It has been fun to sit down and write to you, my friends in the Peaceabl community. It has been a while and I’m glad to be back.
I am in my third and I think final year of a rigorous certification process for Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication (NVC), through the Center for Nonviolent Communication. It challenges certification candidates like myself to gain an ever deepening understanding of NVC’s:
- concepts and process,
- philosophical assumptions,
- spiritual, social and political implications,
- unique contributions to the fields of Emotional Intelligence, conflict resolution, and relationship repair, and
- hopeful, simple and reliable strategies for transforming life-alienated communication into life-connected and life serving communication.
- Live these qualities, principles and tools in our own lives.
One of the tools for accomplishing this is what is called “Key Differentiations”, a list of 25 developmental shifts that accompany the integration of NVC into one’s consciousness. I’m inviting you today to check out Key Differentiation #1: “Being Giraffe” vs. “Doing Giraffe.” The differentiation between being and doing can apply to almost everything we do.
If you have done even a little NVC you probably know about giraffes. They have a long neck that gives them a broad perspective on life, and they have the biggest heart of any land mammal. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of NVC, chose the giraffe to symbolize NVC and NVC consciousness. NVC is a heart based language and way of thinking, with the long-neck perspective of prioritizing healthy human interdependence.
It supports people in collaborating at the heart level – peacefully, empathically and authentically, as we go about helping each other meet life’s needs. In the NVC community most of us aspire to be giraffes and aspire to minimize our “jackal” moments. “Jackal” mode refers to our more default, alienating way of connecting and communicating that has been conditioned in most of us – e.g. blaming, criticizing, demanding, and manipulating.
I hope the distinctions below will serve your own journey to peaceful, cooperative, enjoyable relationships at work, home and everywhere else.
“Being Giraffe” vs. “Doing Giraffe”
“Being giraffe” means that when I am interacting with someone, including myself, I am acting from the consciousness of NVC, not just using the skills and 4 steps of NVC (Observation, Feeling, Need, Request).
“Being giraffe” focuses on connection, alternating between listening with empathy and expressing myself with compassionate honesty.
What might “Being Giraffe” sound like?
A client of mine, Anne, recently celebrated that she sent her mom an 8 page letter with two big requests for personal boundaries:
#1. She asked her mom to put awareness on separating her own from her daughter’s feelings. She asked her to stop internalizing the daughter’s feelings, and instead make space for the daughter to have her own experience.
#2. She asked that her mom discontinue comparing her to her brother and father, which comes across as an attempt to use guilt to change her.
She was in the very fortunate few with this parental request I think – she got back a validating, appreciative, responsibility-taking reply from her mom.
Being giraffe starts with self connection first. Being a giraffe means being aware, honest and caring with myself moment by moment, recognizing what is going on inside, paying attention to my intention, emotions, body sensations, and judgments.
In the moments before sending her letter, Anne’s self connection may have sounded like,
Wow, this is hard to do! I’m so scared Mom is going to be hurt and angry and won’t understand at all. My heart is racing! Yet I trust this is too important for our connection to not share it.
Then it moves to connection with other. If I’m thorough with my self connection I will likely now have the emotional and mental bandwidth to listen empathically to what’s alive in the other person. By now, hopefully I actually care about them. If not, I go back to the self connection step. What is their world like right now? What is it like to be them? My guesses and my questions will support their own empathy process.
Quietly in her head Ann wonders – what will it be like for Mom to get this letter?
She imagines feelings of surprise, fear, maybe resentment. She imagines her Mom wants to know that Anne does not see her as a “bad” mom, that she has not caused Anne harm, that Anne understands her good intentions.
Afterwards, in conversation with her Mom, Anne might say,
Mom, I’m guessing that this letter was not easy for you to receive, and that you might want some reassurance from me that I’m okay and that I still love and respect you as my mom. Is that right?
This would continue as an empathy dialog until Anne feels she has a clear understanding of her mom’s world and can tell that Mom feels heard and understood.
Honesty. After the empathy pieces, I am ready to share my “aliveness”, what my world feels like, in a respectful and self responsible way, expressing my needs honestly as we enter into mutual, caring, interdependent conversation.
In the example of Anne, she has already done a lot of self expressing in her letter. However, she can now share what it was like to have it received.
Mom, I am feeling so happy and relieved to not only have been fully heard, understood and accepted by you, but also appreciated for the great efforts I’m making in my self development. I also really appreciate the responsibility you are taking for your part of our communication.
(Honest expression of feelings and needs met.)
You might be thinking, this sounds too good to be true. Is this even possible for non-saints? I’m here to give you a confident YES!
Next time in Part 2 we will look at “the difference that makes the difference” between being and doing giraffe, and some of the entanglements we fall into when we are doing without minding our being.
What About You?
Thank you for your presence and your interest in empathic relating. I invite you to check out “being giraffe” for yourself in your next conversation and see what happens. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Please reach out if you are in conflict or have chronic stress in a work or personal relationship that matters to you. I invite you to set up a complimentary session with me to explore your options for transformation.
You can find a time that works for you here Breakthrough Conversation.
Peace and blessings,
I’m excited to share today because I love answering inquiries from our Peaceabl community. A young woman was inspired from my July blog, Reconnecting with You From My Place of Happiness. https://www.peaceabl.com/reconnecting-with-you-after-a-longish-break/
In that blog I confessed to having taken the business risk of suspending my online outreach until my inspiration returned, which turned out to be an uncomfortable amount of time, a whole year!
I explained that the decision unfolded as part of my learning and embodying a core principle of Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication (NVC), which is to steer my life toward doing things from inspiration, rather than from duty or obligation. My experiment was sparked by my noticing that I had fallen into feelings of resistance and had many thoughts of “having to” write my e-newsletter/blog.
The woman responded to the blog, sharing that she loves my inquiry, “about regular items that we put on our list, weekly, etc, or hold to a strict schedule, that become imposing.”
“How do you make yourself do the things that are good for you? (for me, I’ve been scolding myself for not meditating, exercising and doing personal study more routinely and seriously for years) – without feeling like you’re being a domineering parent to yourself, and making yourself do these things?”
