Sunday, July 13, 2014

Where is Elinor Robin?

My 60th birthday is coming up this September.  It feels like a real milestone and I've been trying to figure out what I want to do to mark the occasion.  I haven't come up with much; my bucket list is pretty much non-existent.  However, there was one thing.....

A few months ago I joined a PR Mastermind group led by PR veteran Margie Zable Fisher.  At our first meeting each member of the group selected a PR goal to work on over the next few months.  I was crystal clear on what my goal would be.  I wanted to blog for the Huffington Post.  While my writing has appeared elsewhere I had yet to get a post on Huffington.  Occasionally, over the last few years, I had submitted posts but my submissions seemed to fall into an abyss.  I do admit that I am not the most gifted writer.  Instead I see myself as an expert who writes about her expertise - conflict management, relationships, divorce, marriage, workplace disputes, family conflict, etc.  And, my message and mission are somewhat unique.

With the support of my fellow PR Masterminders I became committed to stalking various HuffPost editors in order to get their attention. Stalking on twitter, FaceBook, and other places where I could comment on posts and show how smart and witty I am.  Nothing helped.  The whole thing was driving me crazy.  (And, I was bordering on obsession.)  I was driven to make it happen before I was 60.  And, I did.  Here is my first post - Elinor Robin, PhD.!!!!!!!

I am going to spare you the details of how this came to be but suffice it to say that its not what you know or who you know.  What is important is who knows you.  I am looking forward to writing for the Huffington Post, at least until I am 70.  Its going to be an interesting decade.   
P.S. This picture was taken in 1989.  I am almost 35 and second from the left.  Time passes quickly.  xoxox    

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Getting Jennifer Lopez Unstuck: JLo and the brain

Recently I was asked what I would say to Jennifer Lopez in light of her recent break-up from Casper Smart.  Here is my answer:


1.  The bad news is that your children will be effected by this break-up. While you may have grown tired of Casper Smart, your kids didn't have that luxury.  Young children don't have a clear understanding of why or how someone is here today and gone tomorrow.  So even if he was just a bit player in their lives, his absence from their home will be felt.  If Casper is quickly replaced by the next yokel that switch will further compound their confusion.  I would advise you not to introduce the twins to new boyfriends until June 2015.  And then, only introduce them to men that you have been seeing for more than six months.   

2.  According to the April issue of InStyle Magazine, you have said:

"Look, I don't love being alone. I don't. I can't beat myself up for that. What I have to do is figure out why I don't like it. Why am I not OK being alone? And can I ever be OK facing that?" 

Please do NOT beat yourself up.  Actually, the "why" is not even important. The bottom line is that we are pre-programed not to be alone. Its in our DNA, our brains, and in our nervous systems. Alone meant death to our ancestors. Humans survived for thousands of years by sticking together. And, women survived by having physically strong partners who could protect and feed us (and our young).  My guess is that the idea of "being alone" (uncoupled) triggers an unconscious fight/flight/freeze response in your nervous system.  That reaction puts you in an anxious or dysregulated state that is relieved when you put a man in the picture.  However, this is a vicious cycle since you are picking your men with you reptile brain's survival instincts and your limbic system's hormone wash.  If instead, you were picking men using the reason and logic of your neo-cortex you would make much better choices.   

3.  Want to get unstuck, break the patterns, and become comfortable with the concept of being alone?  (Comfortable with the concept of being alone means knowing that you will be safe even if you are alone. When you feel really safe (without a man) you will be able to use the reasoning and logic of the neo-cortex to pick a man.)  Here's the Action Plan I recommend:

(a) Write down the "stories" of your last five relationships.  You are a choreographer.  Put the choreography of your relationships on paper. Then look through them in order to find the patterns and themes that are common in all (or most) of them.  Where were the red flags?  What were these men asking for that they weren't getting?  What were these men saying that you chose to ignore?  When you are done, you will know a lot more about who you what kind of partner you are, what you bring to the table, and where you want to go.  

(b)  Find a therapist who practices Somatic Experiencing.  (The work of Peter Levine.)  This is not talk therapy as we know it.  Instead of talking, you will be able to explore the physical sensations, as well as the pre-verbal/non-verbal experiences, of being alone.  

If you do what you did, you will get what you got.  Please take some time to change your action plan before the next Mr. Wrong happens along. 

