Posts Tagged ‘ relationships ’

When to Escalate Conflict

As a nation of primarily conflict avoidant people, just the notion of escalating conflict can sound like a contradiction. And yet, there are times when escalating a conflict is exactly what you need to do.

But the conditions have to be right.

What do I mean? I mean that there has to be an intention…a purpose…or a reason for escalating a conflict, first and foremost. And the more favorable the reason—the more favorable the likely outcome.


If the ultimate desire in escalating a conflict is to improve or enhance your relationship with the conflicting party—and the unresolved or nagging issue between the two of you is impeding that from happening—then YES, the conditions are right for escalation. After all, how else will this issue get on the table? I may suggest, however, that you carefully frame the escalation by stating what your desired goal is before the actual escalation begins, if you catch my drift. It’s called framing the conversation or setting the context. This will prevent the other party from being overly defensive and feeling attacked.

What you don’t want to do is escalate a conflict under any of the following conditions:

·      You’ve had too much to drink

·      You’re angry and you want to vent

·      You are feeling victimized

·      You love a good debate and want to stir things up

There’s a lot at stake here. Successful relationships are built on trust, mutual understanding, respect, and most of all, love. A misused escalation could severely hamper those foundational characteristics and be quite difficult to rebuild.

Escalation, if done correctly, can help a team grow, develop, and mature as well.

I was a member of a four-person mastermind group a few years ago when I had a disagreement with Dan, one of the members, about a business opportunity he presented to me and then rescinded the next day. Frankly, the conflict didn’t involve the other two members of the team and didn’t need to involve them. However, both Dan I thought it would be a good idea to play out this conflict in front of the whole group.



Because, even though our mastermind group had been together for over two years, we never had a conflict in the group before. We barely had a disagreement. We thought of ourselves as a tight team but the truth was we were still in the forming stage. We had a lot of maturing still to go if we were going to become a high performing team. To do so, we needed to become efficient at working through group conflict, among other things.

So, with the intent of introducing conflict into our mastermind, we played out our argument in front of the other two members of the group. And this was a real argument, I might add, with differing opinions, emotions, and even conflict styles. But what was most surprising in this real-life experiment was not the conflict itself but the lack of engagement from the other two members of our group. Neither of them made a comment, a suggestion, or an intervention during the whole escapade. Not a word. They both simply watched from the sidelines, like spectators at a boxing match.


Failed experiment?

Had we not debriefed as a group about the group dynamics, both before, during, and after the conflict, it could have been a real missed opportunity. Fortunately, we used this conflict escalation as a means to having a very powerful conversation about our group’s level of engagement with each other and our commitment to becoming a high performing team. That led to some additional group expectations and a significant shift in our relationships with one-another.

What I’m saying here is that planned conflict escalation for the betterment of a relationship or group relationships can be an effective use of this conflict method. It is also easier to direct an escalation towards a desired goal when the intent of the escalation itself has been stated upfront. Thus, by following these simple guidelines above for escalation, you should have tremendous success.

One final point. Now that we’ve entered the season for holiday parties and festivities with friends and family, conflicts may be on the rise. Knowing this, you may want to pick and choose your battles carefully; and only escalate a conflict if the right conditions exist.

Now go and be Merry!

Greg “Geese” Giesen


A Thanksgiving Activity for Friends & Family

It’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Thanksgiving amongst all the parties, the rituals, the football games, the cooking, and the family dynamics.  And yet it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect a little on our lives and to acknowledge all the people and experiences that have positively impacted us the most!

Not to worry! I’ve found a way to do both.

Using selected questions from my book, Creating Authenticity: Meaningful Questions for Meaningful Moments, I’ve created a fun and meaningful activity for you to do with your friends and family at the dinner table that will make this a Thanksgiving to remember.


Why do we need a Thanksgiving activity, you ask?

You don’t. However, if your Thanksgiving conversations with your friends and family have a tendency to migrate towards football, weather, politics, and gossip, perhaps it’s time for a change. Perhaps it’s time for some meaningful and introspective conversation with each other that come from the heart. After all, isn’t that ultimately what Thanksgiving is all about?

Below are 50 questions that will spark great conversation and gratitude. My simple suggestion would be to:

·      Copy this blog and paste it on a separate page.

