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Articles from Compassionate Leadership News


Impediments to Happiness  

Adapted from What Happy People Know By Dan Baker, Ph.D.

As a person curious about what constitutes a happy way of life, I found the research of Dr. Baker to be a source of information and consolation. I share a bit with you today taking excerpts which I put in italics:

Physiological Impediments:

"There is a common factor in all humans that impedes happiness and that is the neurological fear system embedded deep within our brains, a neural network that once helped us survive as a species. This biological circuitry of fear is the greatest enemy of happiness.

The fear system is our repository for past trauma, current tribulations, fear of the future, and archaic instinctual terrors.

Although very slow in manifesting, evolution has offered us an almost magical source of compensation for this block to our happiness. The human neocortex is the primary area of intellect in the brain which is the creative, intuitive, intellectual and spiritual area and is the physical site of happiness."

Baker goes on to say that we can override this fear system. "The neocortex is also the site of the human spirit, the entity that links the intellect with intuition and the subconscious. The human spirit goes beyond the boundaries of reason and experience, and can offer messages of reassurance, comfort, and confidence. The spirit must lead. That is the key to happiness".

Great, I am thinking, this is all well and good but I don't really know HOW to override the system.  

Antidote:  Baker begins by focusing on one of his attributes of happiness:appreciation

Given that the neurology of the brain cannot be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time, and noting that appreciation resides as an internal personal experience which Baker calls the highest and purest form of love, I can replace the negative fearful thought patterns with recollections of authentic appreciation.

These recollections heighten creativity, slow heart rate, soften brain waves, and synchronize the endocrine system with the heart and the brain.

I have lived long enough to know that trouble will strike and adversity will show up when I least expect it.  I also know that it is not how I can avoid disparity, but how I can respond to it that makes a difference.   One of my favorite sayings  is:  "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain".

Would you join me in an experiment?

I want to experience first hand what shifts may occur by taking note of appreciation.  The first step toward this journey is to keep an appreciation journal.  Jim Manske often asks, "what's going well today".   There's quite a bit going well right this moment for me that I can focus on. My computer works!     Having had a hard drive failure recently, I want to stay in this appreciation moment by savoring my deep gratitude.   I can really appreciate a functioning computer!   I feel that appreciation in the depth of my being!

My office is cool and comfortable. My body is serving me well today. I have folks in my mind who bring me much joy and make me smile.

The sense of calm and spiritual warmth I already feel in just this moment is already noticeable!

Dear friends, would you be open to joining me in an appreciation journal.  And after a couple of days would you be willing to share any shifts or transformations you notice.  You can comment below in the comment section.

 "Millions of Americans have become so used to not being happy that they barely even notice it. No matter how numb you may become, life is still there but the living is gone."

Let's bring living back into our life!

                 ---Faye Landey, Compassionate Leadership and CNVC  Certified Trainer

Restorative Justice

by John Lash, Compassionate Leadership Graduate

published by ....Center for Juvenile Justice, Georgetown University 12/14/12

Almost 18 months ago I wrote my first opinion piece. Predictably perhaps, it was about restorative justice, the topic I have covered the most.

Today, if I can manage to get myself together, I will drive to Kennesaw State University and receive a master's degree in conflict management.

John Lash, lives in  Athens, GA

Yesterday, I hurried to work at the Georgia Conflict Center, scrambling as usual to get my final plans in place for the day's work. I spent nearly two hours at the high school where my colleague Gwen O'Looney and I have been meeting with students this semester. Only three students were there, but we had a great discussion about the effects of anger and its impact on our ability to communicate.

Later that day, I was at the local diversion center, talking with 12 residents about the different styles we tend to adopt when we are in conflict. The more styles we can use the more adaptable we are to the varied situations that arise in our lives. These guys understand the need to communicate, and many are interested in learning more.

Last Monday, we met a counselor at another school and talked about how to get kids to intervene when they see bullying. Later, I talked with two folks who help people with disabilities meet members of the community who will help them navigate the difficulties they face. We discussed how communications training might be of benefit.

Conflict, which I have been studying for 16 months, is often related to communication. And communication, especially dialogue, is collaborative in nature. The ability to effectively communicate is an example of working together to achieve a mutual result: understanding. That concept was first planted in my mind more than 20 years ago by Professor Art Williams, who taught college classes at the prison where I lived in Atlanta.

