OK, I’m finally giving in :) and joining Twitter. Just to see… Help make it fun and come on board! The more of you that are on there doing interesting things, the better :) And if you’re already on Twitter, let me know your user name so I can find you … mine is TeresaMichelsen (simple, but descriptive! LOL).

And if you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, check it out at the link above. It’s just a way for us all to let each other know what we’re doing whenever we feel like it, in a sentence or two. Kind of a nice way to keep in touch with people far away. If you’d like a little customizable PC-tool to have it on your desktop instead of visiting the website all the time, you can get that free at Twitteroo or Twhirl.

See you soon!


How to say “no,” positively

You may have heard of the book “Getting to Yes” by Bill Ury – a book that revolutionized negotiations and formed the basis for most of what we do in mediation. He put into words the idea of negotiating from underlying interests rather than surface positions, and creating solutions that benefit both parties’ basic needs rather than simply compromising – which tends to make neither person happy.

Now he’s written a new book, called “The Power of a Positive No.” I learned about it at a dispute resolution conference last week, but I’m writing about it here because I think everyone can use this book and the ideas in it to help set boundaries, stand up for yourself and for social justice, and learn how to say no anytime you really need to in life.

So what is a positive no? Not surprisingly, it’s a “no” that starts with a yes and ends with a yes. The first yes is to yourself – why are you saying no? What alternative principle are you saying yes to which requires you to say no to the other person? Being very clear with yourself about this and being able to affirmatively communicate it to the other person is key to saying no positively.

The second part is the actual no. What is it that you don’t want to do or can’t do? What principle or part of the other person’s proposal are you not accepting? Saying no in a respectful and firm way is important for this part.

Lastly, there is a final yes, this time to the other person. This comes in the form of another way that that person can get their needs met, or another alternative you can propose that you can say yes to. This final yes reaches out and reaffirms that you value your relationship with the other person.

So what does this look like? Suppose your boss comes to you and asks you to work weekends for the next month in order to finish a critical project that the company has fallen behind on for an important client. You need and want to say no, but you are afraid of losing your job, losing your boss’s respect, disappointing your client, not pulling your weight with other co-workers, etc.

The negative no: “No way! Thanksgiving is coming up – I can’t believe you would ask me to do that.” or “I don’t get paid enough to work weekends!” or even “Sorry, I just can’t. My wife will kill me.” All of these are negative nos that don’t come across very well. Don’t make excuses, stand for a positive principle.

The positive no: “In our family, Thanksgiving is the main holiday of the year, and we will have relatives visiting from out of town. My daughter’s soccer finals are also next weekend. It’s important to me to be with the family for these events. So, I can’t work weekends for the next month. But, I can work this weekend and I can work late Wednesday and Thursday evenings. I can also talk to June and see if she’d be willing to help out. We’ll find a way to get it done!”

Of course, if this boss is always asking you to give up your weekends and holidays, you might be less forthcoming about putting in the extra time. In that case, you have to really look at your values and what’s important to you. You may need a Plan B if your boss doesn’t accept your positive no – for example, looking for a new job.

Thinking about it this deeply whenever you feel like you want to say no helps you identify your underlying priorities, and take whatever action is appropriate. In the first case above, it may be to find a way to get both of your needs met. In the second case, it may be to recognize that your current job is incompatible with those deeper values.

Notes from Phoenix

I’m here in Phoenix at an Association for Conflict Resolution conference. Since I don’t know anyone here, I was determined to try to overcome my natural shyness in situations like this and TALK to people. Right away, I discovered that mediators are nice people :) I’ve never been to a conference before where so many people just in the lobby, elevator and standing in the checkout line would make eye contact, smile, and talk to you – actually engaging in meaningful conversation with people they don’t even know with apparent interest. Since mediators are naturally curious about other people (or we couldn’t do our jobs), that may explain some of it.

In any case, it bolstered my resolve and I’ve been practicing all day, talking to anyone who appears accessible and interesting. There was a dinner and dancing party out in a local park, and that gave me lots of chances. It was a warm Phoenix night, which in itself was enough to make me want to stay out in it. One memorable visual image was from my hotel room on the 19th floor, of the full moon hanging over downtown Phoenix in late afternoon, with the red hills ringing the city behind. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo to share with you (when I left I couldn’t think of a reason I would need my camera…).

