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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

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Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month for June 2018: Marc Alain Boucicault

Congratulations to Marc Alain Boucicault, the Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month for June 2018.

Chosen by our readers, Marc is based in Haiti where he founded a tech incubator to not only foster entrepreneurship in the country but to fundamentally change the economy. You can read the full profile for Marc in this Forbes piece. You can watch or listen to the interview I did with Marc in May in the players below.

Marc, just 30 years old, is an economist who previously worked at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. He was a Fulbright Scholar. During his time at the World Bank, he often thought to himself that if he had an opportunity to do something more impactful for the people of Haiti he would do it.

Headshot of a man

Marc Alain Boucicault

Finally, he hit upon the strategy of helping tech entrepreneurs, believing that they, in turn, could help every other industry in the country to become more globally competitive, helping the country to narrow its punishing balance of trade. He launched his incubator, called Banj, with a big tech conference that included representatives from both Google and Facebook.

Right out of the gate, Marc is having impact. We congratulate him on this recognition and for his success in Haiti.

As the winner, Marc will receive an autographed copy of my book, Your Mark on the World, and ten lifetime, all-access passes to the GoodCrowd.school.

You Choose! Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month – June 2018

Every month, I host a group of amazing people on my show. Each one inspires me more than the last. In May, we produced 13 episodes of the show, including corporate titans working for social impact to grassroots actors engaged in the effort to make a difference on the ground.

You get to choose the Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month for June 2018 by voting below. The winner will receive an autographed copy of my book, Your Mark on the World, along with ten lifetime passes to my GoodCrowd.School (worth $2,500) where I share training on a variety of topics for social entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, impact investors and philanthropists.

Be sure to scroll within the frame below to see all of the candidates.


Your Mark on the World Changemakers of the Month for May 2018: NanaEfua Baidoo Afoh-Manin and Briana DeCuir

Congratulations to NanaEfua Baidoo Afoh-Manin and Briana DeCuir for being selected by Your Mark on the World readers as the Changemakers of the Month for May 2018. Both medical doctors, they are co-founders of the Shared Harvest Fund, which has developed a new model for helping graduates pay off their student loans.

We first told their story on Forbes. NanaEfua and Briana were joined in the founding group by a third African American medical doctor, Joanne Moreau.


The Shared Harvest Fund works like this: “debtfreelancers” who are people with student loans willing to volunteer for nonprofits find those opportunities on the Shared Harvest Fund Social Impact Job Board. Both the nonprofit and the debtfreelancers pay modest subscription fees to the Shared Harvest Fund. Additionally, sponsors and donors contribute to the fund. The funds pay down the student loans of the debtfreelancers.

The Shared Harvest Fund is raising money on Indiegogo to expand the number of people they can help from the first day. The Fund will be launched on June 19, 2018, Juneteenth, marking the celebration of the end of slavery in America.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Vote Now! Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month – May 2018

Each month, I interview a group of amazing people, profiling them and the work they do to make the world a better place. Now, we’re asking you, our readers, to choose the Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month for May 2018. Below, is a simple ballot you can review with links to the articles about and interviews I conducted with each of these people working to make the world a better place.

The winner will receive an autographed copy of my book, Your Mark on the World, along with ten lifetime passes to my GoodCrowd.School (worth $2,500) where I share training on a variety of topics for social entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, impact investors and philanthropists.

Be sure to scroll within the frame below to see all of the candidates.

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Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month for April 2018: Stephanie Bowers of Jake’s Diapers

Congratulations to Stephanie Bowers of Jake’s Diapers for becoming the reader’s pick for Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month for April 2018!

Stephanie joined me for a discussion about her 25 successful crowdfunding campaign on CaringCrowd (a Your Mark on the World sponsor). We originally shared her story on GoodCrowd.info.

Stephanie shared some of the secrets for her crowdfunding success. First, she noted that one key is the need to ask for what you need. No one is likely to give you what you want if you don’t ask. Her second key: persistence.

Her organization, Jake’s Diapers, provides diapers to mothers of babies and to seniors who need them, in the developing world. She notes that buying disposable diapers can require an impossible portion of a family’s income, sometimes forcing mothers to reuse disposable diapers. This practice jeopardizes the health of the babies who wear them. Jake’s Diapers provides diapers to people who are currently forced to choose between diapers and food.

