Death & Grieving – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/02/22/death-grieving/

Two men who played key roles in radically transforming my life and my worldview have died.  On January 21st, Marcus Borg, a renowned Christian theologian, passed away.  And on February 7th, Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication, passed away.

I don’t really know what to say about death.  I knew I didn’t want the passing of these two men to go by without comment, without attempting to pay them some tribute.  But I do not know what to write to help you have a better relationship with death, or what would adequately pay homage to these two men and their contributions.

I do know that grieving doesn’t have to make sense.  I know that grieving is natural and necessary for our healing, and thus it is important to go through and express.  And so I want to share my grief with you, in hopes that it will help me heal, and that in witnessing my grief your own relationship to grief and to death may be changed.

“I’m pissed that I never got to see these two men talk.  I’m angry that I never got a chance to tell them how much their work has changed my life, and that I won’t get a chance to experience what their presence was like in person.  I’m so angry that these people are gone and that their vision of the world hasn’t come to complete fruition.  People still argue and bicker, using judgment, blame, and shame to control the behavior of others.  Christians still get all caught up in debates over beliefs that they never even touch the deep, living God that lies below the surface of our religion.  My mind says ‘it’s not fair!  We should have done more to raise these two prophets up.  We shouldn’t have allowed them to ignored and go unseen by so many.’

And I’m deeply sad.  I’m sad because I wish I could have more inspiration, more growth from these people.  I wish the world could benefit more from their active leadership.  I’m sad because their death reminds me that I and all those whom I love will one day die.  I’m dejected at recognizing that I don’t go through life treating it as the precious gift it is, and that I don’t cherish the connections I make in this life to the extent that I should given how fragile and temporary they are.  I’m sad that those who were closest to these men are now mourning, that they are experiencing loss, sadness, and pain.

I’m also profoundly grateful for the ways these two men have contributed to my life.  I am grateful for Marshall Rosenberg’s teachings which have helped me to accept myself as I am, tame my inner critic, and communicate with greater intimacy and compassion.  I am so thankful for the work I do in the world of sharing Nonviolent Communication with people; this work gives my life so much purpose and meaning.  I am thankful for the ways Marcus Borg opened up the Christian tradition for me.  Borg wrote books that gave me inspiration, insight, and growth in my own faith life.  I am grateful for the way he was able to help me move past the surface of beliefs into the deeper life source of my religion.

I’m grateful to both of these men for helping me have more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control in my life.”

Find healthy ways to express your own authentic grief in your life.  Not necessarily for these two men, but for anyone in your life who has died.  It could be a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, or simply someone who inspired you from afar.  Allow yourself to grieve, and while you don’t have to do it in as public a domain as a blog on the internet, you do need to share that grief with others.  You need the loving, compassionate ears of others for the expression of grief to be complete.  It is only through our sharing of our authentic grief with others that we will ever come to terms and accept death.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

You, The Hero (Superpower: Reasoning The Future)

Critical thinking, with understanding of cause and effect, is like seeing the future. Reasoning The Future. If you understand that cereal gets soggy soon after adding milk, you can see this future long before getting the milk out of the fridge.

When you play chess, you can see and consider many possible futures before taking each action. There are infinitely more game pieces and possible moves on the board in real life, but the principle is the same. With enough information, like position and nature of game pieces, at least a few future moves are quite reliably predictable.

Walking through the grocery store, approaching the soda aisle, you could plan and decide to purchase Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo Inc, something else, or none of the above. You can give mega-corporations your money, or not. Unless maybe some Prozac lobotomy is working overtime, there is at least one moment where such potential futures are considered (foreseen) before taking action and writing one more step of your story.

This is challenging but largely achievable for small day-to-day decisions, as we have lots of first-hand information about our own lives and needs. We factor ‘freak’ events as truly rare enough to generally round out while finding our best actionable path. Seeing the future in this thoughtful way is infinitely more difficult when applied to macro-level questions, like decisions and actions made ‘in the name of’ hundreds of millions of people by ‘our’ governments, etc. There is not enough solid information available, plus plenty of disinformation, and it cannot be simplified enough to process without losing important nuances. Therefore actions based on such forethought are far less accurately reliable than those in our personal life.

Looking at the future in this way changes the future, simply because you’ve put more thought into creating it. If you have not considered the causes and effects of your future actions, then you have not thought about them, and have not peeked at even the most likely resulting futures you will inhabit.

In the movies, the hero must save the whole world. But in reality, we only have 100% control of our own lives: free will which is ethically and strategically limited only by the golden rule. We have the freedom to do anything without violating this equal freedom of others. Everyone can (and should) be a hero within their own domain for which they have 100% control.

