Skills-building workshops in applying the ARIES Framework

Practices and Tools for Mindful Communication™


ARIES Intensive™ is a highly experiential, flexible, workshop-based training program designed to build participants’ skills in mindfully making sense of contentious – messy – issues and engaging with others productively to enable change.

The program:       

  • Is an intensive two-day (or equivalent) skills development program, geared to getting participants rapidly to the point where they can:
       a. Diagnose what’s likely to be “going on” with an issue
       b. Explore the issue safely and in-depth with others, and
       c. Work toward shared understandings as a basis for change
  • Is suited to managers and professionals who need to deal with messy issues in their roles, including with customers, team members, or business partners
  • Can be tailored to your organization’s requirements, e.g. by using examples and illustrations reflecting the kinds of issues participants typically face
  • Is flexible in terms of delivery mode and timing:
        a. The program can be run in combinations of face-to-face sessions and web-conferencing, in addition to standard workshop formats
        b. A half-day introduction and overview is available for senior executives.

To find out more about the ARIES framework itself, click here.

Key outcomes

Participants will gain:

  • Skills in being able to open-up sensitive issues for constructive exploration and resolution, while minimizing threat and anxiety
  • Strengthened capacity to tap the potentially available intelligence for working through an issue
  • Improved capability in identifying, assessing, and choosing intervention strategies in dealing with particular issues
  • Insights into the kinds of assumptions, interests, feelings, and knowledge that they hold, personally, relative to the issues at hand
  • A framework for making sense of virtually any leadership and change-related issue, and
  • Opportunities to practice spoken interventions and receive feedback.

Key skills learned

Participants in the ARIES Intensive™ program will gain these critical skills:

  • Dealing mindfully with issues – including working from observation, seeing one's own connection to the issue, and recognizing the different perspectives involved
  • Maintaining safety and minimizing the risks in talking with others about messy issues
  • Attending
        Being fully present with others (Attending is more than paying attention)
        Differentiating what we perceive directly from inferences and conclusions we arrive at
  • Reflecting
        Contemplating the range of perspectives on an issue – including our own
        Developing possibilities for testing with others about what might be real for others concerning the issue
  • Inquiring
        Asking questions to foster deeper understandings, while minimizing the prospect of defensive reactions
        Framing powerful questions using the inquiring tools (5-type question framework)
  • Expressing
        Speaking up on the issue in a holistic manner while maintaining safety
        Using the expressing tool to give voice to what otherwise can be hard to say
  • Synthesizing
        Framing the essential change to be accomplished, through integrating multiple perspectives
        Clarifying “relational challenges” (further specific contentious issues to be worked through) as a basis for action
  • Assessing the options and making choices about interventions
        Recognizing when to “dig deeper” and work toward joint understandings, as distinct from just “managing through” with an issue
  • Overcoming obstacles
        Dealing with defensive responses by others
        Moving forward when resistance seems to be an issue
  • Developing a plan for action
  • Continuing and deepening your practice.


ARIES: What others are saying

“Don has worked with me for a year now, at first coaching me in applying his ARIES framework and more recently in helping the managers reporting to me to use it. We all find ARIES very helpful in getting a clearer sense of the factors at play and then being able to act on those, particularly with client-related issues. Personally, the reflection matrix tool helps me see things from the client’s angle in a way I probably wouldn’t have before. As a coach Don shows a keen ability to tune into the business and people-related issues we face and to add real value. Most of our communications with him are via web-conferencing (he’s on the other side of the world) and that works just fine.” Phil Henderson, VP Client Operations (legal services)

“As a manager and learning and development specialist, I firmly believe that before you can lead others you need an understanding of where they are coming from and what is important to them. I find the ARIES framework is a very useful tool in helping me to gain this insight. It’s almost like a cheat sheet for being able to think on your feet.” Sally Van Ede NSW Australia.

“Dunoon’s genius lies in his concept of learning-centered leadership that positions leaders to learn their way through contentious issues using the ARIES framework (attending, reflecting, inquiring, expressing, and synthesizing). The framework allows leaders to go below the surface issues and determine what lies beneath the surface uncovering issues related to the culture of the organization.” David Vardaman, College Professor (Read longer statement here)

(Don Dunoon comment: I’m flattered by David’s remarks but uncomfortable with the “g” word in the first line)

"Dunoon's (2008) ARIES framework provides a theoretical foundation for addressing contentious issues in the workplace that is easy to comprehend and assists leaders in engaging more effectively with followers to achieve optimal solutions to the contentious issues.” Damita Williams, Medical Administrator

ARIES provides a very useful framework which has helped to shift my thinking about how to approach contentious problems, which seem to play quite a part in my daily work life. ARIES also lines up with my interest in mindfulness meditation outside of work to connect my work life and outside work life in ways I hadn't expected." Denise Martin, Faculty General Manager, Flinders University


Also available

ARIES Facilitation™

One-day program for internal facilitators to use the ARIES framework in helping individuals and groups to think through messy issues and prepare to engage with others on them

ARIES facilitation requires successful completion of ARIES Intensive™ or equivalent

ARIES Extension™

Web-based professional supervision and peer coaching workshops for advanced ARIES practitioners and facilitators

For more information on any of the ARIES programs, contact Don Dunoon using the form on this page.

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