Being Relational

Being Relational, written by Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft, details ways of being in relation to others that will change the way you view your power to create the lasting change that you want – maximizing well-being for yourself and for others.

“Being Relational brings us back to the basics, but with tremendous nuance, outlining a series of simple, yet profound, principles that will most certainly lead you to greater success.”
—James A.C. Kennedy, CEO, T. Rowe Price

Written in an engaging, conversational style, not preachy but practical, this book is the foundational content for ORANS: The Campaign for Relational Leadership.

Strikes an emotional chord that is balanced with practical guidance and practices.

The Authors & Praise for the Book

Married for more than 30 years and in the business of peacemaking together for more than 20, Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft are a uniquely creative and energetic couple. They are business and law professors, mediators, lawyers, entrepreneurs, parents of five children, and in William’s case, youth sports coach and clergy. In their many years of experience at their firm Baltimore Mediation, they have gained a unique perspective on the ways that leaders and others manage conflict, experience conflict, manage themselves in conflict, solve problems, build relationships, and make their way in the world.

They are the founders of the nonprofit ORANS: The Campaign for Relational Leadership and the Orans Institute for Relational Leadership, which were created for the purpose of developing leaders who will transform stressful interactions with quality dialogue to create lasting positive change in their daily negotiations, organizations, families and communities.


Praise for the Book:

“Whether it’s in politics, business, or simply interacting with our next-door neighbors, we’re good at expressing our own views and not so good at hearing—and considering—somebody else’s perspective. We have many contacts but few real interactive relationships. The result is division and conflict. This marvelous book identifies clear, effective steps that will make our relationships better and in the process lead to better outcomes for us all individually and collectively. I highly recommend it.”
—Former Congressman Mickey Edwards (OK) and Vice President of the Aspen Institute

“Human nature will seem less complicated after you put this book down.”
—Bob Kerrey, managing director, Allen and Company, co-chair of Issue One Advisory Board, and former U.S. Senator and 35th Governor of Nebraska

“Invaluable information . . . In a world where we are all expected to compete and become ‘winners,’ it is a relief to hear a message that, in order for any one of us to truly win, we will need to listen to each other and to care about each other to do it.”
—Pat Sekaquaptewa, Justice, Hopi Appellate Court, and assistant professor, Department of Alaska Native Studies & Rural Development, University of Alaska Fairbanks

“In our fast-paced, digitally connected world, Louise and William remind us of the importance of personal interaction at the human level. Using the tools offered in Being Relational, I’ve seen a marked improvement in my interactions with others both in business and at home, and am introducing the concept to my teams.”
—Dan Taylor, Director of Global Display, Google

“Perhaps nowhere in America could we more use a lesson in ‘being relational’ than Capitol Hill. As partisan squabbling increasingly gets in the way of common sense solutions, lawmakers could stand to reevaluate their approach to interacting with others with the help of expert mediators Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft. Maybe the ‘Seven Ways to Quality Interaction’ could even help those of us in office overcome our ideological differences and create lasting change for the American people.”
—Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (MD)

Being Relational is a gem! It distills decades of wisdom into seven simple concepts. By focusing on the skills needed for relationship-building and the personal qualities needed for conflict resolution, the authors have identified essential ingredients for a more peaceful and prosperous planet.”
—David A. Hoffman, Esq., John H. Watson, Jr. Lecturer on Law,
Harvard Law School and Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, and founder of Boston Law Collaborative, LLC

“In Being Relational, Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft reveal important insights on how you can improve relationships in all aspects of your life through the decisions you make on how to interact: by ‘Being Engaged, Being Centered, Being Grounded and Being Clear.’” Aspirational and also doable with their thought-provoking writing.
——Sharon Lechter, CPA, CGMA, CEO of Pay Your Family First, bestselling author of Think and Grow Rich for Women, and co-author of Outwitting the Devil, Three Feet From Gold, and Rich Dad Poor Dad

“Being Relational could help just about anyone who deals with other people—or with themselves. It is clear, compelling, and suffused with practical wisdom derived from enormous experience in life and in dealing with conflict.
—Leonard L. Riskin, Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law, University of Florida Levin College of Law, and Harris H. Agnew Visiting Professor of Dispute Resolution, Northwestern University School of Law

“Being Relational constantly reminded me of so many missed opportunities over the years to influence lives and outcomes, yet joyfully inspires the reader to embrace the hope and power of building real relationships. Louise and William’s delightful book forces us, to paraphrase William F. Buckley, to stand athwart our increasingly disconnected culture and yell, ‘stop!’ This book will not only change your world, but could change THE world. It is a must-read for anyone who does, or aspires to, lead and influence others.”
—Kelly D. Johnston, Vice President of Government Affairs, Campbell Soup Company