Just as our individual actions currently add up to collective problems, our solutions will be similarly made up of individual actions. Giving Coke or Pepsi a dollar at a time helps fund their draining of water in developing countries, among other issues. Giving governments your votes or significant chunks of your annual wages helps to fuel cyclical wars, usury, and the corruption which gravitates to power.

Our alternative actions will cumulatively sculpt the world of solutions, outgrowing and replacing our world of problems. It takes a real hero to think critically and openly enough to escape the false dichotomies surrounding us. It takes a real hero to make choices beyond Coke vs Pepsi, beyond Democrat vs Republican, beyond the 0.5% vs the other 0.5%, beyond Military vs Military…

Since we can only have full control over our own lives, and our individual lives collectively create the world, being an individual hero is what real life heroes really look like. So please don’t wait for some sexy protagonist from the big screen to save the collective world for all of us in a single battle. Your hero’s journey is not to violate others’ autonomy while saving the whole world at once. Your hero’s journey is to lead by example trying to convert 100% of your domain into pieces of the solutions.

Please use your superpowers of thoughtful foresight to make more heroic decisions today, single steps to save your world which we all share. Play the Make-The-World-More-Awesome Game, and play to win!

Logical Fallacy Game: http://DontFallacy.Me/about/
…one collaborative tool to exercise some of our critical thinking skills,
improving our accuracy in reasoning the future.

Respecting the Opinions of Others – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/02/08/respecting-the-opinions-of-others/

“That’s stupid.”

We’ve all had this phrase thrown in our face after we’ve shared an idea or opinion.  It hurt.  And the pain planted a seed right in that moment, that later would blossom in self-righteousness when we were proven “right”, or shame when we found it indeed our idea was off the mark.

Disagreement is natural.  It is inevitable.  And so how can we disagree while still respecting our difference?  It’s a cliche now, and sounds so simple and easy.  But let’s explore this cliche.

Sure, it is pretty easy to respect the differences of others when those differences don’t truly affect us.  My partner prefers pie and I prefer cake, which is a difference of opinion pretty easy to honor, until we have to choose one desert to share.  The values of other cultures are easily celebrated until we perceive that culture or those values as a threat to “our way of life”.  And we can respect our coworkers different work style, until we have to work with them on a project.

I want to talk about how do we respect someone else’s opinion especially in those moments when we think that opinion is “stupid”.

First, remember that other people are often those best equipped to see our blind spots.  They wouldn’t be called “blind spots” if we ourselves could see them clearly.  The different ways that others process information, approach the world, and address issues can open us up.  They can actually teach us.  Notice what it’s like to be in a conversation with someone when you view them as a “teacher”.  You pay close attention to what they are saying.  You ask clarifying questions to make sure you understood correctly.  When you disagree with the “teacher’s” idea you often don’t blurt out “that’s not right!”, instead you ask a question “okay, well what about x?  How would that fit into this?”  Next time you’re expecting to have a disagreement with someone, enter the conversation imaging this other person is your “teacher”.

Next, share something you appreciate about the other person’s idea along with what you disagree.  Even if all you appreciate is the positive motivation behind the plan (whether it is to help, have safety, for justice, etc), tell the other what you appreciate about their viewpoint.  That doesn’t mean focus on what you have in common, and ignore differences.  Talk about both, share both.  Just try to avoid “but”, and replace it with “and”.  Nine out of ten people, as soon as they hear the word “but” they interpret you as negating everything that came before.

Finally, instead of projecting the “problem” onto this other person and their idea, reflect upon what your honest reaction is.  We’ve mostly all become very accustomed to keeping up our armor, staying invulnerable, by blaming the other person.  If you’re more honest about your own experience, you’ll see the labeling of the other person or their idea is totally unnecessary.  Are you afraid that the idea won’t work?  Are you afraid that you won’t have the control/power/input that you want to have?  Are you frustrated because you’ve tried that before with disastrous effects?  What’s really underneath your reaction?

All three of these approaches helps you to step out of labeling the other person, or their idea, as “wrong” or “bad” by turning your focus inward.  This makes us slow down, avoid going onto auto-pilot, and stay in the control seat.  Being present to and aware of what I’m thinking and doing is always necessary.  We must practice anything we wish to become a new habit.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Three Exercises to Improve Your Observational Skills – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/01/11/three-exercises-to-improve-your-observational-skills/

One of the key tools in Compassionate Communication is Observation.  The tool of Observation is to be able to identify, describe, and focus on what a video camera would capture.  This involves letting go of our thoughts, evaluations, judgments, and stories which we add to the observable facts.

