News & Events

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

Entries in NVC (3)


Are you Overwhelmed with the Trayvon Discussion? How Can We Do it Differently?

As our daily news highlights the events around the Treyvon Martin case, I can’t help but feel a swell of pain around my heart.  Not just for the tragedy itself but for the way that it lives on in our daily interactions and discussions.  When will we use such events to actually grow in our interactions and our dialogue, instead of continuing a debate of right and wrong which only perpetuates some of the same thinking that likely led to this event?  When will our media and our officials step up as leaders to learn new ways of sharing information and help our people to hear one another?  Almost every segment of our society is steeped with judgment and this blame mentality – who is right, who is wrong, who is the good guy, who is the bad guy – all the while missing the opportunity to really know one another.

I’m not some utopian; I understand the many crises and tragedies in our world.  I’m just waiting for us to wake up and say we want to do things differently.  Wouldn’t healing and harmony be the greatest legacy we could leave to Trayvon?  I’m not talking about some pie-in-the-sky ideology, I’m talking about real, concrete, skills we could all use to learn to heal and connect with one another – black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jew, and so on. 

Instead of just blaming  – let’s begin to listen and learn empathy.  I’m not talking about the kind of empathy and listening you probably already think you have.  Check out Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication (NVC) work.  If you are telling yourself, “I’m not violent in my communication,” think again.  This kind of empathy involves listening to another with pure presence, understanding (not agreement), and figuring out the underlying needs of that person.  How many of us can do that when we are charged about something?  If we could learn to hear each other and hold conversations without judgment and with this kind of empathy – we would be on a whole new path for healing the race relation issue that seems to still pervade our country.

So, instead of taking a position, or consoling, or giving advice, or correcting about the facts or all the number of other ways we tend to respond in conflict situations, the next time someone starts the Treyvon discussion, try keeping your full attention on the person and listening without judgment and without an agenda.  Try to really hear that person’s NEEDS behind his/her words and connect with those needs. This does not mean giving your power away.  You do not have to agree with the point of view, but you can learn to care about the underlying needs the person is trying desperately to convey, while keeping away from judgment which only keeps the cycle of violence alive.  If you, yourself, are too triggered to be able to hear another, then get empathy yourself – from another person.  I’m not talking about someone to agree with you (that will likely only increase your trigger), I mean get someone to listen deeply and be present to your needs.  We can do this on an individual basis or even during our panel discussions and town hall meetings.  We must first connect deeply before we can ever begin to find solutions. This is the initial step in healing the hurt and finding solutions that work for all. 


How to Handle Awkward Conversations?

Do you ever find yourself in awkward conversations with friends or family where they are putting someone down or voicing an opinion that is uncomfortable for you?  What to do?  Until now, most of us have had one of three options. Choice #1:  Change the subject as quickly as possible or remove yourself.  “Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom.”  Choice #2: Joke about it. Choice #3:  Go along to get along.  You know what that looks like.  You put a fake smile on and you go into agree mode – even if something in you doesn’t feel totally honest.  After all, how else CAN you respond?  So you kind of skirt the conversation as best you can but every now and then say something that you don’t actually mean.  That’s painful right?  

I recently had one of these experiences.  Friend A was voicing her opinion/concern about another friend of mine (Friend B) who is in the midst of building a mansion.  I, too, had a lot of uncomfortable feelings just after viewing the construction site.  It took me a while to figure out the needs related to my discomfort.  I felt happy for Friend B because I know she works hard, and I want all of us to celebrate her success.  On the other hand, I had thoughts about inequity and global resources and found myself mourning awareness, care, and shared values. 

I think Friend A was concerned about these things as well and she went on to say things like, “I just don’t know.  If I had that money, I just don’t think I would spend it like that.”  There was more said, but you get the point.  I was left frozen.  I could agree but I really wanted to avoid judgmental comments, or I could just change the subject (which would have been difficult and awkward) or perhaps make a joke, which has never been my forte’.  So I did that thing of kind of agreeing but not feeling totally cool about it.  Yuck!!  Was there a way to respond without judgment and with an ability to hold everyone with dignity?  

After the fact, I realized there was another response which would have been more connecting for all and more in integrity with how I want to show up in the world and in daily interactions.   In NVC I actually teach empathy – being present, understanding, and listening for the need underneath all the words.  Darn – how could I forget that?  The good news is that there will always be another opportunity – another time when I’m in one of those awkward conversations, and as I grow with the NVC process I have hope that I will remember this option more often than not.  Besides, now I have a story to share with the hope that you can live through me and remember the empathy a bit quicker in your own evolution.  Here’s to peace – internal, external, worldwide! 


Peace Begins at Home!

I have been blessed, recently, to work with a couple going through the beginning stages of divorce.  Doesn’t that sound weird – blessed to do this?  However, it is the greatest gift to help people communicate with one another especially when they are in a painful and angry state.  It’s like literally seeing peace being created right before my eyes.  In this case, as I sat with this couple in their home – there was a little, hand-made sign taped to the staircase located right where we were talking.  The sign stated “Peace Begins at Home.”  It’s something most of us have heard, but how many have had the privilege of actually seeing it come to life right before our eyes? Especially in a divorce situation?  I, myself, came from a divorced situation and it was UGLY!  My parents didn’t have the skills to know how to connect and there was no such thing as Non Violent Communication (NVC) to help them learn and apply such skills. 

When I mediate between two “warring factions” – my job is to help us all connect, not necessarily to agree but to connect.  Yet, what does that actually mean – to connect? Recently, I revisited a definition of connection by Brene’ Brown that I think is perfect.  “Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued, when they can give and receive without judgment.”  Imagine being in a conflict or going through divorce and having interactions where you feel seen, heard, and valued, where you are safe from judgment and able to hear the other person with an open heart.  This is no BS; the work that I do is all about making that happen and giving people the skills to do so on an ongoing basis. I create connection by helping individuals stick to the facts and talk about what they are feeling and needing and getting them to hear each other at a heart level.  It is actually possible – even in the most painful situations.

This weekend, on a heaven-on-earth spring day, I drove away from this couple’s house after working with them, blaring my radio in celebration.  I was celebrating their connection and the possibility it holds for them and their children, and I was celebrating the possibility it has for all of us to create more peace on earth, even in some of the toughest situations.  One last note… peace is an ongoing journey.  This coming into connection is a dance, an ebb and flow – it takes work and commitment, but it’s a choice that each of us has in every second, in every interaction, in every circumstance.  Are you ready to do the work of peace?