Posts Tagged 'nonviolent communication'

#NVC Meets Clicker Training: Needs and Reinforcers – Part 1

Writing, clicker training, and nonviolent communication (NVC) are my passions. For several months I have wanted to write a series on how NVC and clicker training overlap (thus combining all three passions) but I keep being too busy — with, guess what? Yeah. All of the above. I’ve been co-organizing an NVC telesummit that started Monday, Nov. 5!* When I do these things, it tends to use all my spoons. I made an attempt at cohosting the first call, but it was too much for me, so I’ve gone behind the scenes again. I’m better at the writing and brainstorming and promo stuff, I think.

Anyway, the more I study nonviolent communication (NVC), the more I love it. This has also been true for me with clicker training. The more I learn of both, the more obvious it becomes how I can apply the underlying principles of both to virtually everything in my life, and I find it fascinating to see how they bleed into each other.**

It’s not surprising I would see these synergies, because this is where my energy is going, but since I haven’t yet met anyone else who is passionate about both applied behaviorism and NVC, I haven’t had anyone to share these exciting little bursts of insight with. That’s where you come in!

I have heard from a couple of NVC people, and a couple of clicker people, that they’re interested in this topic, so I will take a stab at it. The most encouraging response was when I explained the difference between “splitting and lumping” to an NVC practice group facilitator, encouraging her to “split” more in her teleclasses. She later told me that that had been a useful tip which supported her in her role as facilitator. Since clicker training is basically a form of pedagogy, this shouldn’t astonish me, but I’m still always surprised when I pass a tidbit along to someone who isn’t already a clicker enthusiast and they tell me, “It worked!”

DISCLAIMER! I am not a professional in either field. I have no certifications or degrees or licenses. In both areas, I am an enthusiast, a dedicated amateur (though I’ve been clicker training much longer than studying NVC). I strongly encourage you to ask questions, to challenge me, to tell me if you disagree with me — and of course, because I am a believer in positive reinforcement, I also encourage you to share what you like, what makes sense, and where you think you can expand on my ideas. I think these sorts of interchanges — no matter whether they take the form of agreement or disagreement — offer the most potential for juicy learning and cross-pollination of ideas. I hope this will be a wonderful learning opportunity for many people, especially me!

I’m actually going to leave my attempt at defining what NVC or clicker training are, including the purpose of each, till another time. I want to start off with what I see as the basic “unit” of each practice. In NVC language, this would be “needs.” In clicker language, it’s called “reinforcement.”
In this post, I’ll tackle needs. The next post on this topic will take on reinforcement.

Needs – Human Example

Let’s start with needs. NVC holds as a basic tenet that all people have the same basic needs. This list at the Center for Nonviolent Communication is a basic example, though I prefer this PDF by Miki and Arnina Kashtan of BayNVC.
Now I’m going to say something that a lot of NVC practitioners (and other people) might find challenging, but I hope you’ll stick with me anyway. My first NVC teacher and main mentor believes, as do I, that animals have the same basic needs as humans. In other words, those lists I linked to are not just lists of universal human needs; they are cross-species lists of needs. If you’re thinking, “What about bacteria? What about amoebas? I doubt they have most of these needs,” I agree with you. Though I can’t prove it, I think it unlikely that bacteria have a need for companionship or trust or fun. So when I refer to an animal/being in these discussions, I mean “anything with a brainstem that eats,” because that’s Karen Pryor’s definition of an animal that can be clicker trained, and because I think it’s a manageable and reasonable way to define parameters. And yes, that includes humans — people can definitely be clicker trained, though it’s called TAGteaching (mostly because a lot of parents got in a flap when they learned their kids were being taught using a tool “that was for animals!”).
Do ALL animals need everything on the lists I’ve linked to? Maybe not, but then not ALL humans need everything on these lists, either. For example, I know some people who would say “sexual expression” is not a need for them. However, overall these are universal human needs, and enough experiences and science support my belief that they are equally applicable universal needs among social species, such as dogs, horses, parrots, apes, and dolphins, to name just a few. (If you’d like more information on this topic, I recommend For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotions in You and in Your Best Friend by Patricia McConnell, who studied both zoology and behavioral psychology. Although the book is geared to dog lovers, McConnell uses other species as examples as well.)

At any rate, a lot of learning to practice NVC is learning to connect with the basic needs at play in ourselves or in others with whom we’re interacting. This often takes the form of hearing the needs underneath the strategies we are using to try to get those needs met. For example, suppose I’m in an argument with my partner (this is hypothetical — I’m not saying this is an argument I have with my partner, nor that this is the language she’d choose), and she says, “You’ve spent the whole day blogging, and now it’s almost bedtime and you’re still at it! I’ve been waiting for you to watch a movie with me! I rented this DVD so we could have some time together, but you care about that stupid computer more than me!”

If I have my “NVC hat” on (as opposed to losing my head), I might make some guesses as to what my partner is saying her needs are. From an NVC perspective, her need is not to watch a movie because plenty of people and animals don’t care about movies; movie-watching is not an universal need among people. So, what are the possible needs she is asserting? My guesses might be that her needs are for fun, connection, companionship, and knowing she matters.
I might try to find out by asking, “Were you really wanting to have some connection with me tonight? To know that you’re important (matter more to me than my computer)?”
A cartoon of a hippopotamus and a giraffe. The hippo says, "I think that you..." and the giraffe shouts, TELL ME YOUR NEEDS!!! A banner says, Dear Beginners, This is how you can make your partner hate NVC. (Or hate you.)