She continues, “I imagine the answer lies somewhere in the phrasing; I need to try to see it as something I “get to do”, or “give to myself”. But I’d love to hear how you “make” yourself meditate every day, as an example (I believe that’s something you do?).”
Today I’m offering my incomplete start to answering her very big question.
Yes to meditating daily, and yes to the importance of phrasing. It’s also important what context I give myself for why I am doing something. Both greatly influence my results and more importantly, how I feel – the feeling quality of my life experiences!
NVC gives me a really specific way to see and feel exactly what it is I am “giving to myself” and why, i.e. what core needs any of my words or actions fill for me. This is clarity you can rely on.
I’d like to share how I find the inspiration to meditate daily, then look at an example from a small “breakdown” in my life this morning that illustrates some of the self care work that I do to transform my “shoulds” and self pressure patterns for getting myself to do things. Then I’ll share a tool to overcome fear, with a poignant story.
Inspiration Overcomes Resistance to Meditation
Yes, I do meditate most days. Sometimes my practice feels easy, and at other times I am distracted, resistant and even resentful. Usually the resentment is about my expectations and hopes about the kind and quality of spiritual or mystical experience “I should be having” – the perfect mindset to block such experiences from occurring:)
What keeps me coming back to the cushion? I wish I could say that it is my experience of Oneness with Source!
Some of my meditation experiences do motivate me. However, my commitment seems to be based primarily on trusting what other spiritual leaders through the ages have shared about their experiences from meditation, as well as more recent scientific support for the positive brain and body changes that result.
I trust and have surrendered to their leadership in this, because my own personal experiences of meditation have not been sufficient to generate consistent daily commitment on their own.
I can apply a helpful analogy to the energetics of how this works, from an ambitious marketing guy from my past. I am casting my line and hooking onto their meditation “bullet train”. I am borrowing the power of the bullet train of wisdom that spiritual leaders have accrued, and even the energy of the self discipline they developed for their meditation practices, to fuel my own.
I have borrowed inspiration, which gives me commitment and even energy for my practice.
You might wonder, but couldn’t “shoulds” and “have to’s” creep back in? Yes, and painful comparisons too – after all, Guru SoAndSo was enlightened at age 17!
It is a constant awareness practice – of coming back to my inspiration, the moment I notice I’ve “shoulded on myself”. I come back to my faith in the bullet train folks, and appreciation of the important core needs that, like them, I can meet for myself when I meditate – rest, peace of mind, focus development, spiritual insights, health, etc.
An NVC advanced move has me sit with, contemplate, and feel energetically and emotionally in my body – what it feels like to have these beautiful needs met – rest, peace of mind, focus development, spiritual insights, and health. This deep connection to my needs further fuels my inspiration to meditate.
Self Care Kicks the Habit of Self Pressure or Self Domination
Thankfully, NVC has helped me make my brain be “a kinder and happier place to be”, even when I don’t like choices I’ve made. Like choices that go against my positive habits.
This morning offered a good example. I had planned to be finished writing this blog 2 hours ago. Instead, I woke up later than planned, engaged in conversation with my daughter in the kitchen, detail texted my other daughter a fun experience I just had (related to a month long self improvement exercise we are doing together), and then I went off on another wonderful tangent learning about Joe Dispenza’s Mind Movies for manifestations.
Okay, sure, we all wander sometimes. But this wandering happened to follow a very nice day yesterday of organized productivity, which I have been prioritizing and wanting more of.
I was really joyful and hopeful yesterday with my re-found productivity, as I carefully mapped my day today. So the disappointment and frustration this morning was a big ugly contrast, that I harshly judged as a “backslide”. Btw, I like the definition I just found for “backslide” as I wandered my browser:) – “To revert to bad habits or lapse in religious practice.” That was me this morning.
NVC Medicine for my Backsliding
So I did my NVC “Regret” practice. That means, when I feel painful emotions, I notice what they are telling me about my needs or values that are not being met.
In NVC we summarize this as, I feel ___ because I need/want/value ____.
Oh, I feel disappointed and frustrated because I value integrity (doing what I say I will do), productivity and forward motion on the work that I love. My wandering left these needs unmet this morning.
Okay, I can be with that. Just becoming aware of these needs gave me clarity and self-connection, and helped me get back to writing this blog right away!
In addition, I can follow that up and generate true compassion for myself with the “forgiveness” part of NVC self care:
What needs was I trying to meet with the behavior that I now regret (wandering off my schedule)?
It turns out, in hindsight, that I wandered off my schedule to unconsciously meet my core needs for:
- Sleep (waking up late)
- Connection (with daughter #1, in the kitchen),
- Celebration and shared learning (daughter #2), and
- Self knowledge, spiritual connection and abundance (Dispenza Mind Movies).
Given this list, how angry at myself can I stay? Now, with this NVC reflection, my strategies have become conscious. My forgiveness conversation with myself continues…
Okay, thank you, Self, for loving and prioritizing these great things. They are really important.
With this empathic self connection, moving into strategies for action can be fruitful and heartfelt.
Moving into an NVC Connection Request to Self – I’m wondering if you fell off the schedule this morning because maybe you still don’t have enough “wandering” time built into the schedule to meet your needs for curiosity, novelty, spontaneity and discovery?
Moving into an NVC Action Request to Self – Hmmm, let’s spend 10 minutes today after dinner to think about this some more.
With this new awareness of my needs, I will now automatically be on the lookout for ways of better meeting them. Like maybe scheduling 15 minutes every day to do absolutely nothing, a confronting recommendation I recently read from the Joy Diet🙂
I am also more empowered to make heart-connected and relevant decisions, based on the needs patterns I notice in my life.
Transforming Fear-based Resistance
Here’s a perspective or context that I use to help me move through my resistance to taking right action, when I notice that my resistance is taking the form of fear. I heard it shared recently by Clare Dubois, the Founder of Tree Sisters. Her mindset is that everything she does in her life is just an experiment. This is so simple, yet is has been surprisingly useful for me recently as I’ve applied it.
I’d love to hear back from any of you Peaceabl community members who decide to try this one out.
The genius inventor, Buckminster Fuller, came to a similar strategy as Clare Dubois, after he had a major realization during a psychological, existential breakdown. He decided, from then on, to take on his life as an experiment to see what one person could do to contribute to humanity.
