Category Archives for Stories & Lessons Learned

Exciting New Answer #1… for Curing Worry

I’d like to share a learning moment from my week – it’s an “Exciting New Answer”, that comes with a New Action and a New Result. It’s from a book called Letting Go, by Guy Finley, which I recently found and borrowed from a wise friend’s book shelf.

Guy provides 5 Exciting New Answers, Actions and Results, and they are all great. They are nice on their own too, so here is #1 for you to try out in your life:

Your New Answer:

Real strength is the refusal to act from weakness.

Your New Action:

See where you have been calling inner-weakness an inner strength; such as calling anxiety, concern or anger righteousness [a strength]. Dare to live without these false strengths.

Your New Result:

The end of your confusion and pain over why your strength so often fails you. At the same time you will experience the birth of a New and True strength that never turns into it’s weak opposite.

How Does This Play Out for Me?

The weakness I zeroed in on was my habit of worry. Guy is right – it does feel like a “strength” – an energy that will do something important for me. Wow, that’s weird.

When I was little one of my brothers’ too-many-not-nice nicknames for me was “the worrier”. This habitual state of being has caused me plenty of sadness, disappointment, confusion and shame.  

Though I’ve always known that worry is not what I want, and I’ve worked frequently on overcoming this habit, it has stayed with me in various forms. It has even hurt my digestive process, with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. That is very hard to admit in a blog, but I’m taking this opportunity to let go of the shame part through truth telling and acceptance.

My favorite quote from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, is,

“Life brings nothing that is worth the price of worry.”

I believe this and want it to be true! Yet somehow I am not able to take it in all the way. At one time I thought I found the exception to this great rule – certainly it is valid to worry about my children’s safety, right? Yet, I know that there is a difference between care and worry, and that extending care instead worry is healthier for all involved. But how do I separate the two?

Another way worry shows up for me is that, even though I LOVE my work now, I often feel a sense of worry or concern on Monday mornings when it is time to return to it. I want to transform that to joyful anticipation, which I know is possible. I even have a shining example. Tony Robbins proclaimed, years ago, that his Mondays are like most people’s Christmas’s! I wonder if that is still true for him. Assuming this is possible, I’ll have some of that please.

Moving Forward

With this new strange realization, that I have been treating worry as a strength, I am now “daring to live without this false strength.” I’m developing care as my New True Strength.

I’m also getting help in transforming my worry from Joe Dispenza’s book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. He offers the science behind our emotional habits and how they reside in the body, and the path to transforming and reprogramming them.

Harvesting those Emotional Pings to a Happy Ending on the Trail

My ambitious project to transform worry aligns deeply with my Empathic Communication work. Even though people seek my mediation and coaching skills because they are in conflict with “other” – spouse, employee etc, the silver lining for them is always transforming the relationship with “self”.

This is done by me listening to my heart, or emotional body, with it’s many daily pings of emotion. Feeling the pings, and tracing them to find my core needs. The painful pings show me where my core needs are not being met, and the pleasurable emotion pings point to beautifully met needs. My noticing and naming them sets me up for meeting them better in the future.

I had some heart pings last Saturday when I dumped my work agenda over the side of the wagon in trade for a very slow, luxurious, unplanned day with my daughter Claire.

The pings of worry came in quite loudly, for sure, but thankfully the pings of hope for meeting my needs of special connection and rest won out. It turned out to be an exceptional trade up. We had fabulous time in nature, and I had not one, but two naps! The photo above is a view from our hike, on Pratt Trail in Ojai.

What About You?

If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear what Exciting New Answer #1 awakens in you about any false strengths in your life, and opportunities to develop new True Strengths.

If you are in conflict, experiencing at least a #7 out of 10 pain level, then I invite you to set up a complimentary session with me to explore your options for a cure. You can find a time that works for you here Breakthrough Conversation.

Peace and many blessings,

Catherine

Beautiful Trouble at the Lunch Counter

Last week I realized trouble can be beautiful. I attended Resisting Oppression Through Nonviolence, a courageous, heartfelt webinar offered by Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI), which I am a member of.

Mel Duncan, Nadine Bloch, and Daryn Cambridge are deeply engaged in creative peacemaking all over the world. Mel Duncan is the co-founder and current Director of Advocacy and Outreach for Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), a world leader in unarmed civilian protection (UCP). Daryn Cambridge is a manager for the EPIC project at Training Resources Group, Inc. – an international organizational development and training consulting firm.

