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Use this tool to talk about COVID19


 

 


With COVID19 cases rocketing once again, old questions return.    We are all inescapably affected by the behaviors of others on this so we have to work out the answers with other people around us. 

As much as possible, we need to do this through dialogue. In my Style Matters framework that’s the Cooperating conflict style; Thomas and Kilmann call it Collaborating. Solutions achieved through dialogue garner more support and trigger less resistance than solutions imposed from above.

Cooperating as a conflict style involves responding in ways that are both assertive about our own needs and supportive of the needs and perspectives of others.   (For a quick visual over-view of the conflict styles framework and how Cooperating fits in, see this slide show). That’s a tricky combo.  The rewards can be enormous, but it  requires skill and commitment to pull off. 

Needed: Tools for structuring dialogue.  When working with numbers of people you can greatly raise the odds of successful use of Cooperating if you use tools for structuring dialogue.  A well-chosen tool does the heavy lifting of facilitation –  enabling people to express their views clearly and respectfully to each other, and doing so in a way that seems almost effortless.

Forget COVID19 for a moment: It’s a no-brainer that everyone who lives or works with other people needs simple tools for dialogue at their fingertips all the time.  As a leader of almost any kind, you’ll get more done and feel less anxious about controversies if you have several at the ready for moments when heat rises.  There are plenty of them out there on the web.  Or you can invest in my little book, Cool Tools for Hot Topics, which packs summaries of about 35 such tools into a slender six dollar volume. 

Dolan’s Know Your Number Scale for structuring discussion about COVID19 risks.  Carrie Dolan, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at University of Virginia, has devised a simple technique to help people talk about managing COVID19 protections.  Her Know Your Number Scale is a simple one-to-five scale to helps people talk about their personal risk level and its implications for behavior. 

In a short NPR interview Dolan says we need to improve ability to communicate about personal risk levels.  She says if we do not, we will not be able to stop the spread of COVID19.

Using the scale helps eliminate “the judgement factor”, as Dolan puts it, as people communicate about their needs and feelings regarding risk of exposure to the virus. Everybody has certain risk factors they must consider for themselves. The scale helps people review these and communicate their wishes clearly to others. In group and team settings, people can then more easily decide how to conduct themselves with others and feel less anxious and upset.

Her scale has five levels of attitude towards risk, from the most most lax (Level 5) to the most conservative (Level 1).  
Level 5 – These people consider themselves at very little risk.  Due to age, general good health,  vaccination, or any other reason, they feel safe to move around freely without concern about masking or other safety measures.
Level 4 – Feel fairly risk-free; they are moving around in the world, but with precautions.
Level 3 – Feel risk-free only in certain carefully controlled settings.  They limit their interactions and their movements strategically.
Level 2 – Have other serious health challenges or interact with people who do and must be protected.
Level 1 – Have serious health concerns; are not leaving their house or interacting with others at all. 

I’ve slightly re-worked Dolan’s framework into the following:

You could use it in a meeting, on Zoom or in-person, and invite people to share the level they are in.

In an in-person meetings, you could use this chart with the dialogue tool known as the Spectrum.   Ask people to choose a number from the chart that describes  them.  Then sketch out an imaginary spectrum in the room, say from front to back or side to side.  Ask everyone to get up and walk to a place on the spectrum that corresponds to their choice.   

In a few seconds you will have a physical representation of the risk tolerance of the entire group sketched before your eyes.  You can take it in various directions from here.  You could:

  • Invite people to share with others near them why they are standing where they are.  This is a good place to start if there is a lot of tension in the group about the issue, for in the smaller sub-groups of like-minded people that will form, people will feel safer to express their views.   Giving people an opportunity to talk about where they are personally in a space that feels safe to them is always a good place to begin.
  • Invite people to call out why they are standing where they are.
  • Walk down the line as facilitator and invite various people to explain why they are standing where they are (with the whole group listening to your exchanges.
  • Without discussion, ask people to go back to their seats and continue a discussion from there.

A different way to use Dolan’s framework would be to simply introduce it to people who work together and encourage them to use it in their conversations with each other about masking.  

Bear in mind that it is not by itself a decision-making process.  It is a tool for dialogue that can play a key role in decisionmaking.  But if your goal is to make a joint decision, you will have to add a component for that.

The Know Your Number Scale highlights people’s differing sense of risk and would be particularly useful in dialogue about masking.  But it’s clear that right now there’s an even more volatile issue taking the fore: vaccine refusal is prolonging the pandemic and jeopardizing everyone by providing ample space for the vaccine to mutate into more virulent form.  Heat is rising rapidly on this issue, and pressure is building to impose costs of some kind for not vaccinating.   

This reminds us that it is not possible to use Cooperating as a response to all conflicts all the time.   Situations do arise in which the goal of protecting the majority can be achieved only if we are willing to sacrificing good relationships and cooperation with a minority.   It’s a tough call to know when to deploy the Directing style, as we call it in the conflict styles framework.   

I think we are very close to such a moment now.  The costs to all of pandering to the resistant minority are indescribably high, potentially life-threatening to many (since delays in vaccination prolong the period in which the virus is able to use unvaccinated people as a lab for uninhibited development of even more deadly variants that can outwit all present immunities).

But we should not switch abruptly to a non-relational, coercive Directing response.   That will trigger massive resistance and backfire.  Rather, we should give high priority to dialogue-based responses (Cooperating) like the above and as our core strategy.  Even if we feel compelled to ramp up Directing responses, we should not abandon these;  we can and should have a two-style response.   

And rather than trying to coerce people into vaccination, we should instead focus on reducing access to the benefits of community membership to those who choose not to accept the will of the community.   Make demonstration of vaccination a requirement for participation in public events.   Make certain public and employer benefits contingent upon having received vaccination, etc.   We shouldn’t be telling people what to do with their own lives, but neither should they expect to have the public subsidize the costs of their unwise choices.

Needed: Tools for dialogue about vaccinating!  The Spectrum described above could easily be adapted for this.  What tools have you seen work well to structure conversation about vaccinating?

 

Things fall apart. How to respond?

These are scary times, and it’s not just COVID19.  Polarization is rooted now in ways not experienced in living memory.  Groups live in separate worlds, with their own news, networks, rhetoric, and influencers.  Violence, threats of violence, and disregard for democratic processes are commonplace.  It is not exaggerating to say that  the rule of law and democracy seem to be in danger.  

What can we do about it?  The causes are many; there will be no single solution.  High on the list of essential responses, I believe,  must be strategies to improve skills in resolving conflicts and building consensus.   But how?

