Three Ways to Lower your Anxiety – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/03/09/three-ways-to-lower-your-anxiety/

Anxiety.

I have a lot of personal experience with this.  Anxiety can come in lots of different forms.  Some can’t fall asleep because their minds won’t quiet down.  Others wake up with their heart pounding and this intense feeling of fear.  Some people go through their whole day with this background noise of fear and being on edge.  And still others are so full of anxiety that they can’t even get out of bed.  I’ve experienced all of these and more.

Of course all of us experience anxiety at one point or another.  But I want to talk about what you can do when you have this unnecessary, irrational anxiety which gets in the way of you enjoying life.  And the good news is there are ways to reduce your anxiety and to live a more peaceful and joyful life.  Let me give you three.

The first is to get into the present moment.  A lot of our anxiety is caused by what I call “future tripping”.  Our minds are feverishly thinking about the future, what might happen (or what will probably happen), instead of just being here in this moment.  For example, earlier this week I had a big meeting for my career.  I was feeling a lot of anxiety about it because I was preoccupied with what might happen.  ”Will it go well?”  ”Will I look like an idiot?”  And then someone reminded me that it wasn’t happening yet, and that right in this moment I was fine and there was nothing I could do about it now.

This is different than “just don’t worry about it”.  ”Just don’t worry about it” doesn’t work because it is a negative statement.  It says stop doing what you’re doing.  But it doesn’t offer you an alternative.  Getting into the present moment is an active process.  You have to actually do something.  Try for a moment to close your eyes and put all your focus on your breath.  Notice how quickly your mind goes to some thought.  And notice what you have to do, what kind of effort it takes, to interrupt that thought and bring your focus back to your breathing.  That’s getting into the present moment.  It’s a skill that we must practice.

The second thing you can do is figure out what you’re really scared of.  Even in generalized, all pervasive anxiety, our mind is telling us a story that is causing us fear.  And that story is often untrue.  This took a long time for me to figure out.  In High School I pretty much had a constant state of anxiety going on.  It wasn’t “about” anything.  I was just anxious and on edge all the time.  It took 11 years before I finally realized that this generalized anxiety was a fear of being unlovable.  I was constantly afraid that I would do something, or not do something, which would “prove” I was not worthy of love.  But I don’t want it to take you 11 years to figure out what you’re scared of.  Just try to name one thing you’re scared of.  It can be something that seems “too small”.  Get a partner to help you with this.  Tell them what you’re scared of.  Their instruction is to do one thing, ask you the same question over and over again “and why is that scary?”  Have them ask you that question after every answer you give for 7 minutes.  At some point in those 7 minutes you’ll probably be surprised by what you say.  That’s the story your mind is telling.

Finally, notice how anxiety involves a high amount of energy in your body.  Remember your physics class “energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can change form”.  Ignoring that energy in your body is like trying to destroy it.  This sounds counterintuitive, but what you need to do is go into the energy.  But how?  Well notice where you feel the energy in your body.  Is it in your chest?  Your arms?  Your legs?  Your shoulders?  Where do you feel it?  Once you identify where it is in your body, allow that part of your body to just express the energy.  If it’s in your legs go for a run.  If it’s in your arms shake them out.  If it’s in your shoulders roll them.  Do something that allows the energy to change form, to be expressed and discharged.

There are lots of other ways I know of to help you reduce your anxiety.  And the problem with anxiety is it often makes it difficult for us to focus on our own.  We often need help to stay focused with any of these interventions.  If you’d like some support, please feel free to contact me. :)

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 Steps to Healing Mental Wounds – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/02/23/three-steps-to-healing-mental-wounds/

Unhealed wounds are sensitive to the touch.

And while physical wounds, a cut or a scrap, heal naturally and quite quickly…mental wounds can last and last.

What’s a mental wound?  Well, it’s that moment when someone says something and suddenly you’re full of anger.  ”How dare they say that to me!”  ”What a stupid jerk!”  Or it’s that moment when something goes wrong and your internal world crumbles. “I should have known better.”  ”I’m such a mess.”  It’s the situations or types of interactions that you avoid like the plague.  Or it’s when you shut down; you wall up inside yourself, and stay hidden away until the coast is clear.

All of these reactions are symptoms of mental wounds which are still sensitive to the touch.  That’s because our natural mental healing often is interrupted and not supported.  In fact these “symptoms” are also stopping us from healing it up.  

It’s like if you cut your finger and then keep it covered in mud.  The wound only gets more infected.

It’s the same with these mental wounds.  You get hurt, and you do something you think will help like blame yourself, blame the other person, or withdraw, but it ends up being a bunch of mud on a cut finger.

But it’s okay…because unlike the finger our mental wounds can be healed at any moment.

Just the other night my partner and I got lost in a conflict.  We were reading a book aloud to each other, and had a disagreement about how to interpret a paragraph we’d read.  And what started as a simple disagreement, quickly turned into her and I completely disconnected and shut down from one another.

