Last of the Human Freedoms

Vicktor E. Frankl’s words bring to mind a traditional Buddhist story captured by Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield. “Buddha tells a parable about a man traveling across a field who encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, … Read more…

Karmic Conversation

When I feel tired, scared, angry, or even joyful, it is easy to forget that what I say and how I say it affects others. Everything any of us says and does has consequences. It is instant karma. Not in the Hindu or Buddhist sense that actions in current and past lives decide our fate in future existences but now, in this moment and the next. All we have control over is what we say … Read more…

Pygmalion Effect

People’s beliefs about us influence how we behave. This is known as the Pygmalion Effect, after George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (1916). In it, Professor Higgins transforms a Cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, into someone who passes for a duchess. As Shaw has Higgins express it, “The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in … Read more…

A Chance to Change

If you could change one thing about meetings at work or in your community, what would you change? If you could change one thing about the way you interact with others, what would you change? I’d like people to listen more attentively so they could understand one another better. And I’d like to be less impatient with and critical of people who tend to talk over others. Here’s the good news: we can change both … Read more…

The Greatness of Ground Rules

Ground Rules might seem infantile, like rules for a kindergarten class: “Be nice to others.” However, they are essential to effective meetings because they are agreements on how we want to treat one another. They remind us of how, in the best of all possible meetings, we want to behave and get things done. They are important because each of us comes to interactions with unconscious expectations about how other people should behave. Here are … Read more…

Argumentum Ad Hominem

Although Logic was not my favorite class in college, one lesson stayed with me: the logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem. Since it is being used repeatedly in the current Presidential primaries, I thought it would be useful to remind us all what this fallacy is. (Ad hominem is short for argumentum ad hominem. It is Latin for “to the man” or to the person”). The candidates argue ad hominem when they attack opponents (for … Read more…

Deciding How to Engage Citizens in Making Decisions

Engaging citizens in making decisions about their communities, cities and towns is the heart of democracy. “Citizens…are members of the broad public within a jurisdiction or affected by a particular decision.” (Kahane, et al) Although voting for candidates or referendums is an important part of democracy, it is or should be only a small part of it. Here are three of the multiple challenges to effectively engaging citizens in making decisions. First, there is the … Read more…

Deciding How to Decide

Making decisions is at the heart of most meetings. Some decisions are small and innocuous. Others are important and impactful. Deciding how to make decisions is an important step because how decisions get made significantly influences the quality of the decision and the commitment to implement it. Be strategic in deciding whether and how to engage others in making decisions and to make how you want to engage them explicit at the start of a … Read more…

Oh, the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Too frequently we behave as if our untested inferences or beliefs about what we observe and hear are “the truth.” What we infer from or believe about what we see and hear is often quite different from what we actually see and hear. In other words, we make up stories about our direct experience instead of paying attention to it. Recently I was teaching mindfulness meditation to a group of “transition age youth.” As I … Read more…

Why Are We Meeting?

People’s time and interest are precious, limited resources. Only convene meetings that require interaction and have a clear purpose and specific desired outcomes. I follow three guidelines. First, I won’t go to a meeting unless the convener communicates beforehand what they want to accomplish. Second, if I ignore the first guideline and go to a meeting without knowing the purpose, at the start I ask, “What do you hope to accomplish at this meeting?” Third, … Read more…