·      Enlarge the type.

·      Cut out all the questions individually, or at least all the questions you want to be a part of this activity.

·      Place the questions in a container of some kind.

·      When it’s time to begin the exercise, pass the container around, having each person select a question.

·      Go around the table (once or multiple times) and ask each person to then read their question and answer it.

·      Feel free to alter this activity to fit your group.


1.     If you were told today that you had a month left to live, what would you want to do with the remaining time?

2.     What friendships have meant the most to you and why?

3.     What do you still want to do in your life that you haven’t yet done?

4.     What qualities do your closest friends have in common?

5.     What’s something crazy that you can still see yourself doing?

6.     What is one of the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome in your life? Please explain.

7.     What do most people who you know not know about you?

8.     What do you wish you were better at and why?

9.     What is one of your biggest regrets in life and why?

10.What kind of kid were you growing up? How have you changed?

11.What’s a recent accomplishment that you are most proud of and why?

12.What are you most passionate about in your life and how would someone know it?

13.What’s probably the biggest risk you ever took and how did it turn out?

14.What’s been the most meaningful feedback you’ve ever received and what did you do with it?

15.Describe your most meaningful possession.

16.When given the opportunity, what do you brag about most and why?

17.What is one of the best compliments you’ve received this year?

18.What memory still makes you laugh when you think about it?

19.When is the last time you felt most alive? What was happening?

20.What’s been some of the best advice you’ve ever received and how has it helped you?

21.What qualities do you find attractive in other people?

22.If you could clone yourself exactly as you are today, but have the ability to change one thing, what would you change?

23.Which of the television shows that you currently watch tells the most about you?

24.Who was your all-time favorite teacher and why?

25.Which of your physical features do you get complimented on the most? 

26.What past or present photograph in your home means the most to you and why?

27.If you could re-live (but not change) a past moment in your life, what moment would that be and why?

28.When was the last time you laughed so hard that your stomach hurt?

29.Describe the perfect romantic evening.

30.Which of your childhood possessions had the most meaning for you and why?

31.You have just commissioned a famous painter to do a painting for you. What are you going to have them paint?

32.Who, among the people your life do you admire the most and why?

33.Complete this sentence: Sometimes I wish…

34.Which of your hobbies probably tells the most about you?

35.What causes you the most stress? How would people know?

36.What’s one of the best decisions you’ve made in this past year and why?

37.How would you define a successful life? How does your life compare?

38.What was one of the most courageous things you have ever done?

39.In what ways are you misunderstood? 

40.Complete this sentence: Sometimes I pretend…

41.What is the most important thing you’d like to learn next?

42.What would you like to have more of in your life?

43.What would you like to have less of in your life?

44.Of all the cars you’ve owned over the years, which one holds the best memories for you?

45.If your life goes exactly the way you would like it to go, what will you be doing five years from now?

46.What would you like to hear more of that you don’t hear enough?

47.What do you think attracts most people to you?

48.What is one of your favorite traditions that you still observe today? Please explain.

49.What’s been the most exciting thought occupying your mind lately?

50.What three things are you most thankful for and why?

Remember, the idea here is to have an activity that everyone can participate in. With that said, it’s also important to allow people the option of skipping their turn if they are not comfortable playing. Simply leave it up to them.

Let me know how it goes.

Celebratory drink

And, have a happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. If you like the process, go to or CLICK HERE and download my free New Years Resolutions That Stick! workbook to get a similar New Year’s Eve activity. It’s free after all!

“I now pronounce you husband and wife!”

From the desk of Greg Giesen, founder of the Zen Leadership Institute

I’ve officiated eight weddings in the last three years—mostly family and friends. For me, it’s quite the honor to serve in such a capacity for a day that will last a lifetime in the memories of many.


If you are—or have been—married, do you remember the person who married you? I bet you do. This is also why I don’t take the role lightly. It’s too important of an event to just show up. I need to bring my “A-game” every time.

There’s just one problem.

I have no idea if these marriages will work. My role all along has been to marry the couples—not counsel them.

This leads me to an honest omission: Had I undergone pre-marital counseling with my past wife, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten married. Too much? Too soon?

