Change the Brain for Good: Pay Attention

This entry on attention is the fourth in a five-part series. The series describes what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. The first entry introduces this series and describes the impact of meditation on whether we can respond effectively to disturbing events instead of reacting to them. The second entry investigates resilience and the third considers empathy and compassion. Attention is a limited … Read more…

Change the Brain for Good: Resilience 

This entry on resilience is the second in a five-part series. The series describes what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. The first entry introduces this series and describes the impact of meditation on whether we can respond effectively to disturbing events instead of reacting to them. Over forty years ago, I started dabbling with meditation because I … Read more…

The Best Seat Is Often In The Balcony

In a recent conversation with a close friend I noticed I was getting angry and decided to “go to the balcony”* so I could avoid blurting out something I would later regret. This helped me take a broader view of what was actually going on and remember how important this friend is to me. “Going to the balcony”—as if you were looking down on an interaction from the distance of a balcony—can change your perspective … Read more…

I Get Scared When…

When do you get scared in conversations or meetings? You might call it “challenged,” “anxious,” or “threatened.” However, underneath our adult bravado, it remains what we called it as children: “scared.” Here’s how a few of the 50 consultants at a talk I gave last week at the Silicon Valley Organization Development Network completed this sentence: “I get scared when…” — “I think someone is angry with me and his or her voice escalates. I’m … Read more…

Good Conversation Is An Inside Job

A good friend and colleague told me recently how reading my book, Talk Matters!, inspired him to reflect on his inner workings and how he interacts with others in his various roles as an experienced manager and member of several boards. I, of course, appreciated his taking my words to heart. It also got me to thinking that the essence of good conversation might primarily be an inside job. Despite years of teaching communication and … Read more…

Returning to the Present Moment

This spring, the water in Murray Canyon* is higher and faster than I have ever seen it. Heavy rains have washed parts of the trail away. To reach Seven Sisters Waterfall you need to follow a trail that goes from one side of the creek to the other. This entails crossing the creek multiple times on rocks or forging through the cold water rushing down from snow capped mountains. Either way, over the rocks or … Read more…

Talking Better Together by Choosing Mindfulness

In anticipation of the release of my book this Fall, I will be highlighting content from “Talk Matters: Saving the World One Word at a Time” here in my blog. I hope as you read, we will grow as colleagues because I’m looking for people who will save the world with me. Specifically, colleagues who will save the world by talking better together—together with those we must work with to get things done for our … Read more…

Watch Your Wake

Instead of dog droppings, my longtime friend and teacher Angeles Arrien puts it more elegantly: “Watch your wake.”  A “wake” is the wave pattern or turbulence on the water’s surface caused by a moving object, like a boat.  If you have been in a boat on a lake when a larger and/or faster boat moves past you, you know how much disturbance exists in its wake. In recent meetings, I was reminded about the impact … 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…