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Conflict Resolution Tips and Blog

The Conflict of Trust, Race and Engine Failure

Last month I was sitting on a plane that was supposed to be a direct flight from NYC to Honolulu when the pilot’s voice came on to announce that there was trouble with one of the engines and not to worry. The plan was to land in Portland and take care of the problem. The immediate problem other than the obvious was that this announcement came an hour before we would arrive in Portland. I looked at my seatmate and those around us, including flight attendants and saw worry and fear so clearly. I leaned back in my seat and decided that all I could do was trust.

I remember thinking that I trust these pilots to know what they are doing even though I have not met them. I trust that any dark and scary imaginations that my mind can conjure up cannot and will not compete with their knowledge to do what they do regularly and that is to fly this plane and land it safely. They live this and I trust that they have stories to tell from their experiences. My seatmate shares that she has flown this airline for many years and has never had this experience. So, she decided to join me in leaning in to trust.

I had just finished reading O Magazine’s issue dedicated to talking about race and my mind went immediately there. I thought about this idea of trust and its relationship to race relations. People of Color are often subjected to the day-to-day oppressive notion that someone who has no clue and has never walked in your shoes is the decided and sanctioned authority of your experience. The people outside of our experience get to say that “you are making it up,” “that doesn’t happen,” “it was mean but I don’t think it was racism” or “let’s wait until all the facts are in” and the insanely frustrating “why do you always have to play the race card?”

People of Color who are socio-economically diverse, educationally diverse from all walks of life who tell their stories of similar abuses who should be the authorities on their experiences in this country, are not believed regularly. There is little trust or there would be more change. That many of us including myself experience this among people we know, respected friends and colleagues, slowly erodes our faith that the ethnic and racial conflicts in this country will ever end.

Trust, a little word with HUGE power.

While there is an enormous amount of work to do and continuous conversations to be had, I ask us to start to look at this idea of trust and the role it plays in our relationship to one another when it comes to race and ethnicity specifically. The sad truth is that even People of Color have been poisoned by the insidious beliefs of mistrust that have been so strategically ingrained in the fiber of this country.

Can you trust that we live this life every day and our experiences are where our expertise lie? Can we fly the plane while you sit back and trust that because we live this we know about all the turbulence and bumps ahead and exactly where things are going to land?


The Conflict that Resides Within A Question. Are You Ready For the Answer?

How far would you go to get an answer to your one burning question?

Daryl Davis traveled to the very people that hate him. What kind of courage does it take to ask a sibling that is gravely ill to increase her pain by healing the old wounds that have created lasting conflict between the two of you? Elizabeth Lesser exhibited that kind of raw courage when she chose to become a bone marrow donor for her sister.

These are the kinds of conflict that challenge so much of what we think and believe. They push us to look at our own capacity for facing and resolving conflict.

Daryl DavisAt the young age of 10, Daryl Davis was cruelly attacked while marching in a Cub Scout parade. As the only black face in the parade, he was offensive to many white adults in the crowd and their reactions were to throw bottles, cans and whatever they could find at him. When he returned home and his parents explained racism to him, he held both disbelief and curiosity. His question, “how can you hate me when you don’t even know me,” would lead him to the depths of hatred, the Ku Klux Klan.

elizabeth-lesserElizabeth Lesser found the answer to her question a lot closer to home. When her sister was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, Elizabeth was a match as a bone marrow donor. The painful transplant process was only half of the challenge that Elizabeth and her sister took on. The deeper and in some ways more painful journey came in asking the question, “if we are really talking about healing can we start with the old wounds of our relationship?” That kind of conflict resolution requires deep commitment to surfacing, examining and healing what is holding you back from moving forward in your relationship.

The opportunity to sit with Daryl and Elizabeth and delve into the raw, honest truth about their experiences opened the door to my own thoughts and a desire to engage in the work of learning how to live my life on the highest level possible.

I believe that the times are requiring that of each of us. We can no longer avoid the conflicts that are ripping our homes, places of businesses, communities, the nation and world apart. Learning to resolve conflict one meaningful response at a time is no longer a request, but rather a demand that our world is placing on us.

Are you ready?

Join me for the Soul of Conflict Tele-Summit: Healing Old Wounds to hear the rest of their compelling stories and so many more.