Nadine Bloch is the Training Director for Beautiful Trouble, a global network of artist-activists empowering social movements to creatively respond to injustice in ways that open up new possibilities. It believes in people power and the game-changing role that art, mischief, joy, and humor can play in the struggle for a better world.

Daryn Cambridge shared the photo above, of the Woolworth lunch counter protest that turned ugly in May, 1963, in Jackson, Mississippi. People poured ketchup, mustard and sugar on the student demonstrators who were making a stand against segregated seating in restaurants.  

The image really stuck in my mind and heart, long after the webinar, so I went to Google to find it and share it with you, to ignite your heart too. And to think about how we can create a different world, a world where it is safe to share our convictions and where we trust ourselves and each other as community members, committed to helping each other meet our core needs. Or as Dr. King put it, as Beloved Community members.

Dr. Martin Luther King popularized the notion of the “Beloved Community.” King envisioned the Beloved Community as a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings.

As explained by The King Center, the memorial institution founded by Coretta Scott King to further the goals of Martin Luther King:

“Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth  of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it.  Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”

Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King and thank you for this beautiful vision!

I was with friends yesterday, and none of them remembered Dr. King’s concept of Beloved Community. This morning it occurred to me that perhaps people weren’t able to hear it back then because we were not ready for it. But maybe we are now.

Some people challenged Dr. King about why he encouraged demonstrations like the lunch counters that “incited trouble”. He knew that stepping outside people’s comfort zones was required if life-serving change was going to happen.

These students are not struggling for themselves alone. They are seeking to save the soul of America. They are taking our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In sitting down at the lunch counters, they are in reality standing up for the best in the American dream. They courageously go to the jails of the South in order to get America out of the dilemma in which she finds herself as a result of the continued existence of segregation. One day historians will record this student movement as one of the most significant epics of our heritage.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Nadine Bloch, of Beautiful Trouble, reminded the MBBI webinar participants that if we want to create the world we want to live in, we in the U.S. need to rebuild our nonviolent protest muscles.

I was relieved to learn about Nadine’s Beautiful Trouble, because I too sense that we citizens need to take more risks in the U.S. to protect our freedoms and create the society we want to live in, and I feel the flabbiness in my own protest muscles. And I think more people would stand up against injustice if they were organized for this in more creative and fun ways.

Although I attend marches for causes, such as for anti-war, anti-fracking and climate awareness, I have been afraid to “get involved” more deeply. Besides a few insults from hecklers, I have never had to face physical danger to protest, and I’m not sure I have the courage and conviction to do so.  I’m glad people like Beautiful Trouble are finding ways of making protest work more interesting, safe and even fun. Wow, fun.

I’m not clear where my own “activist line” is. What levels of danger and injustice have to happen before I am willing to spend my precious time and risk my safety to stand up for a cause? I don’t know the answer, but I know it is a very worthy and important question. Sharing it with you today is a baby step toward answering it for myself.

If you are inspired to share your thoughts on how you answer this question for yourself I’d be very interested in hearing them.

Bringing all this back to me, my work today is about minimizing the necessity of “beautiful trouble”, and creating Beloved Community by helping people to acquire “feelings and needs literacy” so they can learn to speak compassionately to themselves and others as they identify core needs that need to be met, build respectful teamwork, and get inspired, not guilted or manipulated, but inspired to help each other.

Peace, blessings, and special gratitude to Dr. King on his holiday,

Catherine

P.S. If you are experiencing too much “beautiful trouble” in a key relationship, like with your spouse or business team member, I invite you to set up a complimentary session with me here, Breakthrough Conversation. We’ll talk about your vision for change and how you can overcome your communication and relationship obstacles.

Heartache from my Empty Nest

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,

Catherine

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.

Empathy Croissant

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 look​ed 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,

Catherine

The Teal Revolution…Are You In?

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,

Catherine

Check out this summary article by Laloux: The Future of Management Is Teal.

Why She Won The Chocolate…

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...

*  *  *
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!
*  *  *

Peace, love and many blessings to you and your Valentine,

Catherine

Harvard Study Reveals Secret to Happiness

Harvard’s Robert Waldinger asks: “If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and your energy?” Take a second to answer the professor’s question… Get a pencil or pen and write it down on a piece of paper. Doing this will help you anchor the learning. Don’t read on until you’ve written it down. Okay? Got it? In a second, we’ll see if your answer is congruent with findings of his research on happiness. 

What? There’s research on Happiness? Yes...