As I reflect upon this incident, I’m embarrassed to share that I was reacting from this wounded place of “needing” to be seen as smart, “needing” to teach, and “needing” to be right.  It startled me when I finally could see it.  It made sense that the only way I knew how to avoid feeling that pain, was to take on this role of “know it all”, this habit of “teaching to” and “dismissing dissent”.  When my opinions and interpretations were challenged as “wrong” (my perception, not my partner’s intention), I had to either feel the pain of being seen as wrong and “stupid”…or I could assert my “rightness” and my intelligence.  The later feels so much more comfortable.

How do we heal then?  How can we get to a point where these mental wounds aren’t so sensitive?

Recognize that you’re reacting to something in the past.  You’re switching to auto-pilot.  You’re acting off of an old, outdated script.  Whatever helps you see that you’re reacting to something much deeper than what’s happening in the moment.

Allow yourself to get in touch with, and accept, the pain that’s really there.  It’s a wound, it hurts!  This is usually the hardest part for people; this is often where people stop.  The reason you’ve reacted the way you have in the past is to avoid feeling the pain that’s there.  Once you stop doing the behavior, you can begin to heal, but that does mean the pain often comes up.

Gain the skills, resources, or insightful liberation that will help you be here in the moment, and not stuck in the past.  After the pain has faded away…your mind is free to explore what’s possible once the wound is healed.  You build up the once wounded muscle.  You allow new, healthier, beliefs form like fresh skin.

Finally, I share my story with you because my prayer is that you don’t spend one minute judging yourself or putting yourself down for this.  It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.  We all have these mental wounds.  I am in it with you.  Don’t be intimidated or scared to reach out for a supportive hand.

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 Questions to Distinguish Remorse from Feeling Fundamentally Wrong – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/02/09/three-questions-to-distinguish-remorse-from-feeling-fundamentally-wrong/

We all make mistakes.  Of course.  I have made them, and so have you.  And sometimes I have made my mistakes into bigger problems than they really were.

“Making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

The expression says it all.  I’ve become really convinced that my mistake was a “catastrophe” or at least “really wrong”.  If you ask me about how I’m feeling I say “guilty” or “disappointed” or simply “bad”.  And really I’m saying “I feel shame.  I feel like I’m a failure, and I’m scared that you might look down on me.”

Sound familiar?  Maybe not, and that’s fantastic.  But many of you may know this experience all too well.  What’s tricky about it is that of course you want to “do better next time”.  You “want to learn from my mistakes”.  Or you “want to take responsibility for my actions.”  You “ought to feel guilty, disappointed, or regret when you do something wrong”.

All these beliefs make it hard for you to realize when you’re overblowing the significance of the mistake.  Some of you may have heard of the feeling of “shame” or “the inner critic” or “feeling unworthy”.  There is a significant difference between feeling regret and seeing yourself as fundamentally wrong.

But like I said above, it can be difficult to distinguish the difference so here are three questions to ask yourself to see if you’re feeling genuine remorse or fundamentally wrong:

First, how do I feel?  If I notice that my feelings of disappointment color everything, that nothing seems “right”, that’s feeling fundamentally wrong.  And when I feel remorse, I certainly do feel sad and disappointed.  I’m definitely not happy.  But I am able to take my attention off of the mistake for a while.  I can actually be cheered up.  When I’m so despondent I can’t be reached by anyone’s encouragement or support, I’m definitely feeling worthless and not simple remorse.

Second, I ask myself “am I okay?”  I don’t mean “am I going to be okay?” or a reassuring “you still have your health and life.”  ”Am I okay” right here in the present moment.  The specific question I use may not relate to you, but you have to be honest with yourself about whether in this moment you feel wrong, bad, like a failure, shame, or unworthy.  Some other variations on this question you might find more useful: “am I acceptable?”  or “am I good?”  or “am I loveable?”

Third, can you see the good in what you were trying to do?  Everything we do is in an attempt to fulfill our natural values or needs.  If you can see what the positive values or needs you were trying to meet for yourself, then you’re feeling natural remorse.  But if it seems like you had malicious intentions all along, that’s this feeling of being fundamentally wrong.  Genuine remorse is not just noticing that what you tried to do failed in some way, it is also noticing what you wanted to achieve and why you thought what you did would achieve that.  Genuine remorse gives you room to learn, to grow, to improve.  Feeling fundamentally wrong prevents all that.

It’s important to distinguish genuine remorse from feeling fundamentally wrong.  Recognizing that you’re feeling fundamentally wrong will help you realize that you’re experiencing unnecessary suffering.  That you can become liberated from that suffering while still able to learn from your mistakes.  Honest, compassion self-evaluation is possible.  And the first step is noticing when you’re self-evaluation is skewed.

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 Steps to Embracing Your Whole Self – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/01/26/three-steps-to-embracing-your-whole-self/

The parts of you that you reject the most fiercely.  The parts of you that you feel the most shame about.  The parts of others that you hate most vehemently.  All of these are in truth your deepest friends, they need to be embraced, and they actually will enrich your life.

Some people call these parts our “shadow self”.  Your shadow self is the parts of yourself which you reject, deny, and do not identify with.  We refuse to acknowledge and accept this shadow self as part of who we are.  And when you do that, when you reject a part of yourself, then it is impossible for you to truly embrace your whole self.

