Interconnectedness – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/09/08/interconnectedness/

Your entire experience is a web of interconnections.

What you do impacts those around you.  What others do impact you.  You are currently reading these words on a screen which was built by someone else.  That computer was then transported by another person to the store from which you bought it.  People at that store stocked that computer and maintained it until you purchased it.

From the air you’re breathing you are extracting oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide.  That tree outside your window is then absorbing the carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.  Your lungs and the tree are an interconnected system which you rely upon to survive.

When you realize how interconnected you are to the world and the people around you, you will treat them with more kindness, compassion, care, and love.  When you can see that you are not an island in and of yourself, you will notice that your joy and contentment is connected to the joy and contentment of everything around you.  “A happy spouse/child/parent, makes a happy home”.

A terrific way to cultivate this awareness of interconnection is through meditation.  I have included an audio of my favorite mediation from Marsha Lucas’ Rewire Your Brain for Love.  Consider using this meditation as a tool to increase your awareness of the interconnectedness of all things.

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.

Five Tools to Practicing Compassion – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/08/24/five-tools-to-practicing-compassion/

I want people to have more compassion in their lives.  Most of us were never taught intentional practices for compassion.  Being compassionate (often misconstrued by culture as “being nice”) was often just an ideal set out before us.  Another way to make us feel “not good enough” and unworthy.

So below, I’m going to lay out five tools I use to practice the skill of compassion.  Please don’t hear “you must do all these things”.  I really imagine this list as an invitation for you to just pick one new tool to start practicing on a daily basis.

Meditation.  This is on probably every list of “compassionate practices” you’ve read.  That’s because it works.  Twice a day, sit for 20-30 minutes and put your full attention on your breath, a mantra, a piece of holy scripture, or even just one positive word.  More and more scientific studies are coming out confirming that meditation reshapes our neural pathways in such a way that it increases brain activity in areas associated with self-control, compassion, empathy, and reason.

Forgiveness.  Forgiving isn’t forgetting.  And sometimes it takes me weeks before I am willing to forgive.  I normally can’t forgive someone until I’ve allowed my emotions to be fully expressed and validated.  But the longer I hold onto those painful emotions and that enemy image of the other, the harder it is to forgive, and the less compassion I have, not only towards that person but also in general.  To make this a daily practice, sit down at the end of each day and write down something someone did that hurt you.  Give yourself permission to express all the emotion you have about that.  And I really mean all the emotions you have about it.  You don’t need the other person to be present to do this; you could do it alone or with another loving and supportive friend.  After you’ve expressed your emotions return to what you’ve written down and try to say out loud “I forgive you”.  If the words sound forced or hollow, you probably need to express some more emotion.  If you experience a peaceful release then you know you’ve done it.  Give yourself permission to star certain items and return to them on future days or weeks if you’re still not ready to forgive.

Self-Empathy.  This is a big one.  Truly connecting with my own feelings and core needs, values, or desires really helps me have more compassion.  This can involve translating my self-critical messages into feelings and needs.  Like when I hear that inner critic in my head say “You’re not working hard enough”, I translate it into “I feel scared and anxious that I am not going to accomplish enough and that I’m not being efficient.”  Self-empathy can also just involve taking a moment to acknowledge when I got hurt throughout the day and connecting with the feelings and needs I had in that moment.  This is not just an intellectual exercise, it must move beyond that or else you won’t get the desired effect.  Again carve out intentional time each day to sit down and do this with either your self-criticisms or with moments where others hurt you.

Empathy towards others.  This is the act of connecting with the feelings and needs in another person.  Again, this is not just an intellectual exercise, and if it doesn’t get past the place of “analyzing” then you are really only connecting with the mental image of the other person you have constructed in your head. Think about those people in your life that get under your skin.  Think about the specific actions or words they say that drive you nuts.  Try to imagine and connect with the feelings and needs in those words or actions.

Expressing gratitude.  Another popular tool on lists such as this.  You need to actually express thanks and appreciations to others.  A simple “thank you” really won’t suffice.  Share with the other person how you felt and what needs, values, or core desires their action really fulfilled in you.  This helps both of you have a deep understanding of how you were positively impacted by another person’s actions.  So make it a regular habit to express gratitude with your friends, partner, or family.

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.

Admit When You’re Wrong – By Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/08/10/admit-when-youre-wrong/

You are not perfect.  You make mistakes.  Sometimes you’re wrong.  Sometimes you’re the one who went over the top or went too far.

And that’s okay.