A woman with several babies

Stephanie Bowers, Jake’s Diapers

Stephanie shared her story:

Stephanie Bowers believes no caregiver, near or far, should ever have to choose between food and diapers. In January of 2011, her life was changed forever when she found herself on a mission trip to Pachacutec, Peru. While there, she visited a childcare facility where she saw caregivers who loved the children very much, and were re-using disposable diapers because they had to choose between food & diapers. Inspired to help just those 15 babies, Jake’s Diapers has now impacted more than 7,000 lives in 20 countries.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes or Google Play.

The episode on which we shared her story was sponsored by CaringCrowd, which is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Vote Now! Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month

Each month, I interview a group of amazing people, profiling them and the work they do to make the world a better place. This month, we’re going to try something new. We’re asking you, our readers, to choose the Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month. Below, is a simple ballot you can review with links to the articles about and interviews I conducted with each of these people working to make the world a better place.

The winner will receive an autographed copy of my book, Your Mark on the World, along with a lifetime pass to my GoodCrowd.School where I share training on a variety of topics for social entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, impact investors and philanthropists.

Be sure to scroll within the frame below to see all of the candidates.


Specific Responses to the Question: How Will You Increase Your Impact in 2018?

To kick off the year with some powerful inspiration, I asked some successful social entrepreneurs and others in the impact community, to answer a simple question: “How will you increase your impact in 2018?”

The answers fell naturally into two groups. The first group were broadly relevant answers that almost any social entrepreneur could mimic. The second group were more specific, based on their particular mission. The first list I published on Forbes here. The second cohort of responses, equally inspiring, are listed below in alphabetical order by respondent.

Adlai Wertman, David. C. Bohnett Professor of Social Entrepreneurship of USC Marshall Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab:

“I review our programs each year to ensure full alignment with our mission statement.”

Adlai Wertman

Adlai Wertman

Alan Naumann, sales manager of Rocky Mountain Renewable Energy:

I will increase collaboration with Native Americans.  I want to support Native American voices, political power and Co management of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, in particular!

Amory Lovins, co-founder and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute:

Having proven that optimizing vehicles, buildings, factories, and equipment as whole systems can make very big energy savings very cheap (expanding returns), I aim to figure out how to turn such “integrative design” from rare to common.

Amy Cortese, Author, founder of Locavesting of Locavesting (also inevstibule):

More collaboration. We’re stronger together. I’m encouraged by the many efforts to join up disparate initiatives in 2018.

Andreas Karelas, executive director of RE-volv:

One person, truly empowered, can make a real difference. RE-volv’s 2018 goal is to empower scores of people with the tools they need to lead the clean energy revolution, starting in their communities.

Arlene Samen, founder of One Heart World Wide:

Our model “The Network of Safety” will be open sourced so others can save the lives of women in childbirth.

Arlene Samen

Billy Starr, founder and executive director of Pan-Mass Challenge:

We will grow every aspect of our cycling weekend which currently has 6,000 cyclists, 12 routes and 315,000 donors to cancer research. Our growth strategy also includes a winter indoor cycle event.

Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.org:

We’ll explore ways to strengthen the connection between our teachers and the donors and organizations that give on DonorsChoose.org, in order to grow our community of passionate education supporters.

Dallas Graham, publisher and executive director of Red Fred Project:

Creating a toolkit for local professionals so they can assist in the effort of making more books with more children.

Daryl Hatton, CEO of FundRazr:

We are expanding our suite of digital fundraising power tools to help our professional fundraising customers do an ever-better job of engaging their communities and communicating their impact.

David D’Angelo, marketing director of Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden :

We will launch a revenue generating, social impact fellowship program, manage our new permaculture project, and develop a new international festival called “Voyages” to develop tourism in Laos.

Howard Leonhardt , executive chairman of Leonhardt’s Launchpads (with whom I have a business relationship):

Will work to complete development of a whole body organ regeneration chamber designed to regenerate humans to live 30 years longer with high quality of life.

Jack Griffin, founder of FoodFinder:

For issues like poverty and hunger, we may never truly win the war. But in 2018, I will do everything I can to move the needle on food insecurity since helping even a single life is worth it.  

