Pain and Fear

“What do you think we should be talking about more?” I heard myself recently say to a friend, “The world is just too much for my soul these days.”  I had just read an announcement from the Wiyot Tribe on whose unceded ancestral lands I live that they had declared a State of Emergency on the Wiyot’s ancestral rivers due to extreme low flows and drought conditions. The Wiyot Tribe are my neighbors. Some of … Read more…

The Gifts and Challenges of Generative Listening

The first time I was listened to, really listened to, was a revelation. It happened in my mid-twenties while talking with Grace, a close colleague and friend. She did something deceptively simple. She paid attention. She restated back to me what she understood me to say. Then she asked a question to increase her understanding of what I was trying to convey.  Hearing my words reflected back to me was revelatory. I felt seen and … Read more…

Human Consciousness and Generative Social Fields

This post is inspired by ongoing conversations with my colleague Alan Briskin as we consider writing a book about social fields. The intention is to examine what they are and how to create generative ones in the service of positive social change. I intend it to be a follow-on to Alan’s blog post The Power of Fields. As I reflect on conversations with my friend and colleague Alan and his recent blog post, these phrases … Read more…

Courageous Conversation Practices

“A difficult conversation is anything you find it hard to talk about…difficult conversations are a part of life.” —Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen in “Difficult Conversations” What difficult conversations do you typically avoid? How do you talk yourself out of speaking up? What makes difficult conversations difficult for you? During our annual Cascadia Center for Leadership program, we ask the 28 participants how they respond to these questions. Over the 20 years we … Read more…

Courageous Communication

Picture about seventy people crowded into a dimly lit room with a creaking, wooden floor of an old building at the edge of San Francisco Bay. It was the home of the Dolphin Club, a legendary swim club founded in 1877, and their board of directors called a meeting to propose a series of upgrades to its aging facilities. I was standing at the back of the room with a swim buddy listening to two … Read more…

That Which Is Unseen…

How do you feel in your meetings at work? Happy, sad, glad, mad or scared? What are your thoughts during those meetings? “This is such a waste of my time.” Or, “I am glad to be part of this conversation.” How does your body feel? Tired, engaged, agitated, calm? All three of these—your emotions, thoughts, and body sensations—contribute to a larger social or relational field in which the meeting is happening. The social fields we … Read more…

Say What You Mean—Do What You Say

We are receiving more requests to facilitate “difficult conversations” this year than in previous ones. We don’t know the cause. Perhaps it’s the national political climate that has people more on edge. One common denominator in many of these conflicts is people NOT saying what they mean or doing what they said they would do. According to Angeles Arrien, these are two major sources of conflict. In her bestselling book The Four-Fold Way: Walking the … Read more…

Giving Away Power

Recently, I was talking with a small group of women about difficult situations and the impact they have on us. By “difficult” we meant anything that triggers us emotionally and diminishes our ability to handle circumstances effectively and constructively. One aspect that we had in common is that in these situations, we tended to give our power away and lose access to our equanimity and skills. By “power” I mean the ability to stay grounded, … Read more…

Surrendering Certainty

Life is a constant journey exploring the unknown. Despite our best attempts to hang onto certainty with plans, to-do lists, beliefs, and opinions, life remains impermanent, every changing and unpredictable. It seems to be even more so in this increasingly complex and interconnected world in which differences of all types present themselves to us every day at work, in the media, and in our communities. And, differences create disturbance. We have a choice. We can … Read more…

Networks of Conversations

Conversations, aka meetings, are the sine qua non of organizations and communities. They are how things get done. “Is there anything that matters that isn’t done through conversations?” asks Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, authors of The Three Laws of Performance. Planning, problem solving, policy setting, coaching or staying up-to-date with colleagues: all of these occur through conversations. In addition, meeting conversations feed into other ones. Managers develop a recommendation for a board of directors. … Read more…