Three Tips on Helping Your Partner Feel Heard – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/05/02/three-tips-on-helping-your-partner-feel-heard/

I affectionately call myself a “monologue talker”.

What does that mean?

It means that, given the space, I will just talk, and talk, and talk.  When my girlfriend asks me how my day was, I’m likely to give a 10 minute monologue with a blow by blow of each moment.  Or when she asks me to explain something that I’m reading, I’ll not only explain the concept, I’ll go into various perspectives on it, my own feelings and reactions, the arguments and counterarguments I find most persuasive, etc.  It’s frustrating for both of us (and luckily for my clients and students I’ve learnt to edit myself when I’m in the role of “counselor” or “teacher”).

Maybe you have a romantic partner who is a “monologue talker”.  Maybe it’s a friend, a coworker, a boss, or a family member.  Or maybe you’re a “monologue talker”.  Here is the secret about us monologue talkers…we desperately want to feel heard.

And we think that the way to feel heard is to just tell you more and more details about our experience.  But it’s faulty thinking.  It’s actually sharing too much!

And so yes, we monologue talkers need to learn how to chunk down our messages so that we really give our listeners a manageable amount.  But waiting around for someone else to change on their own is frustrating at best.  So let me explain the healthy way to help a monologue talker feel heard and understood, and thus stop monologue talking.

You may have heard of “reflective listening” or maybe “active listening”.  It’s when, as the person listening, you reflect back a personal summary of what the other person said.  For example:

Bob (speaker):  I’m really frustrated about work!  My boss is cutting back hours, and he’s expecting us to still get done all of our normal responsibilities!  He’s insane!

Sally (listener):  Wow!  That does sound really frustrating!  It sounds like it’s really unreasonable of him to think you all can get the same amount of work done in less time.

You don’t reflect back word for word what the speaker said, you try instead to put it in your own words and summarize the speaker’s message.  And while for some, or most, of you may be familiar with reflective listening, let me give you three tips on how to do it really expertly.  In a way that could help that monologue talker in your life really feel heard (and just an fyi, this practice of reflective listening and some of these tips also really help you open up those with the opposite affliction, the “two word talkers”).

First, make an empathetic interruption.  I know this sounds contradictory, show that you’re listening by interrupting.  But I swear this will help monologue talkers.  Saying something like “wait, let me make sure I’ve got it straight so far…” or “hold on, it sounds like you’re saying…” if followed by reflective listening shows that you really care about what the speaker is saying.  It shows the speaker that you care about what they’re sharing and that you have been listening up to this point.  Doing this also is the number one way of helping monologue talkers begin to learn how to chunk down their messages into bite sized pieces.

Second, reflect back what they didn’t say.  In the example above with Bob & Sally, here’s how Sally could have reflected back what Bob didn’t say:

Sally: “Wow, I hear how frustrated you are with your boss.  Are you also anxious about what he might say or do if you can’t do everything in less time?  Do you wish that your job was simply more relaxed and peaceful?”

Bob never talked about feeling anxious about his job, nor did he say anything about what he wishes his work environment was like.  But Sally read between the lines, and intuited what might be going on for Bob that he isn’t saying.  She then reflected that back to him in the form of a question.

Third, react as if whatever the person is describing had happened to you.  React with your face and body.  If the speaker is talking about something sad, let your face and body drop.  If the speaker is talking about something alarming, raise your eye brows, open your eyes more, and make a shocked face.  I don’t mean try to act like it happened to you.  Acting often feels fake and it won’t work.  Really let yourself naturally react as if whatever the speaker is talking about had actually happened to 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.

Who are you? – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/04/19/who-are-you/

“Who are you?”

I did an exercise once where I was asked that question repeatedly for 7 minutes.  “Who are you?”  “I’m Alex.”  “Who are you?”  “I’m a white male.”  “Who are you?”  “I’m a counselor.”  “Who are you?” etc.

This exercise may sound really frustrating.  I was in a room with roughly 150 people all doing the same exercise and I assure you, people were definitely getting frustrated by the process.  But it is also an eye opening and amazing exercise.  Questioning and examining who you identify as, what parts of yourself you use to construct your identity, is essential to being more empowered, more compassionate, and more joyful.

