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Articles from Compassionate Leadership News



----Faye Landey, Certified Trainer and Team Member of Compassionate Leadership

I am fascinated by people who live out of a sense of abundance and generosity.  These are folks who are willing to share much of what they have out of the sheer joy of giving.

On the other hand there are folks who hold tight to everything they possess or create or know.  They withhold information and do not willingly share.

When I joined Compassionate Leadership in 2008, I was catapulted into the abundance mindset, and now I actually prefer it.  I feel more at ease and have more vitality!

Four members of our NVC community have created a process and they are living in abundance by sharing it online to the public.   You may have already heard of THE MATRIX, which serves as a self-assessment tool to give you some insight into your own NVC skill levels and learning edges.

Two of the creators of the MATRIX,  Jim and Jori Manske, are also members of the Compassionate Leadership team,  and in keeping with their sense of abundance and generosity, Jori will be offering a free 90 minute  MATRIX  Teleclass on January 21, 2012, at 7:00 PM Eastern Time as part of the TASTE OF COMPASSIONATE LEADERSHIP SERIES.  

You can sign up at and click on “Free Teleclasses at the top of the page.

Early  in its inception I was introduced to the MATRIX and with joy I have witnessed its coming of age.   I use it as a powerful tool for mentoring by applying the steps as a convenient guide, and as an inspiring empathy connector to understand the impact of specific provocations.   I often assess my own skills when I bump into a triggering situation.   Who better than I can assess my own intentions and skill levels?  The 27 categories of the MATRIX offer a functional guide, and I can discover what to work on to hone my skills as I take NVC into the world.

And speaking of taking NVC into the world, I am guessing that by your reading this newsletter, you are of like-mind in wanting to expand the community that NVC has touched.  My goal and that of the Compassionate Leadership Community is to bring the NVC consciousness to as many people as possible and to contribute to a world where people care about one another with compassion and consideration.

So with generosity and abundance for the world we want to live in, we invite you to join us by registering at the website link above or you can go directly to sign up for the Taste of Compassionate Leadership Teleclass at no cost and no obligation:
…and we wish you all the best for a needs-met New Year!


Parenting Series: Setting Your Intention to Connect

By Sherri Boles-Rogers, CL Trainer/ACPI Certified Parenting Coach

Connection is a strong need.  Especially when it comes to our families, a strong parent-child connection can help us weather the many storms we encounter on our parenting journey.  Just as our children's minds and bodies need to be nurtured, so does our connection with them.  Nurturing connection starts with being intentional.   After all, if you haven’t set a destination goal, you aren't likely to get there.  Setting your intention to connect is a valuable tool.  Intention helps to keep your heart and mind focused on where you’re heading and what’s really important:  building a solid relationship with your child. 

               You’re already late for work and your daughter won’t put on her shoes. 

               Your sons are poking each other with forks instead of eating their food.

               You've discovered that your teenager snuck out of the house last night.


These are moments when you may have a hard time remembering the importance of being intentional about connecting.  During moments such as these, it's normal for your focus to become narrow in hopes of modifying your child’s behavior.  But when you're intentional about connecting, your response may be different as you step back, breathe deep and remember your long-term goal of establishing a deeper connection and building a stronger relationship with your child. During times of trouble, your intention often shifts to just wanting your child to do what you ask him to do. That’s understandable.  We all want cooperation, peace, harmony, and safety in our families.  But when we “correct before we connect,” we often end up making matters worse.

So how do you connect with your child during tense moments?  The most important thing you can do is to pause…and focus on your intention before you speak or react.  When you do, you'll prompt yourself to think beyond your short-term goal and remember your long-term goal of strengthening your parent-child connection.   A self-connecting pause can mean the difference between reacting out of anger or responding in a loving way. 

When it comes to building a strong connection, there are no shortcuts.  Building this foundation requires awareness, intention, practice, and commitment—and all of this rests with you.  Connection doesn’t require your child to behave a certain way and it doesn’t require you to be a perfect parent.  It does, however, require you to be aware of how you habitually react to your child's behavior and to have an understanding of how to effectively respond. 

When you're experiencing turbulence in your relationship or you’re feeling disconnected with your child, notice what’s going on inside of you:

  •   Are you trying to understand what is going on for your child? 
  •   Are you offering compassion? 
  •   Is your motive to correct, coerce, or punish? 

