Whole Thinking, Politics, and Religion

There is an old adage that one should not discuss politics or religion.

I say that’s out-dated.

Frankly, in most places in our world right now, everything is political. In the US, where freedom is touted as the cornerstone of our culture, we still have some military personnel and GOP congresspersons who want to keep LGBT persons out of the military. We still have domestic terrorist groups who murder medical providers of legal abortions. We still have homelessness, poverty, crime, unemployment, massive intentional mortgage fraud, corporate and government corruption and an epidemic of legal noncompliance with labor laws.

I say the reason all of this happens can be explained by looking at a lack of Whole Thinking (TM pending). Whole Thinking can be measured by examining:
Critical Thinking Skills
Emotional Intelligence Skills
Use of Psychological Defense Mechanisms
and Intellectual Honesty

Or not. Those who do not think wholly or who have or choose to have incomplete thinking, are not using these skills or do not have these skills.

When a human being is lacking in critical thinking skills, intellectual honesty, emotional intelligence skills, and/or critical thinking skills – depending on the extent of this condition, they are likely to have extremely diminished intelligence and/or have a mental illness or personality disorder. If you have a serious personality disorder or mental illness that prevents you from thinking critically, you probably shouldn’t be a government leader. You cannot have it both ways.

The world’s religions all have extremely similar messages: do not harm others, be good to others, do not take more than your share, etc. Yet there is incredible distortion of those messages all in the service of hatred, greed, violence and more intentional fraud. Again, you can’t have it both ways. You cannot say you’re a christian and yet choose to further enrich the wealthy while denying basic financial and healthcare rights to the poor. You cannot say your’re a christian and burn the holy books of other religious traditions.

The US is supposed to be built on a foundation of the separation of church and state, and yet there are vast numbers of politicians who “refudiate” this and insist, incorrectly, that the US is “a christian nation”. These are symptoms of a lack of critical reasoning skills and intellectual honesty in most cases. Christine O’Donnell revealed that she truly believed that there was nothing in the US Constitution that insisted on the separation of church and state, and in her case, she seemed to truly believe this out of stupidity and ignorance, which is different.

When factually incorrect statements are made, it is done either out of stupidity or for fraudulent purposes.

Christine O’Donnell and others who make factually incorrect statements about important things like the US Constitution are as irresponsible as Islamic extremists who repeat factually incorrect statements about the Koran to illiterate young people in order to get them to join their cause.

Most GOP politicians, however, intentionally make factually incorrect statements in order to defraud voters. The GOP knows very well that the Bush Tax Cuts have been in place for the past ten years and have failed to create jobs or trickle down to the middle and working classes. There are multiple credible reports that are statistically valid and reliable which prove that tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans do not create jobs, stimulate the economy, or trickle down.

In fact, the tax savings for the wealthiest 2% of Americans often winds up in offshore banking accounts or invested into yachts or the purchase of a 5th home – sometimes the money is re-invested into corporations, which also do not pay enough taxes – and which frequently pay no taxes at all.

When there is intentional deception, we call this fraud. In England, making false statements in campaigns is unlawful. We need that law here.

Ideally, all US citizens would be informed by credible news sources such as Democracy Now!, F.A.I.R., Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, The Nation, and the Daily Kos. Unfortunately, many Americans watch FOX, listen to Rush, or otherwise allow themselves to believe absolute untruths about important issues that affect all of our lives.

That is why everything is political. School funding, sexuality, birth control, medical care, what is in our food, housing issues, laws about workplaces, sick time at work for employees, water safety, protection from injury or death from or at work, protection to keep oceans clean, the price of gas, who gets sent to war, etc. It’s all political.

An old classmate from junior high had something on her facebook page that said, “not interested in politics”. Really? Seriously? If someone told her that she couldn’t sleep with or marry the person she loved, would she suddenly become interested in politics? Probably. If the water from her faucet was making her children sick or was flammable, might she suddenly care? Probably.

The question is, how can those of us who understand that everything is political, that the GOP intentionally lies to voters, and that we all need to be mobilized in solidarity to protect our very lives and those of our children – get through to these people?

It isn’t easy because we are often up against a lack of whole thinking. When a person truly believes that the GOP cares about them even though they earn less than $250k a year and do not own a corporation, there is something very wrong with that person’s ability to think clearly, understand facts, use crtical reasoning skills, stop using denial as a defense mechanism and there may be a lack of emotional intelligence skills, particularly in the empathy and social responsibility hubs.

When a person is stubbornly unwilling to listen to facts that discredit and debunk their strongly held opinions, this is a combination of intellectual dishonesty, a lack of critical reasoning skills, and a large number of defense mechanisms being used.

Persons who intentionally deceive others without regard for the harm they cause are considered sociopaths. Studies have shown that many corporate leaders and workplace bullies are sociopaths. I put forth that most GOP politicians are also sociopaths.

When journalists cannot get a politician or leader to answer a question directly, there is something wrong. That person is unwilling to be discovered for the fraud he or she is. There is a very unhealthy willingness to think that one can dodge direct questions and get away with it.

Luckily, more and more Americans are waking up to the fact that sociopathic, dishonest GOP (and other) politicians are defrauding them of their mortgages, their workplace rights, their voting rights and their rights to liberty and justice for all.

There should be absolutely zero injection of anything religious into politics or government other than protections for the freedom of religion and laws to address civil rights violations based on freedom of religion. Given that the US has so many leaders in the GOP who actively engage in incitment of violence towards persons based on their religion, we have a serious problem. In any ordinary workplace, such comments could result in termination. GOP candidates like Sharron Angle and Jan Brewer need to be similarly held accountable for their hate speech. This is also an example of a lack of whole thinking. Angle and Brewer need to learn critical reasoning skills, emotional intelligence skills and how they are using their defense mechanisms in a way that makes them more sociopathically mentally ill than qualified for public office.

When religion is used to violate others’ rights, campaign for the GOP in violation of IRS tax codes or incite hate and violence by violating others’ civil rights, something is very wrong. This is also an example of a lack of whole thinking. The GOP loves to quote the constitution and the bible selectively. This is intellectually dishonest as well as lacking in critical reasoning skills. This is probably driven by the use of defense mechanisms; there is such a thing as racism psychosis. Therefore, there are also such things as sexism psychosis, LGBT psychosis, ethnic psychosis, Islamaphobia psychosis, etc. Homophobes have sexuality psychosis. These are mental illnesses and those with these mental illnesses should not be in governmental leadership positions.

The fact that voters respond favorably to the epidemic of psychosis in GOP leaders is indeed disturbing. Those of us who recognize the GOP for the hate-mongers and fraudsters they are, must continue to tell this to all those who have been duped by the GOP.

Those who engage in intentional fraud via public office need to be called out as purveyors of fraud and prosecuted as in the UK. Those who try to impose religion into US government, need to be censured. Those who incite hatred and violence also need to be censured.

The US needs to look at what works in other nations and stop this delusion that “we are number one”, when in fact, we are not number one in the important categories of life expectancy, health care quality, health care per capita expense, lack of crime, college graduation rates, labor laws, whistleblower protections, environmental protections, etc.

It is a salient fact that many GOP politicians and religious leaders who have been vehemently against LGBT rights eventually are found to be self-hating homosexuals. This does make one wonder what is in John McCain’s closet.

We see the workings of defense mechanisms daily in our politics and in religion. Luckily more and more voters are seeing through this and are calling hypocrisy, fraud, lying, intellectual dishonesty and manipulation when they see them. We need much more of this.

I don’t quite understand anyone who votes for the GOP given what they stand for. They are no longer the party of Lincoln. They are the party of corporate greed, civil rights violations and creating a permanent US Hooverville over which they and their billionaire cronies will preside.

They want to defund education to keep the electorate ignorant and unquestioning so they remain in power. They want to erode labor laws, whistleblower protections and civil rights protections so they can do whatever they want in their lives and in their corporations and so workers have no recourse.

It is true that throughout history, oppressed peoples have found ways to rise up against the kind of tyranny that the GOP seeks to impose on the US. They will not say this is their goal, because they know that if they did, they would lose 98% of their votes. So, they count on ignorant and uneducated voters to believe them.

The GOP seems to have forgotten the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the countless resistance movements in many other nations over the last thousand years. An oppressed people will not remain oppressed.

It is mind-blowing that many in the GOP consider themselves to be christians given that Jesus was a middle-eastern man who provided free healthcare, called on people to love one another and not judge each other, and was opposed to the economic oppression of anyone.

When you encounter a lack of whole thinking in yourself or others, think about it. When you see facts that are new to you; consider them and their source. Glenn Beck is on the air, but he does not speak facts. There are incorrect and untrue things on the internet. Not all news has journalistic integrity. Consider where you get your news.

A woman I knew when I was growing up considers all Muslims to be bad. She is a Jew and has a firm understanding of what bigotry is, when it comes to Jews, Blacks, LGBT persons, etc. But she does not see that her dislike of all Muslims makes her a bigot. We have had conversations about this a few time, and it appears that some progress is being made.

Progress. Progressives must do what they can when they can to break through the lack of whole thinking in the US. If that means pissing off family members, neighbors, classmates, friends, spouses, lovers, etc., so be it. It must be done.


Whole Thinking: Emotional Intelligence, Intellectual Honesty, Psychological Defenses, and Critical Reasoning Skills

All of these are interconnected and affect each other.

