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.

How Crazy Do You Want to Act to ‘Win’ at Nuclear Poker

Playing poker with another party who holds the keys to nuclear weapons (literal, metaphorical, or figurative), and has given indications based on experience that they will be willing to deploy them, is a dangerous game.

The stakes are high, but not for the obvious reasons of total physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological annihilation.

The stakes are high for three reasons:

No one really knows another party’s motivations, needs, or interests. Unless we ask. And far too often our inherent selfishness in pursuing outcomes that benefit us exclusively, blinds us to the simple need to do some discovery about the other party.

Sometimes, only one person has cared enough to explore another party’s motivations, needs, or interests.

But then they use this knowledge cynically, to manipulate and exploit other parties who are more ignorant—and more selfish.

The far rarer case is that the party who has the knowledge and cares, shares; unselfishly, openly, and with the purpose of avoiding—or minimizing—disastrous outcomes.

Egos, self-interest, and selfishness tend to override rationality and logic in even the most innocuous negotiations. When potential destruction is the thing on offer, all bets are off.

The fact is, people at the individual level are irrational and emotional and in moments of high stress, tend to make short-cut choices that relieve tension in the amygdala, but create further problems down the road.

If the other party isn’t talking to a rational actor (such as it is) on the other side of the negotiation table, or leads with principles rather than interests, the changes of an undesirable outcome increase tremendously.

The appearance of being willing to do what the other party is either to scared, to demoralized, or to invested in alternative outcomes (their own BATNAs and WATNAs, for instance) to do, is sometimes enough to “win” the high stakes game of poker played with nuclear weapons (literal, metaphorical, or figurative).

Unfortunately, this sets a precedent in the mind and approach of the “losing” party around the potential for blackmail, coercion, or something even worse—subservience and the appearance of weakness.

The person who is willing to walk into a nuclear negotiation and deal fairly, transparently, and unselfishly with each party in the conflict is the one who wins the day today and tomorrow.

And not just a moral victory either.

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?

Asking is a Part of Negotiation

Most negotiations don’t happen because many people lack the curiosity to ask for what else might be on offer.

When you have the courage to ask the other party—and open a negotiation—you gain the power to get more.

You also grow the opportunity to move beyond mere transaction to something approaching a relationship.

When the pain points are highly painful (i.e. divorce, threat of imprisonment, illness, personal trauma, etc.) having the courage to ask for more allows the other party to move past their own objections—reasonable and otherwise.

But only if they want to.

When you don’t ask, you can’t receive.

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 10 – David J. Smith

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 10 – David J. Smith, Peace Builder, Consultant, Speaker, Educator and Author

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode #10 – David J. Smith


Some things, ideas, and even spaces are hiding in plain sight. Like the idea of walking in peace. Or building a career in helping people walk in peace.

The big question is (to paraphrase from the film The Prestige): Are you paying any attention?

Our guest today, David J. Smith is the author of many books on teaching peace. He most recently wrote the book Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace.

And he has come on at no better time than now, to talk about what really matters.

Look, I asked a podcast guest recently, “Why aren’t peacebuilders paid more?” and she gave that question an honest and thought provoking answer which you’ll have the pleasure of hearing next season.

I assert that the reason peacebuilder’s struggle to get appropriate compensation for the emotionally draining work that they do, is because we live in a conflict comfortable and peace skeptical society and culture.

David answers the question in another way on the podcast today.

Look, this is the last episode of our penultimate 4th season of the podcast, and I for one, could not be more grateful and appreciative of your ears, your attention and your focus this year.

Your feedback, as always, has been tremendous for a podcast that runs no advertising other than mine, and where I don’t come on the mike and ask you to donate to my Patreon page, or to rank me in ITunes, Stitcher or on Google Play.

Though the Earbud_U Podcast is available for download and rating on all those platforms.

Thank you for all your support in this self-funded effort, and we’ll be back in January 2017 with a new year, a new slate of guests, and even a new opening I’ve been working on.