This morning I had a session on metaphors and their value in mediation. All kinds of metaphors – verbal, visual, kinetic, even musical. Then later in the day I was watching a group of people dancing to YMCA (which totally dates us) – and they ALL knew the YMCA move. It was pretty hilarious to watch. There was one lone man out there, probably from another country, who was looking around in bewilderment ;D Now THAT was a cultural metaphor if I ever saw one – for what, I’m not entirely sure.

So that’s what I’m up to this week! Brrr… my room feels cold at 72 after the Phoenix night.

Feast or Famine

Well, it seems like a really long time since I’ve been able to write anything – all the contracts I’ve been waiting for for seven months (and which left me almost broke while I waited) have finally come in, dropping crazy buckets of workload on my head, lap, computer, desk, and everywhere else :) I have so many projects going at once now that I desperately need to make a list of all the things I need to do for them all over the next six months – but I haven’t had time to make the list! Add to that the trial that is starting in a week in which I’m an expert witness, and things are a bit nuts around here.

Friends, send me calm, competent energy – I need it!

Funny how I miss blogging when I don’t have time to do it. It’s gotten to be a regular part of my life and a form of expression and communication with my network that I value. It gives me an emotional outlet when I need it, a place to post random interesting ponderings that others might have something to say about, and it makes me feel really great when people read and communicate back :)

It’s also interesting how blogging tends to open people up. My signature line on my e-mails now includes a link to this blog, and as a result many of my work colleagues know a lot more about me than they did before. Some of them have said really nice things about it – we all worry about revealing too much, but over the years I have learned that the result is usually more positive than not. It gives us all a human face, which when you’re an independent consultant, feels especially important – since networking and friendships are really what it’s all about. I’ve even had one person tell me it inspired him to open up about side ventures he was involved in in his “other” life, which in turn resulted in us receiving some wonderful and unexpected bakery creations :)

Now I’m just waiting for the day when my Mom gets broadband and actually starts reading this ^.^ We’ll see if I still have the courage to post everything!!

Blogging about blogging

Like my life, this blog is full of posts on many unconnected topics – nature, games, work, relationships, tarot, politics, literature… One thing I love about blogging software is the ability to see how many people are visiting your blog, where they came from, what they’re reading, and links going in and out. It’s a lot of fun to see what interests people the most. Here are a few interesting observations:

– Whenever I post on one of the big Yahoo lists, visits go way up. It seems people actually look up your Yahoo profile if you say something interesting and follow the links on it – who knew!

– There’s a whole group of tarot enthusiasts who read mostly the tarot posts – recently I had a large influx of folks from Russia when my tarot book was published there

– I’ve written a lot about relationships in the past year, having gone through some pretty deep personal experiences and transitions. These posts get read more often than any other, even though they are now off the front page. They are often found through search engines – or people get to the blog and go straight to the love category and read all the posts there

– Nature is another popular topic. WordPress has a nature tag shared by many blogs and any time any of us posts under that tag many people from within the WordPress network read it – kind of like a webring by topic made up of blog posts.

– Another thing that brings in a lot of traffic from the search engines is any post about astrology and combinations of various signs and planets. That and the relationship items are the most frequently found through searches.

– I’m enjoying random links that happen from time to time. I wrote a post on the metaphysics of mediation, which has been picked up by someone over at “blinkbits”, which as I understand it, is a way to share favorite posts from feeds.

– The blogs that tend to get the most comments are about relationships, politics, and nature :)

The way all this ebbs and flows is so interesting, and I really enjoy being able to see the friends and perfect strangers that have taken the time to stop by, read, and discuss. Thank you!

Learning to be alone

I’m discovering I’m really not a good alone person :) I do love my solitude, but at the same time it seems I need almost constant connection to people in some way. This explains my love of blogs, discussion groups, e-mail, IM, telephone conversations… and when those are exhausted, I vastly prefer a book or movie to anything else – even that helps me feel connected. I spend a lot of time lately planning social events and outings on top of all my online activities, volunteering, working – anything to connect with people.

There are many, many projects I could be doing around here that I’m putting off. In pondering why it seems so hard to get around to these, yet I can spend hours blogging or teaching an online class, I’ve decided that it’s because they’re not connected to anyone but me – they’re not for anyone but me – no-one will see them but me. I was a lot more motivated to do these things when I was dating someone, because then at least he would come over and see them :D

I wonder sometimes if this is something that I’ll learn with time – after all, I’ve only been on my own for a couple of years. Or will I always prefer to be doing something that somehow touches other people, even if it’s indirect. I’d like to learn to do things just for and with myself, but not sure how you learn that. When it comes to being positive and grateful and optimistic, I’ve got all kinds of tools and ideas. But when it comes to this… I have no idea how to proceed.