Let’s use these abbreviations for them as we continue: EI, IH, PD, and CR.

One cannot have sound critical reasoning skills and still be blinded by more than a few minor psychological defenses. One cannot be intellectually dishonest and have sound critical reasoning skills. One’s psychological defenses will affect one’s emotional intelligence, critical reasoning skills, and ability to be intellectually honest.

What examples of this do you see in your own personal or worklife?

Here are a few examples to think about:

The BP Oil Disaster has been called “not a disaster” by some politicians. We can see the lack of EI in this lack of empathy. We can see a lack of critical reasoning skills in this political dismissal of all reports on this disaster from environmental experts. We can also see a lack of intellectual honesty as hyperbole is used to compare this to Watergate, when those are not even comparable. What I believe drives this are psychological defenses in place that trump the skills of EI, IH, and CR.

A mother is furious that her daughter cannot attend her sister’s bridal shower. The mother forgot to tell her daughter when it would be. The daughter had plans and was unavailable. The mother became furious and displaced her anger at herself and at the situation onto her daughter. The mother said things like:

“I just thought you would be there”.
“but it’s your sister’s bridal shower”
“You don’t know how to be a maid of honor – why don’t you google that?!”
“You’re jealous and selfish”

So, what have we here? We have a mother whose psychological defenses and lack of EI are completely eclipsing any abilities she may have had to engage in intellectual honesty or critical reasoning skills.

If her latter skills (IH and CR) were stronger than her PD and lack of EI, she would simply be able to say, “Oh, I should have told you the date sooner. I know how busy you are. Oh well, I know you’ll send a gift. We’ll tell you all about it”.

Also, there is the fact that the way we respond to conflict (which is inevitable among humans and that is not necessarily a bad thing), is directly related to how much of our identity we ourselves impart into the conflict.

In the case of the mother, some of the other things she said were “I am a good mother” and “I’m not angry; you’re angry” and “this is not my conflict; this is your conflict”.

This woman (the mother)had the following beliefs about her identity and was not able to question them for herself:

1. Good people do not get angry
2. Good mothers do not make mistakes when planning bridal showers
3. Good people do not have conflicts
4. Conflict is bad
5. Anger is bad
6. I need to blame someone (because she didn’t know what else to do with her anger and it was too uncomfortable for her to take responsibility for her own mistake because she believes that a mother who makes such a scheduling error is a “bad” mother).
7. I cannot and will not acknowledge that I made an error
8. The bridal shower will be ruined if my daughter cannot attend
9. People will think bad things about me and us if one of my daughters is not at the bridal shower

What is wrong with all of these beliefs? They are untrue and limiting. What prevents someone from overriding deeply-entrenched psychological defenses and low EI by employing their IH and CR skills?

Several things:

Fear of learning, development and growth
Fear of acknowledging that the way we’ve been thinking or doing things before was not optimal
Fear of imperfection
Fear of acknowledging errors and feeling shame over those errors
Fear of acknowleding that what we were taught by our parents was not optimal
Shame in general
Disdain for intellect, learning, discovery, or psychology
Disdain for change
Disdain for and fear of the short-lived (but worthwhile) discomfort that can come from overcoming harmful psychological defenses

What else? Think about it.

When we are using Whole Thinking (TM pending), we are checking ourselves via our thoughts and feelings through the following filters:

The 16 subscales of Emotional Intelligence based on the Bar-On EQi, (I will examine these in a future post, but descriptions are elsewhere on this blog)
The Psychological Defenses (ditto),
Sound Understanding of Critical Reasoning Skills,
and we are checking with ourselves to see if we’re being Intellectually Honest.

Obviously doing this requires that we be familiar with all of the above. When we are, we become very practiced in doing this and what may sound like an onerous process can be done fairly quickly and become simply a very healthy habit that benefits oneself and others.

It’s as simple as “processing” something – only it is more than just taking the time to understand one’s thoughts and feelings; it is also holding our understandings of our thoughts and feelings (our whole perceptions) to standards around criteria that we know to be sound, healthy, and clear.

We already do this in our thinking regularly, but refining our thinking and stretching our thinking/feeling skills as well as better-integrating those (thinking and feeling, which influence each other), the more wholly we think.

Another tool that can help in the development of all of these learned skills is NVC (non-violent communication), which was created by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD. There is a free course to learn NVC at http://www.nycnvc.com and there are also links and posts about NVC on this blog going back to Spring of 2009.


10 Reasons to Learn NVC (Non-Violent Communication)

10 Reasons to Learn NVC:

1. Stay more centered, open and effective in conflicts

2. Have more fun, joy and pleasure

3. Experience less painful and shorter conflicts

4. Increase congruence between your values and actions

5. Move from conflict to mutual strategies

6. Have more awareness of your needs, wants and desires

7. Have your needs expressed and understood

8. Translate judgments into dialogues & requests

9. Increase harmony and understanding among others

10. Have a more wonderful life

Comprehensive Introduction to NVC

The NVC courses and weekends take us from the very beginning concepts to a deeper understanding of the purpose, meaning and implications NVC has in our lives and in the world. Learning groups practice responding and communicating consciously by expressing and hearing, based on what we are observing, feeling, needing, and requesting.

Through the introduction of concepts in combination with experiential exercises, demonstrations, role plays and more, participants learn the foundations and concepts of NVC and have first hand experience practicing, and ultimately developing skills to bring back into their lives.

307 7th Avenue
Suite 1201
New York, NY 10001


NVC can be understood as a “language” that helps us translate what others are saying about their feelings and needs – even if they’re not using NVC. This does require effort, and so not all interactions are ones in which most people use NVC.

NVC helps anyone who learns it better understand their own feelings and needs, have better awareness of others’ feelings and needs, and both think and speak in a new language that fosters understanding, cooperation, and better interpersonal relations in general.

Ideally, all persons engaging in conflicts will know and practice NVC, however, this is not always possible as very few people have learned NVC thus far.

Even when only one person knows and practices NVC in a conflict, it often has a positive effect on the conflict and the parties involved.

NVC is particularly helpful in family and romantic relationships as well as in workplace professional relationships. NVC was developed by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, and he has used it to help improve group relations among those who have previously been involved in high-conflict situations such as ethnic and racial conflicts that have resulted in wars and genocides.

I encourage as many people as possible to learn and practice NVC.


How NVC, EI, and Sound Conflict Resolution are Effective in All Human Relationships

I highly recommend NVC (Non-Violent Communication) study and practice for anyone wishing to improve their self-awareness, have their needs met, improve their relationships and communication skills, and be more empathic to self and others. Perhaps most importantly, NVC teaches that we aim to have our needs met, but never at the expense of anyone else’s needs and that this is possible.

NYCNVC, founded and led by Certified NVC Trainer, Thom Bond, is an excellent source for NVC training. Please visit www.NYCNVC.org to learn more.

NVC TOOLS For Men and Women:
Please click on the letters “NVC” (below) to learn more about how NVC can help us all:


View more presentations from UCSC.

NVC Feelings List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

NVC Needs List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

Here is an example of why I recommend NVC:

I observe that many of us are in relationships and workplaces in which our needs are not met.
I observe that this is a great source of pain and stress for so many of us.

NVC has helped me learn that I also have core needs for mutuality, joy, well-being, self-expression, purpose, respect, integrity, trust, nurturing, and affection.

When I don’t have my needs met, I experience unpleasant emotions which can be difficult.
NVC taught me that I can identify my feelings which will help me identify my needs.
NVC also taught me that once I identify my needs, there are 10,000 ways in which I can get those needs met.
This is true of all human beings

It’s so simple, yet so profound.

We can all identify our needs and then make conscious choices that will help us get our needs met!

This improves all of our lives, relationships, families, workplaces, teams, groups, and communities.

I make this request of myself: that I continually check in with myself regarding how I am feeling in response to those around me. That I value my feelings and that I check in with myself regarding what my feelings tell me about my needs and whether they are being met or not. That I also value the feelings and needs of others and check in with them when we share a connection that is healthy for us both.

I further request of myself that I value myself, my feelings, and my needs very much–so much that I request of myself that I make conscious choices about my life, actions, relationships, workplace activities, friendships, and use of my time and effort that will meet my needs, but not at the expense of someone else’s needs.

NVC taught me that everything anyone ever does or says is to meet a need of theirs. This can help us understand those who provoke anger, sadness, shock, or disgust from us.

When we practice NVC, we honor our feelings and needs as well as those of others, and we learn simple ways to communicate about these in constructive ways.

We also learn in NVC that when we make a request of someone or when someone makes a request of us, the answers of yes OR no, must be acceptable, otherwise it is not a request, but rather a demand. Ask yourself if you make requests or demands of those in your life. Ask yourself if those in your life make requests or demands of you.

We also learn that when the answer to a request is a NO, that a “NO” is really a “YES To Something Else”. We may need to ask more questions to learn what that is. Communication – Non-Violent Communication.

Practice is key, as most of us were raised and taught the opposite of this. NVC also teaches us that EMPATHY has enormous healing potential. We can shift in conflicts with others. We can approach conflict with the curiosity of an anthropologist or journalist in order to help us understand the other person and connect with him or her.