Here’s Bucky’s story – another beautiful “tangent” today:
“In 1927, Buckminster Fuller, then 32, stood at the edge of a freezing Lake Michigan and resolved to throw himself into the water, thus ending a life he deemed “wasted.” His young daughter had recently died, leaving him, his wife and remaining infant daughter in a world of grief and desperation.
A college dropout and by most accounts thoroughly uncomfortable in his own skin, Fuller was unable to keep hold of a steady idea, much less a job that supplied even the basic necessities for his family. But as he stood and pondered the end of his young life, he was struck suddenly by the notion that the enemy crushing his spirit and informing his death was actually his own ego, and that he would do better to commit “ego-cide” rather than suicide.
He chose at that moment to think and work on behalf of all humanity, rejecting personal gain and aggrandizement in the process. “An experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity” saved him from drowning and his family from renewed heartbreak.
Over the following 50 years, the “experiment” resulted in the following: 50 U.S. patents, 28 authored books, 47 honorary degrees in engineering and the humanities, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest national honor that a private citizen can receive) and dozens of other awards. From an architectural standpoint alone, he may well be the greatest American thinker of the 20th century.”
By taking on a life context of experimentation, we shelter ourselves from energy draining “make wrong” thoughts, and we are led forward instead by curiosity, desire, courage, love, intuition…and inspiration! That’s a really good exchange, right?
A core practice of NVC is to step out, and try to stay out of the stifling, toxic, incessant, thousands of years-old paradigm of judging things and people as good/bad or right/wrong. NVC gives us the practical everyday way to shift into viewing events and actions instead as either meeting human and other life form needs, or not. And from there we proceed with our countless experiments for meeting needs.
I like to think that we can keep life fresh and “choiceful” for ourselves by checking in about the needs it serves for us to do a task – like cleaning the bathroom, filing taxes, exercising, eating salad or meditating – and connect to the task from compassionate needs awareness. From that place I think we can make better choices, like even when to drop a task off our list forever, from a more informed and heart connected place.
This practice is starting to pay off for me in self kindness, clarity and life fulfillment.
As always, please feel free to share your conflict and relationship (work or home) topics or questions you would like me to reflect on and write about here. Of course I will protect your privacy, with no mention of your name or details.
I hope you feel inspired to continue to engage with me as I share fresh, real life peacemaking and relationship transformation, with practices that you can do for yourself. Let’s use our moments together to create greater levels of peace and joy in your self growth and relationship adventures!
Peace and many social blessings,
P.S. Please visit Peaceabl.com if you would like to learn more about my work.
If you or your organization are in conflict, experiencing a #7 out of 10 or higher pain levels, then I invite you to set up a complimentary session with me to explore your options for relief and transformation.
You can find a time that works for you here Breakthrough Conversation.
Note – credit for the photo above goes to photographer Patrick Fore, on unsplash.com
Reconnecting with You from My Place of Happiness
So I’ve been a little quiet over here in the Peace Parlor this past year while I took the business risk of taking a break from some of my online outreach.
The decision unfolded as part of my learning a core principle of Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication (NVC), which is to steer my life toward doing things from inspiration, rather than from duty or obligation. I had noticed that I had fallen into feelings of resistance and many thoughts of “having to” write my e-newsletter/blog.
So I slowed it all down at Peaceabl and started noticing which networking and outreach activities were fun and fulfilling for me, and which were not. Now I am reaching out to you from a place of missing being in connection and wanting to share my discoveries with you. Yay!
Inspiration Trumps ‘Should-ing’ On Ourselves
A common first thought response to this NVC ‘principle of inspiration’ is, “this world would fall apart if people just did what they felt like doing. That’s irresponsible! We do have responsibilities you know.”
Yes, we do. In fact our whole lives are built around taking care of our core universal human needs and those of other people around us, at work and at home. All day long, even while we sleep:)
But when I take on those responsibilities because I “should” or “have to” then I and everyone around me pay the heavy prices –
deadening of my passion and aliveness.
The inspiration principle offers me the option to stay in touch with how I am feeling, noticing the emotional ‘pings’ my heart sends me, which keeps me in touch with what I am needing, wanting and valuing in my life. I just need to listen.
In my example of Peaceabl outreach, that means that I stay in touch with how much I love contributing to your ability to create peaceful, warm and cooperative relationships with yourself and others. I let my actions come from that awareness, rather than from the awareness of, “I’m running a business here and that means I ‘should’ get the word out every week.”
It also means that I pay attention to whether or not the people in my life are doing things for me from a heartfelt place or from a ‘shouldy-have-to’ place.
When I notice the ‘shoulds’ are getting heavy, it’s time for a new plan. It’s time to inquire – with an open mind and heart.
What makes this difficult for you to do for me?
What are you wanting from this exchange?
What would make it more heartfelt for you?
I’m currently in this kind of inspiration dialogue with my husband who wants to quit his family job of grocery shopping.
Attitude is everything, right?
For example, I let my heart lead my covid19 protocols when I think about it in the context of helping people avoid a painful disease rather than putting on my mask because “the government says so.”
Can you hear old obsolete parent tapes playing here – “because I said so?” Did that ever inspire you to do a great job, to give even more of your passion and creativity to the task? No, yuk!
Sharing My Learning Adventures
As part of figuring out what I want to share with you in the upcoming weeks, I looked back at my year. I was swept with big feelings of happiness and gratitude for the rich experiences I have been blessed to have and that I want to share with you.
I feel genuinely inspired to put words to what I have been learning so that you might benefit too, and to let you know that I’m here for you with a best-of attitude.
I want you to call me, whenever you feel frustrated, confused or resentful about a relationship and you want to resolve the conflict areas in a calm, emotionally safe way. I want to help you transform its very foundation, with new, creative, and compassionate agreements that inspire everyone involved. Even with people you may have given up on a long time ago.
I’m looking forward to sharing some life and conflict resolution adventures with you here in the coming months. Here are a few topics I’ve been playing with…
- Whim and Wonder from a “Room of My Own” in Costa Rica
- Doubling Down On My Spiritual and Positive Psychology Practices
- Making my Brain a Kind Place to Live Every Day!