Waldinger’s inquiry may be one of the most important questions you or I ever ask ourselves and our friends and family. We all have our own working theory about what the best way to invest in our future selves. But are we right? The problem is, our answers are likely just opinions. There is little research-based guidance with science that can actually show what works to produce desirable results. 

Until now.

For 80 years, the Harvard Study of Adult Development—the study that Waldinger directs—researchers have followed and documented the lives of 724 men. (More recently, they added their wives and children). The data include detailed questionnaires each participant fills out every two years, as well as data from medical exams, blood tests, brain scans, records of interim medical exams and videotaped conversations with spouses and families.

All this data gives Waldinger and his colleagues insights into human needs we’ve never had before: They know why some people live long healthy and happy lives and why others die early after a shorter life of pain, depression and dementia.

The reason for the discrepancy between the two groups will surprise you. Refer now to what you wrote down at the beginning, the Secret to Happiness.

Research shows that the secret to happiness isn’t genetics or economic status or food or fitness regimens. Those things may influence, but they aren’t the driver. Waldinger says: “The clearest message that we get from this [80-year] study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Good relationships are the key!

Three Key Elements of Relationships

Waldinger cites three elements of relationships that emerge from the mass of data from the study. First, social connections are what support us. And conversely, loneliness is a killer.

Having friends or a marriage can cut both ways. That is, high levels of conflict and low levels of support from friends and spouse can be as bad as—or even worse than—no relationship at all. Second point: What matters is a high-quality, low-conflict relationship. Living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.

Protective against what?, you might ask. Here again, the data sheds new light on human life and happiness. As people age, we tend to experience pain from various breakdowns in the body: joint replacements, arthritis, back pain, muscular and nervous conditions—on and on. It turns out that a happy person has a much easier time facing pain. People who are alone, on the other hand, feel the pain more acutely. It’s almost as if their mental suffering amplifies their physical pain, and vice-versa.  

That leads to the third point: “Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains.” Waldinger says the data shows that people who are in relationship with others whose loyalty they trust keep sharper faculties of memory for a longer time. Those who are not in trusting relationships suffer early decline in brain function.  

If you have read this far, congratulations! May I ask you, how do you feel knowing the secret to happiness?

If you’re like most people, you might be feeling a bit disappointed. It’s like learning that the key to life is at the top of El Capitan in Yosemite, and all you have to do is to scale the cliff without ropes to get it!

But this where the Harvard study leaves off. It shows that some people found the key to life—good relationships—and others didn’t. Those who managed to find the key (whether by skill, luck or some mysterious combination of the two) had long healthy happy lives. Those who didn’t find it experienced more more suffering, more physical pain, reduced brain and body function, earlier death.

But what about you? What about any person who knows her relationships could be better? How does she get off the sinking ship and step onto the one that will carry her through her life? How do you go about changing your lot?

How can you create good relationships in your life? 

Remember the second thing researchers learned from this study: high levels of conflict on an ongoing basis are destructive and dangerous. Let’s start there!

Changing a relationship in your own life where conflict has become habitual is never easy. You’ve got some bad habits to break. Where do you begin? Well, conflicts may be protracted by silence, but they erupt in conversations. So let’s start with the conversation.

The essence of my training for business women is conversation training. It’s a very precise and disciplined way of talking about emotions and needs. Many people shirk the model because they prefer to “wing it.” Basically that means that they want to give vent freely to their judgments. But that’s exactly why the Empathic Communication model is structured: to prevent hurting someone (or yourself) by shooting from the hip.

So even though its discipline and precise, that doesn’t mean it’s rational or unfeeling. Quite the contrary. It requires discipline because it gives both parties a chance to speak exactly what the feel.

Marshall Rosenberg, the inventor of the genius core technology of Empathic Communication (usually called Nonviolent Communication or NVC), called this process of feeling communication “sharing what’s alive in you.” Usually, that doesn’t mean what was alive in you yesterday or last year--but really what is going on for you right now. And it’s about first giving the other person space to say what’s alive in them. And listening with empathy.

But I’m leaving out a step - Step Zero.

Usually when you get upset in a situation, you need to take yourself out of it for a while to give yourself empathy. To really listen to the part of you that’s hurting and to give supportive words of love and caring to yourself. Only when you feel whole and complete, calm and restored do you return to the conflict you were in.

Here is a schematic of the conversations that you’ll want to have to resolve your conflict:

  1. Self Empathy conversation (by yourself),
  2. Empathy for Other conversation (you give empathy to the other),
  3. Honesty conversation (you share what you feel and need).