Art (not incidentally funded by the Pell Grant) was one of a long line of people who have helped me get to where I am today. Family, friends, counselors, teachers, employers, and many others have given of themselves, and continue to do so daily. I have been transformed from an angry and hopeless teen into a man who is pursuing work that is not only personally meaningful, but also has the potential to contribute to many others.

This transformation has been supported by my community, none of whom deny the impact of my crime so many years ago. The acts that led me to prison are rightly condemned, and I have done my best to accept responsibility for them. I have not been condemned; instead I have been restored.

The same is possible for the other kids involved in the criminal justice system today. These kids are the reason JJIE exists. They are the reason I write. Restorative justice, even though it isn't easy, is a real possibility.


NVC Meidation: Creating Dynamic Connection

Jori Manske, CL Trainer

We had been mediating for seven years when we stumbled into a workshop with Marshall Rosenberg in 2000; attracted by the lure of a free opportunity to learn from an international peacemaker. As Marshall shared the Nonviolent Communication process, his humorous presentation style (and his puppets!) captivated our attention, and his stories of transforming conflict into partnership captured our hearts. When we heard Marshall speak of the relationship between resolution and connecting at the level of universal human needs, it was as if something deep inside clicked like a key unlocking a door. We could see how the focus on needs as the cause of each person's experience could reframe and transform the conflicts that brought people to mediation. And, it could open doors of creativity that could lead to an outcome that was satisfying for everyone.

Our first opportunity to use the Nonviolent Communication process in mediation came within days, with a recently divorced couple who were suing each other over matters related to shared property. Blame and criticism had exacerbated several unresolved issues between them, and their tortuous experience in the courts had not led to a peaceful resolution for either of them. Both came to the mediation expressing distrust and hatred toward each other. This was just the type of mediation that can be the most challenging, as neither party saw any common ground for a future relationship, and therefore neither had a desire to cooperate.

The nascent paradigm shift that emerged in spite of our conscious incompetence with the NVC process included two deep and lasting insights that have revolutionized our mediation practice. First, during the mediation process, we broke the taboo of revealing our own uncomfortable feelings and needs to the disputants. Secondly, rather than acknowledging feelings and thoughts, which had been our previous style, we crafted our reflections of what we heard the disputants share by focusing on their feelings and needs.  The outcome of this shift included (1) a shared sense of vulnerability; and (2) a quality of connection based on a shared focus on each person’s well-being.  This outcome seemed to both astonish and please all of us.  

In spite of our lack of skill in identifying needs and our sometimes awkward and formulaic expression in that first mediation, we arrived at a state of understanding and cooperation that enabled the parties to experience some peace within themselves. We were able to support them in decisions that worked for both of them. A few years later, we were shocked to receive a book written by one of the parties of this first NVC mediation, about the travails of their legal process and divorce. The book expressed gratitude for the mediation, and included the statement: "[Jim and Jori] were extremely skilled at getting to the crux of the matter."  As Marshall and many others have said:  Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly!!

Excited and hopeful about the results we experienced, we endeavored to learn more, and to apply the Nonviolent Communication process to our practice in a more conscious manner. Some of the basic ways to use this process in mediation include:


  • Focusing on observations, feelings, needs and requests to support people in taking responsibility for their own experience, and being compassionate with themselves;
  • "Pulling by the ears" to help people hear the observations, feelings, needs, and requests of the other parties in the dispute, and build compassion for each other;
  • Offering “emergency first-aid empathy" when emotions are intense and people do not have the resources to listen to each other;
  • Tracking and balancing the process to clarity that everyone's needs are heard and acknowledged;
  • Identifying and using needs as a guideline to craft agreements;
  • Using requests to find strategies, and checking to see if they work for everyone.

A few years later, having developed more skill, we mediated with two parents who were still recovering from the trauma of their acrimonious divorce several years ago. Previous attempts at mediation by other practitioners had shifted to "shuttle diplomacy," with the mediator moving from one party to the other in separate rooms or at separate times ending with each party having settled for agreements that were not working for them.

