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…

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…