The conflict zen blog

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:

[…Read on...]

The secret good negotiators know


Good negotiators know this secret: Persuade with your ears, not your mouth. Instead of trying to persuade by telling and then telling some more, lead with your curiosity. Good negotiators listen for:

[…Read on...]

So, you’re looking for workplace conflict resolution training?

letter to workplace conflict resolution training clients

This is a letter intended for anyone who may wish to hire me for conflict resolution training in their organization.


When an organization approaches me for conflict resolution training or negotiation training, I find that there are certain conversation threads that come up again and again. So, I thought I would mention them here, in anticipation of a future time when we may speak about your organization’s conflict resolution and training needs. I hope they’re helpful to your thinking about what you need from a trainer and to your assessment of my fit for the assistance you seek.

[…Read on...]

Helping a friend in conflict

When friends, loved ones, and colleagues tell us about a conflict they’re experiencing, how we respond helps shape their conflict story. And what they do next.

A friend who mediates legal cases was regaling me with a story about a court employee who treated her with disrespect. As I listened to my friend’s description of the employee’s behavior, I felt outrage on my friend’s behalf. I heard myself say,

[…Read on...]

In arguments, sometimes progress is a step backward

Perce Rock cliff

When you’re at the edge of the argument cliff, it isn’t courageous to step off. It’s foolishness. Courage is taking your destiny in your hands and backing up.

Sometimes, as an argument begins to unfold in front of you, you see what is about to happen. You see the cliff in front of you before you take your next step.

I call this moment your “choice point.” It’s the moment you…

[…Read on...]

You started it

ending a tug of war

Which one started it? I heard someone ask. I think her dog started it, replied the other, pointing to the chagrined-looking spaniel. A third person said, Well, you never know, the other dog might have sent a signal the spaniel didn’t like.

On the discussion went as the bystanders tried to figure out which dog had started the 10-second ruckus we’d all just witnessed at dog agility practice. I was there to run my dogs, both of whom compete with me in dog agility trials.

We humans seem to care a great deal about who started it.

[…Read on...]

Getting unhooked from interpersonal conflict

getting unhooked from interpersonal conflict

Getting unhooked from interpersonal conflict is not unlike freeing yourself from a barbed wire fence.

There you are, squeezing between two rows of barbed wire, on your way to reaching a beautiful flower you wish to photograph, and the wool sweater your grandmother knitted you inadvertently becomes snagged. You are thwarted in your attempt to continue on. There is no going forward until you free yourself.

[…Read on...]

The mediator’s life

A mediator's life

I remember the first time I succeeded in a mediation. I was a newbie mediator, just barely out of my studies and on my own. A university dean I knew from my own days as a college dean hired me to mediate a nagging workplace conflict involving eight women in the same office. There had been fireworks.

[…Read on...]

True listening is about being vulnerable

when-truly-listening“When we’re truly listening we have to anticipate that we might become changed by what we heard.”

So notes acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, founder of The One Square Inch of Silence Foundation based in Joyce, Washington. Hempton, who defines real quiet not as an absence of sound but as an absence of noise, recently chatted with public radio’s On Being host Krista Tippett. I particularly appreciated this exchange during the program, The Last Quiet Places:

[…Read on...]

Conflict resolution video: Improve communication during conflict

This is the fourth in my short series of favorite conflict resolution videos suggested by readers of this blog.

The following video, We Are Sinking from Berlitz, isn’t a conflict resolution video at all. But it is about communication and it’s been an audience favorite in my conflict resolution keynotes and workshops because all of us have experienced the ways miscommunication can create, escalate, and drag out conflict. Beneath the video I’ve listed articles with more tips for improving communication during conflict.

[…Read on...]

Conflict resolution video: How to apologize

Over the years many readers of this blog have shared with me their favorite conflict resolution videos, particularly the funny ones that teach a good, brief lesson at the same time. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to features some of my favorites from those sent to me, along with a short list of posts I’ve written on the topic featured in the videos.

In the video below, Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon attempts to apologize to Amy for his bad behavior. Eventually, he gets it right. Scroll down past the video to see my list of articles about how to apologize.