In fact I encourage all my clients to have the courage to be imperfect.  Any time you try to be something you’re not (like perfect, or always right, or always nice, or always polite, etc) you are being fake.  And others can tell.  They may not know exactly how you’re being fake, but they probably feel some uneasy.

Think about times when you’ve been around someone who is pretending they are something more, something better, than they actually are.  How did you feel?  I generally feel skeptical, uneasy, anxious about that person seeing my flaws and lauding it over me, and I feel annoyed.

So hiding your mistakes doesn’t work, and people actually like it when you can confess your errors.  I’m not saying go around and treat every person as a private confessional.  I am saying that when you drop the ball, say something you regret, or did something reckless, to just admit that to whomever else was involved.

When I admit that I’ve done something I regret I am always surprised by how much more at ease I feel, how the other person seems more relaxed, and how much more readily the other person confesses to their own regrets of how they’ve acted towards me.  In that moment, I am giving both myself and this other person permission to be imperfect, to be just two humans doing the best we know how.

In the heat of the moment you might be too angry to admit when you’re wrong.  You can always have a redo, where later you come back and apologize.  This is always better than nothing.  And the more you practice admitting when you’re wrong, the easier it’ll be to admit it in the moment.  And that’s where some really miraculous things can happen.

Sound difficult?  It is sometimes.  Most of us have been deeply conditioned to try to be perfect, to try to do it right all the time, and to try to be nice & polite.  So the very thought of admitting we did something wrong brings up not only fears about the judgments and power this other person will hold over us, but also the judgments and power this inner critic, this inner parent figure, this inner authority figure, will hold over us.

It’s okay.  Admit when you did something wrong, and then notice how in this unguarded place forgiveness and compassion finally have room to enter.

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 Rules to Pausing Difficult Conversations – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/07/27/three-rules-to-pausing-difficult-conversations/

“How do I talk to my partner when I’m just so mad at her??”

You don’t.

When you get really upset, when you “see red”, when the only way you can express yourself is through yelling, that’s when you are triggered to a strong fight reaction.  And anytime you are triggered to your fight, flight, or freeze reaction your ability to communicate is nearly impossible.  So I always recommend to people that at the earliest sign that a conversation is about to “go south” to pause the conversation.

There is no shame in taking some time to calm down, collect your thoughts, and prepare to engage in a difficult but constructive conversation.  And I’d like to share my three rules to effectively pause a conversation.

First, always say “I need some time to calm down” even when you don’t.  Sometimes you can tell your partner is really worked up, and sooner or later will say something that you experience as hurtful.  Don’t hope that they will be able to control themselves, or will pause the conversation.  If you can tell that your partner is struggling, just step in and pause the conversation.  But if you say “you need some time to calm down” or even worse “you need a time out” you can expect that your partner will get even more upset.

Second, set a time for when you and this other person can check-in and potentially continue the conversation.  Setting a time to check-in will help your partner not feel like they are being abandoned.  And never use a break as a means to sweep an issue under the rug.  Whenever an issue doesn’t get resolved it just keeps popping up, sometimes dressed in some new disguise, but it’s still the same problem.  Research says that we need at minimum 30 minutes to calm down from an extremely angry place.  But depending on the issue and circumstances it could take much longer than that.  So before you both split, set a time when you can check in and see if you’re both ready to resolve the issue.  If at the check-in time one or both of you are still not ready to talk, then set a new check-in time and go back to taking a break.

Finally, use the time to actually calm down.  Don’t spend the entire break ruminating on all the terrible things your partner has said in the past, or how hurtful or mean your partner is, or making a laundry list of all the times this other person has let you down.  If that’s how you spend your break, then when you return you won’t be calmer, instead you’ll just have more ammo.  So spend that time doing something that’s truly relaxing.  Listen to music, go for a walk, receive some empathy from a friend, exercise, meditate, take a nap, watch some TV, read, journal, take a bubble bath, do whatever it is that helps you calm down.  Ideally, you even want to spend some of this time remembering all the things you love about this other person.

By following these three rules you will be able to avoid saying those things which cannot be unsaid, you will be able to choose a time and place when both you and the other person can speak calmly and with compassion, and you’ll actually resolve issues instead of just “letting them go”.

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 Signs You Need a Vacation – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/07/15/three-signs-you-need-a-vacation/

Ahhhhh……I’ve just returned from a short weekend camping trip.  I feel so relieved, relaxed, rejuvenated, and refreshed.  And as I reflect upon the weeks leading up to my camping trip I notice three signs that I needed a vacation.  And the last one surprised me.  I’m going to keep this short since I just returned, and I hope these can be help you figure out if you need a vacation too.

