Conversations Skills and Tips – How to Navigate Difficult Conversations

While your attention is focused on the new year (reflecting on and reaffirming positive experiences of 2010 , remembering to write ’11 on your checks so they don’t bounce, etc.), right now is the best time to express your willingness to come together with others, to heal wounded relationships, and perhaps to have some of those challenging conversations you have avoided all year. No need to destroy the mood of the season, though – you can set the intention and even make an appointment to set aside some quality “face time” next month.

5 Conversation Skills and Tips for how to navigate difficult conversations:

1. Allow yourself to believe that others in the conversation desire a closer, warmer, more creative, productive, and loving relationship.
2. Listen to understand, not to prepare rebuttals. The majority of relationship difficulties result from inadequate understanding.
3. Assumptions are the termites of relationships. Remember, when you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and Me.
4. Listen together for patterns, insights, common values, and deeper questions.
5. Always be on the lookout for wholeness, connection, and shared interests, what do you have in common?

~ ~ ~ ~
Want more Conversation Skills/Tips? On what topics? Let me know in the comments section below!

More about Conversations:

Conversations that Matter – a conversation with Juanita Brown PhD

New Paradigm Leader – The Power of Good Conversation

TONIGHT – A Celebration of Life – The Power of Music & Love w Dr. Miller and Friends

Come and share Delight

Pierce Solstice’s Plutonian night

With music and soul attuned aright

Let hearts soar and Imagination take flight

I am pleased to invite you to an extraordinary Monday night of music and experiential poetry with:

Emmett Miller and Friends at

Broad Street Bistro (Nevada City)

Monday, Jan 10, 2011 on 7PM to 930PM.

This will truly be a Celebration of Life, one you won’t want to miss. Each of us does his or her unique dance, and is accompanied by a musical soundtrack that punctuates and intensifies various experiences. My experience led me from the struggles of the mean streets of New York City, through multiple worlds of  scientist, father, healer, and co-creator of a new field of medicine incorporating mind, emotion, and spirit – and delivered using trance states, music and movement techniques of healing.

On this night, with the able accompaniment of an extraordinary group of musicians, I will take you on a guided tour of my life and my mind, and yours too, if you are willing. I hope the magic of this music and these stories will bring you a taste of the passion, joy, inspiration, and transformation that have touched my heart, moved my spirit, and enlightened my consciousness.

And I do mean share – I want you to join me empathically, emotionally, and by contributing what you feel called to contribute by humming, singing, clapping, moving, or whatever. Part of the disease of our postmodern culture is that we have lost one of humanity’s most potent tools for cultural togetherness – the ability to sing, dance, and celebrate together. I think it’s time to reclaim Music, and allow her to work her magic on our hearts and our world. Please come and join me in this little experiment, warmed by a cup of coffee or tea, and maybe some of the Bistro’s delicious snacks.

Bring your heart, your voice, and your friends and:

“Sing, like you don’t need the money,

Love, like you’ll never get hurt,

Dance, like nobody’s watching

Come from the heart if you want it to work.”

Let your ears feast on:

Ron Gurewitz, Bass Master

Ron Gurewitz’s liquid carpet of bass tonalities

Michael Madigan’s sweet tenor voice, syncopated guitar, and compositional excellence.

 Tony Hardwick’s soulfully floating trumpet solos

Kit Bailey’s sensitive, precise, persuasive percussion

As we are all aware, the winter months and holiday activities are a time of happiness for many people, while others seem to experience an increase of sadness and distress. Anniversaries can sneak up on us and change our mood at any time during the year, but especially during the midwinter holidays.