Our methods of making decisions and resolving conflict are out-dated.

Author and former CIA analyst Martin Gurri points out that public institutions today are an inheritance of the 20th century, “the heyday of the top-down, I-talk-you-listen model of organizing humanity. They are too ponderous and too distant from ordinary people. Legitimacy depended on control over information: failure and scandal could be dealt with discreetly. Once the digital tsunami swept away the possibility of control, the system lapsed into crisis.” (see his dialogue with Yuval Levin here)

Like it or not, there’s no going back to the old ways of leading and managing.  We must expand the skill set of leaders at all levels. 

But there’s a big obstacle. 

We think “they” are the problem.  Nope, it’s patterns we all share.

With our out-dated expectations and skills for dealing with differences, we easily blame “them” for our perilous situation.  In the sketch below, I represent “us” and “them” as two sides, brown and blue, each with its own leaders, grassroots, and middle leader influencers.  Both sides are focused on a massive divide separating them. 

 

The divide is real.  But it’s more a symptom than a cause.  To get out of this mess we must focus on causes.

The problem is not the issues piled up on the table between us.  Nor is it simply the bad behavior of the other side.  Instead we should focus on addressing this: The habits (assumptions, practices, expectations, skills) that guide how institutions and leaders  go about making decisions and solving problems are from fifty years ago.   

Here’s a reality that stands in the background: All groups, in all times and places face on-going decisions and conflicts internally.  There’s competition for power within every group. Also hurts, slights, disappointments, and resentments.  

We had a system that worked, sort of, in the past. The top-down approaches (leaders-talk-others-listen) that pervaded our institutions in the last century enabled leaders and institutions to resolve or contain problems as they arose.  

Top-down approaches don’t work anymore but we use them anyway because it’s the only response we really know.

 

So what to do about it?

Start at home, within our own networks.

There is a widespread belief that where conflict symptoms appear is the place to address a problem.  Nope. Dysfunctional conflict emerges where there are gaps of skill and analysis among those in key leadership roles. This results in bad patterns taking root all around. Leaders get mired in chronically unresolved conflicts: a) among themselves; b) between themselves and those they lead, c) among those who depend on them for leadership and mentoring, and d) with organizations in the environment.

You can’t fix that mess by mediating. The bad patterns soon overwhelm any progress you might make on specific issues. 

We can’t fix the big divide on the table between brown and blue, for example, by setting up dialogue at the table.  New understandings and skills for leadership, problemsolving, and conflict resolution have to be implemented internally first, on both side of the big divide.  

Institutions and groups today are made up of individuals who expect a lot of say in decisions affecting their lives. Leaders require a new understanding of their role and a new set of skills to pull this off.  They have to learn, and practice these skills and strategies internally, among the people they trust most, before they can deploy them in riskier settings.

Unity within a faction or party helps stabilize the entire system. Years ago a leading South African businessman told me: “I was very threatened by unionization when it first started. But eventually I saw that unions were easier to deal with. We used to have big problems with wildcat strikes and constant chaos. Unions brought order to the workers side. We know who to talk to, and we know that when we make a deal with the union reps, they’ll make it work.”


Diversify and expand the skill set of leaders.

A big danger for this moment is the temptation to seize on simplistic answers.  Eg: if top-down leadership doesn’t work any more, then bottom-up consensus must be the answer.  

Nope again. You can’t do bottom-up consensus on everything. Participatory processes take time and energy, and resources. Not all issues merit the costs; not all require the lavish resources involved. If we seize on participatory approaches to leading and solving problems as the solution to all problems, we’ll wear out and fail. The result will be reduced willingness to use participatory approaches at all.

We need flexibility in our responses. Some decisions merit all-hands-on-deck participation. But others should be dealt with by executive action. Some conflicts require us to be engaged and assertive; others should be delayed or avoided. Some merit a smile and quick assent to demands; others require haggling and compromise.

Our goal must not be to completely eliminate top-down leadership and the skillset that comes naturally with it.  Rather it must be to expand skill sets, so leaders don’t over-rely on top-down. One of the reasons I continue to invest a lot of energy in the Style Matters conflict style framework is that it teaches flexibility of response and gives leaders a tool to quickly recognize and evaluate a range of responses to conflict.  (View short “Intro to Conflict Styles” slide show here.)

Do joint process design.

In conflict facilitation involving numbers of people we give a lot of attention to good process design.  As early as possible, we consult with key people, sometimes gathering them in the same room, to get their input on questions like: What are the key issues here?  Who do they affect? What are the needs and goals for the people affected?  How to appropriately involve those people?  Who will make the final decisions regarding whatever decisions we undertake and what decision-making procedures will they use?

After getting input on those questions we work carefully, jointly with key actors, to design a process of discussion that is understood and accepted by those involved.   It’s called “agreeing on procedure”.  If you do this before jumping into deep discussion and decisionmaking of the issues, a sustainable outcome is more likely. 

That’s easier said than done!  But it’s remarkably helpful in getting things off to a good start and avoiding mistakes that are hard to undo later.

An instinct we need to hone now in institutions and leadership is to pay attention to good process design.   As we find our way with the new skill sets required today, we can’t just assume that the old approaches will work and be accepted by others.   We need to talk with those we disagree with – and those we are leading in decisionmaking activities – about how to go about resolving the differences that confront us.

Equip people around you with new skills.

We can’t get through this time with the same old approaches.   And new ones won’t just throw themselves at us.  Every institution, whether political, community, business, or religious should be investing thought and time in re-tooling.  

For many years I’ve used the diagram below to sketch out areas of competency.  Each of those layers can be taught and learned with resources available online, or with the help of schools, coaches, consultants, trainers, or mentors.  There’s no lack of learning tools and strategies!  For expanded commentary on this pyramid, see my blogpost on it.

Don’t be daunted by the scope of potential skills.  Nobody masters them all!  We need an expanded pool of leaders competent in the bottom five or six layers.  Part of our current problem is that we have a large number of people functioning in the upper layers who have almost no skills or awareness in the lower layers. 

It’s not necessary to start at the bottom and proceed in a nice smooth flow up through those layers.  Start with what’s within reach. Conflict styles training, for example, jumps in on levels two and three, which are about interpersonal conflicts.   But work here gives lots of opportunities to raise issues about level one, and to prime people for becoming more effective mediators or facilitators, the levels above.