- Forest Bathing
- Daily Self Empathy is a Game Changer – Being Our Own Best Friend
- A Golden Key from the Divine Feminine, Just in Time
As always, please feel free to share your conflict and relationship (work or home) topics or questions you would like me to reflect on and write about here. Of course I will protect your privacy, with no mention of your name or details.
I hope you feel inspired to engage with me as I share fresh, real life peacemaking and relationship transformation, with practices that you can do for yourself. Let’s use our moments together to create greater levels of peace and love in your self growth and relationship adventures!
Peace and many blessings,
I was given a lovely nature card for the holidays by a friend, entitled, Advice from a Glacier, created by Your True Nature company.
As my contribution to your peaceful and productive New Year, I’m passing along some glacial beauty, above, from Humantay Lake, Peru
(photographer: willian-justen-de-vasconcellos. On unsplash.com)…
and some glacial wisdom from my card:
- Carve your own path.
- Go slow.
- Channel your strengths.
- Smooth the way for others.
- Keep moving forward.
- Avoid meltdowns.
- Be Cool!
I could just leave it at that, because each one is such great life wisdom, as is. But I just can’t resist tying it all into some of my favorite life changing Empathic Communication principles and skills.
Carve your own path.
Choose a new paradigm of speech, thought and relating. Yes it will feel foreign at first.
The Empathic Communication paradigm helps us drop away the disconnecting habits most of us have learned, passed down to us for thousands of years by our core institutions – governments, schools, religions, families, media, etc.
Like criticizing, blaming, threatening, demanding, and “deserve thinking”.
Instead try using the 4 R’s of Reconnection:
Respecting – others and self, knowing we all behave as we do in order to meet our common basic needs.
Responsibility taking – for our own actions, beliefs, feelings, assumptions, thoughts and needs!
Requesting – only wanting a “yes” if it is heart felt.
Remembering – that we are all interdependent and our well being is connected to everyone’s well being…even when you are really mad:)
This is especially important for advancing your EQ, or Emotional Intelligence. We spend most of our time racing at our “brain’s pace”. Yet to genuinely, emotionally tune into self and other, we must s-l-o-wwww down to, tick, tick, tick, “heart pace” and actually feel those feelings. Once you figure this one out it feels quite good. Natural. Right.
Channel your strengths.
Your strength comes from a clear mind and an open heart.
Clear Mind. Develop feeling and needs literacy – a path to clarity and understanding about why you and others do what you do all day long, and how to inspire new compassionate and resourceful choices to conflict areas.
Open Heart. Master the art of giving and receiving genuine empathy – a key ingredient to peace of mind, more love, meaningful presence with others, and deep, lasting human connections. There is no substitute for this kind of social wealth for your health and happiness.
Smooth the way for others.
Leadership and Culture Building. Yes, take the lead, with powerful Emotional Intelligence leadership skills, at work and at home. Create teams where people feel safe, cared about, and enjoy working and living together. With Empathic Communication training you’ve got The Map and know how to use it – a simple, reliable map through the otherwise complex and confusing terrain of human emotions and needs!
Keep moving forward.
You’ll find you really want to keep moving forward when you get all the positive feedback that comes from offering yourself and others genuine empathy, and when you are inspired to figure out how to get your core needs met every day and help others do the same.
Oh yes, oh yes! When you start to feel the heat, press that button: “Pause and Promise to Return”.
That’s the inevitable happy outcome of all of this:)
Peace and many blessings for the new year,
P.S. I’m offering convenient, fun and economical programs for acquiring everything these glaciers are trying to tell us about.
Family Communication Magic and Couple’s Communication Magic.
These are 8 week online video workshops with other like minded lovelies. You can set up a complimentary session with me here if you want more info – Breakthrough Conversation.
My heart has been working overtime and I want to share the harvest with you.
It started on Sunday when I sent a vulnerable, open-hearted email to my longtime community of friends, to honor and announce the ending of our 20 year tradition of monthly potlucks and council circles that began in our home in 1998.
I used my favorite coaching tool – Empathic Communication/ Nonviolent Communication – to organize and write my letter. So I did what I coach others to do (yay!) –
- I gave myself time to feel my feelings – gratitude, sadness, nostalgia, wonder, and confusion.
- Then I followed the painful feelings to learn what core needs were not being met.
- Then followed the pleasurable ones to see the core needs that have been beautifully met for me by my community of friends.
My letter “wrote itself” clearly, easily and in a very heartfelt way that inspired beautiful, caring heartfelt responses from my friends. I celebrate the ease and meaningful connections!
I may dive deeper into my social and spiritual lessons from that another time. Today I’d like to share my empty nest heartache.
On Tuesday I was taken by surprise by the depth of my sadness when my daughter Claire, 21, cleared out the last things in her room and moved out of our home. She had moved out before for a year when she was 18, and I thought I was done processing my grief back then. Plus I’ve known this was coming for a month and she only moved 20 minutes away! My mind just didn’t get it.
Nonetheless I was committed to following my heart, not my mind, in my grieving process. To feel my feelings, to not trying to ignore or distract myself from my sadness. I pulled back from work a bit to give it time to express. I noticed some things.
It’s About the Physical
The feelings hit hardest when the physical experience was upon me. I knew a month ago she was moving out, but didn’t cry at the news.
The biggest triggers were quite physical, like seeing her emptied bathroom shelf, or walking by her empty room – bringing me waves of sadness and many tears.
Like sitting down to my dinner, remembering the “last lunch” with her outside, earlier that day. How before we began, as is her practice, she looked skyward and opened her arms in a graceful gesture of gratitude and said a blessing. I love her commitment to her spiritual practices. They are so regular, true, generous and sweet. I love her so much. More waves of sadness and tears.
Hand. Flower. Basket. Death.
I first learned about the direct, intense connection of my heart to my physical experience when I attended my cousin’s public memorial in 2000. Coleen and her fiance were victims of the Alaskan Airlines flight 261 that crashed into the Pacific ocean near Port Hueneme, California, on their way back from a family vacation in Mexico.