Like many couples, my wife and I got married in bliss with the intent of living happily ever after. In fact, the infatuation phase for me lasted well into the first year of marriage—which, if you know me—you know that’s a long time. And, like many couples, we really didn’t fight or argue much before we got married. I attribute this to a few reasons:

  1. Our relationship was greater than the problems we faced, making it easy to come to agreement and compromise.
  2. With the wedding looming off in the distance, we were motivated to avoid any kind of conflict that could threaten our special day.
  3. We didn’t do pre-wedding counseling and/or any kind of relationship work. As a result, we weren’t prepared for all of the relationship issues and challenges that were soon to emerge in our marriage.

But I don’t think we’re the only ones! Actually, I know we’re not the only ones.

Last night I met a friend for a drink (actually it was bachelorette #3 from Monday’s show…shhh!) and she also performs weddings. However, as a licensed therapist, she will only marry a couple “after” they’ve done a pre-marriage counseling program with her.

I like that idea.

Did you know that in Colorado a couple can marry themselves instantly the moment they turn in their wedding application? True. All they have to do is put a check mark in a particular box and sign under it and Ta-Da!—they’re married.

Couple on Beach

 Something seems wrong about that.

Have you ever gotten divorced? Not exactly as simple a process, is it? Why is it so easy to get married and yet so difficult to get divorced? Shouldn’t both processes be equal? If pre-counseling were to be mandatory before getting married, do you think we’d have as many divorces?

I think not.

Why is that, you ask?

I think most couples have not done near enough work on their relationship before they get married. Like me, they figure they’ll simply handle whatever arises when it arises. Talk about throwing dice out on the craps table.

The ability to communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and problem-solve are essential elements to any relationship. If a couple has not practiced these skill sets together over their own issues, how are they supposed to master them later?

I recall learning some things about my wife’s background during the divorce proceedings that I didn’t even know about while we were married. How did that happen?

If we really want to cut down the divorce rate in this country, more work needs to be done upfront before a couple ever gets married. Waiting until problems arise is not a healthy strategy for a long-term relationship. In short, I now believe pre-marriage counseling needs to be a mandatory requirement before a couple can get married. It’s a win-win if you think about it. Even if a couple decides not to marry, isn’t it better to find out before they get married?


 I think so!

Note to self: Make sure couples I marry from this point forward do counseling before the wedding. 


The Dating Game…Seriously?

From the desk of Greg “Geese” Giesen, founder of the Zen Leadership Institute

Many times when I sit down on Sunday mornings to write this Blog for the next day’s newsletter I have no idea what I’m going to write about. When this happens (today being one of those mornings), I look for some kind of divine intervention—and/or a couple of cups of strong coffee—to guide me along the way.

Now, if you haven’t noticed, today’s show (Monday, Sept. 15th) is a departure from our traditional format. Instead of interviewing a guest about their latest book, Lisa and I will be asking dating questions to two or three bachelorettes calling in to in hopes of winning a date with me during the next week. I should mention that I’m using the word “hopes” loosely. For all I know, they may have been coerced to call in, although Lisa assures me that wasn’t the case.
What I have found interesting about the Dating Game show being promoted on my website is that every woman I’ve either gone out with or am conversing with over the phone has mentioned it or questioned it. To be honest, I think it is making them slightly apprehensive about going out with me.  Imagine that! Who wouldn’t want to go out with a guy who’s literally advertises on the radio that he wants a date? When did that stop being an attractive trait? I’m so confused.

Perhaps the Dating Game wasn’t such a great idea after all.

It’s weird being single again. Truthfully, I was never very good playing the dating game before I met my wife, so why should it be any different post-wifey. It seems like the older you get…okay, the older I get, the more particular I get as well. But that’s not unusual, is it? So what if I have some regular routines and an idiosyncrasy or two? Who doesn’t! I just need to find someone who thinks my quirky habits are cute, loveable, and not self-serving whatsoever! Hmm. Maybe I should just go out with myself.

I wonder if it’s not too late to be a priest? Think about it…they get to give a speech every week, have meals cooked for them, and they’re treated like celebrities when they wear their collar out in public. Hmm. And think how much I’d save on clothes! I wonder what the pay is?
But then again, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on woman and a “hopeful” significant-other relationship just yet. I know my luck is about to change. Can you feel it? I’m pretty sure I can…or is that the indigestion from the pizza I just ate at the airport. Not sure.