Or maybe you start with a workshop on group facilitation, level five.  That’s a great lead-in for additional work on listening and other interpersonal conflict resolution skills.  The point is, you don’t have to have a nice orderly progression.  Wherever you teach, lead, consult, or administer, build awareness in the people you work with that there is a useful set of skills they can learn and use for decision-making and conflicts of all kinds.  Help them get on a lifelong journey of learning.

Starting with work within the parties in conflict seems longer and slower than just going for the issues between them.  But sometimes you have to go slow to go fast, and I think that’s the case now. 

Copyright 2021, by Ron Kraybill, www.kraybilltable.com.  You may quote from or use this post in entirety if you include the preceding credit info.

 

Take Charge Gracefully

Take charge and direct in relational ways
Sometimes you have to be pushy in conflict.  Sometimes you have to say No and really mean it, insist that people step back, or lead in a direction some don’t want to go.   If you are not able to do this, you may someday be taken advantage of or violated in ways that hurt and handicap you, for years. 

Worse, you will someday fail to meet your responsibilities in a role you care about, like parenting, teaching, coordinating group activities, leading a team, facilitating meeting, exercising professional duties, or any number of other things important to you and your community.  Success, health, even life itself, sometimes depends on someone being pushy.

But most of us prefer being nice more than being tough. 

In this post, second in a series on the five styles of conflict, I’ll show you how to balance these two competing requirements. In particular, I’ll give you transition phrases for being pushy in challenging situations.  These are phrases you’ve prepared in advance of stormy moments to help you gracefully initiate a conflict style you find challenging to pull off.

General Principles for Graceful Directing

Directing involves pursuing a goal without be distracted or deterred by the resistance of others.  There are many shades of Directing, since skilled people usually blend some other styles into the mix. But in its pure form, Directing gives high priority to a task or goal and  low priority to relationships. 

Wisely used, this “take charge” style has big benefits for certain moments.  Over-used or badly used, it has big weaknesses, summarized below.  This post is for when you’ve thought things through and decided Directing is the right response.

Directing involves a high focus on your own goals and a low focus on pleasing others.

Be clear in your own mind about the necessity of Directing and come to terms with the role. Directing is not a particularly “nice” role. You’re choosing to ignore how others feel!  But being able to use Directing is essential to living responsibly. 

You can’t coordinate, administer, parent, teach, facilitate, or mediate well, without occasionally resorting to Directing.  Sometimes the only right response is to be in charge, to be firm, to focus on achieving certain things without allowing yourself to be deterred by how others feel about it.  

This is particularly true when we lead.   It’s just not possible to please everyone.   If two people both want to speak at the same time in a meeting, for example, we have to ask someone to wait, even though they might be unhappy about it. 

Directing with grace is an art, best achieved from clear inner awareness of a legitimate purpose, larger than personal ego, that drives us.  If you are at peace within yourself with the necessity of using Directing in the circumstances you face,  you can find ways to lead, manage, supervise, or protect, as well as to disagree, challenge, and oppose that do not denigrate others.  

Blend in relational styles whenever possible.  Graceful Directing is about turning down the volume of your power to the lowest level necessary to achieve your goal, and blending in some relational styles like Cooperating or  Harmonizing when possible.   

You do need to be ready to amp up pushiness if required.  But if you are skillful at blending in the relational skills typically associated with other styles and do so whenever possible, combat is rarely needed.   

Many people seem to think effective Directing requires volume or anger.   Once in a while, yes.  But screaming drill sergeants and bellowing sports coaches are poor examples of effective Directing  for most situations. 

Those who master graceful Directing get important work done, set limits, make demands, and take charge, in ways that are relationally-oriented, even though the requirements of task and duty hold highest priorities.  They are not always “nice” or accommodating, but even when they are non-negotiable, they are respectful towards others and they are careful to protect their dignity.

Pay attention to your non-verbals.   Researchers say that 75-90% of communication is nonverbal.  That means that the messages we send with body posture, tone of voice, eye movements, facial expressions, and hands matter even more than what we say in words.   

So graceful Directing starts with waking up to your non-verbals.  Most people are unaware of these, thus they don’t have a clue about the most important messages they are sending forth. 

You can teach yourself to monitor your non-verbals, but it takes time.  Welcome to the lifelong journey of self-management! 

There’s no easy answer about how strongly to project your power.  Some people habitually under-project, others habitually over-project.  The key point is to get off automatic pilot and to pay attention to this aspect of yourself.   Awareness puts a new tool in your self-management toolbox:  Now you can turn the strength of your power projection up or down as needed, which increases your odds of success in interacting with others.

Transition Phrases for Graceful Directing

Why transition phrases?  As conflict heats up,  the part of our brain known as the reptilian brain becomes more influential.  This brings primal, fight-oriented responses into the picture.  As emotions rise, the lower, reptilian brain increasingly takes over from the upper brain, which coordinates communication and problem-solving.   In the moment when we most need well-chosen words, the ability of our brain to formulate them is at its lowest.  

A transition phrase assists in such moments.   Phrases don’t magically fix things, of course, but they help get you started in the direction you’ve chosen, and learning them helps  you think through valuable skills and responses.  Learn several.  Memorizing them is not a bad idea – so they’re on the tip of your tongue. 

Provide information about what is needed.  Except for emergencies (do you want the surgeon battling to save your life patiently explaining the strategy she has adopted to a confused team member?), the goal in using Directing should be to create maximum opportunity for winning compliance of others on the basis of understanding and cooperation rather than coercion. 

The most effective strategy for this is providing information to others in a non-dramatic way.  You will see that many of the transition phrases suggested below do precisely this.

 Just fill in the blank after the crutch phrase with clear information about what you are requesting: 
Please…
I’d like to ask you to….I would like you to….
Here is what we need you to do….
It would be helpful if you would…
It will work best if….
Our procedure here is that…
The rules require that….
I (we) would appreciate it if you would…..
It is important that (fill in the reason for whatever you require), so I need to ask you to….
I have quite a different understanding than yours on this matter.  Please review the facts (or rules, requirements, data, etc.).  Let’s discuss it further after that if you’d like.

Whenever the situation allows, put effort into providing key info to those involved – in advance of a crisis or confrontation.   That allows cooperative people –  who are usually the majority – to align with your plans; it also reduces the number of situations when you must use raw confrontation to force people to comply.   Posting clear signs, for example, facilitates the coordination of large numbers of people in public spaces without police needing to scream at everyone.