Painfully true. (Just ask Betsy.)

Another cartoon by Sven Hartenstein

If she says, “Well, yes, I do want to spend time with you, but I also am just really sick of work, and I can’t understand why you aren’t! We spend all day on our computers, and now I’ve got this movie we’ve been waiting to see, and I want to watch it! Don’t you?”
From this, I think probably her primary need is fun (play, relaxation, enjoyment) and secondarily also some companionship in having fun. So, watching the movie with me (or by herself, or with someone else) might meet her needs, but so also might other forms of play, relaxation, or enjoyment, such as playing cards or backgammon or doing something fun with the dog or with someone else. So I might agree to watch the movie with her, or if I want to keep working, I might empathize with her need for fun and ask if she’d be willing to watch it without me — if that would still be fun and relaxing for her? And we’d go from there. Her needs have been identified, however. (My needs will be in another post in the future!)

Needs – Canine Example

Now I’m going to apply the same scenario to a dog! (Note: Because I have more experience with behavior in dogs than in any other nonhuman species, my examples will usually be dogs, but I encourage people with birds, horses, llamas, rats, etc., to comment with questions or examples.)
I’m blogging away at my computer, and Barnum starts barking. (This IS a real example which happened while I was writing this post, so I used our interaction as an experiment.) He’s looking out the window when he barks. Barking is no more a universal need among dogs than movie-watching is among people. Don’t believe me? My first service dog (same breed) never barked, even when a stranger approached the house. So, what is the need underneath the behavior here? First, I’ll tell you what I think he was “saying,” before I tell you what needs I guessed. I guessed he was saying, “I see someone in the yard, and I want you to know that they’re there!”
Back of Barnum's head and back as he looks out the window towards a green, leafy view outside.

What’s that?!

Note that there appears to be an extra step here: I am interpreting Barnum’s dog language into human words. This is a difference between communicating with most animals and most humans; humans are more likely to be able to use language we think we understand to interpret into needs. However, we often rely too much on language, thinking we know what another person is saying when we don’t, and we tend to ignore obvious (body) language from nonhuman animals about what they are saying. There are many times I know quite clearly what a dog is saying to me, while I can have a long, drawn-out discussion or argument with a person before I have a facepalm moment and say, “Ohhhh, so you mean X?!” Sometimes I’m not sure what Barnum (or another dog) is saying to me, and sometimes I am.
With either species, the process is basically the same: You make guesses and see how they land. With a dog, you often need to use a strategy to make a guess because just asking the dog, “Are you wanting X?” doesn’t always work. (Note: Except when it does. Many dogs know words for toy/ball, play, eat, dinner, car, walk, out, etc. Barnum knows the words “train” and “training,” and I try to use care about saying them in his hearing because he can get very disappointed if training is not forthcoming when he thinks it is.) Anyway, aside from these obvious examples, you usually “ask” a dog what they want by beginning a strategy that you think will meet their need and see how they react to it.
In this case, if I think Barnum is saying, “Pay attention! Intruder alert!” I’m likely to guess that Barnum’s need is communication, contribution, and safety. In other words, he wants to communicate to me that one or both of us might need to handle the danger of a stranger coming to our home; he wants to contribute to me by letting me know this. So I would probably thank Barnum for barking, ask him to be quiet, and treat him for remaining quiet while I look out the window or go to the door to see who’s outside. Looking out the window is partly for my own peace of mind and partly to convey to him that I have heard his alert and am taking it seriously — that he has communicated successfully to me his concern for our safety.
Suppose I do this and I see . . . nobody! Which is what happened! Either I guessed wrong or there was a dog, neighbor, or other “disturbance” he saw, heard, or smelled (perhaps in our neighbor’s yard) that I didn’t see. So, I went back to my work (this blog). As with my human partner, my initial guess was not entirely correct, but I’m still open to more information.
A few minutes later, Barnum — who was looking out the window again — barked again. Obviously what I did before did not meet his needs. I’m going to make a new set of guesses. I watch him for a few seconds and notice that his bark and body posture are a bit different from when he is truly alarm barking. I also catch him glancing at me a couple of times between barks.
I decided that actually Barnum is probably thinking, “I’m bored! She’s been staring at the computer all day, but last time I barked, she paid me some attention and moved away from the computer. If I keep barking, she will probably pay attention to me by telling me to be quiet, and I might even get a treat if I am quiet, and then I can do it again!”
Barnum lying on Sharon's bed with his chin on her computer keyboard in her lap.

Are you STILL on the computer?

I made a different set of guesses about his needs. I guessed Barnum might have needs for stimulation, play, challenge, purpose, connection, or companionship. Possible strategies to meet these needs include: physical affection (ear rubs, belly rubs, butt scritches), play (tug, fetch, chase), a puzzle toy (Buster Cube, treat ball, Kong), or training — which engages body and mind and usually is his favorite strategy for meeting needs of connection, creativity, purpose, challenge, stimulation, learning, and movement, among others.***
I decided to leave training as a last resort for three reasons: 1. It’s what I usually use, and I wanted to experiment. 2. I wanted to finish this post, and training can use up a lot of my physical and mental energy. 3. Training meets so many of Barnum’s needs that it would be harder to distinguish which specific needs were successfully being met by the strategy of training (normally not something I care about, but for the purposes of this experiment, I wanted to try to figure it out).
Then I actually tested this out while I was writing this post. I didn’t start with petting because Barnum rarely wants petting except first thing in the morning or last thing at night. (It’s a Bouvier thing.) I was also interpreting his body language as requesting more active engagement than passively receiving physical affection. So, I moved to the edge of my bed, got a plush squeaky toy and threw it for him. (The spider that quacks like a duck!)
Huggles Seat-Belt Spider

It actually looks creepier in real life. And it sheds!