“Whether it’s in politics, business, or simply interacting with our next-door neighbors, we’re good at expressing our own views and not so good at hearing—and considering—somebody else’s perspective. We have many contacts but few real interactive relationships. The result is division and conflict. This marvelous book identifies clear, effective steps that will make our relationships better and in the process lead to better outcomes for us all individually and collectively. I highly recommend it.”
—Former Congressman Mickey Edwards (OK) and Vice President of the Aspen Institute

“In my life and in my practice I have discovered that relationships are among the fundamental necessities that influence our thinking and our behavior. Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft provide tools and techniques that can help us to better understand our interactions with others and what is required to build, enhance and maintain our relationships. This book guides us toward a path of transformation that leads to a more relational approach to managing and resolving our differences in today’s conflict-addicted world.”
—Marvin E. Johnson, conflict resolution expert, founder of the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution and former chair of the Diversity Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Dispute Resolution

“Conflict and negotiation is inevitable. With the synthesis of so many resources, including their prominent careers, Louise and William have crafted a work of genius, a tool of magnitude and, hopefully, a movement to shift all negotiations into their most optimal outcome. This book is that synthesis, offering a solid system—and more.”
—David M. Corbin, bestselling author of Illuminate: Harnessing the Positive Power of Negative Thinking and Preventing BrandSlaughter

“Transactional versus Relational interaction and the benefits of each is the core theme of this innovational book. Relational interaction clearly comes out on top and provides the basis for successful and strong connections both personally and professionally. Being Relational is a masterful resource that provides a guide for us toward increased well-being in all we do.”
—Marsha Firestone, Ph.D., founder and president of Women Presidents’ Organization and Women Presidents’ Educational Organization

“Being Relational brings us back to the basics, but with tremendous nuance, outlining a series of simple, yet profound, principles that will most certainly lead you to greater success. A well thought-out tutorial that centers you on your true self, focusing on caring for others yet with effective intellectual honesty.”
—James A.C. Kennedy, CEO, T. Rowe Price

“As an observer of the increasingly polarized and dysfunctional Congress for almost forty years, I think I can say that the fundamental problem in the institution is the breakdown in quality interaction among the members. Legislators can accomplish far more when they work with each other as individuals rather than operate as political robots relentlessly following their leader or some ideological faction. If members are looking for a guide as to how they might become happier and more productive, they should begin by reading Being Relational. Solving the problems faced by our nation and the world requires all of us, in a myriad of ways, to improve our interaction with others, but it is crucial that our leaders learn and utilize these techniques as well.”
—Vic Fazio, senior advisor, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, former U.S. Congressman (CA)

“Being Relational provides a powerful path to one of life’s treasures: meaningful relationships. Whether interacting with family, friends, business associates or adversaries, strong relationships should be part of the outcome and the Senfts eloquently guide us there.”
—Ron Shapiro, Chairman of Shapiro Negotiations Institute and New York Times bestselling author

“Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft take readers to the heart of successful connections within families, communities and workplaces and provide key skills to create lasting, positive relations. The authors have spent many years empowering people in conflict to find positive change in their lives and guiding others to discover peaceful solutions to the urgent crises now facing our planet.”
—Dr. Joan Goldsmith, author of Learning to Lead and Resolving Conflicts at Work

“Life is about relationships—to the degree that without love, human beings don’t develop properly. In Being Relational, husband and wife team Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft study how we interact with one another, offering an exercise in self-discovery. This book will put you on a path to personal, professional, and spiritual development, improving your well-being and your relationships.”
—Dr. David Daniels, clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, leading developer of the Enneagram system of nine personality styles, and author of The Essential Enneagram

“Being Relational is a seminal contribution not only to the practice of negotiation and dispute resolution but also to our understanding of how we all interact with each other in an increasingly ‘hyper-connected’ world. Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft bring more than two decades of experience acquired as mediators and problem solvers to their examination of how managers and decision makers need to deal with managing conflict and building relationships. Understanding the distinction the authors make between dealing with people in a transactional fashion and dealing with them in a relational fashion is essential to understanding human relationships in the modern world. The paradox of our era is that providing people with easier access to the Internet and social media only seems to have complicated our interactions with each other. The Senfts’ new book provides practical advice on how to cope with the dilemma of handling misunderstandings when the source of those misunderstandings is no longer too little communication but too much. Being Relational is required reading for anyone in a leadership role who seeks to build more constructive relationships within organizations, communities, and families.”
—David B. Lipsky, Anne Evans Estabrook Professor of Dispute Resolution, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Director of the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution, Cornell University