Acknowledge the other’s reluctance, then restate your own request.  Sometimes, no matter how clear the info or how gracious you are, others disagree, or resist guidance.  Sometimes, when we know that we have all the facts, when we know we are right, when we have a mission or principles or duties to protect, we have to push ahead, despite resistance.

 Transition phrases for this could be:
I know this is not what you want, but we need to (whatever your demand is).
I’m sorry it’s inconvenient, but I’m afraid we need to stick with (the rule, the plan, the requirements).
I recognize that you’d prefer to do things differently, but (give the underlying reason, eg; policy, budget, precedent, etc).
I see/hear that you would like to do X (what the person wants to do), but I’m sorry to say that I need to ask you to do Y.   

If you must escalate (assuming you’ve done your homework, and know you are right; but be aware that these may trigger a fight), options include:

Broken Record.  Don’t get drawn into defending or explaining your demand, just keep repeating it.

Threaten consequences of non-compliance. But choose your threat carefully, remembering that a small threat often helps you more than a big one.  If your threat is too big, you will hesitate to carry through on it and the other person will see your bluff.  After that, all further threats have little credibility and you’ve weakened the usefulness of the strategy.  The best threat is just big enough to have the desired impact yet small enough that you can promptly and easily carry it out, without second thoughts.

Go institutional.  Every conflict exists in the context of groups and institutions such as families, teams, clubs, religious bodies, neighborhoods, organizations, businesses, etc.  If you feel you must use Directing, it is likely the well-being of such an institution that motivates you.  If not, examine carefully whether indeed this pushy style is justified. 

Look for ways to draw on resources of wisdom and power from the group or institution seek to serve.   You will probably need to do some homework on your own first.  Talk to your supervisor, convene the elders or council, call a family meeting, review the bylaws or mission statement, study the guidelines, look at the organizational chart.  If you face persistent, hardcore resistance, you need the perspective of others about how to respond.  They can help you figure out if and how to invoke the power of the institution on behalf of the concerns you represent.

* * * * * 

I’ve known a number of people in ordinary roles in life who are ninjas in graceful Directing. There’s the front desk receptionist in a primary school my children attended (I’ve known several special angels in this role!), the affable but no-nonsense manager of a local supermarket, the friendly but ever-competent project manager of a construction company, the sweet pediatric nurse who guided my son (and his parents) firmly through a difficult moment, the hard-working farmer shepherding his teenage children through an array of weekly chores, the head of a religious congregation renowned for her kindness who nevertheless runs council meetings with a firm hand.  

These are people with demanding duties and responsibilities.  They can’t say yes to everything that comes their way.  They have to coordinate, manage, limit, and control all day in order to do their job well.  They must prioritize certain tasks, obligations, and duties above pleasing people. 

We’ve all known individuals who cope with stress on the job by being tyrants.   Perhaps they get the job done, but they make everyone around them miserable.

Directing ninjas have a different way.  They are so graceful that, even when the Director must turn up the volume of their assertiveness, others experience them as relational.  The ninjas deserve hearing our appreciation.  Most of them labor unrecognized.  Many don’t themselves recognize the value of the gifts they bring to the world.    Notice what they do, thank them for their ability to assert and lead graciously, and learn from their example as you expand your own gracefulness with this challenging style!

 

Avoid Conflict Gracefully

 

Sometimes when there’s a conflict, the best thing to do is say nothing and just drift away.  Or say firmly, “Let’s not take that on right now. ”  If you’re good at selective conflict avoidance, you will have a greater sense of order and control in your life.

This post is the first in a series to help  you expand your skill with the five styles of conflict interpersonally or in leadership.  In each post I’ll show you several transition phrases for one particular style – in this post that style is Avoiding. Each of the five styles of conflict in Style Matters – which are similar to those found in the venerable if now out-dated Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument – will feature in posts that follow.

Not everyone needs this post!  It’s especially useful for people who find conflict Avoiding difficult or scored low in Avoiding in their score report.  If you scored high, stay tuned for future posts on styles you are under-using.   

Why Transition Phrases?

We manage conflict better if we choose our responses in moments of storm, rather than blindly react.  

But that’s easier to say than to do.  Frustration and rising anger handicap our rational, choice-making upper brain and activate the reactive lower  brain.  By the time we pause and pay attention to what’s going on, we may already be pretty far down the path of reptilian brain takeover.   

In these moments, it helps to have a few transition phrases on the tip of the tongue to help transition to a different conflict style.  If you prepare now, in a time of calm, you will be more successful – and graceful – in deploying the conflict style of your choice in storm.  

A transition phrase empowers your rational brain with key words that help it maintain control in dicey moments as the lower brain gets activated.  With a little practice you’ll soon express the intention behind the phrases spontaneously.

Transition Phrases for Avoiding

Avoiding has huge benefits and huge weaknesses, summarized below.  This post is for those situations where you’ve thought it through and decided Avoiding is the right response.

Of course, an easy way to avoid is to say little or just disappear.   But sometimes that’s not an option and you have to say something.   This is especially common if you’re leading or coordinating a group of people.

Metaphors useful in constructing an avoiding response include:  set aside the issue, not go into that, maintain focus on (something else), give priority to (something else) delay or postpone discussion; wait until the time is right (or we have the energy required, the time needed, etc.), think things through, agree to disagree.

Sample transition phrases: 

Let’s set that issue aside for another time.  (Or similarly: Let’s save that for another time.)

I’d rather not open that up right now.

Sorry, I’m not ready to discuss that right now.  I think we’d better stay focused on (whatever other task or topic is in play) for now and deal with this (contentious) question later.

I’d like to give priority to (some other task or activity requiring attention) right now and not start a discussion of that at this moment.

I agree that we need to discuss that, but I’m too (tired, stressed, distracted, upset, anxious, etc.) to take it on right now. Could we agree on another time to discuss it? 

I will be a much better partner in discussing that if I take some time to think it through.  Could we put it aside for now and discuss it later?

Maybe we just need to agree to disagree on that.

Whatever transition phrases you choose, they should roll easily off your tongue and feel natural to you.  From the words and  sentences above, pick those that seem most useful.  Edit and change them to fit you.  Then memorize and review them so you can use them without hesitation when Avoiding seems like the best response.   

Soon the concepts behind the phrases will take root in your brain and you’ll find your own spontaneous words for a request to Avoid without a second thought. 

All the above are equally useful in group leadership, by the way.  It’s impossible to facilitate group discussion without using conflict avoidance from time to time.  And the same goes for all the other conflict styles.   Every ounce of grace that you master in use of conflict styles interpersonally will serve you well organizationally!  