Allow me make an example of myself.  When I was living and working in Washington D.C., there was a part of me that really wanted to leave.  It wanted to move to a small, liberal, “hippie” town either on the West Coast or in New England and “disappear”.  It dreamed of working a quite job like at a family owned book store or grocery.  This dream had started before I had graduated college, but I refused to listen to it.  Instead I listened to my friends, culture, and family’s insistence on what I “should” do.  That I should get a good job that’s respected in the eyes of others and “pays well”.  That I should pursue a career that used my talents and abilities, and channeled my passion for social change.  That I should work a job I hated because it was better than being unemployed.

There are two primary ways ignoring your shadow self can manifest.  One is rage.  You judge, evaluate, blame, and criticize anyone who shares in the qualities which you deny you have.  The other is depression.  You judge, evaluate, blame, and criticize yourself such that you feel small and insignificant.

I experienced both.  Whenever I was in the office I would hold my co-workers in contempt.  I would judge them as lost and misguided.  I judged them as being only interested in money and power.  I even judged the whole city as corrupt, poisonous, and oppressive.  By judging them I was able to hold these qualities of being misguided, lost, and driven by social approval and money as things that were “not me”.  It helped me feel self-righteous.  They were the lost ones, not me.  They were the misguided ones, not me.  They were the money and power hungry, not me.

And then when I was at home I sank into a depression.  I drank heavily to drown out my feelings of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection.  I would stare at the ceiling, or at the mindless video game, crying inwardly.  I felt horrible.  I noticed how empty my daily life felt.

But there are three ways to turn this around.  First, you need to start where you’re at.  If you’re judging others start there.  If you’re judging yourself start there.  Notice what you are doing to contribute to your suffering.  Second, see that as your friend.  The judgment of others or yourself has a friendly intention.  But that intention has simply become blurred by the immense frustration brought on by denial and rejection.  Finally, listen to, accept, and learn from the feelings and needs within it.

In the very moment that I got laid off I felt this joy and freedom in my chest that I hadn’t felt in a long time.  I stopped resisting it, I didn’t go home and drink away my feelings, and I didn’t numb my brain with video games.  I saw this feeling within me as my friend, as wanting something more for me.  And so I stopped and listened.  I listened to my racing heart; I could hear its yearning to leave.  I learned that what I really wanted was a quiet, simple, low-key living environment.  That I wanted to do work that was embedded within a context of compassion and understanding.  I learned that it was I who had become lost and misguided.  It was I who had become more concerned with money and social acceptance than listening to my own heart.  And I learnt that I was deeply sad and lonely.  And when I accepted that I had to move.  I visited some towns, pick one, and left.  My depression and rage began to lift, and slowly but surely I came to embrace my whole self.

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.

VoluntaryVisions.com

Darrell Becker’s http://VoluntaryVisions.com/ is now live! The newest site tied to the Tragedy And Hope community focused on the Trivium method of Critical Thinking, Voluntary Communication, Non-Aggression Principle, and more. Equipped with audio archive to easily access all his interviews. Web site, illustrations, and animations by Wiki World Order If his work resonates with you, please consider donating to help kick-start his upcoming book

VoluntaryVisions.com Screenshot

Your Addiction is Trying to Heal You – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/01/12/your-addiction-is-trying-to-heal-you/

“Addictions hook us because they offer us something our souls need in order to be free.”
-Steve Bearman

Interesting quote huh?  It certainly goes against our society’s party line on addictions: “it’s a disease which must be cured”.  Looking at addiction as a disease creates an atmosphere of combat, of resistance, and an agenda of elimination.  But we forget that unlike a virus, addictions are actually trying to serve something within us.

Remember that everything we do, we do to try to meet our core values, needs, concerns, and desires.  And addictions are no different.  Often people refer to “self-medicating” in order to “not feel”.  This numbing out could give you peace, harmony, tranquility, or balance when your emotional world is in turmoil.  Or maybe what you get out of the addictive behavior is social approval, connection, friendship, fulfillment, play, or even spiritual meaning.  As you can see all of these core needs are very important, and it is vital that we try to get them met.  And the addiction is trying to do just that.  Your addiction is trying to heal you, its trying to make you more whole by taking care of some unfulfilled, potentially neglected, need within you.  This is why you can’t simply stop doing an activity; you really have to find a new activity, something that fulfills your core needs in a more sustainable, holistic way.

So if addictions are trying to help us, then why are they so destructive?  Well simply put, we do the addictive behavior because it is the best strategy we’ve found so far.  There was a period of my life, when I was working and living in Washington D.C., where I found my work to be very stressful and meaningless.  I also didn’t have a strong community of friends to blow off steam with and just play.  So I ended up drinking too much while playing video games, nearly every night.  The alcohol and video games were giving me play, and relief from the pain and stress I felt daily at my job.  I had tried meeting friends at my local church, at work, with some people I was living with, and even going to local events.  But to no avail, I experience rejection again and again.  So the drinking and the games gave me the play and emotional peace without all the pain of rejection.  Best strategy I could come up with at the time.