Do you ever watch other couples to determine if they have a good relationship or not? I do it all the time. Phone conversations are pretty revealing too, aren’t they? It’s not like I try to listen or eavesdrop to people’s conversations mind you, but it’s not rocket science to sense if there is a positive or negative charge between two people’s batteries. And what it there’s no charge at all? That might be even worse.  After I got divorced, most of my friends told me they were not surprised. Was it that obvious?

I want to meet someone who makes me feel giddy again. I remember the first time I ever sat next to Carol Hook at a 6th grade basketball game. Every pore in my body radiated with infatuation.  I could barely breathe. I had a crush on her for years but was too timid to ever talk to her. Finally, there I was with the woman of my dreams and all I could manage to say was, “So, who you pulling for?”

Really? Who you pulling for? We go to the same school you flathead! But that’s what I’m talking about. I was so dumbfounded that I could barely put a sentence together, let alone make any sense. I was giddy.

I’m not sure how today’s show will play out but I know it will be fun. Every show since Lisa signed-on as my co-host has been a blast. Maybe that’s the secret. Maybe I should simply focus on having more fun in life and just let the chips fall where they may on the dating part of things. After all, I have to be whatever I want to attract, don’t I?

Forget you ever read this.


Mondays At 3 Talk Radio, 3-4pm MST on

“I trust you!”

It was day 3 of a weeklong outdoor experiential program and we were getting lessons on how to climb straight up a mountain using a belay system. We were a group of ten and each one of us was assigned a captain to oversee the belay crew for our individual climb up the face of the mountain and back down again. None of us had ever belayed before and we were all a little nervous.

“Before we begin, I want each of you to pair up with your assigned captains,” shouted Christian, our instructor.

“Now I want each pair to stand facing each other and I want you to look into each others eyes.”

Okay, this is awkward, I thought.

He continued. “Keep in mind that you are about to put your life in the hands of the person standing directly in front of you. Now I need each of to say out loud to the other, ‘I trust you!’ Only say it if you truly mean it!”

Preparing to Mountain Climb

Fortunately for me, I had a good experience the previous two days with my partner, Mike, and had no problem looking him in the eyes and sincerely saying, “I trust you.”

Christian and the two other instructors carefully watched and listened to each pair.

Before Mike could return the “I trust you” to me, we both watched as Christian escorted Kelly and Jonathan over to a spot in the grass where he had them sit down. “Neither of you are going anywhere until you can talk through whatever it is that is preventing you from trusting each other.”

Just then Jeff and David were pulled from the group and told to do the same.

“Oh my God, what’s going on?” I whispered to Mike.

“You didn’t hear their argument last night?” he said, referring to Kelly and Jonathan. “It got pretty heated.”

“What about Jeff and David?” I asked rather curiously.

“David doesn’t trust anyone. That,” as he pointed over at the two, “isn’t about Jeff, it’s about David. It wouldn’t matter who his partner is.”

Christian and the other two instructors joined the two dyads sitting on the grass to help facilitate their discussions. The rest of us patiently waited, grateful that we were the observers and not the participants.


Both Kelly/Jonathan and David/Jeff quickly worked through their trust issues with each other and we were all up and climbing within minutes. I should mention here that both pairs were highly motived to resolve their concerns and create the necessary trust to move forward with the climb. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Do you initially trust others or do they have to earn your trust first?

How important is trust in your relationships?

What do you do to create trust with others?

What would it take for trust to be broken in a relationship with you?

In many ways, trust is at the foundation of my Leading From Within program. If the group doesn’t trust one-another, they won’t go as deep or be as vulnerable as they need to be. That’s why I spend so much time the first day of the program building a team atmosphere amongst the participants; I need to create trust and safety in the group.


Think about the people in your life that you could literally stand in front of, with direct eye contact, and say, “I trust you.”

Who are those people and why do you trust them? And who are the people you don’t trust and why? Is it worth it to sit down with those people and talk through the trust issue?

I’m a pretty trusting person outright. And yes, I’ve gotten burned a few times, but not enough to become distrustful.  The bigger issue for me is defining what a trusting relationship means and sharing that with people. After all, how else will they know?