This sounds much easier than it is.  Imagine trying to describe a fight you had with your spouse to a friend without telling a story about what your spouse’s secret motives were, what they were thinking, and how wrong they were.  Could you do it?  Could you actually recall the exact words your partner used without adding your own interpretation to it?

We often think we have this skill down, but the reality is that we don’t practice it.  You may be able to tell your friend what your spouse’s exact words were, but your mind is focused on what you interpret those words to mean.  ”He’s rude.”  ”She doesn’t care about me”.  ”He’s inconsiderate and only thinks about himself”.  ”She’s always saying the same thing”.  ”He never listens to me”.

The point of the Observation tool is not to just be able to articulate what exactly happened, but also to keep your mind focused on simply what happened.  This calls you to let go of those judgments, diagnosis, and evaluations you make of the other person.  So your mind isn’t thinking “she’s so rude” instead it sees “she left the house without saying goodbye”.  And when your mind can stay with just the observable fact, then there is space to process what feelings and unmet needs you have about that fact.

So may I offer you three exercises to help you improve your observational skills:

1) Keep your eyes focused on this page.  In a moment I’m going to ask you to close your eyes.  When you do try to recall in detail all the contents of the room you are in.  Go ahead and close your eyes.

This is an excellent exercise to do often as a check-in to see how much detail from your present experience you are taking in.

2) Choose an ordinary activity.  Something you do almost every day, or at least every week.  Go do that activity, but this time try to give your whole and complete attention to doing that one thing.  Whether it is brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or eating a meal.  Give your whole attention to each and every step of the process.  When your mind inevitably wanders, simply bring it back to the task at hand.

3) Go on a 15 minute walk in your neighborhood.  Pay attention to all five of your senses. What surprises you?  What is beautiful or noteworthy?  What are the absolutely ordinary things that you normally filter out?  Again, when your mind inevitably wanders, simply bring it back to your immediate surroundings, to your five senses.

These are all excellent exercises to practice your observational skills.  And the last two in particular help you to practice not only noticing and remembering the observable facts, but they also help you practice letting go of your thoughts, stories, and evaluations and bring your attention back to your five senses.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Integrate Your Year – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/12/29/integrate-your-year/

Last year about this time I shared an exercise on my blog to aid you in reflecting on your past year.  As I was thinking about what to write, I remembered this exercise, looked it up, and still believe it is a wonderful tool to help you reflect upon and integrate your past year.  I’ve reposted it below.  If you used this exercise to reflect on 2013, you may be surprised and interested in the ways your life changed, and stayed the same, in 2014.  I hope you enjoy.

I invite you to take a moment and ground yourself here in now.  Right now, you are in the transition from one year to the next.  You are in the in between time.  And I don’t have any suggestions for you on what to do differently in the New Year, but I do have a fun exercise if you’d like to try it.  This exercise will help you discover what you truly want in the New Year.

First, get in a quiet place, with paper and pen, and allow your mind to settle down.  Become still.  Many people find following their breath, or becoming aware of their expanding and contracting chest, to be helpful in quieting the mind.

Then, write down the 3 lowest moments in the year 2014.  What moments are etched in your memory from this year because of the pain and sadness?  What moments do you reflect on and cringe?  What is that moment which you don’t want to write down?

Now, write down your top 3 moments from the year 2014.  In what moments did you feel utterly alive?  What were the moments that you wished could have been frozen in time?  What moments do you almost wish you could go back to right now?

Now, write about what feelings and needs were met or not met in each of these moments.  Take your time with this step.  Allow yourself to actually connect with each feeling and need.  This allows you to not just mentally review your year, but to process your year emotionally.  This will help you connect with your deepest values, core concerns, and core desires you have.

Finally, reflect upon everything you’ve written down.  Is there anything you want to make sure to do in the upcoming year to meet your needs?  Is there anything in the upcoming year you want to make sure you avoid?  Do you notice any recurring unmet needs?  If so, what specific things could you do to make sure those needs get me this year?  Do you notice any recurring needs that got fulfilled?  What specific things can you do to make sure they keep getting met?  With all these questions the more specific you can get, the better.

Happy New YearsKindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

You’re Not Alone in Your Pain – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/12/14/youre-not-alone-in-your-pain/

If I am not for myself, who is for me?

If I am only for myself, who am I?

And if not now, when?