Their meetings with us were the first time they had been able to sit in same the room with one another. They reported that even phone messages to one another had stimulated pain and disconnection. During those first meetings, both people expressed deep anguish. We helped them hear one another by translating their blame and criticism into feelings and needs. We guided them in verbally reflecting back the pain they heard the other express, and helped them to strengthen their common commitment to the well-being of their sons. After many experiences of deep empathy and profound honesty, they were able to craft new agreements centered on mutual respect and their shared concern for their kids, rather than from a space of blame, pain or anger.  

Their teenage son had been away from home for a year, in part to escape the pain of the fractured family. During our work with his parents he returned and joined his brother and parents for a session with us. He expressed deep gratitude and utter amazement that his parents were sitting in the same room "without yelling and screaming at each other." After a couple of hours, the family left to have a meal together for the first time in years.

As we logged mediation hours with a conscious intention to practice the NVC process, the consciousness of nonviolence continued to integrate not only into our mediation work, but also into our experiences of everyday life. Now, the intentional use of the tools often recedes, as an unconscious competence in NVC emerges. For instance, sometimes during a mediation or reconciliation session, we feel surprised at what comes out of our mouths, and the profoundly connecting result that emerges for all of the parties. We believe, however, that the connection comes not directly from the words we use, but rather that the words reflect a  compassionate intention. Our words or strategies come from our own intention to connect in the present moment with ourselves and our "co-mediators":  the people bringing their pain to the table.

The NVC process has also been effective as we’ve facilitated public meetings with as many as 150 people around land use issues between neighborhood organizations and developers. Using empathic reflection, we are able to ferret out the significant needs underlying the positions individuals and factions present, and then develop new mutually acceptable strategies that address those needs. We have seen new ideas emerge through the shared creativity of people who have a sense of being heard and included, and who then are willing to hear and include others they initially did not trust.

We have had the joy of participating in many mediations that have changed lives. Although we enjoy working with people who have ongoing personal relationships where we support healing and reconciliation, we have found the process of Nonviolent Communication effective in mediating a range of issues including conflicts in workplaces, communities, schools, courts, and jail; with disputes concerning politics, the environment, healthcare, property, child custody and educational strategies, and personal rights and justice.  Wherever people are in conflict, the process has helped us to be able to support people in seeing each other's humanity and in being resourceful in finding ways to meet everyone's needs.

Would you like to contribute to peace and creativity in this way?  Join the Mediation and Restorative Processes track of Compassionate Leadership




by Faye Landey, CL Trainer


Change is inevitable! And those who succeed in their accomplishments are adept at riding the wave of adaption to change.  Those of you reading this page know what I mean, and you are interested in growth and contribution – you may even be a cultural creative*.


The most effective leaders who get things done still possess the tried-and-true capabilities for having smart ideas, intelligence, management skills, determination and vision.  A new qualification has been added to the list of “must haves” - the capacity to relate to others in a way that engenders collaboration and connection that models compassion and concern, and fosters respect and understanding.


The workplace is a fascinating environment. People either hate it or love it. Americans work in order to have financial security and for many people work becomes their life.

I personally am glad to be out of the traditional corporate workplace, and am most grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the kind of activities that I love to do on a daily basis.  Working (actually playing) with a team like Compassionate Leadership inspires me to get out of bed in the morning and bring awareness to others that we can have compassion and still get things done. 

I cannot write about the work place without telling you a little bit of historical remembering of my own experience. I entered the work force in the early 1960s, a time when women traditionally stayed home in the kitchen wearing a starched white apron and pearls, with a seeming demeanor of joy and satisfaction to be baking cakes and preparing dinner for her man.

That scene did not represent my ideal life at all. I wanted to be a professional business entrepreneur which was quite an ambitious endeavor at a time when a woman could not even have a credit card in her own name nor buy a car unless her husband communicated to the salesperson, selected the car, and of course paid for it.


I’m pleased to have been a part of the movement that opened the board room to women and minorities, which is now accepted as a commonplace vision. Today, 50 years later, I have a new passion - I want to be a part of the movement that intentionally brings a more compassionate atmosphere into the workplace especially in the way we speak to one another.

While some of you may think that words such as compassion and empathy are un-businesslike, it is with deep growing excitement that I bring you resources and evidence from large corporations and consultants showing that the success of the leaders and the ultimate success of their businesses hinges largely on the way they communicate.