“In the late 90s I was a member of a team challenged to deliver a service to a large, important customer. Everyone assumed the customer wanted what we had to offer. A suggestion by a team member allowed us to consider not only what we had to offer, but how we might engage and deliver. It was by combining the two that we were successful. Being Relational is the first book to bring it all together, giving its reader a reasonable path to deliver the what and the how plus the why no matter the circumstances in a simple, clear, and concise manner such that each of us can continue becoming.”
—Margaret Walker, founder of MLRW Group, member of the Board of Directors at Methanex Corporation, and former Vice President of Engineering Solutions and Technology at The Dow Chemical Company

“Being Relational speaks to the heart of reconciling differences. It moves us from stereotyping to knowing others as they actually are. Bravo to applying the Enneagram map to negotiating interpersonal matters of consequence.”
—Helen Palmer, teacher of conscious studies and international bestselling author of The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others In Your Life and The Enneagram in Love and Work: Understanding Your Intimate and Business Relationships

“Being Relational is a remarkable work. It is informative, inspiring, and eminently readable. The central theme focuses on the skills and insights one presents in a successful relationship. At one level, the book is a mediator toolbox. Drawing, as it does, on the authors’ long experience, and on the rich conflict resolution literature they have mastered, it makes many useful suggestions to sharpen one’s practice. On another level, it is a primer on self-awareness and social intelligence. Referencing Jung, Goleman, the Enneagram, and neuroscience, its insights are offered in the narrative, with contemporary illustrations, and the invitation to engage in self-inquiry on thoughtful questions. The book is also a spiritual guide. Drawing this time from timeless wisdom teachings, it deconstructs core values—such as honesty, gratitude, generosity, humility, and kindness—and invites inquiry as to how they apply to us in each of our interactions. This book is a gift to anyone in a relationship, be it marriage, family, business, community, politics, or leadership.”
—William B. Bohling, commercial mediator and retired judge, Utah Third District Court

“Open your minds, your hearts and, dare I say, souls when you read this book. As a scientist, you understand that knowledge and learning is an ever-constant process. Even so, as a human being living and interacting on this earth, certain things are taken for granted; simple things, like how generous, how humble and how kind you are. The Senfts have heightened my awareness of how much more work I have to do in these areas as well as how high my expectations can and should go. Your relationships, with those you love and with strangers and enemies, the process of your life through interactions with others is the theme of this book. Being Relational challenges us to live at a higher level and to be grounded, clear and centered within ourselves and to interact from a position of love. Halfway through I experimented with the process in an interaction with my teenage son—a dramatic change in our typical outcome ensued. Start with the ‘ORANS—The Image of Being Relational’ section at the end, then visualize yourself with that posture as you read. This book could change your life.”
—Mary Ellen P. McNally, Ph.D., Technical Fellow, Stine Haskell Research Center for the Crop Protection Products business unit, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

“We generally think of conflict as something other people do, or we experience, and miss the fact, that it is also an interaction; a process, a relationship, and a question we are asked and can only answer with our lives, based on who we are or are prepared to become. It is this relational aspect of conflict that allows all of us to turn aggression, defensiveness and avoidance into opportunities to become better human beings. Being Relational offers sound and practical advice on how each of us can do so, and help make ourselves and the world a little better.”
—Kenneth Cloke, mediator and author of The Dance of Opposites and Conflict Revolution

“Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft have easily passed author Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘10,000 hour rule’ for achieving world-class skill in their field of mediation and conflict resolution. But in this book they use their experience to help us all understand that the techniques they teach to help people address conflicts are the same ones we can use to achieve healthy relationships and harmony in our lives. Thinking of human interactions as relational, rather than as transactional negotiations to gain relative individual success, actually leads to mutual success and happiness. Yes, Being Relational is a handbook for living our personal lives. But it is more than that. The techniques it contains apply just as well to the goal of replacing the escalation of conflict with relational responsiveness in politics and in international relations. Its wisdom and approach are that important and valuable.”
—Stuart Butler, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, visiting fellow at Convergence: Center for Policy Resolution, and former director of Center for Policy Innovation at the Heritage Foundation

“Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft have given us a brilliantly synthesized and hauntingly simple and profound approach for creating greater well-being in every interaction, especially the ones that potentially divide us because of our differences. Being Relational is a seminal piece of work on how to make the possibility of quality engagement a reality, even with those you don’t like or who are different from you, locally and globally. If you manage people, every person on your team needs to read Being Relational; your leadership and interactions will be forever changed for the best.”
—Fernando Hernandez, Director of Supplier Diversity, Microsoft