Often our first awareness of it is the change in our feelings; only later do we understand the full reason for our dreary mood. Anniversary or holiday blues are often attributed to the “stress” of holiday activities and expectations, but actually, there are several possible sources:

  • Those who find they feel “down” between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day may be among the 5-20% suffering from what is known as S.A.D. — Seasonal Affective Disorder. They’re reacting to the diminished amount of natural light; there seems to be a chemical change in the brain involving chemical melanin. People affected by S.A.D. may be helped when they extend their day with full- spectrum fluorescent light.
  • Annual activities make it easy to see the changes in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones. Anyone who has experienced a major life change or loss since the last time the generations got together cannot help but be reminded of it during winter months when so much emphasis is on social contact and “tradition.” Increased sadness, nostalgia, or unexplained feelings of loss may actually signal that there are things that need to be acknowledged or grieved one more time. This is natural and normal grief. Grief is not the same thing as depression, although inadequately handled grief can turn into depression. Normal evidence of the passage of time can bring with it mixed feelings of pleasure and regret — things change, we get older.
  • Many people have a non-seasonal kind of depression that is biological or chemical in origin; they are somewhat depressed most of the time and may have the ability to disguise it from their own or another’s awareness — most of the time. This type of depression tends to become evident when compounded by any amount of stress and/or grief. Unnoticed at other times of the year, it is very likely to surface at this time.

Usually, depression involves the subconscious or conscious perception of a loss (potential or actual). The unconscious mind interprets it as loss, whether it has happened or not. It may be the loss of a relationship, possession, social status, or Self-esteem, the loss of a physical sense, or ability. If it hasn’t been grieved or accepted, energy continues to be lost from the psyche — it’s as if there were a perpetually open, unhealed wound. Grieving is healthy — it is what heals the wound.

When a person anticipates a loss and this perception is accompanied by fear, energy will also be drained away — in this case by fear. This energy drain leads to an inability to feel anger, to mobilize it, to protect what’s theirs — they feel helpless and weak. Continual fear further weakens them, leading to a reactive depression.

When the environment is especially chaotic, as it is these days (global warming, terrorism, financial meltdown, double dip depression, swine flu, Paris Hilton . . . shall I go on?), we often find ourselves feeling angry at the ineptitude of those we have chosen as our leaders. But when there is no adequate channel for its productive expression of this, the blocked emotion frequently leads to depression. Each additional perceived loss leads to more inwardly directed rage, resulting in guilt, shame, and obsessive self-recrimination.

A powerful antidote to energy-draining depression in any form is the development of a strong spiritual center, healthy Self-esteem and the ability to express anger in a productive way. The depressed “anger in” person may actually be harmed by instructions to “let go” of their anger and to “forgive.” To do this might possibly cut off the only path to healing because the inner anger is, in fact, the healthy desire to express and resuscitate the suffocating Self.

A change in environment – and this could mean a weekend in the country, visit with a positive, inspiring friend, church or other spiritually uplifting experience, exercise, or just putting on upbeat music – is an excellent first step. The seed of joy and freedom is within, and awakening it is the goal; we can learn to access that place within each of us from which deep healing arises. Complete resolution involves developing positive self-images, commitment to values that have deep meaning, releasing excess tension, and reengaging fully with life and love.

Anyone caught up in “Holiday Blues” deserves compassionate attention. Most of the time what is being felt is just a bit of grief and nostalgia. Sometimes it becomes “dysthymia,” or “subclinical depression,” and the suggestions above (perhaps with a little St. John’s Wort or 5 HTP), or the use of the “Escape From Depression” CD program is all that is needed. “Clinical Depression,” on the other hand, is something more serious. If you suspect this is the case, don’t underestimate the gravity of the situation — always consider professional help.

Signs of Depression

Don’t ignore signs of significant depression! Repeated tearful episodes, sleep disturbance, change in sexual function, hopelessness, helplessness, disturbed eating patterns, self-destructive (even suicidal) behaviors can all be signals that someone is in the grip of a major depression.

People who are this depressed often find it hard to engage in any form of treatment — to dedicate time and energy to something that they feel will/should fail is risking another disheartening blow to an already weakened ego. They may have little or no tolerance for change and not enough strength for introspection. (Research has shown that as a result of genetic factors, chemical usage, childhood trauma, and so forth, there may exist a structural change in the neuronal membrane and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In many such cases the newer anti-depressants — known as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) — can produce profound changes even when other approaches have failed.)

One of the symptoms of serious depression is to block or deny any form of help. A depressed person literally has no confidence in a happy outcome, so it is an act of courage for them to take any steps toward healing. If you are the person “standing by,” your tender regard and patience will be crucial. The most effective contribution you can make to their peace of mind is to listen without trying to solve anything to support them to seek professional help.

