News & Events

Visit the "Past News & Events" Archive for more articles.


Read this Article to Help Unite our Country!

Outwitted by Edwin Markum

He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle and took him in!

I woke up way too early this morning – thinking about this past week’s election. I was on “the winning side” and my heart has been celebrating quite a lot. There was even something enjoyable about seeing the “other side” up in arms. I loved seeing Carl Rove on Fox News squirm as he watched the election results come in. But herein is where the problem lies; the hate in my own heart is what keeps the insanity going. Most of us give lip service to wanting greater unity and discourse in politics, but our politics are merely a mirror of the individuals it serves – a collective conscious of individual consciousness. So, if we want change to happen, we must first be that change ourselves. (Gandhi is overused, perhaps, but dead on.) That sounds so idealistic and it is definitely easier said than done, but I propose a little experiment just to test this theory of being the change to bring about the transformation we seek.

Surely you know someone on “the other side.” As part of this experiment, seek him out and just listen. Do not debate, do not roll your eyes, do not question, don’t even commiserate – just be present to his pain. Listen for the need underneath everything he shares. Here is a list of universal human needs. I guarantee this person is hurting and if you can hear past his strategy (that likely conflicts with your own) and hear the need, there is the possibility for connection and maybe even the gift of softening your own anger. This will be very difficult. As you listen, you will likely have a huge urge to respond as usual – a tug in your heart to make your case and to have understanding from him. This is where your work comes in; this is where the possibility for change can happen. Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking.” It will take a totally different way of being with one another for things to change in our society. If we want our politics to heal, we (ourselves) must first learn to connect with “the other.”

Let this person talk for as long as necessary and you remain present. When he is done, let him know that you really hear his longing for – whatever need you have uncovered. Let him know that you get it, you get his need and that it is difficult to hear his pain because you want love and joy and belonging for everyone. End on that – it is the truth! No need to debate.

Here is a little tip when the conversation gets hard and you notice yourself wanting to defend. Ask yourself “what in this person hurts so badly that he thinks he must hurt me or ‘my side’ in order to heal?” If you can go to this question, right in the moment of wanting to smack him silly, you will have a great opportunity to touch his humanity. In that moment, there is the possibility for a whole new world.

By the way, if you want to learn how to stay present in moments when you are pissed, please come to one of my NVC trainings. I long to create a world where everyone has this skill. My next training is December 8-9 in Tallahassee, FL.


Read this Article to Survive the Convention Season and Feel Better About Politics

That Pain in Your Political Gut? It’s Telling You Something.

Lucky us. Florida is the birthplace for what passes for political discourse these days. Yep, the Sunshine State is where the modern political era got its start. So you may think I’m crazy for predicting that a harmonious new era could come out of a totally partisan event like the Republican National Convention in Tampa. But I’m telling you that better political discourse is within our reach. I know because of my own journey. I’ve learned a secret to making something positive out of that “sick to your stomach” feeling that comes whenever you hear a political candidate open his mouth.

The 2000 election put my hometown of Tallahassee under the microscope and on the map. Remember all those “hanging chads” and clashing hearts? In the lead-up to the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, if felt as if the entire outside world had come to my sleepy, little city. The downtown streets were clogged with news trucks and reporters. The route I took to pick up my girls from school each day took me by the Supreme Courthouse building, which was overrun with picketers from both sides. I remember rolling down my window and SCREAMING my own opinions towards the people with the signs. I felt so much rage and turmoil inside and such deep despair when my candidate didn’t win.

Now, with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, all eyes and ears are on Florida once again. What if we were able to build a different story this time? It’s possible. The trick is to pay attention to the pain (yes, I’m going to use the word “pain” here!) that political rhetoric may stir in you, but without getting caught up in it. Let’s say you’re flipping through the TV channels and you notice the Republican Convention (or, later, the Democratic Convention) is on. Maybe you hesitate to click because you don’t want to get pissed off. I say “click.” Get to know yourself and the other side better.

That is step one – listen to the other side and, rather than reacting, try to focus on your discomfort and figure out the need beneath it. As with a pain in your body, the pain you feel when listening to a politician is trying to tell you something. What is the universal human need below your ache? Is it a need for well-being? For security? For safety? As you listen to an opposing viewpoint – and all the spin – imagine you are deciphering another language. Challenge yourself to figure out the universal human need underneath all the garbage. Because this is the astonishing fact: when it is all said and done – both political parties really share the same needs. We are merely divided by arguing about the strategies to meet those needs.

For example, any debate about our economy is REALLY about how we are all scared. We’re all craving well-being and security. We want and need the same basic things. We just get distracted in the fight over our divergent strategies of how to get there and we blame and turn the other side into monsters in the process, making that pain in our stomachs get worse.

