Building Skill in Peacemaking


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If you are worried about conflict that may occur during family gatherings such as family reunions, weddings, and holiday dinners, this post may provide some helpful tips on how to reduce or avoid conflict, and how to deal with it when it happens

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Empowering Questions

Sometimes the question is more important than the answer.  How can we discern what questions to ask?


This is a companion post to my earlier article,  Compassion in Listening

In Compassion in Listening, I wrote about the basic idea that when we listen to others, we are not fully available to hear what they are trying to express unless we clear our minds of our preconceived notions and ideas about what they are going to say.   In other words, we must open our minds to hear what they truly want to express, rather than just listening for what we want to hear.

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Recognizing Stages of Conflict and Knowing When to Call for Help

Conflict is a normal part of life.  It occurs every day.  At its lowest stages, conflict is seen as an opportunity to learn and grow together.  At its highest levels, outside intervention is required.  In between, there are distinct stages that most patterns of conflict follow.  Different conflict intervention strategies are effective for each different stage of conflict.

In this article, learn more about predictable stages of conflict and the types of interventions that are appropriate at the various stages.

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Scapegoating: A Case of Misplaced Blame, Part III

In the last post on this topic, I promised to create a third post to help the scapegoated person cope with the situation, to help keep you from being scapegoated.

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Scapegoating: A Case of Misplaced Blame, Part II

This is Part II in a three part blog series on scapegoating.

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Scapegoating in Conflict Resolution, Part I

A scapegoat is a person or object on which anxiety or blame can be dumped, even when they don’t  deserve it.  This is the first in a three part series on this blog on scapegoating.

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Cross Cultural Negotiation

An article in today’s New York Times highlights the need for cultural sensitivity on the part of those who engage in cross cultural negotiations.  According to the article, Japan’s “research” whaling program has lost most of its public support and only creates a few hundred jobs.  But there’s a major problem to backing off of whaling:   As long as whaling activists force Japan into an “us versus them” posture, the government cannot take any other position but to oppose change.  The article states:

Mr. Kodaira [a legislator who leads the group that asserts it will maintain whaling] said he recognized that Japan’s whaling industry had shrunk to just a few hundred jobs, mostly paid for by the government. However, he said that the recent aggressive actions of foreign environmental groups like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has clashed with Japanese whaling ships near the Antarctic, had fanned popular ire, making it impossible for Tokyo to compromise now.

“We can’t change now because it would look like giving in,” said Mr. Kodaira, a lawmaker from the northern island of Hokkaido. “Will we have to give up tuna next?”

Just like most countries, “Japan doesn’t like being told what to do,” said Isao Kondo, 83 [a retiree in a village that has traditionally engaged in whaling].

Think about it!  Sometimes getting one’s way really does depend on being able to see the other side and to meet those needs!

Uncertainty Buffets Japan’s Whaling Fleet


Published: May 15, 2010

Some in Japan criticize Antarctic hunts, which they say invite international criticism that threatens the more limited coastal hunts.

10 Things We Can Do to Contribute to Internal, Interpersonal, and Organizational Peace

(1) Spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how we would like to relate to ourselves and others.

(2) Remember that all human beings have the same needs. 


(3) Check our intention to see if we are as interested in others getting their needs met as our own.

(4) When asking someone to do something, check first to see if we are making a request or a demand.

(5) Instead of saying what we DON’T want someone to do, say what we DO want the person to do.

(6) Instead of saying what we want someone to BE, say what action we’d like the person to take that we hope will help the person be that way.

(7) Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone’s opinions, try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing.

(8) Instead of saying “No,” say what need of ours prevents us from saying “Yes.”

(9) If we are feeling upset, think about what need of ours is not being met, and what we could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what’s wrong with others or ourselves.

(10) Instead of praising someone who did something we like, express our gratitude by telling the person what need of ours that action met.


(This list is directly quoted from the web page for the Center for Nonviolent Communication.  The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) would like there to be a critical mass of people using Nonviolent Communication language so all people will get their needs met and resolve their conflicts peacefully. They write:  “[original copyright] 2001, revised 2004 Gary Baran & CNVC. The right to freely duplicate this document is hereby granted.” )

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Trauma Healing: The Snail Model

Talking about forgiveness ….

My blog post a few days ago was about the intellectual concept of forgiveness.  But there’s much more to forgiveness than merely what we “think” about or “decide” to do.  When bad things happen to us, our whole being, including our body, is affected.  This, in turn, affects how we relate to ourselves and to each other.  It’s not my goal to beat people over the head and be judgmental about telling people they should “forgive” or “just move on”.  That is not helpful.  My goal is to help people reach an authentic state of peace.  For a person who has been the victim of trauma, this can be challenging.

Cutting edge research shows that people who are victimized by violence need treatment for more than their physical wounds.  They need help in rewriting the story of their lives in a way that gives coherence and meaning.

The following video illustrates the “Snail Model” of trauma healing, as taught by the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.  The Snail Model is so named because it describes a spiraling model where conflict begets more conflict, in a circular fashion, unless some intervention can break the cycle and cause the circle to change shape into a spiral towards healing.  In other words, it is a model for breaking the cycle of conflict, basically providing a roadmap for people who have experienced painful events in their lives to see a process by which they may be healed, not just physically but mentally and spiritually.  A printable illustration by Olga Botcharova can be found HERE.

If you are suffering from the effects of violence, or if you know someone who is, I encourage you to print this and share it with the person who is affected.

Sometimes even just seeing a model like this will result in an “aha” moment.  The person will see where they are on the cycle and gain insight that will help them heal.  Not everyone needs (or has the luxury of engaging in) therapy with a caring and trusted counselor.  But regardless of whether the mental and spiritual wounds from trauma is small or large, it can help a person just to know that what they are experiencing is normal, that they are not alone.

Panic, anger, sleeplessness, fantasies of revenge — these are not signs of insanity, they are normal.  And there IS a path to healing.  It may be slow, it may be challenging.  But a person who has been victimized by crime, by war, by a terrible auto accident, can walk that path to healing.  No matter what the physical wounds, a person who has experienced trauma can can achieve spiritual and mental peace so that they can sleep at night and feel right with the world.

No matter what your circumstances, I want to assure you, there IS HOPE for peace.

This is a particular issue not just with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also for anyone who has been affected by crime or violence.  Even, perhaps, in our own families.   Whether this model may apply to you, or to someone you know, please be aware of it and be ready to share the hope, and the help, when the time comes.

I hope you find this video helpful.  If you do, please leave a comment to share how it helped you.

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