Helpful Audio Programs

The following programs could be used in conjunction with any treatment that a physician or therapist would recommend, whatever type of symptoms are being experienced.

Joy and freedom are your birthright! Claim them!

Related Guided Imagery, Hypnosis, and Meditation Programs

Guided Imagery to Escape From Depression

Meditation to Abolish Anxiety

Bestseller – Letting Go Of Stress

Start your day right with Launching Your Day Meditation

Learn the true words of The Serenity Prayer (Guided Imagery)

I AM: Awakening Self-Acceptance Meditation

Election Report from Under the Bus with Obama

I, probably just like you, asked myself “Why did Obama lose all that support in the recent election?” The response was a curious one indeed – it came in the form of a little history lesson.

During the Second World War, when open racial segregation was the rule, battalions of African-American men were sent into combat in some of the most hellish battles in Europe – often those where unacceptably high casualties were expected. They performed admirably, often turning in startling victories.

But, even if you were alive at that time you probably never knew this: as soon as the battle had been won and it was safe, the army brass quickly shipped out the blacks under cover of night, and white troops were shipped in, so that when the reporters and newsreel cameras arrived, they were greeted by the tanks and trucks filled the apparently victorious white faces and freshly dirtied uniforms. And this was not the exception; it was the rule. That was then.

Today’s War
Now the battle is at home, where our country (and the world) has suffered great damage in the wake of a financial crisis that had its very clear roots in the greed, dishonesty and manipulation – in the immense Ponzi scheme that was our economy. It was like a big game of economic musical chairs: you have to risk investment or watch inflation eat your hard-earned retirement capital and everyone knew that it made sense to take out a mortgage on a house – the equity always increases (after all – they are not making any more land!). Then, suddenly, the music stops and you don’t have a chair to sit in, and you are not alone. In fact, there are millions of others who suddenly discovered they had no chair, no job, and no homes.

So here we were, faced with a rapidly collapsing economy, job losses of nearly a million a month, a credit crisis of a degree not seen since 1930, and on the verge of having a nation-wide runs on the banks. To let this continue was definitely a no-win scenario. Essentially every responsible economist counseled the necessity of bailing out the economy to forestall unthinkable disaster – and yet the only way to do this was to take out a big mortgage on the future. Who would want to be responsible?

The deal offered was “No questions asked, just give us the money and we’ll take care of everything and you’re not allowed to sue us or hold us responsible for anything!” We didn’t do exactly that, but we were pretty much forced to do something not too far away from it.
And this was only the first shoe to fall, and we were living underneath a boot-wearing octopus. One after another, the dominoes toppled – bankers voted themselves huge bonuses, credit became unavailable, unemployment insurance had to be extended, the housing market went into a coma . . . the great Colossus became a moribund nation in a moribund planet needing injections of stimulus capital.

Where the Buck Stops
Yes, it was a crisis, one of the biggest battles we’ve ever faced. There was a lot that needed to be done – and it needed to be done quickly. We needed a leader who could act decisively – there was no time for the nation to come to a consensus – or at least that’s what we were led to believe.

Into the breach stepped a new president, Barack Obama, who bravely threw himself into the fray, stemming the loss of jobs and shoring up the financial system. What a fine figure he cut, this young black man, riding in on celestial clouds of hope and change – the nation’s Great White Hope.

Private Ryan could not have more bravely and resolutely thrown himself on the grenade, protecting us from its blast, while blowing his re-election chances to smithereens.
Then, what’s that I hear? I hear a bugle blowing and lo, here comes a battalion of white faces riding in beneath “mad as hell” banners, ready to take credit for our continued existence. Meanwhile, the fellow whose courage may be the most important factor in our continued existence and the stabilized global economy is vilified as a Nazi Socialist Muslim – and who some actually believe to be the anti-Christ!

Why do I have the feeling I’ve seen this movie before?

A Warm Winter’s Meditation on Gratitude

For many of us, the world moves along so quickly, and the endless stream of appointments, phone calls, emails, and other Things That Need To Be Done Next continually distracts us from the all important step of positive feedback. The nature of our world is such that many decisions need to be made by the unconscious levels of the mind.

