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…

Systems Thinking for an Interconnected World

Are you trying to tackle a problem that, despite everyone’s best efforts, does not go away? Are you trying to optimize your part of an organization without considering the impact on the system as a whole because it seems too complicated or too effortful to do otherwise? Are you afraid your short-term efforts might undermine your intention to solve a problem in the long-term? Are a number of groups working on the same issue at … 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…

Four Essential Questions: #2 Who is leading?

This is the second entry in a four-part series that explores four questions: (1) What are we doing here? (2) Who is leading? (3) Who owns this place? (4) Who belongs? Aftab Omer , President of Meridian University, shared these “archetypal” questions while we were planning the annual gathering of the Global Learning and Exchange Network (GLEN) with the founders of the GLEN, David Sibbet and Gisela Wendling, and fellow GLEN members Karen Buckley and FireHawk … Read more…

Artful Waiting

Recently during a workshop on mindful communication, Russell Delman  asked an evocative question: “What is ‘waiting?’” We wait in line to pay for items in a grocery store; we wait on the phone to talk to a live human being, and women in particular often wait to use public restrooms. While we wait, many of us get agitated, wanting this moment to end so the next thing can happen: return home with groceries, talk to … Read more…

Tackling Toxic Talk

To begin 2018 I offer two pieces on how to counter talk that undercuts and damages our ability to interact in constructive ways. This first one considers how to stop toxic talk in the work place. The next one explores how to handle talk that cuts close to people’s core: degrading comments about race, ethnicity, gender, age and sexual orientation.  I wish you a wonderful New Year, -Mary   “Public statements are not private,” asserts … 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…

“Compassion” Our Way Forward

Compassion is a verb

After the November 8 election, I sent a dear friend an email asking about what he might be feeling or thinking. He began his response with, “I really believe we can only ‘compassion’ our way forward.” After astutely turning this noun into a verb, he continued, “We have to be the ones to try and make democracy compassionate and caring.” In previous postings, building on the work of Daniel Goleman, I have described various types of … Read more…

We Are The World. Lets Start Talking.

I had been considering what to write in this first blog of 2017 when Roger James (my husband and business partner) showed me this 32-years-ago video.  It sings everything I want to say with one slight yet significant addition. In addition to giving money to the causes we care about, let’s start giving by listening deeply to each other with empathy and compassion, especially to those who differ from us in race, gender, ideology, class, … Read more…