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Miki Kashtan
Miki Kashtan
Miki Kashtan is a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication and the NVC North America Leadership Program.



The Noncontroversial Essence, Part 2: Unpacking and Transcending Worldviews

Jul27

by: on July 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

My new teacher desk

"My New Teacher Desk

Carla (not her real name) works in an organization that brings violence prevention programs to schools. She described her challenge in bringing the program to a particular school where she sees a clash of worldviews. This is an alternative school with values of inclusion, equality, and such, and yet many in the faculty tend towards a more authority-based worldview. She was wondering how it might be possible to get differing worldviews to move in the same direction together. Would a needs-based approach be sufficient?

In thinking about Carla’s school, I told her I would not be focusing on worldviews, because to do so separates and polarizes. I would, instead, be looking for what’s really important to all, regardless of what paradigm they live in. I call this the “noncontroversial essence.” In my last post I wrote about how I facilitated opponents to reach a solution to a decade-long acrimonious legislative dispute by first establishing what they held to be the noncontroversial principles on which they could agree.

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The Noncontroversial Essence: Bringing People Together

Jul10

by: on July 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Locked_in_combat_no_retreat“Let’s just face it… There’s a philosophical difference here, and there’s no point in dialogue. Some of us think that a presumption of joint custody is just not a wise thing to do, and that’s all there is to it.” Ben (all names are fictitious), one of those present on a conference call in November 2012, said something like this. He was representing a group of lawyers, and this was his way of letting me know that he wasn’t going to support the attempt to bring everyone together to seek a collaborative solution to the acrimonious debate about child custody legislation that was raging in Minnesota at the time. It’s a classic example of how many of us have been trained to think: since there isn’t a way to resolve differences of this nature, the only path is to duke it out, and whoever gets the most votes wins (our modern “sublimation” of fighting it out physically).

Until that moment, we were going back and forth and round and round in that conversation, with people being, at best, lukewarm about the prospect of sitting in a meeting for a day with other stakeholders. The tension, and the mistrust that gave rise to it, were high. Still, within minutes, we had the first breakthrough in what became a succession of extraordinary moments over the course of two legislative sessions.

What I am writing about today is what I did in that moment, and in countless other moments in that project and in everything that I do when I work with groups, organizations, and even individuals.

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Father, Daughter, and House: A Dialogue

Jul3

by: on July 3rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

One of my favorite forms of teaching is live group coaching, of the kind I’ve been doing recently through the NVC Academy, in a course called “Dialogue with Anyone about Anything“. Usually, I have only the satisfaction of seeing the in-the-moment transformation, when someone realizes they can have an entirely different conversation, or even relationship, with someone else. On rare occasions, I also get to hear what happens afterwards: did the coaching yield results? Did the relationship get transformed? Some time ago, what happened during the call was so remarkable, that I asked Sandra (made up name) to tell me what happened when she put what she learned into practice. Here’s her story.

insomniaSandra’s dad is eighty-one years old, and thinking proactively about his upcoming death. He’s decided that he wants Sandra to live in his house once he’s gone. Which would be great, except that she doesn’t want to. Although she likes the house, she cannot live there because she’s so full of fear when she’s alone at night in the house, a fear she doesn’t understand, that she cannot sleep there.

Prior to Sandra and me talking, they had had several conversations about this that went nowhere in circles. He had been trying to convince Sandra, every time she was there, that this is a nice place, a paradise in his words, and that everybody’s safe. Sandra was then repeatedly stuck with how to respond. She didn’t want to lie to him and make promises she couldn’t keep, and she was very clear that she wasn’t going to live there, just clueless how to speak to him. Whenever she did try to voice her concerns to him, he only redoubled his efforts to give her all the good reasons why it would be such a great idea: there’s no rent, it’s a really nice place, and the garden is so amazing…

Sounds familiar? Then read on for, perhaps, unfamiliar possibilities that Sandra discovered through a role play in which I was her father and gave her feedback on her attempts to talk with him. Through that feedback, some of which is excerpted below, Sandra came to see that all along she had been holding back “the obvious” – her care for him and her desire to support his wishes. This omission of saying how much we care for the other person in a conflict or even in a simple request is something we all do, so often. Then see how things shifted, for both of them, when she was able to have an entirely different conversation with him.

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Honesty, Transparency, and Power

Jun10

by: on June 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

chinese honesty Some time ago I was approached by a person who’s been studying and teaching Nonviolent Communication in China for some time. He posed a simple question: “What is the difference between honesty and vulnerability?” Although I had been thinking about this area of human experience for some years already, I didn’t have an immediate and crisp response to give him. How on earth could I differentiate between the two? And what happens when authenticity, or transparency, which are also close cousins, are added to the mix? I couldn’t find my way through it. And, more than anything, what’s the point of making all these distinctions if they don’t translate, in the end, into actual practices we might embrace in our lives? After all, the purpose, as Marx reminded us a long time ago, is to change the world, not just to understand it. What can I tell the person in China, myself, anyone, about what practices can support us in moving towards a more collaborative future?

In particular, I want to know, and to be able to teach others, how to discern what to say and how to say it in each moment based on what is most likely to support the purpose at hand and to do so with the most care possible.

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Flying Home from Home (Part 2)

May21

by: on May 21st, 2015 | 7 Comments »

My previous piece about Israel was posted here and included some of my personal experiences of present day Israel and my life as an exile and immigrant. In this part, I take a look at the complexities emerging from the particular national identity that has been forged before, during, and after the establishment of the state of Israel.