Hasta Luego, xoxo, Elinor

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Awakening Your Conscious Conflict Ownership

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” - Anais Nin

Our conflicts are our best teachers.  Few of us grow, change, or learn without conflict.  Conscious Conflict Ownership is the ability to clearly see different aspects of a conflict, including how you created or co-created the situation, where you are, and where you could be.  Like a mirror, Conscious Conflict Ownership, helps you see your blind spots and unconscious patterns.  This reflection allows you to gauge your position and posture, and adjust and improve your standing.

There are four things you can do to increase your Conscious Conflict Ownership.  If you follow these guidelines you will soon be able to grasp the lessons your conflicts provide and incorporate those lessons into your life. 

1.  Take a Step Back and Reflect.  When you step back from conflict you can see the bigger picture and reflect upon your part in its creation.  Doing this will help you develop your insight and critical thinking and increase your willingness to be accountable for your own actions and reactions, rather than blaming others.  When you have time and space, try this two-step exercise:

o   First, write down or otherwise recount the story of a significant conflict you faced from the perspective of the person on the other side.  Think of this as a role play exercise:  you are an actor, playing the role of the other person.  Imagine what this person might say about what they saw, heard, or felt.  Consider all the factors that this person lives with.  Describe how the stressors of their life might have impacted them.  Think of ways that they might justify their actions based on their circumstances.

o   Next, figure out what the two of you have in common.  Is there any place that your goals complement one another?  For instance, in the workplace you may both be perceived as childish or catty if you continue to fight.  If you can put your differences behind you, both of your reputations will benefit.  Knowing that you both want the same thing – for instance, to look good to the boss – doesn’t mean it’s an either/or.  You can both accomplish this goal.  Believing there is enough to go around will enable you to stop fighting for crumbs.

2.  Don’t take it personally.  In “The Four Agreements:  A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” Don Miguel Ruiz, a leader in the conscious awareness community, tells us:

“Don’t take it personally.  Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” 

It’s easy to fall into the take-it-personally trap.  In reality, everyone is focused on their own little world.  Knowing “it’s not about me” allows us to accept things as they are, avoid irritation and hurt, and find a sense of freedom. 

3.  Be aware of your physiology.  Physical sensations and emotions provide important messages.  But we have been programmed to ignore them.  The subtle rumblings of feeling dismissed, discounted, disrespected, disenfranchised, or otherwise devalued can build-up to the point of no return.  However, when you address these sensations, which are actually part of the fight or flight survival response in your nervous system, before you are propelled into explosion, you can avoid conflict drama and come out the winner.

4.  Keep moving forward, with heart.  Acknowledge your mistakes, make positive suggestions for the future, follow up when appropriate, and ultimately learn from (and avoid repeating) your missteps.  When you engage in this forward motion, without harsh self-talk, you will find yourself open to the lessons that your conflicts can provide. 

Yes, aligning your mindset to embrace Conscious Conflict Ownership is no small task.  But, it’s worth the work.  When you are able to look at an existing conflict, see your individual contributions to it, and change your position, attitude, actions, or reactions, you may find that the conflict has gone away entirely, seemingly on its own.  Ultimately, Conscious Conflict Ownership will bring you pay-offs that include improved relationships, a reduction in the amount and intensity of your conflicts, and a better understanding of yourself and your world. 

My Wedding Gift To Kim Kardashian

May 24, 2014

Dear Kim,

Congratulations!!  The third time is a charm!

Marriage is difficult.  Every marriage presents some unique challenges and there are some common sticking points that almost all marriages share.  Read on.  Here is what you need to know as you enter into your new union. 

1.  Marriage is loaded with conflict triggers.  No surprise there.  You’ve been around the block and accumulated some baggage.  Be prepared to sort out on-going questions about joint/individual finances and inner-circle loyalties.  Having survived two divorces it will be easy to fall into the call-it-quits-at-the-first-hint-of-discomfort-trap.  But, I know that a third break-up is NOT what you want.  So you need to be prepared for the inevitable conflict.  Get rid of those happily ever after fantasies and roll up your sleeves for the real world. 

2.  Find a shared vision for your marriage and your future.  Talk about your goals and dreams and be prepared to negotiate the plan that will take you there. 

3.  Figure out and use your love languages.  Which of the five love languages - acts of service, shared time, gifts and money, physical affection, or words of praise - speaks to you?  Which speaks to Kanye?  Make sure you both hear your language on a regular basis.  (See Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate)

4.  Clean-out the clutter.  Items that hold strong emotional charges to your previous life can be intrusive and draining.  Your physical space should be a shared space that you hold together.  Neither of you should feel like a visitor in your home.