Connect with David J. Smith in all the ways you can below:


Peace Jobs Book Link:

Facebook (For Peace Jobs):

Facebook (to Connect with David):


[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode #9 – Jason Dykstra

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 9 – Jason Dykstra, Storyteller, Marketer, Conflict Management Specialist



Sometimes the host screws up.

He misses the date, misses the appointment, misses the guest entirely. And then he’s gotta say he’s sorry, get the process back on track, and make no excuses.

I had to apologize to our guest today, Jason Dykstra. And while he’s an amenable guy, and things happen (as the bumper sticker points out) the way to run an organization is to almost never make a mistake.

But when you make that mistake, the thing to do is to take responsibility, stand up and say “I screwed this up. There’s no excuses. Please forgive me.”

That gives the other party the option to say no, say yes, or ignores you completely. It also gives them the option to look at your vulnerability, determine your credibility, and to make a decision about you.

Now, if mistakes keep happening, then there’s a pattern of behavior. But a one off, an “almost never happens,” a “rare but not damaging miscalculation” these are forgivable.

What’s not forgivable are mistakes that reveal an ethical, moral, or even spiritual failings.

These are the Jimmy Swaggart level mistakes.

Or more recently, the VW emissions scandals.

Or even the Wells-Fargo “clawback” issues mistakes.

And no amount of apologizing will help sweep away that stain.

Some mistakes, as an old supervisor of mine liked to point out, you can’t come back from.

What does this have to do with mediators building their businesses?

Well, there are mistakes a mediator can come back from.

There are mistakes that reveal a mediators’ patterns of behavior. But when mediators are putting themselves “out there” the possibility for mistakes explodes ten-fold.

And many well-meaning mediators market poorly (or not at all) because of fear of making a mistake.

But, as a mediator who practices what he preaches, Jason will help us walk through all of this today, and more.

Connect with Jason in all the ways you can below:


Facebook (The L3 Group):




Twitter (The L3 Group):

[Advice] Re/Solution

What’s going to be on the test?

Is this going to work out?

What can we get here?

Who benefits?

All questions that revolve around what is commonly known as resolution. Some in psychology call it closure, but really it’s the mental and emotional process of getting a definitive answer that “ties off” any loose ends.

Narrative structures such as novels, films, short stories, all rely on an ending that is “settled.” Even when we talk about data and research—areas that should have nothing to do with a narrative, but are merely reflections of the world as we have objectively tested it—we use the phrase lately “the science is settled.

Yeah. Ok. So why are we still arguing?

The problem is not closure, an answer, an end to a narrative or even getting other parties to agree. The problem inherent in all of this phraseology and narrative structure around conflict is two-fold:

  • We are framing our arguments, negotiations, mediations, and litigations, in the language of closure and resolution, when in reality we are selfishly seeking a way for us to win, and for the other party to lose. Rather than chasing a “lose-lose” outcome, this is a corollary to the idea that we seek an answer—or a conclusion—that matches our worldview, which is the best one, or else it wouldn’t be our worldview.
  • We are seeking a manipulation, not of facts, but of other people whose ideas, positions, and interests we find to be distasteful, disagreeable, or just downright wrong. We seek to shut “the other” up, raise our own perspective up and devalue the other party, all in one fell rhetorical swoop.

When we seek to disconnect, rather than connect, and to ignore rather than understand; when we seek to replace the value already provided in an experience with the value we would rather the experience have; when we seek to judge rather than to educate; we aren’t looking to get to resolution.

We are merely seeking a solution.

[Opinion] The Non-Negotiables

There are non-negotiable issues in a conflict.

But a lot of those issues are determined to be non-negotiable by the parties involved in the conflict.

If a party decides that their emotions are the only driver that matters, and that they aren’t going to put those emotions away, for the sake of getting to a deal, then that party’s emotions are non-negotiable.

If a party decides that other parties who aren’t at the table (i.e. outsiders, colleagues, an audience, etc.,) are the ones that are going to control how the negotiation goes, then those outside actors become non-negotiable elements.

If a party decides that their current mood (which can change, day-to-day, moment-to-moment) is the only mood that matters (because, well, it’s their mood) then that decision becomes non-negotiable.