David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948

Hebrew has two words for nationalism. They are close to each other linguistically, and far from each other in connotation. One translates more accurately into chauvinism, in that it has distinctly negative connotations. The other, the “good” nationalism, is exalted. This time was the first since I left in 1983 that my visit coincided with the few days of the year where the national identity of a Jewish people fighting for its life against all odds becomes center stage in three separate holidays. Israel was created, after all, to be a Jewish state that serves as the sanctuary for all Jews in the world, a safe haven from the anti-Semitism that defined Jewish life, at least in Europe, for millennia.

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Flying Home from Home (Part 1)

May13

by: on May 13th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Banksy eddiedangerous flickr

At a site of one massacre in Bethlehem during the First Intifada, reclusive artist-activist Banksy painted a dove. Credit: CreativeCommons / eddiedangerous.

Like many people who live in voluntary or involuntary exile, I have no real home. Many years ago, while still living in Israel, I heard someone on TV offer a tip: if you feel like a stranger in your own country, he said, move to another one. Because then the feeling and the reality will be congruent. I have thought of this many times in the thirty two years of living in the US, where I have never felt at home despite my ability to write and teach in English; despite my deep connection to so many people and communities; and despite my continued preference and choice for living there. I also think of this tip when I visit Israel, where things are different. Being from Israel is part of me, though I never felt part of it. I feel utterly familiar and even continuous with so much there. I speak and love the language. I have friendships there that go all the way back to my childhood, where mutual understanding is still easier than with my U.S.-based friends even though I have more in common with many of my U.S. friends philosophically and in terms of life choices and experiences. At the same time, when in Israel I also feel alien, distant, and at odds with the culture. The years of living in the U.S. have only intensified this feeling.

Flying home this time, I am awash in the anguish of leaving my sister Arnina behind, my one and only remaining sister after our loss of Inbal last September. For the entire month I was in Israel, we were clinging to each other. I rarely left her company to go be with my friends. Most of the time we were together, at home, working in parallel, eating food together, taking care of business as needed, and simply enjoying the illusion of having a home together. That this was in Israel was almost incidental, while at the same time I was acutely aware of being in this country of so much paradox and contradiction.

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Moving towards Collaboration: Lessons from the Field

Apr22

by: on April 22nd, 2015 | Comments Off

How will change come about in the systems that govern our world and our daily lives? Will it take many individuals within the system undergoing massive personal change, as so many believe is necessary?

Systemic Personal change graphic

Does the flow go in only one direction? Or in both? Credit: Dave Belden.

 

I’d like to believe that isn’t so, because I just can’t see how waiting for so many individuals to change would create, fast enough, the systemic changes needed to end poverty, transcend violence, or attend, to any meaningful degree, the spiraling resource depletion and climate change we are creating for ourselves and our children. Perhaps this is why, going back to school in the early 90s, I chose sociology as my field, hoping to gain enough knowledge and insight about an earlier version of that very question.

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Bethlehem: A Subjective Travelogue

Apr17

by: on April 17th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

I’ve heard of love at first sight many times. Friendship at first sight was an unimagined occurrence, and yet it happened to me with Sami Awad, Palestinian nonviolence visionary and founder of the Holy Land Trust, when we met in December 2013. Sami was translating a four-day workshop on Convergent Facilitation I was conducting for Israelis and Palestinians in Beit Jala on the West Bank. Ever since then, we’ve kept in touch, dreaming of working together on some project or another, in awe at the alignment of our visions, despite all indoctrination to make us enemies. (If you want to read more about that encounter and that training, it’s called Israel, Palestine, Home, Me.)

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Collaboration, Willingness, and Leadership – Now and in the Future

Mar20

by: on March 20th, 2015 | Comments Off

640px-Metamorphosis_frog_MeyersFor years, I’ve been saying that I don’t know how the world of our dreams would come about. The gap between what I see in the world and what I want to see is so vast, that I don’t have any linear “theory of change” that makes sense to me. For some weeks now, I’ve been going to sleep, many nights, thinking about what could bring about a true shift to a collaborative future given how completely intertwined all the pieces of the existing social order are.

In my recently published book Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future, I humbly acknowledge my inability to show a path. Instead, I do two things in that book. One is looking at where we are and what we can do, now, in this world, to move in that direction, however small the steps are. The building blocks I see are a disciplined commitment to nonviolence, to learning how to work together with others to reclaim collaboration, and to a massive revision of our understanding of power and leadership. The other focus of the book is on painting as vivid an image as possible of what a fully collaborative future can look like, so as to inspire and nurture these commitments and to provide a direction to move in.

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Abundance, Inequality, Needs, and Privilege

Mar5

by: on March 5th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

consumption-520085_640I am deeply involved in experiments in gift economy, both my own and those I hear about and engage with from the sidelines. The entire thrust of my work with organizations is about supporting a massive shift from adversarial relationships and systems to a collaborative overhaul of all our human affairs. I have just published a book in which I describe my vision of a possible future that is fully collaborative and based on gifting and a revival of the commons.

Given the unmitigated joy I experience at the prospect of giving away my work and being supported by the flow of generosity of those who believe in what I do rather than by people paying for services, I am continually and immensely curious to understand the obstacles to having this experience be the norm rather than the exception. soilsoul3rdIn this post, I am writing about one piece of this huge puzzle that fell into place for me: why the idea of “deserving” might have come into existence, and how it’s related to the difficulties in establishing gifting and collaboration.

Recently, Alastair McIntosh sent me a gift copy of his book Soil and Soul, in response to a review of mine that was published in Tikkun about David Bollier’s book Think like a Commoner. Gifts and shared resources were in the air as I started reading the book and was instantly transported into the semi-pre-modern milieu that was Alastair’s upbringing in Scotland, on an island fifty miles off its coast. I have most of the book still ahead of me to enjoy, and already it supported me in pushing my thinking forward.

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