HOWEVER! We can only offer empathy when we ourselves are not in need of it. If we are hurting and need empathy, we are simply not capable of giving empathy to others. What a wonderful world it would be if everyone was fully aware of their feelings and needs and if everyone was trained in how to give empathy to heal others and themsevles. We can also give ourselves self-empathy.

When empathy is given, conflicts can be resolved. There can be understanding. There can be healing.

Practice is KEY. NYCNVC offers practice groups for those committed to integrating what they learn in NVC class into their lives, which is not so easy when everyone around you has not studied NVC!

NVC can be life-changing. Studying NVC for only one weekend or for nine weeks in a nightly course with a Certified NVC trainer can change your life and give you simple, important tools to enhance your life, your joy, your work, and your relationships with yourself and others!

I hope you will visit the website of Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, who created NVC. It is listed on my blogroll. Please visit your local NVC Certified Trainer for more information! There are only 76 Certified NVC trainers in the US.

NVC works perfectly with sound conflict resolution procedures and with the 15 subscales of the EQi an Emotional Intelligence instrument developed by Reuven Bar-On, Phd. I will expand on how these work well together in future posts.

Kindest regards,

Guest Post – More on Love and Fear from Dr. Srinivasan Pillay

This is part 2 to Dr. Srinivasan Pillay’s Part 1: On Love and Fear
Oringinally posted on the Huffington Post

by Srinivasan Pillay
Certified Master Coach, Psychiatrist, Brain Imaging Researcher and Speaker

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on the reasons that love may turn to fear. They are: (1) Attachment and ownership: that creates fear of loss; (2) Trust: that creates fear of disappointment; and (3) The flow state of being in love: that creates fear of loss of control. These are just some of the many reasons that love can turn to fear, but if we look at these more deeply, how can we think about them? And what can we do about them?

The subject of attachment has long been written about and if we merely go with “what we are”, we usually default to one of three types of attachment based on our brain chemistry and genetics, psychology and social experiences: secure, anxious or avoidant. My experience is that everybody has different degrees of all three, but as you can see, anxious and avoidant attachment styles are fear-based styles. To the extent that loss of ownership is one of the reasons we become afraid, we need to deeply examine the dynamics of ownership. For example, we tend to like things more after we own them than before we own them and the reward system of the brain activates more when this happens. This has been called the “endowment effect”. Thus, in ownership, some distortion of value is occurring that makes the fear of loss even greater. This is not the only problem with ownership-it violates a fundamental principle of life: that we subjectively attribute an immortality to a very mortal relationship. We act as though we are going to take things and people with us when we die. In the recommendations section below, we will examine how we can address this challenge.

In terms of trust, this stems in part from attachment, but also, because “trust’ creates good feelings and releases the same hormone (in men and women) that facilitates birth and breastfeeding. But trust is also based on an assumption: that we always know, and we don’t. Furthermore, it is also based on the assumption that there are no secrets between people who love each other-which is a noble but unrealistic expectation of any human psychology. Research shows that secrets, after all, perpetuate the same phenomenon as ownership. They make you love what you are keeping secret even more. Yet, they also perpetuate a sense of non-sharing in the person you are keeping the secret from and a drum-roll that something bad may happen. Trust and fear are always competing for the attention of the emotion processor in the brain-the amygdala. But what is the solution here? We will look at this a little later.

And then there is the “flow state”- that “in the zone” feeling that you feel when your life seems so much in place. At last-even the sun seems brighter and the worst day of your life seems okay because you are in the flow state of love. Until-of course-you suddenly start to get disoriented as though you are gliding on endless cross-country skies wondering when exactly you are going to fall. And surprise, surprise – you do. So you see there are some basic themes here that lead us into our recommendations.

Recommendations: 1. In all three bridges, love turns to fear when the attention switches from the other person to you: “I may lose”, “I may be disappointed”, ‘I may fall out of flow”. Is this the invitation to fear-the switch from concern about other to concern about self? Do we care more or less about ourselves when we care for others? Conventional wisdom has it that we must care for ourselves-and I agree with that. But outside of the morality of right and wrong, it simply feels better to care for others than ourselves. 2. In all three bridges, attention switches from what we have loved (and is still there) to what we hate. Why is it so much easier to remember the bad things than the good things? Evolutionary protective mechanism? Perhaps. But in any case, it would behoove us to train our brains to remember the good things more often. Yes, it will feel “false” but it is not more “false” than the bad things that you remember. It just takes effort. 3. In all three bridges, it would be helpful if we could simply not be victims of time. It is as though time breeds insecurity, in part, because it reveals the complexity of people we might have polarized when we were in love. But does time really reveal the complexity or distort the simple vulnerable beauty of those who disappoint us? At the core, are not most human brings simply unable to integrate what it is about being human in as consistent a way as we would like? And if we know this about ourselves-truly know this-why would we expect something different from others?

This is just an introduction to the thinking about when fear turns to love, but in essence, I am suggesting that we don’t have to “seek out” a spirituality of being human. It is already there-suffocating and begging beneath our fears to be released to ourselves. A connection to our dreamy, timeless selves, biologically, also connects us to the most intuitive parts of our brains. And if we look a little closer, we may see that we are not “in love’ or “afraid” but really, we are the bridges that facilitate this to and fro on a daily basis. What if we ceased to become these bridges and moved to a perspective that would allow us to “observe” or “experience” these emotions. What would that do?

Bio: Srinivasan Pillay

Dr. Srini Pillay is an internationally recognized executive coach, public speaker, psychiatrist, and brain imaging researcher who is focused on the fields of personal and organizational transformation. His aim is to help people and corporations achieve their dreams by drawing on his expertise that addresses the intersections of coaching, biology, psychology and spirituality.

As a “Certified Master Coach”, Srini is on the faculty of the “Behavioral Coaching Institute” where he teaches business executives internationally from a variety of different companies, including Fortune 500 companies, the art of coaching, with a special emphasis on using neuroscience to enhance communication, decision-making, and transformation.

As a Psychiatrist, Srini trained at Mclean Hospital, Harvard’s largest psychiatric training hospital. He graduated with the award for the most scholarly work during his residency. He was also one of the top three award winners nationally. After graduating, Srini became the “Director of the Mclean Hospital Outpatient Anxiety Disorders Program”, where he gained national and international recognition for his expertise in stress and anxiety. He is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and has a clinical practice in Cambridge, MA.

As a Public Speaker, his knowledge of burnout, layoffs, anxiety and stress has been sought out by the media. He has made numerous television appearances and he has been quoted in the Boston Globe, Newsweek magazine and Men’s Health magazine on stress and anxiety. ABC.com has featured him as an international expert on their new health internet site. He is a regular columnist for the living section of the Huffington Post.

Srini has also been a “brain-imaging researcher” for the past fifteen years. He has had numerous publications and has been nationally funded. He continues this work as a consultant to the University of Utah with his former mentors from Harvard.

Currently, Srini is starting a company called “NeuroBusiness group” that is focused on providing information, assessment tools and software, coaching and consultation services that draws on research grounded in psychology, coaching and the neurosciences to promote personal and organizational transformation. He is finishing a self-help book based on scientific research to assist people in overcoming fear. The book is scheduled for release late in 2009 or early 2010.

In addition to recently writing four original screenplays, Srini is currently completing the making of a documentary movie and composing the music for it. His passion is in integrating the science and art of life and bringing a realistic, hopeful and transformational message to the people he encounters. His deepest belief is in the power of love for transformation.

Contact information: boundariless@mac.com

Guest Post from Dr. Srinivasan Pillay on Love and Fear

by Srinivasan Pillay,
Certified Master Coach, Psychiatrist, Brain Imaging Researcher and Speaker

This article was previously posted on the Huffington Post.

Love and fear are seemingly disparate emotional states, yet they seem to have a close relationship to each other. On the surface, love is a positive emotion that fosters a connection between people, whether they are parents, lovers, friends or family of any kind. Fear, on the other hand, does exactly the opposite. When we fear someone or something, we want to do anything other than connect with the feared person or object. In contrast, we want to stop the fear from inhabiting our bodies and we do whatever we can to avoid the feared person or situation. Yet, love often gives rise to fear, and fear has been known to give rise to love as well. Why can such apparently opposite emotions give birth to each other and what is the connection that keeps them alive in this “creative” relationship? In focusing on romantic love, I will discuss some of these bridges. In this, part I, I will focus on when love turns to fear.

When we are first in love, we feel the confidence of the attachment. We feel the great joy of being with someone and the good fortune of being able to see them again and again. But as this joy increases, so does the attachment. And for many people, this attachment creates a fear of loss. It is at this point that love comes to give rise to fear – when we lose the joy of the connection and want to hold onto it. This seems paradoxical, but is not. Rather than allowing the power of our whole beings to foster the connection, we invoke mainly conscious thought processes of “trying not to lose”. Thus attachment or desire for ownership is the first bridge from love to fear.

In the human brain, the amygdala registers emotion. When we are afraid, the amygdala activates. When we trust, the amygdala becomes “calmer”. When we are calm in love, this “trust” center in the brain is on cruise control, but when we start to deepen our connections, we sometimes create reasons to question the trust and the “trust” center becomes restless. How long will you actually be with this person? Will they always be in love with you? What if they leave once they get to know you more deeply? These questions disrupt the trust (and the amygdala) and the love that once was starts to turn into fear. The fear of being disappointed. Since love is a continuous negotiation of trust as the relationship gets deeper and deeper, any lessening of trust converts love into fear. Thus, trust (or the absence of it) is the second bridge that connects love to fear.

