Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Certifiably Crazy

Tomorrow I travel to Seattle, and then on to Vancouver Island for my final step in Nonviolent Communication Certification as a Trainer. I wonder now what it means to be "certified?" In some ways there is a contradiction here - to use labels to categorize oneself or others can shut down an openness to learn about the other and to listen to them. Isn't Compassionate Communication all about not using labels or categorizing people? Perhaps, except when labels, positions, or categories can meet needs. What we long for in our lives is choice - and to have total choice this means that we can opt for judging others to meet needs. In my case, to be a "Certified Trainer" opens up doorways to support others within Unitarian Universalism and peace and multispecies activism, and this means a lot to me. I long for harmony, choice, and beauty and if being labeled as a "Trainer" helps others feel supported and have confidence in compassionate communication, then I will gladly wear that label. Perhaps I'm a bit certifiably crazy to dream of such a world where choice, interdependence, peace, and autonomy are the hallmarks of relationships. How about you?

What labels do you use on yourself? What needs are met by being "certified" as a parent, teacher, student, or spouse?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When is a Jerk a Jerk?

In recent conversations I have heard others argue, "sometimes you just have to call people jerks." They aren't saying that you need to say this out loud to others, or that the people whose behavior doesn't meet your needs aren't children of God or the Universe. What they are trying to communicate to me is that certain behavior is "not acceptable." By calling people a jerk you have passed a judgment on the actions and not on the people themselves who of course, according to our Unitarian Universalist principles, always have inherent worth and dignity. So it's okay to let the inner chatter label people as jerks, right? Or to use this label or any other label as a short cut to trusted friends to speed up and clarify communication, right?

I've been thinking about this and here's what goes on for me. If I use the word "jerk" or categorize people in any way, even just in my thoughts, I shift. My heart constricts and I am less open to listening, empathizing, and connecting to other people and the dream of the way I wish to live. As a practitioner of Compassionate Communication therefore I attempt to identify the needs of what others are attempting to meet and let that be both the inner and outer conversation. In this way my heart opens to life and possibility and what we might do together.

Practice: One time today, observe when you label someone and she how you feel with this. Then identify the needs the person is pursuing and attempt to empathize with them. Does this make a difference in how you feel?