-Hillel

I’ve been leading a free Davis Compassionate Communication Practice Group for over two years now.  And I’ve been leading classes in Davis and Sacramento for about as long.  And one thing that I’m always impressed by is the simple healing that happens when people get a chance to merely share their pain with a group, and discover that they are not alone.

I’m in awe when a participant raises their hand, and with tears in their eyes, says “I have so much relief knowing that I am not alone with my pain.  Knowing that others struggle with the same thing I struggle with makes it easier to accept it.”  Whether it’s difficulty accessing and connecting with one’s emotions, accepting their own self unconditionally, or trying to lay aside judgment and blame.

Pain is isolating.  Our culture shames people out of sharing their stories with one another.  Need proof?  What does our culture say about people who are struggling with addictions?  What does our culture say about people who lose their temper, and yell and scream at their family?  What does our culture say about having persistent moods of sadness, anxiety, or anger?

I see our culture labeling these people as having a “problem”.  That there’s something “wrong” and that it “needs to be fixed”.  And when I see depictions in movies or TV shows of people opening up to friends and family about these issues I see two kinds of responses.  ”You need to get help” and “well, let’s take your mind off of it.”

People who struggle with self-acceptance, healing old wounds, processing strong emotions, and being compassionate with others are truly having a human experience.  Recognizing these human experiences as shared experiences opens you up to seeing that life is bigger than just you, that you are connected to a much larger humanity than just yourself.

When you witness the end of someone’s tragic struggle with pain, have you ever thought or asked “why didn’t they tell anyone sooner?”  The answer is probably that they didn’t feel safe to share their pain.

Consider what your knee jerk response would be if a close friend, or family member, said to you “you know, sometimes I just really can’t let go of mistakes I’ve made.  It keeps me up at night, and when I’m alone and thinking about how much I’ve screwed up, I don’t really like myself.”  Or “I just blow up sometimes.  You know I try to avoid fighting; I try to keep my cool most of the time.  But then it just becomes too much and I yell and scream.  I feel really guilty about it.”

Would you respond with listening, showing empathy, inviting the other person to share more about what they’re feeling and what their experience is, and making it clear that you have unconditional acceptance for their experience?

Would you care deeply about them and a desire to help change their experience?  Would you direct them to “get help”, or to take some time to relax and think about something else?  Would you try to reassure them that they are “ok” and that they’re “not that bad”?

Would you be angry and upset with them, disappointed, and inform them of what you expect of them to be doing about their experience?

That first option creates the most safety for people to open up and share.  And if you would do the first option, how do you let people know you’d provide that space for them?  Do you share with others your own pain?  Do you model an awareness of emotions and empathy in even your regular conversation?

For people to feel safe sharing their pain, they need to know it is going to be received with acceptance, compassion, and empathy.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Radical Self-Reliance – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/11/29/radical-self-reliance/

If I am not for myself, who is for me?

If I am only for myself, who am I?

And if not now, when?

-Hillel

This is a beautiful riddle by the first century Jewish Rabbi Hillel.  The opening line points us towards a deep truth.  I cannot rely upon others to meet my  needs.  When I make myself totally dependent on the good will (and often clairvoyance) of others, I am giving up my own power of self-reliance.

When you acknowledge that it is your responsibility to take care of your own needs you have power.  You can make choices of who to spend time with and what activities to engage in.  In fact, you are the only one responsible for taking care of your needs.  You may choose to enlist the help of others, and they may agree.  But just because a friend, family member, or partner agrees to help you out doesn’t make them responsible for your happiness and enjoyment of life.  The reason why is within the previous sentence.

It is your happiness and your enjoyment of life which is at stake when your needs are being met or unmet.  Blaming other people for your unhappiness and your lack of enjoyment in life is like thrusting your power into that person’s hands.  You become utterly powerless to help yourself when you’re stuck in the mindset of “it’s his/her fault”.

But before we become lost on the path of being egocentric, confusing that path with the path of self-reliance, Hillel has this second question.  ”If I am only for myself, who am I?”  While it is true that your needs are important, and that you are the only one who is responsible for making sure they are taken care of, it is also true that you do not live in a vacuum.

In fact many of your needs can only be met by being a part of a community of people.  Needs like belonging, community, companionship, and intimacy are all needs that really require being in relationship to other people.  But a one-way relationship is a doomed relationship.  The focus of the relationship can’t just be on one person, relationships needs to be mutual, a two-way street, in order to be sustainable.

So be self-reliant!  Value your needs, and make the choices necessary to ensure your own happiness and enjoyment of life.  No one will make those choices for you.  And be compassionate with others!  Take an interest in contributing to the needs of others, to helping them when they ask for help.  You cannot make it all on your own.

