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What Oprah Taught Me

by Vivian Scott
June 2011 Vivian Scott

There’s been a lot of Oprah talk over the past few weeks as her daytime talk show wraps up after 25 years on the air. Like a lot of people I’ve been watching on and off the entire time and find myself reflecting on how my life is different/better/inspired because of Oprah and her guests. In a loosely chronicled order, let me see if I can recap some of the show’s lessons.

1) Fashion can be fun. Remember the big hair, earrings the size of dinner plates, and shoulder pads that rivaled NFL uniforms? If Oprah was wearing it, I wore it. Her shows about women being stuck in a decade moved me to cut my long hair, keep my eyeglasses up to date, and toss out anything that resembled mom jeans.

2) Being a mother is the hardest job in the world. Miss Winfrey had been on the air for about a year when my daughter was born—very timely message when I needed it most. I’ll admit, though, that I didn’t find the job quite as difficult as some of her guests did. However, the overall message made me think beyond the day’s dirty diapers and work toward the goal of raising a compassionate human being with something to offer the world. Check.

3) Our home should rise up to meet us. I went against the no TV in the bedroom rule and occasionally allowed fake plants in the house, but for the most part Oprah (and Nate) gave me the confidence to create rooms that meant something to me and I didn’t worry about my house not being photographed for Architectural Digest.

4) I am rich. No matter the amount of money I have I am a rich woman. The show gave me the opportunity to compare my live to others around the world and taught me that generosity comes in many forms. Writing a check isn’t always the solution. (Note: I use this lesson when resolving conflict both in my personal and professional life.)

5) When people show you who they are, believe them. This is a big one. Without that piece of information from Maya Angelou I know for certain my life would have been different. I’ll leave it at that.

6) If something’s not working for you, do something else. Thanks, Dr. Phil, for the infamous, “So how’s that workin’ for ya?” comment repeated over and over again. I got it: I get it and, yes, I use it when resolving conflicts.

7) Speak up. Over the years Oprah’s messages have given me the courage to shut down a racist joke being told in front of me, respectfully state my point of view that’s different than the one being discussed, and to call it like it is. Putting the real issue on the table makes room for real solutions and the only way to get to the real issue is to speak up.

8) Be my best self. It’s a good idea to get inspiration from others but don’t be a clone. Change, evolve, become the best version of yourself as you possibly can. Learn, grow, accept. Love it.

So, thanks, Oprah and guests, for always making sure you were two steps ahead of me. You guided me through some rocky times, gave me a laugh or two, took the focus from myself to others, and validated me. The messages you delivered made me a better mother, friend, sister, and mediator. Oprah Winfrey, you also taught me that I wasn’t alone in my struggles and that 50 is the new 40. Some lessons are a little more timelier than others.


Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies.  She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success.  Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.     

Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways.  “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity.   Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.   

Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington.  She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes.  Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm.  Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.   

Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on,, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.    

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