“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...]

You don’t have to have this experience with conflict resolution


I've finally found the way to describe my work with the help of an image. Did you have drawing guides like the one above when you were a kid? I did. My brother is a gifted artist and I was his little sister, wishing I could draw and paint like he did. I got one of these drawing guides for Christmas, got out my crayons, and opened the guide with such hope and aspiration. A short time later, I closed the guide and ignored it for a while. It had been a terrible experience. Eventually I got … [Read more...]

Getting great mediation training: Questions you should ask

ice cream flavors

Some of the most common questions I'm asked by new mediators and would-be mediators is how to find good mediation training. Since mediation training comes in many flavors and from trainers with wildly varying skill, I've finally taken the time to share my four cents. In my Candid Guide to Getting Great Mediation Training, I discuss the following questions and how they help you be an informed consumer. Questions to ask yourself first Why do I want mediation training How will I use … [Read more...]

Rebuilding trust after conflict

reaching across the divide

"How can we rebuild trust after a conflict?" is such an enormous question, the stuff of entire books. I hear it a lot in workshops and mediations. The intention behind the question is very lovely and right. Yet I am not a fan of the question itself because the sheer scale of it makes it nearly impossible to answer. I have seen many colleagues, couples, and friends thwarted by this question, daunted by its magnitude. It's impossible to answer because the answer can not yet be known for … [Read more...]

High conflict personality? Not so fast

chaotic neon

"He's such a high conflict personality that I'm scared to disagree with him." "She's high conflict and I don't think any of these approaches will work with her." "How can we best deal with high conflict personalities in the workplace?" "I've been labeled 'high conflict' and I'm blamed for starting every argument." "I'm a mediator and I'd like to know how to prevent high conflict clients from derailing agreements." These are some of the comments and questions I've heard in conflict resolution … [Read more...]

Conflict resolution as meaning making

Information vs knowledge by Hugh MacLeod

A dear friend had a stroke last week and she has lost the ability to speak, at least for now. Today her body looks almost fully recovered, hiding the havoc wreaked on her brain and the long recovery period ahead of her. As her friends form a circle of love around her, one of us next to her hospital bed every morning, afternoon, and evening, we hear again and again from her medical team that the most crucial work ahead of her is to re-form the links, the neural pathways, that were damaged by … [Read more...]

Do you want an A or do you want something to change?

Giving an A

Years ago, I heard Peter Block interviewed about the way he interacts with clients. I jotted down a question he likes to ask. It's a blunt question and it gets straight to an important discernment: Do you want an "A," or do you want something to change? I like this question a great deal and ask it of myself not infrequently. Do I want to pat myself on the back after a difficult interaction that has not yet been sorted out, or do I want something to change? Which is more important to me, … [Read more...]

The next chapter in my conflict resolution work

the next chapter in my conflict resolution work

People who know me well know that I start getting restless if too much stays the same for too long. My husband fears leaving on a trip alone, knowing that the house could be completely rearranged upon his return. My hair stylist never knows if I'm going to say cut it all off or let's grow it out really long again. Almost 17 years ago I walked away from a perfectly good and fulfilling job as a college VP and began the process of building a private practice doing conflict resolution work … [Read more...]

The essential ingredient (and often ignored) for effective conflict resolution

rumi quotation

You wander from room to room Hunting for the diamond necklace That is already around your neck. – Rumi The answer to your conflicts does not lie in yet another conflict resolution skills workshop to add to all that you've taken before (skills training may be worthwhile but there comes a point when more is not better). It does not lie in shinier, newer techniques than the ones you already have (no one wants to be techniqued anyway). There is no single magic bullet that, if you … [Read more...]

The venting myth revisited: An interview with Dr Brad Bushman

venting storm

Venting may make you feel great when you're angry, but it doesn't help you act great. Contrary to popular myth, venting has no real value to you at all. Say it with me now: Venting has no value and is a good habit to avoid. But don't take just my word for it. Let's hear what one of the top social psychology researchers in the world has to say about venting, anger, and aggression. In the following 30-minute audio, Dr. Brad Bushman graciously addresses questions I commonly field from clients … [Read more...]

Conflict resolution workshop at ACR Cincinnati

Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnatir

Are you a conflict resolution professional planning to attend the Association for Conflict Resolution annual conference in October? If so, I hope we'll have a chance to catch up in person. Here's one place we can connect: I'll be teaching a conflict resolution workshop on how to address chronic conflict and tension in ongoing personal and business relationships. The workshop is scheduled for the morning of Friday, October 10 and continuing education credits are available. Coaching the … [Read more...]