5.  Get comfortable holding difficult conversations.  Avoiding tough issues allows them to fester and grow.  Instead, when you are faced with a challenge designate one of you as the speaker (the presenter) and one as the receiver (the listener).  The speaker should speak in the “I” focusing on his/her experience; avoiding blame and fault finding.  The listener’s job is just to listen and understand, not to fix the situation.  If talking is too difficult start off by writing each other letters.

6. Live within your means.  You already know which one of you is “the saver” and which is “the spender.”  Put “the saver” in charge of all joint funds.  Sometimes partners equate money with a sense of value.  So when you are negotiating spending priorities remember that money spent does not represent how much you value one another. 

7. Put each other first – before North, your parents, siblings, friends, and work.  A spouse who feels that they are in second place will ultimately becomes resentful.  And, that resentment eats away at the connection.

8.  Work together as a team.  Marriage works best when the partners don’t see things in terms of a win-lose balance sheet.  A sports team is most successful when everyone pulls together for the common good – so is a marriage.  

9.  Keep your expectations in check.  Don’t expect it to be easy.  Don’t expect Kanye to be perfect. And, don’t expect him to do/say/be what you want him to do/say/be.  Forget your expectations and focus on the positives instead.

Call me if you need a mediator.  Remember I can do a sisters-in-conflict case too.

Best regards, Elinor

Monday, June 2, 2014

Who Wants To Be A Mediator?

Dear Elinor,

I think I am a natural mediator but I do not have a legal background.  How do I become professional mediator?  What kind of time commitment would I need to make to the job?  It is something that I could do in my free time?  Where do I get trained? 

Thanks, Sally

I am often asked about the requirements for becoming a Professional Mediator.  As I see it the best mediators have a natural talent.  I can teach strategies and explain the reasons that certain techniques work, but if a mediation trainee does not have a passion for this work they just go through the motions.  

Here is what I think you need to know about the business of mediation:    

Starting a mediation practice is like starting any other professional practice.  It requires time, energy, and a good marketing plan.  Part of the plan has to be the brand (or the niche).  What would your mediation niche be?  In other words, who is your target market?   

Mediators, in Florida, work in three settings.  Some work in court-annexed programs as either court employees or contractors.  Some work for administrative agencies - again either as employees or contractors.  And, some market themselves within the private sector to attorneys or unrepresented individuals.  

In Florida we are big on using mediation as a component of the litigation process.  Today, most court cases (of all types) are settled in mediation instead of going to trial.  We have not made fantastic progress on using mediation as a stand alone process.  There is great potential if you can figure out a way to promote mediation outside the courthouse.  

Here is what I think you need to know about mediation training:

Often people who attend mediation training simply want to add the credential of Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator to their resumes.  Where else can you find such an impressive credential for $495, 3 days of training, and 2 days of internship?  Sometimes consultants take the training because they want to be able to expand their offerings.  And, sometimes people are sent to the training by their companies/organizations as they can then go back and use their new skill in the workplace.  You can learn more at

Best, Elinor   

Elinor Robin, PhD
Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator and Mediation Trainer

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mom Sense: 8 Tips for Getting Along with Your Adult Daughter This Mothers’ Day and Everyday

Do you love or hate Mother’s Day?

If you are a mother who regularly struggles to get along with your adult daughter, Mother’s Day can be a day of dread.

As a mediator, I have heard many official (and unofficial) rants regarding the difficulty mothers and daughters face.  Recently, an acquaintance (let’s call her Gloria) outlined a long list of incidents where her daughter left her feeling dismissed and disrespected.  The details seemed insignificant.  Her anger, which I surmised was a cover up for hurt, overpowered everything.  As her diatribe came to an end I leaned in and asked – “have you ever apologized to her for the mistakes that you made?”  She looked at me as if I had two heads.  “What?” she said.  “Mistakes?  I didn’t make any mistakes.  I have nothing to apologize for.”  She was adamant and I decided to save my breath.

If, like Gloria, you are struggling with the relationship you share with your daughter there are some things that you can do to start healing.  First say the serenity prayer a few times.  And then start practicing these eight tips for creating a more positive Mother-Daughter relationship:

1.  Don't criticize.  This is the primary complaint adult daughters have about their mothers.  Sadly, a mother's efforts to motivate self-improvement will often make a daughter feel hurt and inadequate.  Daughters need their mothers to view them as competent adults and beautiful women.  All you have to tell your daughter is “you are wonderful.”  Practice that.  And then keep your mouth shut. 