Jack Griffin

Jason S. Trager, Ph.D., managing partner of Sustainabilist:

We’re using data-driven content marketing to reach more clients for our process improvement and quality assurance work in sustainability.

Jenny Kassan, owner of Jenny Kassan Consulting:

I will get more mission-driven female entrepreneurs funded by investors that love and support them.

Jill Vialet, CEO and founder of Playworks:

We’re giving away our secret sauce, enabling partners and educators to make play more safe and healthy in order to reach 1mm kids in 2000 schools this year

Kathryn Pisco, founder and CEO of Unearth the World:

We will increase our impact by planning transformative skills-based volunteer abroad programs for socially-minded companies. We will grow our local volunteer initiatives to catalyze change in the US!

Laura Callanan, founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab:

With a pipeline of more than $1.5 billion in opportunities over the next five years, the time has come to borrow from the lessons of gender lens investing and introduce a Creativity Lens to impact investing.

Laura Callanan, courtesy of Upstart Co-Lab

Laura Lemle, PhD., founder and chairperson of The NVLD Project:

In 2018 we will be increasing our presence on social media by working directly with people who have NVLD to spread awareness about the disability.

Laurie Lane-Zucker, founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur (Center, LLC, Network):

Our global network is active around blockchain and cryptocurrencies. I joined the Impact Token Project as Advisor and am looking at integrating blockchain as an operating system in our projects.

Marisa de Belloy, CEO of Cool Effect:

We’ll be launching a campaign to show people, for the first time ever, carbon emissions. When you can see the problem, you can fight it!

Melody Saunders Brenna, CEO Founder of Reef Life Restoration NanoScience:

Reduce manufacturing impact by inclusion of industrial waste. RLR advanced nano materials bring higher strengths using less cement/sand. Encapsulation of plastic/refuse = dual purpose CLEAN profits.

Nancy Hughes, president and founder of StoveTeam International:

I will be raising awareness of the dangers of open fire cooking

Nissan Bahar, co-founder of Bitwalking:

Build a currency only for the purpose of making life better, believing in the irreducible value of every human being.

Nissan Bahar and Franking Imbesi with a student in Africa, courtesy of Keepod

Pat Walsh, co-founder and chief impact officer of Classy:

Mobilize our employees to make a greater impact through philanthropy, and leverage our product and data to enable nonprofits to be transparent and communicate their impact with the world.

Peter Fusaro, EVP of 41 North Securities:

We are helping companies obtain capital to accelerate solutions in sustainability in clean energy, clean water and sustainable agriculture. That impacts the environment and reduces greenhouse gases.

Rahel, managing director of Afrolehar:

In 2018, we will be producing more multimedia content in addition to implementing our technology solutions to facilitate trade of added–value products between Africa and North America.

Rebecca Firth, community and partnerships manager of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team:

Help anyone, anywhere contribute to development through making really complicated things really simple through apps.

Ryan Scott, CEO and founder of ICO Advisory Group:

Create a pipeline for new cryptocurrency offerings to give back to charity both as donation during their ICOs, and with their ongoing operations.

Shane DeRolf, Founder & CEO of Big Word Club:

Big Word Club is committed to closing the Word Gap in America.  In 2018,  we are seeking to prove the efficacy of BWC in a randomized control trial funded by J-PAL, a leading research center at MIT.

Siddharth Chatterjee, resident coordinator to Kenya of United Nations:

We will partner with private sector, civil society, faith-based organizations to support Government of Kenya’s efforts to leapfrog Universal Health Coverage. #UHC=Defeating poverty =Economic prosperity = #SDG 3 & 1.

Wendy Lipton-Dibner

Wendy Lipton-Dibner, president of Professional Impact, Inc.:

Launching business number 11, dedicated to finding, funding, & fostering hidden difference-makers so they can make the impact they were born to bring the world without giving up their lives to make it happen.

Never miss another feature! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Turning Over an Old Leaf Ends 3-Year Run Without a Car

Its over. Its been more than three years that Gail and I have lived without owning a car. When we sold the car, I wrote about our plans in what became one of my most popular and memorable Forbes articles. When I meet people for the first time, it is the most commonly mentioned article. Last week, we bought a car.

