Being Resourceful with my Intense Emotions

What can we do to bring vitality and resourcefulness back into our lives when we are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or frustrated? 

The last few weeks have been very challenging for me.  Jim has been out of state with his family for several weeks now while we have been waiting to see if his father would be accepted for open heart surgery, the only option for his survival now.  My mother also went into the hospital again on the day my father-in-law finally had the surgery.  Her experience has been very different, and indicates a turn for the worse in efforts to heal the pressure sores that have kept her bed-ridden in a nursing home or hospital for 2 years, effecting her quality of life.  I worked very hard to be with what was happening, including my deep sadness some of the time for both our families.  Here is a process that has been very helpful for me when feelings of intensity would arise:

  1. Stop.  Break any reactive pattern in the moment by creating space and be with myself with kindness.
  2. Breath into the experience:  Follow the breath in and out a few times to become present to my sensory experience of what is happening right now.
  3. Affirm my integrity to respond with wholeness in a way that could be in harmony with everyone's well-being, especially my own.
  4. Notice each thought with curiosity, giving it space.  And then let each thought go and let the feelings be.  As the mind quiets, follow even the slighted change in feelings.
  5. Then ask:  What is my soul needing right now to feel whole and complete?  Focus on the need rather than any specific strategy to satisfy it. 
  6. Set an intention for fulfillment and see what ideas/strategies arise.  Commit to fulfilling this need with clarity and vigilance.  Let go of any specific strategy that does not seem to be working and make some space for other ideas/strategies to arise.
  7. Begin again as needed.
  8. Appreciate all the learning available along the way. 
  9. Remember, attention heals.

With care,


Conflict Evolution for groups and Organizations

Here are some options to consider.  The order is intentional, however, I can imagine opportunities to use the strategies out of the sequence below:

Self-Connection  (Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me...)

1.  Be awake to the presence of conflict. The uncomfortable feelings you notice in your body are the first indicator of conflict.  The sooner you catch the emergence of a conflict, the easier it will be to transform.
    This means moving toward a mindfulness of physical sensations, emotions and feelings in the body.  These feelings, when uncomfortable, can be a clue to the presence of conflict.

2.  When you notice conflict, STOP, and breathe.

3.  Set an intention to connect with the feelings and needs at the heart of the conflict.  Work to create and maintain an empathic connection with your self.
    If you are not able to connect, try connecting with the observation, the trigger.  See if that fosters self-connection.
        Notice specifically what you have heard or seen that is stimulating your uncomfortable feelings...
    Consider, what is most important to you right now that is just yours, not about the other person or the situation?

4.  If you cannot yet connect with your feelings and needs, "enjoy the jackal show."  This means to be curious and bring mindfulness to your self-talk.   (This is an inside job!)
    If you can connect your feelings to your needs, skip to #6.
    If it is hard to separate your feelings and needs from your judgments of yourself or someone else, write down all your judgments.

5.  Translate and transform the jackal messages into feelings and needs.  (If you need help, ask an empathy buddy!)
When you have exhausted all your judgments, go back and read each judgment one at a time, asking yourself after each one "What is most important to me about this?"  Continue to ask yourself that question in relation to a specific judgment you have written until you have come to something really basic like:  safety, peace, caring, connection, belonging.  These are our basic universal human needs.

6.  Connect with the beauty of the need and celebrate.  Be awake to the presence of shift.  (Shift means that you notice that your feelings are more "open" and less "constricted".  In the absence of shift, consider repeating steps 1-6.

Stay with the essential beauty and meaning of each need before going on to the next judgment.  Notice the shifting of emotion as you hold this beauty and meaning of the need and realize its importance in your and everyone's life.

Expressing Honesty and Receiving Empathically  (let us walk with each other...)

7.  When you are ready to sincerely connect with the other (s) involved in the conflict, connect with what feelings and needs that might have motivated the behavior you didn't like that seemed to lead to the conflict.
When you have some inner understanding  arising from self-empathy, turn your attention to the other person(s) in the conflict.  Ask yourself the same question about them:  "What is most important to this person about this?"  Follow your answers with the same question until you are able to connect with the basic human needs and humanity of the other person.
8.  If conflict still seems present, invite the other into a dialog or mediation.  Use empathy and honesty to foster mutual understanding.  
Keep your focus on listening with some understanding of what is important to all of us and make the bridge of understanding by expressing these needs, yours and theirs, and asking the other person to reflect yours.  Make clear and present requests following your honest expressions.
Utilize "classical giraffe" as necessary to slow the process down and focus consciousness on connection.  Work together to evolve a strategy that everyone is willing to try to resolve or transform the conflict situation.