My family and I attended the large public memorial held at Pepperdine University in Malibu, for all 88 people who lost their lives. As we entered we were each handed a long-stemmed flower.
We filed past a long altar with photos, prayers, flowers and family messages for all of the people on board. We heard poignant and courageous expressions of grief and loss from officials and from family members.
But, it wasn’t until we were all leaving the building, as my hand was releasing my white flower into the large basket that would be flown that day to the crash location and dropped into the ocean where my cousin died, that the dam broke and I burst into tears. Hand. Flower. Basket. Plane. Ocean. Coleen’s Death. All connected in a heartbreaking moment. It still brings tears to me as I write this 18 years later.
Unique Liveliness and a Vibrant Heart-led Lifestyle
Back to my heartache for Claire. Claire brings a unique liveliness, warmth and sense of fun to our home that simply can’t be replaced. Plus some really great meals and homemade raw vegan chocolate that are crazy good.
She models a vibrant heart-led lifestyle – daily. Although our political and economic structure don’t support this, she is not chasing credentials, money or status. Instead she is tuning in daily to her community building, healing and artistic talents and passions – visual, dance, musical, performance, poetry – and following her inner spiritual guidance to allow her life to unfold in alignment with her heart, soul, intuition and core values.
She shows me where and when she sees that I might not doing that, and how I might want to adjust.
One of my crying spells, shared with my patient and compassionate husband Crisman one evening, shined light on the fact that Claire is one of the few people I know that has made time on her calendar to get together to spend frequent quality time with people. She genuinely wants to be with me and it is not a hassle for her to make it happen. With her I feel seen and wanted in an unusually fulfilling, heart nourishing way.
She beautifully meets my core needs for love, fun, surprise, unique understanding, personal and spiritual growth, spaciousness, guidance, sweet and cheerful feminine companionship, and many more.
I got to speak all this to Claire in person this morning when she dropped by after her gym workout to share a quick breakfast.
It was not just heartwarming for her to hear. It was healing for the young, still tender part of her that has suffered from the unusual harmony and alignment I have always had with her older sister, that she often translated as “less mother love” for herself.
I’m not trying to paint Claire and our mother-daughter relationship as perfect, because we also have our struggles. But my heart was not focusing on our shadow areas this week. It was beating to the rhythm of our unique, precious, nourishing love and interconnectedness.
Common Empathy Mistake to Avoid.
During one of my crying episodes this week my well meaning housemate offered me consolation, which I appreciated because she had caring intention and I needed and wanted connection.
But in my moments of sadness she partly missed the mark for me because she made a common mistake. She jumped into reasons and solutions – like I deserve to feel sad, since I was losing my daughter, but that it will be even more fun now when we do see each other, and other attempts to comfort me.
That was a good affirmation for me of the importance of the empathy work I do and the subtleties that can make a huge difference.
She missed the empathy piece of acceptance and spaciousness, allowing my feelings – giving my sadness time and space to just be. Like many of us, she wanted to rush by that part.
She also missed a lot of “what was alive in me”, which she could have accessed by tuning into my possible unmet needs, or in this case my imagined unmet needs in the future, that were triggering my sadness. Needs like those that I found later for myself, as I mentioned above, that Claire meets for me – love, fun, surprise, spiritual growth, sweet and cheerful feminine companionship, etc.
When I’m sad it is just nice to know I am cared about and perhaps understood. The ultimate, more precise understanding is for someone to see the unmet core needs behind my tears.
My housemate jumped into solutions mode too early – something most of us do until we are trained out of it.
My reward for allowing myself all this emotional processing time in my busy busy week? Like clouds in the sky, the heavy sadness dissipated. Now I walk by her old room and I feel fine or don’t even notice. My heart has delivered its messages, I heard and felt them, and the sky is blue again.
Thank you for sharing my heart’s harvest!
Peace and many blessings,
P.S. If you or a friend are struggling in an important workplace or family relationship, and you want to shed common disconnecting habits, and bring in safe, soulful heart connection, to meet your core needs with way more ease and grace, please connect with me here for a complimentary Breakthrough Conversation.
I’m putting my toes in the dangerous fray around the Kavanaugh nomination and its intersection with the Me Too movement.
Eve Ensler published a letter in Time magazine last week, to white women who are supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Ensler is a Tony-winning playwright activist and author of The Vagina Monologues. She founded both V-Day, a global movement dedicated to ending violence against women, and the One Billion Rising campaign.
I am not going to get into the politics here, thankfully, but instead am sharing some of Ensler’s insights about how violence towards women “destroys our souls”, why it is important for women to break their silence, plus some pointers and “rewrites” from my relationship repair work that bring more safety and clarity to the conversation.
Ensler’s open letter was inspired by her grief when her own childhood sexual assault trauma was triggered by seeing women in an audience laugh at President Trump while he was mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman that accused Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
As an empathic communication coach I appreciate that Ensler committed to “Not lecture them. Not denigrate them. Just simply to speak to them directly and to try to explain my feelings.” As her coach I would have encouraged her to go two steps further and identify her unmet core needs – perhaps for truth? Shared reality? Support? Emotional healing? The needs that are causing her upset. I’d suggest that she make a request(s) of the women that would inspire them to help her meet these needs.
Vulnerable, right? To even think she can ask, let alone inspire “them, the other side” to help her meet her needs? So scary. Yet once she identifies her needs, articulates them, and formulates a positive request that would help get them met, she dramatically increases her chances of meeting them. Especially if she has made true empathic connection with her “opposition”.
At the end of her letter Ensler does in fact make a suggestion about what she’d like them to do, but it is more of a disconnecting demand than an inspiring request.
With my Empathic Communication lens I view Trump’s mockery as a strategy for meeting one or more of Trump’s core needs. Perhaps for discrediting Dr. Ford, which in turn is a strategy. How do I know? Because everything we do and say is to meet our core needs, though unfortunately we are usually unconscious about what needs we are trying to meet and why we have selected the strategy we are using. This is a life changing realization for my clients as they get conscious about their needs and strategies.
What were Trump’s core needs he was trying to meet by mocking Blasey Ford?