While I still dont have a commute, my mother recently moved across town and visiting her in her new home requires a $25 Uber rideeach wayor a 90-minute public transit trip followed by a mile walk. Not wishing to disappoint her, we determined that this was a bridge too far for our auto-less lifestyle, so we bought one. More about that here in a bit.

green leaf on a white

With the benefit of three more years of experience, let me update you on what worksand what doesntin the world without a car. Ill work from my original list of twelve things that allowed me to live without a car.

  1. com. There is no question that we have become more delightedly dependent on Amazon.com over the past three yearswho hasnt. It made not owning a car easier.
  2. Living downtown, we really have walked routinely to do errands others drive to do, especially shopping. We live a short walk from a shopping mall and just another block from the nearest grocery store. Comfortable walks all-in-all.
  3. Light rail. Weve logged a lot of miles on light rail here in Salt Lake. It generally runs on time, its affordable and not much slower than drivingso long as your destination is a light rail station.
  4. Commuter rail. We have regularly usedand will continue to usethe rail line that runs about 100 miles from Ogden to Provo along the Wasatch Front. Roomy, comfortable, quick and far cheaper than driving an internal combustion engine car, it is hard to beat.
  5. Bike share. I used the bike share for two years but then canceled my membership. I found that walking is better exercise and I seldom used the bikes. Im hoping that the cheaper, rack-free rental bikes will come to Salt Lake City.
  6. Over the past three years, Ive taken a lot of buses. In many ways, I love them. Real people ride the bus. The reality, however, is that buses move through town at a rate just faster than I can run. With their frequent stops, they run at less than half the speed of an automobile. For long trips, that gets frustrating.
  7. I used Lyft often enough to figure out that the app has an algorithm for estimating the arrival time of a ride that seems to average about one-half of the actual time required for a ride to come. Otherwise, the experience is virtually identical to Uber.
  8. Uber (and Lyft) are really what make not owning a car possible. There are so many times and places that public transit wont go where you want when you want that without Uber I would have needed a car.
  9. Apart from out-of-town travel, I havent used a taxi since just before writing the Forbes article more than three years ago.
  10. Car sharing. Enterprise operated a car-share program in Salt Lake City. I subscribed and used the service about once-per month at first. Over time, my experience was disappointing. If the car wasnt where it was supposed to besay because the last user couldnt return it to its proper place because some jerk had parked there illegallyId end up late for a meeting. Ill spare you the story of Christmas 2015, but I only used the service once after that. Enterprise recently closed the program and, to my knowledge, no one else is operating one in Salt Lake.
  11. I have become more dependent on my local Avis. Located right on my block, Ive been renting a car there an average of more than two days per month. I maintain liability insurance and always use a credit card that provides coverage for the rented car. Even before selling my car, Id often rent a car from Avis for road trips. Better to put 1,200 miles on an Avis car than my own! Im sure I will do so in the future, too.
  12. During our three years without a car, we were frequent beneficiaries of kindnesses of all sorts. To all our friends, we love and appreciate your help and support.

So, we broke down and bought a 2012 Nissan Leaf. This is an all-electric car unlike a Toyota Prius that has both an electric motor and a traditional internal combustion engine to share the work.

The car has rather limited utility. The original range of the car was about 80 miles. That has declined to about 50 miles over the years. Ive described it as having a car with a one-gallon gas tank, that needs a rare form of gasoline that takes a long time to fill the little tank.

You see, with a range of 50 miles and a need for cushion, given that you dont always know how quickly you can find a place to plug in, you can only go about 40 miles. Thats 20 miles out and 20 miles back. Thats my new life.

The best news: it takes barely more than $1 of electricity to fill the little tank.

That limited range means public transit, Uber/Lyft and Avis will still be a part of my life. So, too, will explaining to friends why I need to plug my car in at their houses if they ever want me to leave!

Of course, I didnt buy this car because it was so utilitarian. I bought it because it is environmentally friendly. Let me answer a key question that may have already come to your mind.

NARA, JAPAN – NOVEMBER 23, 2016: Nissan Leaf electric car charging at a station in Nara, Japan.

“Arent you just moving from oil to coal to power your car?” The simple answer is no. Let me explain.