[…Read on...]

Take what you need for conflict resolution

I created this poster as a handout for a conflict resolution workshop I’m teaching this week and thought you might enjoy it, too. Click the image below to get the downloadable PDF…feel free to share and print.

[…Read on...]

Don’t take it personally. Really?

dont take it personally

It’s so simple to advise, “Don’t take it personally.” And yet, too often, it’s utterly useless advice to someone in conflict. There’s something else they have to do first, before they can hope to stop taking it personally:

They have to take it more personally.

[…Read on...]

The reward of our work is who we become

Paolo Coehlo quote

“The reward of our work is not what we get, but what we become,” says Brazilian author Paolo Coehlo. He may have intended those words to speak to the writer, but they also speak to other work…to my work and probably to your work.

The reward of great conflict resolution and successful negotiation isn’t just what we get from it …

[…Read on...]

Shining a light on our conflict stories

shining a light on our conflict stories

We are natural storytellers, so it’s no surprise that we would tell stories about our conflicts, too. Story-making and story-telling about our conflict is natural and not, on its own, a problem. The problem comes with our attachment to those stories and our mistaken belief that our story is a retelling of…

[…Read on...]

Control anger during conflict like a fly on the wall

control anger like a fly on the wll

Trying to control anger by focusing on angry thoughts and hurt feelings is like fanning the flames. It’s far more effective to pretent you’re a fly on the wall of a situation, new research confirms.

In situations that trigger anger, you probably tend to focus on your anger and hurt, trying to understand it, get the other person to see what they’ve done, perhaps even wallowing in it a bit, self-righteously. You allow yourself to be immersed in it.

But it’s a trap.

[…Read on...]

Your conflict resolution magic wand

conflict resolution at a mobil station

Knowing your conflict hooks and how to handle them is like having a conflict resolution magic wand: You have portable power to turn the little conflicts into nothing and the bigger conflicts into manageable ones.

We had just moved from the Burlington, Vermont area to a small town in New Hampshire. The move had been a whirlwind, our Vermont house selling in a matter of days, far faster than we anticipated, and resulting in a new house purchased in a day, a moving van scheduled in a narrow window, and a mad rush to sift and pack a lifetime of belongings.

The day after we moved…

[…Read on...]

Conflict pain and the dog beneath the desk

conflict pain

A friend was sitting at her desk, her beloved lab at her feet. Suddenly, the dog yelped and looked up at her. This happened several more times, the dog’s gaze becoming increasingly more accusatory. Finally, he got up and left the room.

Later, she learned…

[…Read on...]

Parental conflict linked to infant brain function

conflict research and idea stream

Being exposed to arguments between parents is associated with the way babies’ brains process emotional tone of voice, according to a new study to be published in Psychological Science.

“The researchers found that infants from high conflict homes showed greater reactivity to…

[…Read on...]

Starting a difficult conversation

difficult conversation

Starting a difficult conversation (or negotiation or mediation) can feel like opening Fibber McGee’s closet — chaotic, overwhelming, and hope-sucking. But don’t run.

A colleague shared the closet metaphor with me years ago and I’ve passed it along to countless others since. The messy, over-filled hall closet was a running gag on the 1930s-1950s radio show. Chaos ensued whenever someone opened the closet door and the contents spilled out (click here to listen to the closet door being opened…go ahead, I’ll wait).

When you start a difficult conversation…

[…Read on...]

Special topics mediation training in Arkansas

mediation training in arkansas

I’ll be in Fayetteville and Little Rock, Arkansas in April to teach full-day special topics seminars for the Arkansas Conflict Resolution Association. If you’re a mediator in the region, I’d love to meet you in person at one of these two mediation training seminars!

Both seminars have already been approved for Arkansas CLE/CME credits (including ethics), you can attend even if you’re not an ACRA member, and earlybird registration rates are good for a few more days. Both mediation training seminars are suitable for both new and advanced practitioners and both are also suitable for conflict management coaches and other ADR professionals. Registration and information links are at the bottom of this post.

[…Read on...]