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Articles from Compassionate Leadership News


Reflections on Korea: Supporting NVC in Asia

by Jim Manske

We just returned from a delightful journey to Korea to support the growing NVC community in Asia.  We enjoyed deepening existing connections and meeting many new friends.

We flew to Korea directly after our July Compassionate Leadership retreat in San Fernando, so our compassion and empathy batteries were fully charged.  After a restful one night layover in Honolulu where we briefly connected with some NVC friends, we embarked on the long trans-Pacific voyage, arriving safe, sound and tired after about 9 hours in the air.

The Korean Center for Nonviolent Communication is one of the most organized, active, and successful NVC centers in the world.  In addition to the 3 offices for the full-time staff of 4, plus other volunteers, there are 3 training rooms that are used daily for the many practice groups.  Their organizational skills and support provided much ease for us, as well as the IIT participants...and they made it look easy!  They arranged for someone to pick us up, and we were relieved to find Jinho Park’s smiling face in the greeting lobby of Incheon airport, and his fluency in English.  Little did we realize then that this connection with Jinho would be an important one for getting so many needs met in Korea!  He smoothly transported us from Incheon Airport to Seoul where a comfortable hotel bed awaited our tired bodies.  We hugged goodbye, knowing we would re-connect in a few days at the International Intensive Training (IIT).

We met with CNVC Certified Trainer and IIT lead trainer Katherine Singer for breakfast the next morning.  What a wonderful reunion!  Although Jori had seen Katherine on a previous journey to Korea in January, it had been a few years since Jim had the opportunity to connect.  It was fun to re-engage our friendship.  Like so many relationships that we enjoy within our NVC community, it was as if no time had elapsed since last we met.  Our hearts came immediately into sync with our shared intentions and mission.

We spent two days in Seoul adjusting to the time shift and life in Asia.  Words cannot describe the vast differences and underlying unity of the Asian experience.  There is an ineffable  quality of universality layered upon remarkable cultural distinctions.  We enjoyed the opportunity to experience a brief taste of the intensity of life in this burgeoning Asian capital and the growing impact of NVC there.  

On day three, we repacked our bags and boarded a charter bus, along with some of our new friends, for a 3½ hour trip the northeastern mountain region of South Korea.  The IIT was held at the beautiful Manaemaul Buddhist Retreat Center nestled on the riverbank of a vibrantly flowing river emerging from the mountaintops of the nearby national park, only a few miles from the DMZ, the De-Militarized Zone between North and South Korea, a decades-long standoff between conflicting cold war ideologies.

We were joined by a remarkably varied cast of trainers:  Marianne Gothlin of Sweden, Chris Rajendram of Sri Lanka, Katherine Singer from Korea, and Gina Lawrie from the UK who arrived a few days into the IIT.  Most of the 50 or so participants were from various parts of Korea, along with two Californians, Christie and Yaap; Vijay, an Indian immigrant living in Finland; and Cyril from Myanmar.  A team of interpreters were there to assist in translating the English to Korean and vice-versa.

Those of you who have experienced Compassionate Leadership or an IIT understand the magic that seems to emerge when a community unites with a common intention to “live NVC”.  The Korean IIT exemplified this magical quality.  There was a sweetly harmonious vibe to this IIT that gently supported people in remarkable learning, personal growth, integration and healing.  The days were filled with abundant opportunities to practice and integrate, and of course, all the kimchee you can eat!  Among other things, we learned that there are hundreds of varieties of kimchee, the Korean version of fermented vegetables.  

I enjoy savoring the opportunities to connect, empathize, and contribute during this incredible 10 day period.  I walk away cherishing deepening friendships and feeling inspired and humbled about how one person’s vision (in this case, Katherine Singer’s) can literally begin to change a country.  Talk about social change!

I also deeply appreciate the spirit of cooperation and harmony among the training team, and feel deeply grateful for the efforts of the interpreters who struggled with their own growing integration of NVC while translating from English to Korean and back again for hours a day.  Its like translating four languages at the same time - Giraffe, Jackal, Korean and English!  I’m also appreciative of the special quality of empathy displayed by the staff of the Korean center who seemed to anticipate our needs and requests before we knew we had them, like providing the anchor of a “western style” breakfast of granola, toast, coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.  Koreans prefer kimchee for breakfast. ;)  They also unwaveringly fulfilled every request for translating handouts even in the midst of the joyful chaos that characterizes an IIT.


