There’s Never Enough

The problem is that just like the word “fair,” the word “enough” means different things to different people.

And just as there will never be “enough” (and a person should watch using words such as“never” and “always” as well, but for the purposes of this point, we’ll ignore that philosophical admonition)—time, energy, effort, focus, attention, care—there will also never be a truly “fair” solution to a conflict.

Because, what’s “fair” for you, may not work for me. And vice-versa.

So, since there will never be “enough,” let’s instead pursue a process, rather than an outcome; connection rather than avoidance; and relationship rather than keeping track of who’s ahead and who’s not.

Let’s instead pursue managing ourselves, becoming more and more self-aware, and ruthlessly pursuing the truth of our own stories.

Because there’s never enough.

Dollar Value of Mediation Skills in the Connection Economy

It’s hard to place a dollar value on human-to-human interactions in the current (and growing) connection economy, because connection is about engaging in acts of caring.

And whoever put a dollar value on acts of caring?

But here are a few challenge questions if that’s your attitude:

Whoever put a dollar value on the act of raising crops in an agricultural economy?

Whoever put a dollar value on the act of building a widget in an industrial economy?

Whoever put a dollar value on the act of providing a customer service in the service economy?

Humanity figured out the dollar value inherent in all the economic transitions from hunting and foraging, to agriculture, to industry, to service and created functioning economic systems—from trading and bartering to late stage capitalism. And humanity will figure out the current global transition we are in right now.

The space between the old system and the new system is a space of conflict, anger, incivility, uncertainty, spectacle, entertainment, along with a healthy dose of depression, worry, and anxiety.

This is a space where the skills of mediation (particularly around distraction, diversion, and deflection) can be helpful (and monetized) at scale.

But whoever put a dollar value on the acts of caring?

Negotiation What Ifs

If most negotiations are about whose version of reality will win, who decides what reality is?

If many negotiations result in win-lose outcomes, are the “losers” as committed to the ultimate agreement as the “winners” are?

If some negotiations happen because either party doesn’t ask the “right” questions, then what are the “right” questions, what are the “wrong” questions, and who gets to tell the difference?

If negotiations are a form of communication, then why are there so many miscommunications in negotiations?

There are a ton of “what ifs” about the nature of negotiation. Many of the process “what ifs” have been answered for at least the last thirty years. So why is it so hard to get the result we want for ourselves (and the other party) so often in a negotiation?

Conversations are the beginning of a negotiation.

Most everything can be negotiated.

Except when most everything can’t be negotiated.

Which, if you answer the “what ifs” with some clarity, candor and courage, become the linchpins around which negotiations can truly begin as a communication process.

[Opinion] How Do We Jiu-jitsu Our Own Clients

Mediators, negotiators, facilitators, lawyers, therapists, and analysts do it all the time.

When you understand the nature of the thing, it is almost impossible to avoid doing it.

When you do it, sometimes you feel as though you are manipulating somebody else into doing something that they wouldn’t normally do. But then you realize that kindness, patience, and humility begin to matter.

When it’s done, it’s done intentionally, not by accident, or even in a haphazard way, a reaction to something that another party said or did.

And yes, when you do it, you can still be taken by surprise. It just doesn’t happen as often.

In the past, people used to characterize it as “playing head games.” But really, once you understand that in many ways, individuals change, but the group doesn’t, then it’s less a “head game” and more a “gaming the system” game.

When you do it, you have to be careful to preserve the other party’s autonomy and rights to self-determination. Presenting all the options to get out of a conflict, without presenting the consequences as well (or even worse, allowing the other party’s imagination to ‘fill in the blanks’) lacks human empathy, and dares to challenge your own spiritual growth.

When it happens, it may seem like jiu-jitsu to someone watching from the outside (using the other party’s ‘throw weight’ of their language, rhetoric, ideas, or stories, against them), but the ability to

  • analyze,
  • listen actively and non-defensively,
  • hear a story succinctly,
  • and paraphrase that story back to the teller in the way the teller wants to hear it,

is not jiu-jitsu.