Unless we create a clear, compelling image of the way we want to be and the life we want to create, that part of us may head in the wrong direction. And with so many negative messages (eg, economic woes, climate change, illness, pollution, politics), it is easy to lose our way and succumb to the toxicity of stress and depression.

Actually, there are many more positives within than negatives, and here is a way to make these known to your faithful unconscious mind – to really assume leadership in your life – by touching the positive experiences of the recent past and connecting them to the deepest level of your being. In this way you are setting your compass – and empowering the behaviors and experiences you want more of in your life.

So find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for ten minutes and recharge!


(click “Play” button to listen . . . enjoy)

New Paradigm Leadership – The Power of Conversation

Adapted from Our Culture On The Couch, Seven Steps to Global Healing

Creating a positive future begins in human conversation. The simplest and most powerful investment any member of a community or an organization may make in renewal is to begin talking with other people as though the answers mattered.

– From Who Will Tell the People? by William Greider

Consider for a moment the importance of conversation. Virtually every action we take is predicated on a conversation. It is so much a part of our experience that we are rarely aware of its true importance. The conversations we engage in with our families, organizations and in all portions of our lives give rise to patterns of behavior. Sometimes these are brief conversations whose effects are short-lived, sometimes the conversations are deep and moving, and their effects are stable and long lasting.

By learning to pay attention to our conversation, and acquiring the skills of good conversation, we bring about ever-greater degrees of coherence. As a result, we obtain a high correlation between what effect we intend to have and the effect we actually get. We must always keep in mind that the future is not somewhere we are going; it is a place we are creating in the now with every thought, word and action.
High quality conversations among individuals and within organizations generate meaningful change. Conversations are an important way to actively participate in creating our world and its future through this process of connecting authentically and appreciatively with each other. As we share knowledge, know-how and creativity, we build relationships. Collaborative conversations between us “neurons” are the synapses of the Global Brain.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. – Albert Einstein

For as long as humanity has lived in family groups, tribes and communities, conversation has been a primary medium for making sense of our world, discovering what we value, and imagining our future. The networks of communication formed the underlying pattern that allowed our ancestors to come together in a meaningful, supportive, sustainable way. Networks form the underlying pattern of all living systems, and human organizations, families, and communities – are living systems.
Wise leaders are becoming increasingly aware of the power of these networks of conversation and their systemic importance as a core process for the large-scale collective learning and transformative change we now need at every level of system.
New Paradigm leaders recognize that essential learning and knowledge sharing occurs through informal relationships and networks of conversation. The new role for today’s leader focuses on convening and hosting collaborative conversations among diverse stakeholders to explore core questions and emerging possibilities. Key skills include being able to create the appropriate architecture of engagement and then asking compelling questions, questions that encourage collective thinking and learning.
As the system connects to itself in diverse and creative ways, Collective Intelligence emerges – we access the wisdom of the whole on behalf of the whole. Often, as we allow our collective wisdom to emerge, we discover that we already have the answers we need.
So, what if, in fact, the future is not some place we are going, but a place we are creating, and that our individual and collective future is being born in the webs of conversation that are alive and breathing right now? This includes the conversations within TEA Party rallies and those taking place in Wall Street boardrooms, and those taking place in your living room. Then the future will be the integrated sum of all these.

What we need are those leaders who can create ways for us to enter conversations around questions that address our shared meanings and values and that honor all participants. Modern communication technologies provide excellent tools for creating the conversations we need to be having. These include Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space Technologies.

The World Café
The approach to facilitating conversation I have used most extensively is represented by The World Café. Originally developed and stewarded by Dr. Juanita Brown and David Isaacs and their associates, is a nonprofit, community-owned venture that is a “conversational process based on a set of integrated design principles that reveal a deeper living network pattern through which we co-evolve our collective future.”
The café model represents an innovative yet simple methodology for gathering groups of 12 or more people together to create conversations about questions that matter. These conversations link and build on each other as people move between groups, cross-pollinate ideas, and discover new insights into the questions or issues that are most important in their life, work or community. As a process, The World Café can evoke and make visible the collective intelligence of any group, thus increasing people’s capacity for effective action in pursuit of common aims.
The deceptively simple principles of café groups are nevertheless powerful. Often when groups get together they are dominated by the talkative people with loud voices, individuality tends to be seen as an impediment, people are busy trying to one-up, recruit, convince, or debate others in the group. Now consider the different kinds of things that can happen when people follow the guidelines of the “Café Etiquette:”

