Links to Nonviolent Communication

Here are some links to learn more about Nonviolent Communication. NVC Trainer LaShelle Lowe-Charde’s website. is the official web site of the International Center for Nonviolent Communication located in Albuquerque, New Mexico is a library of articles and videos teaching NVC. There are free materials available. A monthly fee provides a wealth of information. NVC Trainer Thomas Bond from New York has put together a well received year-long, online compassion training course. Vika Miller and NVC Trainer Fred Sly head this NVC organization in Portland. NVC Trainer Robert Gonzales’ web-site.

Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication book is still the best first NVC book to read.


Making This Blog More Usable

When I started this blog three years ago I wanted to help people have a more wonderful time in groups, particularly groups dedicated to some sort of cause. To that end I’ve shared links, recommended books, and written about techniques and ideas I’ve encountered that work. Early on I discovered that when we work on our own relationship to ourself, we are more patient and understanding with others, which is why I have so much self-help information as well.

I’ve decided to take some time now to make this blog even more usable by entering in more internal links and tags that will help lead you to the information you need. My hope is that people starting a group can come to this site and within a short amount of time find the information they need by just typing in a few words in the Search box.

For those of you following my blog, I won’t be entering in any new information for a while as I streamline the information. Please check out my archives for back articles. You may use my cartoons in your own materials as long as you attribute them to me and don’t make money off of them.



Groups: How To Have More Time

I’ve written extensively about groups. Below this post I have links to a few other articles on group work that might interest you.

Most great advice for individuals works just as well for groups. I have wasted so much time in meetings and watched groups waste their members’ time doing any number of things that the group thought should be done as opposed to what really felt right in the heart. When people get together on purpose to achieve something, very often the lists of to do’s start. I’ve seen meetings where everyone was invited to shout out proposals and then list them in order of importance. It’s all so very left-brained and orderly, the very worst way to choose anything. The intellect has little idea what’s important, has no intuition, and isn’t very well connected to anything outside of itself.

Martha Beck has a wonderfully encouraging essay here on getting control of one’s time by following one’s own deepest priorities. I think the same concept would work for groups as well.

“This little story sums up all the steps to taking command of your own time. One: Set your schedule according to your deepest priorities. Two: When others object to this scheduling, respectfully decline to give a crap. Three: When you receive negative feedback for your scheduling choices, allow any feelings you may have; then sing and dance to Bob Marley until the bad feelings go away. (You may substitute Bach or ABBA or Usher for Bob Marley, although I would suggest that you avoid Enya as this could put you into an irreversible trance.)”~Martha Beck

My take on her essay is that when we make decisions from the space of should’s and duty, there isn’t enough time. When we make decisions based on intuition, guts, and our heart, time obediently expands.

What is a good size for a group?

The Role of Friendship in a Group

Perils of Micromanaging a Group

What To Do About Members Who Don’t Do Anything 

How Hierarchy and Rank Affect Groups

LaShelle’s Essay On Shame

I met one of Portland’s Nonviolent Communication Trainers in January, when I had a chance to attend one of her workshops. LaShelle Lowe-Charde exudes Buddhist calm, which is not surprising since she studied Buddhism in a monastery for a while. The presentation I attended was very clear and knowledgable. Below is an example of her work. I think it is a wonderful step-by-step process for handling shame that comes up in relationship. To read the post on LaShelle’s web site:

The Purpose of Shame

More than any other painful emotion, shame will stop you in your tracks.  That’s what it is meant to do.  Shame is an alarm that is trying to send you a message.  The message is:  “Hey, stop, check in with yourself.  Your behavior may be out of alignment with your values.

Unfortunately that is not the message that most of us have associated with shame.  Growing up, others give you messages like, “If you were a nice girl, you would…”, “Little boys don’t cry.”, “Good children don’t behave that way.” etc.  Over time you internalize these messages and this becomes the way you talk to yourself when shame comes up.  Of course, the specific words and topics change, but the message is the same.  The underlying message is:  You are not innately good.  Your goodness depends on how you behave.  If you behave in the wrong way, you are bad.

When shame comes up and you repeat this toxic messages to yourself (either consciously or unconsciously), you spiral down into a heavy, frozen, or collapsed state.  This is a miserable state and takes longer than you would like, to recover from.  Interrupting this spiral means hearing the true message of shame.  Hearing this message means engaging in a new internal process.  Such a process might sound something like this:

“I notice shame coming up.  I feel contraction in my body and my heart freezing up.  My mind starts to blank out and I can barely notice what is going on around me.  What just happened?  I was feeling open and playful and then my partner snapped at me.  Some part of me interpreted his angry comment as a sign that I was behaving out of alignment with my values.  Let me take a moment to notice, was I?  Hmm, from my side I wasn’t.  I wonder if he perceived me violating one of his values?”