“Being Relational is a guide for anyone who seeks to convert a lonely individual failure into an inspiring collective success. Human nature will seem less complicated after you put the book down.”
—Bob Kerrey, managing director, Allen and Company, co-chair of Issue One Advisory Board, and former U.S. Senator and 35th Governor of Nebraska

“Louise and William Senft have written a book that skillfully details a path forward to repair the broken ways we engage with each other. At the heart of our human suffering is the way we do conflict, whether global societal crisis, economic chaos, polarized political dialogue, racism, extreme religious differences, war or the breakdown of the family structure. The complexity we experience as a result of the destructive ways in which we engage is the key barrier to our planet’s well-being. As experienced conflict practitioners and educators, the Senft’s approach in Being Relational, grounded in theory and science, outlines seven ways that can lead us toward quality dialogue and sustain us through our conflicts to reach the other side.”
—Nan Waller Burnett, M.A., mediator, author of Calm in the Face of the Storm and professor, Regis University

“Being Relational is the cornerstone of investment for anyone wishing to create paradise in their home space. Having helped launch the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Men Are From Mars, The Secret, Outwitting the Devil, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and other blockbuster titles, I ask all our hundreds of millions of readers to get five copies of Being Relational as you will wish to give this gift to those you care for most in your close circles. Being Relational is the ‘do it now’ book of the decade that will keep on giving. Send out ‘five to thrive’ and everyone will thank you for years and years and years. I so approve of their message.”
—Berny Dohrmann, chairman, CEO Space International, and bestselling author of Redemption: The Cooperation Revolution

“It was a joy to read Being Relational after using these concepts and techniques for many years to train tribal community mediators and to mediate intra-tribal conflicts in my home community on the Hopi Reservation. Being Relational lays out the basic concepts in a clear and easy to follow format and is invaluable information for one’s personal growth as well as for honing one’s skills as a mediator or even just to be a responsible member of one’s community. In a world where we are all expected to compete and become ‘winners,’ it is a relief to hear a message that, in order for any one of us to truly win, we will need to listen to each other and to care about each other to do it.”
—Pat Sekaquaptewa, Justice of the Hopi Appellate Court and assistant professor of the Department of Alaska Native Studies & Rural Development, University of Alaska Fairbanks

“My experience as a lawyer, mediator and judge has been that our failure to resolve conflict is not because we are not smart enough or we do not have the means to do so, it is because we do not care deeply enough about our relationship with the other side. In their practical yet profound book Being Relational, Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft share with us the qualities necessary to form lasting, meaningful and productive interactions and thus change. The seven qualities discussed for lasting change are all familiar to us, but seldom are we intentional about calling upon them to change our part of the world. An enjoyable and easy read, you might even find it completing your unspoken thoughts. I would refer to it as Getting to Yes for the soul.”
—Michael John Aloi, Circuit Court Judge, 16th Judicial Circuit of West Virginia

“Louise and William have offered a thoughtful and loving gift to all of us, in every walk of life, in the framework and principles espoused in Being Relational, which can be applied to all human interactions. By internalizing and practicing their methods, we can arrive at commonality of understandings among people on opposite sides of ostensibly unbridgeable divides, and are given hope that we can, indeed, further the cause of sustainability for the human race. My deep gratitude to you two!”
—Riaz Siddiqi, founder and managing partner, Denham Capital

“Being Relational will forever change the way you think about the person sitting next to or across from you in a mediation or negotiation, as well as how you interact with the people living and working with you. Warning: you won’t be able to ‘un-know’ what you will learn in these pages; something inside you is very likely going to shift. Anyone who cares about the quality of her or his work and personal relationships needs to read Being Relational—and then let every word soak all the way in.”
—Roxi Bahar Hewertson, author of Lead Like It Matters…Because It Does and CEO of Highland Consulting Group, Inc.