Love is also a flow state. It lightens one’s burden in life and creates a feeling of freedom where we seem to appreciate things more and feel grateful for what we have. However, this lightness can also be unbearable, as Milan Kundera has noted in his book: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. It is a bit like skiing and not knowing how to stop. When we question this flow, we effectively hit the brakes, and the brakes in this case are fear. Love becomes fear when we question the flow state. Effectively, we become uncomfortable with not “knowing” and when we start to analyze how we are doing what we are doing and ask other questions (Where is this going? What will happen to us?), we pull ourselves out of the power of the unconscious into the sludge of the conscious brain. Thus, questioning the flow state is the third bridge that connects love to fear.

With these bridges in mind, how do we close the gates to fear and should we? Whether we should or not, the truth is that we are often driven to. Conventionally, we do so in the following ways: To deal with the “ownership” anxiety we may, in the more extreme cases, marry, for example. But this seems to do little for protecting us from fear. To deal with “trust” fears, we try to be as self-revealing as possible, but this also compromises one’s own personhood. And to deal with the flow state, we schedule times for flow: vacation, sex, or date-nights. But can you really schedule flow? When you give up the mystery, aren’t you moving away from the original source of that positive emotion? Next week, we will take a closer look at strategies we can use to deal with these challenges, but here is an outline of what we will address: (1) Can we get over ownership by “detaching” spiritually? (2) Why should commitment precede trust? (3) How can we understand flow states more deeply so that we are less intimidated about them?

Bio: Srinivasan Pillay

Dr. Srini Pillay is an internationally recognized executive coach, public speaker, psychiatrist, and brain imaging researcher who is focused on the fields of personal and organizational transformation. His aim is to help people and corporations achieve their dreams by drawing on his expertise that addresses the intersections of coaching, biology, psychology and spirituality.

As a “Certified Master Coach”, Srini is on the faculty of the “Behavioral Coaching Institute” where he teaches business executives internationally from a variety of different companies, including Fortune 500 companies, the art of coaching, with a special emphasis on using neuroscience to enhance communication, decision-making, and transformation.

As a Psychiatrist, Srini trained at Mclean Hospital, Harvard’s largest psychiatric training hospital. He graduated with the award for the most scholarly work during his residency. He was also one of the top three award winners nationally. After graduating, Srini became the “Director of the Mclean Hospital Outpatient Anxiety Disorders Program”, where he gained national and international recognition for his expertise in stress and anxiety. He is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and has a clinical practice in Cambridge, MA.

As a Public Speaker, his knowledge of burnout, layoffs, anxiety and stress has been sought out by the media. He has made numerous television appearances and he has been quoted in the Boston Globe, Newsweek magazine and Men’s Health magazine on stress and anxiety. ABC.com has featured him as an international expert on their new health internet site. He is a regular columnist for the living section of the Huffington Post.

Srini has also been a “brain-imaging researcher” for the past fifteen years. He has had numerous publications and has been nationally funded. He continues this work as a consultant to the University of Utah with his former mentors from Harvard.

Currently, Srini is starting a company called “NeuroBusiness group” that is focused on providing information, assessment tools and software, coaching and consultation services that draws on research grounded in psychology, coaching and the neurosciences to promote personal and organizational transformation. He is finishing a self-help book based on scientific research to assist people in overcoming fear. The book is scheduled for release late in 2009 or early 2010.

In addition to recently writing four original screenplays, Srini is currently completing the making of a documentary movie and composing the music for it. His passion is in integrating the science and art of life and bringing a realistic, hopeful and transformational message to the people he encounters. His deepest belief is in the power of love for transformation.

Contact information: boundariless@mac.com

The Excellent Work of Jackson Katz

Jackson Katz is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in gender violence prevention education with men and boys, particularly in the sports culture and the military. An educator, author and filmmaker, Katz is co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. MVP is the most widely utilized sexual and domestic violence prevention program in professional and college athletics. It has been implemented by seven NFL teams, including the New England Patriots, as well as the Boston Red Sox and several other Major League Baseball clubs.

Katz also directs the first worldwide gender violence prevention program in the history of the United States Marine Corps. His award-winning educational video Tough Guise, his featured appearances in the films Wrestling With Manhood and Spin The Bottle, and his nationwide lectures have brought his insights into masculinity and gender violence to millions of college and high school students. He is also the author of an influential new book, entitled “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help,” published by Sourcebooks in 2006. Since 1990, he has lectured at over 950 colleges, prep schools, high schools, middle schools, professional conferences and military installations in 44 states.

Katz holds academic degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Harvard University, and is currently a doctoral student in cultural studies and education at UCLA. A native of Boston, he lives with his family in the Los Angeles area. For more information see www.jacksonkatz.com.

Below are some excellent excerpts from his website:

Ten Things Men Can Do To Prevent Gender Violence

1. Approach gender violence as a MEN’S issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers

2. If a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner — or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general — don’t look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don’t know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counselor. DON’T REMAIN SILENT.

3. Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don’t be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.

4. If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.

5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.

6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the work of campus-based women’s centers.
Attend “Take Back the Night” rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.

7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (eg. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).

8. Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence. Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.

9. Don’t fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.

10. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men’s programs. Lead by example

Copyright 1999, Jackson Katz. www.jacksonkatz.com
Reprint freely with credit.

Gender Violence Prevention Education & Training


The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Model is a gender violence, bullying, and school violence prevention approach that encourages young men and women from all socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds to take on leadership roles in their schools and communities. The training is focused on an innovative “bystander” model that empowers each student to take an active role in promoting a positive school climate. The heart of the training consists of role-plays intended to allow students to construct and practice viable options in response to incidents of harassment, abuse, or violence before, during, or after the fact. Students learn that there is not simply “one way” to confront violence, but that each individual can learn valuable skills to build their personal resolve and to act when faced with difficult or threatening life situations.

The MVP Model originated in 1993 with the creation of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Program at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. With initial funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the multiracial MVP Program was designed to train male college and high school student-athletes and other student leaders to use their status to speak out against rape, battering, sexual harassment, gay-bashing, and all forms of sexist abuse and violence. A female component was added in the second year with the complementary principle of training female student-athletes and others to be leaders on these issues.

Why the initial focus on working with student-athletes? Ever since battered women’s programs and rape crisis centers established their first educational or “youth outreach” initiatives in the schools in the 1970’s, one of the key challenges they have faced is the apathy, defensiveness – and sometimes outright hostility – of male athletic directors, coaches, and student-athletes. While men and young men in the school-based athletic subculture have hardly been unique in their reluctance to embrace gender violence prevention education, they typically occupy a privileged position in school culture, and particularly in male peer culture. As such, male student-athletes – especially in popular team sports such as football, basketball, hockey, baseball, wrestling, and soccer – tend to have enormous clout when it comes to establishing or maintaining traditional masculine norms. Their support or lack of support for prevention efforts can make or break them.

For the past decade, the MVP Model has been utilized by the parent MVP Program at Northeastern University, as well as by dozens of other schools and school systems in Massachusetts, Iowa, Colorado, Washington, and elsewhere. It has been implemented in hundreds of educational settings with diverse school-based populations of boys and girls, men and women, working together and in single-sex formats. It is important to note that although it began in the sports culture, and retains some sports terminology, by the mid-1990’s MVP had moved from a near-exclusive focus on the athletic world to general populations of high school and college students, and other institutional settings.

Focus on Bystanders

MVP utilizes a creative “bystander” approach to gender violence and bullying prevention. It focuses on young men not as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers – and support abused ones. It focuses on young women not as victims or potential targets of harassment, rape and abuse, but as empowered bystanders who can support abused peers – and confront abusive ones. In this model, a “bystander” is defined as a family member, friend, classmate, teammate, coworker– anyone who is imbedded in a family, school, social, or professional relationship with someone who might in some way be abusive, or experiencing abuse.

The heart of the model is interactive discussion, in single-sex and mixed-gender classes and workshops, using real-life scenarios that speak to the experiences of young men and women in high school, college, and other areas of social life. The chief curricular innovation of MVP is a training tool called the Playbook, which consists of a series of realistic scenarios depicting abusive male (and sometimes female) behavior. The Playbook – with separate versions for boys/men and girls/women – transports participants into scenarios as witnesses to actual or potential abuse, then challenges them to consider a number of concrete options for intervention before, during, or after an incident.

Many people mistakenly believe that they have only two options in instances of actual or potential violence: intervene physically and possibly expose themselves to personal harm, or do nothing. As a result, they often choose to do nothing.

But intervening physically or doing nothing are not the only possible choices. The MVP Model seeks to provide bystanders with numerous options, most of which carry no risk of personal injury. With more options to choose from, people are more likely to respond and not be passive and silent – and hence complicit – in violence or abuse by others. Many young men and women, and people in US society in general, have been socialized to be passive bystanders in the face of sexist abuse and violence. This conditioning is reflected in the oft-heard statement that a situation “between a man and a woman” is “none of my business.”

One historical antecedent of this belief is the English common law doctrine that a man’s home is his castle, and that family matters are properly confined to the domestic sphere.

