#104 Expressways to Conflict Resolution

Today's Guest: Phil Blagg

Today, I interview Phil Blagg. In this captivating interview, we delve into a revelation that has remained hidden for the entirety of his life until now. Throughout the years, Phil guarded a family secret with unwavering dedication, keeping it locked away from the world. As we explore how keeping that secret affected him on his extraordinary journey, it becomes apparent that Phil’s experiences may strike a chord within you, resonating with moments from your own life where finding your voice seemed an insurmountable challenge.

With a remarkable career spanning over two decades as a firefighter and later as an Arctic Alaska oil field worker, Phil Blagg has honed his expertise in communication and conflict resolution. Presenting his invaluable services through his company, Express Ways, Phil reflects on the obstacles he faced in his quest for self-expression and its profound impact on his life. For years, he felt stifled, unable to freely articulate his thoughts and opinions, silently grappling with the weight of unspoken words.

Although Phil managed to conquer his stage fright in public speaking, this personal triumph evolved into a transformative foundation that shapes his communication style to this day. Now, his ultimate aspiration is to empower others, guiding them toward discovering their own voices, actively listening to their inner selves, and effectively resolving conflicts that may plague their lives. Phil’s remarkable journey of self-discovery and transformation serves as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path toward authentic self-expression and profound interpersonal understanding.


Phil is a Communication and Conflict Resolution Consultant with a focus on Peer Support for First Responders and Communities. With over 20 years of experience as a Firefighter and a second career working in the remote Arctic Alaska Oilfields, he offers a unique perspective on how to communicate and reduce conflict in personal and professional relationships. His avocation has become his life’s calling as a Speaking Circles Facilitator and having been trained in mediation and Critical Incident Stress Management. He offers his services through his company, Express Ways: The Road To New Solutions.

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Transcript of Interview

Transcript of Interview


Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast


Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing


Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com


Episode #104 Phil Blagg “Expressways to Conflict Resolution”


(0:41) Doreen Downing   

Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m the host of the Find Your Voice change your life podcast. What I love about leading this podcast, is that I get to interview people. And what I get to provide for you my listeners are stories, fascinating stories, stories that take you on journeys, maybe even back into your own life where you can relate to the guest and what they might have experienced, not having a voice maybe struggling to find their voice. And hopefully, we give you inspiration so that you know it is possible to find your voice. Welcome, Phil.


(1:53 ) Phil Blagg   

Hello Doreen. Great to be with you again.


(1:55) Doreen Downing   

Phil is somebody that’s been in my training, the speaking circle facilitator training and he’s very active in the community. So make sure you look up Speaking Circles International, but I’d also like to read a bio he’s provided for us. “Phil is a communication and conflict resolution consultant, with a focus on peer support for first responders and communities. With over 20 years experience as a firefighter, and a second career working in the remote Arctic Alaska oil fields. He offers a unique perspective on how to communicate and reduce conflict in personal and professional relationships. His avocation has become his life’s calling as a speaking circles facilitator. And having been trained in mediation and critical incident stress management. He offers his services through his company expressways, the road to new solutions.” Oh, Phil, I love that expressways are the road to new solutions. It’s so clear.


(3:12) Phil Blagg   

It came to me when I finished a workshop down in Las Vegas years ago, right after being certified as a facilitator and having taken training for mediation that was driving up this highway in love the desert highways and it just like yeah, I want to express myself is involved in trucking all my life. 


(3:45) Doreen Downing   

Well, I love them both on the two sides of the coin expressing ourselves. But also like what we think about is roads and expressways. And what you said was a path. But also, when I’m thinking about the path, that means that we can’t we are coming from somewhere. And we’re moving toward time and space and we’re going somewhere, maybe we know where we’re going and maybe not but for today’s podcast, I’d like to start with some because we’re talking about at least in the beginning, the struggle, right the struggle to have a voice and what might have happened early on in your life that it feels like you were held back from being able to speak up freely. So just give us some view some snapshots, some stories, whatever comes to you about early life that give us a picture of what you as a little boy experienced.


(4:53 ) Phil Blagg   

The model in our family was “Don’t upset daddy” and the story behind that was that when my father was a teenager, his mother had been murdered. And we didn’t want to talk about his brother being a teenager as well. Then moving forward when I was age 10, my uncle was having some issues and came to spend some time in our family home and died by suicide one day. We didn’t talk about that either. So there was this underlying chain, fear, confusion, trauma, whatever it was, that made me feel like, I don’t want to talk about this, I can’t talk about that. My emotions, whatever was going on. So there was this eerie silence inside me of what happened. We were told the story sanitized as children. So we had a brief understanding of the events. But it was much later in my life when I heard the full story. And that had a big impact as well, which I can get into later.


(6:10 ) Doreen Downing   

Yeah, well, thank you, that was a very articulate description of the events that taught you instantly to put tape over your mouth and have a very tiny little hole if you’re going to say anything. Not much, but that restrictiveness around. Really a huge emotional event that, you know, maybe you didn’t understand, and that’s what we need as little kids to help understand what’s going on when people disappear like that. 

