Home/Conflict Management

12 Principles of Brain-Friendly and Heart-Full Communication

Happy New Year!  May 2013 be peaceful, safe, healthy, joyful and prosperous!

Our lives find meaning, purpose and fullest expression through connection with other human beings.  Here at The Brain Alchemist, we promise to help you make your communication in 2013 brain-friendly and heart-full so that you can nurture and grow relationships that matter. The following 12 principles can be your guide to deeper connectivity, self-expression and peace in 2013.  Perhaps, you can choose one principle for each month to explore, practice and apply in your daily interactions and watch your relationships transform.

Video link: http://youtu.be/eKua9A1PQxo

  • Before you speak your mind, listen with your heart. You can’t be heard if you don’t know how to listen.
  • Pack perspectives,  unpack assumptions. Whenever possible, assume positive intent in words and actions.
  • Don’t sugarcoat problems. It won’t solve them, but it will make them sticky.
  • To have cool conversations, learn to control your hot buttons.
  • Choose the surprise of a genuine human connection over the safety of posturing.
  • Embrace uncertainty. Unlikely things happen all the time, both good and bad.  It’s our likely expectations that are often the problem.
  • Ask powerful questions. The answers will always be closer than you think.
  • Speak in kindness. Those who spit out toxic words are the first to taste the poison.
  • Be guided by curiosity, not judgment. Don’t judge others unless you are prepared to live their lives.
  • Look for ambiguity because it tickles the mind.  Be concise and precise because it sharpens the thought.
  • Extract your message from the rubble of doubt, shame, failures, and misfortunes. The reward of digging deep is finding your true voice.
  • Be compassionate but don’t take responsibility for other people’s feelings. When we doubt our ability to cope with feelings, we deny ourselves the richness and fullness of life. Speak and act from the heart, with empathy and respect, but let others feel what they need to feel and trust they can handle it.




By | 2013-08-21T19:44:08+00:00 January 9th, 2013|Communication, Conflict Management|0 Comments

The Sweet & Sour Sauce of Integrative Communication

The topic of today’s Communication Lab experiment is Sweet & Sour.  You may have tasted a sweet and sour sauce, often used in Chinese cuisine to go with fish or meat.  The intriguing part about Sweet & Sour is that it combines very different and somewhat opposing flavors to create a new, balanced flavor.  We are going to take this concept of Sweet & Sour and apply it to our communication.

Video link: http://youtu.be/pWPw7jbUk9I

Have you ever felt stuck or pulled in different directions by an internal struggle because you had conflicting thoughts in your head?  Today we will learn about integrative thinking, which is similar to the concept of Sweet & Sour. You will pick up a communication technique that will help you transform conflicting ideas into creative solutions.

In his book “The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking,” Roger Martin defines integrative thinking as:

“The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.”

The expression that often indicates the presence of conflicting thoughts is “Yes… but…” . For example, you know you should do something, but you can see many obstacles on your way that keep you stuck.  Instead of a clear “No, nope, nowhere, nohow,’” you offer a tacit “YOPE’” – “yes” and “nope” in one.  This “YOPE” thinking is a protective strategy to minimize uncertainty or the risk of failure. YOPE gives no hope.  

Turn “Yes… but…” into “Yes…and…so…”

Instead, let’s  play a language game to get at the core of the issues.

Example: A client of mine may say, “I need to give this person an honest feedback, but she will get upset and won’t listen.”

This is the cautious YOPE response that doesn’t encourage action.

The trick is to change the ‘yes…but…’ response to ‘yes…and…so…’.

Example: “I need to give this person an honest feedback, and she will get upset and won’t listen, so…”

After ‘so’ is where the secret Sweet & Sour sauce comes in. The person has to come up with the next proposition, assuming the first two are true. This can either boost some creative thinking or reveal limiting beliefs and barriers.