But the drinking and video games weren’t taking care of my needs for community and connection.  And so I became more and more isolated.  And that’s when the addiction could have taken a very ugly turn.  Fortunately though it didn’t.  I eventually left Washington D.C. and found a rich community of friends and support in Davis, CA.  And anyone whose struggled with addiction knows that it isn’t enough to identify the core need your addiction is trying to serve and find a more sustainable and holistic strategy.  You also often need support and encouragement from a community of people.  Habitual behavior patterns can be hard to break; sometimes even our sense of identity has become wrapped up in the addiction.  And old reminders of the “glory days” or “triggers” can send us back to square one.  A community of people who unconditionally love you, support you, and encourage you to find more sustainable, holistic activities that serve your needs is necessary to come out of the other side of addiction, to become liberated.

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.

The New Year – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/12/29/the-new-year/

This is the final piece in a three part series on “The Holidays”.  We’ve looked at how to make the tradition of giving and receiving gifts much more joyful.  I then answered the three most frequent questions I hear about how to bring Nonviolent Communication to your family.  And now I’m going to turn to the New Year.

If you read self-growth blogs and articles often then you’ve probably been bombarded with all sorts of suggestions about New Year resolutions and how to make the most out of the New Year.  And even if you haven’t, your mind is probably starting to wander into future tripping…thinking about what is to come.

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.

Now, write down your top 3 – 5 moments from the year 2013.  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?

Then, write down the 3 – 5 lowest moments in the year 2013.  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 about what feelings and needs were met or not met in each of these moments.  Take your time with this step.  Allow yourself to connect with each feeling and each met or unmet need.  This is giving you a greater connection with your essential self, with the 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 don’t do to avoid unmet needs?  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 this final step the more specific you can get, the better.

I hope you have a great New Year.  I hope you find a more enriched life in 2014.  I hope you find new and innovative strategies to meet more of your needs.  And I hope that you give and receive more compassion than you did the year before.

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.

The Family – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/12/16/the-family/

This is the second part in my three part series on “The Holidays”.  Last time we looked at giving and getting more than presents this year.  And now I’m going to look at the tradition of seeing the family.

At the beginning, I’d like to recognize that some people won’t be seeing their families this holiday season and that may be very, very painful for them.  I just want to empathize with how hard, painful, isolating, lonely, and sad this holiday season can be for you.

But for those who are going to see their family, I want to go over three major issues that come up for people seeing their families.  One I hear all the time is that they wish there was more openness and vulnerability in their family, less small talk and niceties.  The second thing I hear is how people feel like they revert to a younger version of themselves when they’re around their families, and can’t remember their NVC skills at all.  And third, I hear people wanting to forgive family members and move on, but don’t know how.

“How do I have more openness, vulnerability, and authenticity in my family?”

You would really like to feel closer to and more connected to our families.  Closeness and connection really comes from being seen, understood, and accepted.  And the only way to even have a chance of being seen, understood, and accepted is by showing up as yourself.  You need to be willing to make the first move.  Be open about your life, share your vulnerabilities with your family, and be your authentic self.   Of course, there is nothing we can do to ensure that our family members give us acceptance or understanding.  They may not be willing or able to, and coming to terms with that can be quite painful and hard.

“How come when I see my family I fall back into old patterns, and can’t remember any skills I’ve learned?”

A natural question after that first one.  I’ve told you that if you want more authenticity, openness, and vulnerability in your family that you have to make the first move.  But in the moment when you’re sitting at dinner and someone speaks that dreaded word or phrase you’ve heard since childhood….all of a sudden you find yourself acting the same way you’ve acted for decades.  First, just give yourself some empathy here.  It’s very hard to overcome old behavior patterns, especially when you don’t feel supported by the people around you in making those changes.  And when you get triggered to a young childhood memory, of course your mind goes right back to the pain and suffering you felt then, leaving the present entirely.

And so I encourage you to in those moments self-empathize with yourself.  Pause, take a breath, and empathize with the pain you’re feeling.  Befriend that negative emotion.  And even if you’ve already acted the way you always have, and the moment seems to have passed, you can always go back and do a redo.  Simply say the person “You know, when I did x, y, and z a moment ago…it really wasn’t in integrity with my deeper values.  I’d like to try to express myself a little differently.  If I could do it again, I would have said…”  Don’t think of “mistakes” as failures, but as opportunities to practice your skills.

“I want to forgive my family and move on…but how?”

This is challenging indeed, but if you can do it, you will find it is very rewarding.  Begin by recognizing and befriending your own feelings and needs.  What exactly did your family member do that hurt you?  Can you describe it in photographic, observational language stripped away of all evaluation and interpretation?  If not, then you need to empathize with your own feelings and needs more.  Once you can see what the other person did as an objective third party might, then try to empathize, try to understand, what the other person was feeling and needing in that moment.  What was their action intended to accomplish for themselves?  How were they feeling in the moments leading up to that action?

And once you can befriend and empathize with how they were feeling and what they needed.  Then you can say “I forgive 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.

Giving and Getting more than Presents this Year – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/12/01/giving-and-getting-more-than-presents-this-year/

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are just behind us, while Christmas is just a mere three weeks away.  We’ve entered that time of year again…the holidays.  Three big traditions come up in my life around this time: getting and giving presents, seeing family, and preparing for the new year.  I’m going to spend the next three blog posts reflecting on each of these traditions and how we can deepen them.

