Difficult Conversations: Tips on Reducing conflict and increasing acceptance

“Give the people around you the benefit of the doubt.  Ascribe to them positive motivations, and hope they do the same for you.”  MWH

Acceptance means to listen, observe, understand, acknowledge,  and when appropriate communicating openingly and with directness. Above all try to keep the heat at lower temperature so others can be heard. Watch your tone and keep your finger on the pause button so as to assess the current situation, confront your thinking and false beliefs and then choose a response.

  • Clarify and agree to agenda and expectations for your time together
  • Monitor and edit yourself. Sincerely listen and try to meet the needs, interest,  and concerns of others; do not start by giving advice; try to listen and understand their needs and wants.  Show them that you have their best interest at heart.
  • Soften your “start up.”Be friendly and welcoming to person. Too much, too soon and too strong usually lead to resistance by audience members.
  • Accept influence. A difficult conversation succeeds to the extent that the presenter can accept influence from the other person. Be responsive to comments or concerns of the person. Ask questions to clarify misunderstandings.
  • Remember the best feedback is straightforward and simple. Don’t beat around the bush. Respect and encourage candid dialogue by trying to become a better listener, providing specific and tangible examples of behavior and its impact and confront in a caring way. Learned to turn down your volume and use your mute button when angry feelings bubble-up. Model the good communication habits you would like others to practice.
  • Focus on the optimistic “POV”. Try to understand person’s view of the world. In an open and positive communication that works for both of you. Problems and solutions are discussed in a “matter of fact” tone and comments to each other need to be in a ratio 5 to one. Meaning five times as many positive statements are communicated for every one negative statement
  • Learn to respect and appreciate differences in styles.
  • Take time-out if conversation gets heated. Set time to be continued.
  • End with small-steps for change and set next meeting to evaluate progress.

Thought Stream: On the Meaning of Leadership

“The truth depends upon a walk around the lake.” Wallace Stevens.

Let’s take a walk together and reflect on what leadership means.

I spent the last few hours pondering and responding to this incomplete sentence.

Leadership is…

On this post you will find my list of 25 leadership statements. Let’s see if you can add a few more insights on the meaning of leadership and then as an individual or team begin to change the climate of leadership in your organization.


1. Never completed or finished—it is life long.

2. Leadership is being RESPECTFUL AND CURIOUS about others ideas and suggestions

3. Leadership is squaring action with rhetoric.

4. Leadership is measured by results not just intentions.

5. Leadership depends on integrity, trust and authenticity.

6. Leadership is making mistakes; then understanding the lesson.

7. Leadership is never giving up on your vision for the future.

8. Leadership is appreciating the power of passion and people.

10, Leadership is trusting others abilities to do the job.

11. Leadership involves being present in the moment not day dreaming.

12. Leadership is all about knowing that the more you understand; the more you have to learn.

13. Learning is a deliberate intention to be both efficient (doing things right) and effective (doing the RIGHT THINGS) to creste a better future.

14. Leadership is tapping the potential and passion of  change and renewal.

15 Leadership is creating the climate of respect and making others feel important so that we continue to move forward.

16. Leadership is creating credibility through following up and executing against plans.

18. Leadership is all about flexible and open thinking.

19. Leadership is absorbing data turning it into information and then into usable knowledge.

20. Leadership is taking calculated risks to change and make a difference in people’s lives.

20. Leadership is experimenting and using trail and error; then remembering what was right and what was wrong.

21. Learning is listening to a preacher or teacher and taking home one or two useful ideas.

22. Leadership is long-term planning excuted day in and day out.

23. Leadership is showing up and being present.

24. Leadership is caring enough to challenge irrational ideas and selfish behavior.

25. Leadership is being a servant to others by following the creed of being “Men for others.”

Add your ideas about leadership; at least it will take your mind off of the economy.

How to build on these ideas of leadership?

  1. Add at least one  of your own ideas of leadership
  2. Make a list of five that ring true for you.
  3. Turn each idea  into a question, beginning with the words “How can I show more caring for others as a leader?
  4. Brainstorm each question – alone and with your team.
  5. Then, Get started on doing  something about one of these leadership ideas  within the next  week

Want to Improve Empathy? Try Listening and silence

“If we try to listen we find it extraordinarily difficult, because we are always projecting our opinions and ideas, our prejudices, our background, our inclinations, our impulses; when they dominate, we hardly listen at all to what is being said…One listens and therefore learns, only in a state of silence, in which this whole background is in abeyance, is quite; then, it seems to me, it is possible to communicate.”  Krishnamurti, Indian Philosopher

It is my belief that the most single most important skill you must show in life is the ability to communicate effectively with loved ones, friends, strangers, colleagues and clients. From making sure you’re listening and understanding others but also to our own inner thoughts and reactions. We must make space in our quick-firing minds so it is possible to listen. We have the capacity to listen and process 3-4x more information than a person can talk, 125-135 words per minute.  The question becomes what do we do with that extra capacity? Do you create room for listening with inner silence and focus on the other person or fill your mind with other thoughts and distractions till it’s time for your rebuttal. Our culture is dominated by speed and bombastic amounts of information, data and multi-tasking. To overcome these distractions we will need a change in habits and strong self-discipline of being present with others and paying attention to living in the moment.

Just about everyone could use improvement in their listening skills. We often take listening for granted and to improve listening is difficult because we are so eager to have our viewpoints validated.  So how do we improve this critical communication skill of empathic listening? Here are a few tips:

1. Focus on the present interaction and moment.

2. Be more other-centered than self-centered.

3. Try becoming more attentive by using silence and non-verbal cues of heading nodding and looking people in the eyes when they are talking.

4. Anticipate where the conversation is going  and see strengths of the other person’s ideas and arguments.

5. Learn to listen to yourself. Identify how you are listening. Ask yourself, Do I focus on the other person when they are speaking or am I interrupting, changing the subject,  looking at my cell phone or just getting ready to take my turn in speaking? How do I feel about what is being communicated? Understanding your emotions of feelings connects you to the essence of the interaction.

6. Always try to be present with the other person. Learning how to listen means that we learn to notice what we are feeling and thinking.

7. Avoid the temptation to respond immediately. Don’t feel pressured to speak. Use silence to allow others to go on. When ready try to restate, or rephrase what you heard so the other person feels understood.

The journey to becoming a more empathic person begins with listening but this is easier said than done. We must learn how to suspend snap judgments, challenge  assumptions and realize that much of our reactions to others comes from stored memories and experiences. To become a better listener we need to be more open and flexible in our processing things anew and not replaying old tapes. Good Luck and keep me posted on your listening experiences and the impact on your relationships.

Thriving on Teamwork

Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work”  Vince Lombardi

I think leadership is all about building great teams. That, in the end, is all personal — how do you think team involvement changed who you are today? I think  it humbled me. When you finally discover that your success is dependent on help from and cooperation with others, that almost every decision you make can’t go anywhere with  out followers and suppoerters. You feel a sense of pride, trust, and responsibility when your team is aligned and focused on the shared vision or dream you all want to reach. In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni, presents the case for building effective and cohesive teams. He observes the obivious that building  a team  is hard work but also simple. Sound confusing it is. The author’s argument is focused on critical factors for ensuring success such as, courage and persistence. Of course individuals need to bring motivation and factors such as courage and persistence to the team. Yet to build an effective team producing desired results needs much more than just courage and persistence. One of critical factors for building an effective team is to pay attention to the selection of  individuals who make-up the team. Then we need to assess how the individuals will fit to together and assess their readiness to work together in a collobrative and synergistic way.

Here are a few questions for you to ask as you undertake the development of an effective and productive team.

1. Does your team have the right members who bring unique strengths and and talents for achieving the vision, solving the problems and finding opportunities to be tackled?

2. Is your group really a team or just a collection of independent people meeting together to share information but have no shared goal or purpose?

3. How does your team handle disagreements and conflicts –focusing on different points of view and styles or ignoring and burying differences ? 

4. Are team members clear on the expectations and task at hand?

5. What are you doing to measure the team’s readiness for team problem solving, interpersonal conflicts and reporting results of their work? What training do they need to work together and succeed in their mission?

Purpose-Center Leadership: Exercise #1 Purpose and Vision Quest

Your Personal Purpose and Vision Quest



ExerciseAnswer the following questions to create a personal life quest or vision.




  • Imagine achieving a result in your life that you deeply desire.  This purpose provided meaning and fired your passion for living.  Describe it.






  • Suppose you had a vision of greatness and fulfillment for yourself.  What would it be?







  • How do you want to be remembered by your family, friends, work associates and community?






  • What are your strengths for achieving and making a difference in life?







  • Write below your personal quest or vision. Now your life has a unique purpose – you might want to carry this purpose statement in your wallet to help keep your life on this path.