Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Personal Growth and Social Change Addendum: Real-Time Conversation and Comments

by Miki Kashtan

Last Sunday, October 2nd, I held a conference call to discuss my Personal Growth and Social Change mini-series. This was a total experiment that I had no idea how it would work. There was 44 people on the call for all or part of the time, and many more signed up and didn’t attend. The call was recorded, and anyone who wants to can listen to it. One exchange that was particularly moving for me was a conversation with a man who wanted to look at the question of privilege, and how painful he finds the idea of having to “give up” privilege in order to care for others’ suffering. When I shared with him my own faith that privilege is a poor substitute for real needs that we are told we can never meet, he felt much more hopeful about finding a way to move forward (I intend to post on this topic soon).

When we broke into small groups for in-depth exploration of some topics that came up, one of the callers wanted to hear from me about my own vision. To my astonishment, delight, and intense discomfort, an entire group of callers converged wanting to hear the same. (I intend to explore the incongruity of this discomfort in a separate post, hopefully tomorrow.) After I overcame my discomfort, I chose to focus my sharing on the vision of a global gift economy. This, too, is a rich vein, and I hope to revisit it again and again.

So, stay tuned. Based on the level of engagement and the unanimous vote of confidence at the end of the call, I am likely to schedule future calls on other topics that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

Meanwhile, on Tikkun Daily, where I am cross-posted, a small flurry of activity ensued when their managing editor, Dave Belden, issued an invitation to people to come to the call. In one reply to that article Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun, was immensely critical of NVC, which he sees as a generally useful tool that has the danger of turning people away from noticing what’s happening in the world and taking action to change it. In this comment he went further to say that NVC is “a stumbling block–they seem to think that the communication style is an end in itself. Unfortunately, NVC is compatible with what others have called ‘friendly fascism.’”

You can imagine this was not easy or fun to read. In the end, I wrote a new post called How NVC Can Help Progressive Politics. Even if you read the entire mini-series, that one piece is shorter and different enough in its focus that you may want to read it. (Of course writing it also meant that I wasn’t as available to write the next post for my own baby blog.)

I want to conclude with two invitations. One is for people local to the Bay Area, and one to people in many countries. The local is an invitation to Speaking Peace - BayNVC’s free annual fundraiser, during which I am doing an hour-long introduction to NVC (I rarely do those), and a rich program with music and celebrations and food. Yes, we ask people to contribute, and, true to our principles, only what people are moved to give freely is what we want.

The second invitation is to a new teleclass I am teaching next year through the NVC Academy. This is a yearlong class called Taking on the World: Learning to Become a Change Agent. My hope is to attract people who are serious about wanting to bring a consciousness and practice of nonviolence into the world at all levels. I hope to hear you there.


  1. Miki, I felt so relieved to read your acknowledgment that NVC is compatible with friendly fascism. We have a program here in Western Mass. that we have been running in the court system for 5+years. We teach NVC as a condition of probation to criminal defendants. Our teaching staff can no longer refer to our program as NVC because none of our teachers can afford the $5000+ costs of certification. We are thinking of calling our program "the Andrews method," after the name of one of our teachers. It saddens me greatly that certification is not affordable. Maybe this is as it should be. It will diminish the availability of NVC to those who cannot afford it. Maybe that's what's meant to happen when an organization claims ownership and the exclusive right to use the term, "nonviolent communication." A strange turn of events. But maybe a turn of events that's compatible with what's happening in the world today. Jon

  2. hello jon,

    I wanted to respond to your comment and say a few things. First, that I am delighted that you have this program, hoping it contributes to the community you are serving. Second, that I am saddened with you that you haven't found a way to get the teachers certified. I am quite confident that scholarships and other methods are available to circumvent the cost (and I am not sure where you got that figure). Third, and related to that, I am wondering if any of you have been in dialogue in any way with CNVC to explore options.

    lastly, I had absolutely no intention of providing "acknowledgment that NVC is compatible with friendly fascism" - on the contrary! that was Michael Lerner's idea, and my latest post on Tikkun Daily is there precisely to express why I DISAGREE with that characterization. So I have a sense of being understood in exactly the opposite way from my intention. Please read that post to get more clarity about my perspective on this.

