secret mediators should never keep, because the telling of it, the acknowledging of it, holds the promise of reaching greater heights in your work. When I'm teaching a mediation class to conflict resolution grad students, I'm fond of starting things off with this question: Why do you want to be a mediator? I ask on the first day of class and they usually stare back at me pleasantly, … [Read more...]

A non-judgmental presence

holier than thou

It is a special gift to bring a non-judgmental presence into the room with you. When we're in conflict that's been going on for a while, we already feel judged enough. Judged by our conflict partner. Judged by those who have watched it unfold, such as co-workers, managers, family members. Judged by ourselves, late at night when the darkness amplifies what weighs on our mind. So, if you're trying to help resolve a conflict (maybe you're a mediator, a friend, an HR manager), there is little … [Read more...]