This internal process may take an hour or more.  In addition you might need to something to support your physiology coming back into balance like exercise, deep breathing, drinking water, etc.  Once you are reconnected with yourself, you are ready for the next step.  With reference to our example above, the next steps are expressing your experience honestly to your partner and asking what was going on for him when he made the comment.  It might sound something like this:

“When you told me to ‘back off’, I felt stunned and shame came up for me and I am looking for empathy and also for clarity about what was going on for you?  First, would you be willing to say back what your understanding about my experience in that moment?”

The dialogue would hopefully continue with empathy and honest expression going back and forth and repair as needed.

In summary, to change your relationship to shame, you can follow these steps which are illustrated in the example above:

  1. Mindfully name the experience of shame as it arises.

  2. Name what just happened that triggered the shame.

  3. Ask yourself the questions:  Did my behavior violate any of my values?  Did my behavior violate the other person’s values?

    1. If the answer is yes, to either of these questions, then take steps to repair.


You can begin to change your relationship to shame by taking a moment now to recall the last time that shame came up for you and then reworking the experience using the steps above.


Groups of Less Than Six Work Better Together

Actually the title should really say that groups of less than six people may work without a leader, but groups larger than six will probably always need some kind of facilitation.

Sadly, the result of having self-serving, and egocentric leadership in businesses and institutions has been to make people afraid of leaders. So that when people come together in groups with the wish to do good in the world, they often proclaim to one another, we don’t need a leader, we are an egalitarian group. My friend Jennifer has worked with non-profits for many years and she says that groups under six can sometimes work without any designated leader, but that six and over really need someone to manage time, fairness, and communication.

May132014 facilitation

A friend of mine mentioned a group of twelve that he was a part of recently and how one person dominated the conversation. It’s interesting, but in a large group like that, often no one feels empowered to ask a verbose person to share the floor. A tiny group of friends, and someone might say, Hey! I want to talk! But a large group like that feels less safe. Someone needs to be designated as in charge of time and also to make sure that more quiet people get a chance to speak.

This Is Compassion

My understanding of empathy is approaching experience as whatever is alive and present, whatever it is. Empathy carries this awareness: “I don’t want to change you, I simply want to invite you to be here and I want to be present.” This is compassion. ~Robert Gonzales

I just finished a weekend workshop with my teacher, Robert Gonzales. I find it magical how he can create an atmosphere of trust and acceptance, so that by the end of the second day, everyone is hugging each other as if they were old friends and had not just met 48 hours ago. How does he do that? My answer this time around is that he models authentic presence. Authentic presence is not necessarily nice or charming, though it can be if those moods are genuinely there. If you met my teacher at a bus stop, you probably wouldn’t look twice. He’s not charismatic. He doesn’t have a big personality. Nevertheless, his calm, kind, genuine presence shifts the energy of a room.

Genuine connection with another touches my heart. I guess it’s all any of us ever really want. We want real love, which is an amalgam of curiosity, acceptance, and vulnerability. Robert’s class is a safe place to reveal how I really am, which is so freeing. And the ability to be open and vulnerable creates profound intimacy.

Conflict Resolution For Kids

The San Francisco Nonviolent Communication Group send out an interesting newsletter each month. The following story shows a great way to teach youngsters how to resolve conflict. I’ve been looking for a way to teach conflict resolution to children ever since my boys were young. If only I had had the following story then! Enjoy: 

The Solutions Game

The Solutions Game came to me one day as an inspiration when I was wanting to resolve a conflict between my two grandchildren, Kipling, age 4 and Max, age 6. I was staying with them for the weekend while their parents were out of town. I had been a student of nonviolent communication for more than five years and was often challenged and disappointed in my skills when attempting to apply the principles with my two young grandchildren, especially around issues of conflict between the two of them and/or one or both of them and myself. Too often my solutions resulted in reverting back to the old and familiar paradigm of either/or and power over. As I was driving to their home for the weekend I vowed to stay conscious at times of conflict and find solutions that were collaborative and demonstrated that everyone’s needs mattered and could be held with care while attempting to find a solution that worked for all.