And let me say one more thing: each and every one of you is an influencer and a leader.

This article does not apply solely to the workplace. It applies to every aspect of your life. You may think this does not apply to you; however my friend, let me tell you, that you are the only one leading your life and I hope that you are leading it with care, compassion, and consideration for the wonderful unique being that you are. And every day you influence the world around you in the way that you communicate to others, the way that you treat the planet that we live on, and the way that you talk to and care for yourself.

So please join me in bringing about a more “CARE-FULL” environment, community and workplace by being open to change, by being mindful of how you impact your world, and by continuing to explore ways in which we can bring about a world of peace and aliveness.

*The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World  is a nonfiction social sciences and sociology book by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson, first published in 2000. The authors introduced the term "Cultural Creatives" to describe a large segment in Western society that has recently developed beyond the standard paradigm of Modernists or Progressives versus Traditionalists or Conservatives.


Living in the Observation as a Daily Practice

By Mary Mackenzie, CNVC Certified Trainer, Author of Peaceful Living: Daily Meditations for Living with Love, Healing and Compassion, Co-founder and Lead Trainer of the NVC Academy, Blogger for The Huffington Post

Everything someone does or says is an attempt to meet a need …. Really?

The other day, I was in a gathering and I ran into a woman two times.  What I mean is, I looked up and she was right there and we were standing so close that I was startled.  After an hour at this event, I was pulling out of my parking place.  I looked both ways and waited for a car to go by and then pulled out of my parking space and I nearly side-swiped the lady’s car.  The very same lady!

In each case, I apologized and blamed myself.  Then, on my way home, I started to blame her.  Do you ever find yourself ruminating on your judgments and trying to place blame?  Has this behavior ever relieved your anxiety or angst over the situation?  It hasn’t succeeded for me even once, yet I’ve tried it countless times throughout my life and one more time with this lady.  

If it’s true that ‘everything someone does or says is an attempt to meet a need,’ what needs would judgment and blame serve?

I think the needs I’m trying to meet are safety and reassurance that I’m okay.  So, I think that if I can find fault or blame in a person or a situation, maybe then I can avoid it in the future and thus feel safer (my brain actually thinks that this works whether I blame the other person or myself!).  I also think that there’s a false sense of safety when I can evaluate something as good or bad.  There’s something about quickly categorizing people and events – good, bad, right, wrong and then determining who is to blame or praise – that supports order and predictability, which also ultimately connects to a perceived need for safety and reassurance.

Marshall Rosenberg would call these ‘tragic expressions of unmet needs,’  meaning that using these particular strategies (judging or blaming others or myself as good, bad, right or wrong) does not EVER work toward supporting safety and reassurance.

Argh.  It’s such an inviting trap, though, isn’t it?  And, so predictable and ordinary that it can be challenging to catch ourselves in the act.

So, back to the lady, as I was driving home, I first focused on blaming myself because I almost ran in to her inside the building and then again in the car – I was telling myself that I was clumsy and distracted.  Then, I shifted to blaming her because I looked both ways so surely it was her fault.  Then, again, I acknowledged that if our cars had collided, I would have been the one officially at fault.  This back and forth blame game lasted only a few minutes until I noticed what I was doing and immediately asked myself what actually happened.  I literally said this in my head, “Mary, what actually happened?”

“I looked both ways and didn’t see any vehicles so I started to pull out of my parking space.  When I was about halfway through my U-turn, I saw the lady’s car and hit my breaks.   We did not collide.  I mouthed an apology.  She smiled and gave me the American Sign Language sign for Love.”

This is what I call Living in the Observation.  At first, noticing that my brain wants to find blame, fault, right, wrong, good or bad in a situation.  Then, asking myself what actually happened, in detail.  Most times, including this incidence, when I’m Living in the Observation, I realize that there’s no need to judge the situation, the other person or myself at all.  In fact, what actually happened is rarely even worth mentioning to someone else or spending any of my time ruminating on it.  This is to me a true place of empowerment, safety and reassurance because it’s grounded in reality.

The alternative, of course, is to continue ruminating on the situation, thus creating more suffering and angst.  Hmmm.  When I think of it that way, there hardly seems a choice at all!

Here’s to Living in the Observation as a daily practice for creating more peace in my daily life….and yours.