If you’ve already taken Style Matters, review your score report here and benefit from recent upgrades: 
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Conflict Resolution Trainer & Gun Lover

You know me as a peace process guy, a conflict resolution trainer, an author of peace training materials. You don’t know this: I love guns.

As far back as I can remember, guns stood in the corner of the pump house on the family farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I grew up. Carrying a 12 gauge shotgun down rows of corn on a chill Saturday morning in October, with our terrier on the prowl and all my teenage senses tuned to the hunt, thrilled me. With the deadly power ready in my hands I could bring home a pheasant or rabbit if I was quick enough. I felt grownup, part of the world of men.

So in 1993, in a remote training camp in the high veld above Pretoria, on the third day of a course in conflict resolution for police in the new South Africa, when smiling officers came during morning break and asked if I’d like to go out on the firing range, I instantly said yes. 

I wasn’t sure what they had in mind. But soon as I jumped into their van after lunch, I knew. A pile of weapons and ammunition sprawled across seats and floor. Three burly police trainers grinned at me knowingly. We were boys in a toy store and my heart was pounding.

We started with rubber bullets, in two varieties.  One was a heavy chunk of rubber an inch and a half in diameter and over 3 inches long.  I had seen these fired at protesters and witnessed a colleague take a direct hit a year ago as a peace monitor working a chaotic line between police and protesters.  She limped into the office the next day with an angry welt on her thigh the size of a saucer.   Centered in dark purple was a perfectly round, pure white circle larger than a quarter, exactly the size of the rubber bullets I was now firing.

Then to more lethal crowd control, hard blue plastic balls the size of marbles, with a metal core.   In their shotgun shell casing, they had the same ready-for-action look that had intrigued me about the pumpkin ball slugs I remembered from deer hunting in my youth. 

On to birdshot in a 12 gauge shotgun.   This brought memories of my first experience with shooting at the age of twelve.  I was so focused on holding the long, heavy weapon level and and steady that I neglected to secure it tightly against my shoulder.  Its kick hurled it up and over my head to the ground, leaving me with a bruised ego and a sore shoulder for a day.  

Now on the firing range, after two shots with this familiar weapon I was ready to move on to more exotic ones.  But the magazine held 10 rounds. The police trainer insisted, as a matter of protocol he said, for this and all weapons that day, that I fire every round. As I braced myself with manly deliberation and squeezed off another eight rounds, I wondered how my shoulder would feel tomorrow.

Then we graduated to weapons I’d rarely seen and never fired.  The Uzi machine gun, I wrote in my journal that evening, was “wonderfully light, compact, and maneuverable, elegant as a laptop computer.”   Then R4 and R5 rifles, South African automatics of similar caliber to the American M16. 

Long belts of ammo for each. No worries about kick now – they’re low-recoil rifles!   T-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t, an axis of power dancing sweetly on my shoulder, my authority radiates into the beyond!

I keep these on a shelf in my office as a reminder of what I learned on the firing range. The work of building a peaceful world is not just about reducing dependency on weapons. It is also about addressing the longings of heart and soul that drive us to misplaced hope in weapons.

Next ten rounds with a Beretta pistol.   I’d had a recurring dream for years about shooting an unknown invader with a pistol.  I wondered as I fired at a human shaped target 30 yards away if this real life experience would feed or extinguish the dream.  For someone who hadn’t fired a gun for twenty years, I turned out to be a pretty good shot, coming within inches of my target with the pistol, as I had with the rifles at 125 yards.

We concluded with smoke grenades, CS riot gas, stun grenades, and tracer bullets shot by a light machine gun.   With a range of 800 meters, nearly half a mile, the latter didn’t seem so light to me. It required a strong arm to raise and aim, until I laid prone on the ground and used the short bipod on the muzzle.   I felt something close to omnipotence sending a deadly arc high into the mountain towering above the far end of the range.  

I loved every minute of that hour on the firing range.  As a lifelong tinkerer, I relished the mechanical elegance of the deadly tools in my hands.   I respected that each was a highly crafted device, the product of years of experimentation and creative thought, and beneficiary of endless rounds of improvement.

Even more, I loved the sense of power I felt with precise and mighty machines in my hands.   I loved that I could stand here, in one place, aim at something far away, and with a slight squeeze of a finger, obliterate it. 

Perhaps most of all, I loved the camaraderie I felt with the police officers. In the methodical receiving and handing back of powerful and uncommon weapons, I felt part of a privileged club.   I was an honored man among a highly skilled elite. 

By the time we finished, I felt that I’d survived – no, thrived – in a kind of brotherly test that had morphed into a ritual of belonging.  I was an insider.  When we returned to the training venue and the trainers described my skill to their beaming colleagues, my relationship with the whole group was sealed.

And my conscience was seared.   I had spent years teaching skills for nonviolent resolution of conflict.  I’d worked and lived in places where weapons caused indescribable grief.   Even the rubber bullets, the least destructive munition I’d fired, had been routinely used for years to subjugate African communities.  Had I sent precisely the wrong message by going along with these officers, eager to share their toys, in enjoying the thrill of weapons? 

What did it say about me that I enjoyed it all so much?

More than twenty years later, I am still not sure I did the right thing that day.  But I am grateful for the experience and for things I now see with greater clarity.

I understand something about love of guns. There’s no denying it – I too am drawn to powerful weapons.

I also came to understand something about why.  Wielding, firing, managing elegant and powerful devices refined to respond to my control is fun. 

But the biggest thrill, I now see in retrospect, came not from the weapons but from things that came to me through them.   For that hour, for the rest of that day, I felt powerful, capable, connected, esteemed; luxuriously so.

Guns get a grip on the psyche because they offer a quick, intense shortcut to things we’d all like to feel more often. 

And it doesn’t take Solomon to recognize that quick thrills don’t last. Nor can you sustain healthy lives or personal security around them.  In the end only a rich web of equitable relationships, personal involvement in meaningful work, and an undergirding sense of sustaining spirituality can truly satisfy.   

I do not doubt that some who own and use guns possess all three of those in generous measure.  But in the shrill, defiant voices of many I hear something different – pre-occupation with guns as a bulwark against fear, as a symbol of meaning. 

This is misplaced hope; a mark of inner shortcutting.   No devices, deadly or otherwise, no matter how numerous or powerful, can bring peace or meaning to those whose lives are empty of things that endure. 

Loyalty and  memories of long ago cornfields brought me some years ago to pass along to my son a shotgun from my grandfather.  Today I’d probably discard it.   I’ve seen too many lives and families destroyed by weapons to have any interest in keeping one in my own home.  Statistics show that my family is safer without a gun under our roof.