An opportunity arose shortly after their parents left for the airport. Max and Kipling love for me to build a fort in the play room using the sofa cushions. Once built, all three of us crawl inside to play, read stories and have fun. Both Max and Kipling bring a box of toys into the fort. On this occasion, Kipling pulled from her box a pink paper heart. Upon seeing the heart, Max immediately reached over and grabbed the heart from Kipling’s hand saying, “That is my heart. I made it.”

May12014 Tugheart

To which Kipling immediately responded, “But I found it first.” And so, we were off to the races.

Only this time out of nowhere I suddenly had the inspiration to say, “Hey, I think we have a dilemma. This is a great opportunity to play the Solutions Game. Do you know how to play the Solutions Game?” Please continue to read the rest of the story on

Why We Should Treat Each Other Like Dogs

I’m not a very good small talker, so I’d generally feel ill at ease at parties with a lot of small talk. I’d stand there and watch people flit about the room talking about their car, nail color, television shows, etc. and then one day I realized that small talk was just a form of saying, “Hi! I like you. Yes, I do. I like you. Yes! Yes! I like you…”, sort of like how dogs wag their tails. Small talk seemed like the equivalent of patting people on the head and how I wished that I could bypass the chatter and just go straight to the patting.

April252014 I like You

Snuggle parties have been my personal little experiment around the equivalence of chatting and patting. In fact, I would say that hugging is entirely more effective than small talk in saying, “Hi! I like you!” For those of us lacking in chatting capacity, hugging puts us immediately at ease and is easy to do.

I have a strong suspicion that the reason so many people love dogs is because we are a lot like dogs in that we are naturally friendly and loving. In the majority of places I’ve traveled I’ve made friends with perfect strangers on the bus, train, and plane, in hotels, standing in line, and shopping. In the rural south, everyone waves to each other on the street, even though most of the time, one has never seen the other before. We wag our head or hand and if we get close enough to bump noses, we chat. Or in the case of a snuggle party, we hug and hold hands.

People new to hugging think, Oh, I could never do that…hug a stranger. But then they go and find out, yes they can. If you can chat with a stranger, you can pat them just as easily as most people pat strange dogs. I’ve never met a friendly dog I didn’t immediately want to pet and I think that sentiment applies to friendly people. We are lovable and deserve to be treated like dogs.


If you are new to this blog, here is how to use it. I post three times a week on everything having to do with sustainable community through better relationships with oneself. I write on Process Work, Nonviolent Communication, Byron Katie, and others, plus my own theories and experiences.

You can check out archives by clicking to the right on “Category” in the archive section and scrolling down. Everything I have written on relationship to self will be under that heading, everything on group dynamics will be under that heading, and so on. You can also look at posts by month. The search box above allows you to look up a single topic or name.

You are welcome to use the cartoons signed with my name, but please let people know that they came from this blog and don’t make money off of them. I hope you get a lot of useful information off of my blog. Enjoy!


Protecting The Feminine

There’s a dance I go to every Wednesday and Sunday called Ecstatic Dance. A DJ plays evocative music from all kinds of genres and everyone dances in their own way. It’s complete freedom. No one drinks at this dance or smokes. Women do not worry about being teased or stalked for their gender, dress, or style of movement. Men may dance with other men and no one categorizes their sexuality. One does not have to wait for a partner; people joyfully dance alone or with another of either sex or in a group.

April162014 Ecstatic dance

The people who come to this dance are often creative, sensitive, sensual, and passionately working on creating a culture that feels safe and welcoming to all types of people.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about this culture recently…how fragile it is. Every week we come together and do a personal, spontaneous, creative, and sensual dance. And there are unspoken understandings: that we will not judge another’s dance, that we will not sexually objectify anyone, that we have room for differently raced or gendered people. Women, in particular, feel free to express their sensuality in the form of clothes and movement without fear of shame, violence, or exploitation. After 5,000 years or so of being bought and sold as chattel, the freedom to be sensual for oneself is extraordinary for women, especially in contrast to parts of the world where women must be fully covered in public or have their sexual parts cut out.

However, as our dances become more and more popular, new people enter the dance and some are not aware of the unspoken rules of this new culture. Every once in a while I hear about someone pressuring a woman for her number or some other more mainstream behavior and I realize that we have something quite precious to protect.