So this week I’m looking at getting and giving presents.  When I romanticize it, it’s a wonderful tradition of giving and getting appreciation, support, love, and celebration.  But when I’m in the thick of it, I often feel obligated, burdened, and judged.

Do I give a gift to my cousin, or my uncle, who I haven’t spoken to since the last Christmas truly as an expression of my gratitude that they’re (vaguely) in my life?  Or do I give the gift because I feel obligated since if I don’t I might be judged or look down on?  Do I give the gift because I have to?

I certainly do give gifts to people out of a sense of obligation.  And I notice that what comes along with that is this resentment about the holidays.  ”Oh geeze, better tighten my belt and stick close to my budget” I groan.

And I spend a good deal of my time picking presents while worrying about “will this person like it?”, “will they be disappointed/hurt/upset if they don’t like it?”, “what would that person think of me if I don’t get them a gift?”

I remember this worry about being judged going back as far as when I was little.  My parents and other kids at school would tell me “Santa only brings presents to good children.  Bad kids get coal.”  What a message that is for kids, “if you’re good then you get presents, and if you’re bad you get a lump of coal while watching everyone else opening up their presents.”  A reward and punishment system at its best.

But all of this resentment, obligation, and judgment seem so at odds with the general message of joy, celebration, and good cheer.  And so I want to find a new way to relate to this tradition of giving and receiving.

We just left Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to expressing gratitude and appreciations.  What a wonderful idea for a holiday!  In fact, I find Thanksgiving to be one of the most fun holidays because it is completely centered around sharing a meal with loved ones and expressing your appreciation for each of them.  Who doesn’t want to get invited to that meal?

And so what if for this holiday season I, and you, practiced giving to others in the form of giving appreciations.  If we practiced giving one another peace and harmony by acting calm and civil while shopping or traveling.  If we practiced giving comfort and hope to people as we treat them with extra patience and compassion these next few weeks.  What if you and I found novel and interesting ways to give to all sorts of people in our lives, certainly family and friends, but also co-workers and strangers.  We might notice that in giving some small acts of kindness each day we will receive so much more.

And what if you and I practiced receiving little joys from one another.  Really receive the next time someone says an earnest “thank you”.  Really take it in the next time someone goes out of their way to help you out.  Really feel the joy that comes from knowing you contributed in some way to another person’s life.

Instead of focusing on some sort of material giving and getting, let’s focus on receiving and giving more joy, honesty, compassion, respect, and love to one another this holiday season.

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.

Safety – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/11/17/safety/

Feeling safe is essential to resolving conflicts.  But what do I mean by feeling safe?  Certainly it means freedom from physical danger like violence or abuse.  But it also means freedom from emotional danger like judgments, put downs, manipulation, and insults.  All of these emotional dangers create fear in us, and this feeling of fear is the exact opposite of feeling safe.

Feeling unsafe can create a negative cycle.  Once one person feels unsafe, they are likely going to act out some sort of fight, flight, or freeze reaction.  They might raise their voice and make a judgment.  Or they might shut down.  Whatever it is, this reaction will probably result in the other person feeling unsafe too.  And once your both are feeling unsafe, you both are acting out fight, flight, freeze responses, which just continue to trigger one another.  Ultimately fear breeds more fear.

So for you to navigate difficult conflicts well, you must learn how to identify the negative cycle of feeling unsafe, and interrupt it.

Here’s a moment when I did this.  I was leading a workshop, and a participant and I started getting into a conflict.  He really wanted to get heard, and I really wanted to move the group forward.  I started feeling really unsafe.  And I could tell that each time I tried to “move things along” this made the participant more vocal.  Suddenly it dawned on me “oh, he’s not feeling really heard right now.  He probably feels really unsafe that I keep trying to move things along.”  This was followed by another sudden realization “oh, I want to move things alone because as the leader I’m feeling unsafe because I’m scared that other participants are going to get bored and disinterested”.

I decided to just voice this out loud.  I said to the participant I was struggling with “I can tell how important it is for you to get heard.  It’s really painful and hard that you’re not getting the recognition and understanding you want.  I’m also feeling really scared that other people aren’t getting the growth and engagement that they were hoping for.  I’m wondering if you could share just one more time on this, I could show you some empathy, and then we could move on?”

It worked!  He sighed with relief.  He shared a brief anecdote.  I reflected what he had said.  And then the group took a collective sigh of relief as we were able to move forward.

This story highlights three main tools we can use to create safety,

First, make a request.  If you notice that you’re not feeling safe, just share that!  Name it.  And then make a request to your partner for what would help you feel safer.

Second, show compassion and empathize with your partner.  When you notice that your partner is acting out of a place of fear, and feeling unsafe, try to have compassion for that.  Empathize with them, use reflective listening.  Help them realize that you actually are present with them, and that you care about their experience.

Third, be vulnerable.  This last one is a bit counter intuitive.  But we can actually create safety sometimes by being more vulnerable and honest about our own experience.  This is because it invites the other person to do the same thing.  And when two people are openly sharing from the heart, safety naturally arises.