The Most Soothing Sentence in the English Language

The three conversations, at their core, are identical. They involve a sentence that goes like this: When I see/hear_______, I feel __________ because I need ___________ and my request is for you/myself to _________.

There’s actually some real work you’ll need to do before you can fill in those four blanks. The following four steps…

STEP 1. OBSERVE. Remember exactly what happened that triggered you, like a video camera would recall it: no judgment. The first time through the steps, you will recall for yourself what you observed. Remember that your observation may be inaccurate or incomplete and that the information you received may be inaccurate or incomplete.

STEP 2. FEEL & NAME YOUR FEELINGS. (Use Feelings List on the next page to name your feelings.) Name your emotions. You can begin with the big categories: Glad, Mad, Sad, Bad, and Afraid. Then get more specific. Often feelings come in clusters. Try to tease them out.  “I feel upset. I feel afraid. I feel angry. I feel nervous about feeling this way.” Note that these feelings are pointing, like a compass, to your core needs.

STEP 3. FIND YOUR NEED AND PREPARE TO FILL IT. (Use Needs List on the next page to name your needs.) Identify your needs. Begin with your feelings and follow where they point—to your needs. Needs are universal, shared by all human beings, key to being healthy and happy. They represent what you value in life and what you need to survive and thrive, to feel happiness, joy and fulfillment. Painful emotions point to needs that are unmet. Begin with the category: Security, Autonomy, Community, Possibility. Then get more specific. Go from each individual feeling you’ve identified to each need you have. Get clear on each and write

them down so you can remember.

STEP 4. MAKE A REQUEST. The request is your chance to get your needs met and to find out what the other person wants in order to get his or her needs met. Make sure your request is not a demand in disguise—you only want a “yes” if it’s heartfelt. And you’ll only give a “yes” to someone else’s request when it’s heartfelt in you. This is a radical break from unconscious and codependent unwritten “YOU SHOULD” agreements people often make and break with each other.

Transforming Relationships with the People Who Are Most Important to You

Getting through the four steps may be more difficult than you expect. If you are trying to do it and struggling, let’s talk. Here and there when I have a free time block, I’m offering a free 50-minute Breakthrough Conversation. You canschedule one by simply clicking this link.  You’ll be taken to my updated schedule. Take these three steps: 

  1. First, select your time zone from the drop down list, then click the Set Time Zone button.
  2. Then scroll through months February thru May to find an available date in bold. Click it, then click Continue.
  3. You'll be taken to a questionnaire. Once you fill it out, you'll be all set! Catherine will call you to answer any questions on your Preview Call.

Please let me know if you have questions. Thanks! 

How your love of rodents can land you in prison (and how to avoid that!)

A man known to neighbors as “the Squirrel Guy” was just sentenced to twelve years in prison. Why? It has to do with his love of squirrels. And his reverence for his parents, who are deceased.

This story is just weird enough that if we can untangle it, we will glimpse a flaw in human nature that, if we can understand it, could decrease suffering and increase joy for practically everyone.

Lets start with a question: What is the cause of all of your conflicts with the people in your life? Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, clinical psychologist who created Nonviolent Communication, or NVC, says conflict is:

Unmet Needs, Tragically Expressed.

To understand this phrase, you need to know what Rosenberg meant by “unmet needs” and what he is referring to as “tragic”.

Unmet Needs
First, what are Needs? These are universal things we need to be healthy and happy. Basic things like physical sustenance and security, energy, movement, freedom, autonomy, creativity, honesty, belonging, compassion, intimacy, support, appreciation, play, beauty, meaning, purpose.

You have “unmet needs” in any conversation or relationship where one or more of these basic, core needs are not being met–like security, honesty etc.  The way you know you are experiencing unmet needs is that you are feeling negative emotions, such as anger, fear, shame and sadness.

Tragically Expressed
Here we are in conflict with someone, but our needs aren’t being expressed with words, clearly and accurately. Most people don’t have needs awareness and literacy, so we are not clearly telling each other what we need and want – because we don’t really know ourselves. At best we talk to each other about the strategies we have for filling our needs.

The other part of the tragedy here is that most people have destructive communication habits that disconnect them from others, and greatly lessen their chances of getting their needs met. These habits may sound familiar – diagnosing, analyzing, criticizing, judging others or self as good or bad, denying choice, blaming, threatening, bribing, demanding.

Tragically Expressed
As an example of unmet needs tragically expressed, I offer you “the Squirrel Guy.” But first, I’d like you to call up one of your own examples, in your mind’s eye–so you can make this real for you. Remember the last really hot-headed argument you had with someone. How did you attempt to explain to the other person what was going on for you and what you wanted?