We often think of everything as being negotiable, which is not the same sentiment as “Everyone has a price” or “Everyone can be bought.” Many things, issues, positions, and interests are indeed negotiable. But the problem is, each party decides what’s on the table—and what isn’t.

What makes this decision particularly sticky is that moods, emotions, relationships with other parties not at the table, and many other non-negotiable elements of a negotiation process, involve recognizing the impact of identity, story, and meaning.

And who really wants to negotiate their identity, story, or meaning with a party, whom they automatically have framed as untrustworthy before the negotiation even began?

The skills of persuasion, evasion, coercion, facilitation, and active listening, are often discounted in the rush to close a deal. But those skills become crucial ones for negotiators to value and practice.

Honing the craft of negotiation is more than about sitting in a room and role-playing a case study. Honing the craft of negotiation is about developing intuition, patience, rapport, and caring along with those other skills, in order to get the best possible outcome.

Which usually just means, “The outcome that works best for me, right now.”

[Strategy] The Wisdom of Solomon Matters

There was once two women, who both claimed ownership of one child.

In an attempt to determine to whom, the baby actually belonged, (or who was the biological mother) the king decided to physically threaten the child in the presence of the two women through proposing to bisect the child.

The women who was the child’s mother protested. The other women kept silent and the baby was returned to its biological mother.

This story is ancient and hails from a time before lie detectors, biometric scans, and even neurolinguistics; which is why, it cuts to the heart of two human truths:

  • The women who claimed ownership of the children were both driven by ineluctable inner needs.
  • Threatening to bisect the baby focused the women’s attention on those things that matter.

Both of these truths are self-evident in a negotiation scenario. But here’s the thing: Sometime, it’s okay to let the baby be bisected.

Sometimes, parties need to experience the shock and trauma of loss, but not on their terms, in order to return to the table and negotiate for a better outcome.

When dealing with human lives (and “baby splitting” happens all the time in preparations for warfare) parties often count the cost and then decide to go ahead with a disastrous action. And out of that disaster comes new opportunities to focus parties on what matters, rather than getting trapped in the weeds of irrelevancies that may have previously dominated the conversation.

Parties in conflict can be lazy, deceptive, self-serving, myopic, and greedy. Clarity of purpose, drive, focus on attaining tangible outcomes that matter, and developing a relationship with the other party often stall in the real world.

And it’s in the real world, outside of the theories of how human beings should and ought to work, that the wisdom of a mediator matters the most.

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 3 – Kathleen Frascona

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode # 3 – Kathleen Frascona, Certified Mediator, Coach, Author, Trainer, Working in the Public School System

[Podcast] Earbud_U, Season Four, Episode #3 – Kathleen Frascona


It’s the end of August, which means that it’s time for you to listen to us in your car, on the way to dropping your kids off to school.

OR, if you don’t have children, maybe you are going to school yourself. In that case, carrying us with you while you go and attain your higher education goals, I thank you.

Today, our guest Kathleen Frascona, works in the school system in Florida, doing work that teachers, administrators, union stewards, and others, just won’t do. She is teaching students to be better human beings, one relationship at a time.

Getting to know our children in the eight hours they aren’t in our presence, formerly was the role of teachers. But as budget have been cut, and as the student to teacher ratio has dipped more and more in favor of the student, “getting to know” a child beyond merely some anecdotal facts, has become harder and harder.

K-12 schooling in troubled school districts is still devoted to the mission of preparing children to move into a world without social media, violence, drug use, and crime. In these school districts, preparing students to attain a middle-class lifestyle is the highest goal.

The trouble is, outside of the schoolyards where Kathleen does her work, the world that these students are in has stubbornly refused to transform itself into a middle class paradise.

And the work that Kathleen does prepares students for navigating THAT world with compassion, love, and above all else, a plan of action.

Listen to Kathleen and take the time to connect with her via the links below:

Kathleen on Twitter:

Kathleen on LinkedIn:

Kathleen’s Website & Blog:

Kathleen’s Books: