De-escalating conflict is like typing without looking at your hands.

Can you type without looking at your hands? If not, this newsletter won’t be very helpful. Do you remember learning how to touch type? It was REALLY hard. First, someone had to teach you where to put your fingers. Then, you had to think about every single key very carefully (“’J’ is my right index […]

Damage is fast. Healing is slow.

I had two hip surgeries during peak Covid.  (I don’t recommend it). I followed all of the surgeon’s instructions: I did physical therapy.  I stretched daily (and still do).  I stopped running and playing Pickleball (giving up running wasn’t as hard as I expected, but I’m still bitter about Pickleball because I was pretty dang […]

Someone who is “Level 3 Drunk”

In this week’s training, I teach how to de-escalate conflict (and enforce the rules) with someone who is drunk or high. The are four levels of people who are under the influence: Here is a 1-minute video from that training teaching the core tool for individuals who are a “Level 3.” If the link above […]

Should libraries hire social workers?

“Should our library hire a social worker to help with issues we can’t help with like mental health, housing assistance, etc.?” Library managers ask me this A LOT.  Over the years, libraries have been transformed into community centers. It’s natural that the most vulnerable in the community seek out libraries for help with tough questions. […]

He could have snapped me like a twig.

This is part 2 in our 2-part series about how to provide backup correctly.  In the last email in this series, we talked about what a backup staff member should NOT do. ——— I was meeting with an intern at the shelter when the phone call came in: “Ryan, get outside quick! There’s a guy […]


Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee were on their quest to return the ring to Mordor. Gollum snuck up on the pair as they slept fitfully. Seeing an opportunity, Gollum lunged for the ring around Frodo’s neck. Unfortunately for Gollum, Frodo woke up at that exact moment and grabbed Gollum’s wrist. The ensuing conversation went like […]

How do I balance kindness and strength?

Dear Ryan, How do I be kind without coming across as gullible, weak, or as a pushover?  How do I find the right balance? Mike Mike, I think you are asking the wrong question. You don’t “balance” kindness and strength.  They aren’t opposites. The key is to be both fully “kind” and fully “firm” at […]

No one will ever break your rules again…

“None of what you taught will stop people from shooting up in my bathrooms.  How do I stop them?” I had just finished a live training with an international fast-food company.  The manager’s voice was somewhere between frustrated and frantic. I explained—again—how to talk to someone who has broken a rule. He interrupted me.  “I […]

My heart grew two sizes

Last month we hosted the “Pennies in the Cup” 28-day challenge where we committed to preventing conflict with the vulnerable folks we serve. I was blown away by the number of folks who signed up for the Challenge: There’s one story in particular that I want to share with you because it embodies “Pennies in […]

He didn’t want to stab me… At least not at first.

It was 23 years ago, but I remember every detail in vivid color. A beautiful spring day… A mild breeze carried the scent of freshly mowed lawns. The sun was warm. Occasionally it hid behind clouds like a first-time parent playing peekaboo with a newborn. I was doing my rounds at Hesed House, a large […]