First, I was having a hard time staying motivated.  I’m sure everyone knows moments where they are “supposed” to be working, but you just can’t find the energy or the focus to actually do it.  Often you may view this as “lack of discipline” or worst, outright “laziness”.  But could this lack of energy and focus be your body’s early warning sign that you need some rest?  Your body is a wonderful tool which gives you a lot of helpful information.  So when your body gives you a message that your mind doesn’t like, don’t try to overrule it.  Listen.

When we see kids that are “cranky” we naturally assume that they are tired and need rest.  When we see adults that are “cranky” we naturally assume they are mean people.  When did the link between irritability and the need for rest become separated in our minds?  If you notice that your temper is getting triggered easily, that you’re stressed by the slightest wrinkle in your plans, or that small annoyances are blown out of proportion, then you could really use some rest.  Don’t judge yourself for your irritability; treat yourself to some rest and relaxation.

Potentially the most surprising sign that we need a vacation is that we’ve become addicted to work.  I am a big fan of productivity and accomplishment.  Potentially too big a fan.  Have you ever been jumping from big project to big project without even a thought to taking a break in between?  Have you ever been so focused on getting work done, that you’ve neglected other aspects of your life?  Work and accomplishment can be so addictive that we lose ourselves to it.  And while riding the wave you may feel like you have boundless energy, the constant stream of work is taking its toll.  So make sure to build in time to savor the completion of a big project, take time to appreciate and celebrate, and take time to rest before the next big one.

A final note.  You may define a “vacation” as taking a trip to some exotic or fun-filled location other than your home.  I want to suggest that this definition may be a limiting one.  You could define a “vacation” as any time you take to truly relax.  Many people waste their relaxation time worrying about the future, brooding over stressors, or being lost in the past.  Vacations are these moments where we are completely in the moment, usually because the moment is a novel one.  But you can be completely in the moment and relaxing in your hammock in the backyard, or on your living room sofa, or out on the town.  The healing power of vacations doesn’t come from where they happen, it comes from having time to be in the moment and truly relax.  Don’t let lack of time off, lack of preparation, lack of transportation, lack of destination, or lack of funds stop you from taking a vacation right now.

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.

Embracing it All – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/06/29/embracing-it-all/

I do this thing, and tell me if you do it too.  I often find that I try to avoid, transmute, “heal”, or “transcend” my negative, “bad”, emotions in order that I may spend more time in the positive, “good”, emotions.  I don’t want to feel angry, disappointed, bored, sad, or scared.  I imagine to myself “if I meditate enough…if I practice NVC enough….if I am present enough…if I am compassionate enough…if I’m enlightened…if I’m saved…if I’m fully healed…then I will no longer have any of these painful feelings.”  I hope to reach a state where I will have two emotions: contentment and joy.  And that’s it.

I think the reasons I do this are many fold.  I’ve encountered numerous religious/spiritual faiths and traditions that teach me that the elimination of suffering is possible, and that if one can live within the divine then every day is a blessing.  I’ve grown up in a culture where negative emotions are viewed as “less desirable”, as “unflattering”, and “avoidable”.  And of course, emotions like disappointment, anger, and sadness are painful!  And so I’ve quite naturally wanted less pain in my life and more pleasure.

And it has come to my attention that this approach to life is misguided.  And so if you are like me in that you too have consciously or unconsciously been trying to have only positive emotions and eliminate all the negative ones, then let me share with you some important words.

You are big enough to be with the discomfort, the pain, of negative emotions.

You do not need to “get” anywhere; you are already the person you are meant to be.  If you don’t believe this it is only because you have created ideal images of humanity and then used those ideals against yourself.

You are whole when you embrace your positive and your negative emotions.

You are not meant to have a blissful experience, you are meant to have a human experience.

You might not like these words because you may not want to embrace these hard, difficult, painful feelings.  That’s okay.  Can you embrace in this moment the fact that you are resisting and don’t want to feel painful emotions?  And if you find these words liberating I am pleased.  Learn to accept all moments of life, the pleasure and the pain.  Painful emotions are not undesirable or to be avoided.

If you’re mad, be mad.  If you’re scared, be scared.  If you’re sad, be sad.  Don’t tell yourself that you should be feeling anything different, and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you should or can feel something different.  Be true to yourself.

This of course is difficult to do, and it takes practice.  But the result is a rich life and a more authentic you.  It is probably a life long journey, but along the way you will see such marvelous things.  Please join me in embracing it all.

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.

Debating or Relating – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/06/15/debating-or-relating/

“No, no, no.  I called you first, and we talked…then you decided to go out anyways!”

“What??  That’s completely wrong!  You didn’t call me till after I was already out.”

