Friday, January 27, 2012

Charter for Compassion

   I was recently reminded that in 2009, some folks created a worldwide Charter for Compassion, a document which urges the peoples and religions of the world to embrace the core value of compassion
   The charter has reportedly been translated into at least thirty languages.  Learn more here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NVC is contributing to cultural change for a real organization (finally!)

For the past 14 months, I have been working with a social service organization in Indiana -- teaching them practical NVC skills with the purpose of increasing workplace morale, creating more effectiveness and building trust among the staff of 20+ people.

I have visited their group four times, and have a fifth visit scheduled next month, which is a real luxury for me as a trainer who has frequently been given "one shot" to do a training in a workplace.

These "one shot deals" are challenging for a variety of reasons, among them that they lack continuity and that people often don't retain the skills very well without follow up... even if they resonate when exposed to them.

Consequently, if I'm honest I would have to say that until now, I have not contributed to cultural change within any organization or business that I worked with.

Yes, I helped many individuals gain valuable skills that reduced their suffering, and increased their enjoyment on the job.

But it simply wasn't enough to impact the center of gravity in those organizations; after all, patterns of communication and behavior are decades in the making :-)

However, I am celebrating wildly about my current work with this organization.  Actually, the more prominent feeling is RELIEF -- relief that it's actually possible!

I have been getting feedback from the staff members that they have been using the skills I have shared with them, and it's been successful.

Furthermore, they have been giving and receiving the "gratitude grams" that I introduced to them and they, too, have been making a positive impact.

Most of all, I can see with my own two eyes -- and feel in my heart -- the energetic shifts that are happening there, simply by watching them interact with each other in my training sessions and over lunch time.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Applying Compassionate Communication in group settings (and in organizations)

For several years, I have been seriously questioning whether Compassionate Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has any value whatsoever in group settings.

As useful as NVC is in interpersonal relationships, and also with my inner relationship with myself ("intra-personal"), I haven't witnessed much success with applying it to organizations.

Mostly, groups informed by NVC create a zoo-like atmosphere where nothing of value gets accomplished -- neither moving forward with the objectives of the group, nor deepening connection among the people present.

At times, I have concluded that NVC's usefulness is limited to intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships, and that it's best to confine it there -- and not aggravate groups of people with NVC who are trying to get something accomplished.

I have a new insight that gives me hope that NVC can be useful in group settings: The work of Gregg Kendrick, namely clarifying that when groups of people gather, there are new needs that emerge specifically as a result of the group.

I've heard this called the "needs of the whole" or "organizational needs" or as Gregg says, "The WE." In other words, there are three levels in which we can apply NVC:
  1. I
  2. You
  3. We

1. I: This is my relationship with myself: how I view myself, what my inner talk says to me, and the care with which I hold my own needs.

2. You: This is my relationship with "you," in other words I am holding my own needs equal to yours, in a dance of mutuality and seeking connection.

3. We: This is where the group's needs come in, which is more than simply a compilation of the needs each individual comes to the table with, but also needs that emerge specifically from the group's purpose in existing. Gregg calls this the "shared purpose."

It's vital to recognize that there is such a thing as a shared purpose, because it orients the group toward the actions it can take to achieve its goals (stated or unstated).

Furthermore, without a shared purpose, a meeting of the group ends up being merely a group of individuals attempting to have a series of "you" (or interpersonal) exchanges, without holding the needs of the whole in mind while doing so.

This quickly produces aggravation, if not downright ineffectiveness... unless, that is, they have joined the group for the explicit purpose of exploring and practicing interpersonal interactions, in which case the entire purpose of the gathering is to practice communication with each other.

But short of that, and assuming people are in a group to achieve some goals, NVC practiced at a "you" level in a group setting can be downright maddening (and confusing).

Because you see, when people recognize the needs of the "we" -- again, the needs that only emerge as a result of the shared purpose of the group, and that simply do not exist until and unless an organization is formed -- they create synergy by marshalling their collective energies around the pursuit of a common goal.

Levels of Complexity

The three levels of I, You and We have increasing complexity, and therefore require a greater awareness and higher level of skills as you proceed.

For instance, when learning NVC, the first thing people usually learn is to identify their own needs, and express them as desired. At this level, one needs only pay attention to one set of needs -- their own.

