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 full-time. I’d gotten restless.

I have spent my time since then mediating, coaching, consulting, teaching, training, writing, and speaking about conflict and resolution. I have worked primarily with organizations, but also quite a bit with couples, family members in business together, and fellow conflict resolution professionals who want to master their craft and build successful private practices. My work has always centered on conflict and tension between people who want to or need to stay in relationship with one another…colleagues and co-workers, board members, couples, siblings, best (or formerly best) friends.

For the past few years, I’ve known that I’m ready for a change. I’ve had that old restless feeling again.

As I discussed my restlessness with friends in the conflict resolution world, I often struggled to put words to what was going on for me. Initially, it was just a sense that there was something more or different calling me. A sense that something was missing. The sense did not go away. Instead, it kept eating at me, waking me at night. I found myself staring at my website at 2:00 a.m., asking, Who are you in there? Are you still doing work you most want to do?

I am ready for the next chapter in my conflict resolution work. There are some things I will do less or not at all and some things I will emphasize far more. Here’s my vision for the next chapter.

I will be teaching more
I will be offering more in-person and teleseminar conflict resolution training and am developing online conflict resolution courses. Since I was an educator before I was a mediator, I care deeply about pedagogy and have taught online courses for universities since 1999. I know the limitations and the promise of online platforms and will not be offering online conflict resolution courses that I believe technology can not yet support as well as in-person learning.

I will be coaching more
I will be doing more one-on-one executive coaching and couples coaching in conflict resolution, more group coaching by phone and Skype, more mediator coaching individually and in small groups. Coaching and teaching are inextricably linked for me and doing more of one means the joy of doing more of the other.

I will be mediating far less
I have struggled massively with the question of whether or not I should continue to mediate at all, in the “big M” mediator sense of the word. Mediator, after all, has been a significant part of my professional identity for 17 years and the label many people most associate with me. But the truth is that I am much more interested these days in helping people get conflict unstuck through my teaching, training, coaching, public speaking, and writing. There. I said it.

I will write mainly on these topics

  • Bringing your “A” game to conflict resolution. This is about fine-tuning your reactions, keeping calm in the storm, and keeping your presence of mind. Think of it as peak performance meets conflict resolution.
  • Creative problem solving. This is about boosting creative solutions to conflict and nurturing your own creative problem solving abilities. Think of it as creativity meets conflict and falls in love.
  • Navigating the emotional dimensions of conflict, on your own or as a mediator or manager. Think of it as the third leg of the three-legged conflict resolution stool, balancing out the tendency in the conflict resolution field to focus on the other two legs (behavior and cognition).
  • Simplifying conflict resolution. This is about chunking down how we respond and increasing the odds we can access our good conflict resolution skills when we need them most. Think of it as conflict resolution meets the zen garden.
  • More stories of individuals and organizations who have done a good job of addressing a conflict. This is about bringing good conflict resolution strategies alive by seeing them in action. Think of it as profiles in courage and grace.

I hope you will join me as I re-weave the tapestry of my work to offer content and services that feed both my soul and yours.

I’m interested in your reaction. I’d appreciate you leaving a comment to share your thoughts, your reaction, your support, your challenge, your story about keeping your own conflict resolution work fresh.

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  1. says

    I am doing the same thing! My calling is in teaching and coaching… helping individuals and couples step into their lives fully and authentically. I LOVE what I do and each time I “teach,” I learn!

  2. says

    I truly appreciate the courage and candor in your post. It certainly resonated with me on several levels. I have likewise morphed from a long and successful career in employment and labor relations conflict, to working in organizational change (filled with conflict), and now, helping people with the challenges of community and regional economic development. The common thread is my desire to help people achieve better outcomes together. There is always conflict, born of fear. The fear is aout not knowing, not understanding, and being changed by something or someone other than ourselves.

    Good luck to you, and I look forward to following your journey.

    – Bruce W

    • says

      Bruce, I love how you describe the common thread that winds through the stages of your work. It sounds like you’ve done a series of fulfilling things and have continued to challenge yourself by pushing into new territory. My hat’s off to you!

  3. says

    Hi, Tammy.

    Your evolution resonates with me. I have left several “perfectly good” jobs (lawyer, government regulator) on the road to conflict resolution (about 25 years ago). About 12 years into that career, I realized that I didn’t enjoy the mediation aspect of my practice, and focused on teaching/training. I was also able to indulge my love of interactive learning – particularly games and simulations. As I find myself winding down in my 60′s, I am focusing on train-the-trainer and related materials.

    All the best in the next stage of your career.