2.  Allow your daughter to see you as the whole person you really are.  Tell her about your childhood and the relationship you shared with your own mother.  Share your disappointments and joys. 

3.  Build a positive connection.  Use email, texting, and other technology to break old communication patterns.  Suggest that you both read a book or watch a movie with a Mother-Daughter theme and then discuss it.  Create a Mother-Daughter tradition or take your daughter on a Mother-Daughter retreat.

4.  Be supportive.  Listen.  Empathize.  And avoid giving advice that reflects your values or desires instead of hers.  Ask questions to help her to figure out what she wants to do.  Accept your daughter’s life decisions - even if you disagree with them.  Let her make her own mistakes and find her own way through tough situations.  

5.  Check-it-out.  Before you do anything for your daughter or intervene in anyway check it out with her and see if this is really what she wants.  Remember the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would like to be done unto does NOT apply.  Instead, do unto your daughter, as she wants to be done unto.  The only way you will know this is to ask her what she wants.

6.  Be willing to apologize.  Every mother makes mistakes.  (Yes, even Gloria.)  Let your daughter know that you are aware that your parenting mistakes, while made with no ill intentions, may have caused her distress. And, it is that distress that you are apologizing for.

7.  Accept that your daughter is an adult so that you can move beyond her adolescence.  To a 5 year old, Mom is a Goddess.  But ten years later, 15-year-olds regularly see their mothers as wicked dimwits.  As a Mother-Daughter relationship continues to evolve dependencies should change.  Ultimately, Mom is supposed to becomes a supportive ally.  Those early patterns, however, often continue to influence us.  And, some mother-daughter relationships stay stuck in adolescence - fraught with hurt, disappointment, disconnection, conflict, and the old control and rebellion pattern. 

8.  Be willing to do the work.  Mothers indirectly teach their daughters how to treat them.  And, mothers also set examples for how daughters will allow themselves to be treated.  So, in order to improve the Mother-Daughter bond the mother has to do more of the work.  Sadly, this is a task some mothers, like Gloria, seem unwilling to accept. 

As a woman and as mediator, I am intrigued by how the mother-daughter bond can bring both conflict and contentment.  Many of us struggle with the relationship that we share with our mothers and many of us struggle with the relationships that we share with our daughters.  For many women, the mother-daughter connection is life's most demoralizing relationship.  However, our powerful and primal mother-daughter relationships can bring us unique insight and understanding.  Mothers and daughters often serve as mirrors for each other.  We teach our daughters to be women and we shape their lives by giving them our ideas about love, family, work, and connection.  Ultimately, the things we would like to change in our daughters are frequently the things we dislike most about ourselves.  So, take a long look in the mirror before you tell your daughter anything.  And, then have a Happy Mothers’ Day.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pastor Bob: No One Should Have Expected Otherwise

Earlier this month, Pastor Bob Coy, the charismatic leader of Fort Lauderdale’s Calvary Chapel, abruptly “resigned” over what the church is calling a “moral failing.”  Pastor Bob started the church in 1985 and grew it into one of the biggest, richest, and fastest-growing mega-churches in the U.S.  (According to Reuters the church has about 20,000 members and more than $135 million in assets.)

While the whole story has yet to come to light, it now appears that Bob’s "moral failing" was connected to adultery and pornography.  According to the faith blog, Phoenix Preacher, Coy "admitted to at least two affairs in the past year alone and has had a longstanding problem with pornography."  Oh well.  Certainly, this is not a new story.  Bob is just one in a long line of preachers who have fallen from grace. 

Eventually, Bob may make a come-back.  And, that will be interesting to watch.  But, for now, he’s proven three of my universal laws. 

1.  Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.  As I see it, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin.  Most traits can present as either an asset or a liability, depending on the situation and the observer.  (For example, if you are wise and intuitive, you might also come across as a know-it-all.  If you are gentle and kind you may also be seen as weak.)  Bob was driven by the fire of emotion, passion, and power.  As long as he had it contained and directed he was able to accomplish amazing entrepreneurial and spiritual feats.  However, left unchecked, his emotion, passion, and power did him in. 

2.  You are who you are.  Nobody changes.  An oak tree is an oak tree; you cannot turn it into a palm tree.  Yes, the oak tree grows and matures.  And, in winter its leaves fall off and die; in spring it blossoms with rebirth.  But, it’s still an oak tree.  Bob was a wild man.  He came to Florida from Las Vegas where he used cocaine and managed a strip joint.  We should not be surprised that he went back to his roots.  If you want to be different you need to pay constant, conscious attention to what and who you want to be.

