NOTES:  Unless otherwise indicated, most of these workshops can be tailored to the time you have available.  In addition, please note that all of these workshops are designed to be interactive. 


Laura Smythe, University Ombuds, offers the following trainings:


Assertive or Aggressive Language – the art of de-escalation

When we feel hurt or harmed – how we respond matters.  There is a critical difference between an assertive response and an aggressive response.  Assertive communication is about clarifying your boundaries and your values in a way that does not harm anybody else.  Aggressive communication is about clarifying your rights and your values in a way that is careless about the impact of your words on others.  In this workshop we explore this important difference.


Conflict Management

Most humans prefer, whenever possible, to avoid conflict.  It’s messy, and it’s often complicated and painful.  In this workshop, depending on the time we have available, we will discuss the primary responses to conflict and in what contexts each of them makes the most sense.  We will explore how to engage with people who appear to be occupying an alternate reality and we will discuss the many ways in which the operation and biology of our brain can get us into trouble despite our best intentions.


Constructive Conversations in Difficult Situations

All of us have dreaded having a difficult conversation.  Many of us have decided that there are some people who are more difficult than others.  There is a key difference to having a difficult conversation and having a conversation with somebody who is difficult.  In this workshop we will discuss this difference and what makes some conversations so very difficult.  We will also discuss how to constructively respond to communication and conversations that cause us grief.


Creating a Trauma-Informed Workplace

None of us can ever absolutely understand what somebody else has experienced or endured in their life.  Often a colleague’s response will surprise us or offend us and we aren’t always curious about what motivated the unwanted behavior.  We tend to jump to judgments and conclusions very quickly.  In order to support all students and employees it’s important to understand how survived traumas can impact how we show up and communicate and interact so that we don’t re-traumatize somebody who is struggling to emerge from the grips of a trauma.  This workshop explores how trauma can manifest and how we can support one another through trauma-informed responses and structures.


Creating Psychologically Safe Workplaces

It is common for units and departments to request this workshop in combination with the workshop on Creating a Trauma-Informed Workplace.  Although these two subjects complement one another – they address discrete behaviors.    Creating a psychologically-safe workplace is about more than being trauma-informed.  It is also about ensuring that employees and students feel safe to ask questions without worrying about ridicule, judgment or an adverse evaluation.  It is about role-modeling how to learn from mistakes and it is about how supervisors scaffold the skill sets of their supervisees.  The content of this workshop is critical for creating spaces in which students AND employees feel safe to learn.


Emotions in the Workplace

There is a myth in the dominant culture in this country that there is no place for emotions in the workplace.  As social beings, we humans respond to almost everything that happens to us with one or more emotions.  As long as there are people in the workplace, there will be emotions in the workplace.  The challenge we discuss in this workshop is how best to listen to what our emotions have to tell us and to decide what to do with them.


Ethical Communication

What would it sound like, and feel like, if everybody with whom we interacted thought about the impact of their words and actions on others?  Most of us would appreciate experiencing that level of thought and care.  Most of us attempt it on a regular basis.  This is a one-hour workshop in which we explore how best to show up for others in communication and conversations.


Ethical Leadership

There are a lot of working definitions about what it means to be an ethical leader.  This workshop is based on more than 20 years of working with supervisors and supervisees and the insight I have gleaned about what behaviors motivate others to do their very best and what behaviors become barriers to employees reaching their full potential and feeling appreciated and respected.


Exploring the Difference Between Leadership and Management

Every workplace needs effective managers and effective leaders.  Understanding these different roles helps those who supervise others to know what behavior is needed and in what context.  In this workshop we will discuss what distinguishes management behavior from leadership behavior and the impact of each so that supervisors at all levels can determine how they want to show up and what they can expect as a result.


Facilitating Difficult Conversations and Building Trust

This workshop focuses on the skill sets needed to facilitate difficult conversations between others.  It is distinguished from the training on “Constructive Conversations in Difficult Situations” by focusing on the role of a third-party facilitator working on behalf of others who need to have a difficult conversation.  Building trust is critical to this role so that those whose conversations we are facilitating see the facilitator’s role as enhancing the possibility of a successful conversation rather than as somebody who will co-opt the conversation.


Leading an Effective and Inclusive Meeting

This workshop focuses on how to engage participants in a meeting, how to leverage the timing of the meeting as well as the Agenda items within the meeting and how to ensure that everybody who participates feels safe expressing their opinions in a genuine and honest manner.


Leading Change Initiatives

One of the most common reasons change initiatives fail is because there tends to be a great deal of energy surrounding the initiative when it is launched and waning energy for the actual execution, follow up and review.  Without sustained energy, and mindfulness about the impact on those who are being asked to execute it, and repeated and ongoing formal and informal reflections on progress, most change initiatives will fail. Employees who have undergone many change initiatives that resulted in no apparent or significant change will often assume that a new initiative is similarly doomed to fail.  In this workshop we will discuss both how to engage those who are suspicious and/or weary of change initiatives and we will discuss the work involved in leading a change initiative to fruition.


Mediation Skills

This workshop is, at the very least, 24 hours in length.  It is scheduled over 5-6 days and includes multiple role plays. It is a deep dive into the skills utilized by anybody who must facilitate or mediate a conflict among others and also contains a great deal of content about mindful communication, relationship-building and how to prevent conflicts from spiraling out of control.  It is relevant to anybody who works with people.


Stress Management and Self-Care

All of us know, intellectually, that we need to take care of ourselves in order to show up for others with as much capacity as possible.  It is often challenging, however, to put that knowledge into practice given the many demands on our time and our busy lives.  We'll talk about some things we can all implement during the workday, and at home, to honor that we're worth just as much time and care as everybody else.


Threatened Brains – Understanding How Our Brains’ Default Settings Can Get in Our Way

This subject is also addressed within the training on “Conflict Management” when time permits.  This one-hour workshop provides a focused and deeper dive on the ways in which our brain may frustrate our best intentions to communicate whether we are in conflict or not.


Workplace Bullying – What it is and How to Prevent it

Bullying is a unique form of conflict.  Unlike all other forms of conflict, there is no aspect of mutuality to a bullying dynamic.  People who are targeted by others for bullying behavior have not instigated this targeting nor intentionally encouraged it through their own behavior.  Because the United States is an exception in the developed world in failing to have a federal definition of both what workplace bullying IS and what it ISN’T – there is a lot of confusion about how to identify it and how best to respond to it.  In this workshop we will explore how it manifests, why, and how, it develops, how to respond to it and most importantly, how to prevent it.


**Smythe is also able to lead strategic planning sessions

NOTE: Smythe is always adding to her training offerings. If you are looking for a training listed above, or for a training that is not listed above, please contact her at to discuss your objectives.