MVP sessions can only begin to explore this and some of the other deeply rooted cultural characteristics that contribute to bystander “apathy.” But one of the crucial aspects of MVP discussions – which are typically interactive and animated – is that focusing on specific cases of abuse can often lead to open, wide-ranging discussions about masculinity, femininity, gender relations, abuses of power and conformist behavior.

In single-sex sessions, racially diverse groups of young men and women discuss such questions as: why do some guys seek to control their girlfriends through force or intimidation? Why do some guys sexually assault girls? How do cultural definitions of manhood contribute to sexual and domestic violence and other sexist behaviors? How do cultural definitions of womanhood contribute to women’s victimization – or their resistance to same?

But the focus always goes back to the bystanders. For example, why do some young men make it clear that they won’t accept that sort of behavior from their peers, while others remain silent? How is the silence of peers understood by abusers? What are some of the informal policing mechanisms in male peer culture that keep young men from speaking out about these issues? In female culture? What message is conveyed to victims when the abuser’s friends don’t confront him? On a related note, why do some heterosexually identified men harass and beat up gay men? Does the accompanying silence on the part of some of their heterosexual peers – male and female – legitimize the abuse? Why or why not?

Unlike prevention efforts that target young men as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, MVP has the potential to expand dramatically the number of young men willing to confront the issue of men’s violence against women. This is a result of the MVP philosophy of working with men as empowered bystanders – not against them as potential perpetrators. This positive approach has the effect of reducing men’s defensiveness around the discussion of these issues, which provides the basis for the emergence of more proactive and preventive responses.

At the same time, the focus on girls and women as empowered bystanders – not victims, potential victims or survivors – can give them fresh new ideas about how to be supportive to their peers, as well as help inspire them to be leaders in their peer culture, as well as with younger girls.

Practical Applications

The MVP Model can be utilized in numerous educational settings. The MVP playbooks and trainer’s guides are customizable for diverse populations of students. Currently, materials are available for high school boys and girls. In some cases, these materials can be used with middle-school students as well. (MVP classes and workshops with middle school students are typically conducted by MVP mentors who are high school students).

Training of Trainers: High Schools

MVP trainers at Northeastern University or in Jackson Katz’s Long Beach, CA-based organization MVP Strategies conduct intensive, on-site two-day trainings of trainers with high school personnel, including teachers, coaches, counselors, administrators, public safety staff, parents, and others. The highly interactive trainings introduce the participants to the MVP philosophy and teaching/mentoring methods. Participants are given the opportunity to lead mock MVP playbook sessions with their fellow trainees.

Once the high school personnel receive the MVP Strategies training, they should be prepared to implement MVP with their students in the following ways:

They can recruit a cadre of sophomores and juniors – boys and girls – with existing or developing leadership ability. This group of prospective MVP “mentors” should be from a number of different peer groups and social cliques, representing a cross-section of the school population. Once the students have applied for participation in the program and received parental approval, the trained school personnel can hold a one or two-day retreat in the spring or summer to introduce MVP, teach the students how to use the materials, and lead small-group discussions based on the MVP playbook. This retreat can be followed by weekly or biweekly educational sessions for several months. The goal of these trainings is to prepare the mentors to facilitate interactive discussions in the fall with incoming 9th grade students, using the MVP playbook. (This is currently the most popular model being used in several high schools in Jefferson County, Colorado.)

PLEASE NOTE: MVP mentors are not expected to be subject-matter experts on gender violence or bullying prevention. Their training prepares them to facilitate discussions on these issues with other students. The most important role they play is to provide younger students – and their peers — with the space to talk about important day-to-day issues like how to be supportive friends, how to respond to incidents of actual or potential abuse or harassment, what to do about threats or rumors about school violence, and how to create a student-powered, positive and harassment-free school climate.

School personnel who have completed the MVP training of trainers can lead one-time or multiple MVP sessions with athletic teams, student government leaders, members of various student organizations, or other formal or informal groups. Student mentors can present/facilitate with these groups as well.


Implementation of the MVP Model has been formally evaluated in various institutional settings, including several high schools, college campuses and the United States Marine Corps. The high school/middle school version is currently being systematically evaluated in several schools, although there is a wealth of anecdotal and qualitative evidence for its effectiveness. The standard MVP evaluation is a pre and post-test that measures attitudes and behaviors that relate to the role of bystanders in creating and sustaining peer culture climates that discourage abusive behavior and reward pro-social, proactive responses to situations of harm or potential harm. For an example of an MVP evaluation, go to http://www.sportinsociety.org/vpd/mvp.php. For more information about MVP evaluations, write to MVPstrategies@aol.com.

Lessons Learned

One of the most important lessons learned in thirteen years of MVP is the need for early buy-in and follow-through on the part of key administrators and faculty. MVP trainers can come from outside of the school and provide interesting and rich learning experiences for students, in the course of a few days or over a period of weeks. But for the MVP Model to truly transform a school climate, educators need to be committed to training a new cadre of student mentors each year, and provide them with the ongoing support they need.

One way to achieve this buy-in is to invite key athletic personnel, administrators, and teachers to participate in an MVP training of trainers as early in the process as possible. This training can be framed positively as a leadership training. By defining the issues of gender violence and bullying prevention as leadership issues for educators as well as students, it is possible to garner the support of a broader spectrum of male – and female – allies and supporters than has been common to date.

By Jackson Katz

Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity:
While the social construction of femininity has been widely examined, the dominant role of masculinity has until recently remained largely invisible. Tough Guise is the first educational video geared toward college and high school students to systematically examine the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century. In this innovative and wide-ranging analysis, Jackson Katz argues that widespread violence in American society, including the tragic school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and elsewhere, needs to be understood as part of an ongoing crisis in masculinity. This exciting new media literacy tool– utilizing racially diverse subject matter and examples– will enlighten and provoke students (both males and females) to evaluate their own participation in the culture of contemporary masculinity.

Tough Guise was named one of the Top Ten Young Adult Videos for 2000 by the American Library Association. It has become a staple in college communication, sociology, gender studies, psychology, criminology and linguistics courses, as well as numerous high school courses. It is regularly used by educators in the battered women’s and rape crisis movements, and counselors in the batterer intervention field. It has been seen by over 3 million people.
Produced by the Media Education Foundation, go to MEF to purchase.

Wrestling With Manhood: Boys, Bullying, and Battering
(with Sut Jhally): Wrestling with Manhood is the first educational program to pay attention to the enormous popularity of professional wrestling among male youth, addressing its relationship to real-life violence and probing the social values that sustain it as a powerful cultural force. Richly illustrating their analysis with numerous examples, Sut Jhally and Jackson Katz – the award-winning creators of the videos Dreamworlds and Tough Guise, respectively – offer a new way to think about the enduring problems of men’s violence against women and bullying in our schools. Drawing the connection between professional wrestling and the construction of contemporary masculinity, they show how so-called “entertainment” is related to homophobia, sexual assault and relationship violence. They further argue that to not engage with wrestling in a serious manner allows cynical promoters of violence and sexism an uncontested role in the process by which boys become “men.” Designed to engage the wrestling fan as well as the cultural analyst, Wrestling with Manhood will provoke spirited debate about some of our most serious social problems.
Produced by the Media Education Foundation, go to MEF to purchase.

Spin the Bottle: Sex, Lies, and Alcohol
(with Jean Kilbourne): In its portrayal in popular culture, alcohol offers a release from inhibitions and a path to happiness, wealth, maturity, creativity, athletic success, independence, and sexual freedom. In reality, the abuse of alcohol diminishes and destroys those very qualities and is linked to 1,400 deaths, 500,000 injuries, and 70,000 sexual assaults among students each year. Using numerous examples from Hollywood movies, MTV Spring Break, sitcoms, and advertising, as well as interviews with college students, award-winning media critics Jean Kilbourne (Killing Us Softly 3, Slim Hopes) and Jackson Katz (Tough Guise) discuss the way that alcohol abuse has been normalized in the lives of millions of young people. Spin the Bottle is the first educational program to step beyond an analysis of “binge drinking” to focus on techniques that alcohol marketers use to link the product to the fragile gender identities of young men and women. It also offers young people concrete strategies to counter the ubiquitous presence of alcohol propaganda and, in so doing, inspires them to take back control of their own lives from the influence of cynical manipulators.
Produced by the Media Education Foundation, go to MEF to purchase

Jackson Katz’ website materials reprinted here with permission from Jackson Katz.

Take a brief poll from Denise A. Romano at: polls.linkedin.com/poll-results/69024/idusf

Catastrophic Leadership Failure as Defined by Henry L. Thompson, Ph.D.

Henry L. “Dick” Thompson, PhD, has done important and revealing research into what he calls “Catastrophic Leadership Failure”. Dr. Thompson has found direct relationships between Emotional Intelligence and “Catastrophic Leadership Failure”, but what does this mean for HR/OD professionals, and, what if anything can we do about this when we encounter it?

To help us better understand how leaders often find themselves in these stressful and difficult positions, Thompson’s work below can help us better understand why a leader who is educated, intelligent, and may even be a very pleasant person might start to make really quite bad decisions. Thompson says, “There are numerous well-known public examples, e.g., Enron, World.com, Tyco, the American Red Cross, Katrina, etc. CEOs are being replaced at a record high rate of 7.6 per business day. Over 28% of these CEOs were in position less than three years, and 13% less than one year (Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 2005). Research (Thompson, 2005) shows that stress and its impact on cognitive and emotional abilities may provide at least a partial explanation of what Thompson calls “Catastrophic Leadership Failure.”