He was not that interested at first, but then when I made it clear I would play with him (by voice and body language), he got it, and we played some version of tug/fetch/chase. Much to my surprise, when we started playing this way, he came over all wiggly and pressed himself against me. I took that as a request for petting, which is a delicious and rare treat for me (mutually reinforcing, AKA meeting needs for physical affection and connection for both of us). I vigorously rubbed his back and sides and scratched his butt, then he happily bounded over to pounce on his toy. We played some more, during which he requested scritches one more time, and then he got bored.

At this point, I could have decided his needs were probably met. Clearly he HAD had a need for connection with me, including physical affection, and I was touched by that. He’d had some fun, but my guess was that he had not had enough stimulation, play, and similar needs satisfied. If I went back to the computer, he might go back to looking out the window and maybe barking. Even if he didn’t, he might still have these unmet needs but just suffer in silence.
I thought it was likely that his needs for mental engagement (stimulation, challenge, play, whatever you want to call them), were still unmet. Again, I wanted to see if something other than training would work for him. I gave him a previously stuffed IQ Treat Ball set to a high difficulty level. He immediately began pushing it around my room, trying to get the kibble to fall out.
Two hard plastic balls, one blue, one orange. Each has a transparent hemisphere and then a divider inside with an opaque hemisphere below. There is a hole in the divider that can be adjusted in size, and the transparent hemishere has one hole in it as well.

Can be made difficult or  easy to get treats out by rolling

This might seem like a strategy for meeting a need for food, but I have often found that Barnum prefers a food-dispensing toy to easily-accessed food. For example, once when I was leaving the house, I left him a raw knuckle bone and the Buster Cube to occupy himself. Betsy came back into the house because she’d forgotten her hat and saw that he was ignoring the knuckle bone completely — normally a high-value food reward — in favor of the Buster Cuber, with its lower value kibble, because the reinforcement of working to get the food out was so much better. In other words, in that case, his need for challenge or work was greater than his need for eating or chewing.
Barnum pushed the ball around my room until either it was empty or it got stuck under my bed (or maybe both — he’s pretty good at getting toys and treats out from under furniture) and then went to his crate and took a nap. I decided his needs for connection and activity had been met, and now he had a desire for peace, rest, or space.
Barnum sleeping on the bed, Sharon's bare foot in the foreground.

Goodnight, everybody.

Future posts on NVC and clicker training may cover some of these similarities:
  • Opposition to punishment
  • Splitting
  • Assumption of innocence
  • Observation
  • Separating behaviors from intent
  • Focusing on the moment, not guessing stories
  • “Respect the organism”/Recognizing that the other has needs
  • Asking for what you want, not what you don’t want
Please let me know what you think of this topic!
– Sharon and Barnum, SD/SDiT
Notes:
*I’ve decided not to post my NVC events here from now on because I think you’re probably not that interested in that. But if you do want to be on my mailing list for NVC events I’m helping to organize, drop me a line and I’ll add you to my email list. If you want to read the blog posts I’ve been writing on this, they’re at Mair Alight’s blog, where I’ve been putting up information on the telesummit.
**I’m also clear on a couple of very fundamental principles in each practice that seem to clash as theory. From the clicker side, I anticipate the argument, “But we can get the behavior we want without needing to know WHY it’s occurring,” and yes, this is often true, and it is often true that it helps a lot to know the need behind the behavior in the first place to prevent it or to influence it. From the NVC side, I anticipate two major arguments: 1. That animals aren’t people, and 2. that clicker training (and behaviorism in general) is used to elicit behavior, which is “manipulation.” Indeed, the founder of NVC, Marshall Rosenberg, refers to “manipulation” as a form of violence specifically stating “that would include any use of punishment and reward.” I think actually both science and experience can show that, in practice, these are complementary, not antagonistic, approaches. I definitely plan to delve more deeply into these issues later. You might get some ideas of where I’m heading if you read Rosenberg’s article, “Praise versus Encouragement.”
***Note to trainers concerned that I’m reinforcing an undesirable behavior chain: I asked for a down-stay then worked at the computer for a short time before the next step to break the behavior chain of bark-cued quiet-reward for quiet.
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Update: Free Empathy Call, Online Chat & Webcam Chat Details – Oct. 1&2

This is an update to my previous post. If you want to read the details of my personal experience with the call last year, check it out.

A globe brightly covered with the colorful flags of all nations and people that look like paper dolls standing in a circle around the globe holding hands. The 12 people are each a different shade of the rainbow, from red to purple.

Global Connection

However, if you simply want to learn the nitty-gritty of how to attend the call or one of the online events for the United Nation’s International Day of Nonviolence in honor of Gandhi’s birthday, here it is:

In case this was clear before, this is a FREE call. Twenty-four hours of continuous empathy are available to give, receive, or witness. If you would enjoy making a small donation in appreciation of our organizing efforts, we will happily accept, but the point of the call is to make it available to everyone (as someone said to me recently) “as a love offering.” That’s what it is! Free love! It’s priceless. <wink, wink>

Every two hours a different facilitator, or team of facilitators, will be hosting — bringing their own perspectives and experiences to the call. Note: For technical reasons the 24-hour period has been broken up into six (6) four-hour “sessions,” but you can call in (or leave) any time during any “session.”

The call STARTS Monday, Oct. 1 at 6:00 PM EDT

and

ENDS Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 6:00 PM EDT.