I no longer dream about firing at an unknown invader with a pistol.   But I confess that I am still intrigued with weapons, a reminder, I take it, of spaces in heart and soul that still long for shortcuts.  I’m in this thing for life.

Use Silence in Facilitating


What can a facilitator do with an extremely persistent person, who refuses to stop interrupting others in mediating or facilitating?  In my last post I stressed the importance of stepping up early in proceedings to establish that groundrules must be kept.  Jump on any first violations and then relax a bit later, not the other way around.

Several readers pointed out that in the situation I was referring to, the interrupter would probably not have been restrained by such facilitator efforts.  Very possible.  So we have to ask, what then?

Of course, it is always an option to simply close a fraught session.  I am more effective as a facilitator when I am prepared to bring closure gracefully at any time.  I will mention closure as a possibility to parties if necessary, for the threat of it often changes their behavior.  But I need to mean it and be prepared to smoothly execute it in order for the specter of closure to have real impact on parties.

But closure is closure.  It is not a tool for changing the dynamics of the meeting we are in.   As a facilitator, I am prepared for closure but I want to maximize all possibilities for transforming this into a rule-governed exchange.

There is a powerful tool that facilitators can deploy to great benefit: strategic use of silence.  Veteran teachers knew this long ago;  the rest of us have to work on it!

One use of silence is simply to interject it in exchanges with disputants:  “Mr. Interrupter, (silence for 2-3 full seconds, with steady but non-aggressive gaze directed his way), I need to ask you to observe the ground rule that has been established for this debate, not to speak when it is not your turn.”  And then proceed with the debate.

I would try that, but I am not so hopeful that it would have had a great impact here.   In this situation I think I would then have followed up by using silence in the following way: “Mr. Interrupter, the terms of this debate include a ground rule not to interrupt when the other person is speaking.   It’s my duty to you and to those observing to ensure that ground rules are followed.  You seem to be having a great deal of difficulty with this.  I need to ask you now to recommit to it so that we can continue, and if you cannot, I will be compelled to call a pause in this conversation.   Please, take a few seconds in silence and think about this.  And then I’d like to hear your reply. “

I would then immediately busy myself with things on my desk for a few seconds – before turning back to the offender with, “Sir, are you ready to proceed with the ground rules as agreed?”
 
I would not allow the offender to ignore the question.  If he refuses to give clear assent, I would call a short break to give everyone a chance to calm down.  In the break I would try to interact briefly with both sides, and  make a decision about whether and how to proceed based on my reading of those conversations.  

There’s no guarantee this will work, of course, and if an offender refuses to observe ground rules, the facilitator has a duty to end the session.   But when we do that, we want to do it in a way that: 1) Conspicuously provides maximum opportunity for the offender to first accept compliance with ground rules and 2) If the meeting must be ended, leaves no ambiguity that it was failure of the participant to observe ground rules that brought the meeting to a close.   

The approach outlined above narrows down the possibility of proceeding to compliance of the offender with ground rules.  It will be apparent to all present who is at fault.   The offender knows this and only the most brazen will so clearly designate himself as the one who failed to cooperate.  

If the offender persists, then the facilitator can calmly, confidently, regretfully but without a trace of spite, announce that it seems clear that the proceedings cannot proceed at this time and bring things to a close.   

When People Interrupt

The problem we saw in tonight’s presidential debate is familiar to any mediator: How do you keep angry people from interrupting each other? Chris Wallace demonstrated clearly tonight that good journalists are not necessary good facilitators!

There’s actually a fairly simple solution. You have to establish a ground rule at the beginning – no interruptions. And you have to enforce it, not after four, five, or six interruptions, but the very first time it happens.

You need to stop the proceedings cold, right there, turn physically towards the interrupter and speak directly and firmly: “Mr. Trump, our ground rule is no interruptions, and we won’t be able to proceed if people don’t stick to it. I need your commitment to support the process. Can you give it?” And then you need to wait silently for the interrupter to give it. In 35 years of mediation and facilitation, I’ve never had a client refuse to do so.

I’ve trained thousands of mediators and seen that the tendency for most mediators, like Chris Wallace tonight, is the opposite. They ignore interruptions at first, hoping they will go away. But they don’t. One interruption will always be followed by more.

Parties size up very quickly whether they can get away with ignoring rules or not. If you give them several experiences of squeezing in their interruptions unrebuked, they see that the rule isn’t really serious, and the problem gets worse and worse.

Once the rule is clearly established – it rarely takes more than one or two interventions like the above – the parties tend to accept the guardrail and behave. You can in fact ease up on strictness later and allow some back and forth without losing control – IF you’ve established the norm early.

We Can Avoid Mask Conflict

There are a lot of stories going around about conflicts over wearing masks.  See for example this account in the New York Times. 
 
The evidence is now clear that masking makes a huge difference in infection rates.  All we have to do is get everyone to mask properly, and we can drastically reduce the rate of infections and deaths,  without closing down the economy.  It’s a no-brainer.  
 
So how to get there quickly, without needless conflict?
 
  1.  Leadership. The first step is clear direction and leadership from leaders.   We have to establish a new norm here, and quickly, friends!   It must start with those in charge – at whatever social level they exist in – fully embracing the need for masking and sending unambiguous signals in support of it.   No hemming and hawing, no “maybe this, maybe that”.  

    Wearing a mask is inconvenient and uncomfortable.   It’s not easy in the best of circumstances to move a population to do this.   There’s no chance of success if leaders don’t lead here, from president on down to the smallest local unit.

  2. Consistent modeling is essential.    Being an outstanding role model is one of the most effective forms of leadership.  No saying one thing and doing another!   Every time leaders appear in settings with other people, they should seize the opportunity to be a visible model of commitment to masking.   To do otherwise is to enable suffering and death. 

  3. Good Signage.  Communicate clear, written expectations of masking, at every turn.   Institutions need to message everyone who enters – from the moment they enter and followed by frequent reminders within – that masking is the norm.   Something clear and simple like “No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service.”   Only with clear, visible written signs about masks as a norm is there a chance of dealing with resisters without drama.   Staff whose job it is to deal with unmasked people can’t be expected to be effective without good public signage.

  4. Followup and monitoring.  What good are signs saying “Masks required” if staff are seen striding around maskless or half-masked? Because this is an awkward, inconvenient new norm, we can’t expect things to change just by issuing new policies and directives.   We must ensure that monitoring and review take place.  It’s a pain, it’s true, but we can’t establish new norms quickly without effort.