  1. Even though Rocky Mountain Power still produces most of its power from coal, that mix is changing to include more wind and solar all the time. I participate in Rocky Mountain Powers Blue Sky program, where I pay extra each month to help fund the transition to renewable energy. I also buy carbon credits monthly from CoolEffect.com. (You should, too.)
  2. Electric motors are so much more efficient than internal combustion engines (ICEs) that my car is about three times as efficient as a typical ICE car. Even if much of the power for the car comes from coal, it is about two-thirds less damaging to the environment.
  3. To the extent that coal is powering my car, that coal plant isnt contributing to air pollution in the city where I live. Additionally, the plant can be equipped with more filters and cleaners than a vehicle tailpipe to remove toxic emissions.
  4. By switching from Uber/Lyft to Leaf, given that Ive never had a ride in an all-electric vehicle, I am dramatically decreasing my contribution to pollution and global warming.

So, Im turning over an old Leaf, ending my three-year experiment on life without a car and looking forward to one day owning a Tesla.

Hiroshima Survivor Has a Message for Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un: ‘No More Hiroshima’

Toshiharu Kano, 71, was born seven months after the United States dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Pregnant with Kano and living less than 1 kilometer or about half a mile from the center of the blast, his mother Shizzue Neomoto miraculously survived. She took her two children to a nearby military base. His brother, just 18 months old, died within 60 days of the bombing.

As a survivor, Kano endured a variety of physical challenges. His immune system was impaired and got mumps seven times. Labeled by society as defective, Kano and his family were spurned. By age ten, he felt so rejected that he seriously contemplated suicide. He was repeatedly told he was damaged goods.

Ultimately, Kano and his family immigrated to the United States. Here in the U.S., Kano thrived. He says he’s missed only 10 days of work or school in the past 47 years. He attended the University of Utah and earned a BS in mechanical engineering.

Kano married and had one son. His son was born healthy and at 6′ 1″, towers over his father. He recalls seeing an x-ray of his son just hours before he was delivered by cesarian section. He counted all of the fingers and toes and relaxed when he realized that they were all there.

Kano’s sister, never fully recovering from the jeers of her youth, chose never to marry or have children.

The picture was taken by Charles Levy from one of the B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack.

Kano notes that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a mere “toy” compared with modern nuclear weapons. Still, the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed about 100,000 people. The bomb packed the punch of 15 kilotons of TNT.

By comparison, the largest bomb ever detonated was built by the USSR and had the equivalent of 50,000 kilotons or 50 megatons of TNT, about 3,000 times more powerful than Little Boy.

In his book, Passport to Hiroshima, Kano says, “I have a message from God to tell all of the world leaders that we cannot use the nuclear weapons to settle their differences ever again.”

He told me, the message is simple. “No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki.”

Kano’s bio:

Toshiharu Kano was not yet born when the blast occurred high above Hiroshima. His sister, brother and mother (who was pregnant, still to give birth to him) were in town and within one half mile from the Hypocenter of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. As stated in his book, Passport to Hiroshima, “(they) miraculously survived the concussion force of the nuclear winds and the ensuing firestorm.” Toshiharu was born seven months later in March, 1946 at just over 3 lbs. Having survived the early immune deficiencies in childhood, he came to America, graduated from the University of Utah and made a successful career as a Civil Engineer. Tosh retired in 1999, but continues to work as a Civil Engineering Consultant to Holladay City, Taylorsville City and Cottonwood Heights City.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

How to Promote Your Cause Without Provoking Your Friends

Recently the Pew Research Center published a report showing that Americans are more politically divided than any time since they started tracking such data in 1994. Our country has survived greater divisions than we now see: abortion, civil rights, slavery, and federalism.

Increasingly, at least anecdotally, it appears that people are fed up with divisions and conflict. At some level both liberals and conservatives find themselves wanting to check out. My readers challenged me to write this article to find a path forward.

Tempting as it may be to check out, the things that divide Americans are important issues. Gun safety is a critical issue with 35,000 people dying from gun deaths every year. Those on the left would like to reduce the availability of guns. Those on the right see more guns as the key to safety. That’s a pretty big disagreement on a topic that matters.

Climate change threatens to destabilize the planet while some continue to argue that it isn’t anthropogenic or even that it isn’t happening at all. And this issue doesn’t just impact America; what we do here impacts the entire planet. We need a process by which we can talk about this without completely talking past one another.