“Really?  How could you be so dumb?  Look I’ll show you my phone to prove it.”

“Sure, let’s see.”

These two people are debating.  They are arguing over who is right and who is wrong.  The argument hinges upon who can remember the facts better.  Have you ever been stuck in this kind of conflict?  Both you and the other person are convinced you are right, and the other person is wrong.  And you are both set out to prove it.

As long as you and another person are debating over whose right and whose wrong you are stuck.  No one wants to be wrong, so both of you will dig in your heels, trying even harder to prove yourself right.  Often you’ll both walk away without ever resolving the issue.  If the issue does get resolved through debate, then one person must have been proven “wrong”.  That person now feels shame and resentment.  And now the relationship, the trust, has been damaged in some way.

Wanting to debate comes from the idea that there should be a “winner” and a “loser” in a fight.  That one person needs to come out on top, and the other person needs to submit.  That there is some absolute truth which one side knows about and the other side is at best ignorant about and at worst is lying about.

Relating is a whole different way of engaging.  Instead of proving whose right and whose wrong, what’s true and what’s false, you simply want to share with this other person who you are.  You want to share with this person your feelings, concerns, and desires as well as hear what is going on for the other person.  When you relate with someone you both acknowledge and respect that you are different people and may have different experiences of the same incident.  And from a mutual understanding of each other you can both find solutions that leave everyone happy.

Wanting to relate comes from the idea that conflicts really can be “win-win” as opposed to “win-lose”.  Everyone’s needs deserve to be met, and can probably be met.  Relating comes from the belief that solutions to issues are found from understanding all sides of the issue, and that each one of us have a glimpse of just one angle on the issue.  So together we can get a full picture of the issue.

Relating looks incredibly different than the opening example.

“I’m worried that you went out knowing that I had asked you to stay in.  And I’m scared that I can’t trust you.”

“I get that you’re worried about being able to trust me, and I’m upset and mad because I want you to trust me.  I really just wanted to go out and have fun…I want to be able to go out and relax with friends without having to ask for permission.”

“I know you want to be able to relax with your friends and I also want you to feel free and not relying upon me for permission.  I would also like though some reassurance and respect because I worry about you.”

The fundamental shift is not about using certain tools or methods over others.  The fundamental shift comes from an inward reorientation from having to be right to wanting to understand.

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.

Chain Reaction – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/06/01/chain-reaction/

Put out fear, and they’ll feel fear.
It’s a chain reaction.
Put out love, and they’ll feel love.
It’s a chain reaction.
-Cloud Cult

These words come from a song that I deeply cherish.  I think these words capture the real essence of Nonviolent Communication.  Any of you readers who own dogs will know the truth of these words too.

I wonder though, what does this truth teach us about living in the world?

The first reaction in our modern world is to try to understand these words literally.  ”Well clearly it says you should always put out love, and whenever you put out fear you should only expect more fear.”  But if we take a few moments to examine that we see that’s just one more obligation, one more “have to”/”should” statement.   And as with any “should” thought, if we buy into it we only create more suffering in our lives.

So if these lyrics aren’t telling us what we ought to do or should do, then what can they be teaching us?  Well, first they point to a simple truth about empathy.  Empathy is this experiencing what another person is experiencing.  This can be a conscious act, but it often times is something that happens without our awareness.

We watch a sad movie and suddenly are whole lives are just terrible.  You watch a silly rom-com and all your blues melt away.  Emotions are contagious.

With that knowledge, you can be aware of what situations you allow yourself to be exposed to.  With more awareness of your environment and how it is affecting you, you may be able to make choices that better serve your needs.  If you’re feeling tired and stressed from a long day at work, it may not be the best time to have that important conversation with your spouse or child.  If you’ve just had a very difficult and challenging conversation with someone, you may need to rest before engaging in the next conversation.  The people around us affect us.  When you are with this person, do you walk away feeling refreshed or drained?  What does that tell you about whether you want to keep being around them?

If you are aware of your environment and how it affects you, then you also know how to change your environment to shift your feelings.

And in some ways this is simply what the process of identifying your needs is.  It is the process of identifying what in the current environment isn’t working for you and then figuring out what could happen in the environment that would make life more beautiful.

But don’t think this means you are simply a product of your environment.  You have agency too.  When a hospice chaplain enters a patient’s room, she helps that patient have more peace and acceptance about their situation by entering the room with peace and acceptance in her own heart.  You can help your spouse, your kids, your friend calm down when they’re upset by approaching them with love and acceptance.

