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Shifting from Harm to Harmony

What My Chemistry Teacher Taught Me About Conflict

In high school, I had a fantastic chemistry teacher, Mrs. B, who was driven to inspire us with a love of learning. We were a crowd of honors students, and she seemed to bare her soul to us, through her passion for chemistry.

In her commitment to challenge us in our scientific growth, she served as a role model for what teaching can and should be. And it only occurred to me recently that although my career has little to do with chemistry (aside from interpersonal “chemistry,” as a metaphor for love relations), she imparted a wisdom that I use in my practice every day.

Passion can make us blind

 I recall Mrs. B frantically scribbling chemistry equations on the blackboard, at speeds we students were barely able to follow. She possessed a magical energy as she dove into combinations and bonds at a rate that made our heads spin. She was a performer in her teaching role, and we were entranced.

But did we really understand the material, or were we just amused by her passion-play? How could she know?

As a seasoned and astute teacher, keenly aware of this predicament, she would catch and check herself. Frequently throughout the class, she would pause in her frenzy to turn around to us and search the crowd with an eager nodding of, “Yes? Yes?”

Implicit in her searching “yes?” was the humility to know that although SHE understood what was going on, perhaps her students weren’t fully grasping the material. Perhaps in her passionate whirlwind of ideas, she had lost her audience. She was keenly aware of how the intensity could make her blind to her students, who, after all, were the intended recipients of her message. By taking those moments to check-in, she would pause in her dramatic crescendo of ideas, to make sure her message was being conveyed. After all, if we weren’t learning the material, what was the purpose of her teaching?

In my work as a conflict coach and mediator, I see how we are often blinded by our passion. We are so deep-dug in the trenches of our own perspective, that we are crippled from relating to the party across the table. Like Mrs. B, we need to learn to pause in our assumptions and check-in with the others. Are they getting the message? Are they following our point? Or are they just mesmerized by our anger, with no idea of what it’s about?

When we’re angry or upset, we need to make sure we’re clear on what’s really the problem and whether or not we’re effectively conveying it to the other side. It’s possible we’ve gotten so side-tracked with the message on the blackboard, that we’ve inadvertently turned our backs on our students! Let’s learn from Mrs. B and turn around to check.

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Melody Wang

Melody Wang is a Conflict Consultant with the Harmony Strategies Group and CEO of Wang Mediation, which she founded upon graduation from the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law with an MA in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Melody is a panel mediator for the New York City Family Court and serves on the Board of Directors at the Association for Conflict Resolution, Greater New York (ACR-GNY). Prior to moving to New York, Melody was an experienced civil and community mediator in Los Angeles, California, working closely with non-profits, small claim courts and the California federal court. She also led selected trainings and workshops on dispute resolution within the Asian-American community in California.  Melody has lived in the U.S., Taiwan, China and Singapore, is fluent in English, Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese, and especially enjoys engaging in international relations and cross-cultural conflict systems.

Dara Rossi

Dara Rossi, Ph.D. is a Conflict & Strategy Consultant with the Harmony Strategies Group. She has more than 20 years of experience in the field of education and has worked with students from kindergarten through the university graduate level. Additionally, she has facilitated professional development for educators and administrators across all points on the education continuum. After10 years of service in the Department of Teaching and Learning Southern Methodist University, she launched her coaching and consulting business while continuing to serve as an adjunct professor. She holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, an MBA, an MA in Dispute Resolution, and an MAT in Education, and BS in Human Development.

Isar Mahanian

Isar Mahanian, M.Sc. is a Conflict & Strategy Consultant with the Harmony Strategies Group. She is an active mediator who coaches new mediators in the program in which she serves. Isar has worked at a fast-paced technology start-up as the Head of Human Resources, leading senior executives to mitigate and resolve workplace conflicts and creating system level improvements for employees within the company. She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University. 

Kimberly Jackson Davidson

Kimberly Jackson Davidson is currently the University Ombudsperson at George Mason University and member of the Harmony Strategies Group. She spent two decades at Oberlin College in Ohio, holding positions in the Office of the Dean of Students and as Visiting Lecturer in African American Studies. During her final five and a half years there, she served all campus constituencies as Ombudsperson and Director of the Yeworkwha Belachew Center for Dialogue (YBCD). Davidson is active within the International Ombuds Association (IOA), the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds (CCCUO), and the Ombuds Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR). She earned a B.A. in English Literature from Spelman College in 1986 and an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in African Literature in 1991.

Hector Escalante

Hector Escalante is an experienced Ombuds and learning and development professional with over seven years of ombuds experience and over twenty years of experience developing and teaching course offerings which promote inclusion, healthy communication, and conflict resolution. He is the Director of the Ombuds Office at the University of California, Merced, having served many years as the organizational ombuds at the University of the Pacific. He is an ombuds partner with Harmony Strategies Group, and a consulting ombuds for Earthjustice and Union of Concerned Scientists.  Hector holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education. He is a United States Marine Corps veteran, a husband and father to four children. Hector’s passions include treating all with fairness, equity, dignity, and compassion and good food. 

Stuart Baker

Stuart Baker is a heart-centered strategic consultant with the Harmony Strategies Group. He makes use of all his experience in the construction industry, mediation and presenting, combined with years of spiritual pursuit, to offer a unique and broad sensitivity in his consulting work. He loves helping people deepen their harmony and connection with others, and with themselves. We are honored to have Mr. Stuart Baker on our team, pioneer of “Conscious Cooperation” – his book can be ordered here
 

Kira Nurieli

Kira Nurieli is the CEO of the Harmony Strategies Group and is an expert mediator, conflict coach, trainer/facilitator, consultant, and restorative practices facilitator. She has spent upwards of twenty years helping clients handle conflict and improve communication strategies and has presented at numerous conferences and symposia as a subject matter expert. She holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Performance from Barnard College. She especially enjoys helping individuals, teams, and lay-leaders become more impactful and empowered in their work and is honored to work alongside her esteemed colleagues with the Harmony Strategies Group.

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