Learn More

Listen to a stimulating discussion between myself and The World Café co-founder, Dr. Juanita Brown on Healing Times Radio . The World Café website provides complete information that will allow you to apply powerful tools for intentionally harnessing the power of conversation for any purpose, business or social. You will discover useful guidance – ways to foster authentic dialogue in which the goal is thinking together to bring forth collective wisdom and create actionable knowledge. And it is free.
At their website, you will also find a way to begin to network with the thousands of other people, groups and organizations who are exploring ways to evoke collective intelligence and link it to effective action in pursuit of common aims.

We Are All Neurons in the Global Brain
In a very real sense, we are all neurons in a global living system, a global brain – and the communications technology we have, from our cell phones to our internet connections forms the axons that connect us across the world with others. Personal computing is giving way to interpersonal computing. Now we can reach across geographic boundaries and access community knowledge bases, including the resource bank of each person’s unique contributions, interests and areas of expertise. In keeping with this, the members of the World Café are currently involved in a pioneering use of a variety of experimental platforms to create the optimal conditions for holding meaningful conversation in an online environment.
Of course, The World Cafe is just one of a number of different approaches to addressing the living network of conversations that is continually evolving as we explore questions that matter with our family, friends, colleagues and community. These invisible webs of dialogue and personal relationships can enable us to learn, create shared purpose, and shape life-affirming futures together. Others include Conversation Cafes , and Open Space . Younger networkers will find Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!) and Global Youth Action Network quite stimulating. An excellent example of how a community has transformed itself using the principles we are exploring here is revealed at .
We will explore more on leadership and good conversation in future articles here.


More Information:

Listen to Dr. Miller and Juanita Brown Ph.D. in conversation on Healing Times Radio!

Video Introduction to The World Cafe , by Emmett Miller MD

Find me in the World Cafe Online Community at:

Listen to Healing Times Radio the 1st Thursday of the month, 11am-12pm and Rebroadcasts the following Monday 1pm-2pm at


Subscribe (with iTunes or with web-based podcatchers ) to Healing Times Radio Archives and make sure you don’t miss another show!

Understanding and Managing Stress

These days all of us are aware that most of our illnesses and our suffering is the result of the choices we make – how we, as individuals, eat, sleep, exercise, and live our lives. We now need to be aware of the two kinds of stress, and the two realms in which stress expresses itself – the inner and the outer.

What is Stress?

Stress is, most simply, “the nonspecific response to a perceived demand.” The way to evaluate the presence and degree of stress is by observing its symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms include (but are not limited to):

Physical Symptoms Mental/Emotional


Behavioral Symptoms
Headache Anxiety Overeating
Back pain Restlessness Lack of Appetite
Chest pain Worry/Obsessiveness Angry Outbursts
Heart disease Irritability Drug/Alcohol Abuse
Heart palpitations Depression Increased Smoking
High blood pressure Prolonged Sadness Social Withdrawal
Decreased immunity Anger Crying Spells
Stomach upset Insecurity Relationship Conflicts
Sleep problems Lack of Focus Poor Work Habits
Irritable Bowel Sx Burnout/Fatigue Compulsive Disorders
Gastritis/GERD Forgetfulness

Type I Stress (Listen to learn about Type 1 & 2 Stress .)

There are two types of demands we encounter in life; our bodies and our nervous systems are geared to “type I stress.”

When your nervous system believes it is faced with a demand – be it physical, emotional, or social – it produces the alarm response.
Your nervous and endocrine system pump special chemicals into the bloodstream – Adrenaline and Cortisol, for instance – so you will be prepared to fight or run. They temporarily alter your glucose metabolism, blood pressure, insulin level, immune function and inflammatory response – temporarily, until the most appropriate (specific) response is identified, at which time the alarm phase ends. At this point all the nonspecific symptoms disappear and the body deals directly with the stressor.