Let’s do the work of forward together. Go to:


Lessons for Getting Along for the Holidays from Carol Brady

The death of Florence Henderson who played one of America’s favorite TV moms comes at a time when America could use some real motherly advice. Just as we managed to get through Thanksgiving, our beloved Carol Brady took her leave. As the mom of a blended family of six children, Carol Brady dished out plenty of life lessons and as America braces itself for the holiday fall-out from the election of a reality TV star, who better than a TV mom to help us learn to turn holiday fears into holiday cheers.

As the Conflict Closer, I help people resolve conflict one meaningful response at a time. So, allow me to mix up my own holiday cocktail with some Carol Brady wisdom.

1. “No problem was ever solved by crawling in to a hole.”

It’s the holiday season. Why ruin it right? Maybe the Thanksgiving attempts to have serious conversation or make peace caused even more stress and strife and you just aren’t willing to go there again. The truth is that as much as we want to avoid conflict by ignoring it, that does not make it go away. It simply makes it go and grow underground where it festers and feeds off of the next perceived slight or misunderstanding.

A meaningful response: Take it one on one. Let one person know that you want to try to talk about one thing that you two are in conflict about and then set a time, place and time limit and have snacks available. (Alice always had some chocolate chip cookies waiting.)

2. “You shouldn’t put down a loser, Cindy, because you might be one yourself someday. Just remember that.”

This election has taken name-calling to the highest percentile and now that it is over, the word “loser” has become a lethal weapon. Maybe your beef has nothing to do with the election and the word “loser” has been preserved for the one who got in the last nasty word. Whatever the case, Mom Brady is right. We all will walk in the shoes of losing at something. The problem with throwing around that word is that it becomes personalized and we mean it to be. Whether we lose a game, an argument or a campaign, it does not make us personally a loser.

A meaningful response: Acknowledge where you are as a starting point for where the conversation can begin, but don’t make it a personal attack. “Trump won, suck it up loser” or “I was right and you were wrong loser” is not going to open the door to conversation.

3. “Don’t play ball in the house.”

Now, she literally meant, do not play ball in the house, because you could break something, which they did. I am taking liberty with it here and saying don’t throw hardballs at each other. Stay away from name-calling and labeling people whether it be statements like “you are so judgmental” or “you are a racist.” Let what they said take a hit rather than the person and then don’t do it in the house. Take it outside if you can. Go for a walk, try to talk one on one privately if it is getting heated. Express to them that especially now with all of the division in our country, you want to make every effort to listen, understand and get along.

A meaningful response: “I really want to talk about what you just said. Can we sit somewhere or take a walk I really want us to understand what each of us is saying.”

4. “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”

Truth be told this is not a Carol Brady quote. It is Jan Brady’s famous line and my favorite Brady Bunch quote. But even though she didn’t say it, it still applies. When it comes to family, there are often favorites and perceived favorites or “the perfect sibling” or the “loser sibling”. Both are labels that make it hard to get along or to change if the label is attached to you. Jan got tired of hearing about the perfect Marcia. You may be tired of hearing about your “Marcia” or you may be the accused “Marcia.” When conflict happens this type of labeling often adds fuel to the fire. So, do your best not to go there.

A meaningful response: Stick to what the conflict is about but also recognize that the labels may likely be fueling it. Separate the issues from the feelings of resentment for now and offer to meet another time to talk about the underlying resentment.

5. If You Have “Unfriended” a Loved One and Want to Make Amends, Own it and Apologize. This one is all mine. Enough said.

I saw in Carol Brady a woman who did her best to communicate something I believe in strongly, relationships are the foundation upon which we build our lives. They can be fragile, because it takes a lot of work to make them strong enough to support us.

That Mrs. Brady was a lovely lady.

Is Teaching Social and Emotional Skills Without Diversity Just Another Name For Respectability Politics?

A year ago a colleague questioned me as to whether I thought that teaching predominantly poor African American and Latino children (my primary youth audience), the skills of conflict resolution, communication and managing emotions bordered on respectability politics. My knee-jerk reaction was, “No, of course not. These are vital skills for success and staying alive in a world that is set up to limit their access to the people and places that can help them live up to their full potential.”