Clarity and Consistency Will Go Farther than Combativeness

It’s counterproductive to view every case of an unmasked person walking through the door as the ultimate battle.  Our goal should be to achieve very high levels of masking in a very short period of time, not to compel every dissident to instantly comply in the process of establishing a new norm.

A big angry confrontation with an unmasked person is a bigger threat to health and life of everyone in the environment than allowing a stubborn non-conformist to walk around quietly unmasked. Hyperventilation, shouting, close contact or shoving are inescapably dangerous for all.

Screeners need to be trained to act in light of that fact. The goal should be persistently communicating a clear expectation, not acting like police empowered to coerce.

Training is Essential

Screeners can easily be trained in a simple series of non-coercive responses to violators:
  • Start with clear, friendly, matter-of-fact  (non-confrontational in tone and body language) statements of masking requirements,
  • Escalate as needed by repeating the requirements and adding a direct, polite request not to enter without wearing a mask (if possible helpfully offering a location to get one);
  • Further escalate as needed by: repeating the requirements and informing that entry without masking is a violation of institutional policy; and that you are required to report the incident to management (or by saying that you have to immediately contact management to act on the situation).
Note that the sequence does not end with the screener attempting to physically block a violator.  Granted, there are  situations where the entry of even one unmasked person is highly dangerous and the above sequence would need to then include physical blockage.   In such circumstances screeners need to be trained and well-equipped as security guards or have quick access to such.
 
But it’s neither realistic nor necessary to expect such high control in most settings.  The battle for masking won’t be won by imposing fortified guards at every portal of public interaction or trying to mandate ordinary staff to act like guards.  Rather we will win it by posting well-prepared screeners throughout our institutions, trained in communicating a clear expectation with minimal confrontation and no physical tussles.
 
Some screeners need to be trained to turn up their energy and volume to do this effectively; others need to learn to turn it down so as not to be overbearing.   As part of a several hour training program, a conflict style inventory is a highly effective tool in helping individuals recognize their own tendencies and calibrate their responses accordingly.   In a workshop of a few hours, individuals can assess themselves, learn a basic sequence for handling difficult situations, and practice what they are learning in roleplays.     
 
Israel, Canada, and some other countries impose stiff fines on people who violate rules on social isolation.  They’re showing far better results than the US in slowing the virus.  But whether we go that route in the end or not, we’ll still need screeners and strategies like the above.

Let’s get on with this so we can return to something like the life we all long for!

 
 

You Can Lead Training

 
Do you want to help a team or group improve patterns of dealing with conflict?   Below are resources to help you lead a rich learning experience on conflict styles. 
 
 
 
So long as you’re comfortable leading group discussion, you can do this yourself, even if you’ve never led a conflict styles workshop before.  
 
The resources listed capitalize on Style Matters Online, which harnesses digital power to do interpretation that required an expert in the past.   Its 2020 version combs a user’s scores for insights and presents them in a detailed, 10 page report that can be easily understood without additional input. 
 
You don’t need to be a conflict resolution expert to coordinate this.  Naturally the more you know, the better for the group. But ordinary group facilitation skills are all that is required to have an impactful event.

Conversation to Assist Learning

A feature we’ve added to recent upgrades is suggestions for partners.   Other learning tools like Style Matters – for example, the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument  – typically address the user as an individual.  “Here’s your scores, here’s how you compare to others, here’s what your numbers mean, etc.”  It’s up to the user to translate that into conversation with partners and colleagues.  
 
That’s like clapping with one hand.   Conflict happens in relationships.  That means that learning about conflict takes place best in the context of relationships.  We can start on our own, but we hit pay dirt in conversation with others.  
 
So a section of the Style Matters score report is for conversation with partners or colleagues of the user.  These suggest ways to support the user when things are dicey.   The goal is for people in long-term partnerships to review these together, and proactively negotiate patterns of communication that work well in times of difficulty.    

Resources You Need Training

Here’s a complete list of what need to design and pull an effective learning experience with Style Matters Online.

  • Download Trainers Big Guide to Successful Conflict Styles Training.   This free 45 page guide to conflict styles training explains the five styles of conflict, the concepts of Calm and Storm, how to work with the cross-cultural aspects of Style Matters, and provides step-by-step guidance through a workshop.   In addition you need…

  • Download Trainers Small Guide to Style Matters Online.   This free 10 page supplement builds on concepts in the big guide above and applies them to training with the online version.   If you’re just facilitating a conversation, you can get by with just this supplement to design your discussion.  If you’re feeling ambitious and expecting to give inputs as an active trainer role,  you should have both.   

  • View Intro to Conflict Styles slide show, available in either traditional Powerpoint format or dynamic Prezi format.    This short slide show, free for online viewing and available for purchase offline, introduces core concepts of the five styles of conflict and serves as a great prelude to discussion of score reports. 

  • Handouts.   If you like to work from handouts, download these.   From the traditional print version of Style Matters, they’re not required for training with the online version.   But if you have time for them, they’re a solid addition to any workshop.  Plus, it’s nice to have them ready if, like many trainers, you’re nervous about having enough solid material on-hand.

  • Tutorial.  The tutorial on our website packs a lot of info about conflict styles into a few pages, on topics like the cross-cultural feature of Style Matters, the Storm shift, interpreting scores, anger management, and more.   

  • Followup.   Conflict responses are habit-based.  Developing new patterns requires repetition.   You can expand the impact of conflict styles learning by spreading it across time, with followup activities and/or homework. See   my blog on followup activities for ideas.  You can multiply the impact of the whole experience by enouraging people to engage in conversation with those they live or work with.  See this essay for ideas for discussion between individuals.

Healers Call Others-III

(Part III in a series from a forthcoming book, Transforming the Healer)

As we accept the reality of our own pain and struggle, and begin to recognize their universality,  we open ourselves to the voice of the soul.   We hear and feel things we never heard or felt before about our gifts and our strengths.  There is energy within, a nudge to speak out, move, or act in new or different ways.

We also notice things in the world that we never noticed before.  Eventually the inner stirring is confirmed by an opportunity or request from without.  

In the interplay of the inner and outer comes a message:  “You possess the right capabilities to address a particular problem in the world.  You are the one able to offer that which is needed.”

This is Call, a deeply felt motivation to mobilize our own unique blend of interests and abilities to address a particular need in the world.    As the next story shows, transformation is not only about hearing our own Call, but about relating to others in ways that help them hear theirs.  