Now, we return to our poster child of unmet needs tragically expressed, the Squirrel Guy. Jon is a 60-year-old man who lives in Colorado. Last year Jon’s neighbor, Jeffrey, was unhappy about Jon feeding the squirrels, so he took down the signs Jon had posted in the neighborhood to explain that he feeds squirrels to commune with the spirits of his deceased parents. The signs also expressed Jon’s dismay about being harassed by neighbors, who were apparently creating problems for him with the Police and Animal Control.

The situation continued to escalate until Jon’s solution became drastic. He loaded his gun. When Jeffrey came over to talk, they argued. Afterwards, as Jeffrey was walking away, Jon shot him in the back. Now he’s in prison for murder.

Yes, it’s an extreme case. And yet, isn’t it true that we often “shoot each other” psychologically when we are in conflict?

Lets rewind the video for Jon and Jeffrey. Had Jon been trained in NVC or had called me for help – instead of shooting Jeffrey he would have said something like this.

At the first sign of trouble about the squirrels he would have had a conversation with himself, to understand his feelings and needs (also known as self empathy):

“I am feeling so angry. I want respect and consideration from the people around here. I want the freedom to feed squirrels without getting bothered, so I can stay connected to mom and dad. I am afraid of having problems with the police (safety).”

Then he would have had a silent conversation with himself about Jeffrey’s feelings and needs. This is empathy for other.

“I think Jeffrey is feeling angry too, though I don’t understand why it is such a big deal for him. Maybe he really buys into this thing about squirrels spreading diseases, so he is wanting to protect his health (safety). I can see how he could be angry or afraid if he really believes these squirrels could make him sick.”

What he might have spoken out loud, to Jeffrey, when he came over:

“Are you open for having a conversation about this squirrel thing Jeffrey? I’m guessing, since I think I saw you/heard about you taking down my signs, that you are feeling upset that there are too many squirrels in the neighborhood and I’m adding to the problem. Is that right?

“Can you tell me more about why the squirrels are upsetting for you?”

He would continue with this dialog until he really understood what Jeffrey was needing, and felt genuine empathy for his experience. Then he might say:

“Jeffrey, are you willing to hear what I’m experiencing about the squirrel issue? Well, I’ve been missing my parents a lot, but I notice that I feel really connected with them when I see the squirrels, since they were such animal lovers. So I’d like to have the freedom to continue feeding them.

“I’ve also been feeling upset because people have complained to the police and Animal Control, and I would like to stay out of trouble and also feel safe and welcome in my own neighborhood.

“Would you be willing to take some time to talk about how we can manage this situation so that you know that you are not going to catch a disease from the squirrels, and so that I can still enjoy living here?”

Hopefully, we can all learn from the Squirrel Guy. During conflict, needs don’t have to be tragically expressed, and instead you can give yourself and the other person some empathy and some clarity around the needs that are not yet met.

Hey, you made it all the way to the end of this article! Congrats! I’d like to give you this reward. If you have a conflict that’s bothering you, I’d like to offer you a chance to take this conflict apart so you can get some space and clarity with it.

If you are having some challenge in an important work or personal relationship, I’m offering you a free Breakthrough Conversations next week.

Here is what you can look forward to receiving from our time together.

  • Create clarity about what you want your relationships to look and feel like.
  • Discover how to make them that way.
  • Learn the #1 thing stopping you from having the quality of conversations you want. (NOTE: Everything you get in life comes through your conversations!)
  • Complete the session with the excitement of knowing EXACTLY what to do next to create respectful, honest, loving connections with people!

I’ll leave you with a quote today by entrepreneur and environmentalist Paul Hawken: “When we listen to people, our language softens. Listening may be the cardinal act of giving… it is the source of peace.”

Recent praise from a C-level executive about me:
“The value of working with you is the subtlety of your mind and your distinctions. I was exposed to NVC years ago – and got nothing out of it. I thought it was silly.  But you make Marshall’s work real. If it is a valuable relationship and you’re struggling, you just don’t figure it out with a book.”

Lost in the maze?

BIG NEWS about what’s happening in my life

The Crazy Maze

Sometimes lining up your skills, passions, and money potential can seem like trying to get the stars to line up. After two years of investing in my education and working long hours, I was just about to order my first inventory for my green products business. I had passion for my product, hoped it would be a money maker, and worked really hard to get the skills I needed.

But my plan had a fatal flaw. 