In the wilds, where we evolved, our challenges were usually brief in duration, the source of the threat or demand was clear, and there was a well-defined physical response. Following this brief encounter the chemicals of stress are quickly cleared from the system and the system goes into the recovery phase (relaxation).

But most of our stressors today are not Type I stressors. Instead, they are vague, impalpable, continuous, and they cannot be countered by such natural physical responses as tensing your neck, raising your blood pressure, or sending your gut into a knot.

As a result, the body continues in the alarm state, consuming a great deal of energy, and producing very uncomfortable symptoms and dysfunction. And most importantly, there are no recovery periods, no relaxation.

Type II Stress

This is the state of stress, a state that produces an ongoing state of imbalance, with oversecretion of stress hormones, damage to the cells of the body (including brain cells), and glandular exhaustion, while diverting energy from useful application, and reassigning it to useless tension, anxiety, and unrest (see “behaviors” in the chart above).

The flow of stress chemicals is now continuous. This does not help resolve the non-physical demands we face, and the chronic presence of stress chemicals produces:

  • impaired cognitive performance
  • Suppressed thyroid function
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Decreased bone density and distorted immune and inflammatory responses

This gives rise to all the symptoms above, and in addition, slow wound healing, allergies, increased abdominal fat, heart disease, allergies, anxiety, depression, and innumerable other conditions that have now been shown by published studies to follow chronic stress.

Most of us now recognize that each of us must learn to be responsible for his or her own health and wellness. That means we who are physicians have as one of our primary jobs to encourage our patients to change their behaviors so as to prevent illness and to reverse it when it occurs – through making wise choices. And physician or not, it is equally as wise to make the same changes in our own lives.


• Listen to Dr. Miller speaking about Type 1 & 2 Stress .
Related Products: Click to learn about Dr. Miller’s Stress Related Guided Imagery, Meditation and Hypnosis at

Conversations that Matter – Dr. Miller and Juanita Brown on Healing Times Radio

Listen to this interview at the end of this article.

As you probably know from my recent book, Our Culture On The Couch – Seven Steps to Global Healing , I believe the only way out of our current mess is for us to stop being controlled by our world, but to bring forth the leadership potential within each of us.

So, this month we will focus on awakening this leader, on the power of the New Paradigm, and explore the potential of conversation as a transformative tool to leverage personal wisdom and spirit.

Juanita Brown Ph.D. with her partner, David Isaacs is the co-originator of The World Café, a pioneering approach to large scale dialogue and collaborative inquiry being used in corporate, community, government, education, and multi-stakeholder settings around the globe. Hundreds of thousands of people on six continents have experienced the World Café to foster sustainable development, responsible business futures, conflict resol…ution, democratic leadership, and local community engagement around critical issues. Her award-winning book, The World Café: Shaping our Futures through Conversations that Matter, co-authored with her partner David Isaacs and the World Café Community has been translated into 10 languages, and has recently been released in mainland China.

Juanita developed her belief in the power of conversation and community to shape the future through her early years at the Na-Bolom Institute, a center for dialogue and action on indigenous issues and rainforest preservation in Chiapas, Mexico. Juanita was also a key architect in large-scale community development and outreach work with Cesar Chavez and the farm workers movement. She has applied her discoveries about the principles for building engaged communities to the co-evolution of the World Café as social innovation––using both living systems approaches and community development sensibilities to engage a growing global network of multi-generational hosts committed to creating collaborative dialogue and committed action around critical local, national and global issues.

Since 1974, Juanita has collaborated as a strategic thinking partner with senior corporate executives as well as non-profit leaders in the U.S., Latin America, Canada, Europe and the Pacific Rim, advising on large scale change intiatives and creating innovative forums for strategic dialogue around critical organizational and societal issues. Juanita is a Fellow of the World Business Academy and has served as a Senior Affiliate with both the MIT Center for Organizational Learning (now the Society for Organizational Learning) and the Institute for the Future. Her greatest joy, however, is when she finds herself alone in nature on the shores of Tomales Bay, California listening to the loons and seeing the white pelicans floating quietly through the mist.

Find out at

SUBSCRIBE to Healing Times Radio Archives and don’t miss another show!

Other upcoming Dr. Miller Events