Thompson continues: “Cognitive ability (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EI) abilities are required for successful leader performance—at all levels. Recent findings on leadership, stress, IQ and EI over the last 25 years indicate that when a leader’s stress level is sufficiently elevated— whether on the front line of a manufacturing process, in the emergency room, the Boardroom or on the battlefield—his/her ability to fully and effectively use IQ and EI in tandem to make timely and effective decisions is significantly impaired. This impairment often leads to catastrophic results. A war for talent is underway. Finding, recruiting and hiring talented leaders with high IQ and EI are only the first battles of the war. The war will be won or lost by those who are able to control stress at the individual and company levels. Dysfunctional responses to stress negate talent, IQ and EI.

Research clearly demonstrates that cognitive ability (IQ) directly impacts leader performance (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998; Sternberg, 2001; Thompson, 2007). Schmidt and Hunter (1998) reviewed 85 years of leadership research and found that general mental ability (IQ) was a strong predictor of leadership success. As the complexity of the job increases so does the value of IQ.”

Thompson’s observations and empirical research on the relationship of IQ to leader performance over the last twenty five years validates that IQ is predictive of “cognitive” learning ability and speed of information processing, both of which make a significant contribution to leadership performance, particularly at the higher leader-role levels. IQ tends to be the price of admission for executive level leadership positions. It is very difficult to rise up the corporate ladder without an IQ in the 120-125 range.”

Thompson also states: “Whether IQ or EI contributes the most in leader performance is still debatable at this point. However, EI has been shown to play a significant role at all levels of leadership. Salovey and Mayer defined emotional intelligence as:

“A person’s innate ability to perceive and manage his/her own emotions in a manner that results in successful interactions with the environment, and if others are present, to also perceive and manage their emotions in a manner that results in successful interpersonal interactions.” (Thompson, 2006).

Note that this definition does not require interaction with another person. EI involves “managing and controlling the Awareness and Appraisal of emotions and the resulting action in a manner that produces successful outcomes, whether in the presence or absence of others.” This has great significance for decision-making, performance evaluation, how a leader responds to diversity issues, how a leader responds to legal compliance issues, how a leader experiences and uses his or her authority, how a leader responds to conflict, how decisions are made, and whether or not a leader wants to know if he or she is doing his or her job properly or well. This is the simplest way to describe it. The description that follows is one of the more complex ways to describe it.

Thompson explains how emotional intelligence (EI) works in the human brain: “When a stimulus occurs, a signal comes into the brain to the thalamus, which acts like an air traffic controller. The thalamus sends information to various parts of the brain, particularly “up” to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and “down” to the amygdala (Goldberg, 2001). The PFC, or CEO of the brain, controls “higher” level thinking processes, e.g., logic, analysis, decision-making, etc.—a significant portion of the leader’s IQ.

The amygdala, sometimes described as the emotional center, plays a major role in emotional responses. It responds incredibly fast to incoming stimuli. But, fortunately, in most cases, the PFC is able to exert control over the amygdala reactions and help the leader avoid what Daniel Goleman (1995) calls “amygdala hijacking.”

Thompson continues: “When the right blend of thinking and control from the PFC is combined with the right amount of emotion from the amygdala, a person may execute an appropriate action pattern to respond successfully to a particular event (stimulus). If this process works “correctly,” then that person is said to have performed intelligently, both emotionally and cognitively. Successful leadership interactions require a certain amount of conscious intention using both the PFC and the amygdala to create a blended response. When something, such as stress, interferes with the functioning of the PFC, the probability of making an inappropriate interpersonal decision increases.

Each year stress in the workplace costs US industry over $350,000,000 and is linked to each of the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. Stress was dubbed the 20th century disease and is quickly becoming the disease of the 21st century as well. When a leader encounters a stressful event, a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones is released into his/her system resulting in a short-term increase in strength, concentration and reaction time. These changes may be helpful in the initial response to a stressful event.

However if the stress becomes high enough for a long enough period, deleterious effects will follow. The initial release of neurotransmitters and hormones into a leader’s system begins to affect major brain systems, particularly the PFC and the amygdala. Too much stress “turns off” the PFC, resulting in a drop in IQ and ability to control the amygdala. Stress temporarily reduces IQ (Arnsten, 1998)! At the same time, the increased stress “turns on” the amygdala creating an overly sensitive heightened state of emotion. A leader loses a significant amount of ability to “control” his/her emotions, thus be coming not only temporarily cognitively impaired, but also less emotionally intelligent!”

What can we learn from Thompson’s important research for ourselves, to better understand and assist our leadership, and to better understand and assiat the entire workforce and organizational mission? Many important things. The implications of this research extend far beyond “Catastrophic Leadership Failure”. The issues of stress and health are very relevant for HR/OD professionals as well as all employees and all leaders.

Change is hard. People—any of us–can be resistant or defensive. However, we can LEARN, and we can also be resilient and bring awareness to ourselves; we can ask what we want to be different and better. We can consider what we don’t know – what we may need to learn.

We can explore what is in our power to adjust, change and improve. We can make changes. We can define what our goals are and plan to meet them. When we consider how far we have come from the time of cave-dwellers until now, we realize just how much change, growth, and development is possible for human beings.

There will be those leaders who don’t want to hear Thompson’s cautionary message on “Catastrophic Leadership Failure” and who don’t want to understand how it is they wound up in the news media, in jail, or having bankrupted stakeholders. There will be those business leaders who are too frightened or ashamed to acknowledge that they have mishandled something important. They will keep it a secret. They will view all those around them who try to do things differently than them as their enemies.

There will be those leaders who don’t understand that employees who are hard-working, innovative, creative, ethical, but who aren’t “yes-men” or “yes-women” will either grow bored and leave or might even be lost by getting fired for not being “yes-people”, which is just another form of leadership failure—firing the wrong people and retaining the wrong people.

Leaders who fail will exclude quality staff from meetings, decisions, and processes because they don’t want to share power, to share success or to share failure – they don’t want to share learning. They may continue to make quite bad decisions and not even be aware if they are violating the law or creating more and more serious problems for themselves because they only want to be surrounded by those who agree with them–or–because they will only accept disagreement and critical thinking from a select few. These examples and any form of refusal to share power are products of amygdala-hijacking.

This is another area where diversity and emotion, largely happening in the unconscious, must be noticed, acknowledged, and addressed. Catastrophic Leadership Failure—making bad decisions due to decreased IQ and EI– can be a downward spiral. The refusal to “share power” is crucial. When the HR professional says, “I think we need to do this differently”, he or she is asserting himself or herself in a way that may or may not be welcome – depending on the kind of leaders the HR professional reports to.

Catastrophic Leadership Failure is marked by a refusal to acknowledge or correct errors and/or stop and reverse large errors when they are still smaller errors. Catastrophic Leadership Failure is also marked by a refusal to share power and by several concepts noted by Sue Annis Hammond and Andrea B. Mayfield in their book The Thin Book of Naming Elephants, which looks at gaps between what is said in organizations policy-wise and what is actually done in practice — as well as leadership arrogance and allowing abusive managers to remain in management positions.

Hammond and Mayfield studied the culture of NASA after the Challenger tragedy to learn the conceptual markers of workplace cultural “elephants” that predict organizational crisis and/or failure. While not all failures result in the loss of many lives, just as tragic damage can be done over a longer term which impacts spouses, children, employee health, insurance costs, and the rest of the workplace culture that observes and responds to these markers of failure, which can easily be prevented.

Thompson, Henry, L. 2008. Catastrophic Leadership Failure (trademarked). International Conference on Emotional Intelligence. 2008. Chicago, IL.

Hammond, Sue Annis, and Andrea B. Mayfield. 2004. The Thin Book of Naming Elephants: How to Surface Undiscussables for Greater Organizational Success. Thin Book Publishing Co. http://www.thinbook.com.

Workplace Violence, Workplace Bullying, Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation as Abuses of Power and Control-Over Resulting from Permissive Corporate Cultures and Deficiencies in Emotional Intelligence Skills: What Can We Learn From the Recent Yale University Workplace Violence Incident?

Denise A. Romano, MA, EdM. Certified EI Coach

Denise A. Romano, MA, EdM. Certified EI Coach

There are inherent power differentials in workplace relationships, and there is nothing wrong with that. It only becomes a problem when authority is misused and abused resulting in bullying, harassment, formal complaints, formal charges with external agencies, lawsuits, low morale, slander, harmful gossip, and workplace violence, among other things.

We can learn important lessons from the Yale workplace violence incident. First, we can learn that even if there is no overt incident or complaint, we still have a responsibility to be aware of the dynamics of workgroups and intervene if there are issues that could potentially provoke an employee’s disposition to murderous rage. How do we do this? We aren’t psychic.

Many states are now implementing mandatory workplace violence prevention laws that insist upon surveying employees, documenting incidents of workplace violence, and otherwise doing whatever possible to remain vigilant of risk factors for workplace violence.

