Majority Rule – the Inherent Flaw

Bringing together a team to make a plan can produce excellent results – or the process may lead to disagreements and a patched project that goes nowhere.

Perhaps success is not in majority rule.

Perhaps success is not in majority rule.

The following is a description of a group that took a different tack – one that honored each member’s contribution.

It was a contest – a science project at the university level. Three teams were competing and, although this seems unimportant to tell you now, two teams were Caucasian and one Native American.

On the Monday morning of the contest, the teams were given the challenge and told to take as long as they needed to create their plans. At that point, the contest to execute the plan would begin.

By Tuesday afternoon, the two Caucasian teams had checked in and were ready to begin the contest. The Native American group was still consulting among themselves. By Wednesday morning, the two earlier teams were commenting on the perceived inability of the last team to come up with a plan.  A few derisive remarks were heard.  Late Wednesday afternoon, the last team appeared with their project plan in hand.  Asked by a few puzzled and slightly disgruntled members of the other two teams, they explained their seeming lateness.  “Your team plans were put together with the underlying belief that the majority should always rule. As a result you finished the plan faster, but unique ideas that didn’t’ agree with the majority were set aside or just plain ignored. Our culture does not work like that.  We work through the plan until every member has contributed and adjustments are made to create a workable plan that has been thoroughly analyzed and laid out.”

It was true. The plan based on a thorough analysis and a fully involved and supportive team won.

Perhaps it is time to learn that the majority rule should be set aside for well thought out plans based on the intelligence of the entire group.  If I may state analogy, it is like taking the lowest bid. It does not mean the best materials or the highest workmanship will be used, it just means that the job is done more cheaply.




You Are What You Think

Check out what you're thinking.

Check out what you’re thinking.

Recently, I heard an individual claim that he felt constantly happy.  His explanation was that when he awoke each day, he began to think with gratitude about his life. Not only what he had, but what he learned, who he knew, and the opportunities he’d had. Before he got out of bed, his thoughts were firm in what he had going for him.  Best of all, he said he was never sick. I realized, who could entertain sick thoughts with all those great ones filling one up full!

Follow up that talk with my daughter. She was regularly watching a new TV show with speakers that emphasized paying attention to your thoughts – the old adage, ‘what you think is what you are’. This led her to identify the thoughts she had about herself: how she looked, what she listened to others say about her. She realized that self-criticism made her not just unhappy, but miserable.  As she thought better thoughts, life was looking good.  Her conclusion – “Why should I believe what others say? I know who I am.” Right on.

Jump to a recent lesson I learned from the two of them.  I serve on a committee that always seems to be disorganized, pushy, and downright angry.  Talking it over with a friend, the recommendation came: “Let go of my thinking that was determined to ‘be right’.  Pause, let the others think after you say something. then wait longer and see if they say what you would have said.”    That  night at the meeting, I paid attention to my thoughts.  I was totally amazed. The very ideas I had mentioned slightly days before came back at me better than ever. A direction for action that I was going to suggest and ‘plead my case for’ was laid out beautifully, and it wasn’t me talking!  I had changed my thoughts and actions, and the world changed with it.  Epic.


A long ago poem springs to mind:

I am not what I think I am.

I am not what you think I am.

I am what I  think you think I am.

And now to add:

I will think what I want

me to be.

And… Be grateful!

The Age of Rewards


Stars or not?

Stars or not?

Stickers? Candy? Stars on a chart? If a reward is waiting, will the child work harder? Do better? Want to go home and learn more?

In my  humble opinion, either the successful children earn the rewards all the time, and the poor students have one more thing they cannot do. Or, the rewards are set up for the poor students because they need a boost, while the hard worker receives nothing. Then, the child of a higher intelligence doesn’t see the point of working harder.  After four decades of teaching different grade levels, the ‘ages’ of reward ideas came and went. The following ideas worked well for me either as rewards for behavior or for finishing work early.

The Age of Stickers  Teachers were spending a small fortune buying beautiful stickers for well done work and behavior that improved. Instead, in our classroom,  there was a basket with the sticker freebies [Actually quite nice as they were for the teachers to use.] that came with the book orders. The students were told to take one if they wanted one.  Seldom taken, the children did enjoy making their own decision as to whether they should have one. (First grade.)

The Age of Candy  Some classrooms had gallon jars filled with candy to give the students. In our class, candy was limited to one event: good behavior outside the room. The class as a whole had to receive a compliment from another adult for their good behavior  in the hallways.  (Quietness, straight line, getting drinks properly, etc.) As they re-entered the classroom, one single, lone, little M&M was taken by each child from the candy box.  If there were two compliments, there were two candies.  Yes, they loved it. (First grade.)

P.S. Holding the candy box was one of the classroom jobs.

The Age of Sharing If a student wanted to share something they wrote or a new idea that they figured out in math, they came to the front of the room with a friend and told their classmates all about it. (Grades 1-4.)

The Age of Reading  A stack of books on a topic in science or social studies was available for anyone who finished his classwork early.  Some were picture books, and some had in-depth articles. (Grades 1-4.)

The Age of Blocks  Having an industrial arts background, I had a stack of mini blocks I’d painted.  Kept in a basket, they could be used for five minutes. (Second grade.)

The Age of Drawing  Early in the school year,  I taught the children how to draw simple figures using math shapes – squares, triangles, etc.  Later, thumbprint [oval] designs were used as taught in a popular children’s book. (Ed Emberley) Blank paper and markers were on a table for those who finished early. (Grades 1-4.)

The Age of Charts and Smiley Faces   A giant chart had the children’s names listed on the left, while the dates of the spelling tests were across the top. Small stickers were put up to show the test was taken.   Oops, I take it back.  The smiley face was orange if the test was 100%, and yellow to show it was taken.