“Maybe so,” you may be thinking. “But that’s not going to stop me from wanting to clobber my Uncle Jim the next time he starts talking about his political views.” In fact, recognizing the needs you hold in common with Uncle Jim will help you in your response to him. And it will help you get clearer on your feelings toward all of the “opposing team” with whom we have to share an increasingly crowded planet. If you can speak with Uncle Jim or anyone from the “opposing team” from that place, there is a much better chance your own views will be honored.

So use the National Conventions as your training ground to start a new habit. What if we were all able to recognize that we are all actually wanting the same things? If we were to get that, not at a cognitive level, but at a heart-felt, human, neighbor-to-neighbor level, we could begin to lead the way for our political leaders. The 2000 election left a huge hole in my heart – but it also led the way to some healing and a new way of being with people of different opinions. I want that for our country. I especially want that here in Florida, a state of almost humorous culture clashes. But we are all neighbors and we’re all in this together. (If you’re like me, I bet you’re pretty fond of your neighbors, no matter what their political stripes.)

For me, that’s the takeaway from all the political drama here in Florida. You can be politically active, internally peaceful, and externally respectful regardless of which side of the aisle you ride. You can do this — we need to do this — regardless of the frenzied political machinery that seems designed to churn up hate. Whether “red” or “blue,” we can all do with a little more nuance, a little more empathy. Let’s teach our politicians and media outlets how it is done. Let’s “be the change we wish to see.”


Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged!

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged … a simple quote that holds a lot of wisdom. In a nutshell, it sums up the vicious cycle to which most of us succumb when we are in conflict. Even those of us who think we are “bigger” than judgment usually fall prey to our thinking/evaluations when someone has “wronged” us. (Note: “wronged us” is an evaluation / thought.) The idea of separating our evaluation from observation is one of the most precious gifts I can offer to those wanting to have conflicts that connect rather than divide.

Take a second to think of a recent conflict. Is it possible to stop and watch what you are telling yourself or others about the other person in the conflict? I have yet to meet a human being (including myself) who doesn’t go into a whole bunch of thinking about the other person with whom they are in conflict.

For instance, a husband walks in the door at 8:00 pm and the wife is angry because (here’s the judgment) “He is always late. He doesn’t really care about me the way he cares about his work. He is so caught up in making money; he has lost sight of what is important. He’s clueless.” And on and on and on…. we tell ourselves these things. We share them with friends in search of consolation. We even speak them to the other person. Yet (here’s the kicker) NONE OF IT IS TRUE and yet we believe that our thoughts are real.

What Is Real?

To this I say, “Just the facts ma’am.” The more you can take what happened and see just the observation and then communicate about just the observation – the greater chance you have for connection.

In the example here, the observation is that the man came home at 8pm for the third time this week. (You can also express feelings and needs – but that is a different lesson. In this instance, the wife is sad and lonely and really wants to know she matters.) The fact is that the man came home at 8:00 for the third time this week; this is what is real – nothing more and nothing less. All the rest…"you are always late; you don’t care, etc.” is just thinking based off of past experiences.

The thinking is productive in only one way. I have found the evaluations to be helpful when I’m super angry, have a lot of energy around the situation and I just need to vent. It is productive to just get it out to myself out loud, in a journal, or with a friend who can listen with presence but not agreeing and adding fuel to the fire.

I haven’t seemed to be able to have a conflict, even after years of living and teaching Non Violent Communication, without first having some evaluations/judgments/blame about the other or the situation. Here is the important part and what is different from most people’s process. When I am in the blaming place, I realize it. I even can hear myself saying “You are in the evaluation stage of your conflict. Let it out… but it’s not real.” After giving myself some time and permission to have my thoughts, I will also say to myself – “It’s not real. What is real? What is the observation?”

Getting things down to pure observation is more difficult than it sounds. By observation, I’m talking about what you can see, hear, touch – what you take in by the five senses only.

Absolute words like: always, never, or seldom are typically not part of an observation. Toss adjectives and adverbs out the window as well. So, instead of “he is so selfish,” one would say exactly what he did or didn’t do to be labeled as selfish: He bought five shirts for himself and didn’t get me a gift on my birthday. Then we would also get in touch with what we feel as a result and what we need (in terms of Universal Human Needs. – Click Here for a list.

These are the things we want to communicate, when the time is right, with the other person – NOT all the stories / the thinking that goes on in our heads.

There is a lot to learn about communicating when in conflict so that you end feeling connected and complete. For now, I offer this simple tip. Just begin to notice all the things you tell yourself, all the stuff going on in your mind about the other person or the situation when you are triggered. See if you can stop long enough to tell yourself it isn’t real. See if you can get yourself to actually believe and understand that. Then, attempt to figure out the observation. Start with just that… and see the difference that occurs just by separating out the two. It’s hard work – but peace of mind and peaceful relationships are worth a little effort!