Notice the chain reactions in your day.  Notice how other people and your environment affect you today.  Notice how you affect others when you are feeling one way and then when you’re feeling a different way.  Notice the interconnection, the chain reaction, of every moment.

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.

Emotional Fatigue – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/05/18/emotional-fatigue/

We can’t be at our best all the time.

Sometimes there are moments when I just can’t bring myself to give someone empathy.  Or I can’t slow myself down and be present enough to share my feelings and needs, leaving out my judgments and evaluations.  Or I find that I feel so much distress that I can’t help but make a demand.

When I first started learning Nonviolent Communication I would judge myself harshly for these moments.  ”I blew it again” or “I know better, why don’t I do better?” or even simply “I suck”.

Sound familiar?

But judging myself in those moments only pushed me deeper into sadness, confusion, anger, and feeling defeated.  Those judgments of myself didn’t meet my needs for compassion, integrity, understanding, or support at all.  And so as I’ve grown in my understanding and using of Nonviolent Communication I’ve come to accept these moments where I can’t choose the strategy of NVC as moments of “emotional fatigue”.

Emotional fatigue is something that is temporary and can be addressed.  If it isn’t though, it can quickly evolve into full on burn out.  So when I notice that I’m emotionally drained, I ask myself “what are my needs right now?”  Often what comes up is rejuvenation, rest, relaxation, empathy…sometimes connection and sometimes space…sometimes peace and sometimes play.

What would this look like for you?  What if the next time you snap at a friend or co-worker, the next time you make a demand to your kids, or the next time you try to fix your partner’s problems instead of giving empathy, you stopped and realized that you might be experiencing some emotional fatigue?  That you might just not have the energy in this moment to be fully present, honest, and compassionate.  And what would it look like for you if you didn’t judge yourself for that, but rather was curious about what could help you feel more rejuvenated?

You are not a superhero.  You are not an enlightened guru.  You are not perfect.  And that is okay.  Be curious about yourself.  What helps you to relax and recharge?  Why are you trying to “push through” instead of “taking space” for yourself?  Why are you holding yourself to unreasonable ideals?

We are most capable of helping other’s meet their needs when our own needs are satisfied.

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.

Why Do You Do What You Do? – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/05/04/why-do-you-do-what-you-do/

When you give your partner a kiss…when you offer to help a friend move furniture…when you engage in a friendly conversation with a stranger on a bus…when you start teaching communication classes in your local community…why do you do it?

Why do you do the things you do?

There are lots of answers to this question.  And those answers may be complex and vary from one activity to the next.  But I’d like to invite you to investigate your more fundamental motivations.  We all have something deep down that’s driving us.  Some of us are seeking approval, others are trying to be a “good” person, and yet others are just trying to be their most authentic, truest, self.  Which is yours?

If you’re doing it for approval, then you’re probably thinking to yourself “what does this person think of me?”  I used to seek approval in my relationships.  I needed my partner to give me their approval for me to be content.  When I was trying to make a decision I would ask myself “what would she want me to say or do?”  That’s the indication if the motivation behind your actions is to seek approval.  If when you’re trying to make a decision the deciding factor is “what would he/she/they want me to do?”

If you’re doing it to be a “good” person, then you’re probably thinking to yourself “was that the right thing to do?”  When I tell myself that there is a “right” thing to do and a “wrong” thing to do, I really get myself in a bind.  I’ll judge myself; put myself down, for just wanting to do the “wrong” thing.  I constantly see myself as “not good enough” because I don’t always do the “right” thing.  Is any of this sounding familiar?  Then you’re motivation behind your actions may be to be a “good” person.  To emulate some ideal standard of doing it “right”.

If you’re doing it to be your most authentic, truest, self, then you’re probably thinking to yourself “is this deeply satisfying?”  When your motivation is to express your authentic self there doesn’t need to be any guess work about what others will approve of or what’s “right or wrong”.  You only have to listen to what is deeply satisfying to yourself.  Does this activity give you deep satisfying joy?  Or does it feel like drudgery?  Is it a temporary pleasure that leaves you with an uncomfortable craving for more?

Our motivations are always complex things.  But this last option, wanting to just express your truest self, makes it much simpler.  Yes, I like to receive approval.  Yes, I like to feel like I’m a “good” person.  But with both of those, I find that they are temporary pleasures that leave me craving for more.  When my motivation is to be accepted, I’m never accepted enough because there are always new people whom I have to win approval from.  When my motivation is to be “good”, I’m never “good” enough because there is always that moment when I don’t do the “right” thing.  But when my motivation is to express my truest self, then I can be content because I can rest assured that I’ve done that, no matter what the outcome.

Why do you do what you do?

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.