Not only did I save  money on treats and stickers and small rewards, but the children learned that work completed and well done was, truly, its own reward.

Conflict: Permanent Solutions Based on Creative, Radical Change

A bully is not a friend - at first.     From the book  "Can Dragons and Frogs Be Friends?"

A bully is not a friend – at first. From the book “Can Dragons and Frogs Be Friends?”

Yes, it’s tough to find an answer to  conflict.

At present, the goals to finding solutions to conflict range from ‘winning and domination’ to ‘reconciliation and unification’. Counselors in schools and businesses, diplomats and mediators at the national level attempt to defuse conflict with these methods.  But, do they solve it?

In the scenario of most conflict resolution, each opposing viewpoint gives up something until both sides are satisfied.  But, is this really resolution? If there is an underlying ‘simmer waiting to boil’ that wants one’s own viewpoint to ‘win’, then the conflict is only on the back burner. To truly dissolve a conflict,  a creative, radical approach must tempt both sides into a better,  so-far-unidentified, solution.

New geometry. The typical approach to mediation begins with a straight line with the opposing viewpoints at each end.  Each group/person gives up or modifies their viewpoint and moves toward the middle until each side is satisfied.  In the new approach, use a triangle. Write the goal above it.  Then, put each opposing viewpoint in a bottom corner.  Clearly identify each side’s viewpoints. Then, toss them out!  Work to find totally new viewpoints/solutions.  Wipe out any lingering preferences for the original conflicting viewpoints.

To consider the importance of radical changes in viewpoints, read Can Dragons and Frogs Be Friends?  The ‘soon-to-be dinner’ frog offers to help the dragon solve his problem.  This is radical change #1. He is not treating him as the enemy.  Then,  he deserts the other frogs to help the dragon. Radical change #2, the frog is willing to stand alone.

Next, is the frog’s persistent offers to help the dragon which equals radical change # 3. He is determined to help him at all costs.   This defies the usual interaction of dragons eating frogs.  Radical change #4 happens when the frog willingly ignores, then disproves, the ancient forest legend regarding the inevitability of conflict. It is often the history, the past, that straitjackets finding a solution.

These radical changes on the part of the frog disarm the dragon.   Recognizing the frog’s shift in attitude, the dragon shifts his perception of the frog and accepts his help. This is the dragon’s radical change #1. When a second dragon arrives on the scene and threatens to eat the frog, the first dragon defends and protects him – radical change #2. His defense is so thorough that the second dragon expresses gratitude toward the frog and does not eat him. That was definitely a radical change!

The success of this ‘higher viewpoint‘ mediation method is the willingness of everyone to completely give up the past – what others have said and done – and  then recognize and prove what is good and useful about the ‘enemy’.  This requires a lot of creative thinking and a true willingness to change.  It usually happens when both sides are about to wipe each other out.

I admit this approach appears to be based on the “love your enemy” concept. But, it is not. Loving the enemy as an enemy, still sees him as your enemy. It is the  gaining and holding a different viewpoint of him that causes the radical and positive change. This higher, better viewpoint is gained when the ‘enemy’ becomes a cohort, a friend, and someone worth knowing.  With that radical change, comes the creative solution to conflict.

Defuse Bullying Behavior

book cover

Everyday bullies are everywhere. A clerk delays waiting on one person while serving others who arrived later.

A parent makes a comment in a public place guaranteed to set the child off or vice-verse.  A ‘double bully’ is one person allowing the bullying behavior of another to continue. It takes diligence to defuse the actions that squash someone’s right to the pursuit of happiness.

One approach to stop this behavior is your willingness to act differently. “To change others, begin with yourself.” Pay attention to your thoughts. “What you think, you become.” Are you thinking angry thoughts? This form of ‘mental bullying’ leads to ‘outward bullying’.  Worse, it attracts a bully to you. “Like attracts like.”

In my book Can Dragons and Frogs Be Friends? the bully, a fire-breathing dragon, chases and eats frogs. When the dragon is in trouble, a frog takes a chance and changes his own behavior. This causes the dragon’s viewpoint of the frogs to change, and he stops being a bully and discovers a friend.


On the last day of school, a fourth grade student stopped to see his next year teacher to tell her that he was looking forward to being in her class. The teacher answered, “I can’t wait to have you in my class! We will have a great year!” Off he went with a smile. In the office file drawer, there was a three-inch thick folder of his behavior problems. Over the summer, the teacher barely scanned it. Most important, the file did not become a checklist of expectations that would preclude any possible progress. On the first day of school, the student arrived early along with his mom with his smile and his plan for changing himself. The arriving class was given a heads up to allow the young man to change. They did. He did. It was a happy year. Past behavior was dissolved by everyone’s willingness to change.

A second key to deflect and diffuse bullying behavior is to create an atmosphere in which a bully finds no victim or partner. Increase your compassion for others. Memorize quotes that lift your thoughts. Sing with joy! Pay attention to the good around you. Be grateful. As Forest Squirrel says in the above mentioned book, ‘Say thank you a lot.” A bully’s anger dissolves in the face of true deep down compassion as Throckmorton, the dragon, discovered.

A third key that counters and obliterates bullying is what a friend mentioned after hearing of this article. “You can’t be bullied if you have self-confidence.” The idea resonated. When you know who you are and what you believe, when you know what you love, then you walk tall, speak firmly and clearly and become a confident ‘you’ that simply cannot be bullied. For there is nothing to be bullied!

In essence, to defuse and destroy bullying behavior change your actions, create an atmosphere of kindness, and build your self-confidence. For lack of victim or partner, bullying behaviors will disappear.