Following the completion of the IIT, we motored back to Seoul on the chartered bus, savoring the receding countryside as we re-entered the urban zone of Korea’s southern capital.  Arriving back in the city, we were greeted by a relentless heat wave that engulfed South Korea for the rest of our time there.  Every day for a week, temperatures climbed to 95 or hotter with sky high humidity.  We often huddled in the relative comfort of our small air-conditioned room at the Korean Center for NVC.

Our first days back in Seoul were filled with sight-seeing with trainer Gina Lawrie and IIIT participant Michelle. a professional tour guide with virtually infinite energy for showing off the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Seoul.  She gave us a “local’s eye” off the tourist beaten path, allowing glimpses into the everyday life of Koreans as they shopped, worked and played.  

The highlight for me was attending the Lotus Festival at one of the Buddhist temples in Seoul.  It was rich to see the pageantry unfold as the Buddhist congregation celebrated the famed Lotus Sutra amid a garden filled with 1000 lotuses flowering.  As the only caucasians in the crowd we stuck out a bit.  After the ceremony while putting on our shoes, we were approached by a formally dressed man I recognized as one of the speakers.  He opened a conversation common for those who travel, “Where are you from?  What do you think of Korea?”  Turns out he is the former Prime Minister of Korea, who was educated at Princeton and lived in the US for awhile in his younger days.  Perhaps he will become an ally in continuing to spread the skills and consciousness of NVC in Korea!

We also participated in the first assessment of CNVC trainer candidates in Korea.  Gina Lawrie, Assessor from the UK, joined Korean Assessor Katherine Singer to celebrate and learn with the three candidates.  Observing and being a part of this event renewed my faith in CNVC’s certification process, and I’m happy knowing that three more certified trainers will join our ranks within the next few months to continue to support Katherine in her efforts to bring NVC to Korea.  A half dozen more candidates continue working on their preparations with an aim of Assessment next year.  I’m happy that the Pathways to Liberation Matrix of self-assessment is one of the tools utilized by the Korean Center to help candidates move toward deepening skill and integration of the consciousness.

Our last two evening in Korea were spent in the southern part of Seoul with our new brother, Jinho.  We were honored to be the first guests in his new home, and he treated us like family, escorting us to wonderful connections with other friends, delicious meals and one-of-a-kind tourist adventures.  A deep bow of appreciation to Jinho for his love and support, exemplifying the spirit of hospitality of Korea.  

As a final treat before heading to the airport, we were invited to participate in a gathering of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) living in Seoul.  TCKs have the unique world view that emerges from their experience growing up in one or more cultures other than their birth country, such as children of missionaries or diplomats.  We learned a lot about flexibility in relating and holding national identity lightly from these dynamic young people just beginning to make their mark on the world.  Another example of inspiring social change!

We imagine we will return to Korea someday, hopefully at a time with more pleasant weather.  No matter when we go, we feel safe and secure knowing our needs will be held with care by our ever-growing NVC community in Korea.  We will always treasure this experience of helping to nurture the world we want to live in, united by the universal values of human needs.




Leadership at the Speed of Life

by Jim Manske, CL Trainer

Recently, our team learned that the priorities had begun to clearly shift for our organizer, Sherri.  She reported to us all during a team meeting that she was ready to move toward building her own business by focusing on her contributions as a Certified Parenting Coach.

Although we received the news with a mixture of feelings, including celebrating Sherri’s contributions to our team and to her future clients as well as sadness at the change of the relationship, we all seemed to connect with the energy of new possibilities that could emerge from this unexpected development.  It was time for Leadership at the Speed of Life, because time was ticking and we had lots of work to do to begin preparing for CL 13, even as we still have five more months of CL12!

All of the big decisions made by the CL team are both needs-based and consent-based.  In other words, when confronted by something new, the process we have developed starts first with searching for and connecting with the life of what is emerging.  Who needs what, right now?

From that place of connection, we move toward forming a picture of what could be, generating ideas and possibilities.  Through an alchemical process of empathy, honesty and deepening self-connection, a proposal emerges designed to contribute to the identified needs.  We work empathically through any need for clarity, tweaking the proposal if necessary.  In the face of any objection, we look for what we could add to the proposal that could address the underlying need(s) of the objector.

Eventually, a clear proposal is framed, and like other requests, we state the next steps in the positive, being as clear, concise and concrete as possible, and moving forward with what can happen, right now.  That can include an agreement for one of us to take a next step.