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 Honesty – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/11/03/radical-honesty/

Most people think “radical honesty” must involve telling your friends, loved ones, and co-workers all the worst judgments, criticisms, and blame that you’re mind can produce.  ”You want me to be radically honest??” a client of mine protests. “You want me to tell her how she’s constantly nagging and never gives me space to even breathe??”

Well…not quite.

I’d say the above is still just another type of lying.  It assumes that the other person is at fault, and that if they would only change then things would improve.  It essentially denies the speaker’s responsibility for their own experience.  And that’s not honest.

There are three things that radical honesty requires: 1) telling the factual truth about what happened, 2) owning your feelings and core desires, and 3) revealing your deeper values.

So as you can see, radical honesty is really all about the speaker, not about the listner.  Let me demonstrate what I’m talking about when I say “radical honesty”:

“I’m really sad that you don’t want to see this movie with me, to be honest I really admire you and find you quite attractive.”

“When you didn’t call home last night, I was scared…really scared…that maybe you weren’t okay…but also that maybe you don’t really respect or love me.”

“You know, I’d really like to connect with you right now, but I’m frustrated that I’m not connecting well to this topic.”

And why would you ever want to do this?  Anytime you want to have more intimacy.  When you want the other person to really see and “get” you.  When an argument or fight has just been going on and on with no end in sight.  When you want more connection.

Essentially when you want to have a deep, rich, and powerful relationship with another person.

This certainly isn’t easy to do.  We often hide behind such rationalizations as “I don’t want to hurt your feelings” or “its actually not that important.”

But if you’re avoiding being this honest with people ask yourself “who really ever gets to see me?”  or “am I ‘protecting’ this person or the relationship at the cost of myself?”  It is vital to a healthy relationship that you get to be seen and understood for who you really are.  And no one can do that for you if you aren’t radically honest with them.

A quick story from my life:

I was on a date with a girl, and it actually was pretty boring.  There just wasn’t much of a spark, we kept just bantering and making small talk.  Finally I peeped up “hey, you know…I was excited about going on this date, but now I’m actually feeling a little bored.  I’d like us to have a fun date…so could you tell me what you really think of me so far, and how you think this date is going?”

My date at first gave me this look of just utter confusion.  But then slowly smiled and said “well…I guess I also wasn’t having that much fun…you’re not really my type and I thought we would have had more in common…but I really admire you for asking.”

I laughed.  ”Yeah…it was scary.  And I am kinda sad that you’re not really that into me, I find you very attractive.”

We talked for a little while longer, paid our bill, and left.  We didn’t have a second date.  But that moment was so exciting and fun, even in remembering and typing it here I felt some of the thrill of that moment.  And we didn’t have to continue pretending that something was going to come of us dating which just wansn’t true.  We both got to really see each other in that moment.

Sometimes you won’t like what you see, but at least you’ll know where you stand.

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.

The One Thing to Become More Compassionate – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/10/20/the-one-thing-to-become-more-compassionate/

Do you ever wish you could be more compassionate?  Wish you weren’t as critical of others, or of yourself?  Luckily there’s really only one thing you need to do to become more compassionate.  Have empathy.  Empathy is the experience of putting yourself in somone’s shoes.  Its about really feeling what another person feels.  Its about identifying and connecting with the core desires and concerns in others and oneself.

Sympathy is when we notice another’s suffering, and feel pity but we keep ourselves at a safe distance.  Empathy is stronger, it is actually entering that other person’s world.  Feeling their pain as if it were your own.

But there are three things that stop most of us from empathizing with ourselves or others.

First, we’re often feel scared.  We’re scared of lots of things.  You might be scared that if you embrace this person’s world you will lose your own perspective.  You’ll become just as sad as they are, or you’ll start agreeing with them and lose your perspective.  You might be scared that if I empathize with someone then you wont be able to take care of yourself as effectively.  You might be scared that if you let yourself feel that much, you’ll get hurt.  Fear is a big obstacle that stops people from reaching out and connecting with others.  But this fear of connecting with others stops us from being the fully compassionate beings we can be.  This fear may never go away, and so we need the courage to empathize with people even when we are scared.

Second, we might think that they’re just wrong.  When someone’s doing something I disagree with, I often have the thought “you’re wrong”.  One time a participant in a workshop said “this exercise was boring”.  My immediate reaction in my head was “well then you didn’t do it right”.  And as I was having that belief I felt all this resentment and resistence to this person.  Luckily, I checked myself before speaking….I noticed this thought and identified the underlying feelings and needs.  I was scared that I wasn’t being appreciated & supported.  I then was able to voice my anxiety in the moment, as well as my desire for the participant to get the growth they were looking for.  But as long as I viewed that participant as wrong there was no way I could extend empathy and thus compassion to them.