Transformative Leadership Facilitates Call

Inevitably, the transformative journey calls us into action on behalf of others, for at our highest potential, we care as much about others as ourselves.  If we understand transformation, our response will be different than “helping others” or “fixing their problems.”  We have to help others experience their own sense of Call.

In the 1970s, Macler Shepherd was an African American businessman who ran a furniture repair business in St. Louis.  Hubert Schwartzentruber was a  pastor – recently arrived from Ontario – with a sense of call to serve the city. Determined to mobilize the community for better housing, schools, and services, Schwartzentruber recognized enormous leadership ability in Shepherd.   “When are you going to help your people, Macler?” he would ask when he dropped in to visit.

Shepherd began assisting in organizing community campaigns. He enjoyed this so much and was so effective that he left his business to assistants and began spending his time in community work.  Eventually he sold the business and became full-time director of the largest community development agency in the city, managing projects bringing millions of dollars of investment and development funds into the community.

In the interaction between Shepherd and Schwartzentruber we see transformation at work in several ways.  Responding to the transformational nudgings of his friend, Shepherd allowed himself to move beyond the safe routines of a successful business.  He began to use his ability to plan and lead in ways he had never done before, and from this emerged a powerful Call. From this emerged a new career in community developed that changed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

For his part, Schwartzentruber understood the role of being a transformative presence to others.  Rather than burn himself out trying to be the heroic leader of a struggle for justice in a community in which he would always be an outsider, he recognized that he could give more by empowering others to lead in that struggle.  Working quietly, selflessly, and persistently in the relational web of the community he served, Schwartzentruber found a way to be the early voice of the transformative Call that stirred Shepherd.   

Schwartzentruber’s contribution was being a catalyst of transformation in others.   He did this in relationship to an individual, but he impacted a whole community, as the individual whom he interacted with became a leader of many.   Perhaps equally important, he modeled a way of being that lives on in the memory of those who knew him. The transformative values that guided him linger long after his departure.

It took me twenty years of full-time work as a facilitator and trainer of peacebuilding before I could state clearly why I felt uncomfortable with a great deal of what takes place in the field of peacebuilding.   Throughout this time I had close association with – and for nine years, employment by – the Mennonite Central Committee. Alongside relief work and advocacy for justice and peace, MCC does community development, so for a quarter century I had the privilege and challenge of looking at human beings through the eyes of seasoned development practitioners.   

Development is a major industry in our world.  For decades, wealthy nations have sent people, money, and technology to “the South” for “development assistance”.   But the sad truth is that development is a failed industry. The billions spent on development in the last fifty years have largely been wasted and almost certainly benefited donors more than recipients.  Communities that planners once imagined would prosper remain poor. Rusting equipment and vacant buildings litter the globe like monuments to the empty dreams of a generation of “development experts”.  

Why? The reasons are complex, but largely they have to do with a preoccupation with products rather than people.  Development has been understood in material terms, with a goal to build clinics or roads or manufacturing facilities.  The factor key to any sustainable change process, the people affected, have mostly been ignored. Absent transformative strategies, money poured into roads and buildings and new technology is wasted.  Unrecognized, uninformed, uninvolved, and unempowered, the people whom development is intended to assist lose connection to development projects. When money runs out and the outsiders leave, projects die.

To be transformative, development must give first priority to strengthening the ability of communities to take control of their own future, with strategies like listening to local community people about what they see as needs, working closely with local decision-making processes, setting up accountability of projects to local communities, identifying and working with the best of local traditions and resources rather than rushing to import from the outside.  

The truth is that development as widely practiced is mostly driven by the needs and agendas of development organizations and their funders.  The assumption is that outsiders know better than locals the problems that must be addressed and how to address them. It is taken for granted that development workers make decisions for rather than with those who will live with the consequences of those decisions.   

Keenly aware of the failures of most development work, my colleagues at Mennonite Central Committee evolved a different model.  “Your goal should always be to work yourself out of a job,” said John A. Lapp, chief executive of the organization, in his first conversation with me.   Over and over I heard about the “listening/learning stance”, “acknowledging local resources”, “context appropriate technology”, “sustainability”, a “long-term timeframe”.

Those phrases may sound like jargon, but they point to a way of being present to others rarely practiced in our world.   A transformative presence helps others, not by giving them things or making decisions for them, but by building their capacities to address their own problems.   Perhaps most important of all, it strengthens people’s confidence in their own capacity.

This development-oriented approach has pervaded Mennonite peacebuilding approaches in situations of conflict.   In the Conflict Transformation Program at Eastern Mennonite University, we wrote and regularly revised a one-page summary of principles that guide in designing transformative peacebuilding practice.    In essence, these principles are the application of the best development insights to the design and implementation of peace work. You will find a current version in the sidebar on this page (or at the end of the chapter).   

Underlying these principles is the awareness – much of it arising from the experience of generations of community development work that influenced us – that the key questions determining whether we work transformatively are not whether we are good at planning, persuasive in negotiation, or organized in administration.  These skills assist the creation of peace and other good outcomes, to be sure. But something else determines whether our work is transformative: Is our first commitment to honoring and expanding the existing capacities of those we serve?  

More than half of the principles are about relationships, the only context in which transformation can possibly take place.  Many involve some form of bracketing of self, reducing preoccupation with our agendas as outsiders and focusing instead on the needs and resources of those we serve.  Reflecting the wisdom of sustainable community development work throughout the world, the principles take it as given that decision-making power must be shared.

Applying these principles of transformation demands much of world healers.  On one hand we bring a vision for change to every place that we go: the creation of a just and peaceful world to replace the unjust and violent one we live in.   We have an agenda!  

But change doesn’t stick unless it is deeply rooted in the people involved.  This means that the alternatives we advocate cannot be ours. They must emerge from and be carried by the people and communities we seek to serve.   People must “own” the ideas and skills they are learning. No amount of zeal, hard work, and dedication on our part can substitute for the commitment of others.  For our healing intentions to have impact and survive, we have no choice but to work in ways that empower others to carry on without depending on us.   

For thought and discussion

The post describes transformative leadership as helping others to recognize and expand their own capacity for solving the problems important to them.   Do you know people or institutions in your own profession who are not transformative in the way they operate? If you wanted to teach someone how to operate in this non-transformative way, what would you advise them to do?

Now name someone or some organization you know of that operates transformatively.    What does this look like in practice? What attitudes, values, skills, and resources are required to achieve this?