“I need to give this person an honest feedback, and she will get upset and won’t listen, so…”

  • “I have to prepare for this conversation more deliberately”
  • “I have to control my own responses better”
  • “we have to choose the best time and place possible for this conversation”
  • “I need to acknowledge how she feels first”
  • “I have to avoid making the issue personal and give a lot of support”
  • “we should brainstorm solutions together”

When you play with the language like that, it may illuminate some fallacies and inconsistencies in your thinking and prompt more creative responses.

By | 2013-08-21T20:01:40+00:00 December 1st, 2012|Communication, Conflict Management|0 Comments

From Hot Buttons to Hot Products: Conflict Pro Gift Guide

Got a peacemaker on your gift list or want to redecorate your office or yourself?  Look no further than this Conflict Pro Gift Guide.  Enough of neuroscience already, although you may want to check out my recent webinar on the brain and conflict at the ADRhub Werner Institute. Today, my neurons sparkle with the anticipation of the holidays.  I am very grateful to all of you, my dear readers, for your support and our mutual learning and sharing!  Thank you!  Let’s have a little bit of dopamine-inducing, conflict-reducing fun and indulge in these peacemakers’ picks for the holidays.

You have a big heart, don’t you?  Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in the peacemaking business. Perhaps, your home or office needs a heart too.  Check out this Driftwood Heart.  It can serve as a good conversation piece, whole-heartedness priming device, and an object of metaphorical exploration.

Driftwood HeartSugarcoating problems won’t solve them, but it will make them sticky.  A heart-felt, direct apology can go a long way, especially, if it is delivered on a fun notecard, like these “Sorry I Was So Prickly” cards.

Sorry I was Prickly
What are you grateful for this holiday season? These simple but elegant Thank You notes will help you express your gratitude to people that make your life happier and brighter.
Thank You NotesThere are many peacemaking tools out there, but kindness stands out from the crowd.  Kill Them With Kindness…or with this art print.

Kill Them With Kindness
Holidays can be joyful, and they can also be stressful. “There’s an Elephant in the Room Cards” were created to help people move with grace through difficult moments in their relationships.

You were right
If you want to master your relationships and be a peacemaker or know someone who could benefit from conflict management skills (and who wouldn’t?), the book “Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model” by Cinnie Noble will equip you with research-based and battle-tested tools to navigate interpersonal disputes.

Conflict Coaching

To borrow the title of Laurie Baker’s short story – “Go in Peace, Not in Pieces.” …Although the pieces from The Barber’s Daughters jewelry can certainly help you go in peace, like this “Breathe Peace” necklace.

Breathe PeaceI can’t wait for their Prayer Rings collection to come out. Spin the messages ‘peace begins with me’ or ‘one moment at a time’ on your finger.

Prayer Rings

Eat in peace and in style.  This Earth-friendly, non-toxic and safe White Peace Plate will remind little peacemakers to play nice.
Peace Plate
Your power lies in the questions you ask.  The answer is always closer than you think. Here’s a good question…“What good shall I do this day?”
What good shall I do this day?

This is your life. Live like you mean it. Be inspiring like this Holstee Manifesto Poster.

And above all, don’t forget to smile!  Happy holidays!

By | 2012-11-20T15:54:04+00:00 November 20th, 2012|Books, Communication, Conflict Management|0 Comments

Sweet kindness

chocolates“As long as I live
My heart will express a humble kindness
As long as the wind blows
My kindness will gallop freely.
As long as my heart beats,
My spirit will always go
Searching for you
To influence you
To be kind to others.”

~ Steve Dudasch

Kindness can be as sweet as a piece of chocolate. It turns out you may want to use sweet foods to influence others to be kind. Having a sweet tooth may be bad for your diet but good for your disposition according to several studies from North Dakota State, Gettysburg College, and Saint Xavier University.  For example, people were more likely to volunteer to help somebody after eating a piece of sweet chocolate than after eating a sour candy or a bland cracker.  Participants also rated those with a sweet tooth as more agreeable and helpful than others.