And when is the best time to become self-reliant?  When is the best time to start thinking about the concerns of others?  ”If not now, when?”

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Giving a Stellar Appreciation – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/11/17/giving-a-stellar-appreciation/

Thanksgiving is coming up.  And despite the holiday’s questionable history, it is a day that we are invited as a nation to give thanks.  To give gratitude and appreciation.  But unfortunately most of us don’t know how to give a really stellar appreciation.

Sure we know how to say “thank you”.  The phrase has been drilled into our heads ever since we first learned them.  That same social conditioning has also made those words hollow.  And have you ever noticed how when someone says to you “you’re the best ___!”  or “You are so ____” that the words just seem to bounce off your skin without getting through?   Yeah, it often feels the same way when you say those phrases to others.

But there is a way to give thanks with depth, meaning, and connection.

First, actually identify what you’re thankful for.  When we’re asked “what are you thankful for?” we answer with something vague.  ”My partner”, “my kids”, or “my pets”.  And while you certainly can be thankful that a certain person exists, more often we are thankful for specific things others have done for us.  For if this other person hasn’t every done anything you’re thankful for, then why are you thankful for them?

So get specific about what this other person did that you are thankful for.  Was it something they told you?  Some advice they gave?  Some moment of listening to you deeply?  Was it something they did for you?

Second, how did you feel in that moment?  What emotions come up for you?  Were you joyful, excited, happy, content, relaxed, etc?  Telling the other person your emotional experience opens them up.  It is a moment where you are being vulnerable with who you are, showing yourself to the other.  This invites the other person to take you seriously, to pay attention to what you’re sharing, and to connect.

Third, share with them what value, need, deep concern or desire it met for you.  Did you experience respect, appreciation, love, care, nurture, equality, peace, etc?  What is the value within you that resulted in your emotional experience?  Sharing this lets the other person know why this is important to you.  This can help them see the value in whatever they did or said to you.

Let me leave you an example of this as I give thanks to you the reader:

Thank you for reading this, and any other of my articles you’ve read.  Knowing that people read these articles lets me know that I’m having an opportunity to contribute something, to maybe even help you.  And I feel really excited and pleased about that.  So thank you.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Focus on “The Process” more than “The Results” – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/10/16/what-are-you-responsible-for/

Process or results, what do you focus on?

Most of us focus on results.  We live in a culture that really emphasizes results.  Focusing on results means you are focused on the resolution of a problem, or getting what you want accomplished.  Results are tangible things we focus on.

So when you are focused on achieving your preferred resolution, “my partner will start spending more time with me on the weekends”, that is focusing on results.  Another kind of result might be “my parents will accept me for who I am”.  An example of focusing on personal results might be “I will no longer be crippled by anxiety” or “I will love and accept myself fully”.

But you don’t actually have control over these results.  All of them require not only your energy and dedication, but they also require the energy and dedication of others.  They may even require the right set of external circumstances to fall into place before that result will manifest itself.  Even the personal results.

Just to explore this a little further let’s take “I will no longer be crippled by anxiety”.  Not only does that require your own effort, but it may require that you have a supportive network of people in your life.  It may require that you don’t experience any new large traumas in life which leave you with new phobias or fears.  It may also require a change in your environment which may be difficult to pinpoint or difficult to change.  It may even require that you are “in the right place at the right time”, a very mysterious condition indeed.

So when you focus on the results you really are focusing on something that is outside of your personal control.  Process goals on the other hand are things that you actually do have control over.  Focusing on the process means that you are focused on doing what you actually can do to move towards a particular result.

In Nonviolent Communication, we really are focusing on the process rather than the results.  In NVC are goals are “to communicate my feelings and needs/values to this other person”, or “listening to the other with compassion”, or “making requests of the other person”.  This is a challenge to our whole cultural conditioning.  Our culture focuses on getting results.  NVC focuses on doing what you actually can accomplish.  And in doing that you let go of those things you can’t actually control.  All of a sudden your partner’s anger isn’t your responsibility to fix or resolve.  All you can do is either listen to them with empathy, or express to them how you feel and what your needs/values are when they are angry.

This isn’t naive thinking, this is reality.  All that you have control over is how you behave.  And so if you focus on the process, rather than the results, you may find that you have more energy to put into your actions, you have more satisfaction with what happens in life, and that you have less disappointment about unmet expectations.

But that’s not why I wrote this article.  If it was, then this would be a results orientated article.  My process goal in writing this article was to write something that was alive in my heart and mind in this moment.  And I accomplished that process goal.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.