So, through this consensual process, we invited folks in the CL community to express their interest in the position.  We were pleasantly overwhelmed with the number of responses, and that provided us with a new puzzle.  We wanted to make a decision relatively quickly, and we did not want to take the time to interview all 10 candidates individually, so we decided to have the candidates interview us, especially Sherri.  

In the traditional model of "hiring", the "boss" interviews the "applicant", and the power dynamic is quite clear.  In the model of the world we want to live in,  we interview each other and a dialog follows, evolving into some needs-based requests.

We imagined that such a strategy could address the needs for  connection, clarity, saving the time of answering the same questions over and over, and contributing to learning, and insight from the way candidates interact with the team and one another during the interview.

We consented to try this process,and the magic continued to unfold. One presupposition to this strategy of needs-based and consent-based decision making is that clarity will naturally follow from connection.

Following this “interview”, we invited folks to consider whether or not they imagined themselves to be a fit for our needs.  Most self-selected “out”, learning and connecting clearly that the organizer’s job was no longer  a fit.  A few interested candidates remained, so we still had a puzzle.

Our team met last week and employed a variation of a sociocratic selection process.  Each team member, including Sherri, nominated the person they sensed was most needs-meeting for the position.  An important part of the nomination process is to celebrate the person nominated, connecting and appreciating their strengths.  We asked each team member to write down the nomination before we all shared the nominations with one another.  This way, we could be sure to hear everyone’s voice and to learn as much as possible about what we each thought, felt and needed.

Remarkably, we all nominated the same person.  What a sense of clarity, connection and community!

We formalized the unanimity with a consent round, and feel happy to announce that Carolyn Healy who attended CL10 will be joining us as organizer for CL13 and  will soon be inviting folks to join us for CL13, beginning with a retreat in the Los Angeles area in April of next year!

Welcome Carolyn, to this new role within our community.  We look forward to working together to contribute to growing the CL family. We wish Sherri well on her next steps.  She will remain our organizer for the rest of 2012, through November.





- A Special Guest Article

BY James L.  Prieto, Jr., Author of  "The Joy of Compassionate Connecting", and Compassionate Leadership Intern

I've been facilitating NVC teach-ins at Occupy Los Angeles since November 2011. Much of the movement centers around finding inclusive "domination-free/horizontal" ways of collaboration to facilitate compassionate social change. I have a sense that Occupy would have more impact if we could live congruently with the values of compassion, acceptance of differences, mutual respect and understanding-but my experience is that we often do not.

NVC can help us get clear with behaviours that meet these needs through empathic listening and honest expression. NVC education, training and practice is essential.  

I offer the following insights to the movement:

  • Release static labels that de-humanize people (e.g. "the 1%"), and build bridges to them
  • Others may stimulate feelings in us, but they are not their cause
  • Instead of blaming others, acknowledge that something inside us is stimulated
  • "Right and wrong" judgments break connection; we can transform how we experience life by sensing how our actions meet or do not meet needs
  • Take responsibility for making clear and doable requests, while giving others the freedom and space to answer authentically
  • Hold strategies lightly, or let go of outcomes completely for the sake of each connection, listening for the universal needs alive in any conversation.
  • Strategies are the things we do to meet our needs, and are related to people, places, things. Needs are the life energy in us seeking fulfillment, which are common to all people.
  • It is through the collective connecting conversations that real change will occur.

As we let go of judgments of people with money, and accept that they are just getting their needs met the best way they know how, we are more likely to connect with them. We might even gain their support.

The kind of change I'm talking about starts from within our hearts, and extends outward through a radically free invitation of love that holds absolutely no threat of punishment if others don't want to play. This change transcends formal governmental institutions, and deals directly with the human spirit. I'm reminded of the words of Rabbi Yeshua (aka. Jesus):

"Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar..."

My heart is mine, and you own yours. Own it. Occupy it!

It is through heart-filled connections of two or more people that our democratic institutions will be reformed, as we take nonviolent action together and get involved in the political process. Taking radical responsibility for our thoughts, judgments, feelings, needs and requests, as NVC invites, is a step in that direction. This is where the real change comes from. As Gandhi said,

"Be the change you'd like to see in the world."

Additionally, the movement will go farther through connection and compassionate dialogue with those think about as our "enemies"-please drop the labels and look in the mirror first. 

I've particularly enjoyed participating in theCompassionate Leadershipprogram for the second time, this year as an Intern. I get a lot out of learning from different trainers, as their styles and approaches broaden the breadth and depth of my experience--our living NVC consciousness meets needs for authenticity and wholeness.   