It’s just good form.

[Strategy] Reframing your Organization’s Litigation Strategy

Your organization’s litigation strategy is based on how your organization perceives giving an apology, taking responsibility, or passing around blame.

Your organization’s litigation strategy is based on how the founder perceives conflict, engagement, resolution, and even resilience and grit.

Your organization’s litigation strategy is based on how founders, executives, investors, employees, clients, customers, and others integrate and engage with (or don’t) lawyers, the legal system, and even legal professionals.

Your organization’s litigation strategy is not an accident, or something that “just grew” like Topsy. It is a strategy that is either intentional, or reactive.

Just like your organization’s conflict engagement, avoidance, or resolution strategy.

[Advice] Stare Uncomfortable in the Face

The part of the conflict process that is addressed the least (and the most) is the uncomfortable part.

Not the scary part, where you’re actually doing the hard work of resolving an issue with people that you may (or may not) like.

Not the uncomfortable part that comes after you’ve decided to do the work and now you have a choice of whether or not to continue forward when the going forward becomes difficult.

Not the difficult part that comes when you decide to take a step back and examine the entire conflict process and determine where your emotions are coming from.

The most uncomfortable part comes at the beginning of the conflict process, when the resistance is at the highest, and the need for assurance is the most critical, and when you are looking into the eyes of the other party and think:

“This isn’t going to work out.”

That’s the most uncomfortable part.

And we talk almost not at all about it because to do so would be to acknowledge that we might not be emotionally, spiritually, and even physically, strong enough to manage the ups and downs of a process we’d rather avoid.

But the uncomfortable part comes before avoiding. It comes before surrendering. It comes before delaying. It comes before confronting. And it comes before engaging.

The people who can stare the uncomfortable part of the conflict process in the face—and not blink—will be the people who will create teams, that will form organizations, that will win the future, by doing emotional work first, and every other labor second.

It all starts with being able to stare being uncomfortable in the face.

[Strategy] My Mind is Made Up

“My mind is made up.”

Well…ok then.

Your mindset, your framing of the world and the way that it’s ‘supposed’ to work, your story that you tell yourself about your conflicts, disputes, and differences of opinion, can be changed.

Unlike in the old Ten Commandments movie from back in the day, your ideas and stories developed over time. They weren’t etched irrevocably in granite tablets and then thrust upon you.

Though sometimes it may feel like that.

At least once (or maybe twice) in every training opportunity, there comes a moment to challenge a frame or a mindset, or a story, about how something ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to work. And at that moment, the phrase “your frame—your worldview—got here before the facilitator did” pops out of the trainer’s mouth.

But even this statement betrays a mindset, a story, a frame of references around the malleability of these frames, and the biological ability for a person to change their, already made up, minds.

The ability to shift frames, and to change them based on the persuasion of new knowledge, is not a sign of a lack of consistency—the crowd (e.g. other people) makes sure that you are remain consistent, even unto rhetorical death—instead, it is a sign that the window dressing of our frames, stories, and mindsets, can be changed and are flexible.

Mediation, conflict resolution, conflict coaching, conflict engagement, negotiation: all of these processes exist to persuade you that your mind can be changed; and in some cases, to persuade you that changing your mind may lead to more positive outcomes than the ones that you have been experiencing all this time.

But sometimes, people don’t want different outcomes.

Sometimes, parties in conflict get unnerved by participating what they perceive as processes that involve too much “second guessing” and “over thinking.”

Sometimes parties in conflict want affirmations, reassurances, and confirmation that their story is the right one and the only one with any validity in the marketplace of ideas.

So when one party’s mind is “made up” the question becomes: As the party on the opposite side of the table, are you ready, willing, and able to engage in the hard emotional labor of changing that other party’s mind?

Or is your mind now made up as well?

[Opinion] Will You Read This?