Her question rattled me enough to explore the numerous articles that had begun to surface on this very topic. Folks were not just questioning, but denouncing ideas like grit, character development, managing emotions and conflict resolution skills, because rather than creating safe and respectful environments, they are teaching children from marginalized communities that there is something wrong with who they are and how they behave. Respectability politics at work in their eyes.

In the article, “The Definition, Danger and Disease of Respectability Politics Explained,” Damon Young explains that respectability politics is “generally defined as what happens when minority and/or marginalized groups are told (or teach themselves) that in order to receive better treatment from the group in power, they must behave better.” What does it say that many of the schools that are implementing the very specific skills of managing emotion and effective communication skills are public schools where black and brown and poor students are the predominant demographic?

There is a definite influence that culture has on everything from communication to expressing emotions. Is getting us all on the same page in the way that we communicate a way of passing judgment on the quieter and more observant nature of most Asian populations and the more expressive and emotional communication style of African American and Latino populations? The tension that rises in the room when diversity is on the agenda often betrays the need to discuss the pushback against these skills that is beginning to surface in numerous articles.

I love what I do, but the questions being raised are important enough in my view to consider. For right now, I am choosing to continue reading and to take it all in. I would love to read what you have to say about it.

Read the connection between these skills and education and corporate America in my latest Psychology Today article.

3 Ways I Use My Conflict Resolution Skills In My Parenting: A Homegrown Conflict Resolutionista Speaks

My life’s journey has allowed me to teach conflict resolution and leadership skills to teens for over 25 years. One of the outcomes that I envisioned so many years ago was to have these teens grow up and use these skills to educate others. I am blessed to still be in connection with so many young people who are doing just that.

Today, I am spotlighting one of them.

Melissa Velasquez found one of my Today’s Parenting Tips on Facebook and shared it in one of her blog posts. I was not only grateful but excited to find out what she is up to in the world. We shared a wonderful conversation about mommy-hood, blogging and conflict resolution.

Actually, we went all over the place with this conversation. Melissa was raised from teenage years on the skills of conflict resolution. She is what I call Homegrown. She was a prominent figure in an incredible organization called E.A.R.S., Effective Alternatives in Reconciliation Services.

She ventured into the world of blogging in order to lend a voice to the single moms out there.

As a single mom of three year old Misa, she wanted to provide hope, pride, direction, tips, advice and truth. She wanted to see if someone could get something good from her words. I certainly did. I am sharing three ways that she uses her skills of conflict resolution in her parenting in order to feature a younger voice who developed expertise early in her life.

Below are her answers to some pointed questions and my take on her responses.
1. What is on your playlist these days?

“I am so careful about the messages Misa takes in. What’s on my playlist is ABC by The Jackson Five.”

Being careful about what our children hear can be challenging. Being prepared to talk with them about what they hear when they go other places is important. Listening to their questions and being willing and ready to give them honest, age appropriate answers is part of the way she parents.

conflict-resolution-with-melissa-velasquez2. What do you do as a parent that you feel breaks culture?

“By the way that I discipline. She will never hear me threaten to hit her. By also letting her have a voice.”

Allowing children to have a voice can mean that they may take a long time to decide things, for instance what they want to wear in the morning as Melissa has experienced. However, they learn how to make decisions. It is also not easy to break culture. You really need to stand tall in that and use your communication skills, something both Melissa and I know something about.

3. What is a big mistake that you learned from?

“Being triggered. We had someplace to go and we were going to be late. I do not like to be late. It is programmed in me from E.A.R.S. She started yelling and screaming and really losing it. Nothing I was trying worked. So I really lost it and she heard me say a bad word. I had to apologize to her later.”

It didn’t end up being completely resolved in this big happy ending for them, but they were able to get through it and attend the event. The lesson learned was about taking a minute to notice that you are being triggered and to try to calm yourself down. But if that doesn’t happen, then an apology is important to your child. It is something that I teach about often.

Young voices need to be heard. They can really add something to the conversation.

Both Melissa and I agree that there is too much division in the parenting world. We have much more to gain by coming together.

conflict-resolution-parenting-with-melissa-velasquezFeel free to connect with Melissa on:

Her Blog:


Instagram, Twitter & Snapchat: @justabxmom