(If you’re not in the Eastern US, you can find out when the calls are in YOUR time zone using this time zone converter. If you are more visually oriented, here’s a map of the world’s time zones.)

You do need to register in order to get a call-in number and PIN. Find all the details and register here.

Secondly, the online chat is set up! It will go from noon – 2:00 PM US Eastern Daylight Time (9AM – 11AM PDT or 16:00-18:00 GMT). Click here to enter the chat room. Have questions about the chat? Contact me.

Thirdly, someone else has also now scheduled a face-to-face empathy by webcam for October 2, from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM US Eastern Time (October 1 from 10 PM – 12 AM US PDT or 05:00-07:00 GMT). To register for empathy by webcam, enter your name and email address at http://www.PANinA.org/Empathy.

If you know someone who doesn’t have web access who would like to register for the calls, please contact me and I’ll get in touch with them by phone.

P.S. It just so happens that Marlena, my wonderful teacher, will be offering a new series of her classes in October. “Healing Listening, Healing Talk” is the name of her classes in Nonviolent Communication for people with disabilities and chronic illness. If you’d like info about the classes, contact me, and I’ll email it to you.

Hope to “see” you on a call or chat room!

– Sharon and Barnum, SD/SDiT who is sooo eager to work because we have not been doing enough training for his taste!

P.S. Yes, I will return to dog blogging again after this!

UPDATE: A Call Changed My Life: Global Empathy Call Oct 1 & 2

This has been a busy and rather extraordinary week for me, and one which I hope will lead to something enjoyable — maybe even wondrous? — for you.

The Story Begins One Year Ago

Last year at this time I was consumed by grief over Gadget’s and Norm’s deaths as well as by the multiple other losses I’d experienced in close proximity: the loss of feeling safe in my home after a natural disaster; new functional limitations in every aspect of my life caused by Lyme disease; and the loss of several very important friendships. I was in a constant state of pained numbness. I was angry a LOT. Underscoring everything was my unrelenting self-loathing and self-judgments, which I didn’t even realize were there.

When I found out, via a friend who was also studying Nonviolent Communication (NVC), that there was a marathon global empathy call in honor of Gandhi’s birthday (October 2) and the UN International Day of Nonviolence, I was a little dubious. I didn’t get it — what would people DO? Would I have to interact with a bunch of strangers who would not “get” my life, with all its disability-related weirdness, loss, isolation, and complexity?

But the call was free, and I heard from some friends that it was really great, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I could call in and just see what it was like, and if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d just hang up. At first, I just listened. I was amazed at the courageous vulnerability of those seeking empathy and in awe of the skill — combined with a depth of compassion and empathy I’d never witnessed before — of the facilitators and participants who were so interested in supporting other participants, regardless of the topic or the person.

A globe brightly covered with the colorful flags of all nations and people that look like paper dolls standing in a circle around the globe holding hands. The 12 people are each a different shade of the rainbow, from red to purple.

Global Connection

I started calling in as often as I could, and each time I felt a stronger and stronger desire to request empathy, even though I felt very scared and nervous. I felt comfortable with my little knot of NVC students and teacher who also had chronic illnesses and disabilities, but this number of unknown, mysterious strangers on the line, what would they think of me? Maybe they would be as disgusted with me as I was with myself. After all, hadn’t the friends who left my life told me I was a selfish, horrible person, not worthy of attention? (That was what I believed back then; now I know that that is probably not at all what they thought.)

I Finally Spoke Up

Eventually, standing in the stream of empathy flowing around me, I wanted to drink of that water, too. I really felt like I would implode if I didn’t get some empathy. I made a request for time on the call. Having held in my grief for so long — years! — as soon as I started talking, overcome by anxiety and sadness, I just sobbed, all my grief just pouring out of me. It was hard even to talk.

Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of what I or others said. I remember a few words and phrases here and there, and certain names and voices. But mostly, what I was completely astonished to learn — and what I didn’t believe the first times people said it — was how much they were moved by my call, how much it had given to them, that my sharing my pain was a gift. I actually stopped someone to ask her “Why?” Because I couldn’t believe it. It happened to be Mair Alight (one of the organizers of last year’s call and now one of my NVC teachers) who answered me. I don’t remember what she said, but she was clearly speaking the truth. She was not being “nice” and lying or being pitying or patronizing. She was genuinely connecting with me, and that connection was nourishing to her. That shifted something large inside me. I always remembered her name and voice after that.

When I first started speaking (and crying), I was cringing, waiting for the silence of repulsion or the polite words of distance, letting me know that really, it was not appropriate to just sob on the phone to a bunch of people who don’t know you. But I got the opposite. I got love and tenderness. From strangers.

That was also the first time I had a chance for a communal grieving process for Gadget and Norm. I felt held and cared for like I never had been before. To experience such deep compassion from strangers around the world was transformative. I left the call raw and open and exhausted, but also with a sense of a heavy weight on my heart having been lifted just a bit. The wound of unattended grief that had been festering for two years was finally able to begin healing.

Hope

I don’t usually use language like this, but that call for me was a rebirth. It gave me all sorts of hope. Hope that I could have friendships and close connections with other people again. Hope that maybe there was good in me, that I had something to contribute to the world. Hope for things I can’t even define or name.

Several people expressed concern about my needing much more empathy than I was getting in daily life and suggested other free NVC phone classes and practice groups, which I scribbled down on bits of paper. With these leads, I threw myself into every NVC endeavor I was able to. For a while I had several embarrassing interactions where, when I met a new NVC person in a phone practice group, they would tell me they recognized me from the call. But they all seemed to view that as a positive thing, and more than one person told me that my call had been the one that had moved them the most or been one of the most meaningful.