Third, we don’t know how.  Or put more accurately we’ve forgotten how.  It seems to me that my most natural state is to be compassionate.  When I’m compassionate I’m struggling less, I’m more present in the moment, I feel more relaxed.  What could be more natural than those things?  Our culture though doesn’t teach compassion.  Certainly little pockets of our culture do.  And certainly large pockets of our culture gives compassion and empathy lip service.  But the large message I hear when I see the news, most movies, and most television is to get what your’s.  That the world is dog eat dog, and you’ve got to get what’s yours first.  That you need to win.  And so after decades of that kind of training must of us forget how to empathize and connect with another person.  We’ve learnt to just view the world through our own ego.  And so if you find yourself here the lucky thing is that there are lots of great teachers, books, and exercises to relearn how to empathize with others.  For starters just try this: the next time a friend is venting to you, stay quite.  Nod your head, try to mirror the other person’s facial expressions.  And when they pause ask them how they felt when that happened.  You might be surprised by the results.

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.

Four Questions to Know if Nonviolent Communication is What You Want – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/10/06/four-questions-to-know-if-nonviolent-communication-is-needed/

I’ve been asked by several people “when should I use Nonviolent Communication?”  And I used to answer with a resounding “Always! Anytime!”  But I finally noticed that this only reinforced a “have to” mentality.  Now people were burdened with this new obligation.  So allow me to give four questions to help you figure out if Nonviolent Communication will help meet your needs in a given situation.

First, “am I talking about a personal issue or an intellectual issue?”  Nonviolent Communication pushes you to get out of your thoughts and into your feelings and core desires and concerns (needs).  When you discuss thoughts there is this inherent evaluation of true or false, better or worst.  While when you discuss feelings there is equity of sharing.  But that isn’t to say that thought filled discussions aren’t useful.  If you’re discussing the merits of a scientific study, or if you’re diagnosing a car problem, or if you’re trying to figure out how to solve a complicated problem on a work project you may need to look at thoughts and ideas and evaluate which ones are more useful than others.

Sometimes though we think an issue is an intellectual one, but in fact it is quite personal.  I remember once I was dating someone long distance, and we were having a difficult time about how often we got to see each other.  I thought “oh how simple, let’s just discuss options for how we could see each other more often.”  What a good intellectual challenge.  But I found as I went over and over the same options my partner was just getting more and more frustrated.  I missed the boat.  I thought we were having an intellectual conversation, but my partner really wanted a personal discussion.

That story reminds me of the second question, “am I getting stuck?  Do I feel unheard?”  I was getting stuck in a loop.  I just kept repeating the same four options over and over again, and my partner was just getting more and more angry.  If I had stopped to ask myself this second question, I would have screamed “yes!”  This was a sign that I needed to dive deeper.  Instead of repeating my four options, I could go a little deeper and reveal my feelings and needs.  The conversation with my partner would have changed radically if I had said “you know, I’m really annoyed and disappointed that I can’t solve this problem with you…in fact I feel hopeless.  I’m really scared though that admitting that means that I’m going to lose you and our connection.”

And the same goes for the other person.  “Does my conversation partner seem stuck?  Do they seem unheard?”  They may need some help breaking into a more vulnerable and connected conversation.  Try extending some empathy; reflecting back the unspoken feelings and needs you think are there.  I could have tried saying to my partner “oh…you know it sounds like you’re really upset?  Is that cause you’re scared that there aren’t any good solutions to our problem?  And are you sad that maybe we can’t make this work?”

Vulnerability can break the cycle.

The final question I have is “do I want to experience a deeper connection here?”  The goal of Nonviolent Communication is to create intimacy and connection through being vulnerable.  Is that what you want to occur?  Maybe you do, but maybe you don’t.  I don’t always want to have deep connection and intimacy with the stranger I meet in the check-out line, sometimes I just want to get home.  But I certainly wanted to have a deeper connection with my partner in the story above.  That’s the whole reason we wanted to see each other more often!  And so this final question may be the real fundamental question to when to use Nonviolent Communication and when to not.

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.

The Three Questions to Reveal Your Motivation – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/09/22/the-three-questions-to-reveal-your-motivation/

In Nonviolent Communication you strive to act out of your needs.  Everything you do, you want to do it because it serves your needs, including your need to help others.  If you can do this, then you’ll experience life as joyful play.

However, this isn’t how the wider culture encourages you to act.  You live in a culture that endorses the punishment and reward model.  This model says that your behavior is shaped by the rewards and punishments we receive.  You act in certain ways becasue they will produce some sort of reward or avoid some sort of punishment.  And as a culture we like this model because it makes life very simple: if I want my kids to clean up their room threaten them with a time out; if I want my wife to make dinner just buy her flowers; if I want to stop swearing put money in a jar every time I do.

The problem with the punishment and reward model is that it breeds resentment.  I’m sure you can think of a time when you were a kid and your parents threatened you with some sort of punishment if you didn’t do X, and so you did X but with a grudge.  And rewards equally develop resentment.  For example, when I was younger my parents would give me an allowance for mowing the yard.  If I didn’t mow it, there wouldn’t be any punishment per se, I just wouldn’t get the money.  So I’d mow the lawn every week, but the whole time I felt frustrated that I “had” to do it.  I got a reward for mowing the lawn, and it still cultivated resentment in me.

So how can we tell when we’re acting out of the punishment and reward model or out of our own needs?  Below are three questions that reveal your true motivation:

“Why am I doing this?”

“What am I thinking about while doing this?”

