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Archive for the ‘Non-Violent Communication (NVC)’ Category



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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Sweet Blossoms out the Crater: A Review of Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

bodymap book

With all the celebrations of gay same-ness after the Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage, I am grateful for Leah Laskhmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s filthy gorgeous poems, which remind us how queer desires still have the power to fuck shit up. The poems in her collection Bodymap demonstrate how queer desires–for each other, for ourselves, for something different – can provide a roadmap for moving toward freedom.

Reading so many poems about raw, dirty, queer crip sex made me think about Yasmin Nair’s recent argument that radical sex does not always translate into radical politics. While I agree that we can’t assume that any particular kind of sex is necessarily revolutionary (don’t we all know kinky people with regressive politics?), the poems in Bodymap serve as an argument that queer desire can–and should – fuel us to challenge the social order and reclaim the full humanity of those whom capitalism discards – including queers, people of color, working class folks, poor people, immigrants, undocumented people, and disabled folks.

What shines through every single poem is how hard Piepzna-Samarasinha has had to fight to love her queer, femme, disabled, brown working class self in a world that doesn’t always love her back. Her determination to love is generous; it starts with herself and then spreads its shimmering wings out to encompass all of us who have been marginalized and fucked over by systems of oppression.

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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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Palestine at the Crossroads

Jun30

by: Stuart Rees on June 30th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A piece of the boarder between Israel and Palestine.

Credit: CreativeCommons / gnuckx.

At its national conference at the end of July, the Australian Labor Party will be voting on a motion to recognize the State of Palestine. The outcome may be symbolic, yet it could mark a shift in a country where politicians of any persuasion have been so intimidated by the Israel lobby that they find it difficult to challenge the stereotype that Israel is a democracy and Palestinians are simply Arabs who can’t be trusted. This cowardly attitude has been maintained because successive Australian governments have tried to curry favor with Washington and do whatever the White House wants.

Polls show that a clear majority of Australian citizens support the human rights of all Palestinians and regard it as imperative that Palestinians should have a homeland of their own.

Given that the Labor Party could form a government at the next election, its representatives need to catch up with public opinion. They need to become far more aware of the living conditions faced by Palestinians such as those living on the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in Gaza and in Lebanese based refugee camps.

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The Path to Defeat Racism

Jun24

by: Cat Zavis and Rabbi Michael Lerner on June 24th, 2015 | No Comments »

A young white girl holding hands with a young African American girl, the text reads "Racism is taught break the cycle".

Credit: CreativeCommons / jamieskinner00.

Racism is the demeaning of an entire group of people and refusal to see them as fully human in the way we see ourselves and those we deem to be “like” us. When we fail to see the humanity of the “other,” we ascribe to them ugly characteristics that somehow justify treating them with less honor and less generosity than we would others who are part of the groups we do see as fundamentally like us. From this place of separation we justify denying the “other” equal rights, benefits, and caring that all human beings deserve.

Racism in the United States has a long history. It was foundational to U.S. expansion throughout the North American continent, allowing white people to justify to themselves genocidal policies toward Native Americans, to allow slavery, and to incorporate into our Constitution a provision that would count African slaves as three-fifths of a human being so that Southern States would have higher representation in the Congress, though racists both North and South didn’t think of them as human beings at all.

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In-Between “Racialized” Category of European-Heritage Jews

Jun19

by: on June 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An older Jewish gentleman.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Thomas Hawk

Sometimes I don’t know which side of the wall I’m on.
—Wladylaw Szpilman, The Pianist

On numerous occasions, I have attended the annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s “Creating Change” conference, bringing together grass-roots activists from throughout North America as well as other countries around the world. At one of the conferences in the early 1990s, I was a participant in a well-attended workshop titled “Activists of Color/White Activists Dialogue” facilitated by two highly-respected activists: a woman of color and a white Christian man.

When the workshop began, the woman outlined the agenda for the next one-and-one-half hours: the workshop would concentrate on the concepts of “race” and dialogue across racial divides, and include two separate panels of participant volunteers: one composed of four people of color, the other of four white people. Panel members were to each, in turn, answer four questions put to them by the facilitators, first the people of color panelists followed by the white people panelists. The questions were: 1. “What do you love about being your racial identity?” 2. “What has been difficult for you growing up this racial identity?” 3. “What do you never want to hear said again about or seen done to people of your racial identity group?,” and 4. “How can people of other racial groups support you and be your allies?”

As she explained the intended focus and agenda, great confusion came over me: Should I volunteer? Well, maybe, but I really can’t because I’m not sure if either of the categories on which the panels are organized include me. I know for certain that I am not eligible to volunteer for the “persons of color” panel. But, also, I feel as if I somehow don’t belong on the “white persons” panel either. Maybe I should just listen to the panelists, which I did.

But, what caused my bewilderment? What got in my way of self-defining as “white”? From where was this feeling of not-belonging on either panel, or my feeling of in-betweenness coming? Thinking back, I came to realize that it stems, I believe, from both personal and collective experience.

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To Evangelicals: “Can We Forgive You?”

Jun15

by: on June 15th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

A hand reaching towards a gray sky.

Credit: CreativeCommons / roujo.

I noticed with interest and, quite frankly, surprise an article headline on the front page of The New York Times dated Tuesday, June 8, 2015, which stated: “Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights.” Laurie Goodstein, the author, covers an apparent emerging trend, which she summarizes in paragraph 5:

“As acceptance of same-sex marriage has swept the country and as the Supreme Court prepares to release a landmark decision on the issue, a wide variety of evangelical churches, colleges and ministries are having the kinds of frank discussions about homosexuality that many of them say they had never had before.”

The article goes on to state that evangelical institutions are attempting to navigate a middle terrain between staying “true” to their previously stated positions on issues around homosexuality while simultaneously attempting not to alienate especially younger congregants who increasingly support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. This latter point cuts right (no pun intended) to the core of the questions of “Why this?” and “Why now?”. We can look for the answer in the work of Dr. Derrick Bell and his pioneering work in critical race theory.

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One Year Sick & Then Not: On the Social Construction of Homosexuality as “Disease”

Jun12

by: on June 12th, 2015 | No Comments »

City hall lite up in rainbow.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Tom Hilton

June is LGBTIQ Pride Month. I share with you a piece of our history in which I had the honor of participating- WJB.

We had been jointly planning our tactics over the past month. I and my compatriots of the Gay Liberation Front and Gay May Day collective, friends from the Mattachine Society, and members of the newly formed Gay Activists Alliance were to gather on this bright morning during the first week of May in 1971, and carpool up Connecticut Avenue in northwest Washington, DC to the Shoreham Hotel. Also uniting with us were people from out-of-town who joined us as part of “Gay May Day” as we attempted to shut down the federal government for what we considered as an illegal and immoral invasion into Vietnam.

We parked about a block away since we didn’t want hotel security and attendees at the annual American Psychiatric Association conference to notice a rather large group of activists sporting T-shirts and placards announcing “Gay Is Good,” “Psychiatry Is the Enemy,” and “Gay Revolution.” Half the men decked themselves in stunning drag wearing elegant wigs and shimmering lamé dresses, glittering fairy dust wafting their painted faces.

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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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