Friday, October 28, 2011

Finding the YES in their NO

Inside every “No” is a “Yes” waiting to come out.

Here’s how to find it.

Since all communication is an attempt to get needs met, and since all needs are life-affirming and always come from positive intention, when someone says “No” they are communicating something positive and life-affirming: a need of theirs.

Clearly, the thing you asked them to do (your strategy) doesn’t meet their need.

So here’s a multiple choice question about what you can do, given this new understanding:

1. Judge them for being uncooperative
2. Repeat your request louder
3. Explain in greater detail why your strategy is so good at meeting your needs
4. Get curious about what need of theirs is up

If you picked 1, 2 or 3, you’re in the majority. And what you probably will get most of the time is an argument with both people feeling hurt or dissatisfied.

If you picked option 4, you’re likely to hear the “Yes” inside their “No.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Peace Patrol at Occupy Wall Street

Fittingly, the address was right on Wall Street. An “atrium” of marble, ceilings too high to measure. Palm trees in winter. All the signs of wealth.

And fittingly, there were scruffy gatherings of “protesters” earnestly working the real democracy on plastic chairs or sitting on the cold marble floor.

Three generations of Americans: the 20-something “Millennials”, the X-Gens, and my compatriots, the Boomers. Mostly millennials. And aren’t they something: so NEW, so clear, so pure in their intent.

In ‘69, when we marched on Washington, we were idealistic, but back then cops were pigs and we were “experimenting” in a paisley psychedelic confusion of sex and drugs and, oh yeah, politics.

These young radicals got right to work. “I’m X, my preferred pronouns are ‘she’ and ‘hers’ and I’m from the Safer Spaces committee.” “I’m Y, and my preferred pronouns are ‘he’ and ‘his’ and I’m from De-escalation.” Each person introduced themselves and their assignment: “PR,” “Mediation and Non-Violent Communication”, “Medical”.

They have a silent language for meetings. When someone is talking, if you like what is being said, you hold your hands up and shake them back and forth like the a Queen’s waving. If you disagree, your fingers point down when you shake them.

This silent real-time feedback is such an efficient way of getting a sense of the group’s direction. It overlaps the speaking without disruption so takes no time, but directs the topics like wind carrying a kite this way and that. Who made up this language? How have I never seen it before? I learned it in a few minutes without anyone explaining it. It thrills me to witness progress, to learn and grow so effortlessly.

The topic is scary, drug addicts and street people are invading the occupation, and the media is dying to pounce, to use the confusion to misrepresent the whole movement. And the government is one reason away from bringing in its troops, and reasons abound (not that the media or the government actually need the reasons to be real for them to act).

Then, a couple of thrilling hours in, a bunch of cops amass near the doors. One pulls out a bull-horn. I feel the fear, the old fear, the primal fear as the bully saunters onto the playground.

“Now hear this,” he bellows through his electronic amplifier, “It is now 9pm. The Atrium closes at 9:45. Please have all your meetings concluded by then, and finish using the bathrooms as well. Thank you.”

Each of the caucuses stop and a spontaneous applause erupts. He is not the voice of hatred: there was respect and understanding here, and the applause is polite and touching.

The cop does an exaggerated stage bow, and turns to leave, then stops and through the bullhorn asks, “Does anyone have a copy of the ‘Occupy Wall Street Journal’ in English?” Laughter from all corners and several people run over to him with copies.

He takes one and looks up at us looking at him. We all stand suspended in silence, a precious and surprising moment of solidarity. It could have gone so wrong, and with this simple gesture of good will, it is so right.

He starts to leave, then pauses again, puts the bullhorn to his lips again and bellows: “Fuck Goldman Sacks!”

The room erupts in cheers.

(see for more stories and video about the cops who acknowledge that they are part of the 99%)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Strong Feelings

While it is true, according to NVC, that our feelings are created by our needs (not by other people); the sensations that needs create are pretty subtle: warmth, heaviness, weakness, burning; nothing which even rises anywhere near the neighborhood of a toe-jam.

In the ideal case, you'd follow these sensations down to the need, and either experience the satisfaction, or experience the need directly (which inevitably resources you to get it met).

Step 2: Naming the feeling: Instead, we use our brain to come up with a name for that feeling: anger, or hurt or happiness. These names are not created by needs, and they take us one level away from the need itself.

Step 3: Beliefs about the Feeling Name: Many of us have beliefs about these feeling words: "It's dangerous to be angry" or "It's forbidden to be sad" or "I can't control my anger."

Step 4: Feelings as a result of the beliefs: These belief/thoughts often come with very strong feelings: "He had no right to make me angry" or "It's his fault I'm feeling hurt." These feelings about the thoughts about the Names about the sensations caused by our needs are so far away from our needs, they make it nearly impossible to know what we are needing!

