“Go-To” Skill #1: Listening

Listening is the most underutilized and essential element there is for meaningful conversation. It is good for whatever ails any meeting. Although it does not cure a common cold, it does prevent misunderstandings, strengthen relationships, and help people clarify their thinking. So, why don’t we listen more deeply and more often? Among many possible reasons, three stand out: tit for tat behavior, fear, and lack of skill. “Tit for tat” or “you aren’t listening to … Read more…

Do “Meditation” and “Mindfulness” Matter?

Uh-oh. Maybe mainstreaming and secularizing meditation and mindfulness practice has gone too far? “I AM being stalked by meditation evangelists,” complains Adam Grant in a recent Op-Ed piece for the New York Times. “They approach with the fervor of a football fan attacking a keg at a tailgate party,” he claims. Meditation has exploded in popularity. And, the notion of “mindfulness” is ubiquitous in press pieces and book titles. A quick scan of my shelves … Read more…

Anger and Emotional Contagion

Sometimes I wonder if I am being naïve. Does how we talk to one another really matter? Maybe I just pay too much attention to the news: it seems so many of us are yelling at one another (politicians and political pundits); committing mass shootings (the latest is Roseburg); imprisoning and raping women, destroying antiquities, and holding people and territory hostage (ISIS is currently emblematic). What evokes this anger and aggression? The primitive parts of … Read more…

Emotions: the bane or the boon of our meetings

Perhaps you are reading this just after returning to your desk from a “bad” meeting. You feel frustrated, or even angry, because you think your ideas were ignored and/or nothing was accomplished. Emotions are a powerful force in our interactions. They wield more influence over the quality of our meetings than any other variable. They can turn a conversation among colleagues or neighbors either into a snarling, polarizing, and enervating event or into a joyful, … Read more…

The Tug of War in our Heads

These past weeks you have had the opportunity to experience how the media exacerbates the already existing tug of war in our heads. Politicians campaign for office with threatening messages about Mexicans and Muslims while Pope Francis invokes the Golden Rule entreating us to “treat others with the same…compassion with which we want to be treated.” On the one hand, some politicians evoke fear and anger, which triggers the more primitive parts of the brain … Read more…

Awareness Enables us to Make Conscious Choices

After a day and a half of intense, “learning-full” conversations, 28 people struggle to determine what they want to do after the meeting to continue to carry out their mission. They are running late and several people have to leave to catch plane flights. As the facilitator, I feel anxious they will not be able to agree and the meeting will end in frustration. I make a process suggestion that they misunderstand and which seems … Read more…

How We Get “Threatened” in Meetings

What tends to make you anxious or irritable when you interact with others in meetings at work or in your community? My sense of safety or equilibrium can get undermined when I don’t know what the purpose of a meeting is or when I get interrupted. A sense of safety is important because without it we lose our ability to think clearly and connect with others. When we do not feel safe the more primitive … Read more…

Choose Your Contribution to the Future

I recently read this on a poster in the contemplative Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael, California where I spent six days on an Embodied Life™ retreat with Russell Delman. While there, I continued my decades long reflection and investigation into how we contribute to the circumstances out of which our future does take shape each time we interact with others at home, at work, and in our communities. Everyday we discover more about the human … Read more…

Introduction to How We Talk Matters

To our peril, in the face of a mountain of serious issues, we are yelling at one another. Why? We’re scared. Life is uncertain and impermanent. And, we live in the shadow of multiple and inter-connected challenges locally, nationally, and globally: food insecurity and malnutrition, climate change and environmental degradation, decrepit infrastructures, inequality and inequity, and wars with their horrifying “collateral damage” including the soul-crushing abuse of women and millions of refugees desperately seeking safer … Read more…