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.

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.

Don’tFallacy.Me Logic Game: Beta Testing Begins!

DontFallacy.Me

Don’t Fallacy Me is a free, collaborative, multiplayer mind game! It provides a statement, then you select the clearest fallacy in it.

There is a large set of fallacious statements submitted by players like you, with their best attempts to name the most obvious fallacies included. There are optional discussions for each crowd-sourced statement to allow for debates and corrections to poppable fallacy answers.

Players can optionally choose to associate the statements they post with any of the uploaded photos, leave it as random, or even upload your own (graphic templates are provided).

There is also an ‘official’ set of hopefully straight-forward examples of each fallacy, which might be best for beginners. Fallacy descriptions and these beginner examples copied from Michael Labossiere‘s, 42 Fallacies.

Top 100 high score lists are also kept for best gaming sessions and for player career totals in each of the three difficulty modes described below. Read more here on the About Page.

Don’tFallacy.Me was created by Wiki World Order. This collaborative logic training game aims to improve critical thinking and aid in the revival of the trivium method of learning. Please explore, participate in, and support independent and constructive sources of news, research, and entertainment.

Beta Testing Announced!

I think I’ve finally gotten this little site to at least the ballpark where I would like to launch it. So it time to invite anyone interested to help me test it out and provide feedback on how it could (or needs to) be improved. No special access needed or anything, just browse to Don’tFallacy.Me. I encourage you to try playing the game as much as you find it interesting, and perhaps create a username, add some fallacious statements to the crowd-sourced collection, or join/start discussions.

How could this site create more value for you and help to the world? I’ve started with a few specific questions for beta players here, http://DontFallacy.Me/discuss/?feedback=1 . After a few months of feedback from my core communities, I plan to integrate any appropriate changes then promote the game more widely to the world. Thank you so much for participating and/or being an early adopter!

DontFallacyMeBro.com & Trivium Fish

To help promote this more once this beta testing period is complete, I’ve created the first couple silly things (for which feedback is also warmly welcomed via the link above). The first is just a splash page based on phrase and illustration which struck me and stuck with me until realized… DontFallacyMeBro.com

DontFallacyMeBro.comLater, after pondering the required order of questions involved in the trivium, I felt like making another graphic, a Trivium Fish… http://DontFallacy.Me/fish

Trivium Fish

What Are You Responsible For? – by Kind Communication

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

You are only responsible for one thing: what you do.

This seems simple and clear, and yet I find that a lot of people are confused about what they are responsible for.  Namely, many people I talk to think that they are responsible for how others perceive them, for how others feel, meeting others’ expectations and ideals, as well as for the circumstances of one’s life.

When I coach people on communicating with someone they’re upset with I hear “but then they’ll feel sad/angry/scared/upset.”  And I always respond “Yeah, they might…but that isn’t your responsibility.”  

How others react to what you do is really their responsibility, it isn’t up to you.  And when you try to take care of others’ feelings, in other words take responsibility for others’ feelings, you’re preventing yourself from having an authentic relationship with this other person.  You’ll get so caught up in the “responsibility game” that you won’t feel free to just be yourself, which will lead to high stress, feeling unseen and unheard, and suffering.

In fact, if you censor yourself for the sake of the other person’s feelings and preferences, then you are responsible for lying, making yourself small, and for being fake.

And there are other people who try to reject any sense of responsibility at all.  ”He made me do it” or “I had to make that choice, there was nothing else I could have done.”  I also coach people who try to escape any sense of responsibility, nothing is ever their fault, and their life circumstances force them to act in certain ways.  This is also a mistake.

When you try to deny your responsibility for your own actions, instead of becoming free, you actually lose your power and become trapped by your own story.  Having responsibility for your own actions is empowering, it gives you choice and choice means you have autonomy and power.  If you tell yourself that you have no choices, that others and circumstances force you to act in a certain way, then you have no autonomy and thus no power.

And so you have to strike a balance.  I am responsible for my choices and actions, but I am not responsible for how others react to me nor am I completely responsible for all of my life circumstances.  Taking on more responsibility than that makes you lose your freedom to be yourself.  Taking on less responsibility than that means you’re giving up your freedom to have choice.

And so really responsibility and freedom go hand in hand.  You really can’t have one without the other.  And this terrifies many people.  Its why many of us run away from recognizing how free we really are.  Responsibility is a scary concept.  But it is hard to be truly happy if you do not embrace your inherent freedom.

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 We Disengage? – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/10/02/why-do-we-disengage/

Disengagement is the number one problem in communication.  Whether it is between parent and child, boss and employee, coworkers, friends, or significant others.  When one person disengages, compassionate communication quickly becomes difficult to near impossible.

Disengagement takes many forms.  Most of you probably saw that word and thought “walked away, left the conversation”.  And that certainly can be one form of disengagement.  Other forms it can take are attacking the other person, attacking oneself and stonewalling.  And you may be able to imagine a few other forms too.  Disengagement is basically any time one person stops the flow of open, honest, compassionate dialogue.

And why do we disengage?  And how can we counteract it?

Let me lay out just three reasons we disengage and how to counteract them.  The first is shame.  Shame is the feeling that I am bad, wrong, or unworthy.  And all sorts of things can trigger shame.  It can be something as aggressive as criticism or as banal as making a mistake.  Either way when someone feels shame they disengage to protect themselves.  They will either attack the other person, start attacking themselves, stonewall, or even just try to escape the conversation.  Shame can be hard to address because people usually don’t vocalize “I feel shame”, shame is so powerful that people don’t want to admit to the experience of it.  So some questions for you to determine if shame is at play: are they avoiding making eye contact?  did you just criticize them or give them critical feedback?  did you just catch them making a mistake?  If the answer is yes to any of these three and the other person is disengaging, the reason is probably shame.

The best way to address shame is to remind the person that you care about them.  Spend time trying to rebuild connection with this person.  What do you admire about them?  Can you see something positive in what they were trying to do?  Have you ever made a similar mistake?  Share your answers to these questions with them, and try to rebuild your connection, to show them you care and are on their team.

The second reason we disengage is that we view the other person as a hypocrite.  We don’t see the other person as living in integrity with their values.  Basically, we see them as being dishonest, and as long as you perceive someone as dishonest you are very unlikely to be open, honest, and compassionate with them.

Obviously the first precaution against this reason for disengagement is to be honest.  To live in integrity with your values.  Don’t say one thing and then do another.  And of course sometimes we can do that, and someone else can still perceive us as being a hypocrite or dishonest, so what then?

Try to talk about it.  Try to ask them “I’m concerned that you think I’m not being fully honest, is that true?” or even simply “why are you mad at me?”  When people perceive you as being dishonest they are usually more than happy to point it out if you give them the chance.  When they do point it out, don’t take it personally!  When someone points out some way they see me not living in integrity or not being honest, I usually am tempted to go into shame and feel criticized.  The result of that is then I disengage and the cycle of disengagement continues.  So you have to work hard to stay engaged, and see them pointing out some sort of hypocrisy as the moment to try and regain connection by clearing it up.

Finally, the third reason we disengage can be simply biological.  Are you hungry?  Thirsty?  Tired?  Stressed?  It can take some energy to stay engaged especially in difficult conversations.  So it is important to stay mindful to how our bodies are doing.  If your physical energy is drained, your emotional energy will go soon.

The best way to deal with this is to be willing to take breaks when talking about tough topics.  Don’t feel like you have to “power through”.  Take breaks to have a snack, take a nap, or just relax.  Don’t use this as an excuse to sweep the issue under the rug.  But do take care of your body; it truly is the foundation to everything else.

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.