The Protective Use of Force
9.  If all attempts in this Conflict Evolution Process do not contribute to meeting the needs uncovered in the exploration above, the designated leader will intervene with an intention of connection and protection.

Jim Manske



When I think of the gifts I have received in the practice of Nonviolent Communication, the development and practice of empathy has been one of the most powerful and transformative.  For me, the practice of empathy is a spiritual path of compassion, beauty, transcendence, and clarity.  Connecting empathically with myself and others leads to a connection to that which is most human and sacred.  It is a way of transforming each experience and involvement into a presence and wholeness that transcends our limitations, disagreements, individual points of view, and yet can include it all.  Instead of distancing ourselves from what is happening or from others, we connect to the most human part of ourselves and others.

A quote I heard recently so concisely points to the quality of empathy that transforms and connects us to our shared spirit:  "Nothing human is foreign to me."  These few words attributed to Terence, a Roman slave/poet, point to a quality of being that enables us to be present to all that is in a compassionate, resourceful way.  Embracing our shared life in this way has lead to some of the most beautiful, humbling, reverent experiences of being of my life.

To truly empathize with another is to truly be with their experience, to enter into their way of viewing the world in a non-judgmental way, to step into the unknown and be willing to fully consider their perspective, and maybe even shift our own, to considering their way of being and to let it settle in our consciousness, to allow time for deeper understanding.

It is my great joy to share the tools of empathy and honesty with all who care to live in this way of being together, where we transcend our enemy images and embrace the sacredness and struggle of what it means to be human in a world of diversity not only when our needs are met but also when our needs are not met.

Nonviolent Communication gives us tools for communicating that bring our relationships alive, not only with others, but also our relationship with ourselves.  And to me it is more than tools for communication.  It is a way to join the deepest part of the vitality and creative force within each of us and tap into possibilities beyond our singular perspective.  Through the art and gift of empathy we can experience perspectives that together are greater than the sum of the parts of each of our perspectives.  In truly being present to our self and others, our world expands and our view becomes more panoramic.

For me NVC is a spiritual practice of presence and compassion, like "meditation off the cushion" leading to ever increasing authenticity and connection to the spirit of life within us all.




Walking quickly and alone along a wooded path at the conference center, I heard heavy footsteps and I felt a stab of fear.  I looked up to see a deer about 20 feet away on the hill.  I felt relief and connected to the beauty of the life around me.  Reflecting, I realized that I feared for my safety from another person who might be in the woods and might possibly want to harm me - one of US!

Reconciliation and connection are the antidote for the sense of fear many of us have of each other.  Through the awareness of our interdependence and through compassion we can bring safety to us all.  People do not harm others to whom they feel connected with compassion.

Through the practice of Nonviolent Communication we can transform the fear that divides us with a mentality of "us" and "them" which perpetuates enemy images like the one I had in the woods.  Although not always easy, especially in the situations that are already difficult for us, these simple, practical skills support our refocusing our attention on our common humanity and stimulate our natural experience of compassion and connection.

I am committed to dissolving my habitual reactions and being present to what is really happening from moment!  Join me and others in a commitment to connection, presence, and peaceful resolution of inner and outer conflict.



First NVC Mediation: Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly

The first time we used NVC in a mediation was within a few days of our first encountering Marshall and NVC in a training for mediators in 2000.   We were mediating a case in metro court between 2 people who were recently divorced.  The hate and hurt in the room was palpable. I was committed to responding with empathy and honesty and not particularly fluent in expressing feelings and needs.  We certainly slowed things down as we struggled to find the words that would bring the focus back to observations, feelings, needs, and requests rather than the acrimonious judgments of blame and criticism that abounded about each other after many years of unhappiness and distrust in their marriage and business together.  We mediated for 4 hours and they decided to come back for another session as well.  We walked out of the first session scratching our heads, surprised they were willing to come back despite our struggles to express ourselves and their seeming lack of connection with each other.