3.  Everyone needs someone to talk to.  I know nothing about Bob’s marriage but I know that marriages get stale.  After 20 years of marriage, few of us view our partners through eyes of newness and wonder.  And working overtime to keep up with a high powered life is exhausting.  Bob’s 20,000 congregants could bask in his glow but his wife had to see things differently.  After all, she knew he farted.  However, Bob’s alpha-male ego must have needed a lot of stroking.  And my guess is there was no place he could go to take off his Pastor Bob mask and be nurtured.

I have been a professional mediator for almost 25 years.  During that time I have developed what I call mediator mind, a way of looking at things that includes understanding, and sometimes justifying, even the most outrageous acts.  So, I think I get poor Bob.  He made a big mess.  But, no one should have expected otherwise because his greatest strength is his greatest weakness, he is who he is, and he needed someone to talk to.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Professional Woman's Guide To Conflict Management

My new book, "The Professional Woman's Guide To Conflict Management" is  scheduled to be published and released this summer by Impackt Publishers

Here is an excerpt from the preface.....
In the "perfect" workplace everyone gets along.  There are no disputes regarding titles, compensation, schedules, assignments, or environmental conditions.  There are no personality conflicts and there is no sexual harassment.  Each worker takes full responsibility for his or her actions and never attempts to place blame on another person or an external influence.  Do you recognize this place?  No?  You are not alone.

For most professional women, the "perfect" workplace doesn’t exist.  Instead many of us find ourselves working harder and longer with fewer resources.  Isolated from the support of the traditional extended family, we routinely juggle home and work responsibilities.  No wonder  our offices and organizations often feel like conflict breeding grounds.

As a little girl you were likely told to play nice, share, be polite, and avoid unpleasantness.  Actually, even if no one said these things directly, this is the message that most Western cultures transmit to their female children.  Additionally, scientists have recently determined that there is an evolutionary “tend and befriend” survival behavior that females (human and some other animals) have adopted in addition to the physiological “fight-or-flight” response we share with men.  In light of this “tend and befriend” programming, it’s no surprise that many women see conflict as such a negative struggle.

Looking ahead, as women continue to expand their influence and participation in the workplace it seems clear that issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination, health hazards, the negative stereotyping of a parent’s role in the workplace, and the competing demands of job and family will continue to cause workplace conflicts.  Additionally, unresolved and mismanaged conflicts driven by bruised egos, uncontrolled emotions, and mean-spirited behaviors have the potential to negatively impact your bottom line and your professional reputation.

Conflict can indeed be destructive when individual agendas are fulfilled by discrediting the other party (who is now designated as “the enemy").  There is, however, some good news:  it is possible to avoid the destructive consequences of workplace conflict!  You can, in fact, decode and deescalate the conflicts that are simmering and erupting in your workplace.  This book was written to give you a how-to road map.

Ultimately, the knowledge you gain from reading this book will lead to an increased sense of comfort and conscious conflict  ownership regarding your workplace disputes.  (I define conscious conflict ownership  as the ability to look at your conflicts and clearly see how you created or co-created the situation, where you are, and where you could be.)  Ultimately, as you increase your conscious conflict ownership you will be able to convey a stronger sense of commitment to the people, projects, and organizations you are connected to.  Amazingly, when we are able to embrace and work through everyday conflicts, the end result is usually enhanced productivity and connections.  These are conflict’s true gifts.

Instead of using the terms “dispute resolution” or “conflict resolution,” the term “conflict management” is used here intentionally.  Many conflicts, especially those where the parties involved have an on-going relationship, cannot be solved or re-solved on a permanent basis.  At best, these conflicts can be managed.  In this instance “managed” doesn’t mean to control or govern, it means “to care for,” like you manage your investments or “to handle,” as in, “he managed while his wife was out-of-town.”

The role that women play in the workplace is continuing to evolve.  Likewise, the strategies that we use to manage our workplace conflicts will need on-going evaluation.  After spending the last twenty-five years studying conflict and relationships I am still often amazed by the complexities in our interactions.  I am delighted to be able to share my knowledge and  philosophy with you.

The first chapter of this book lays out a foundation of conflict knowledge.  The subsequent six chapters will help you get the most out of this theoretical understanding by providing you with how-to  techniques and strategies that you can put into everyday practice.