Once I got past the surface layer of identity (name, appearance, occupation, likes and dislikes) things started to get interesting.  “Who are you?”  “I’m a good friend.”  “Who are you?”  “I’m someone who pushes himself to works hard and works a lot.”  “Who are you?”  “I’m very loving and compassionate.”  “Who are you?”  “I’m someone people come to for support.” etc.

Some philosophers have argued that since humans are such social creatures that we really don’t have any identity beyond who we are in relationship to other people.  And what about when we are alone?  These same philosophers say we are such social creatures that our identity when we are alone is determined by our relationship to ourselves.  They would say my answer “I’m someone who pushes himself to work hard and work a lot” points to a particular relationship I have with myself that constructs a meaningful identity.

But the exercise doesn’t stop there.

“Who are you?”  “I’m frustrated and tired and I would like some rest.”  “Who are you?”  “I’m someone who thinks this exercise is dumb.”  “Who are you?”  “I’m someone who thinks the world is safe.”  “Who are you?”  “I’m someone who believes in love and peace.”  etc.

Once I got past my surface level identity (name, appearance, occupation, likes and dislikes), and once I got past my social level of identity (how do I relate to other people, how do other people relate to me, and how do I relate to myself), I then uncovered this layer of identity composed of feelings and thoughts.  For many people this is the final stop.  Western culture has consider the realm of thoughts and feelings as the most primal element of identity.

“I think therefore I am.”  Descartes planted the seed for Western culture to identify with thoughts.  You may believe that who you are is the constant stream of thoughts in your head.  You may believe that if you ceased to have a thinking mind then you’d cease to be who you are.  But I assure you that you are not your thoughts.  You are something deeper than your thoughts.

This brings us to the level of feelings, and I’ll add in here needs & values.  I am my feelings & needs.  But even this is not true.  You experience your feelings and needs.  You experience your thoughts.  But you are not your thoughts, feelings, or values.  There is a great meditation I use with many clients and students called the “Witnessing Meditation” where we just observe our thoughts, feelings and needs and see how they are in constant flux.  They are continually changing from one moment to the next, and yet there is something within each of us that is able to stay constantly observing the thoughts, feelings, and needs.

And so if your thoughts, feelings, and needs are in a constant flux, and you are able to stay constantly observing them, then it must be the case that you and I are more than our thoughts, feelings, and needs.  But then who am I?  Who are you?

“Who are you?”  “I am the one who observes all that is within me and all that is outside of me.”  “Who are you?”  “I am the container for an ongoing, ever unfolding process.”

“Who are you?”

“I am that which I am.”

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.

Being Aware of Your Inner Experience – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/04/05/being-aware-of-your-inner-experience/

One of the main obstacles to communicating that I encounter in myself, and in clients I work with, is a lack of awareness of one’s inner experience in that moment.

It’s as simple as that.  We get into these fights, these conflicts, and we quickly lose all connection with our personal inner experience.  I might become focused on what my partner just said.  I become so focused on how that comment was unfair, mean, unhelpful, or whatever that I don’t notice my own experience.  Or I might become so focused on how this issue is insurmountable, that there’s no solution, and woe is me.  My full attention may be on the perceived outcome if I “lose”, that I can’t see anything else.  Or I might become so flooded with emotion that my brain just shuts down completely; I can’t think or notice anything, everything’s just gone blank and empty.

Where is your attention focused when you’re in a conflict?

Being aware of your inner experience is crucial to healthy, compassionate, and honest communication.  It also can be the most difficult thing to do during a fight.  What does it even mean to “be aware of your inner experience”?  It is the skill of being both aware of what’s going on inside of you and not being controlled by what’s happening in you.  Let me tell you a story to demonstrate this.

I was working with a couple; let’s just say their names were Jack and Jill.  I was working with them at the Relationship Skills Center where I sometimes work.  They started having a conversation about money issues.  Jack went off and said “you know Jill, the problem is how much you’re spending.  If you could just control your spending we wouldn’t be in this mess!”

This is a classic example of one’s attention being focused on the other person, on the external world, rather than the internal world.  Jack is focusing on what Jill is doing or not doing, how Jill could change, and what bad outcomes may come if she doesn’t change.