What are the risk factors? The FBI tells us that workplace bullying is a high risk factor for workplace violence. So does a great amount of psychological research and occupational research and statistics. We know from OD research that emotional intelligence can be developed and improved and that combinations of improved emotional intelligence, sound conflict resolution skills, high-quality diversity training, and workplace cultures that mandate respectful interactions regardless of conflict are protective factors against workplace violence. So, why aren’t all workplaces doing all they can to implement protective factors and prevent risk factors?

We’ll get to that soon. First, an important look at the underlying employee experiences that are not as invisible as they seem if workplaces look for them. Workplaces can only competently address risk factors for workplace violence if they understand how to recognize them. And they can only recognize all of them if they actively look for them.

Workplace violence is preceded by anger, whether in our understanding of the situation that anger seems rational to us or not. We do have a responsibility to understand those workplace situations that produce anger in employees, even if in understanding those situations, we are forced to address uncomfortable realities about the workplace including the existence of various dysfunctions such as disparate treatment, cronyism, needs for diversity training, or needs for a complete overhaul of workplace culture. We must be willing to see these things and address them with intellectual and emotional honesty and integrity. We also must be willing to intervene.

Even the NY Times reports on how workplace bullying contributes to sleep problems: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/work-bullying-linked-with-poor-sleep/

Anger in workplaces that goes unexpressed either because the angry person is not making it known or because employees in general are not welcomed to provide feedback or complaints or because employees have directly been told to not express any anger, is a very serious risk factor for workplace violence. According to the FBI report on workplace violence:

“It is the threats, harassment, bullying, domestic violence, stalking, emotional abuse, intimidation, and other forms of behavior and physical violence that, if left unchecked, may result in more serious violent behavior.”

“A plan should take into account the workplace culture: work atmosphere, relationships, traditional management styles, etc. If there are elements in that culture that appear to foster a toxic climate—tolerance of bullying or intimidation; lack of trust among workers, between workers and management; high levels of stress, frustration and anger; poor communication; inconsistent discipline; and erratic enforcement of company policies—these should be called to the attention of top executives for remedial action.”

“In defining acts that will not be tolerated, the statement should make clear that not just physical violence but threats, bullying, harassment, and weapons possession are against company policy and are prohibited.” (FBI, monograph on workplace violence).

Clearly, the murderer of Annie Le had something he was angry about. Was his anger rational? We don’t know. Does it matter if his anger was rational? Yes and No. Whether anger is rational or not, agreed with or not, understood or not; it does need to be acnkowledged and addressed skillfully by highly qualified professionals in workplaces.

His anger could have been addressed if those with the skills to address it with competence had been aware of his anger. Had there been awareness of his anger by the right people, and had his anger been acknowledged as a risk factor for workplace violence, this murder might have been prevented.

Mark Slaski, Phd, states that the expression of anger is about power. Issues of power and control in every aspect of humans’ lives are fertile ground for producing anger. There are striking resemblances between the misuse and/or abuse of authority or even assumed (not actual) authority in workplaces and issues around power and control in both cult (high-control) groups and domestic violence situations.

First, power and/or authority is being abused and mis-used in all of those situations. Secondly, the trauma that results for those on the receiving end of such abusive behavior is often very similar. Most employees have had childhood, adolescent, family, relationship, and other workplace experiences that involved the misuse of power and control that caused them to be very angry and/or feel unfairly victimized. This is a part of the modern human condition.

These experiences can range from the mild to the severe: We know that one in three American women has been sexually assaulted and approximately 1 in 10 Americans has been the victim of some kind of crime. We know that there is bullying in schools, hazing in high schools and colleges, bullying in workplaces, various forms of child abuse in families, hazing on athletic teams, clergy abuse, abuse and racial profiling by various police officers, and even abuse of authority by some TSA agents. We know that most people have experienced some form of unhealthy power and/or control over them, which has resulted in anger. We know that throughout human history there are examples of persons in positions of authority who abuse their power.

This teaches us that before anyone is put into a position of authority, they need – we all need – training to understand our authority, understand what abusing it is or would look like, understand how not to abuse that authority, understand our own anger at previous situations in our lives which might contribute to our likelihood of abusing our authority, and we must understand a framework of values to guide us during those situations when we might be most likely to abuse our authority.

This also teaches us that in workplaces, where there are many interactive relationships around authority, that we have a serious duty to ensure through trainings, workplace cultural values, and consistent application of policies and procedures that authority is not misused either brazenly or subtley. And when it is, we need to intervene to prevent the abuse and feelings of anger that result. Furthermore, when it results, we must work not only to prevent future instances, but to repair and make whole those who have been injured by the abuse of authority, otherwise, we invite dormant anger that can take any number of forms, including workplace violence.

Jill Sarah Moscowitz, a mediator and trainer, (http://www.nonprofitcareeradvisor.com/) teaches that workplace conflicts are messages to us about something that needs attention in the workplace system. She is absolutely correct, and the more we can look at these situations in this systems-approach way, the more able we will be to competently address and prevent workplace violence.

Often, unhealthy power and control-over (as opposed to healthy power that is shared, agreed upon, and somewhat fluid and flexible) – is also assumed by those who do not have actual workplace power or organizational authority. People who do this like to make others falsely believe they have more authority, skill, knowledge, experience, or organizational power than they actually have in reality. These people have a need to feel “more than” they actually perceive themselves, and because of their deficient emotional intelligence in every area, they often lie about what they know, what information they are privy to, who they know, who they have influence over, what their skills are, what their abilities are, prior positions they’ve held — and anything else they can think of in order to make others think they are more knowledgeable, skilled, “important” and more organizationally powerful than they actually are.

This points to deficiencies in every subscale of the EQi Emotional Intelligence measures: self-regard, emotional self-awareness, assertiveness, independence, self-actualiziation, empathy, social responsibility, interpersonal relationship, stress tolerance, impulse control, reality-testing, flexibility, problem-solving, optimism, and happiness. (http://www.mhs.com/ei.aspx)

To Learn More about Emotional Intelligence and How it Can Help Workplaces, Employees, and Management:

When a workplace allows one or more employees to regularly mislead other employees about how much organizational power they have, the workplace becomes complicit in supporting this subtle but very damaging abuse of power. These kinds of employees often create such false power and authority so they can then wield it abusively and misuse it frequently. Intimidation, coercion, gossip-mongering, and attempting to have unhealthy control over other employees are usually what results when this is allowed to go on.

Bullying and unlawful harassment will not be far behind these behaviors. The very troubling thing about bullying is that there can often be a fine line between what is considered lawful harassment in the US (bullying) and unlawful harassment. For example, consider a person who has cognitive or emotional disabilities that are covered by ADA (now ADAAA). Consider that these disabilities are largely invisible to most people. This person is disabled, yet the disability is not immediately apparent.

Now consider some co-workers who think they have a right to “lawfully” bully such an employee. They may be unaware of ADA and what their responsibilities as employees are to comply with ADA and ADAAA. Their training may not have gone into sufficient detail about what constitutes a disability and how some disabilities are invisible. They may say “we just don’t like him/her”. Whenever people say something like this, they are often covering up a known or unknown reason for disliking someone. Frequently, this reason — whether known or unknown — is due to bias based on an issue of identity such as those considered protected categories under EEO law. Many employees are smart enough to not say things like, “I don’t like him because of his race/sexuality/gender/age/disability” etc. And, there are still a great many people who react with primal disgust in a very unconscious way to those who are different from them in some way.

They may think they are well within their rights to bully and harass this person. What they don’t realize is that their bullying of this person based on attributes that are due to the invisible disability does qualify their behavior as unlawfully harassing under federal ADA, ADAAA, and EEO laws. This is a very serious issue given that the US (and worldwide) workforce has more and more persons with various disabilities in it. In the US, the population of disabled employees will only grow as more and more veterans return from active military duty.

A perfect example is a veteran who has PTSD. Such a disability is invisible, yet is very real. What might happen to a veteran with PTSD who is then bullied and harassed at work? Would this bullying constitute unlawful harassment under ADA/ADAAA and EEO laws? I think a more important question is why are we even asking if it constitutes unlawful harassment? Why aren’t we as HR professionals and as employees demanding that corporations mandate codes of conduct around civility and take them seriously? Where is the Department of Labor’s voice on this important point? Where are the voices of all employment lawyers on this important point? Rather than focusing on not wanting yet another thing that employees can take legal action over, why not address the enormous expense and risk for ADA/ADAAA/EEO liability that exists in refusing to address this? It’s alot like private medical insurance companies spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising to defeat a national healthcare plan so they can avoid having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to insure people without health insurance. The money is still being spent; the costs are still there. Why not make the choice that creates the least personal and organizational harm?

We in the US (and in most other nations) have agreed that harassment, discrimination, and retaliation based on various characteristics is reprehensible and punishable by significant monetary torts as well as workplace monitoring by federal and/or state authorities. We have decided this as part of our societal norms. Those companies that choose to do business in the US agree to these terms. All persons who choose to work in the US also agree to these terms, whether they know it or not.

And if employees do not know that, then their workplaces are failing in their legal duties to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation under EEO/ADAAA laws from happening at all.

The law says that workplaces have a responsibility to PREVENT harassment, discrimination, and retaliation based on those protected categories (which vary from state to state). Usually, policies, training, and behavioral norms in the form of workplace culture enforce employee behavior and do prevent this unlawful behavior. And, often, those things are not in place or they are but aren’t taken seriously, and then harassment, discrimination, and retaliation can occur.