I can only guess. Perhaps power, and underlying that might be his need for personal security. It’s nice to think he might also have been experiencing a need for truth or shared reality. Empathic communication is about trying to connect to him in his world, with an open heart and an open mind – to “get” him, to understand his motivations, his feelings, the humanity behind the needs he is trying to meet.
Ensler points out the kind of thinking that disempowers women and gives permission for violence. Her mother, Chris Ensler, stayed silent or, worse yet, sided with Eve’s father, Arthur Ensler, about his sexual abuse and beating of Eve as a child.
“She sided with my father, just like these women sided with Donald Trump, and I understand why. She sided with him because he was the breadwinner. She sided with him because of her need to survive. She sided with him because the reality of what was happening in front of her was so terrible, it was easier not to see. She sided with him because she was brought up never to question a man. She was taught to serve men and make men happy. She was trained not to believe women.”
Had Eve’s mother Chris been trained in Empathic Communication she would have focused her attention on trying to meet her own needs alongside men’s and everyone else’s needs, such as needs for physical and emotional safety, self expression, trust, stability, respect etc. She would have learned to question men in order to better understand them and help them understand her world – how she is feeling about how her needs are being met or not being met.
If her questioning triggered anger blasts from Arthur, she would not be afraid or ashamed. Or at least she would know the pathway to shift out of those emotions when she regained composure and gave herself empathy. She would not be a deer in front of the anger headlights because she would know that his anger does not mean that she is a “bad or wrong” person, but instead means that he has core needs that are not being met yet.
She would remain emotionally stable inside as she considered best action, carefully considering, based on what her heart was telling her, how she might be inspired or not inspired to help him meet his needs, while keeping her and her daughter’s needs in sharp focus.
Need for Security and Comfort
“It was only much later, after my father died, that she was able to acknowledge the truth of my childhood and to ask for my forgiveness. It was only then, too late, that she was able to see how she had sacrificed her daughter for security and comfort. She used those words. I was her ‘sacrifice’.”
Here Eve sees some of the needs Chris was trying to meet with her behaviors – security and comfort. If Chris had Empathic Communication training she could have listened more deeply to her own heart, which was probably sending her strong signals of guilt, shame, fear, grief and anger – feelings signalling possible unmet needs for safety, respect, care, kindness, etc – for her and her daughter.
She would have realized that her strategy of silence or, worse yet, of supporting the perpetrator of violence was chosen in order to meet her own needs for security and comfort. She would have asked herself whether there might be better, far less damaging strategies for getting her needs met.
Tuned into her heart, she would have been able to tune into Eve’s heart. She would have seen that Eve’s core needs for safety, comfort, respect and peace were not being met.
She would have also inquired about what needs her husband Arthur was trying to meet by sexually assaulting and beating Eve. She would intuitively know that there had to be far better strategies for meeting these needs of his, whatever they were. From his perspective, something seemingly positive came out of his violence, or else he would not have done it. Was he trying to satisfy a need for power maybe, and underlying that a need for security? With tragic strategies of control and punishment – the inflicting of pain on his child?
Feelings – the Pain, Fear, Sorrow and Rage
Ensler provides a lot of insight in these passages. Many women are unaware they are in denial of their own violent pasts, and are paying a big price. We all are.
“Some people when they look at this video of women laughing at Dr. Ford, will see callousness. I see distancing. I see denial. I have worked on ending violence against women for 20 years. I have traveled this country many times. I have sat with women of all ages and political persuasions. I remember the first performances of my play The Vagina Monologues in Oklahoma City, when half the women in the audience came up to tell me they had been raped or battered. Most of them whispered it to me, and often I was the first and only person they had told. Until that moment, they had found a way to normalize it. Expect it. Accept it. Deny it.
I don’t believe you want to have to choose your sons and your husbands over your daughters. I don’t believe you want the pain that was inflicted on us inflicted on future generations.
I know the risk many of you take in coming out to say you believe a woman over a man. It means you might then have to recognize and believe your own experience. If one out of three women in the world have been raped or beaten, it must mean some of you have had this experience. To believe another woman means having to touch into the pain and fear and sorrow and rage of your own experience and that sometimes feels unbearable. I know because it took me years to come out of my own denial and to break with my perpetrator, my father. To speak the truth that risked upending the comfort of my very carefully constructed life. But I can tell you that living a lie is living half a life. It was only after telling my story that I knew happiness and freedom.
I know the risk others of you face who have witnessed those you love suffer the traumatic after-effects of violence and those who worry for both your sons and daughters that may someday face this violence
I write to you because we need you, the way I once needed my mother. We need you to stand with women who are breaking the silence in spite of their terror and shame. I believe inside the bodies of some of those women who laughed at that rally were other impulses and feelings they weren’t expressing.
Here is why I believe you should take this stand with me. Violence against women destroys our souls. It annihilates our sense of self. It numbs us. It separates us from our bodies. It is the tool used to keep us second-class citizens. And if we don’t address it, it can lead to depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating and suicide. It makes us believe we are not worthy of happiness.”
Stop Laughing and Start Fighting
“Stop the ascension of a man who is angry, aggressive, and vengeful and could very well be a sexual assaulter. Time is short. Call your senators. Stop laughing and start fighting.”
A possible Empathic Communication rewrite of this plea…
Please help to stop the ascension of a man who appears to be angry, aggressive, and vengeful, given that he said or did….., and could very well be a sexual assaulter, and therefore unable to provide safety, wisdom and respect as a Supreme Court Justice. Time is short. Please call your senators. Please stop laughing at people who are mocking others, and instead support victims of sexual assault by speaking truth and protesting violence.
I know my version is not as catchy, but I’m willing to sacrifice that for emotional safety and clarity. I’ve added “please” to convert her demands into requests. I’ve removed the static label that Kavanaugh “is” angry, aggressive and vengeful, and instead claim these as appearances or as my own judgements, providing my related observations.
By transforming our demands into requests, we honor people’s choice and autonomy. We want people to do things only from inspiration, and not from guilt, shame or “have to” thinking, because that is too expensive psychologically and emotionally, for everyone involved.
Since Dr. Ford testified, she is unable to return home because of multiple death threats to her and her family. Death threats are also tragic strategies, attempts to meet core needs. I know that we human beings are capable of far safer, kinder, smarter strategies.