With the "You," it now requires connecting not only with my own needs, but also including and considering another person's needs in real time. Therefore, there are two sets of needs to track, which requires more practice and integration of NVC.

Finally, in the "We," in addition to my own needs (I) and the other person's needs (You), there are multiple parties needs present for me to be aware of (We). And again, there is another set of needs that appears exclusively as a result of the shared purpose of the group. This is a higher level skill that requires a lot of practice for most people.

And for those people who are at the "You" level of their skill development, if they do not have an understanding of the "We" level, they might even greet it with suspicion or defensiveness if people are attempting to operate at the "We" level in organizations.

For instance, they might say: "But wait a minute! We can't move forward until we've heard from everyone. Plus, I'm in pain about something that another person said, and I need empathy!"

Or, "What good is it to say that we're an NVC organization if we can't even live it within our own community?" (with the underlying assumption being that living NVC in community means that we halt progress at the slightest indication that someone is in pain, direct all of our available resources to giving them empathy, and not moving forward until everyone is absolutely and 100% calm and peaceful inside themselves... which is an idealized state that will virtually never happen!)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jeff launches yearlong program for deepening in and sharing NVC!

I'm pleased to announce that in 2012, I will be launching my first year-long program in Compassionate Communication (NVC):

"Living, Integrating and Sharing Compassionate Communication"

The program will include four in-person retreats in Columbus, Ohio of 3 or 4 days each, and will be a combination of deepening in NVC skills and consciousness, and also sharing NVC with others (formally or informally).

I'm still arranging the venue -- exact dates and other details will be announced soon.

I celebrate this development and look forward to being with a group of 20-30 people... maybe including you!

Sincerely, Jeff
Jeff Brown, Executive Director
Compassionate Communication of Central Ohio []
2350 Indianola Ave., Columbus, OH 43202 USA
614-558-1141 office ~ 812-320-3842 personal

* Certified Trainer, Center for Nonviolent Communication
* Associate Trainer, NVC Training Institute

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alfie Kohn's "Unconditional Parenting" resonates with NVC

I have heard Marshall Rosenberg, creator of NVC, reference Alfie Kohn on numerous occasions. Today, I saw a video of Kohn for the first time and was struck at the similarity of his work and my understanding of Compassionate Communication.

Click here to watch a 5-minute video of Kohn being interviewed by CBS news about his work on, "Unconditional Parenting."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Creating Internal, Interpersonal, and Organizational Peace

10 Things We Can Do to Contribute to Internal, Interpersonal, and Organizational Peace

This is an oldie, but goodie, written by one of my colleagues, Gary Baran (also a Certified Trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication) back in 2001 when he was Executive Director of the Center. (pictured below)

(1) Spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how we would like to relate to ourselves and others.

(2) Remember that all human beings have the same needs.

(3) Check our intention to see if we are as interested in others getting their needs met as our own.

(4) When asking someone to do something, check first to see if we are making a request or a demand.

(5) Instead of saying what we DON'T want someone to do, say what we DO want the person to do.

(6) Instead of saying what we want someone to BE, say what action we'd like the person to take that we hope will help the person be that way.

(7) Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone's opinions, try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing.

(8) Instead of saying "No," say what need of ours prevents us from saying "Yes."

(9) If we are feeling upset, think about what need of ours is not being met, and what we could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what's wrong with others or ourselves.

(10) Instead of praising someone who did something we like, express our gratitude by telling the person what need of ours that action met.

2001, revised 2004 Gary Baran & CNVC. The right to freely duplicate this document is hereby granted.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A new monetary system: The NVC Pain Exchange (NVCPE)

Over my twelve years of learning, practicing and sharing Nonviolent Communication (NVC), I have noticed some common tendencies in NVC communities.

With some degree of trepidation (which I will explain in a moment), I suggest that one of these tendencies is what I playfully refer to as the, "NVC Pain Exchange (NVCPE)."

This is a playful variation of the "New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)," a famous entity for trading and valuing stocks, bonds and other financial products.

The NVC Pain Exchange enables and perpetuates groups of people to get together and recycle and exchange pain with each other, all in the name of compassion.

