Ever meet someone you instantly know is a force of nature and will be a great friend forever? I met Vickie Pynchon –attorney, mediator and arbitrator, partner in the She Negotiates Consulting and Training firm, prolific Forbes.com blogger, and author of A is for A**hole: the Grownups’ ABC’s of Conflict Resolution–during the worst icy snowstorm I’ve ever witnessed in New York City.
I’d blown off a chance to meet the new head of the UN Population Fund because that would have required me to taxi crosstown, thus taking my life in my hands. But a West Side subway ride to a book party to which I’d been invited by work-life balance expert Judith Martin was doable, and if Judy said I should meet Vickie, then clearly I should brave the elements to do so.
Only a few hardy souls showed up, not surprisingly. As a result, I got to talk at length with Vickie, who generously lauded No Excuses more than she talked up her own exceptionally readable and useful book. She allowed as how she was a born again feminist with a passion to help the world find alternatives to traditional means of resolving disputes she sees as unhealthy:
I knew lawyers didn’t know how to negotiate because I didn’t and I’d worked with hundreds of lawyers above, below and against me for 25 years. All we knew how to do was to escalate conflict. We were warriors, not peacemakers. We wanted to WIN, not expand someone’s ridiculous pie. As Conan the Barbarian said – we wanted to “crush our enemies, see them driven before us, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”
As her cases grew larger and touched more on public policy (whether her client Lloyds of London, for instance, would reimburse Exxon for $250 million in environmental clean up costs) the delay and waste of capital and human resources in the litigated resolution of dispute became harder for Vickie to ignore. She took a course in mediating and was immediately sold on the negotiated resolution “because it delivers the problem back to the parties while at the same time encouraging them to and supporting them in the creation solution that is better for both of them than either winning or losing a lawsuit would be. The mediated resolution of disputes is critical to our survival on a warming and increasingly over-populated planet.”
She came to be a partner in She Negotiates soon after that.
A group of executive health care women called me out of the blue and asked me to train their members at their annual retreat. THEY were SO EXCITED to learn how to negotiate, they were clinging to me all weekend. I thought, “wow! this is the audience I want.” Then Lisa Gates [partner in She Negotiates] called & asked me to be an “expert” trainer in her learning/journaling community and the rest is herstory.
What I now do for a living empowers people to collaboratively create innovative solutions to what otherwise would be intractable problems creating guilt-ridden “winners” and bitter “losers.” And you know what bitter losers do. They tend to wage war on the winners.
She speaks passionately about helping people “move past their limitations, answer to their higher angels and free up their energy for more productive and collaborative activity.”
Of course I had to ask her if any of the power tools in No Excuses is particularly useful to her, and she cited one of my favorites: “embrace controversy.”
“That’s what I do for a living now,” she observed. “I neither hide from conflict nor seek to needlessly foment it. You might think trial attorneys like conflict but really we’re big conflict sissies. We address the Judge or jury in court, barely casting a glance in our adversary’s direction.”
Now, Vickie says with a smile, “I’m no longer in the win-lose, bomb them back to the stone age business. I’m in a ‘power with’ or as you call it, a ‘power to’ business. I’m helping people – particularly women – have the courage to speak up and encourage others to exercise power with them. I help people use controversy as an entry-way to a deeper dialogue about values, needs, fears and desires – the deeper reasons why we take black-white positions in a world of ambiguity.”
She Negotiates is about to take its training to the next step with its first ever Leadership Retreat where a small group of women will create their own personal strategic plans for eliminating their wage gaps and achieving their leadership goals. Full disclosure, I’ll be there with my No Excuses Power Tools, keynoting and helping facilitate the revolution.
Vickie’s book is another power tool women need. Aside from the catchy title, it’s packed with usable techniques for getting through our days without smacking or suing other people. She finds that people who read A Is for A**hole immediately get the reality that, “We cannot drill a hole in the other guy’s side of the boat without sinking our own.”
She shares her deepest gratification: “People who have told me that my book was important to them reflect back what I’ve wanted the world to look like since I was seven or eight years old living in a somewhat disastrously violent family.
“When someone tells me that my book has enabled people to communicate across red-blue divides, take responsibility for their own part in a family dispute or reconcile with a neighbor they haven’t spoken to for years,” declares Vickie, “that’s the best reward.”
I’m over-the-top excited to be speaking at the She Negotiates Retreat, Thursday, June 30, 8:30 am -9:30 pm at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in beautiful Santa Barbara CA. Register here now and join some amazing women for a breakthrough event!