compassionate communication

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing, and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. -Rumi

The quote is on the home page of the Center for Nonviolent Communication founded by Marshall Rosenberg PhD,

I have studied Rosenberg’s work and believe the world would be a changed place if communication skills were taught in elementary school. What a leap of faith (or no thought whatsoever) to think all children are taught or modeled healthy ways to communicate and appropriate social skills from their parents or caregivers. Our schools  would do well to have experiential learning classes to practice having a voice, being heard in a nonviolent way, actively listening and thinking before you speak.

Next time you are in dialogue be mindful and notice. Are you really listening? Is your mind on ‘more important’ things? Are you crafting your response of what you want to share or argue before the other is finished or made their point? Do you want to impress or be right? In my experience, more people than not have never truly been listened to. I have seen this in my teaching of undergraduates as well as in my counseling practice.

I asked students to pair up and each spend five minutes talking with the other sharing any personal information they wished so they could get to know each other. I asked them not to interrupt, to be completely present and listen. They then introduced their partner to the rest of the class with what they learned. Simple, right? The exercise was powerful for many of them. They felt heard, welcomed and respected. They recalled a great deal of what their partner told to them. And it was something they hadn’t experienced before and it felt good!

In my therapy practice, I often have clients who feel dismissed, not valued and not heard. Often they are women who feel they do not have a voice (more on this in another post). I am continually surprised that people do not know how to communicate in a healthy way. I am not talking about occasionally getting mad and yelling or being triggered by some past wounding. Just general communicating to connect, be understood and get needs met.

We are social beings. We want to communicate and connect. We want a tribe where we feel at home. The idea behind nonviolent communication is to bring compassion into the dialogue. You want the other person to be heard as well as yourself. You want their needs met as well as your own. There is no place for blame, attack and defense. According to Rosenberg, we get to be “authentic in our communication, increasing understanding and deepening our connection”. Communication becomes giving and receiving.

I recently saw a quick formula for having a voice. Being assertive and not aggressive (and there is a wide breadth of difference). Try:  When you…………I feel………..because………..        What this actually opens you up to is vulnerability. It is risky. It takes practice. Something amazing happens when you risk vulnerability- the other person softens, feels empathy or compassion and you are a role model because often they take the risk too. There is no passive-aggressive manipulation. Be honest, be direct and be kind. Isn’t it what we all want?

herb 2

Nature and Nourishment

Blue Bells and Beech Trees, EnglandCan our lives be changing faster than our beings can tolerate?

While i am not a strong proponent of evolutionary psychology, we have had tens of thousands of years to grow and develop  alongside other animal species, trees, bees, waterways, wildflower meadows- is it possible we are floundering in our self-created technological universe?

In our culture, our western world is starstruck with iphones, Netflix, Instagram, snap-chat, etc. Yes, we have developed incredible tools and without balance. I wonder about young children growing with hand held devices for entertainment. How does this affect imagination? I have worked with young adults who are not adept at communication because what they know is primarily through texting. They are challenged to read facial cues, language and vocal inference and body language.

Quite possibly something has been lost as our lifestyles have become faster, more efficient and more focused. We have more stress, more anxiety and depression, more violence, more suicide, more insanity. Our nervous systems are constantly aroused. It seems we have less compassion, less community, less gratitude and less peace.

We have lost sight of our home and what sustains us.

Maybe we need some soul nourishment. What is that? It is slowing down, being contemplative and mindful. It is noticing the sweet air that is perfumed by flower and tree blooms. It is allowing birdsong in. It is feeling the sun on your skin or blue sky above you. It is noticing a puddle. It is knowing the self and being quiet. It is incorporating ceremony and ritual into life to create and honor the sacred. It is Knowing that we are all connected. We are literally all made from stardust, the same molecules that everything else on Earth is made from.

Slow down. Breathe deep. You are not alone.


Nature in Mind

Greetings and Welcome!

I hope to contribute once a week by exploring things i feel passionate about and will write about ideas i find compelling in my professional work as a Counselor/Psychotherapist.  These include

  • compassion
  • the interplay between our connection to the Earth and our mental health
  • importance of community and connection
  • experience of the transpersonal
  • a return to ritual and ceremony to create the sacred in our lives
  • the power of voice