There are a lot of tips, tricks, “how-to’s” and hack based articles, blog posts, and columns, everywhere. And there always have been.

Partially, this is because the people reading the articles want the easy out. This is evidenced in corporate training where attendees will say “I don’t want the theory, just give me the practical tips.” Or, ask “Is there a silver bullet for this?”

The silver bullet.

The easy answer.

Cheat codes in video games.

Will this be on the test?

What’s the shortcut?

I don’t want to hear your story.

I don’t care about the theory.

I want to work smarter, not harder.

More 10 second videos.

This was too long, and I didn’t read it.

Could you make the letter/blog post/email shorter?

Do I have to study?

Are we there yet?

This is taking too long.

It’ll be there in thirty minutes or the next one is free.

You’re using ten long words to say something you could say in four short words.

Yes, there are more and more ways to get around doing the hard work of engaging, relationship building, thinking about theory and how it applies to your life, and the challenges of actually addressing situations rather than outcomes. But there are fewer and fewer ways to get long form analysis, well thought out arguments, structured content, and opportunities to take in a philosophy, struggle with it, and learn from it.

We don’t need more tips and tricks. We’ve got enough of that.

We do need more deliberation, theory, thinking, and testing. And from that comes the ability to take calculated risks in conflicts—and perhaps to build that world that we all so desperately claim to want.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Strategy] Burnout Over The Pacific

When you talk with divorce and family lawyers about divorces, separations, or even “conscious uncouplings” a statement they always make in the course of the conversation focuses around their amazement that couple choose to go through a litigation based process.

In particular, their statement tends to focus on the fact that litigation takes time and is more emotionally draining than mediation, and yet many couples would prefer to go through that process than another, more collaborative one.

There are many points to consider from this observation, but there are three immediate ones that could be instructive and strategic for your conflict situation—even if you’re not getting a divorce, experiencing a separation, or have decided to “consciously uncouple”:

  • A desire to see “justice done” is really a desire to see our will done unto the other person who hurt us. Which really means, when we go to a third party (whether a lawyer or a judge—and sometimes even a mediator) we aren’t looking to grow collaboratively with the other party out of a difficult relationship. We’re really looking for revenge and a reckoning.
  • Collaboration is not about “being friends again” or even forgiving the other party. Collaboration is simultaneously a selfish and selfless act of growing with that other person (who sometimes you have a deeply personal relationship with) so that the relationship can end in a way that benefits both of you. Mediation is a collaborative process. Litigation is always a competitive process.
  • Litigating not to “lose” is not the same as not collaborating to “win.” The fact of the matter is, “winning” and “losing” are black and white concepts that have little to nothing to do with the facts of the dispute, the relationships involved, the values on the table, the positions and interests of the parties involved, or the outcome in question. But parties in a dispute often view not “losing” (or outright “winning”) as the only satisfactory strategy that can justify emotional decisions made in all of those areas. Which is why litigated disputes always end up feeling emotionally hollow and are often decided—in hindsight—to have been a waste of both time and energy.

Many people in disputes, conflicts, disagreements, and who are having “differences of opinion” with other parties, experience a sense of burnout throughout the processes of both litigation and mediation. But the question on the table is “Do you prefer your burnout slow and steady, or quick and dirty?”

Answering that question, individually and corporately, with honesty, self-awareness, and insight into the other party, can lead to picking the best process for managing your particular conflict.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Opinion] None of You Seem to Understand….

…sometimes, it’s not about the money, or the prestige, or the status, or any of the external, ego-driven reasons that people give when asked “Why did you get into that fight?”

Sometimes, it’s about sending a message to all the other parties involved (and standing on the sidelines) in a conflict, because something is wrong, something needs to change, or something needs to be fixed.

The core questions when it’s about sending the message are:

What do you do in a conflict, if the person (or persons) you’re sending the message to, refuse to hear it, can’t understand, or outright disagree with it?

At what point does escalation do more damage and create more problems than it solves?

Is it worth the energy to get to resolution?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: