Finding True North

Are you looking for True North during these times of unprecedented change? Is your inner landscape searching for solid ground? With so much change in my inner and outer worlds, I’m surviving by taking time to listen to my heart and from that place walking with integrity to the best of my ability. My friend and colleague, Mary Mackenzie, and I will be exploring how to find strength and courage in a turbulent world Sept 8-10, 2017, in a lovely CA retreat center. Join us to discover what matters most to you and how your next steps can help you get there. More information: http://nvctraining.com/media/_2017/KM-MM/LT/index.retreat.html

 

Carrying on Marshall Rosenberg’s Legacy

10968500_10153808734601808_3423761194286852278_nI’ve been wondering what I could possibly write that would give a glimpse into the gratitude in my heart for Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. I can’t find words to convey the strength of life stirring in me in the midst of sadness, gratitude and awe. Because of my time with Marshall, I see the world differently. I hear so much that is unsaid yet desperate to be heard. I have a clear sense of who I am and my purpose in the world. I have courage to do my best to make a difference, and deep compassion for myself when it doesn’t seem like enough. I wake up every day determined to carry on Marshall’s legacy of creating a world where everyone’s needs matter.

Some of Marshall’s favorite venues to share Nonviolent Communication were International Intensive Trainings (IIT), 9-day immersion experiences. I invite you to find one this year and immerse yourself in the dynamic legacy. Carry on Marshall’s work in the world. He’s passed the torch to us. Will you join me in the embodiment of this work and using it to create systems where all people can thrive? I’ll be at the next IIT April 3-12 near Portland, OR, where we’ll explore how to apply NVC to our own lives, entire communities and the world. I plan to honor Marshall by keeping the fire burning. Join me if you are moved to honor Marshall and his work in this way.

The Art of Listening at TEDx Rainier

“Listening is at the core of everything I do. Relationships, work, social change, learning, peace, balance…..In this talk, I share some of the stories that have made my life so rich.”

Watch the video below of Kathleen’s Second TEDx talk, “The Art of Listening.” This took place November 22, 2014 at Seattle’s McCaw Hall as part of the TEDxRainier event.

Watch Kathleen’s first TEDx talk “Can prisons be houses of healing?” here.

Learn more about Kathleen’s services and upcoming offerings

Why Bother doing a TEDx Talk?

Kathleen speaking at TEDxRainierHere is Kathleen’s 2nd TEDx talk, The Power of Listening, as a part of the larger Livestream video of the entire event plus other TED video content. Her introduction begins at 1:12:46 and she begins speaking at 1:13:20. We will post the solo talk video when it becomes available.  Scott Karman was a part of the production team. Below is Scott’s post about why we do this in the first place, reposted with his permission. TEDx is an unpaid experience for the presenters.

 

Reflections on TEDxRainier
By Scott Karman

Along the way, in the eleven months of planning for TEDxRainier 2014, I experienced a particularly special moment during one of the speaker rehearsals. Kathleen Macfarren, a speaker with an elegant talk on deep listening, paused for a moment to ask us, “Why do you do this?” I chuckled as it was the very question that I had asked myself on my drive to the rehearsal. One by one, we all gave our answers. Bo Roth who was responsible for helping the speakers develop their talks said, “It’s all about the people.” Anna Boynton, a masterful speaker coach, said, “It’s all about the people.” Co-curators Phil Klein and Elizabeth Coppinger agreed. We all agreed. TEDxRainier is a unique labor of love where we get to meet, work with, and connect with amazing people doing amazing things. As a team, we have the pleasure of growing friendships through collaboration. There is a lot of laughter, some tears, and of course, some heated moments–all parts of creating something larger than ourselves.

Then, I think about the many teams that come together to make the event happen. The people that live behind the curtains of the stage that you will never see. “Why do we do this?” TEDxRainier is an opportunity for us to do our very best work without the constraints of timelines and budgets. It is a show where we get to decide what happens and how it is going to be accomplished. Kris Monro, of Milligan Events, was the glue that kept us all on track while providing her expertise on the attendee experience. The Tri-Digital team brought the live stream program to those who watched virtually. The camera work on the big screen or your screen at home was skillfully orchestrated by the Dapper crew. The presentations were the collective creations between the speakers and our Silver Fox designers. The entire auditorium experience was the result of the collaboration of all of these teams, including the amazing McCaw Hall staff. So why do we do it? This is what we love to do and we love putting on shows for our dear attendees.

And finally, during a particularly stressful event planning moment, I had posed the question to myself. “Why do I do this?” The answer came as a surprise to me.

It comes down to lifetime goals and dreams. You see, in college, my parents were not pleased with my decision to major in painting. One night, on the WSU campus, my mother asked me with concern, “What do you want to do with your life?” In my youthful and passionate naïveté, I responded that I either wanted to be an artist or the President of the United States. Well, as I grew up a bit, that evolved into wanting to be a teacher who leads and lets the creative process guide the way. Both ideas are applicable to anywhere my inspirations take me. And there I was, Saturday morning pacing my house at 3 AM, waiting for McCaw Hall to open so we could get the show started. I asked, “Why do I do this (to myself)?” A burst of adrenalin came over me and a huge smile stretched across my face. The answer is that I am doing exactly what I set out to do. This whole thing is a realization of lifetime goals and dreams.

 

The Dance of a Connected Conversation

If 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.

Dancers of many styles - silhouettesMaybe 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.

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. Are you wanting to strengthen your Nonviolent Communication practice for 4 days and nights in a beautiful retreat setting, with highly skilled trainers, a supportive community, incredible organic food and rustic natural settings? Learn more about our Blackbelt Communication Skills Retreat at Whidbey Institute, Oct 1-5, 2014.

Do I make a Difference? Shifting Anxiety to Choice

I woke up feeling vulnerable and anxious and decided to embrace and open to the sensations that were there. A flood of memories came back—years and years of teaching, conducting, parenting and the wondering if it had made any difference at all. “Are people’s lives any different? Are the horrors of the world diminished in any way by how I’ve lived?” I asked myself. “Was I so immersed in what I was doing morning to night thinking it was all so important and wasn’t able to see that all that effort didn’t mean much after all?”

 

Sinking into the sadness, some shame, disappointment, and hopelessness leads me below the turbulent waters where I notice the yearning to live a life that has meaning, that contributes to others, that makes a difference because I show up with love. I want to risk my significance based on a full-bodied sense of integrity and authenticity, not reacting to external expectations.

 

Allowing my body and heart to sink into that hunger, to give my full weight to it in the present moment, I notice another fear at the thought that some beloved people in my life may not understand or support my choices. A wave of sadness come over me thinking the consequences may be that I fall from grace or lose being held with positive regard by those I care about.

 

Breathing into the fear of loss, I relax into how much I care, how much I love others and want to deepen sacred connection. I feel relief knowing that I can choose to offer unconditional positive regard to others, no matter how they respond to me. I can create the qualities I cherish. Can I offer that acceptance and care to myself as I step more and more into my own authenticity? I’m willing to try.  Hearing my own “yes!” connects me with the flow of Life moving through me and the power of being connected to meaning and purpose. I don’t know how to answer the question “Do I make a difference?” but I do trust that living each moment with a willingness to risk my significance for the sake  of connection and love may help me live my way into the answer.

3 Steps To Free Ourselves From Our Inner Prisons

bird-flying-from-cageThough I frequently walk in and out of WA State prisons, I find myself trapped in my internal prison much more often than I enjoy. It’s one I carry around with me and enter easily. Getting out can be an arduous process. The prison is my mind, specifically the part that spins stories about what other people are thinking, doing, intending or reacting to. I am amazed how frequently my brain can come up with a story and how often a story when checked out, can be way off base.

I find I am not alone. Conversations I hear daily are couched in language that implies wrongness or diagnosis of others. When our stories are about others, we usually feel anger. When our stories are about ourselves, the feelings of shame, guilt and depression arise.

The last time I was in the women’s prison I found myself on the receiving end of the stories. It was a very stressful weekend for the inmates. Mother’s Day events were being held. Try to imagine the stress of parenting from prison or the pain of not having contact with your children anymore. A higher number of fights than normal were breaking out, and most of the women who were trying to focus in the Freedom Project workshop I was co-leading were bundles of nerves.

At one point on the second day, one of the women told me I was disrespectful, then another said I was being condescending, yet another one agreed and added I was just like one of “them” (the officers). They were sure their stories about me were true. Their evaluations were clearly facts in their eyes. I listened with empathy and was trying to find out what they had seen or heard from me that they interpreted as disrespect or lack of caring.

I had asked two women to join me out into the hall first thing in the morning, to create safety, when I thought a fight was about to break out. I mediated between them for 45 minutes and the two women involved were thankful for the reconnection and learning. Some of the women who remained in the room, however, assumed I was somehow punishing the women I had asked out into the hall. It took empathy from my colleague and individual empathy from me with the angry participants during the following break to finally have my intentions for support, caring and learning seen by the women. We ended in a place of connection. The remaining hours of the workshop were spent giving empathy to the women for their pain and talking about the self-empathy that allowed me to stay present to myself in a way that let me hear their pain and not take their judgments personally. Judgments are simply tragic expressions of needs. 

I spent the next couple of weeks noticing when I didn’t stop to pause between something that triggered me (what someone said or did) and my story about it. Some of my stories are well rehearsed as I’ve practiced them for years. My belief in my stories can be as strong as the inmates’ belief in their stories about what they thought was going on in me. The freedom from the internal prison happens in that pause between observation and evaluation. I work through 3 steps that spring me loose.

  1. I find a way to notice what I’m reacting to the specific observation of what someone actually said or did.
  2. I pause long enough to look under my story (the evaluation) to my feelings and needs.
  3. I let a request naturally arise in relation to the needs I’m aware of.

That pause is a place of choice and power. Separating observation from evaluation is a crucial first step to freedom. I find myself making that inner journey time and time again from my prison to liberation. It’s starting to get easier the more I do it. It requires compassion for myself along the way and trust that continuing on that path will lead to greater joy, clarity and connection.

Kathleen Macferran, Certified Trainer
Strength of Connection Center for Nonviolent Communication
Office: 472 Grow Ave NW | Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
206.780.1021. Tel / Fax
Mail: PO Box 10009 | Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-0009