“How do I feel while doing this?”

You can ask yourself these questions about any activity you’re engaged in.  The first one can sometimes give the simplest and quickest answer.  When I worked as a waiter if I had asked myself “why am I doing this?” the answer would have been simple…”money”.  But money is not a need of ours.  At best it is a strategy to meet needs like food, shelter, etc but more often it is simply a reward.  Now when I ask the question “why am I doing this?” about teaching Nonviolent Communication my answer is “to help other people”.  We all have a need to help others and contribute to their well-being.

But sometimes our answers to that first question aren’t so simple.  Sometimes we think that we’re doing something out of our own needs, but when we dig a little deeper we find that in fact we’re still playing the reward and punishment game.  That’s why we have two other very helpful questions “What am I thinking about while doing this?” and “How do I feel while doing this?”

A close friend asked me to take care of her dog while she was away.  I agreed thinking to myself “I’d love to help her, I really appreciate our friendship”.  Seems like I’m acting out of my own needs.  But then I noticed that while taking the dog on long walks, being awoken in the middle of the night to let the dog out, and picking up the dog’s droppings I was feeling annoyed and agitated.  I also felt excited about when my friend would return and I could go home.  I also noticed that while taking care of the dog I was constantly thinking about the money I’d be making and what I could do with it, instead of thinking about my friend, or being present in the moment, or even happy thoughts about doing something kind.  All of this indicated clearly that I was in fact doing this favor out of a desire for a reward rather than out of my own needs.

Try these questions out in your life.  See if you can distinguish what you do out of your own needs, and what you do because of punishments and rewards.  And then try to find ways to reduce how much you do because of the pressure of rewards and punishments.  The more you can do that, the more joyful and playful life becomes.

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.

The Three Steps to Overcoming Disappointment – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/09/09/the-three-steps-to-overcoming-disappointmen/

You can’t always get what you want.

But if you try sometimes,

well you just might find,

you get what you need.

-Rolling Stones

Have you always gotten everything you’ve ever wanted?  No?  Well you’re in good company.  We can all understand the Rolling Stones lyrics above because we’ve all experienced dissappointment.  We all run into situations where we want one thing, but get quite the opposite.

As some of my readers may have noticed, last week my August 26th newsletter went out….a week and a half late.  I was going on vacation the last week of August, and had written up my blog post and prepped the newsletter but then forgot to send it out.  I was really upset when I got home and discovered my mistake.  And so let me now reveal the three steps I went through to overcome my disappointment.

You may think that my example is a small issue, but these steps can be useful from very small disappointments to very big ones.  The three steps to overcoming disappointment are 1) be present with your feelings, 2) accept your needs which aren’t being met in the moment, and 3) try to find some other way to get your needs met.  It sounds very simple, and yet this can be very hard since you often don’t want to feel the unpleasant emotions and you get stuck “wishing the past was different”.

First, be present with your feelings.  When events don’t go the way you wanted them to, you experience negative emotions.  But you probably don’t really enjoy feeling sad, scared, angry, disappointed, or dejected.  And so you resist them.  Instead you’ll distract yourself by trying to forget about it, or ignore that anything happened, or you’ll blame someone else or the world, or you’ll attack yourself, or if the feelings are so overwhelming you may even use substances like alcohol to avoid these uncomfortable feelings.

When I discovered the forgotten newsletter the way I tried to avoid feeling my anxiety and disappointment was by sending it out immediately.  By doing that my mind could try to trick me “there, see now its done”.  And then I added a dose of “I can’t believe I forgot, how stupid of me” to really try and seal the deal on these pesky emotions.  But honestly I still felt upset about the newsletter not going out on time.  And if I didn’t eventually allow myself to be present with those feelings I would have gone through the whole day being grumpy “for no reason”.  When I realized that I was trying to avoid my feelings of disappointment and anxiety I stopped, sat down, and just let myself feel those things

And after you’re present with your feelings then you can accept what’s happened.  After you allow yourself to really feel your emotions, they tend to subside.  As you open yourself up to your emotions in a moment they initially seem to get more and more intense.  But then you’ll notice that they peak and then subside.  And once they start to fade you’ll discover what’s really bothering you.  So for me once I let myself sink into my chair and feel glum for a minute or two the feelings of anxiety and disappointment subsided.  And suddently my mind was cleared up to ask myself “why does this really bother me?”  The answer was that missing my deadline meant I wasn’t as consistent, effective, or in integrity with my values as I would have liked.  Those were my unmet needs.

Finally, once you’ve accepted the needs that were not met in whatever your situation is, you’ll then become freed up to find ways of getting those needs met elsewhere.  You can get so hung up on wishing the past was different that you never move on.  ”But I wanted my newsletter to go out on time!”  However, when you accept the unmet needs then you can look and see how you can get those needs met going forward.  For me that looked like: “well, if I write a blog post about my mistake I’ll have more integrity with myself.  And as long as I get the next newsletter out on time I’ll have that consistency back and effectiveness.”

So as a final recap, the three steps to overcoming disappointment are to 1) be present with your feelings, 2) accept the unment needs, and 3) find a way to meet those needs in the present or in future moments.

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.