In closing, NVC can help Occupy become a powerful movement of social transformation toward a world of compassion. It isn't a pill that you can take to make it all better, but if you are willing to consider the possibility that it could help us all get our needs met, then I've succeeded in making my point.  

Would you be willing to go to one of these websitesCNVC or NVC Academyor Compassionate Leadership to learn more?

As we freely choose to practice self-empathy, and get empathic help from our friends, we begin to feel a natural curiosity and compassion toward others; the possibility of connection is born. The energy of connection is much greater than the sum of its parts-this new energy has a life of its own. Solutions to problems seem to materialize out of thin air; some people call this "magic"-- this is what I call "spirit."  I'm having a hard time imagining how Occupy could become a new consciousness --a real movement-- without NVC.I am inspired by the gist of what Einstein had to say about complex problems-i.e. we can't solve a problem with the same consciousness of judgment and domination that created the mess we are in... NVC consciousness is a step in the right direction; it helps us to transcend our natural tendencies to fight, flee or freeze, and gives us tools to transform our judgments through the energy of the heart.


Human Resilience in Spite of Low Self Acceptance

by Faye Landey, CL Trainer 

Are all the lessons you learned in early childhood serving your best interest today?

Most likely you, like the majority of us, grew up in an environment in which our parents, teachers, and authority figures believed that if they told us we are stupid, this would encourage us to be smart, and if told that we were bad and sinful we would rise to become wholesome strong humans, and that if told we were ungrateful and disrespectful, that we would automatically become respecting and happy, caring citizens.

And to top it off, if we tried to nurture or take care of our own needs, we were labeled as selfish, and you know how far that got you.

So chances are, many of us were parented with messages that were less than affirmative, told we needed to change and would be punished if we did not obey the rules and mores of the day.

Acceptance was conditional on compliance and subordination.

The way our brains receive and store messages, years later we now "parent" and speak to ourselves - often unconsciosly -with the same message "you are unworthy, unvaluable , and you need to constantly improve yourself or else...".

You know, we have done remarkably well in spite of our self bereting.

Technology, Education, Life Style, Medicine, and so many other human achievements substantiate our resilience as a species even though we are afflicted with limiting negative beliefs about our selves.

Think about this: what if we were more self accepting, had fewer self-criticisms and put-downs, and actually became champions for our own well being and growth. Might we soar even more as a compassionate and caring people? Fewer incidents of violence and suffering as a start?

Try more acceptance of yourself!  Like chicken soup - it couldn't hurt!

I'd love to hear from you with your thoughts. Would you post a comment here on the website:


Alive But Not Living

by Faye Landey, CL Trainer 


Rodger's topic for the Taste of Compassionate Leadership free teleclass on April 21 entitled "Focus On Aliveness" caught my interest and brought up a recollection of my own experience of being alive for almost 55 years and not really living.

What was the turning point?  It took a trip to the cemetery with a close friend who invited me to lie down on my burial plot and envision my own funeral, think about who would be there, and imagine what would they say.

I can tell you that it is an eerie feeling, knowing that someday I would be not on top of the ground, but 6 feet under, and that I was not going to live forever.   Even though intellectually I realize that death is part of life, I was not ready for the actual experience of getting in touch with my own mortality, and it took more than an hour of weeping and grieving to muster up the courage to lie down on the ground with my head at my headstone.

Much of my sadness about death came from a realization that I was not sure anyone would attend my funeral, even my closest family members. I realized that I did not feel connected to myself nor those around me.

Now 15 years later, I remain grateful to my friend for the opportunity to take stock of my life, and even though it was startling at the time, I became aware that I was not living in the way I wanted.  It was a new beginning for me -I quit my job, and devoted my life to be on a search for what would bring me to a new vitality. 

It goes without saying that the foundations of NVC offered me tools to take my inner self seriously, to make life serving choices, and to be empowered to live the life I want. 

I am well on my way to being a more connected and compassionate human being no matter what venue I find myself.

I would like to invite you to join us on April 21, Saturday, by phone to get a deeper experience of the life of the energy that we call universal needs.

If you have not previously registered for any of the Taste classes, it's easy to do so --- click here for the "Free Teleclasses" button to register. No obligation. And while you are there, you can find the link to listen to previous teleclasses.

We hope this taste will impassion you to join us in the Compassionate Leadership program, in one of its many options as we learn together and support each other to inspire and create the compassionate world we want to live in.