Here is a common scene: People experience NVC and are deeply moved by it. Many of them -- and this includes myself -- have never before received genuine empathy or non-judgmental presence from others.

Naturally, these people develop relationships with each other in community, and seek each other out to offer empathy to one another about challenging and painful experiences they have had.

So far, so good. After all, I regard empathy as one of the most powerful abilities we have as human beings, in terms of being able to make in impact on the lives of others.

Sometimes, however, a little problem begins to develop: people who get together to offer each other empathy can get locked in their "pain bodies," as described by Eckhart Tolle (author of "The Power of Now" and, "A New Earth").

Tolle describes the pain body as "an accumulated pain that becomes a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind. The pain body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existence, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it. It can then rise up, take you over, "become you," and live through you. It needs to get its "food" through you. It will feed on any experience that resonates with its own kind of energy, anything that creates further pain in whatever form: anger, destructiveness, hatred, grief, emotional drama, violence, and even illness."


This is what I meant about recycling, recirculating and exchanging pain under the guise of being compassionate and offering empathy to one another.

Using empathy as a catalyst for transformation of that which ails us is one thing; recirculating the pain (often by telling and re-telling the same old stories) with, and through, each other is yet another thing.

As Tolle suggests, the pain body thrives when we gather together and share our drama with each other! (at least without the explicit intention of transformation)

A Holistic, rather than Dualistic, Relationship to Needs

All of this further reminds me of the difference in holding needs in a dualistic vs. a holistic structure.

Often times, we refer to needs as being "unmet," with which pain and suffering is the automatic byproduct. Even when we receive empathy from others or ourselves about the unmet needs, if we are still in the dualistic construct of "met" versus "unmet" needs, the relief will most likely be temporary.

Instead, I encourage people to see needs non-dualistically, or holistically. A place where there is no "either-or", "good-bad", or even "better-worse."

If we are genuinely connected with the energy of our needs, we are in the flow of life itself. There isn't really any such thing as "unmet needs," per se.

As Dominic Barter, NVC trainer and creator of Restorative Circles, explains, needs are, "that inevitably produced by the nature of things, so that the contrary is impossible."

The contrary is impossible, which I take to mean that there is really no such thing as "unmet needs."

How could something that is inherently whole by its' very nature be non-whole?

A similar question: "How could we human beings see ourselves as anything less than whole beings? How could we see ourselves as anything less than spiritual beings having a human experience?"

I suspect that these questions are all related to each other!

Challenges with the NVC Pain Exchange

Another difficulty with the "Pain Exchange" is that while it might be OK if the expressed purpose of a gathering is to offer empathy to each other (e.g. an "Empathy Circle"), it quickly becomes exasperating for people who come to a business meeting where the goal is to get something accomplished.

This is a common challenge in NVC communities, as far as I can tell -- people come with different expectations of what will be occurring at a particular gathering.

Some people come with the expectation that empathy will be the primary focus, and that whenever anyone in the group experiences the slightest bit of discomfort about anything, the group stops whatever it's doing and offers that person empathy.

And then, if another person is triggered, offer them empathy until they "feel better." Before long, however, the very act of stopping progress in the meeting and offering empathy triggers those who come with the expectation that the focus of the gathering will be forward movement on projects.

And then, we see the breakdown of the meeting, people being in even more pain, and most everyone departing frustrated and discouraged about what happened.

Sometimes, I hear one person say something to the effect of, "Look, we can't just sit around and offer each other empathy; we need to get some things done here!"

To which another person responds, "But that's not NVC! That's just like they do it in corporate America! The reason I came to NVC is because we're more compassionate than that!"

My trepidation in bringing forward this dynamic that I see is about wanting to be seen for my real intention, and for acceptance.

I fear that people reading this post will have similar reactions as the above example. Something like, "Geez, Jeff is an NVC trainer? He's not very compassionate. He should be more compassionate to people who are in pain! After all, I'm sure he's been in pain before. I doubt he would want people analyzing and diagnosing him. He would probably want empathy! What is he trashing empathy for, anyway?"

Assuming that this is actually my inner voice projecting this -- which is almost always the case -- then I suppose I feel torn about this post and wishing for more understanding and insight into this phenomenon.

Which is why I posted this on a blog... so that you could comment!

So what do you think about what I've written here? Anything you'd care to share?