And that's why it's so hard to know what you need!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Eat Your Marriage

Let your love flourish, this week. Okay, how about this weekend?  One day?

Take a day off and have the marriage you wanted.

It’s there like a ripe peach. You say you can’t taste it anymore? Of course not. You can’t taste the peach until you bite into it.

Bite your juicy partner in the peach, and let the juices run down your life.

I promise I won’t tell.

Monday, October 17, 2011

PhillyNVC joins Occupy Philly to form Occupy Philly with Compassion!

PhillyNVC joins Occupy Philly to form Occupy Philly with Compassion!

I’ll be teaching a class on Empathy in Action this Wednesday at the Education Tent at 10am at the Occupy Philly site next to City Hall.

The class is free to all. You’ll learn how to respond non-violently to people who disagree with you.

Let’s keep this protest safe - learn the skills you need!

(Or come to our regular Tuesday night class 7:30-9pm. We’re teaching Speaking NVC in Oct, and Listening using NVC: Empathy every Tuesday in November. See for details).

The Mirror You Married

Stop looking into the mirror which is your spouse, and blaming them for the reflection you see.

You don’t do that in your bathroom cabinet, nor the full length one in the hall, nor even in the huge mirrors in public places.

In those you look and see yourself and you let the mirror be.

So why, when you marry a mirror, do you suddenly become so angry at it? You stay calm, of a summer’s day, when the pond reflects your life. Why not blame the water? Accuse the fish? Blaspheme the muddy bottom?

But put a mirror in pajamas, with admittedly foul morning breath, and you act like your own flaws which show up in your own heart when you see the love in their eyes deserves your derision.

Take a moment and reflect. Be kind to the mirror you married.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Take Note: Have a Happy Marriage

Spend this week collecting moments of happy coupledom. 

Catch a couple as their hands touch when they walk side-by-side. 

Notice the look between marrieds over a shopping cart.

Record the tone one of them uses with the other which conveys love, even though the topic is tomato paste.

Pin these around your house like post-it notes. 

Knit a sweater of them for the long winter approaching.

For extra credit: try one with your spouse.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Take Your Love for a Walk

The couple I worked with last night love each other. Like so many couples who come to see me.

Like so many couples who come to see me who are about to divorce.

They come when the fighting gets intolerable. When so much of the space between them is filled with either shouting, or the silence of the fear of the shouting, that they can’t move anymore. Then they come to see me, and I sweep it all away, and there, sitting patiently like an old dog waiting to be taken for a walk, is their love.

How do we come so easily unhooked from something as powerful as love? And by what? A dirty dish? A few minutes late? An errant thought about what I was thinking that you were thinking when you didn’t say anything after I was silent?

And when they find it again, their love; there in my office. It makes them so happy. So why do we let it go so easily?

Maybe it’s like being blown away by a sunset. When you turn your head away, in that next moment, all you see is your own shadow.

Monday, October 3, 2011

My book proposal is DONE!

The book, Tired of Having the Same Old Argument, is born. Its infant stage, a book proposal, is DONE!

This week it will take its first step, out of my hands and into the world. Into the literary world of agents, and then publishers, and then book stores, book mailers, and finally it will find its new homes, with readers who will translate the pictograms in black and white first back into sound, and then thought and then finally, back into understanding - my understanding about love and marriage - and the cycle will be complete.

This kind of writing, trying to hand what I understand to another is new to me. It’s not at all like the poetry or self-reflective prose I’ve written for years in writing groups. Those groups let me form words in the moment and pin them down like butterflies, and then just admire the natural beauty of it all.

This writing is more like stone sculpture. Elise and I went to the Accademia Gallery in Florence that has some of Michelangelo’s unfinished work. You can still see the huge stone block and the heavy hammer blows he used to cut away what was not wanted. In some cases, his chisel made it all the way in to where the hand or an elbow should be and unable to resist it, he changed to a lighter hammer and a smaller chisel, and he carved not just flesh, but veins beneath the skin appear. So incongruous a quarter inch from rough hewn stone, and yet so completely convincing you can see the pulse if you stare.

Writing non-fiction seems just like that to me. You block out ideas, hammer them down to the paper, and from time to time, polish some perfect moment right down to the pulsing life of your original thought.

Then the polishing begins. Chipping away the not-quite-right, turning a sentence around and round until the words recede and the living meaning is all that can be seen.

After months of polishing, the few chapters I have finished say as close to exactly what I wanted to say as I can imagine. I’m sure the reader will agree. I can feel it.

The question is: will those employed in the business of publishing, agree?