Researchers hypothesize that the results may signal a link between metaphors associated with “sweetness” and our perceptions of behavior.  Gettysburg professor Dr. Brian Meier explains:

“Taste is something we experience every day. Our research examined whether metaphors that link taste preferences with pro-social experiences (e.g., “she’s a sweetheart”) can be used to shed light on actual personality traits and behavior.

“It is striking that helpful and friendly people are considered ‘sweet’ because taste would seem to have little in common with personality or behavior. Yet, recent psychological theories of embodied metaphor led us to hypothesize that seemingly innocuous metaphors can be used to derive novel insights about personality and behavior. Importantly, our taste studies controlled for positive mood so the effects we found are not due to the happy or rewarding feeling one may have after eating a sweet food.”

Perhaps, chocolate at the negotiation table, or any table for that matter, may not be a bad idea.

By | 2012-09-09T04:10:59+00:00 September 9th, 2012|Brain, Communication, Conflict Management|0 Comments

Launching “The Golden Climate” of Your Online Presence

The Golden ClimateWe are all geographically unbound, mobile, and busier than ever. It is not surprising that a lot of our communication happens now long-distance or virtually – via the phone, Skype, email, texts, social media, etc.  The same applies to learning and sharing our knowledge and solutions with our clients and customers. The Internet is no longer just the cherry on top of our professional brands, it is one of the main ingredients.  Yet, online communication is not easy. Brains don’t just have to link, they also need to sync.

If you have ever thought about sharing your expertise online through information products or online courses or looked for ways to transcend virtual distance and understand how attention and emotions work in the cyberspace, I have some good news for you.  My friend and colleague of many years, back from our days at the graduate program in Linguistics, Dr. Marina Kostina and her co-author Dr. William LaGanza wrote a book, titled “The Golden Climate in Distance Learning: The Secrets of Immediate Connection, Engagement, Enjoyment, and Performance.” 

The book is a guide to your effective online presence as a teacher, trainer, and an educator. It shows you how to get learners’ attention, be genuine and present online, develop rapport and provide effective feedback, create the optimal learning environment, design effective presentations and use games to increase learner performance, and also how to manage your own time and enjoy your virtual classroom, among many other things.

This book is for serious online instructors and trainers. It is well researched and engaging. In fact, Dr. Marina Kostina’s Ph.D. dissertation was about that same topic of creating effective online engagement and learning experience.  She backs it up with her practical expertise of building distance learning programs in over 40 countries. Dr. William LaGanza publishes regularly in the areas of learner autonomy and distance learning.  His company has spearheaded many leadership and management development applications. In addition, the book includes a number of expert interviews from a variety of fields.  I am honored to be one of the professionals interviewed for the book on the topic on conflict management in virtual classrooms.

To be an effective online educator may require a shift from the traditional approaches and misconceptions about learning:

The Golden Climate therefore is not a substance that can be measuredby the amount of messages you post online, or by your time log. When you build relationships with others that support growth and autonomy while creating a sense of connection, i.e., when you build the Golden Climate, you must also be receptive to the intentions and dispositions of other people and negotiate your interactions based on these dynamics. Willing yourself to be a great teacher online will not get you to your goal. If you want to create a welcoming classroom, you must BE welcoming, not just apply welcoming strategies. If you want your students to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and thoughts online, you must BE the person who is comfortable with such sharing. If you want your students to enjoy your class, you must BE enjoying it too. Therefore, your role online changes from the giver of knowledge or “doing” to providing emotional support, building connections, and feeling the dynamics of the classroom: i.e., your role shifts to the realm of being. Certainly, if you have been teaching in a traditional way, where your role is to be authoritarian and detached and to transmit knowledge, this new way of seeing yourself requires a paradigm shift — a process that is not easily implemented and that takes time. The successful engagement, autonomy, enjoyment, and performance of your students depends on your making this shift.

We are doing the book launch on May 8, 2012 to spread the word. For more details on the book launch and how you can get a bonus e-book and have your name entered to win a Kindle, with the book purchase, click HERE.

[UPDATE] Well-deserved!