    I wish you lots of sustenance and inspiration and support in doing the important work you are undertaking.


  3. Having now read this post, Michael Lerner's post and comments, and Miki's response, I'm stimulated in so many ways! Sadness and frustration re: what I experience as a lack of conceptual clarity -- I think there is confusion about what is "NVC" and what is "CNVC" and what is the how/where/when of people's attempts to practice NVC in the world. (Eg., it is not "NVC" that says what words can or cannot be used to describe itself -- the requests about the words come from CNVC, and I too have very deep pain about all of that for many reasons, including that I want to be transparent when I'm sharing NVC that that is what I'm doing.) I also experience excitement about seeing these issues articulated in a spirit of shared desire for learning and effectiveness in creating a world that is more loving and where more people's needs are met. I have a sense I could write for hours about all this! However, I doubt that would be an effective use of time, so I'll stop here for now. May the dialogue continue. Jean

  4. Re: Miki's comments about getting teachers certified and the costs involved -- I believe Jon is referring to the guidelines from CNVC for sharing NVC if one isn't a certified trainer. I agree with Jon that obtaining the training requested to become certified can easily cost thousands of dollars and take several years. I also know there are lots of strong feelings (related, of course, to needs) in response to the new guidelines that came out on Sept 15. I'm not sure if Miki is aware that there are attempts to communicate with CNVC about all that -- I've seen posts about it on the cert candidates listserv -- and my impression is that it is a very complicated endeavor that affects far more than Jon's program. It affects any of us who want to share NVC but aren't certified.

  5. I regret my post about NVC certification, as I would like to keep the focus on NVC as it relates to personal growth and social change. Want to support learning and dialogue about that in this space. Respectfully, Jean

  6. Dear Miki,
    For the past month or so, i have been following reports and commentary in the media regarding the mid-term elections, specifically the language and behavior of the candidates, media personalities, and the public. I have also been following your blog in the hopes of finding support for my own beliefs and inspiration. I am delighted to hear about your new course at the NVC Academy - the title, "Taking on the World: Learning to Become a Change Agent", exactly expresses what I'd like to explore at this time. So, I thank you for developing and offering this course!

  7. Dear Miki and Readers of this blog,
    I teach with Jon in the western Massachusetts program for people mandated by probation to take an anger management class.
    We teach our understanding of the NVC model and find the students generally respond with openness and curiosity to the idea that we can replace our conventional focus on blame and judgment with a focus on feelings and needs.
    Most of our students are acutely aware of the hierarchy of power in our society and many assume the justice system functions primarily to enforce that hierarchy.
    I value the chance to work with our students because I learn from their perspective on our dilemma. My middle class friends tend to have a hard time acknowledging the power structure we live in because they are so far up in it they're afraid of what they'll lose if they're displaced and talking about how the power is distrubuted and maintained is most often labeled "subversive".
    I have a utopian vision of a future community of people who practice NVC. In it people have differing perspectives so that they can share what they have learned about our dilemma and can help each other think without blame or judgment about our options for change.
    I'm reminded as I watch the shift in CNVC's guidelines that in the years I've been involved with NVC I've observed that the people I meet and hear about in the NVC movement are primarily affluent. I think that the guidelines shift reflects the market pressure I've also seen in the co-ops I love.
    In order to build institutions you need money and I believe that the history of religious institutions particularly shows that the struggle to build the institution ties it to the more powerful in the society.
    From the little I know about it, the Bay Area NVC seemed to be working on a model that tried to shift resources from the more affluent sectors of the community to support activity in poorer areas. That's the only way I can imagine to have activity in the poorer part of the community.
    If we want NVC to be a force for change, to help us all better meet our needs for justice and fairness, we'll need to reach many people who live in many positions in the society and have many perspectives to add to our thinking. As long as we keep waiting for the benevolent rich to give us what we need we will be stuck in the same place.