(6:52) Phil Blagg   

I remember I was 10 years old when that happened. And it had a big impact on me, of course, and all my siblings, and our recollections of the event for my older brother and my older sister. We, as adults couldn’t really remember the whole series of events around that time in our lives, where our Uncle stayed. And this and that, the other thing and it was really interesting to recognize how not being able to speak about and kind of shut down even remembering things and the emotional impact that had on all of us, there was a lot of stifled emotions. Ultimately, for me, a lot of anger came out that stemmed from the grief and from being unable to speak about things and events in my life. It just has had a lifelong effect on me. In a way, I’m still just getting over it in some aspects. It feels great to finally have my voice. This is the first time I’ve told the story this publicly. I’ve told other people in private relationships in the middle of this out on abroad on a podcast, the broader public. It means a lot to me. So thank you for allowing me to speak my mind and my experience.


(8:29) Doreen Downing   

Oh, well, I am honored that you chose me to be the place where it feels safe to share in such a deep and meaningful way. I heard you say stifled and it was about the voice being stifled and yes, as youngsters that’s how we start to learn how to express ourselves and to process emotions. And we do that by not only speaking but having people listening. That’s how we find our voice. And things like that tape, we talked about new being stifled that that just left a whole realm of emotional, worlds untapped and just walked away, maybe in a chest pet. Well, literally maybe in your chest.


(9:22) Phil Blagg   

That’s true. That was literally my chest and then like that in my stomach, you know, diaphragm and heartburn and all these other physical manifestations of contained emotions. And it culminated ultimately, even just a couple of years ago, three years ago, where the anger that was manifest within all that could have cost me my marriage, and I had to learn how to deal with that anger that was stemming from an event that didn’t even have happened in my life. There’s the murder that happened back in 1934. It carries on generationally. And now I have this opportunity to break that chain by speaking about a family issue and dressing the shame and the anger and helping heal my own relationship to myself to the sun and hit my grandson’s. So it’s a big transition time. And it’s just amazing how that carries over over the years.


(10:30) Doreen Downing   

Yeah, I think that one of what I’m just hearing now from you is what you said was the intergenerational healing, you’re not only healing your own body and mind and self and soul, but future generations are no, they don’t have to hold it in and we shouldn’t talk about it. It’s like you are exposing, expressing, and showing how people can tend to talk about very, very difficult things. So I really liked that you pointed to it being generational, and it didn’t happen in your lifetime. But how it landed up in your gut, and then how it landed up in your marriage is amazing that the connection between what we don’t talk about and how it shows up later.


(11:25) Phil Blagg   

I’ve always had a fascination I can remember, for some reason, when I really look at my life, I always go back to about age five, for some reason. I don’t remember any specific event, but I just had this sense of an awareness of something. And I was always questioning. And I call myself now kind of jokingly a wise guy, always asking why are things this way. Why are things that way? Or I couldn’t get the answers about this family event. But in the conflict resolution training that I took, the big question was, why does something matter? What needs do you have to have met? Why Is something bothering you? As I asked why I feel this way, why I’ve responded this way, or reacted this way, I can examine more clearly where these things come from. I’ve always had an intuitive nature and have always been interested in philosophy, psychology, and spirituality. I’m a pretty logical kind of guy too. So I’m finding this way to incorporate all these aspects of my life’s vision and view and perspective. And moving forward for the next however many years I have left to share that with others and help them resolve conflicts that they may have.


(12:46) Doreen Downing   

Yes, I get also that because you’ve unlocked the constriction that is has held your voice back that now you do have the freedom to speak. And that’s what you are doing. Today on our podcast, you’re revealing so much and I think reaching so many people, I’d like to take just a quick break, because I know I have so many questions about what happened next. You know, you found your voice, and what the what is this journey and what do you besides what you’re telling us today is around what we’ve already heard is the importance of finding your voice. I think you demonstrated that the why happened a long time ago for you and I think that we need to help people look back on incidences, maybe not even in their lifetime, as you’ve pointed out today. 


You said that, you know you are an angry young man in this world you know, almost grown probably disrupted quite a bit of early life. But talk a little bit more about anything that comes up with stories about your journey. As you were growing up?


(15:13) Phil Blagg   


I was always a talker but we couldn’t talk about certain subjects. I didn’t know I told jokes, I just have a bubbly personality and all that. And my brother was a little more belligerent, angry, kind of a bully-ish type. The combination was really interesting. And in 1993 I think it was I hosted my first speaking circle in my home and started studying more and participating more in speaking circles, and also learning conflict resolution, at the same time, as a firefighter, and fire chief, came into the station one day, because I was helping my co-workers try to organize to have our needs represented because we’re having some labor issues, this chief chose to rage in my face for about 40 minutes pointing his finger saying “Nobody likes you. Nobody wants to hear what you have to say, I’m gonna ruin your career.” I was off for a month because of the stress that that created for me, and had to get some therapy and finally figured out where that all was coming from, I was able to use the tools to be interpreted and communicate the style, and the mediation technique. I learned and was able to resolve conflict within that fire department, and was able to make an exit gracefully and not burn any bridges behind me. So that was a big transition time and other events, transpired just one step at a time getting to this place where I’ve reduced the anger in my life and feel more joy and happiness and put things into perspective. 