The long-term effects of that call have been amazing — not just that one catharsis, but the connections to other people and groups have made me much more attuned to my and others’ feelings and much more aware of what my underlying needs are and how to fill them. One unexpected result is that I am a much happier person now, more compassionate toward myself and others, and much, much less angry. (Funny side note: I said to Betsy a couple of weeks ago that I realized I very rarely got angry anymore, and that now I was aware that I used to be angry constantly. I said, “Do I seem less angry to you?” And she widened her eyes and said, “Yes!” Nodding her head so emphatically that it was comical.)

I Have Come Full Circle

Ever since the call ended last year, I have been looking forward to this year’s. Last week I emailed Mair to ask her for details on this year’s event. She said it had not been planned; nobody had had the time and energy to take it on. However, she said, if I could help organize it, we could do it together.

I thought about it and decided I couldn’t NOT volunteer because otherwise the call wouldn’t happen, and I wanted it to happen so badly. I thought there would be a few of us organizing it, but nope! It’s just me and Mair, and people were referring to me as the “lead organizer”! How did that happen? I never dreamed I could or would be doing this, but the call is scheduled, facilitators are volunteering, and I very much hope you will join me!

You don’t have to know any NVC to attend and enjoy this event; all human beings are very welcome! (Of course, dogs are welcome to listen in, too.)

And because of my own disabilities and that of many of my friends, I have also added an online, all-text chat to the schedule, which I will be co-hosting. All are welcome to the online chat, just like the calls. You can do both!

Here are the details of the event: This is a free global empathy call that will span 24 hours, facilitated by teachers, practitioners, and enthusiasts of NVC. The intention of this call is to experience community through empathy. You can ask to receive empathy or offer to give empathy or just listen and witness the flow of empathy.

Every two hours a different facilitator, or team of facilitators, will be hosting — bringing their own perspectives and experiences to the call. Note: For technical reasons the 24-hour period has been broken up into six (6) four-hour “sessions,” but you can call in (or leave) any time during any “session.”

The call will START Monday, Oct. 1 at 6:00 PM EDT

and

END Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 6:00 PM EDT.

The timeline chosen means that in every part of the world, some of the call will occur on October 2, the United Nations International Day of Nonviolence and Gandhi’s birthday.

(If you’re not in the Eastern US, you can find out when the calls are in YOUR time zone using this time zone converter. If you are more visually oriented, here’s a map of the world’s time zones.)

Click here to register for the call!

Plus the Online Chat!

Of course, given my own intermittent speech disability and the many Deaf and hard of hearing people I’ve had in my life, I am aware that conference calls are not always the most accessible forum for everyone (although I have used relay in NVC classes and practice groups). I know of people who prefer text to spoken communication due to seizure disorders and autism, as well. So, I really wanted to have one “call” be online. I’m excited and nervous because I will be co-hosting, and I don’t yet know who will be my co-host(s), but here is the info:

A two-hour live online empathy chat

on Oct. 2, from 12:00-2:00 PM EDT.

(Again you can find out when the chat is in YOUR time zone using this time zone converter.)

You do not have to have a communication disability to attend the chat! We welcome anyone who would enjoy giving, receiving, or witnessing empathy in an online environment or who is just curious what it’s about. To join the chat, click here or go to http://us7.chatzy.com/76139319355482

Please spread the word about the calls and the chat!

**NEW: Another online option has been added! There will be a face-to-face empathy by webcam on October 1 from 10:00 PM to midnight PDT. To register, enter your name and email address at http://www.PANinA.org/Empathy.

Will You Join Me?

You do need to register for these events — that is how you get the call in number and PIN code for the calls (or the URL for the online events) — but you can drop in whenever you want, or decide not to go at all!

Please note that this is a free call. When it asks you for the amount you’re paying, just put in “0.” If you would like to make a donation up to $24 in appreciation of our work organizing this event, we would certainly appreciate it, but our deepest wish is for the presence and participation of everyone who wants to come!

When I took this project on, it was only with a desire for the event to happen. I knew I’d be using a lot of “spoons” on this that would leave little or no time for other activities, including training Barnum and the bits and pieces of writing and editing I’m trying to do for pay again.

Click here to learn more or register!*

* 1. If using the computer is difficult for you or for a friend who is interested, please contact me, and I will be delighted to register you or them!

* 2. If, for some reason, you have trouble registering (if you don’t get your call-in number and PIN), please contact me.

Getting the Word Out

In all honesty, I am trying everything I can think of to get the word out, and I don’t know if it’s having any effect, so I would appreciate it very, very much if you would post the link to this event on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and share with friends, etc.! Or reblog or retweet this blog post. Or tell someone in your life.

I very much hope this year’s Global Empathy Call will be as rewarding for all involved — hopefully including you — as last year’s was for me.

Love, Sharon (and Barnum, who does not understand the fascination of the black box on the overbed, the clicky thing in the lap, or the wire thing on the head that the sounds come from)

Signal Boost: Growing Compassion

Howdy!

I’ve posted before about how I’m study NVC (Nonviolent Communication, also known as Compassionate Communication) and how important it’s been for me. I actually see a lot of similarities in philosophy between clicker training and NVC, and I keep intending to write some posts on that topic, but I haven’t managed it yet.