The social safety net helps millions of Americans avoid death, despair or homelessness each year but millions of others slip through the cracks. One sure way to avoid finding solutions is to not talk about the problems.

To figure out how we can have a productive discussion that respects people more than policies I had to ask experts because I’m not good at this. I’m as prone to getting emotional as anyone else but like my readers, I want to find a way to have these conversations constructively.

Cheryl Snapp Conner, courtesy of Snapp Conner PR

Cheryl Snapp Conner, courtesy of Snapp Conner PR

Cheryl Snapp Conner, CEO of Snapp Conner PR and a regular Forbes contributor approaches communications professionally. She helps businesses formulate messaging in these fraught times with an eye toward building audiences and customers.

She suggests you start by highlighting your common ground and acknowledge them for the things you may admire about them: awareness, passion, civic engagement. Only then does she suggest delving into the areas of disagreement.

Dr. Paul Jenkins, courtesy of Live on Purpose

Dr. Paul Jenkins, courtesy of Live on Purpose

Dr. Paul Jenkins, a professional psychologist and author of Pathological Positivity offers this advice:  “I remind myself to put people before problems and values before valuables.”

He points out that we are all prone to confusing facts and opinions.

In the animated film Inside Out the characters are riding along on the train of thoughts and a stack of boxes containing facts and opinions get jostled and spills out on the floor. One of the characters is concerned about getting them all back into the right boxes, and another character comments that it doesn’t really matter because they all look alike anyway. Your position is an opinion.

Ouch.

Jenkins goes on to say that once we form an opinion, we are subject to confirmation bias, where we look for or even create evidence to support our opinion. I’ve seen this happen in my own life. Having no opinion about the color of the new carpet, asked for one I weakly offered one. Suddenly, I find myself offended by every other color option. Three minutes earlier, I couldn’t have cared less.

It is probably more important to be open than to be right,” he says.

Conner similarly suggests acknowledging the inherent biases we all have.

Even when you’re on your best behavior, others may push your buttons, perhaps making a personal attack. What to do then?

Nancy Hoole Taylor, licensed mental health counselor, says, “Do not internalize what others say. It is usually more of a reflection of who they are and not yourself.”

Or, as Jenkins puts it, “A sure fire way to escalate a situation is to take things personally.”

He spent over a dozen years doing child custody evaluations for the court. “In these nasty divorce situations where people really needed to discuss issues in the interest of the children, their engagement in the personal conflicts commonly derailed the discussions and they spent an enormous amount of time and energy fighting and being offended.”

Jenkins offers four ideas for de-escalation:

  1. Understand that person’s opinion is not about you, even if they say it is. It is about their own position and may include their perception of you. The troubling aspect here is that it sounds like they are describing you because the character in their story has your name, face, and social security number. But think about it, how well does that person really know you at your core? They really don’t, right? That means that the person they are railing against, hating, or disparaging is not you – it is a fictional character they have fabricated in their own mind. Don’t defend that person – you would hate them too.
  2. Use the social gifts of appreciation, connection, enlightenment, and elevation instead of defensiveness or retaliation.
  3. Remember that the person who has offended you is merely supporting their opinion. It is not their job to support your opinion, take care of you emotionally, or make you feel good about yourself – those things are your job.
  4. Use the strategic non-response.

Jenkins’ number four seems especially appropriate when the only response you can conceive involves language your mother wouldn’t approve.

Conner has her own approach. She notes that if someone else was personally attacked she’d come to their defense. “If it were about me, I’d maybe address it with humor–‘I may somewhat have resembled that’–and then move the focus to the issue at hand.”

She suggests making a kind or empathetic remark and then closing the discussion with a note of mutual agreement more positive than simply agreeing to disagree. She also agrees that in some cases, the best strategy is to disengage.

Therapist Judith S. Moore shares her strategy: “I express my love for the one disagreeing with me, letting them know we can still be friends.”

Jenkins offers this important reminder, “People are not wrong about how they feel or their opinions, their position is completely consistent with their current set of beliefs and perceptions. Let them be right about that. It’s also okay to not have an end to a discussion, to remain in the question and remember that opinions (including, and perhaps especially, your own) change.

The best advice of all, I think, was Jenkins’ parting wisdom: “Give up your need to be right.”

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