Jill also lacked much awareness of her inner experience.  You wouldn’t be able to see that on the surface however because on the surface all that she did was keep her mouth shut, looked straight down at the ground, crossed her arms, and slumped in her chair.  She was shut down.  Jill was really allowing the overwhelm of emotions within her run the show.  She couldn’t speak and couldn’t connect.

So I got them both to pause the conversation.  And I started working with Jill on processing her emotions.  I first asked her to just write for a few moments what feelings she was experiencing.  Then after some quite time of personal reflection, she told me and her partner about what feelings were going on for her.  When Jill was able to identify, name, and express her emotions she was no longer overwhelmed by them.  And in fact doing this inner reflection on what her experience was in that moment put her back in the driver’s seat rather than her emotions being in the driver’s seat.

Then I turned to Jack.  I asked him “It sounds like you’re angry about how Jill has spent money in the past?”  Jack agreed and continued “yeah, I mean I’ve been so angry that I’ve tried to tell Jill about the money issue, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference to her.”  I continued empathizing, “it sounds like you also feel helpless about the situation, like you don’t know what to do to make any difference?”  “Exactly!  I’m really confused and overwhelmed about this problem.  And I just wish Jill would help more in trying to address it.”  “Oh, I see, so you’re really kinda lost, confused, and overwhelmed, and you’d really just appreciate Jill’s help and support.”  “Yes.”

You can see how Jack shifts from focusing on Jill (“you’re spending too much”), to focusing on his own inner experience (“I’m overwhelmed and confused, and I would just like some help”).

So both Jack and Jill need to work on building up their awareness of their inner experience during conflicts.  Jack needed to shift from focusing on Jill to focusing on his own feelings and desires.  Jill needed to get on top of her emotional flooding by having time to reflect upon, identify, name, and express her emotions.

Where is your attention focused during a conflict?  And how could you bring your attention back to your inner experience?

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 Tools for Traversing the Swamps of Sadness – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/03/21/the-tools-for-traversing-the-swamps-of-sadness/

Traveling through the muck is part of the journey.

If you’ve ever seen The NeverEnding Story, there are many moments in long-term relationships where it feels like you and your partner are traveling through the Swamps of Sadness.  You know that place where there is mud, gunk, goop, and tar everywhere.  It’s difficult to trudge through.  With every step hope is sucked out of you, and despair clings to you like the mud on your boots.  You can’t tell how much further you have to go to get to the other side; you can’t even tell if you’re traveling in the right direction.  And if you stop, the sadness, the sludge, begins to drag you down.  The whole swamp suffocates you, the swamp consumes you.

I’ve been in lots of different relationships that have tried to handle the Swamps of Sadness differently.  I’ve been in some relationships where we won’t even go there.  We avoided it like the plague.  And it makes sense, who wants to travel through this swamp?  Who wants to risk getting stuck there?  But what’s funny is that the more we tried to avoid, ignore, and deny the existence of such a swamp, the more the swamp of sadness began to form around us.

You see, you can’t really avoid this swamp in relationships.  When you try to avoid it, or deny its existence, that avoidance and denial becomes the swamp.  You try to deny a large swath of the relationship, you avoid dealing with the difficult issues and questions which means the relationship can’t grow, and so the relationship becomes suffocated, sinks, and dies.

I’ve also been in relationships where we just get stuck in the Swamps of Sadness.  We headed in very optimistically, but ill-equipped.  And so as soon as the optimism fades, and it’s unclear whether there is another side, we begin to sink.  The sadness and the despair overwhelm us.  We stop moving forward and just allow ourselves to be sucked downward.

And I know, because I’ve been to the other side, that there is a way to navigate this swamp.   That there is in fact hope; and, getting through this swamp is essential to healthy, fulfilling, and deeply meaningful relationships.  And I want to give you the equipment you need.

First, you need to be able to communicate.  Navigating these swampy periods in our relationships requires teamwork and trust.  You and your partner need to be able to talk about what you each need to keep going, you need to create the safety and compassion to help your partner open up, and you both need to hear one another accurately.  Communication is key.  And you may not both be able to communicate perfectly throughout the journey.  In fact, I guarantee that you both won’t be communicating at your best throughout this entire trek.  There will be points when one of you can’t talk, and the other person needs to have the strength to keep communicating with respect, honesty, and love.

