Q & A

Aligning Energies

Conflict Resolution

Decades ago I had the good fortune of attending several conflict resolution trainings with Marshall Rosenberg and actually employing his services to mediate conflicts involving important people in my life. I was deeply affected by those experiences. In particular, through those experiences I discovered how it is actually possible to move from a very painful and apparently hopeless situation to a dramatically different experience of deep understanding and renewed positive connection between those formerly in conflict. Without a glimmer of hope, it is extremely difficult to persuade people in conflict to even consider, let alone engage, in a process of conflict resolution. Marshall Rosenberg has been a longtime, highly influential teacher and trainer in nonviolent communcation and conflict resolution. To learn more, visit the website for the Center for Nonviolent Communication.

The book Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement without Giving In, by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Negotiation Project, 1981 is truly a classic in the field, referenced repeatedly by authorities in the field.


The message is relatively simple, but profound. “Don’t bargain over positions.” The recommended method involves these steps: “Separate the people from the problem; focus on interests, not positions; invent options for mutual gain, and insist on using objective criteria.” This small, but extremely valuable book, also includes chapters on what to do if the other party is more powerful, won’t engage or uses dirty tricks!! Strongly recommended. Here’s a downloadable excerpt pdf from this book.

Check out additional free downloadables from the Global Negotiation Project.

More recently I’ve explored the work of Thomas Crum, who brings an Aikido approach to understanding and working with conflict. Thomas Crum has a deep understanding of the energetics of conflict which adds to the power of this approach.

The Magic of Conflict, Turning a Life of Work into a Work of Art, 1987 has important things to say about the nature of conflict. An important point from this book is that “Conflict is is an interference pattern of energies used in nature as a primary agent for change.”

Thomas Crum’s recent book, Three Deep Breaths, Finding Power and Purpose in a Stressed-Out World, 2006, provides a simple and elegant way of approaching life’s challenges. I recommend this little book. His approach is highly compatible with my own Aligning Energies philosophy and methodologies.

The first breath is called “The Centering Breath,” focusing on the present moment with balance and energy. The second breath is “The Possibility Breath,” focusing on power and purpose. The third breath is “The Discovery Breath,” for breathing in the mystery and letting go of judgment.

Centering is immensely important to reconnecting with one’s inner guidance and personal power. I’ve found it also very helpful to remind myself of Source, as the infinite flow of energy from above, below and the world around. In this way, I can move into a place of resourcefulness, letting go of limiting notions of isolation, separation or depletion. For the next two breaths, I might use the words, “purpose” and “play,” or “mission” and “mystery.” In either case, I am tuning in to the power of intention and openness to the mystery of the present moment as teacher and guide for what is meant to happen.

To learn more about the Aiki approach, I also recommend The Magic of Conflict video series, available through Thomas Crum’s website.

For those involved in working with groups, the little book, On Conflict & Consensus, a handbook on formal consensus decisionmaking, by C.T. Lawrence Butler and Amy Rothstein, 1987, can be a valuable resource. The term, “consensus” is used often and casually, often without a practical understanding of what is really involved. Here you can learn about the structure, flow and rules of formal consensus, the roles of facilitator, peacekeeper and advocate, and an assortment of simple and straightforward techniques for helping people in a group arrive at a good decision together.

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