Vom Vergessen der eigenen Grenzen oder auch der Kraft des Unbewussten

In my February blog I mentioned that I was planning a trip to Greenland.

I’d been dreaming about this for many years and I have to say, I’m really not sure where this desire originally came from. But I believe it was based on a romantic idea of the landscape, the culture and the life of the Inuit.

Of course, the dream included admiring Greenland’s certainly impressive snow-covered landscape, including the glaciers, but also very specific plans such as snowmobile tours, hiking on the inland ice, dog sledding and even staying overnight in an original igloo.

No sooner said than done. I had just gone through a challenging time both professionally and personally and rewarded myself with the fulfillment of this dream. A week in Ilulissat. By myself. No travel companion, no tour group. Just me, myself and I.

I started dreaming about this trip to Greenland before I was diagnosed with cancer and before all the treatments and side effects. I was fit as a fiddle, very athletic and felt strong, both physically and mentally. Now, many years later, when I set out planning the trip and all the things I wanted it to include, I was totally excited and started booking the various items on my bucket list one by one. I happily packed all the things and equipment I thought I’d need and set off.

When I arrived in Greenland – all its roads covered in ice and snow, traveling in small, cramped propeller planes, with daytime temperatures sometimes as low as minus 27 degrees Celsius – I quickly realized that I might have been fit as a fiddle many years ago. But today? I immediately reached my physical limits. My backpack felt far too heavy. On my first longer hike, where I was sometimes knee-deep in snow, I had to deal with balance problems, due to my polyneuropathy in my feet and thereby an already unsteady gait, along with muscle cramps.

The first mental doubts followed: What on earth had possessed me to undertake this crazy journey? How could I have overestimated myself and my strength so much? And to take this trip all by myself? With no one at my side who was aware of my personal fears and doubts?!

What was I going to do? How was I going to manage the treks? The weight of my backpack? The snowmobile tour? And how in the world would I get through the cold threshold into the igloo, which felt far too small, and get out again in the morning? With my morning balance problems, significant and consistent muscle cramps and, most of all, the panic I have in small spaces? Should I stay in my room for a week and read books? Had I come all this way for that?

I have no one to blame but myself. You may be thinking that right now. And you’d be right.

So what to do?

Giving up was not an option for me. That was never my way. So, I came up with a new strategy:

Break my goals down into smaller steps. I didn’t look at the whole week all at once, but one day at a time, one action at a time. Each action I successfully completed was added to my “Great. I did it. ME.” record. You can’t imagine how good that felt.

When I had periods of weakness, I just stood still. For as long as it took. And enjoyed the scenery, the impressions, or had long conversations with locals or other tourists. These welcome breaks did me a lot of good, and I was able to not only recharge my batteries, but exchange ideas and broaden and deepen my impressions, too. I even made some great contacts and exchanged addresses for future trips. It was wonderful! By the way, this method automatically helped me to slow down, too.

I also did something truly crazy: I asked strangers for help. WOW! It wasn’t hard at all. Whether I was asking people to help me put on my spikes or something else, I just went up to strangers and asked them. It was really easy and I didn’t feel weak at all. On the contrary. And again, wonderful conversations ensued and even the opportunity to offer help in return because of course, other travelers have their own challenges to overcome.

This also made me realize that it’s not just me who has challenges and even fears in my own little universe, or who feels trapped in a tunnel, but that much younger and fitter travelers can have their own issues and need help, too. This surprised me at times and really helped me see things more clearly. I often thought to myself: “Really? You too…?” So we joined forces. Each of us with our own skills, and together, complementing each other and trusting in each other, we were strong.

And in the end, I realized something that I took home with me:

There were times when I was simply too tired to push my personal limits. Out of sheer exhaustion, I simply turned off my head and did it. Just did it. And guess what? It went beautifully and smoothly. It occurred to me that maybe my subconscious mind didn’t even know I had a handicap, and didn’t see any limitations.

What if the body didn’t even know what it couldn’t do anymore? What if it was just performing from memory? Just “did it”?

It actually worked. The less attention I paid to my limitations and worries, the more smoothly things went.

I simply didn’t let my body know what wasn’t possible.

Of course, I know that doesn’t always work, not with all limitations. And I was definitely a little awkward and stiff. But I’ve decided to turn off my head more often from now on, to follow my intuition and trust my unconscious processes.

Don’t tell yourself what you can’t do. As long as your intuition is convinced that it will work, it will work!

So: What is your long overdue and unfulfilled dream?

Go for it,

Your Crisis Manager

This summer I went on a journey of discovery through beautiful Colorado, a colorful state that lives up to its name. 

On this trip I drove along “the highest paved road” in Colorado. What an experience – in terms of scenery, driving technique and overall experience, too! Impressive views, lots of wildlife and a beautiful landscape of ice and snow to boot.

The paved road that was proudly advertised when I entered the park was bumpy and full of potholes. Some of them were so deep that you had to swerve so far to the side of the road that you had to be careful not to fall off the edge. Because – you guessed it – there were no guardrails. The road was steep and winding. I kept seeing cars that were unbelievably wide for the driving conditions. And there they were – the inappropriate speeders. But also overly cautious, slow-moving cars. There were even cyclists pedaling uphill. I vacillated between pity and admiration for them.

