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Mary Zinn, Donor, Volunteer, Former Board Member

In the late 1980s Elizabeth Loescher, then Executive Director of The Conflict Center (and founder), did a presentation on Dealing with Difficult People for a class of educators keeping their certifications current.  I was fortunate to be in that group!

After meeting Liz and becoming enthralled by her passion and practical wisdom regarding dealing with conflicts, my life literally took a change of course.

I became a Conflict Center volunteer, board member, educator and advocate.   I have incorporated the lessons learned from The Conflict Center in my behaviors, bringing peace to my life and to my family members, friends and colleagues.

An early lesson was to “own my part of a conflict” … I was my most difficult person!  This was one of my earliest discoveries.  Happily, I also found out that I could change my choices of words, body language and intention to get that difficult person in a better place.  The ripples of my behavioral changes made me a better mother, friend and co-worker.  I learned how to directly approach another person without blaming them.  I learned how to use I Statements to explore my concerns.  Many times I don’t need to share what I discover when I ask myself “What am I feeling threatened by?”  I simply need to know about it and figure out a strategy that addresses my concerns/fears.

Because of my many years of practicing sincere and meaningful conflict management, I have become a very curious person.  I know now that I want to find out what is going on with the other person whenever a conflict arises.  I often say: “Tell me more” and I really mean it.  I don’t waste much time on snide or “gotcha” comments.   I work to stop myself from guessing about another person’s intentions or actions…. I simply ask them.

My curiosity and intention to find viable solutions is genuine.  As a result, I am much less fearful about the outcome of any situation.  I trust that I have the heart and skills to embrace conflict as an opportunity to learn. This trusting confidence serves me well in reducing drama and stress.

The courage it takes to directly engage another person is a surprise to me.  I often have to take time to figure out the problem and what would actually be a good next step.  It certainly helps to have a trustworthy friend or two, who can hold a confidence, to help process what I think I might do before I actually put a plan into action.

Some of my favorite Liz Loescher quotes/lessons:

  • Conflict is Inevitable, Violence is Not.
  • What a concept!  (When brainstorming and a good idea emerged.)
  • There are no intractable problems; there are intractable people.

Meeting and being mentored by Liz led to a deep learning of gentle confrontation.

The path my life took after I became involved with The Conflict Center included:

  • Becoming a much better parent and improving all of my personal and professional relationships
  • Interacting with the finest colleagues I could possibly have imagined for the last 30 years
  • Presenting hundreds of hours of presentations about conflict and anger management and creating curriculum for many audiences: homeless, young, seniors, well-educated, parents, students, faculty, business teams, under-served populations, and more
  • Promoting Conflict Resolution Month in Colorado that started in 2005. It is the only one in the entire country.  Without TCC, there simply would not be such a campaign….   All Coloradans are invited to participate and Talk. Work It Out!  www.conflictresolutionmonth.org
  • The creation of the photo and story exhibit: Talking It Out: Getting to Agreement that has been traveling in Colorado since 2012
  • Starting my own mediation and facilitation business
  • Co-producing a quarterly Conflict Resolution program on KGNU radio for the past 10 years
  • Hosting conferences for educators in Colorado, supporting others in their conferences and programs. Working with various universities and colleges.
  • Introducing Madame Solutions to the community
  • Becoming a mentor for others in fundraising skills
  • Creating a home that is literally a “Violence-Free Zone” with a wall plaque that reminds us
  • Marching in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Marade each year with my son, dog and others from TCC

Yes, The Conflict Center has impacted my life as well as the lives of my children and grandchildren.  We are all reasonably open-minded listeners, trusting that we can find solutions when we work together.

It has been my honor to celebrate our Ambassadors of Peace as they received their awards and my pleasure to invite others to become members of the Friends of The Conflict Center.  Over the years, I have been incredibly proud of TCC’s corporate commitment to “walking the talk”, use of consensus decision making, bold transparency and insistence on maintaining a culture that encourages us all to be our best selves.

I am grateful beyond words for years of practice, as well as the wisdom and the opportunities offered.

Mary Zinn

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