Taking a Stand

Decades ago, I took a stand for “meaningful conversations about things that matter so we can do good things for the world, together.”* This stand has been the primary thread weaving through my decades-long career and it was the inspiration for my book, Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time. As I approach the third anniversary of its publication and the end of 2019, I am revisiting this stand. Many underestimate the … Read more…

Sussing Out Our Sense of Superiority

Our judging brains are powerful things. Within nanoseconds of seeing or meeting someone, we decide whether or not we like them. We are attracted or repulsed. My meditation practice, in addition to my intention to treat others respectfully, helps me notice the train of judgments that seems to spontaneously arise when I meet someone new or when I encounter someone whom I already know. Thankfully, I can now more easily notice the judgments and step … Read more…

Spaciousness of “Negative Capability”

John Keats, English Romantic Poet, wrote about “negative capability” in a letter to his brothers George and Thomas in 1871 when he was 22 years old. I read this letter nearly a century later when I was 22, an undergraduate majoring in English literature. I understand this oxymoronically-named ability today in ways I could not have then. As circumstances at work and in our lives become ever more complex, negative capability might be one of … Read more…

Shifting from Pieces and Parts to Wholes

When tackling a problem, it’s easier to analyze its pieces and parts and try to solve them one by one than it is to try and understand the whole situation or system. However, this approach rarely works because analyzing the parts does not help us understand how the system in which the problem is embedded works nor how it keeps the problem you want to solve in place. Systems thinking, on the other hand, seeks … Read more…

Are We Stuck at a Cognitive Threshold?

The complexity of issues facing us is outstripping our ability to understand and solve them. Governmental institutions spin on gerbil wheels of outmoded, linear processes and procedures, attempting to tackle issues with multiple, inter-connected parts one part at a time. This is as true in the United States Congress as it is in state legislatures and city councils. In the world of business, economic considerations (i.e., profit), trumps all other criteria in determining whether or … Read more…

How Do You “Host” Polarities?

Given how polarized the political climate in the US is right now, I thought it would be valuable to look at what polarities are and how we might better manage or leverage them at work and in our communities. This is the second piece in a three-part series on polarities.  A polarity is a state in which two ideas, opinions or beliefs are completely opposite or very different from one another. It is not a … Read more…

Dangers of Climbing the Ladder of Inference

I appreciate students and clients who, through their questions or disagreements, invite me to rethink and reconsider what I say and espouse. This happened recently after a two-day workshop on communication and meeting skills with the staff of a governmental agency. I had reviewed the Ladder of Inference to help people learn how to give effective feedback by separating observable behavior (what they see and hear, e.g., when you interrupt me) from inferences or judgments … Read more…

“Duh’s” and “Aha’s”*

When do your best ideas come to you? Perhaps while you are walking, showering, or having a good conversation with people you trust? Or, do they come while you are studying an issue and trying to solve it based on your past experience with solving a similar problem? When faced with a difficult issue many of us try the latter and often come to an impasse or apply an ineffective solution. This happens for two … Read more…

Suspending Judgment

This year I have the privilege of serving on the dissertation committee for Jen Mason, an engaging and highly competent graduate student conducting seminal research into “Mindfulness, Suspension and Learning in Multi-Stakeholder Groups” for her Ph.D. from Prescott College. I am grateful for this opportunity to reconsider the importance of “suspension” in productive dialogue and collaboration. I first encountered this idea while participating in a series of International Women’s Dialogues through the Dialogue Project at … Read more…

Talking Better Together by Opening to Change

Eighty people sit in groups of four around small tables spread across a gymnasium floor. The topic is water, always a touchy subject in California. This time, however, the problem isn’t having too little water; it’s having too much. The state “owns” the water and grants rights to use it to various agencies throughout the state. There’s a catch, however: If you don’t use what you’ve been licensed to use, you can lose rights to … Read more…