Understanding and compassion lead to connection.  Correction, coercion and punishment can lead to disconnection and discord.  You may be able to temporarily modify behavior using coercion, but in the long run, coercion erodes the parent-child bond and teaches your child to behave a certain way out of fear, guilt or shame.  Understanding and compassion, on the other hand, nurtures the parent-child bond and your child’s natural willingness to cooperate and contribute.

Connection doesn't happen overnight and isn't even always present from the moment of birth. Connection builds over time as trust is established and openness is embraced.  Once the foundation of your relationship has been laid and you’ve established a quality connection with your child, the ups and downs of daily living become more manageable and less stressful.  When this happens, teaching and modeling the behavior you desire is better received by your child. 

In addition to being intentional about connecting, there are two other key intentions that will help to further your goal of establishing a quality connection with your child. They are the intention to understand and the intention to let go of your attachment to a particular outcome.  When you learn to practice and integrate these three intentions, you will begin to build a strong foundation that won't be shaken during times of trouble.

Stay tuned for more in this parenting series on Setting Your Intentions.


The World as You See It, in 500 Years

By John Lash, CL11 Participant

Imagine the world you would like to see in a year. Now imagine the world in five years, then 10, 20, 50, 100, and finally 500. Take some time with each increment.

This past year I have spent a lot of time trying to create the world I want to live in, and I have met many people with the same desire, though they do not always put it in the same words. I have interacted with advocates of restorative circles, nonviolent communication (NVC), alternatives to violence, and many others interested in peace making.

I first heard the phrase “the world I want to live in” from Jim Manske, one of my NVC teachers. He led a group in this exercise as part of Compassionate Leadership, a series of trainings and retreats that use NVC and other strategies for helping people become “leaderful” in their lives and communities.

One year and five were straightforward for me. I have specific goals that involve school, work and my personal life. It was even easy to go a little further, because 10 or 20 years fall within my expected lifetime. Interestingly, I found these frames limiting as well, because I seemed to stay focused on my personal life.

As I moved further and further into the future my dreams became bigger and less focused on myself. I reached a time when I would be gone. I saw a world with plenty to eat for everyone, with peace abounding, and other visionary goals.

By far my strongest vision was of a world without prisons. I had no idea how it would be possible, but I imagined it anyway. Why not? Five hundred years from now, I and everyone I know will long be dust. It appealed to me to imagine that prisons and all the suffering that takes place in them would be dust as well.

Then Jim pulled a dirty trick on us. He asked us what we could do now to make these things reality. What could I do to achieve my own goals while simultaneously contributing to the world of 100 and even 500 years from now? It was difficult to imagine my actions now having an effect so far in the future. It seemed absurd, but in fact that is all the future is made of. Our actions now determine the world that will exist then.

What could I do to create a world where prisons no longer exist, and is it lunacy to even think that such a thing is possible? I do not think so. I can look at the present world and see efforts to make my vision true. One area where it is happening is in juvenile justice. Consider the youth courts of New Zealand.

In 1989 New Zealand passed The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act. Its express purpose was, “’to promote the wellbeing of children, young persons, and their families and family groups.’ The Act thus seeks to empower families and communities, rather than professionals, in deciding the best measures to respond to offending behavior in children and young people.” This is a quote from Restorative Justice Online, a project of Prison Fellowship International and its Centre for Justice and Reconciliation.

The site also has a recent op-ed from a judge in New Zealand that discusses the lessons learned from this effort and how it might look if applied to the adult system. The judge, Fred McElrea, writes that by making family group conferencing (the restorative system used in lieu of courts) the legal default position of the state, most cases were resolved without any court appearance. He also points out the importance of victim participation and continuing monitoring of the resolution agreed upon in order to maintain the credibility of the system. New Zealand is just one of a growing number of countries that are adapting to restorative justice approaches including Australia, Canada and Brazil.

Looking at this picture gives me hope that we in the United States can progress as well, to a system that integrates all members of society into the solutions needed to address harm. Just as in other countries, these efforts are beginning to take root here, and it is my dream that one day they will spread to the entire criminal justice system.

I realize that I may not see this dream realized, but I know that I can begin to do my part now. How about you?


As Long As It Comes From The Heart

man writing

By Wendy Jason

What makes me feel free no matter where I’m at,

some call it poetry, some call it rap!

You could lock me up and throw away the key,

give me a pen and some paper and that will always set me free.

Whether I’m down and out or higher than a kite,

it never lets me down, ‘cuz I always get it right.

There are no mistakes when it comes to my writing.

I been around the block, I know about fighting,

I know how it feels to be madly in love.