I read other people’s blogs with envy, especially those involving gatherings or little things that people do for each other. Deep down inside, I do want a partner. Yet, I know I would still need a lot of time to myself to make it work. I often wonder how realistic that combination is… I’m certainly more efficient at getting things done when I have plans that I have to be ready for. Less time would be wasted on mindless pursuits stemming from loneliness, I think.

Nature is the one thing that always makes me feel connected, even when I’m alone. I can’t wait for the winter to end so I can get out in it more often. :)

The News, and How to Read it

Today I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR, an interview with an outgoing UN Minister whose job it is to oversee the UN’s humanitarian missions. Mostly, the interview was about conditions in Darfur, but at one point the reporter asked whether the minister ever felt that he was doing a hopeless job, given what was going on there. The Minister (whose name I never heard) replied that no, having discussed it with his staff, he felt that the world is a much better place in 2006 than in 2003.

I thought, how could that be? – thinking of course of all that we read in the news about Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, etc. He went on to explain, describing how much conditions had improved in many African countries and giving a wide variety of examples. Then he said that where the UN had failed in its mission to protect the people was mainly in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur – in which conditions had gotten much worse. I pondered this and realized that he had a much more global vision of the world than I did from our media. And from his perspective, many areas were improving. Many times I have heard that the US media treats certain Middle East issues as the be-all and end-all of world news, when to many other countries there is much more going on of interest.

I say this partly because the Iraqi situation is so disheartening and there seems no good solution. Every day we hear on the radio and read on the newspaper of the horrific attacks that constantly occur. Similarly, the Afghani president was moved to tears in trying to explain to the world community about all the children that are dying there due to insurgents and military action. This is all, ALL, we hear about – and we are helpless to prevent it, short of voting all the idiots out of office – and it may be far too late for that to really help.

So what is this post really about? First, that there is more to the news than what we constantly get barraged with. Listen to NPR, get an Internet feed from an international newspaper of good repute, and see what the rest of the world is talking about and preoccupied with. You might be surprised at how it’s not all about the Middle East (and it makes you wonder how we ever got in the position of our news BEING all about the Middle East).

Second, when life gets difficult and the news gets overwhelming, I like to play a little game with the newspaper. This is about putting things in balance. I think our media adds a lot of stress to our lives in ways that are subliminal – we constantly hear about all kinds of horrible things we can’t affect. Like much of the rest of life, we need to become more aware of the good things all around us. When even the UN commissioner in charge of humanitarian missions sees the world in a more positive way than most Americans, something is wrong.

So, here is the challenge – go through today’s newspaper and find three good things reported on. Post them here in a comment for everyone to see. They could be local, state, global, personal, anything at all. First you will see how hard it is to find anything – media bias in reporting, anyone? That just means we have to work all the harder to balance the constant barrage of negative images with some positive light. Not as a way of burying our heads in the sand, but to reduce the stress and realize that there are good things going on out there – and we could do more to support them.

Here are mine for the day (Tacoma News Tribune, Dec 12, 2006):

– Front page reporting on a community pilot project in Tacoma pairing at-risk communities, police officers and code inspectors to shut down drug houses, enforce code violations, clean up messes and eyesores, reduce violent crime and burglary, increase street lighting, and improve community morale. Four areas of the city were selected for the pilot project, which was by all accounts very successful – so much so that the city is planning to extend it into more neighborhoods next year.

– Republicans left a variety of spending bills unfinished in Congress this year, and the incoming chairmen in both the House and Senate are busily stripping out every single earmarked “pork” projects from the spending bills in preparation for passing them early next year. Finally, some common sense. Not that I think one party is any better at this than the other, but thankfully someone’s taking a stand on this, in spite of the fact that it will make many, many congressmen unhappy to lose their pet projects.

– I continue to be very happy with our Washington State governor, Chris Gregoire. We’ve had large budget surpluses recently, and her priorities for spending it have been the environment, improving math and science education, and changing the state constitution to set aside a large proportion of it for years when the economy is not so good (something the current financial structure does not allow for). And she came down hard on local pharmacies that refused to carry the morning after pill, canceling state purchasing contracts with those groceries and pushing the state pharmacy board to require pharmacists to fill all legally written prescriptions. Go Chris!

Let’s see what you’ve got!!

(this will be a little test to see if anyone actually reads a blog this long!)