A few years later we received a book in the mail entitled STOP Don't Marry That Younger Man, a woman's story of pain in a marriage and business and her travails through the courts.  (The title was particularly amusing since Jim is 8 years younger than I am and we continue to be glad to be married since 1979.)  Near the end of the book was a sheet of paper expressing appreciation and an indication to read the marked page:
    "There's a bright spot in this city's metropolitan court system (a different court than Krassly's court) that bears mentioning – two really fine court appointed mediators.  Their names are Jim and Jori and they are my nominees for a Nobel Peace Prize.
    "When I was frustrated at every turn in Krassley's family court, I turned to the metro court for help and by a stroke of luck got Rollie into that court's mediation system.  Jim and Jori were able to get Rollie out of the clutches of Mary Red for nearly two days and they were extremely skilled at getting to the crux of the matter.  I was forced to take a hard look at circumstances.  Rollie was forced to squarely face the issues.  He couldn't go tattling to Mary Red.  For a short time it seemed as though Rollie would make headway.  Sadly, that didn't happen, but 'll always be grateful to Jim and Jori."

This was particularly amazing that needs were met since we were such "baby giraffes".  As many, including Marshall Rosenberg, have said:  "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly."


Getting Unstuck

What I mean by stuck, are those time when we are resisting and see no way of finding resolution, internally or in our relationships.  Things are not going the way we would like, no matter what we have tried.  What we are resisting continues persisting.  This manifests internally when we are "stuck" emotionally, and in our relationships when we do not seem to be getting our needs met.  Often when we are stuck, we are making a demand that life, ourselves, or another be different.  The demand may seem overt as in "I have to or you have to do this, or else!"  Or can be more subtle as in "I should or you should be or think in a particular way." 

The distinction between a request or a demand can mean the difference between freedom from suffering and being stuck.  When we make a demand, we are addicted to a particular outcome.  This limits our view and saps our creative energy and vitality to contribute to ourselves and others.  We are attached to a particular form in which out needs could get met.  This can often get in the way of the focus and energy that would lead to the fulfillment and happiness we would like.  The demands we make about how things have to or should be, limit our sense of ease, harmony and flow.

A request, on the other hand, is an offering of what might work to meet our needs.  When we make a request with Nonviolent Communication consciousness, we do so with an intention to connect with a sense of compassion, and with a connection to the underlying meaning of what we are wanting to happen. (In NVC we call this underlying meaning a "need".  See note below for how we define a need as used in NVC.)  The shift from demand to a request is a shift from "has to be this way" to a sense of curiousity and openness to possibility.  This shift enables our mind to do what it is naturally intended to do:  come up with ideas.  We even have a word for this when we are coming up with lots of ideas:  brainstorming.

So, here is a process to try to get unstuck:

1.  First, stop, breathe, and notice the feelings stimulated by the stuckness.
2.  Ask yourself:  What do I want?
3.  Ask yourself:  If I had that, what would I have?
4.  Repeat steps 2 & 3 until you come to something deeply meaningful and universal to all, your need.  (Need clarity?  See note below)
5.  If an inner conflict, go to #6.  If you are sensing the stuckness in a relationship, "putting yourself in the others shoes", go through #2-4 and make some guesses as to what might be going on for them.
6.  How else might the need(s) you connected with be met with more ease and flow?  If you are still noticing a sense of stuckness, repeat this process to uncover what else is vitally important that has not been addressed yet.

With warmth,

NOTE:  In the process of Nonviolent Communication, we call the underlying meaning our "Need".  And we define a need as something that is universally valued within all people, regardless of age or culture  A need, being universal, it makes no reference to any specific person (including ourselves) doing anything in any specific way.  Eg:  well-being, inclusion, growth, understanding, meaning, autonomy, love, safety, fun.


Gratitude Practice for Creativity & Vitality

Gratitude practice supports us in connecting to what we DO have rather than what we DON'T have.  Sometimes we do not notice the needs that are met, and that have been met often enough for us to be surviving and thriving.  In fact, we are genetically the decendants of many generations of ancestors who developed the capacities to thrive. 
Focusing on what we are grateful for brings about the awareness of choices that have made worked for us, and supports our awareness of a variety of choices that can contribute to increasingly joyous and fulfilled lives.  Here is an enlivening practice for resourcefulness and enjoyment of our lives:

1.  What specifically is working right now that is supporting you?
2.  What intrinsic value does that have in your life?
3.  Right now, how do you feel about that?
4.  Take time to savor this experience.