I know how good it feels to throw up the dub,

I know how it feels to be cheated on.

I know how your own hood can sometimes do you wrong.

I know how growing up rough can take it’s toll on you,

so you better have a dream and make it come true.

As for me I’ma keep on doing what I do,

writing ‘bout my life and all the pain I’ve been through.

- Art Herrera


As Long as It Comes from the Heart
by Wendy Jason

Every Tuesday and Thursday for almost a year, I packed up my clear plastic portable file box with golf pencils, see-through ballpoint pens, a miniature dictionary and thesaurus, a few black and white composition books (some with intricate lettering denoting owner’s names on the covers, worn corners, and missing pages, and others brand-new, not yet marked by the collision of ink and heart), and my ever-changing attendance list, and headed out onto a desert highway, en route to spend an afternoon with my muses. A half hour or so later, I rolled up to a massive metal gate that slowly creaked open after I swiped my identification card against a little black box, silently wondering if I was being watched. After clipping my ID to my shirt, I’d park, empty my pockets, and step out of my car, unconsciously listening for the echoes of men playing handball against cement walls; the voices of those whose hands are calloused and bruised from hours of slamming flesh against hard rubber in futile attempts to attain a sense of freedom. When the air was cold or rain fell from the endless sky, heard nothing but my own thoughts – the million questions swirling in my mind in anticipation of the day’s meeting.

Upon entering the building, I would nervously approach the security area, hoping that the guard on duty was in a good mood so that he wouldn’t meticulously dig through my supplies and remove the contraband I had hidden between the pages of my notebook – a CD to play during our meeting. After clearing security, I’d walk past the noisy kitchen and staff dining room, and past single-file lines of men with their heads down and hands clasped behind their backs, waiting, as guards stood watch. As I approached the high-felony pod in which the men in my group spent their days and nights, sitting in limbo, awaiting the trials that would decide their fate, I’d look for familiar faces through the window of the sally port, hoping nobody had been relocated, sent to segregation, or been released without the chance to say goodbye. After being buzzed into the pod, I gathered my writers, provided the officer on duty with their names, and led them to our classroom, where we would spend the next hour and a half together.

After a check-in and brief dialogue about possible writing topics, we would spend a half hour or more writing silently. During this time, I would look up from my journal every few minutes, stealing proud, affectionate glances at the 15 or so men between the ages  of 18 and 40, clad in bright orange jail skivvies, plastic sandals, ornate tattoos, and the makeshift jewelry (a toothpaste tube cap, the tooth of a plastic comb, a piece of a flip-flop) that held their piercings open, hunched over their notebooks as their voices poured from the tips of their pens. I’d listen intently as they read their stories of love, loss, suffering, and celebration aloud. Over and over, I praised their candor, and spoke of the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that washed over me as I considered the risk that each of them was taking in exposing themselves in this space we had created together. I knew that the moment these men left the classroom and returned to the pod, they would once again bind themselves in the armor that protected them from vulnerability. But in the moments in which they were writing, reading, and listening to each other’s stories, their hearts were open and soft, and they connected with each other and me through shared experience and compassion.

In our space, there was no room for the condemnation, punishment, alienation, or power struggles that were ever-present in the participants’ lives outside the classroom. In our room everybody belonged, everybody was safe, everybody was free. And in our room, everybody experienced what it feels like to matter.

Many of the men in the writing group had never before shared their stories – nobody had asked them to – yet they told them with eloquence and clarity. The relief they experienced as they unloaded their burdens was contagious. When I began posting the men’s work on a website, their audience expanded, and they hungrily devoured any feedback, gratitude, and news offered by readers. For them, the opportunity to be heard and understood by those on the outside, who oftentimes seemed to have shunned and dismissed them, had the potential to be life changing. For me, the chance to be present to the healing and self-acceptance that the men derived from speaking their truth was a gift and a privilege. In every meeting, I learned more about the threads that tie us all together in an impermeable web of humanity, and gained more appreciation for the gifts that make each of us so beautifully unique.


Empathy Goes Viral; Listening to Both Sides in the “War on Terror”

by Justin Rizzo-Weaver

It’s been more than ten years since the “War on Terror” began with the bombing of the World Trade Center, and the subsequent campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. The roots of this conflict go back much further and extend into the present. These roots of conflict have often seemed complex and remote to me. A close look at the history of conflict in my own life (and between my own ears) illuminates a different story. How easy it is to stop listening to views that differ from my own when I believe thoughts about the wrongness of “the other side.” How difficult it can be to meet others’ (and my own) anger and judgments with compassion. How tempting it is to take sides when I bear witness to conflict.

