How We Talk Matters

How we talk matters in our intimate relationships and our public discourse. It matters for parents and for public figures, in our schools and our places of prayer. It matters for the possibility of peace in our homes and for building a more functional democracy.

Having dependable skills for talking and listening when we disagree or feel hurt, angry, or scared makes all of these emotions much less scary and makes working through conflict possible.

Having the skills to talk and listen to people who differ from us makes it possible to work collaboratively with “the other side.” We can transform power-struggles with toddlers and teenagers into delightful partnerships. We can find our way back to our life partners. We can ignite creativity in our classrooms and our workplaces. We can find compassion and common ground across political divides. Most important, I believe these skills are foundational for creating social systems that are more equitable, joyful, and sustainable.

How do we speak our truth, express our own needs — and express our care for others at the same time?

I believe we can be both empowered and empathic, honest and kind.  Doing this requires skills -- learnable skills.

 

The work I do is based on Marshall Rosenberg’s “Nonviolent Communication.”  Rosenberg chose the word “nonviolent” to invoke the great nonviolent social change movements, to propose that we can transform our world to one where everyone’s needs matter. Rosenberg focused on communication, believing that how we talk and listen can help create a world where we thrive together. 

For many of us, the patterns of talking and listening we learned as children no longer serve us.

We learn to speak -- and to keep silent -- as toddlers, and our patterns of communication are as deeply engrained as our mother tongue. Though the ways we react under stress or in conflict sound so normal and feel so familiar to us, these patterns often get in our way. We may be silent when we need to speak; we may say things that damage our relationships. We may not know how to listen deeply.

 

At the core of the communication practice I teach is self-awareness.  We come to recognize habitual reactions and responses and explore if there are choices that might serve us better. Conflict and disconnection happen. But when we have more choice about how to respond, we can build trust and repair the rifts.  

If you want your relationships or the culture of your family or organization to be more joyful, collaborative, creative, and successful at contributing to the well-being of the world, I’d like to work with you — because the ways we speak up and the ways we listen can change everything.
"Our lives begin to end
the day we become silent about things that matter."

 

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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