(17:07) Doreen Downing   

You know, listeners might not know, even though I’ve mentioned it here and there about speaking circles, say a little bit more about what that did for you and what it is.


(17:20) Phil Blagg   

As I say I was always a talker but speaking circles helped me become a speaker. And even though it was initially set up to help overcome stage fright for public speaking at a microphone on stage, it became the amplifier that evolved and transitioned and became just the basis of who I am and how I communicate now. They refer to relational presence, it’s established through that. It involves breathing. That pause when we need to reflect and truly listen, the first instructions are given to the listener of soft available eyes, and holding that person in front of the group in high regard. 


I transition that into what happens with firefighters, first responders that may have PTSD issues going on. And we can communicate in a new way by pausing and listening and tapping into that deeper voice. And resolving that inner conflict may be going on. So speaking circles has literally really truly changed my life in a significant way. And I’m hoping to give back to others to help them use their voice listen to themselves, listen to their own stories tell their stories effectively to resolve conflict in their lives.


(18:58) Doreen Downing   

Well, thank you for being such a clear communicator today and flowing along as we are together on this path of discovery about who you are and your inner struggle and your breaking through little by little, and the processes that you use in conflict resolution and speaking circles. What would you say was another breakthrough moment where you feel that you found more of yourself and more of your voice?


(19:40) Phil Blagg   

It’s been those moments where I’ve engaged with the community of facilitators and then transfer that into my own personal relationship, including with my wife, and then involved, being able to have the courage some make some real courage who stay in that moment, in the eyes of your beloved or in the eyes of another person that you may be having a conflict with. And speaking your truth, it’s nearly cost me my marriage because I had so much anger and I had to tamp that anchor down and look at her in the eye and receive her responses and be able to trust that stillness. EMDR eye movement, desensitization, and reintegration for therapy for PTSD worked great. I recognize the icy stillness, through this means of communicating, and really be powerful in resolving conflict.


(20:52 ) Doreen Downing   

Oh, I totally understand what you’re talking about. And for listeners, this may be a whole new concept about the eyes being soft and open and available. And in a way, they’re like channels to the heart and to what’s inside of us. And staying with somebody’s eyes help and staying with somebody and accepting whatever expression or whatever is being said from them is part of the what I understand what you’re saying about conflict resolution to yeah, this podcast, “Find Your Voice Changed Your Life” is not just about getting up on a stage. I’m so glad you talked about using your voice and the way of being with your wife. I want to make sure that you get to talk a little bit about expressways and you know, this whole idea of the road to new solutions.


(21:52) Phil Blagg   

That’s been a dream or a vision about 20-30 years in the making. And I’ve recognized that because I don’t have any college education, I’ve been a blue-collar worker all my life firefighting. I’ve learned these processes and put them into practice myself. I’m able now to feel grounded enough to offer these to other people, I’m transitioning from feeling the satisfaction of what I did in my working life, to feeling fulfilled, not fulfillment in engaging in my life’s work. 


So this is just being launched, it’s been in the mind and a vision for yours. I’m just launching a website and just putting the programs together. I feel like by sharing this time with you, you’ve been so instrumental in this through working with you and with Lee, it really is an honor to be able to share this with you and see we’re where we go together in the future.


(23:05) Doreen Downing   

In a way, it feels like you are in the process of launching your business, right, the expressways and the road to new solutions. I  want to just stay on that before we wrap up today. Because I think that has so many levels for me in terms of this idea of what I said earlier when I first introduced you is where we’re coming from. And when we look at you where you came from, and the journey, which you know is the path. You never would have known that as a firefighter and first responder and trucker you would be doing transformational work somewhere down the line like you are now and that’s amazing. You know, although I understand that as five years old, you had dreams and visions, and so there must have been an inner you know, something inside of you your soul that was you know, taking you slowly, slowly to this moment in your life where you get to stand up and say “I can help.”


(24:19) Phil Blagg   

That’s interesting. You mentioned that because of one of the workshops that you did with Janine Bolin, who refers to herself as a shaman, I have this sense of timelessness and access to understanding things in a certain way. That’s always been like an avocation on the side. It’s so difficult to quantify how different I feel or how other people feel reducing anger, I can quantify putting out a fire I can quantify making a delivery. This is about quality of life and how you quantify the quality of life. And I have two pools and ideas on programs that I can put together that will help people do that. But in that logical measuring person versus this qualitative intuitive in aging in other realms person, it’s been an interesting transition. 


(25:37) Doreen Downing   

Those are wonderful last words. I really appreciate you and your courage to stay on the inner journey and to now bring this wonderful new idea to folks about expressways and that does have something to do about the way we express ourselves. Thank you so much for sharing today.


(26:01) Phil Blagg   

It’s been a pleasure, Doreen, it’s wonderful to be in your presence.


Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.