Anyway, I got very involved in helping the organizer of an upcoming NVC telesummit, and now I’m really hoping some of my friends, readers, and others will want to attend because it looks like it will be an awesome event and it’s really fun to be on the phone with friends or people I know from online. It’s very accessible, too, for anyone who can use the phone (more about this at the bottom in my postscript).

For those who might want to participate in the calls — you do not have to know anything about NVC or have any experience with it. In fact, this is a great opportunity for people who haven’t studied NVC to learn from some of the most experienced and respected people in the field and get a large sampling of perspectives on a single topic: compassion.

BayNVC’s new telesummit is begining September 3rd. It’s called “Growing Compassion: Building on Interdependence.”

This month-long telesummit — available globally by telephone — will be led by 21 of the most exciting NVC trainers in the field. Each trainer will be sharing their wisdom of years of accumulated experience in compassionate communication and open-hearted connection.

Registration is open now. The Growing Compassion telesummit starts September 3. Not only will you be able to attend as many (or as few) calls as you want, but you will also receive recordings of all 20 calls! More information about this powerful and transformative event is below and here.

NEW BayNVC Telesummit – Registration Now Open!

Growing Compassion: Building on Interdependence

If you want to experience the spark of global community forged by shared learning and compassion, join us!

Program Highlights

  • Opening Call: Practices for Opening our Hearts. BayNVC founder Miki Kashtan will offer  tips based on her decades of study and work with thousands of people.
  • 9/11 “Enemy Image” Call: During conflict, we often lose connection with the other person and see them only as a villain. Lisa Montana shows how the Enemy Image Process offers a simple way to defuse this dynamic, get support, and open the door to solutions that meet everybody’s needs.
  • Zen Wisdom for Naturalizing your Practice: Are you interested in ways to actually practice NVC out in the world, with natural language? Coming from his perspective of Zen Buddhism, Jesse Wiens answers the question, “How can I get off the cushion and out into the world and make a difference?”
  • Calls offered in French, Spanish, and Hebrew – open to ALL. Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, says about empathy, “It’s not the words!” Practice “wordless empathy” by experiencing the humanity of a person who speaks a different language than you do. Experience a heart-to-heart, personal connection which transcends words!

Dates and Times

All calls take place Monday through Friday, Noon to 1 PM Pacific Time (3 PM to 4 PM Eastern Time). Schedule of dates and trainers below. After registration, your call-in number, PIN, and further details about each call will be emailed to you!

Schedule: Presenters and Topics

Week 1 (September 3-7)

  • Monday: Miki Kashtan – Practices for Opening our hearts
  • Tuesday: Jesse Wiens – Out of the Workshop and into the World: Zen wisdom for “naturalizing” your NVC practice
  • Wednesday: Alan Seid – Supporting Compassionate Actions of Social Change Agents : Sharing tools, skills, and coaching for maximizing positive impact in our world.
  • Thursday: Meganwind Eoyang – Transforming Self Judgments
  • Friday: Catherine Cadden – Empathy First Responder

Week 2 (September 10-14)

  • Monday: Carol Chase – Compassion in the Face of Adversity
  • Tuesday: Lisa Montana – Enemy Image Process
  • Wednesday: Nancy Kahn – A Commitment to Self-Compassion in Our Social Justice Work Across Race, Class and Ethnicity Divides
  • Thursday: Arnina Kashtan – Falling in Love with My Judgments: Why I cherish judgments and how they teach me true compassion towards myself and others
  • Friday: Myra Walden (in Spanish) – Cariño a Mí Mismo: Calidez hacia Los Demás (Increasing Self-Love: Warmth towards Others)

Week 3 (September 17-21)

  • Monday: Mitsiko Miller (in French) – Communiquer de Coeur à Coeur avec Nos Enfants (Communicating Heart-to-Heart with Our Children)
  • Tuesday: Newt Bailey – The Compassion Switch: Finding and flipping on the compassion switch
  • Wednesday: Bob Wentworth – Finding Tenderness For What You Can’t Stand About Yourself
  • Thursday: Roxy Manning – Authentic Dialogues: Growing compassion across sociocultural differences
  • Friday: Aya Caspi (in Hebrew) – Meeting the challenge of opening our hearts to our loved ones (including self)

Week 4 (September 24-28)

  • Monday: Kate Raffin – Flowers, Tears, and Lightbulbs: Balancing my yearning to grow with acceptance of who I am right now
  • Tuesday: Selene Aitken – Your Adult Children and You: The dance of connection
  • Wednesday: Mair Alight – Self-Empathy Core Competency- Practicing with  Wisdom Circles
  • Thursday: Roberta Wall – Growing Compassion at the Checkpoints between Israel and Palestine: Empowerment or Submission?
  • Friday: Inbal Kashtan & Kathy Simon – Truth and Dare: Nurturing authentic, courageous relationships.

Join Us in Co-Creating World Peace through Compassion


Cost:
This is a continuing effort to financially support BayNVC. Requested contribution: $60 (includes recordings of all calls). If you are living in the Global South or your financial circumstances preclude your participation, please email Mair Alight so that you can be included in this event.

– Sharon and Barnum, SD/SDiT

P.S. About various access issues:

I attended a much more intensive telesummit in July that was life-changing. I was so grateful I was able to attend 17 calls (!!) even though I was very sick. The trainers and most of the participants, too, were totally accepting and inclusive around my disability issues. For the previous teleconference when I was experiencing spasmodic dysphonia, sometimes I used TTY relay, sometimes speech-to-speech relay, and sometimes people understood me well enough without relay. I loved the diversity of the people and topics under a unifying theme. I felt accepted and my disabilities were treated as normal, overall. Some of my friends from my chronic illness/disability NVC classes attended, too. (Because it’s a teleconference, I think this event is not accessible to people who are D/deaf.)