As Marshall Rosenberg and many experienced in mediation have noted, conflicts move toward resolution when empathy comes on scene. Once each side can state clearly what the other side’s feelings and needs are, there can be a shift of consciousness that gives rise to strategies to meet needs that take everyone into account. This process of looking deeply beneath conflict to discover unacknowledged needs can proceed with surprising speed and efficiency, as many who practice Compassionate Communication have discovered in the laboratory of our lives.

The trick is getting both sides to the table, cultivating a willingness to be vulnerable enough to occupy the same space with “the enemy,” with dialogue facilitated by a mediator who is committed to listening deeply to both sides. When I reflect on the United States government’s stated policy of not listening to “terrorists,” and reflect on Al-Qa’ida and other groups strategies to get heard, and on both sides’ punitive use of force, I feel great remorse for the missed opportunities to connect whole-heartedly with our shared human condition. And I feel moved to raise questions like: “What would it take to bring healing to this situation, when neither side will come to the table?” I have sometimes felt disheartened when contemplating this question, thinking that no amount of compassionate advance-work could possibly change the tone of this painful dialogue.

Then a “crazy idea” volunteered itself during a breakfast conversation with my wife. What if empathy for both sides in the “War on Terror” could be “fired off” into the viral network of the internet, trickling outwards and gradually shifting the energy of the dialogue? What if there were a place where the anger, blame and other “jackal voices” from both sides could be welcomed, compassionately witnessed, fully heard, and met with empathic responses that focus on feelings and needs? What if, instead of lamenting that leadership from both sides in the “War on Terror” will not sit down in dialogue, we instead focused our energy on fully hearing the anger, the jackal voices (including our own) that rise up around this issue?

That’s how Listening to Both Sides came into being, a Facebook community whose stated purpose is to offer deep listening to all sides in the “War on Terror.” (Link to site: I envision this as a place where voices from any perspective can be heard with the ear of the heart, a place where anger and blame can be translated into shared feelings and needs. The site is not intended to effect immediate change, but rather to slowly feed empathy into the “viral network” of Facebook and gradually bring forward shifts in the dialogue surrounding the “War on Terror.” This could be the first-ever experiment in “viral mediation.”

I’m asking for your support of this project. I envision this support might include:

  1. Visiting the site on Facebook and “liking” it.
  2. Inviting friends to “like” the site.
  3. Committing to visit the site at least once a week.
  4. Committing to respond with empathy to any “jackal-flavored” posts on the site, translating words that could take us into disconnection into the language of feelings and needs. (You are also welcome to post your own jackals, giving them over to be fully heard and translated.)
  5. Recognizing and acting on opportunities to refer people to the site, especially those for whom the issue of the “War on Terror” is very alive, whether or not those persons have any experience in Compassionate Communication.
  6. Notifying experienced certified trainers in NVC of any posts for which you’d like special, careful attention (or responding to such posts if you are a trainer).
  7. Sharing any feedback on the site and how we might work together to strengthen its purpose; you can reach me at

This is a site where everyone is welcome and where I believe those of us practicing NVC will contribute most in the role of “street giraffe,” or as “giraffes under cover.” I recommend responding to posts with empathy, while refraining from using language that overtly refers to “empathy,” or NVC. I view it as greatly beneficial for those most stuck in life-alienating emotional reactions to the “War on Terror,” on both sides, to be posting to the site... Those will be the persons most desperate for empathy, and perhaps least likely to want empathy. For this reason I am emphasizing listening and I am not referring directly to “empathy” or NVC on the site. I request that you do the same as we work together to keep the dialogue open to those with no experience or declared interest in NVC, while we remain committed to practicing NVC whole-heartedly with faith in its transformative power.

Will this project “work”? It depends on what we think success looks like. Even if any given person does not return to the site after posting an initial “outburst” of anger, the next person visiting with a similar emotional charge can benefit from any empathy offered. We can’t underestimate the effects of opening a space to authentic communication, and then just listening. The effects are on the overall tone of the dialogue, bringing about gradual shifts over time. This is slow work that proceeds at the pace of our breath and heartbeat. I invite us all to put on our giraffe ears and begin to listen to that rhythm, opening to the reality that we as human beings can sit at the same table and hear the heart in even falling buildings and bombs.

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