Archive for “July, 2014”

The Dance of a Connected Conversation: Tango vs. Contact Improv

by Jay Darling

Group of dancing silhouettesIf communication is a dance, have you ever had the sense that you were talking with someone but:

  • Your toes were getting squashed under their heels.
  • Their posture was stiff and inflexible.
  • They were getting scandalously close to your wobbly bits? (Gasp!).
  • You just weren’t connected.

Maybe it was like the tango where there was a strong leader in the dance, around whom the dance seemed to turn and whirl? Maybe that was even you, once or twice 😉 Perhaps you were trying to assert yourself but the rapid, complex movements of the lead partner left it tricky to share your expression? You found yourself a little dizzy, being swept around the dance floor, lifted and spun, tracking the next move of the lead partner. (Note: its just a metaphor here, folks – tango can be beautiful, amazing, and full of both people’s expression.). The video below shows a disconnected dance duo stepping on each others feet video (for comparison & contrast with the following video).

Now compare the tango with a lead partner to “contact improvisation” dance. In this style, the partners are fully playing off of each other and there usually is no “lead partner”, although the dancers will be guiding and supporting each other at different times. Movements are fluid and intimate as bodies pass over, under and around each other. This style of dance is more of a metaphor for what we call “the flow of connection” in compassionate communication. This video demonstrates that fluidity. (Danger: Wobbly bits proximity warning but nothing close to nudity)


Back and Forth

“The flow of connection” in a conversation has a focus on keeping both people connected to a conversation. This goes back and forth, using “connecting requests” that ask, “Could you tell me what you just heard so I can know I got my message across?” or “What comes up for you when you hear that?” To stay with the metaphor, those questions keep the dancers synced up, in step on the same dance floor.

Another thing to remember is that people can stay more connected with each other if the person speaking talks in “paragraphs” rather than “chapters.” By breaking up the conversation into smaller chunks, it is easier to reflect back what is being shared. If you are listening, it can also be helpful to “interrupt,” to reflect back what that other person is sharing, initiating the flow of connection from the perspective of the “ear.” So even if the speaker knows nothing about compassionate communication and nonviolence, you as a listener can model that flow and keep yourself connected to the conversation.

Trip, Stumble and Get Impatient

Sometimes you might want to have connected conversations and other times, you might not have the energy for it. It does require an openness and detachment from outcomes – a willingness to fully leap into the conversation… in the dance. Sometimes you might want to just be the lead partner or just to follow the lead of another. Sometimes a txt msg is all u have time 4. AND as you practice (and fail) and practice (and fail some more), you will find yourself dancing in conversations with others in ways that used to be battles. Even if you are a seasoned practitioner of compassionate communication, also known as Nonviolent Communication™, watch and enjoy as your skills continue to improve and you spin into deeper connection.

Our Nonviolent Communication Skills educational resources will give you the mindsets, distinctions, understanding and tools that will let you stand in your power while also staying compassionate and connected to yourself and others. Build powerful relationships with yourself and others with these invaluable Nonviolent Communication Tools and much more.

Two Things I’m Really Excited About

First thing:

This Summer my family and I are finally attending NVC Family Camp!

The truth about my family life is that conflicts come up, sometimes people want different things, often someone’s needs are unfulfilled. And through NVC consciousness and skills I’ve witnessed and facilitated astounding and heart-warming shifts in my family and in my relationship with my children.

After hearing about this event for years — and seeing the idea spread all over the world — we’re finally making the leap.

I will be there as another dad and participant — not planning to offer any training, but in the end I might not be able to help myself (!) 🙂

My dear friends and colleagues Barbara Larson and Doug Dolstad are the visionaries and organizers. Learn more about it here:

(Transparency Disclaimer: this is not an affiliate link. I receive no financial or other compensation. It’s an event I’m inspired about, and I thought it would be fun to be there with you.)

If you happen to know FierceLight Films and the work of amazing filmmaker Velcrow Ripper, he attended NVC Family Camp a few years ago. Out of that experience he created a film about NVC Family Camp, titled “Doing Love,” which I’ve embedded at the bottom after my second exciting anouncement.

Second thing:

The invitation and registration are now open for the 2014 Blackbelt Communication Skills NVC & Social Change Retreat, held at the Whidbey Institute on Vashon Island, (Washington State, USA) October 1-5, 2014. Check it out.

Join us for 4 days of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) immersion with a powerful group of trainers, at a cozy, rustic retreat center, with amazing, local, organic food, and a learning community of committed and compassionate learners.

Do you want to deepen your NVC skills? Do you want insights, ideas, tips, and tricks for applying NVC to making a positive difference in the world?

The retreat is structured to give you variety, choice, and immersion, regardless of your level of NVC practice.

I would love to see you there!

Please leave me a comment with questions or feedback. Thank you!

Can a Prison Become a House of Healing?

Have you ever wondered how things could be done differently in our prison system? Incarceration rates have more than quadrupled since 1980 in the United States! That currently puts 1 out of every 100 adults in the U.S. behind bars. Is that really the choice we want to be making?

Our friend and colleague Kathleen Macferran gave a talk at the first ever TEDx educational event at a prison, Monroe Correctional Complex in NW Washington State. Kathleen sees new possibilities in making prisons places of healing, rather than just “serving time.” Her work with the Freedom Project has been teaching Compassionate Communication (NVC) to inmates since 2001.

Kathleen is also a part of the training team for the 2014 Blackbelt Communication Skills Retreat, October 1-5 at Whidbey Institute. Learn more about this opportunity master communication skills for creating win-win outcomes in any situation. Live in a supportive community for 4 days with Kathleen Macferran, Karl Steyaert, Alan Seid and Raj Gill.

UPDATE: Read about the retreat HERE.

Check out the video of her talk and comment below letting us know your thoughts and ideas about the prison system.