This can extend to a practice that will develop habitual resourcefulness:  designate a time each day to ask yourself the following questions, following each with steps #2-4 above:
A.  What did someone do today to make my life more wonderful?
B.  What did I do today to make my life more wonderful?
C.  What did I do today to make someone's life more wonderful?
D.  What did someone do in the past that continues to contribute to me?
E.  What is something someone did for someone else that touches you deeply?



Help with "forgetful" kids

I am almost through Language of Life, as well as having read the booklet specifically aimed at parenting children.  I have found some success implementing empathic and reflective listening with my spouse and children; however, the children are much more of a challenge.  I wonder if you have anything that speaks to this challenge:  my children are 4, 7, and 9.  While all three often act in opposition with my needs, they seem to do it out of forgetfulness or a lack of awareness.  When I try to get at what they are feeling or thinking, or give them an opportunity to be heard, I get, "I don't know" or, "I forgot."  The issue is not so much that their needs are conflicting with mine, because they aren't aware of their needs.  It seems to be a lack of awareness of their actions and repetitive behavior that is causing their father and I distress in one way or another.  I try to make consequences relevant to the transgression, but I notice you aren't in favor of punitive consequence!  Still, when the issue is one of carelessness, I don't know how else to get them to stop and remember the rules other than undesirable consequences.

NVC focuses on what is happening now, connecting to the observations, and feelings and needs present right now, and then uses requests of what can be done right now that works for everyone that could lead to everyone's needs getting met.  I often find it difficult to figure out what my needs were when I did not do something in the past.  And in fact this can stimulate guilt, shame, or helplessness since we can not "unring that bell."  "I don't know" can also be a response to a lack of "need" vocabulary and skill in expressing.  Taking the focus off the task initially and placing it on the relationship when there is conflict or upset establishes the groundwork for mutual understanding that can lead to creative cooperation.

I find that it helps to explore how each of us is feeling right now about whatever has happened, and what needs of each of us are met and unmet in the moment.  Asking "why?" when we are feeling emotional in the moment can be heard as aggression.  If we are feeling a sense of urgency, I suggest we acknowledge our feelings and needs to ourselves and then either make an empathic guess about what they are experiencing right now to understand them, or express and take responsibility for our feelings by connecting them to our own needs (e.g. order, support, ease).  Since many of us are not very literate in vocabulary to express our feelings and needs, when we are wanting to understand another it helps to make a guess in question form of possible feelings connected to the possible needs causing them, and then give space for them to self-connect and respond.  Such guesses might be:
    "Are you feeling scared because you are needing some reassurance that we will work this out in a way that works for you, too?"  or
    "Are you feeling regretful because you are really wanting to do things that work for me too?" or
    "Are you feeling confused because you need some support in figuring out how you can remember this is important to me and/or your father?"

No matter what they say, our 4 choices of focus and response remain:
    1.  blame and punish them (jackal ears out)
    2.  blame and criticize ourselves (jackal ears in)
    3.  honestly share our own heart:  our observation, feeling, need, and request (giraffe ears in)
    4.  empathetically listen for feelings and needs under the surface words they use (giraffe ears out)
The latter 2 (giraffe in and out) are more likely to lead to the quality of connection that bring about our natural tendency to want to contribute to each other, and to learn and choose in harmony with our intrinsic values and integrity.  This leads to a sense of empowerment and mutuality that will help to keep our kids safe and responsible in their relationships.

Once connection is established with the trust that everyone has the intention to cooperate in finding a way to get everyone's needs met, use requests for feedback and clarity to figure out together what could work for all to meet the needs you have all have such as:
    "Would you be willing to tell me how you feel about....(a specific strategy you would like, such as making your bed before you leave for school)?
    "If this doesn't work for you, could tell me what about it does not work?"
    "Would you be willing to tell me what might work for you and also might meet my need for _______?"
And after you are all clear that you like a particular strategy:
    "Would you be willing to tell me what you think could work to help you remember to......?
    "Are you willing to explore now what we could we do right now to make this happen?

And the strategies we choose do not always work the way we had hoped.  When we nurture our relationships with the dynamic ongoing interpersonal process of empathy and honesty we build the creativity and cooperation to work it out together in an ongoing way.