    I’m always happy to bounce training ideas around and share activities.


    • says

      Gary, it’s lovely to hear how your own path has evolved and, of course, it’s always comforting to know that others made right- or left-hand turns and survived and thrived.

    • Berry Schwartz says

      Gary fascinating that you went from a government job to mediating conflict. Was that a huge shift for you?

  4. Harry Manasewich says

    You always amaze me Tammy (in a good way…). I have no doubt you will be successful with your new focus.

  5. Sheryl says

    I LOVED reading about your next chapter, Tammie. It makes so much sense as another step your path, and what you express in Conflict Pivot fits right into this picture. Congrats to you!

  6. Trish Lui says

    Kia ora Tammy

    Many thanks for sharing all this and as a huge fan (from the other side of the world) of you and your great work, I look forward with great interest to hearing more about your next chapter and learning more from your wonderful wisdom, experience and teachings.

    Best wishes,


    • says

      Kia ora, Trish (I looked up the Māori greeting) – Such lovely support and I’m grateful for it. I do hope we’ll get to meet in person some day!

  7. says

    Dear Tammi

    This is absolutely wonderful – I believe that your “evolution” will bring much advantage to all of us out there – particularly those in the developing third world (of which I form a part) who lag behind first world practice and academic training in the field of conflict resolution. I have a sense that what you are looking at is “world outreach” as opposed to a “one-on-one” reach and I wish you well herein.

    • says

      Tracey, you know, one of the absolute best things about my books and blog is the connections with people like you, Trish, and so many others from parts of the world I’ve haven’t been yet. So wonderful! I’d invite you any time to write and let me know of topics of particular interest for learning opportunities, as I’d love to take those into consideration as I craft conflict resolution e-courses.

  8. says


    Once again your story stirs familiar leanings within me. I love your example of pursuing the restlessness with trusted friends and colleagues. I am heartened by your courage to release aspects of your involvement with mediation for interests and talents that promise challenging comfort.

    Monday is my 60th birthday. Over 34 years ago I began my practice as a Clinical Social Worker and today I am in the painfully delightful process of reinventing myself. I have a supportive coaching community and you, have been a significant beam of light through your Zen blog over the years and book, Conflict Pivots.

    Many heartfelt thanks for your generosity of knowledge and personal story.
    We Midwest natives love and (need) the New York energy.

    • says

      Mary, my Midwestern husband begrudgingly agrees about that NY energy ;) It sounds like you are undertakeing a joyous (and yet still challenging) transformation. I hope you’ll keep in touch and let me know how things unfold for you.

  9. says

    Hi Tammy
    I think it’s very interesting that in your search to fulfil passion for helping others resolve conflict you are moving away from mediation. My observation is that many people are drawn to mediation because of a deep desire or interest in conflict resolution. Yet, my own sense is that mediation in itself is very limited and quite superficial as a as a tool for building truly deeper and more understanding relationships between people. Mediation is the ‘sexy’ end of conflict resolution, it’s short, it’s intense and has the potential to be a defining moment. However, as we all know, conflicts have much longer roots and one day is usually not enough. Time and practice are needed to really address a conflict dynamic, whether it’s to unlearn unhelpful behaviours or help people gain insight into how they themselves might be contributing to this event in their lives. I love how you have purposefully shifted your focus to concentrate on bringing slower-burn but more lasting interventions to help people ‘unstick’ from the conflict in their lives.

    • says

      Mary, I’m not quite moving away from mediation, just changing the percentages. I really like your point about mediation being the “sexy” end of conflict resolution and fully agree that, while it has its place, it’s not the universal solution some tout it to be. I can see that you’re a kindred spirit, interested in the roots, the dynamics, the approaches that can have a lasting, meaningful effect.

  10. says

    Tammy, I am definitely happy for you! First, I think change is unavoidable, so why not recognize and embrace the positive changes you can make? Actually, just yesterday I watched this Dan Gilbert video on the topic, a video that seems timely for you:

    Second, you are a really gifted teacher. I am definitely thankful I had the opportunity to learn from you! It’s good to know that more will be able to benefit from your teaching passion!

    • says

      Thanks, Ginny! I think my family and close friends might say I embrace change perhaps a bit too enthusiastically ;) but I’m good with that! Thanks for the Dan Gilbert vid…I’d seen that a while back but lost track of it, am happy to have it again.

  11. says

    Despite this much delayed response due to family medical issues, I applaud your decision to shift in a direction that feels most alive for you now. With the recent publication of Conflict Pivots, the timing couldn’t be better. Probably no accident?! I wish you much success on this next leg of your journey.