Second, you need to have patience.  You probably won’t be able to traverse this swamp in a day, maybe not even in a week, maybe not even in a month.  Sometimes the swamp is big, and sometimes you do in fact get stuck for a little while.  You have to be patient with your process.  If you think “we should have resolved this by now!” you are just one thought away from giving up, and it is when you give up that the swamp consumes you.

Finally, you and your partner need support.  You need help; you can’t just do it alone.  Now, for various couples, individuals, and issues/swamps this help will look differently.  Sometimes you’ll need the help of a relationship counselor, someone who can minister to the the relationship as a whole.  Sometimes you’ll each need one on one support from a counselor. And sometimes, all you need is the healthy support and guidance of a trusted friend, someone who will help kindle new hope in your heart and point you in the right direction.  A trusted friend whom you can confide in and know that you will just be listened to without judgment, blame, or advice.

And what is underlying all of these three suggestions is compassion.  You need compassion.  You need compassion for yourself, and you need compassion for your partner.  Compassion, empathy, understanding, loving-kindness is the guiding light that will lead you out of this swamp.

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.

Lower the Stakes – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2015/03/08/lower-the-stakes/

Do you live in a high stakes world?

I know I can sometimes.  ”If I don’t do enough marketing events, and if I don’t do them correctly, then I’ll have no clients and go out of business.”  ”If my partner and I have a fight, I’m a fraud as a NVC teacher and she might leave me.”  ”If my life doesn’t look a certain way by a certain age, then I’m a failure.”

How about you?  Do you live in a high stakes world?  Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself to “succeed”?  Is the thought of “failure” unbearable because of the speculated consequences?  Even, do you believe in the concepts of “success” and “failure”?

When we live in a high stake world it clouds our thinking and creates a lot of suffering.  Our culture tells us that believing in high stakes will help us.  ”You’ve gotta stay motivated.”  ”You need to be driven.”  ”Success and failure are in your hands.”  Our parents, friends, teachers, and media were well-intentioned when they encouraged us to pursue success and avoid failure.  They wanted us to live lives that were full of joy, lives that are meaningful, and they wanted us to know that our actions, our choices, matter.

And that is true.  Your choices and your actions do matter.  What’s not true is the notion that everything depends upon how you act and what choices you make.

The world is not in fact a high stakes place.  Look at nature.  When a class 5 Hurricane rips apart a coastline or a volcanic eruption decimates the surrounding area.  Yes, there is a lot of pain, there is a lot of destruction, and yes there may even be a lot of death.  But does that mean everything is a failure and things are hopeless?  No.  Life goes through a process of recovery and then continuation.  Even in the forest surrounding the Chernobyl meltdown, life has not become extinct.  There are wolves, deer, boars, bears, and elk still roaming those woods.  Even in the bleakest situations, life survives.

What about the human world?  In the world of man we have the homeless, drug addiction, unemployment, and debt which remind us daily of how much we have to lose.  But don’t we also have a plethora of services to help the homeless and to help those struggling with addiction?  And when we look at the lives of our friends and family, do we see unemployment and debt being the end?  Or isn’t it just a period, a phase, which many people pass through?

I don’t think we live in a high stakes world.  I think we create a high stakes world in our minds and then believe it to be true because we think in some way we need to believe in it.  Or because we’ve become so habituated to acting and believing that it is true.

I want to invite you to lower the stakes.  If you could realize and really trust that everything is going to turn out okay, you would have a lot more freedom, joy, and peace.  You’d be able to think straight, take your time with decisions, and notice what in your life you can simply let go of.  You’d be able to communicate with more compassion because you’d have more compassion for yourself.  If you didn’t believe your world as you know it was going to end then you’d have more space to take risks, to explore, and to discover who you most want to be in the world.

So let’s make an agreement.  Let’s lower the stakes.  ”It’s not all or nothing.”  ”There’s no way to do it all right.”  ”There’s no way to utterly fail.”  ”I am okay, and you are okay.  And we will be okay no matter what comes our way.”

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.

Death & Grieving – by Kind Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respecting the Opinions of Others – by Kind Communication

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

“That’s stupid.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Exercises to Improve Your Observational Skills – by Kind Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Integrate Your Year – by Kind Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I am only for myself, who am I?

And if not now, when?

-Hillel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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