I long to fill our media airwaves with slowed down, respectful, creative needs-based conversations, scrubbed clean from diagnosing, criticizing, “guilting”, demanding, threatening and focusing on who is right or wrong and what they deserve. These “clean room” conversations will bring us our best strategies for moving forward with getting our needs met!
Step by step to peace,
P.S. If you are struggling in an important relationship and you need a “rewrite”, you can set up a complimentary session here to find out what that can sound like!
I re-learned an important lesson last week while on my morning jog. I was listening to Dave Stochowiak’s podcast, Coaching for Leaders – his interview with John Sanei, author of What’s Your Moonshot? https://coachingforleaders.com/podcast/366/
I shared the podcast with my family right away in hopes they’d be up for taking on the practice of coming from a place of “interiority” with people, vs. inferiority or superiority, which can slide into victim or perpetrator. We can all up our game by serving as mirrors and as compassionate “thought watch dogs” for each other. But it’s a moonshot, because changing our thinking is a huge feat.
I have done some inner work over the years on my “victim” identity, but this conversation with John Sanei has inspired me to do some more.
For those of you who put faith and practice in the new age concept of manifestation, through monitoring the positivity of your thoughts and intentions, you might find John’s insights helpful for this too.
John had great business success, then lost all he had earned in his late 20’s, early 30’s, and fell into a depression. His big aha was learning how his depression was a result of his victim mentality.
John shared examples of his own and others’ “arrogant inferior” victim responses. One example would be someone seeing a Ferrari drive by and whispering to themselves, “thief”.
Another example could be – someone got a promotion at work, and I judge that she slept her way to the top. These negative thoughts will then prevent or slow me down from ever having a Ferrari or getting promoted, because to do so would mean me becoming a thief or a prostitute.
John suggests re-programming the Ferrari example by transforming the “thief” thought to, “Well done! I’m looking forward to having a Ferrari soon too!.”
I was able to put this into practice moments after hearing it. My husband and I lost our house of 15 years to foreclosure in 2012. Ever since then, though I have enjoyed and learned a lot from my new rental and work exchange “living situations”, I have also been quite challenged by them and have truly missed having my own home – the convenience, autonomy, freedom, security, etc.
I realized in a clear moment that morning that at subtle levels I have had judgemental and resentful thoughts about the homeowners in our neighborhood.
The next neighbor I saw after hearing John’s Ferrari example was a man in his 50’s relaxing quietly on a bench in his front yard, slowly watering his lawn with the hose.
So when wisps of my old, quiet negative thoughts came up (they can be hard to catch!):
“what a lot of life energy it must take to maintain your home – feels kind of heavy” and
“why you, not me? Where’s mine?”
I re-programmed them into…
“Well done! I’m ease-fully creating my next beautiful home.”
Does this feel vulnerable? Yes! It’s so easy to then have negative thoughts about myself generating “foolish” positive thoughts! “Oh yeah, right. Keep wishing. That’s not how things happen…”
The funny thing is that my neighbor responded as if he had heard my “what a lot of life energy it must take to maintain your home – feels kind of heavy” thought. He looked up from his watering, laughed, and told me that he had just heard that “creatures who are lazy have an evolutionary advantage”.
I laughed, “Thank you – I love it!”
I wouldn’t feel complete and transparent without inserting a caveat here about the Ferrari and the American single family home.
As an environmentalist and as a “needs” specialist, needs literacy being the heart of my practice of Empathic Communication – I believe that we will all be more happy and peaceful by learning to reduce and simplify our material needs. As my stepmother and wise friend, BettyDear, used to request, “Live simply, so others may simply live.”
The evening before my jog I watched a documentary about rare mountain gorillas in Zaire that are dying off, due to rapidly losing their forest home to thousands of poverty stricken Rwandan war refugees who pillage and poach the forests for firewood and food.
I couldn’t help but see and feel the big resource incongruence between the tattered Rwandan refugee shelters I saw in the film, and my neighbors’ beautiful, large, siloed homes – the kind I long for:)
A belief system tied to our unsustainable housing habit was recently used against me. A neighbor complained to a third party about us having too many cars in front of our house. In other words, too many people are sharing one “house” resource. We have 5 cars in a household that includes 4 working adults and one retired adult, in a community with poor public transportation. I have empathy for my neighbor – I also prefer the look of a neighborhood with few cars.
I am processing his complaint through my newly strengthened “I am a victor” filter. I’m recommitting myself to another moonshot – the inquiry of how we can peacefully, sustainably, cooperatively, and respectfully help each other meet our core needs, so people and mountain gorillas can all be healthy and happy here!
Peace, positivity and prosperity,
P.S. If you are struggling in an important relationship and you think you need a moonshot to repair it, set up a complimentary session here to find out how you can! Breakthrough Conversation.
Recently, I was having lunch with a client at Renaud’s, a local French cafe with the best croissants in Santa Barbara. At the next table a young teen was holding her baby sister. Suddenly, the baby bumped a plate, which fell and shattered on the tile floor so loudly that everyone in the cafe looked. From the cashier line, the girls' mother looked back in horror, reacting in anger and embarrassment.
"Oh god!" she said in the direction of her teen daughter. In her words, I could hear implied judgment and the force of her own humiliation. Then, she looked towards the counter for help, upset about the unwanted attention and being at cause for the broken plate.
I glanced at the teen. She held her head down as far as it could go in obvious shame and embarrassment. The baby, meanwhile, was fine with all of this, smiling and happy--completely unaware of the turmoil it had caused.
Was there anything I could do to make this young girl a little happier? While the waiter was helping to relieve the mom’s tension, I wanted to bring relief to the teen. So I offered her eye contact. I said to her: “That must have felt so shocking for you when the plate fell and broke.”
“Yes it did,” she said, with a small relieved smile, returning my eye contact. In that instant, she took a breath and I could see her whole body relax.
Wow, that felt so nice to bring her a little ease, and it was so easy to do. Someone should teach this! 🙂
I like that it happened in a croissant shop too. I recently heard an empathy expert say that life is like a croissant. To make croissants you alternate many layers of dough and butter. The dough is all of our direct experiences of life, and empathy - people reflecting these experiences to us compassionately - is the butter. Yes, more butter please!