Herds of mountain goats and marmots crossed my path, too, often around a bend.

As you can imagine, caution was required. The ride elicited alternating feelings of excitement, exertion, fascination, and, admittedly, thrill.

Why am I writing about this for you?

In the photo I took, you can see a bend coming up. The road seems to lead into the unknown. Of course I knew that it would continue. But in what form and in what state? I had no idea. Nor did I know what was waiting for me around the bend. And at no point did I know when the road would come to an end at my destination.

At that moment, I began to think about life in general. We all have to deal with uncertainty on a regular basis. With ups and downs. Sometimes it’s bumpy, sometimes we feel like we’re teetering on the edge with no guardrails. And then there are those inspiring moments. Wonderful encounters, amazing experiences, moments of happiness. Everything happens with a feeling of effortless concentration. Cyclists often pass us with great effort, but they’re clearly highly motivated and, from our point of view, give off an aura of exhilaration. We may be fascinated by the ease with which they seem to master life.

And how often do we not know what will happen next?

How often do we drive by sight alone?

And how often do we see a bend ahead and don’t know what’s around it?

Even so, it somehow always seems to go on.


Our strategy? We adjust our equipment; we switch from bike to car or even walk for a bit. Maybe we even take a breather. For certain passages we look for companions, while for others, we go it alone. And we look back with pride at the distance we’ve already covered.

And when we see a bend ahead, some of us pick up the pace, while others pause for a moment and take a deep breath before continuing. Perhaps there is an alternate route, a plan B. 

What is certain is that we are not alone around the bend. They are there too: the other drivers, cyclists and hikers. 

In Colorado. Out there on the road. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere. And you know what? I was driving on my own, and yet I didn’t feel alone at all. Most of the other people there were considerate and supportive of each other and offered help when needed. No one honked or got angry.

If we were to draw an analogy to life here, it would be that we need to embrace our differences, accept that everyone has their own way of dealing with challenges, and that most importantly, we need to look out for each other, support each other, and be considerate of each other.

We all have our own individual personalities and when we look back on the formative events in our lives, it becomes clear that everyone has their own story. Who are we if we don’t accept, respect and appreciate them?

In this spirit, I wish you a reflective pre-Christmas season.

Go for it, go for your goal.

Your Crisis Manager

Have you ever heard the saying “Live each day as if it were your last”? I myself often wonder how to do that and what it means in concrete terms. How would your last day feel? Have you ever wondered how that works?

I’ve been officially a palliative care patient for eight years now. People regularly ask me if I’ve changed anything in my life or lifestyle, if I’ve turned it upside down. My answer is always: No, I haven’t.

And I’m not even sure if that short answer is true. Factually, I haven’t changed anything. I’m still happily married, I still enjoy my hobbies and interests, and I still do what I do best: crisis and conflict management. The latter still takes up about 80 hours of my week, and I’m completely immersed in it.

I also spend time with friends, gardening, volunteering at the theater, or just being by myself. And I enjoy my life. Just like before. I don’t deny myself anything, and I allow myself a lot. So, I really haven’t changed a thing.

Do I live every day as if it were my last? No, I don’t.

I wouldn’t even know how to do that. If I knew that tomorrow was my last day, I would probably be so overwhelmed by the question of what to do with this gift of limited time that I would remain relatively inactive. I would probably grab a coffee, sit on the sofa and wait. Or quickly fold the laundry? Maybe write some notes to my loved ones? Make a phone call or two? Express my love to my loved ones? Truly, I have no idea.

What do you do on a day like that?

Or is this statement meant in a different way? That maybe I’ve changed something in my life? That maybe it’s not necessarily something factual, but rather my approach to life or my attitude?

For example, I never go to bed angry. I don’t go on a business trip unless everything is “okay” at home. I no longer get upset about things that used to upset or stress me out. Is this what is meant? Or has that just changed because of my age and life experience?

I’ve always been a very active person who lives intensely, tries out lots of things, and who moves forward boldly and positively. So that’s nothing new. But have I become more aware of it?

I can certainly empathize better with other people’s crisis situations. I have a new or expanded awareness. But is awareness a characteristic of my last day? My “new” life? I don’t think so.

Maybe the above saying is easier to say than to think through?  

If I have to imagine every day that this could be my last day, that I should enjoy it now… do I really want to be confronted with the finiteness of life on a regular basis? Isn’t it better to just enjoy life and everything that comes with it, including the ups and downs? To surf the waves of my emotions? Or is that exactly what is meant?

Well, if that’s the case, then it’s what I do: I live each day as if it were my last. But this saying still feels strange to me. And I’m convinced that it must have been invented by someone who hasn’t had to deal with the prospect of death in any real way.

Here is one thing that has changed for me: I have become more grateful and humble. Grateful for my parents, my loved ones, my life and my happiness. And humble towards the very same things. And towards life.

Have you ever thought about the saying “Live each day as if it were your last” and wondered how it works? What ideas have you come up with?

I would love to hear from you.

With that in mind,

Go for it, Your Crisis Manager

Die Methode des „aktiven Zuhörens

Let’s be honest: What was your first thought when you read the title of this blog post? “Active listening? Not again!”, or “What old news!”, or maybe, “I’ve heard this before, and I’ve heard it a million times in various types of training…”?

I’m sure you’ve come across this method in a number of communication training courses. You’ve probably also participated in group exercises on this subject and perhaps found them interesting. But in your personal and professional life, communication problems still occur – perhaps disputes and conflicts are even based on them – and now you’re looking for some additional and, above all, new content and tips on how to avoid them. Is this you?

Well, you’re not alone.

No matter what context I’m working in – be it communication, negotiation or conflict management workshops, mediation, conflict moderation or strategy meetings at the highest hierarchical levels – I always encounter communication problems; and it’s not uncommon for their resolution to be the first step towards resolving the conflict situation to achieve a collaborative result or an even better performance or achievement of a goal.

Do we really need new methods and approaches? Do we really need to reinvent the wheel?

I’m a fan of evolution and simplification when it comes to our interactions. But I also believe that we should start by actually applying in practice the methods we’ve heard so much about in theory.

And that’s where 99% of the situations I encounter in my daily work as a consultant get stuck.

The first step in active listening is listening. You know this, of course, because you’re familiar with the method. But how often do you actually do it? Listening. It’s not just the purely acoustic process of listening that involves acknowledging with eye contact, attention and “social grunts” such as uttering “mmm-hmm” or “yes.” No, this stage goes beyond that.

“Listening” also means focusing our thoughts on the other person. Please reflect honestly on the conversations you have: How often do you really listen to the other person without simultaneously working on an appropriate response, thinking about your next argument, or even wondering about the other person’s behavior, getting annoyed with them or whatever else?

And it’s precisely when we’re thinking about the next step that we fail to do that one key thing: listen.

Because of this, we miss specific statements, nuances, and most importantly, significant elements of the other person’s level of need – which may require us to ask more questions, clarify certain aspects or pick up important information – that makes clear, collaborative and misunderstanding-free communication possible in the first place.

Listening attentively can be tiring and requires our full concentration. As a result, we don’t always succeed at it. But if we’re aware of this communication deficit of ours, we can use the “active listening” method in a targeted manner in certain situations. The results may surprise you. Active listening may be “old hat” for you in theory, but in practice it can be a fresh, new step on your journey towards great communication.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and experiences. 

Until then,

Go for it,

Your Crisis Manager

How are you doing right now? Do you, too, feel that some days give you courage and confidence, and things just go “swimmingly?” But then there are other days when your plans are thwarted or you feel like obstacles are being thrown in your way?

I know this all too well – and I often feel powerless. It can seem like things are happening in a way that simply leaves me no room to maneuver at all. At the same time, I sometimes get the feeling that some people are better at dealing with their current weather situation than I am. Things just seem to go smoothly for them. 

Please don’t think I’m checking my neighbor’s lawn to see if it’s greener than mine. I’m not. Comparison doesn’t help us at all, because every situation is different and has its own facets. But sometimes we get the impression that there are life models that seem to be more stable and resilient than others.

This feeling of powerlessness, of being at the mercy of others, is probably the biggest pain point in all of this.

But here’s the good news:

We may be a speck of dust in space when it comes to many of the things that happen around us, with a very limited ability to change them. But how we deal with situations, how we evaluate them, and even what we make of them, is entirely up to us. In the end, I think it’s our attitude towards things that makes all the difference. Maybe you’re thinking, “She can talk, but she’s not in my situation.” That may be so, and I don’t deny it. But I’m also not here to promote the well-intentioned advice to “look on the bright side” or to find something “positive” in things. I’m well aware that this kind of advice tends to make people feel that their needs and concerns are not understood. Also, things are allowed to turn out badly and feel negative sometimes. That is part of the package. But this state should never last for too long and should only describe a snapshot.

Believe me, I can relate to the feeling some people have of standing in front of a huge mountain that seems immovable and impossible to climb – at least since I was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago, and was officially given a palliative status.

In a case like that, it’s worth taking a closer look. 

For those people who seem to go through life more easily, what do they do differently? Do they have a strategy? I think they do.

It appears that those people accept life and its challenges and make the best of it. They seem to be less anxious or frozen and more adventurous, more curious about what might be in store and, above all, more creative. Instead of thinking in terms of limitations, they think in terms of possibilities.

The way they ride the wave of emotions in a flow reminds me of rodeo riding. 

Rodeo riders, too, are aware of their abilities and limitations, but they can only ever judge the horse to a limited extent. Most of the time, they have no room to maneuver and therefore no control – at least not over the horse. They approach the ride with a zest for intensity and challenge, and feel passionate about creatively and powerfully facing the imponderables at hand. Their goal isn’t to gain absolute control of the ride, but to stay in the saddle for as long as possible. They set different goals depending on the situation. And they’re courageous, with a deep confidence in themselves, their abilities and the outcome of the ride. They’re aware of the dangers, but – and this is important – the dangers don’t make them passive. In fact, it’s from the dangers that they draw additional strength.

If you ask these riders, they’ll confirm that it’s exhausting and sometimes frustrating. But they’ll also say that they come out of each ride stronger, that they learn something each time, and that their mental strength is an essential companion along the way. For them, the ride is a thrill. Which is why they tend to see the uncertainties as positive and appealing, rather than approaching the challenge with negative preconceptions.

Have you ever managed to successfully navigate a bend in the road in your life using this strategy? It’s called a “pattern of success.” And it’s worth recalling this experience often, because it shows that you have the energy and strength to embrace your strength. You do not have to learn this skill from scratch. You simply have to awaken this particular resource in yourself more frequently.

And guess what: Once you realize this, the rodeo ride can actually be great fun. Even when – and let’s not kid ourselves here – it remains exhausting at times and we still have a desire for everything to “go like clockwork.”

We remain confident anyhow.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you every success. And if you’d like more inspiration and maybe even some concrete strategies for dealing with rodeo rides, I hope you’ll reach out.

Go for it,

Your Crisis Manager

Was ist Mediation?

My clients often ask me what exactly the term “mediation” means. This shows that the process of mediation – which originated in the USA in the 1970s and whose history goes back much further – is still not a fully established method of conflict resolution. And yet, it has since reached Germany and grown so popular and in demand that it was even regulated by German law in 2012. 

The benefits of this out-of-court conflict resolution method are convincing, and its limitations very manageable. Which is why it’s worth taking a closer look at the question above: What is mediation?

What makes the mediation process so special is that the conflicting parties are responsible for resolving their own conflict in a self-determined manner and with the help of a third party – a mediator. The process follows a specific structure, with so-called “stages.” The mediator, who remains neutral and impartial toward the conflicting parties, supports the necessary communication processes, creates a space of trust, guides them through the underlying structure and acts as a catalyst and bridge-builder on the relationship level.

For the mediator, the process is complex, as are the various ways it can be implemented – it   would go beyond the scope of this article to explain all the different options in detail. But it’s important to know that sometimes, the processes naturally require more interventions on the level of the subject matter of the conflict and sometimes more on the interpersonal level of the relationship. 

Particularly in the business context, it’s often only factual issues that are at stake, and these need to be resolved as smoothly, quickly and cost-effectively as possible, so that a win-win solution can be found for all parties involved. The more conventional alternative of going to court usually leads to the parties’ dissatisfaction, often takes far too long, and costs a great deal of money and time. In addition, taking an issue to court often permanently damages the relationship between the conflicting parties, rendering further collaboration impossible. This is where mediation can help.

Very often in the business context, within teams, between managers and employees, committees and management, etc., as well as in most other conflict situations – such as in the family, concerning inheritance, neighborhood, school, etc. – the conflict to be resolved is essentially at the level of relationships and needs. It is precisely in such contexts that mediation can unfold its great potential: As, with the support of the mediator, the parties examine their individual needs and seek a beneficial outcome for all, mediation enables conflicts to be resolved sustainably and to the satisfaction of both parties.

What does this mean specifically and in practice?

The mediation process is based on certain principles. For example, the selected mediator must be neutral when it comes to the subject matter of the conflict as well as to the parties themselves. At the same time, the mediator must be impartial to all parties, e.g., to balance any power imbalances. This is in contrast to a lawyer, for example, who is naturally biased in favor of the client who hired him or her. The mediator must be equally committed to both parties.

In addition, all participants, i.e., the disputing parties and the mediator, must participate in the process on a voluntary basis, but may leave the process at any time without giving a reason. In order to reach a good solution, confidentiality is paramount, as is openness and staying informed about all relevant aspects of the conflict.

Furthermore, the parties must act independently and of their own volition, i.e., they need to find the solutions that work for them and decide on them independently. If necessary, the mediator can provide support within the framework of the mediator’s impartiality. It’s always surprising to see how many people have difficulty determining what they really want, instead of just knowing what they don’t want, based on a process of elimination.

Finally, the process must be open-ended and forward-looking. Mediation is not about implementing a concrete solution or dealing with the past.

This may sound “simple” at first, but the devil is often in the details so it’s important to bring on an experienced mediator who can deal with the conflict system at hand. This always includes the individual needs of the parties.

The typical procedure is based on different stages, as mentioned above.

The mediation process begins with the so-called “opening” stage, during which the modalities are clarified, the procedure is explained in more detail and a first insight into the conflict in question is provided. The most relevant aspect of this stage is the “mediation covenant.” This means that the key thing is to create trust in the process and in the chosen mediator. Without this trust, mediation cannot work and is doomed to failure.

The opening stage leads to the “mediation agreement,” in which the classic contractual arrangements for working together are made.

This is followed by the “collection of relevant issues” as the first step of the actual mediation. The parties describe their respective issues to be resolved and formulate their respective positions. At this point, the parties are given the opportunity to express their views in an unfiltered way, and to be heard. This is a crucial point in finding a solution. Only when the parties are given the opportunity to “truly express what bothers or angers them” and are unconditionally accepted can the basis for discussion and clarification be established.

The issues collected in this way are then transferred to the “interest stage,” which aims at working out the needs, motives and emotions behind the positions and viewpoints expressed. This stage is considered the heart of mediation, as it represents the main difference between mediation and traditional litigation. In this stage, one of the mediator’s main tasks is to assist the parties in their self-reflection. Experience shows that often, the parties have not genuinely thought through their own position and tend to be unable to answer questions about their personal needs. In addition, the mediator leads the conversation from dialogic to triadic communication, ideally bringing about mutual understanding and the often-cited “a-ha” moments.

If the mediator is successful in this step, the process can move on to the “solution stage,” where the parties usually come together to brainstorm about potential solution, establish evaluation standards and agree on specific solutions, which are then recorded and set forth in the final agreement. This final agreement is a contract that can be enforced under civil law, something many parties believe provides additional security and a “double bottom line” to the process and its conclusion.

Usually, another sustainability meeting is held sometime later to check that the agreements reached have been implemented in practice.

At first glance, the requirements of the process seem fairly straightforward. But, as mentioned above, it is in fact very complex. The mediation process revolves around people and their needs in what is usually perceived as a stressful emergency situation. What mediators are dealing with is the most important thing of all: human beings and their souls. 

Therefore, special attention should be paid to the selection of a mediator, and value should be placed on the mediator’s sound training and ongoing qualification.

The method itself fits perfectly into the world of agile methods and new work concepts. It works with effects and impacts and thus takes the entire conflict system into account.

If this interests you, please get in touch anytime for a free information session to find out if this great approach is suitable for your specific situation.

Going through the mediation process is a journey – a journey to yourself and to a shared solution. It can be freeing and transformative. Mutual development and growth are at the heart of what happens alongside conflict resolution. My goal is to show you how to catch your own fish, not to serve you the fish you’ve already caught.

More than 20 years of experience – in higher education, too – have led me to the conviction that mediation belongs in today’s world more than ever.

I consider it a great privilege to help people find solutions to their stressful moments. My passion for this work carries me through each and every day and is also the reason why I do what I do.

If this blog post has inspired you to learn more, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Go for it,

Your Crisis Manager

Wie bist Du zur Selbständigkeit gekommen? Anke Stein-Remmert

I’m frequently asked what prompted me to leave my secure, well-paid job as a salaried lawyer in a bank and become self-employed instead. Many people seem to think it was a very courageous move.

They’re less surprised, however, when I tell them that for me it was not so much a courageous move as a logical one. But how did it come about?

Well, I’d have to go into a lot of detail to explain all my thoughts and desires behind this decision, but that’s not what this blog post is about – and I certainly don’t want to bore you. So what is it about? I want to tell you about the last straw that made me take this step in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis.

I was, of course, fully aware at the time that I was earning good money and had job security. But there were two sides to that coin: I simply didn’t feel happy in my job. It didn’t match my personal strengths, nor did my personality fit into the world of internal banking structures.

I spent a long time thinking about what a good alternative might be, but I couldn’t come up with anything. It seemed that I didn’t really have access to my own resources and, what’s more, to my own desires. I only knew what I no longer wanted. So I stayed where I was.

Until something happened (be forewarned – the story might get a little bizarre for your taste now ;-) )… Are you familiar with the following? You dream so intensely at night that you wake up in the morning not knowing whether what you experienced was real or a dream? Or the dream was so intense that you just can’t shake or wash off the feelings associated with it? That’s what happened to me.

In my dream, a giraffe was running through our living room at night, calling out to me, “Go for it, go for your goal!” The dream was so intense that when I woke up, I knew that the giraffe could never have run through our living room for real. Yet at the same time, it had completely captivated me with its words and triggered something in me.

I told my husband about this dream over breakfast and he asked me what I was going to do with it. My answer came spontaneously and enthusiastically: “I’m going to quit my job at the bank today!” No sooner said than done. I wrote my letter of resignation and handed it to my manager. She looked at me in horror, or surprise, and immediately said, “This isn’t what I’m afraid it is … is it?” I told her it was. She asked me how I had come to this decision and I told her about the giraffe, beaming with conviction. She shook her head and said, “You’re just plain crazy. Well, never hold up a traveler.”

And so, as of January 2, 2009, I found myself self-employed.

Now you might be wondering, did I know what I was going to do for a living right away? No, I didn’t. I was just really sure that it was the logical and right next step and that the rest would fall into place. Suddenly, for a brief moment, the coin had only one side.

It took me a couple of months. I figured out my USP, the subjects I was passionate about. I explored my strengths and skills. And it all led to: crisis and conflict management. Dealing with difficult situations and/or people. Voilà. This has been my focus ever since, and I continue to be passionate about it. Every day and every moment.

By the way, I later realized that the giraffe symbolizes conflict-free communication in “Nonviolent Communication” according to Marshall Rosenberg. I didn’t know that at the time. And giraffes had not played any role in my life up to that point. So the dream also held an answer for me in this regard.

Why am I telling you all of this? Our subconscious, or unconscious mind, processes more knowledge than our rational mind, and we just need to listen to these processes. This is something we can learn. And visualization – like dreams for me – opens the doors to them.

This is also the reason why I allowed myself to spend the generous bonus a client had given me for my good work on what I considered a luxury: having a painter paint my giraffe dream in my favorite color, green, on a 1.5 by 2-meter canvas. This work of art has been hanging across from my desk ever since. And whenever things get a little bumpy in my life or when important decisions need to be taken, I find myself “lost in thought” staring at the canvas, trying to come up with an answer or a solution.

And now you know why I always end my blog posts – including this one – with the following heartfelt words:

Go for it, 

Your Crisis Manager

Anke Stein Die Krisenmanagerin

As a child, whenever I felt annoyed by other people, my grandmother would respond with a wise and heartfelt saying: “The oak tree doesn’t mind if a wild sow scratches its back on it, does it?”

Do you know this saying? It comes from a novel by the German writer Walter Kempowski and has entered the German language as a proverb.

Ultimately, it means that we shouldn’t mind if other people try to annoy us or rub up against us.

Maybe this kind of thought has crossed your mind before, too. Either in a personal or professional context. Did it help you deal with the situation? Well, it certainly helped me.

After all, it expresses a sense of self-confidence and composure, and I’m sure that’s exactly what my grandmother wanted to convey: “Don’t get mad”; “Don’t let it get at you”, etc. 

If felt regularly and if it comes from conviction, this kind of saying – and many others – can form a mindset or firm belief in us. Both mindsets and beliefs are building blocks of our individual attitudes and thus grow into an integral part of our subconscious processes. This means that we instinctively act upon them when we feel triggered. In such situations, we typically operate on autopilot, and thus they are not directly or consciously controlled by us.

Why am I telling you this?

The dose makes the poison. In other words: There are two sides to every coin.

While the saying is meant to help us deal with certain situations more confidently and morel calmly, it can swing exactly in the opposite direction if used too often, with the “wrong goal” or even if the stimulus threshold is simply too low. After all, the phrase, “The oak tree doesn’t mind if a wild sow scratches its back on it” could also be interpreted as an expression of arrogance and ignorance.

Is that what you want?

With this, let me wish you inspiring thought processes.

Go for it,

Your crisis manager

Kommunikatives Arbeiten im Online-Setting: Teil 4

Hello to you and all the best for a happy and healthy 2022!

And of course, let me also welcome you to part four of our “Good communication in an online setting” blog series. This time, I’d once again like to address some of the special aspects of the various communication levels – tonal and non-verbal, gestures and facial expression.

I’ve also added a small exercise for you – I invite you to go ahead and give it a try. Let me know how it works out for you!

Nonverbal communication

Facial expression:

It’s helpful for the speaker to have a friendly facial expression. An open smile at the beginning establishes a connection with the audience. Even if it isn’t 100% heartfelt at the beginning, as soon as a friendly person smiles back – and this is guaranteed to happen! – you’ll have created a bridge between yourself and the audience and a connection will have been made. A smile, however, shouldn’t grow into a permanent grin.

Eye contact:

Eye contact simply cannot be overestimated – it engages the audience. By making good eye contact, you as a speaker will come across as confident and believable. Eye contact shows appreciation and helps the audience to feel seen as individuals. In addition, as a speaker, you’ll only be able to understand the nonverbal response of the other person if you have them in your sight. What’s more, by making eye contact, you’re virtually “commanding” the listener’s attention.

Yet, make sure you don’t stare too strongly at anyone, as this may unnerve the person you’re looking at. Similarly, avoid letting your eyes flit back and forth too much between people as this conveys insecurity rather than truly taking in the person you’re talking to.  


Gestures are part of our normal conversational behavior, which is why it would be downright unnatural to suppress them during video conferences!

Gestures should underline what is being said, not counter it. Between gestures, your hands should return to a resting position – otherwise, the use of hands and arms may quickly come across as “flailing about” and distract from, instead of emphasize, the content.


If possible, stand up during video conferences. Standing up gives you much more control over what is happening; simply by being upright, you’re giving your appearance more impact. Don’t shift your weight from one foot to the other, as this easily looks like “rocking” and tends to make the audience nervous or distract them from what’s being said.

Taking a small step towards the “audience” or video camera can underline what you’re saying. However, you shouldn’t constantly be striding forward and backward, as this also can come across as quite restless and distracting.

Tonal communication


Your most important tool when it comes to speaking is your voice! And like any tool, it needs to be well looked after and not used carelessly. The cornerstone of your voice is your breath, which naturally accompanies us every day and occurs automatically.

We can also intentionally use our breath to make our voice stronger – and to get any nervousness under control, because if you’re breathing calmly, you can’t be agitated.

Exercise “Conscious abdominal breathing”

A regular breathing pattern calms your body down. That’s why it’s important, in everyday life, to pay attention to breathing slowly and consciously into your abdomen. Get used to a counting rhythm. Slowly count to four as you inhale and then again slowly count to four as you exhale.

Lie or sit down comfortably. Place both palms on your abdominal wall. Your middle fingers may touch each other lightly. Now direct your attention inward, to your body. Close your eyes and take notice of your body from the inside out: your body, your back, your arms, your hands, your legs, your feet. Now direct your attention to your breath. Consciously observe the inflow and outflow of your breath. When you inhale, the abdominal wall rises; when you exhale, it lowers again. Your middle fingers come apart as you inhale and touch again as you exhale. Imagine a balloon. When you inhale, the balloon inflates, growing bigger and bigger; when you exhale, it collapses completely. Let your breath flow naturally. Just pay attention to how your belly rises when you inhale and falls when you exhale. Let any thoughts that distract you slowly pass by, like clouds in the sky. Again and again, turn your attention to your abdominal wall (for around two minutes). After the next exhalation, turn your attention outward again. Clench your hands into fists and stretch.

“Resting breath” exercise

“Resting breathing” is an excellent way to calm down in acute stress situations. You can use it before any challenge, before unpleasant confrontations or in the case of stage fright – and you can also use it if you’re experiencing an acute panic attack. Repeat the exercise until you feel a definite improvement.

No matter what, you will notice an improvement. Nervousness or agitation will decrease because no new energy is supplied when you’re hold your breath and therefore, you’ll have to rely on the surplus energy in your body. It’s important for you not to hold your breath after you inhale – otherwise, you may risk a headache.

Inhale and exhale deeply. After you exhale, hold your breath and start counting slowly from one to six or to ten.

Now breathe deeply in and out again. Repeat this breathing exercise for 2 to 3 minutes or until you feel definitely more relaxed and calmer.

Good actors “lubricate” their voice before every performance. Voice exercises can be very helpful for keeping your voice in a good, strong state, especially if you have a great deal of speaking to do. Exercises can help to make your voice richer, both when you’re preparing for a performance and during breaks when you’re carrying out online mediation (and by the way, it’s equally helpful for in-person events). This in turn clearly leads to a sense of calm and a slower pace, making listening easier and, at the same time, contributing to greater confidence.

Volume, speed and intonation

A change in volume, speed and intonation makes the content you deliver more lively. Speaking too softly not only makes the experience tiring for listeners, but also conveys an impression of insecurity and makes listeners impatient.

When excited, some of us speak faster than necessary or are afraid of not getting all the important points delivered in the time we have, thereby rushing through all we have to say. In such a case, less would be more!

Speed as such is not the problem if articulation is clear and you insert pauses – make sure to pay attention to those aspects!

Remember: You know what you’re talking about, but the listeners must understand it first, so meaningful pauses are necessary for a good understanding of what is being said and as a breather for the listeners.


Overall, online mediation works very well. It is comparable to face-to-face mediation. Yet, it’s important not to lose your head and, above all, not to focus on the limitations of online meetings, i.e., those things you believe would work better in person than online. This sentiment becomes immediately evident for participants and makes you looks awkward, unprofessional and not very trustworthy. It is always better to be oriented toward solutions instead of problems.

Of course, not every mediation is suitable for online work. This is the case, for example, when a mediation requires a high degree of confidentiality. The risk of the other side taking a screenshot of shared documents cannot be prevented and can only be ensured by contract.

Above all, enjoy the process, enjoy the technology if you can, approach the process with curiosity, and keep learning about communication (especially non-verbal communication).

Many of our mediators have greatly improved their technical skills because of the pandemic and by now are as familiar with this type of the mediation as with in-person mediation processes.

Good luck to you! And if you have any questions, feel free to contact us any time.

Go for it.

Your crisis manager

Part 2 of my “Mediation as an example of online crisis communication—can it work?” is intended to give you an overview of the various issues you’ll need to take into account when holding video conferences, and thus communicating, in online settings. Special attention will be given to the implementation of online mediations.

I’ll present the similarities and differences between an in-person and on-line mediation appointment along with other relevant aspects. I’ll also provide tips regarding the required technology and share some of my own experiences.

If you’re looking to gain more in-depth insight into various aspects, I encourage you to consult secondary literature, such as on the following topics:

  • communication (general)
  • non-verbal communication
  • questioning techniques
  • webinar tools (to improve focus and concentration)
  • voice
  • mediation (general)

Initial considerations

As a starting point for our considerations, a mediation must be planned and carried out according to the following basic structure:

  1. Making contact
  2. Preparation
  3. Initial meeting
  4. Collection of topics
  5. Identification of interests
  6. Solution
  7. Final agreement

For the purpose of this blog, we’ll assume that the content and objectives of each phase are known.

The phases

If you consider the various phases, it very quickly becomes clear that, in principal, they can all be carried out online. None of the phases requires an in-person meeting of the participants. Thus, the given order and structure for both the on-line and in-person process remains the same.