“In David Brooks’ The Road to Character, Mr. Brooks talks about how our fast-paced, super-segmented lives have increased our focus on résumé virtues to the detriment of eulogy virtues—building our external careers versus our inner character. Being Relational in many ways completes the circle. Louise and William do a masterful job of showing how, by focusing on seven ‘eulogy virtues,’ we can significantly improve the meaning and quality of our actions and interactions from the most personal to the most public. So whether you are on an inner journey, looking to improve your relationship with those closest to you or those you interact with in public, this book gives you seven keys that will fit in each and every door.”
—Duf Sundheim, federal court mediator (CA) and political reformer

“Louise and William have written a wise and deeply insightful book. They offer concrete and realistic advice on how all of us can maximize our personal and professional interactions, and create a more collaborative and peaceful world in the process. Being Relational is a powerful roadmap on how to bring out the ‘better angels’ that lie inside all of us.”
—Robert J. Fersh, president and founder, Convergence: Center for Policy Resolution

“In Being Relational: The Seven Ways to Quality Interactions and Lasting Change, Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft have created a work that is both inspirational and practical. They provide an optimistic and yet realistic view about how we can change our relationships and thereby change our world. Both clear and at times poetic, this book provides a roadmap for how to deal with conflict and challenging interpersonal interactions in a complex world.”
—Bernie Mayer, Ph.D., Professor of Dispute Resolution at The Werner Institute, Creighton University and author of The Conflict Paradox: Seven Dilemmas at the Core of Disputes

“Knowing how the Senfts approach conflict and its transformation, I have faith that these methods can—and do—enact change. They have been used throughout our state for complex litigation, business and family matters. Being Relational contains a useful and commonsense formula that will work for us all.”
—Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, Former chair of the Maryland Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission

“In an era where adults over 65 will outnumber almost every age cohort, more guidance is needed to support the transitioning process—getting Dad to give up his car keys, helping Mom decide when it’s time to sell the family home and distribute family assets, or determining what health procedures make the most sense to name but a few. Along comes an unexpected instructional resource, Being Relational, that provides a lovingly written, comprehensive guide to change the quality of your life with beloved family members (among others). In their stunning portrait of relational living strategies and techniques, Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft invite us to become differently engaged, grounded, generous, and kind. What would seem an impossible challenge to unlearn our previous negotiating strategies for what we want, instead becomes many reference points for transformative thinking, doing, and living. Being Relational could not have arrived at a better time to help families change and support themselves.”
—John K. Holton, PhD., Director of the Center for Gerontology at Concordia University Chicago and former Director of the Illinois Department on Aging

“Having spent the past decade working across time zones and different cultures in both my professional and personal life, Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft have approached how we connect with one another in 7 simple ways. In an era where we focus on diversity, work/life balance, global responsibility and even how to adapt to a millennial work force and world, it comes down to a need for dialogue and how to do that well for positive outcomes. There is a relational leader in each of us! I am recommending Being Relational, for all my teams and my family.”
—Loretto Kane, at Microsoft Corporation

Being Relational

The Seven Ways to Quality
Interaction and Lasting Change

Our world is a crowded and hyper-connected place and it is becoming more crowded and hyper-connected daily. With continuous messaging through media outlets emphasizing conflict and desperately competing for our attention, our world seems full of struggles over resources and power and struggles between competing beliefs and ideologies.

The challenges of our world call us to evolve as a species in ways that have never before been necessary: not in our physical attributes, not in our emotional capacities, not in our mental capabilities; arguably, not even in our use of technology to master the environment and harness its resources.

The challenges of our world call us to evolve in the ways that we relate to each other as fellow inhabitants of Earth.

About the Writing Style

Being Relational is written in an engaging, conversational style. It isn’t an academic piece but does take a deep dive into what it means to be relational. It provides practical guidance and real life examples; the tone of the book draws on a voice that works well in live presentations yet it is not preachy. It strikes an emotional chord that is balanced with practical guidance and practices.

Louise is an experienced author of magazine and journal articles, a professional speaker and lecturer. She is widely recognized as a leader in the field of conflict resolution and mediation. William was formerly a high-school English teacher and speaks regularly as a homilist. He is also an active blogger commenting on the issues of the

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Written from years of experience in the midst of conflict, Being Relational is a unique collection of teachings that focuses on what happens in human interaction. It is inspired by the experience of thousands of people for whom the Senfts have mediated, fostering personal strength and connectedness through quality interaction.

The goal of Being Relational is to provide a synthesis of attitudes and practices organized into a practical, thought-provoking and inspiring approach that readers can draw upon and use, check in on and grow into, as a way of being in relation to others.

A Different Perspective on Your Well-Being

Being Relational offers a whole different perspective: living in a desperate reality is not exclusively reserved for the poor and less fortunate. Even those who are blessed with health and wealth may live with despair and must make the conscious choices needed to create a different reality of joy, abundance and love, for themselves and for others. This book is written for them.

The hope is that the relational ways offered in this book will make you and those you interact with happier, healthier, and more content-–because of the quality of the interactions you have and the impact your way of being has on you and on others. Our belief is that through widespread adoption of relational ways, together we can increase well-being and create lasting positive change for ourselves, for our families, and for our planet.