Shifting from Harm to Harmony

Focusing Inwards

One of the key traits of a strategic conflict expert — like an Ombuds, mediator, or conflict coach — is contrarian thinking. I specialize in noticing what my clients missed, considering alternative approaches, and bringing to light different perspectives. When a client says “she’s acting this way,” I immediately question “what if she could act that way?” or if a client feels helpless, I’ll invite them to consider where they may be overlooking a powerful network of colleagues.

So it makes sense that in the middle of a pandemic, when everyone is feeling gloom-and-doom, a contrarian will ask “what is the opportunity that is being presented right now?” This is one of the questions I ask myself daily — and below, I’ll share with you one of the answers…

Curious what it means to work with a Conflict Coach? Click here for an overview.

Being at Home

One key answer can be uncovered when you take a look at your current physical barriers. As roughly a third of American workers now work from home, many gyms and recreation facilities are still at significantly lower capacity, and schools are either virtual or hybrid, we have a vastly new society of people who are spending more time in the quiet of home. Some feel cooped-up, lonely, or even depressed. Others may be anxious and concerned about the future of America and the world. But there is an opportunity that time at home offers, if you pause to consider it.

Are you suffering from depression or anxiety? Click here for a self-exam on your current mental health.

Being Busy

Our society has become increasingly busy and packed over the last few decades. Where once a life of idleness was coveted, busy-ness has become our social capital. Even those who could afford to spend all day at the beach or reading in a cozy chair are busy with fundraisers, the gym, shopping, or scrolling through social media with multi-tasked attention. This busy-ness has become our lifestyle, such that the lack of this busy lifestyle feels foreign and sad.

The contrarian perspective is about that busy-ness. Specifically: what if the stay-at-home is our opportunity to not be so busy? What if we can use our time otherwise spent in outside activity instead focusing inwards?


A number of years ago, Psychology Today published a fascinating article on the value of inner-noticing. Author Emma Sepala asserts that:

“Most of us prioritize externally oriented attention. When we think of attention, we often think of focusing on something outside of ourselves. We “pay attention” to work, the TV, our partner, traffic, or anything that engages our senses. However, a whole other world exists that most of us are far less aware of: an internal world, with its varied landscape of emotions, feelings, and sensations.”

Sepala distinguishes between what she calls interoceptive attention — the focus inwards with exteroceptive attention — the focus outwards. According to studies, exteroceptive attention leads to increased anxiety and depression, where the key to unlocking calm and soothing emotional wounds is by shifting to interoceptive attention, or inner discovery.

Healing Trauma

As you continue to handle multiple crises and tensions today, you may be facing traumas that can have a lasting debilitating effect. Distracting yourself (with social media, a good book, or talks with friends) can help in the short-term, but Sepala points to research showing long-term benefits of interoceptive attention. According to her research, this focusing-inwards can be difficult at first, but over time those suffering from trauma feel empowered and more resilient. As she points out, “By learning to engage … dedicated interoceptive awareness, we may experience the first signs of healing.”

Concerned about how to maintain Mental Health through the pandemic? Click here for a helpful online guide.

At Home, and Inside

Being at home means you can re-think how you spend your time and shift attention from external to internal.

At home, you can use that time when you feel lonely, bored, or aimless and take a dive into your inner mind and deepest thoughts, and feelings. Breathe into stressors. Self-soothe in ways that were unfamiliar or unexplored before.

Once you’ve taken that time to slow your mind and notice your inner-voices, you can emerge from crises stronger, clearer, and better prepared to engage with whatever your next steps may be.

Want to learn more? Check out out the Harmony Strategies Group YouTube channel or this other Medium article on Crisis and Change.


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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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