If you have difficulty attending events or classes in the flesh, due to your disabilities, location, or schedule, doing them by phone can be great. Also, it’s just an hour a day, which I find much easier than something long (which tends to drain me). Plus, you can go to as many or as few as you’d like, and you can listen to whichever of them afterward as often as you like, whether you attend or not. Also, there’s usually a pretty good mix of listening and participating, though nobody is ever forced to do anything, and my experience is one of a great deal of acceptance of whatever you’re feeling or needing.

There is also a commitment to financial access. The requested contribution (this is a fundraiser for BayNVC — many trainers are donating their time) is $60, which is for 20 calls and the recordings of all the calls. That is a pretty amazing bargain — $3 per call, not including the recordings. HOWEVER, I know many people with disabilities are struggling to get by and simply do not have $60. So, if you’ve read the info above and are thinking, “This sounds really amazing. I so wish I could go, but I don’t have $60,” please email the organizer, Mair at Mair@baynvc.org and ask her if you could attend for a contribution that you CAN afford (from $1-$59 sliding scale). She really wants it to be inclusive (and so do I, of course).

Would you like to help me out in my efforts to increase peace in the world? If so, I’d greatly appreciate any of the following actions on your part:

  • Sharing this post with friends, family, colleagues, and others who might want to learn about, or deepen, an NVC practice or learn about growing compassion.
  • Sharing this post or this link via social networking, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc., and encouraging friends and followers to register.
  • Gifting the telesummit to someone you believe would enjoy and benefit from it. Whether you can attend or not, you can give the gift of NVC to friends, colleagues, or loved ones by registering them for this event!

Details about the Growing Compassion telesummit are on the BayNVC website. It start soon — September 3 — so your help in getting the word out now is greatly appreciated!

Quick Update: Auction Moved to March

The feedback we’ve gotten is that people need more time to get item listings to us. So, we’ve pushed back the fundraiser for my NVC teacher a month (in part not to conflict with L-Squared’s auction). Marlena’s Teaching Fund auction is now scheduled to go up Friday, MARCH 9.

This means we’ll need to get all item listings by Sunday, MARCH 4.

Thank you very much for your help! All the other information from the previous post about Marlena’s Teaching Fund auction remains the same. Thank you for your help!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, bored and “neglected” SDiT (Why are you always staring at the glowing box?”

Seeking Auction Donations

I’ve written occasionally here and at my other blogs about my study of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) for the last year-and-a-half. I’ve written here about NVC being the major factor in being able to grieve Gadget, and spending the Jewish New Year with my NVC friends, and on how NVC has changed how I communicate about grief. I’ve blogged about it much less than I have wanted to, however. Partly, this is for the usual reasons I blog less about everything than I want or expect to — I’m sick, I’m training my own service dog, I trying to write when able.

But there are other reasons. One is that since that life-changing international NVC phone call at the beginning of October, I am trying to attend as many NVC practice groups and classes as I can. (Note: Whenever I refer to attending NVC classes, they are always by telephone — conference calls.) Although this has absorbed energy — the time spent on the calls and then the time recovering — they give me so much. I feel a new sense of peace, calm, and happiness and an ability to have compassion for myself and others that I didn’t have before.

I actually had wanted to take NVC classes several years ago, but they were offered in a space that was up a flight of stairs and not MCS-accessible. Then I found an NVC teacher who has created an option for NVC classes that are financially and physically, mentally, and emotionally accessible to people with disabilities.

Meet Marlena

The person most responsible for this change in my life is my NVC teacher, Marlena Willis. Marlena lives with both mental health disabilities and physical disabilities, including MCS. A couple of years ago, she decided to offer NVC teleclasses to people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. We became a tight-knit community, most of us living with multiple disabilities, often homebound, and struggling with very difficult situations.

Read what Marlena’s students say about how her classes have changed our lives.

Because she wanted to make sure that anyone who wanted to learn could attend, Marlena offered the classes on a sliding scale and said that nobody would be turned away for lack of funds. Most of us have been able to pay little — much, much less than what Marlena’s time and skill are worth to us — and some have been unable to spare anything for tuition.

Marlena laying on her back in bed. A black-and-tan short-haired large-breed older puppy -- maybe part Doberman or Rottweiler -- wearing a pink collar is licking her from her chin to her eyebrow. Marlena's eyes are closed and her hand rests on the dog's chest.

Marlena's dog loves her as much as her students do!

In the last few months, Marlena has entered financial crisis. This was the result of several unexpected medical expenses not covered by Medicare or MediCal, plus the unexpected expenses of her rescued dog and cat, who are very important to her mental health. For this reason, Marlena’s students are doing a fundraiser for her, which I’m organizing. We are doing it as an online auction. I would so much appreciate your help in making Marlena’s Teaching Fund auction a success so that Marlena can get the dental work done that she needs and continue to teach the NVC classes that mean so much to me and my dear friends.

Find out more about Marlena (my interview with her) here.

If you would enjoy contributing to the success of the auction, here are some ways to help!