Some of you know, my dream is to develop a peaceful green earth team and I started my Amazon product company to support this work.  At the same time, I wanted to continue to help people with my peace skills too, so I have continued my work as a mediator in small claims court and for private clients. I was fearful of the risk of buying the product inventory…what if the product failed? And even if it succeeded, would it take me to my foundation dream? I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was trying to start three businesses—not one. Wow was I stressed out!

The Big Shift

That’s when the stars shifted. I decided to go to coach Bill Baren’s Big Shift event in late March. Thank goodness my husband Crisman came with me because at the event I melted down before I broke through. He was incredibly supportive to me in my truth finding process.

At the Big Shift I realized three things.

  • I only have enough time and money right now to make one business work.
  • My core skills set are in mediation, circle facilitation and empathic communication coaching – so peacemaking needs to be that ONE business.
  • With Bill Baren’s coaching program I can finally make my peace business successful, unlike when I was on a mostly Do It Yourself path of building my business.

My Big Shift Coaching program started in June and I am off and running—doing homework and  getting my business fundamentals in place. I help career moms have breakthrough conversations with their teen or tween daughters. Know any moms or daughters who could use some help? Please let me know! 

What Do They Say? 

Here are some things my clients have experienced with me:

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a friend to each of us individually and as a family.  Your generous heart inspires me and you remain my teacher.” (T.R., Council Circle client)

“I feel gratitude to you for inspiring the courage, the sharing, the searching and willingness to trust. Thank you for your awesomeness!” (H.W., communication coaching client)

“I just wanted to say how happy I am that you helped me to stay engaged with her in a very difficult moment.  My heart is now open again and full of love and gratitude. Thank you Catherine – I am so impressed and moved by your healing power.” (S.M., communication coaching client)

“Thank you – that was a beautiful, comprehensive summary. You really zeroed in on the points of pain for me.  I feel more space, and freedom.  Yes, being heard and reflected by you Catherine was like a healing balm – covering my wounded heart. I am tearing up.  It feels so good to be heard”. (K.G., business partnership coaching client)

How It Began

I first fell in love with Empathic or Non-Violent Communication when I heard Dr. Marshall Rosenberg speak in San Diego more than 20 years ago. I used Marhall’s work constantly in raising our two girls, navigating my disagreements with friends and family in our community, running our real estate rentals and negotiating life in Mexico. I constantly improved my skills, knowledge and experience. Yet my own learning path was slow, interrupted and lacking strong support. I had no mentor.

As I began to re-conceptualize my peace services business I began to wonder…”What if I could put this information together in a way that would help others avoid all the delays and pitfalls, to deliver massive transformation to their relationships FASTER?”

That is the inspiration for developing my own Empathic Communication (EC) training programs – Return to Love and Reclaim Your Flame. My programs help you skip the long drawn out just-dabbling stage, break through the resistance and actually MASTER Empathic Communication in real time as you get coached and facilitated to create superstar relationships in your life. Your transformation happens in six months! (I sure wish I had this training when I was starting out!)

How Does This Touch Your Life?

I would like to be your peace coach. I would love to support you or someone you care about in creating relationships that are respectful, loving and that meet your needs.  When you or someone you care about are in conflict, please think of me. Please call me at 805-252-6406 whenever you get into a troublesome situation with work or personal relationships. I work by phone, online or live, and will help you move into a new, easeful place faster and more sustainably than you probably think is possible.

And here’s the thing: it doesn’t cost you anything to get started.

I’m offering my free Return to Love breakthrough sessions so you can:

  • Create a sense of clarity about the love you really want to have.
  • Discover the essential building blocks for having the relationship of your dreams.
  • Determine the #1 thing stopping you from having the quality of communication you want.
  • Identify the most powerful actions that will move you toward the love and peace of mind that you desire.
  • Complete the consultation with the excitement of knowing EXACTLY what to do next to create the loving relationship you truly want.

Let’s Get In Touch!  

Please email me – catherine.d.cooley@gmail.com or call me (805-252-6406) to book your free 50-minute telephone or live session.

Most people are not yet in the practice of calling for professional help when they are frustrated with a relationship, so word of mouth recommendations from friends and clients are quite helpful to me. Please let me know if you have friends or associates who are fed-up with personal relationship difficulties, so I can help them sail out the other side with nods and smiles of surprise and relief. I see it happen all the time!

Feel free to simply forward this email to them directly.  I promise to take very good care of them.

Thank you for sharing in and celebrating my news with me! I look forward to hearing back from you when you feel inspired to try my services or recommend me to a friend or associate – or just because:).