As a group we are swimming upstream from mainstream culture…not an easy task in itself, and we must work to overturn even our own habitual notions around domination, control, acceptance, ownership, and sensuality. Acceptance, sensuality, non-judgment, empathy, and presence are generally defined as feminine traits in our culture. Poetically we could call it protecting the divine feminine and I mean the divine feminine in both men and women. As women, we are used to feeling marginalized in the media for these qualities, however we forget that men with these qualities also feel pushed out. Some of the most distressed men I know are sensitive, feeling types who have been bullied by their more aggressive, masculinized counterparts.

One way to think of these feminine qualities is as those human behaviors that would not be encouraged for making war. For eight thousand years, our kings have pushed onto men the characteristics needed to make good soldiers– duty, ability to follow orders, organized action, thinking over feeling, alcohol to numb feelings, narcissism, deliberate avoidance of feeling what another feels (no empathy or compassion) and judgment over acceptance. These are essentially the traits of all of our heroic soldier types in the media. Men are not inherently these masculine characteristics; they have to be cornered into these stereotypes from childbirth.

April162014 Receptivity

How do we protect this precious culture that allows, even celebrates the divine feminine? I have been pondering this question for the past several months. Do we create rules and then enforce them? Do we make a judging body? Do we require people to go to meetings? I am inclined to try a completely different way to approach this issue of promoting and maintaining a different culture, something a bit more, well, feminine; something that has gentleness, fun, receptivity, and diversity in it.

I am especially interested in finding a feminine way, because our culture thinks of feminine as weak and ineffective. I suspect that the opposite is true. Receptivity, the ability to surrender to the present, acceptance, non-judgment, sensuality, and empathy are the very traits needed to connect to one another, to the planet, and to a larger consciousness. How can we survive into the future disconnected from one another? How can we survive if we are not present to the planet now, not receptive to its feedback systems, and deaf to the cries of our fellow animals? How can we find the flow needed to survive if we cannot stop following duty, rules, and “how we’ve always done things” long enough to be present to the soft voice of Life and Spirit?

It may be that the qualities that the kings labeled weak and bad for successful war making are the very qualities that have the most strength for any kind of human future. Personally, I’d like to find out. I have some ideas about how to protect the divine feminine in a feminine way that I will post in the future. I am interested in your ideas as well and hope you will feel free to communicate with me.



Self-awareness and Rightful Boundaries

Boundaries are my parameters for personal safety, autonomy, and privacy. Most of the conflicts that I encounter involve boundary violations or imagined boundary violations. It takes a lot of thought to figure out what is rightfully yours and what is rightfully mine. For example one of my boundaries is smoking in my home. My safety in my home is rightfully mine. However, I don’t say anything to friends who smoke outside of my home, their right to their own choices is their boundary.

The above example is easier to see, but here’s one that’s more difficult. I have a friend whose partner is not close to her grown children. She wants him to make more of an effort and continually presses him to change. But how he conducts his relationship with others, even her kids, is his personal right. By pushing him to act differently she is overstepping a boundary.

A way to think about boundaries is this: We are responsible for our own autonomy, safety, and privacy. A boundary violation can occur when someone interferes with our efforts to achieve safety, autonomy, and privacy, but only when they are actively interfering. We have to be really honest with ourselves about the difference between what is or isn’t active interfering. A gay marriage for instance, does not interfere with anyone else’s ability to have a happy marriage. An obese person does not interfere with anyone else’s boundaries by being fat, however when she is cruelly treated for her weight, her boundaries for safety are the ones being violated.

Many times we violate our own boundaries. For example, when I force myself to listen to someone talking on and on without stop, when I help someone to move out of guilt, when I share my food while feeling resentment, etc….I am willfully violating my own boundaries to save the feelings of someone else.

April92014 Save yourself

Ultimately, it’s not my feelings of guilt that trip me up so much as my self-identity as a good person. Many of us, especially the people who show up for inner work classes, want to be good. Holding a boundary seems to directly oppose that culturally defined “good” identity.

Then there are challenges around status. We have a difficult to impossible time confronting someone with higher status. Recently I was visiting a woman’s home where a bunch of people were exhibiting their wares. I bought a small treat from a Vegan baker. The owner of the home greeted me ebulliently, saw my treat, mentioned how good they were and then leaned down and snagged a bite of my very small, expensive treat. I had a second to pull my treat away and say “No!” but I didn’t. It was her home and she is a leader in my community, both of which gave her higher status than me. So I just stood and watched in horror as half my treat disappeared. I didn’t hold my boundary with someone with higher status.