  • Donate an item to auction. This is the most useful and important thing we need right now. It can be any item, product, or service that someone else would enjoy. Even if you think you don’t have much to offer, you probably do! I have more notes about this below. Please keep reading!
  • Spread the word! Follow me on Twitter at @aftergadget and retweet my auction-related tweets, or share my posts on your Facebook page.
  • Ask friends, family, social or business networks to donate an item. Do you know someone who has a business, either online, like an etsy shop, or anything else, who would appreciate some publicity while giving something small that will make a big difference in someone’s life? Ask them to donate a service or item.
  • “Like” the Marlena’s Teaching Fund Facebook page! Before the auction starts, we can use it to organize and gather info on items to be auctioned. When the fundraiser is underway, we’ll use it to post updates or feature certain items or list quotes from how Marlena has changed lives.
  • Link to this post. Offer a signal boost. You also have my permission to cross-post this post as long as you attribute it to me and link back here. And you’ll probably want to write some sort of introduction so people know you’re not me!

What Items Can Be Auctioned?

All sorts of things! They can be tangible goods or they can be services. Below are some categories of things we can really use.

  • Unique or beautiful things: Jewelry, photos, artwork, hand-crafted items, specialty or homemade foods (that travel well), films, music, or books donated and signed by the artist/author, tickets to sports/theater/exhibits.
  • Useful things: Dog or cat toys or products, clothing, housewares (kitchen, bath, bed, etc.), hair combs or sticks, hobby/recreation stuff (knitting, crocheting, photography, games, gardening), posters, cards, gift certificates for anything/anywhere! (Did you get something for your birthday or the holidays that’s perfectly good, but that you just can’t use?)
  • Items of interest to ill or disabled people: Unopened supplement bottles, books on living with chronic illness, disability culture or humor, massage or body work, meditation or yoga instruction (live or on CD or DVD), assistance dog gear or lifestyle stuff, videos educating others about your illness or disability rights.
  • Items of interest to NVC people: NVC books, CDs, or DVDs; BayNVC merchandise; giraffe things (puppets, ears, jewelry, prints, bags, decor); empathy session; coupon/gift certificate for a free workshop or class.
  • Services: The sky is the limit! If you have a skill or passion, chances are someone is interested in learning from you or taking you up on your talents. Editing/proofreading; writing; graphic design; cupcake decoration; astrology; Tarot reading; NVC empathy session; dog training (in person or by Skype); photographing your pet or food styling; bicycle, wheelchair, or car repair or maintenance skills; counseling; gluten-free cooking; life coaching; blogging; how to write a synopsis or query letter or create a portfolio; animal communicating; a or presentation on creating access or what it’s like to live with your illness or to be partnered with a guide dog. You can specify if this is something that can be done by phone, internet, or in person. If you have an idea, bring it, and I bet we can make it happen!

Things to Keep in Mind

  • The purpose of this auction is to help Marlena and allow her to continue teaching NVC to people who really benefit from it and would otherwise not to be able to access it. However, if you have any sort of business — an online store, a consulting business, teaching, etc. — this is also a way to let more people know about you, your services, or your products. All listings of donated items will link to the donor’s website and include their logo or image and a blurb about what they offer. It’s part of our way of saying, “Thank you.”
  • Unless they are antiques or collectibles, tangible items (products, goods) must be in new or like-new condition.
  • Tangible items will be shipped. Whoever donates the item will also be donating the shipping. So, if you’re choosing between sending something heavy or bulky (like a big, hardcover book) or something lightweight (like a silver necklace), you probably want to choose the small, lightweight thing. You’re free to choosing the easiest, most inexpensive shipping option you like; we are not FedEx!
  • Services have many advantages: 1. There is no shipping cost involved. 2. If it’s something you can offer by phone or internet, this usually means it can be bid on internationally. 3. If it’s something you can offer to a group (a workshop or class), we can take several winning bids on one item.
  • If your service or product can only be offered to those in your local area, please indicate the area (e.g., open to bidders in the SF Bay area only, or open to those in NYC only, etc.).

If you would like to donate an item (product or service) to Marlena’s Teaching Fund, here’s what to do:

Contact me as soon as possible to let me know you’re donating something. Please include as much of the following information as possible:
1. A description, which can include things such as materials, size, weight, number, handmade, etc. (Unless I can lift this from your website or a mass-market site, like Amazon.)

2. Any background on you or your product that makes it more appealing (or, again, if this is on your website, let me know, and I’ll get it from there).

3. Your website, shop, blog, Facebook page that is associated with your donated service or product.

4. An image to accompany the description (unless it’s something I can lift from your website or from Amazon, etc.). If it’s a product, send a picture. If it’s a service, your logo or a picture of yourself or something is great. If you are willing to include a text description of your image, that will save me a lot of energy on adding alt tags, but it’s fine if you don’t.

5. The retail value of the item (unless I can find that online). If it’s a one-of-a-kind that doesn’t have a retail value, just take a guess.

6. Whether there are geographical restrictions on who can bid (in USA only, in Canada only, in North America only, in your city only, anywhere in the world, etc.).

7. If this is a tangible item, if you know whether it’s coming from an environment that is smoke-free, or fragrance-free, or pet-free, please indicate this (it doesn’t have to be all three, e.g., if it’s coming from your smoke-free, pet-free home, say so; if it’s coming from your fragrance-free home, say that. If you don’t know what it’s been exposed to, leave this out).

NOTE: If you know you want to donate something, please contact me as soon as possible so I can start a listing — even if you don’t have all the information yet. You can get the rest to me as you are able.

The auction is scheduled to go up Friday, MARCH 9, so I’ll need all item listings by Sunday, MARCH 4 at the latest.

How to get your information to me:

Thank you so much for your support!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT

P.S. If you use email to contact me and don’t hear back within 24 hours, it probably means your message went into my spam folder. Please try again, preferably using one of the other contact methods.


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