Tip of the Month – December 2018

Season’s greetings!

When you find yourself in the presence of outrage over holiday greetings, either from the right or the left (“There is a war on Christmas!” or the reverse: “How thoughtless and insensitive to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!”), first consider whether you think this is an issue worthy of outrage.

If you do – hey, feel free to join in. If you don’t, sidestep the outrage. A fire fizzles when nothing feeds it. Talk about what kinds of greetings you like to give and why. Shift the conversation away from the grand bugaboo of what is wrong with “them” and towards what each of you chooses to do.

Tip of the Month – November 2018


All too often we forget to see, and speak to, the dignity of the other, particularly if the interaction makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps this person has different ideas about what is right and wrong with a situation. It could be a friend, a stranger, a co-worker, or a family member. Our discomfort is what we are most aware of, and this tends to distort the interaction.

One way to shift the dynamic is to take a deep breath, see the dignity of the other, and ask open-ended questions. It sounds simple enough, but it is surprisingly challenging to practice when we are in a heightened emotional state.

To see and speak to the dignity of the other is a touchstone to keep coming back to. It keeps our interactions flowing between us.

Tip of the Month – October 2018

listening differently

When you find yourself reacting—either positively or negatively—to what someone says, tune in and listen to yourself. What was in the statement that triggered a reaction in you, and why?

You may need more time for reflection than a flowing conversation permits, so turn to inquiry:

“What did you mean?”

“Help me understand what you are saying (or why you feel that way).”

Invite the person to share more, rather than questioning in a way that either narrows the focus or puts the other person on the defensive.

Attentive listening and transformative listening are not the same. Attentive listening generally means that we repeat back what we heard (“Is this what you meant?”). Transformative listening, on the other hand, opens the space for the other person to clarify in ways that we might not anticipate or imagine. With practice, it really does transform a discussion and generate more insights.

Tip of the Month – September 2018


There is an unmistakable buzz of energy that comes from talking with people who see the world as we do. It’s natural and even essential to our well-being.

But it can be a slippery slope.

When we value being part of a group that diminishes those outside the group, we can no longer claim to want to build understanding, goodwill, and a better world for all, because this requires that we recognize and speak to the dignity of all.

Be honest with yourself. If you enjoy pointing out the failings of others in a demeaning manner, own it. If, on the other hand, you want to build a better world, then find ways to stand up for your values without diminishing other people.

Check in with yourself periodically to make sure you are in alignment with how you want to be in the world.

Tip of the Month – August 2018

How to Shift a Conversation

It is easy to fall into the trap of talking about a group as a monolithic entity with clearly defined characteristics and beliefs that apply to all. We pick it up from the media, who talk about groups all day long. (“The Republicans; the Democrats; etc.)

We all do it. But there is an easy solution for shifting away from this tendency.

The next time you hear yourself say: “They are…” change it to “I am…”

You can make the same point but frame it differently.

Instead of: “They are so stupid because they don’t see that…”

Change to: “I am concerned that…”

Shift the conversation away from talking about the failings of others to the impact you feel, and invite others to do the same. When someone says: “They are…” ask how s/he might re-phrase the same thought starting with “I am…”

It creates an opening to make the conversation more interesting. It is an opportunity to engage around why someone feels particularly strongly about one issue over another. When we shift to the "I" position, it makes it easier to peel back the layers to get to deeper concerns and motivations.