Recipe for an Daily Empathy Croissant: 1) Roll out life. 2) Add empathy. 3) Chill. Repeat 5x. (More often = better croissant.) Then bake for 10 minutes at 350º F. For an extra treat, drizzle chocolate on top and garnish with fresh strawberries and whipped butter cream ganache. Next day, repeat.
Don't forget to give yourself an empathy croissant. Some of the most potent healing comes from empathy you can give to yourself. AND, when you're needing empathy, you can't really give anyone else empathy until you've given it to yourself first. So, be generous with your empathy croissants!
Peace and prosperity,
Have you ever been bummed and stressed about work, for a day? A week? A month? A year?Did you ever resent being “managed”? Did you ever feel afraid that if people at work really knew who you are, they’d probably fire you? Did you ever feel like your job was meaningless? That, in the larger scheme of things, the whole company’s mission was trivial? Was your self talk something like, well that’s just how it is in business?
That's how I saw it. And you know, I was right. Up until now!
Turns out, there’s a quiet “Teal Revolution” going on. It’s made up of people like you, me and billionaire Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. The next evolutionary leap of business beginning. Frederic Laloux’s laid it out in his book, Reinventing Organizations...A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. The color teal refers to this level of consciousness, as described by Integral theory and its cousin, spiral dynamics. (NOTE: The Spiral Dynamics Synergy Yellow level is EQUAL to the Integral Teal level. Turquoise follows one level up in both systems.)
Sometimes when I’m reading about the new workplace practices in Reinventing Organizations, I pinch myself and wonder: Is this really happening? It feels just too good to be true!
Maybe because I have been challenged all of my adult working life when it comes to feeling good about my contributions, the feeling of the teamwork, and how I fit in with the company culture and purpose. Apart from my precious years as a stay at home mom, I never really hit my fulfillment stride in my jobs, which was one reason I started my own company. Not that running Peaceabl is easier than doing my old jobs, as you entrepreneurs probably well know, but it is more fulfilling, affirming and peaceful in many ways. More soulful. And it opens the path to way more profit.
And that is the bright teal future that Laloux is predicting for those of us in the Teal Revolution, as we transform the way we collaborate with each other and with other organizations. His work pulls from a field called “developmental theory” and Integral theory, and maintains that organizations are moving forward along an evolutionary spectrum, toward self-management, wholeness, and a deeper sense of purpose.
Did you catch that? We are moving toward self-management, wholeness and a deeper sense of purpose!
- Self-management means that everyone is the boss, and no one is the boss of anyone else, in a distributed power scene vs. a power-over hierarchy.
- Wholeness means you get to show up at work as your real self and it is not only safe to do so, but welcome and expected. We can retire our “professional” masks.
- Evolutionary purpose means that teal organizations base their strategies on what they sense the world is asking from them. They are flexible and agile and are focused on making meaningful impact in their communities and care about employee personal purpose fulfillment.
This is to replace what many of us struggle with. As Laloux puts it:
“Many people sense that the way organizations are run today has been stretched to its limits. In survey after survey, business people make it clear that in their view, companies are places of dread and drudgery, not passion or purpose. Organizational disillusionment afflicts government agencies, nonprofits, schools, and hospitals just as much. Further, it applies not just to the powerless at the bottom of the hierarchy. Behind a facade of success, many top leaders are tired of the power games and infighting; despite their desperately overloaded schedules, they feel a vague sense of emptiness. All of us yearn for better ways to work together — for more soulful workplaces where our talents are nurtured and our deepest aspirations are honored.”
Organizational disillusionment might be a sign that we are outgrowing the current model of organization and getting ready for the next. Laloux has studied 12 companies who have developed this “teal” level of consciousness and compared their practices.
It turns out the 12 companies came to their structure and practices independently and for the most part didn’t know about each other, yet there is so much similarity that it seems that a coherent new organizational model is emerging.
Having a clear, regularly used conflict resolution practice that everyone is trained in is core to being Teal! Not surprisingly, that’s a big part of my excitement about this movement.
I had an opportunity this week to interview Manfred Friedrich, an Organizational Development consultant and Executive Coach for Palaestra. He works closely with top leaders of large international organizations and has been amazed at how many cannot deliver or receive feedback in a clear, honest, safe way. Nor can they really listen to anyone without becoming reactive.
If you sometimes ride in this same stressful boat, please take note! These important, basic communication skills are all learnable in a simple 4 step process that cleans up your relationships as you go! Too good to be true? Not at all - it’s what I love to do!
If you are having a conflict at home or at work, I’d like to invite you to make a teal move and step right up this week for a Free Breakthrough Conversation.
We’ll take a look at what you need and want to happen in your relationship, where you are experiencing obstacles and explore new possibilities for you.
As always, I invite you to share your thoughts and questions about this topic or anything else about conflict, communication and relationships.
Peace and hope for a world blooming Teal,
Check out this summary article by Laloux: The Future of Management Is Teal.
Happy Valentine’s Day! We're celebrating the power, beauty and possibility of love at Peaceabl today with a story from our Chocolate Game winner that offers sweet connection, insight and intimacy, all from taking a step back and surrendering the need to be right. Here's the story...
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My husband was having some deep feelings around (what I saw as) an unfounded event. He saw it one way, I saw it another.....
I wanted so badly to defend my position, my beliefs, and the way it was for me.
I instead just listened to him be angry, I just kept getting him, I did not defend myself or make him wrong (although I was in my head)
He slowly softened ( I think when he realized that I wasn't "playing ball"). What came were his fears, his insecurities, his vulnerability....
We could really talk about all of that depth instead of the trigger, which really wasn't the point anyway:))))
The connection in that conversation may have never happened without me letting go of being right.
We were able to then laugh about my thoughts of wanting to be right... and I was able to express my feelings and he was
able to hear all of that much easier, because he felt heard......Being right didn't matter....
In the past, being right has stopped so many deep connecting times.....
I am practicing this.... it's starting to become a habit:)) ! He is my Valentine for sure!
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Peace, love and many blessings to you and your Valentine,