At its core, successful cooperation depends on the basic attitude of all participants (openness, willingness to participate and find a solution, etc.) as well as the professional expertise of the mediator, including their communication skills (active listening, questioning techniques, etc.), trust-building ability, intuition, empathy, structural knowledge, etc.  All of these aspects are, at first glance, independent of an in-person or online format and can thus be applied in either case.

It’s a fact, however, that the mediator must take into account a few important points when conducting the mediation online. Let’s look at those aspects in more detail now.


As early as when making the initial contact, the mediator should consider whether the conflict case is suitable for online mediation in the first place, and whether the conflict parties are technologically able, and mentally ready, for online mediation. Do they have the right attitude?

From a technology standpoint, the following video conferencing tools for conducting team meetings, discussions, workshops and mediations have established themselves in the market:

  1. GoToMeeting
  2. FastViewer
  3. TeamViewer
  4. Cisco Webex
  5. ZOOM
  6. Microsoft Teams
  7. Adobe Connect Meetings
  8. Skype
  9. Jitsi Meet
  10. 10. Etc.

Others certainly exist as well, but these are the providers most commonly used by our clients.

The user requirements will differ depending on the software provider that’s used. For example, some video-conferencing software is browser-based and requires neither installation nor a login from the participants, while other tools are part of a software package that requires a download and sometimes also some familiarization efforts.

When selecting or deciding on the most suitable option for your case, the following aspects may be relevant:

– Hardware: smartphone or desktop computer

– Internet access (via WLAN) or dial-up number obtained in advance

– Camera (smartphone camera or webcam)

– Possibility of playing back sound (loudspeaker or headphones)

Some important points to look for in the functional range for conducting an online mediation include:

  • High-definition or low-resolution video quality
  • Maximum number of potential participants
  • Screen sharing feature
  • Ability to collaborate on documents (e.g., whiteboard)
  • Data encryption
  • Price and contract commitment

I personally prefer ZOOM for mediation processes. The big advantage of ZOOM is that meetings can be easily synchronized with your calendar. The video conferences can be recorded locally or to the cloud (caution!) and screens of several participants can be shared at the same time, which makes collaboration in mediations even more flexible.

With this provider, participants can even easily join via their smartphone and comment in the ZOOM chat, brainstorm on a whiteboard and share files. 

In a nutshell, ZOOM has what mediators need: A good overview, multiple participant/camera settings at a glance, breakout rooms that can be set up spontaneously without prior preparation and that the mediator can visit and leave again as needed, as well as waiting rooms. What’s more, there’s a chat function and the possibility for each participant in the session to share documents on their screen. ZOOM is also largely self-explanatory.

Zoom can be tried out as a free demo and can be purchased for just under 14 euros per month. This makes the respective certificate inexpensive and affordable. Clients don’t have to download it themselves in order to participate, and they don’t incur any costs of their own.

Of course, for the course and success of the mediation, it’s crucial for the technical hardware of our mediators to offer the possibility of video and audio (it’s actually happened to me that someone wanted to participate in an online mediation without their computer having video and audio capabilities!). 

Of course, as mentioned above, a participant can also connect with a smartphone, in principle, but participation is severely restricted by the small screen. For example, the participant can only see one video of another participant at a time. Participating by phone is therefore not advisable, at least within the context of mediation.

When it comes to technology, a stable Wi-Fi connection must also be enabled. There’s nothing worse in a mediation session than when the internet connection repeatedly breaks down, thus making it impossible to have an uninterrupted conversation. For this reason, it’s sometimes even better to use a LAN connection.

In addition to these hardware and software requirements, the participants should also be open to using technology in the first place. It makes no sense to try this if one party is computer-shy or simply feels uncomfortable in front of a screen. Yet at the same time, one of the great advantages of online mediation is precisely that it creates physical distance between the conflict parties, allowing each participant to remain in their personal space of comfort instead of having to show up in a strange office or meeting room. This circumstance can increase the participants’ sense of well-being by providing them with a sense of personal safety – which can greatly facilitate the mediation process.

In any case, during the preparation phase, both the technical side and the personal attitude of the conflicting parties toward online mediation should be examined.

In principle, the ZOOM whiteboard can be used to collect topics, interests and solutions, but, from my perspective, it offers too few options. The points that are noted cannot be moved and changing font colors and sizes isn’t user-friendly. I therefore recommend the following tools:

  • Conceptboard
  • Miro
  • Mural

Conceptboard is worth highlighting in that it’s a German platform that’s EU GDPR-compliant. Thus, it increases trust in data protection and confidentiality on the one hand, while also meeting the needs and preferences of the German-speaking world on the other.

Of course, 

  • Word
  • PowerPoint

can also be used for collecting points via screen sharing. Yet only the mediator can write them down and change them. All documents can be easily uploaded later with Conceptboard, for example.

ZOOM also offers a function for mood queries. Alternatively, Mentimeter can be used free of charge.

With this, let me conclude my December blog. I look forward to your comments and questions as well as your experiences. Let’s learn from each other! After all, mediation lives from communication ;-)

I’ll post my next blog entry in January 2022 and look forward to you welcoming you here again then.

Go for it!

Your crisis manager Anke