Even if policies and training are in place, but behavioral norms of organizational leaders or those with great organizational power are not in alignment with these policies and trainings, then employees will model their behavior not after the policies and trainings, but after the behavior they see and experience. Harassment, discrimination, and retalitiaon can and often do happen under these circumstances. Slaski (http://www.markslaski.com/), taught this concept very powerfully in his recent lecture at the International Emotional Intelligence Conference in Toronto in 2009. Slaski discusses the importance of organizational modeling of behavior for employees and how if that is not present, policies and trainings are meaningless.

It’s very interesting that we’ve decided that harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation based on certain categories is repehensible enough to warrant jury trials and multi-million dollar tort awards, but that the very same behavior not based on those categories is perfectly legal and those who suffer it have little to no recourse. The message this often sends to some corporate leaders is that “lawful harassment” is then none of the company’s business and there should be no policy governing or addressing it.

Smart companies will address all forms of harassment, including bullying, by clearly defining it, preventing it, prohibiting it, delivering consequences to staff consistently, and modeling behavioral norms in sync with these policies. I would like to recognize the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for their excellent anti-bullying workplace policies: http://www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/OccHealth/WorkVio/default.asp#Bullying

Not-so-smart companies, will allow bullying to go on, because afterall, “it’s legal”. Not-so-smart companies will also allow “equal opportunity harassers” to continue their behavior. “Well, they harass and bully everyone. It’s not because of any protected category in EEO law; it’s just the way they are; it’s just their personality. These are personality conflicts”.

These are not personality conflicts. When corporate leaders do not perceive the cost of allowing any employee in any position and at any level to behave in this way, they are in serious denial about the enormously costly damage that is done by allowing this behavior to continue. They also become absolutely complicit in any results from allowing this behavior to continue including formal complaints, the loss of high-quality employees who resign or lose motivation to work well, emotional and psychological harm restulting from this allowed behavior, risks for workplace violence, low staff morale, disregard for employment policies if this behavior is not seen as problematic, disrespect for a leadership that allows this behavior to go on, subtle dislike of the workplace, active dislike of the workplace, zero loyalty to the workplace, workers’ compensation mental health stress claims, and other serious problems.

At this point in time, given all the research done on workplace bullying and how harmful it is, there is no excuse for a corporate leadership to not know the very serious risks of allowing such behavior. The information is there in the psychological literature, in the workers’ compensation statistics compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the caselaw of those nations that have made workplace bullying unlawful, and in the countless cases of workplace violence in the US that have ended tragically. Given that we know what the risk factors for workplace violence are, it is stunning that we still look the other way and allow certain abusive behaviors in workplaces to continue. When we do this, we are clearly and loudly saying we are willing to risk workplace violence in our workplaces because we would rather not address those other unpleasant, inconvienent issues for whatever reasons.

Bullying in schools is finally getting the attention it deserves, though it took Columbine for that to happen. Columbine was not only an example of bullying at school; many people work in schools, and as we know, at least one teacher was killed during the Columbine tragedy. For that teacher, for his family and for everyone who knew him, Columbine was workplace violence caused by the results of unaddressed bullying.

The problem of having both lawful and unlawful harassment in the US is that this often confuses employees. Let’s revisit the situation of a veteran — or any other employee — with PTSD. He may not even know he has PTSD. He may have undiagnosed PTSD. Does that mean he doesn’t have a disability? Let’s say he is bullied and his emotional responses to events at work are ridiculed. Let’s say he is bullied because of his cognitive skills being affected. What are the risks in such a situation?

The risks are many. Because so many health issues and disabilities are invisible; HR, managers, and other employees cannot always know who has a disability and who doesn’t. And persons with certain disabilities are not required to tell the entire workplace, “by the way, I have this invisible disability, which is _________”.

The risks include huge lawsuits, workplace violence, low morale, conflict in the workplace that can spread from an individual level to a group level and become very entrenched, and a toxic workplace culture as result. Other employees who have deficiencies in Emotional Intelligence may observe one bully getting away with bullying and may then decide to also bully others. Workplaces with multiple bullies have signficant and serious problems as a result. This is undisputed.

The group dynamics implications of allowing bullying in workplaces are huge. Steven J. Stein, Phd, author of Make Your Workplace Great: The 7 Keys to an Emotionally Intelligent Organization and of The EQ Edge (with Howard Book, Phd), as well as David Caruso, Phd, Slaski, and other thought leaders have confirmed that emotions are contagious.

Additionally, we know this from Tavistock group dynamics studies, experiences, and research. Given that we know that emotions are contagious, we have a responsibility to both prevent destructive group dynamics processes in workplaces and to also be aware of and intervene if any of these emerge. When these do emerge, we have a responsibility to learn what the causes of this are and to address those causes in order to prevent more destructive group dynamics processes from emerging.

For example, if one employee is being scapegoated, this points to a serious problem in the workgroup that points to group projections that may have to do with any or all of these: accountability, anger, envy, primal fear, primal disgust, etc. What we know about groups is that even if this scapegoated employee becomes fed up and quits or is terminated, the group dynamic is still present in the workgroup and it will repeat itself with someone else. It’s just a matter of time before someone else is “it”. For some reason, this group has a pathological need to have a scapegoat. This is a serious issue that must be addressed if the workgroup is to function in a constructive, productive, and healthy manner. In workgroups that engage in this kind of group scapegoating process, there are often disparate standards for measuring job performance as well as distortions among group members about what is true – organizational myths often become organiational “fact”. Even employees who are not actively involved in scapegoating operations in any way are harmfully affected by such dynamics as they perceive very clearly that joining the operation is implicitly expected of them and they also perceive that they could be next.

When humans allow what Slaski calls “primal brain” to overtake our ability to think rationally and we respond to situations without using emotional intelligence skills but rather respond not unlike junior high shools kids and allow groupthink and other aspects of group dynamics to direct our thoughts, feelings, choices, statements, rationalizations, and actions, we can easily get sucked into a downward toxic spiral. This is particularly harmful for workplaces. People who would ordinarily not engage in gossip will start to do so. People who ordinarily would not engage in ridiculing others will start to do so. Opinions of the targets of bullying and harassment will easily spread laterally just as costly unresolved conflict will. Myths that have no basis in truth will become organizational “fact” because they’ve been stated enough that people believe them.

Bernadette Poole-Tracy, EdD has done masterful trainings on workplace conflict management. She teaches HR, ADR, executives and employees of every level about conflict, what it is, what it is not, what will resovle it soundly and what will not resovle it. Again, the knowledge is out there for organizations that want it.

The cost/benefit analysis is a no-brainer: spend approixmately $100 (or less) an employee on preventative high-quality workplace conflict management training and roll out a clear policy addressing how employees are mandated to handle conflict or do nothing and spend much more per employee on complaints, investigations, legal fees, turnover, responding to formal complaints made to external governmental agencies, and low morale.

So, when disrespectful and ridiculing behavior rear their ugly heads in response to someone with invisible disabilities, the ADA and ADAAA are still being violated. This is a liability for the company and for those employees engaging in this behavior. By allowing bullying to occur because it’s legal or allowed, we run the risk of allowing behavior that is in fact unlawful to happen far too easily.

This just proves how dangerous bullying can be. It’s just like saying we’ve got two kinds of apple pie; one is made with organic apples and one is made with non-organic apples. You cannot tell by looking at the pie, by tasting the pie, or by smelling or touching the pie. The only way to tell is to read the recipe for each one or talk to the bakers. But this information may not be available. Substantively and on the surface, these pies seem identical. Yet they aren’t.

It’s the same in this situation and in many situations involving invisible disabilities and the very fine line between bullying and unlawful harassment. Very often, the only way to know if the bullying reaches the level of unlawful harassment is if we have access to private health information that is protected by HIPAA. But we all do not have access to this.

So, what is the greater risk? Creating policies, trainings, and corporate behavioral norms around a zero tolerance policy for any kind of harassment – unlawful or not — OR — deciding that your company is not going to make a policy to address behavior that isn’t techincally unlawful?

When employees are bullied or unlawfully harassed, we can easily compare this to the experience that battered spouses have. All relationship abuse is violent and horrible, but over and over again studies have shown that those persons who experience verbal, psychological and emotional abuse are often far more harmed than those who experience physical abuse. The reason is that verbal, psychological and emotional abuse are invisible. There are no bruises, broken bones, or lacerations. There is no external cue to the rest of the world that this person has been harmed, and frequently, those kinds of abuses are taken less seriously by law enforcement and even by some counselors. It may be more difficult for those persons to obtain needed services, protection, or recourse for their very real injuries.

Those who have been physically abused have certainly endured terrible trauma; yet they get the care they need because their sustained injuries are so visible and demand treatment. Invisible traumas do not always get the care they need, and this prevents and prolongs healing.

Bullying is just like invisible relationship abuse since there is often no recourse for the bullied employee, yet the wounds are just as bad as if the bullying had been unlawful harassment. What the current laws say to employees is this:

You’ve been called names, slandered, gossiped about, excluded, treated unfairly, lied to, lied about, scapegoated, ganged up on, treated with hostility, treated in a disparate manner, or otherwise mistreated – but we only care if those things happened because of this short list of characteristics. If those things happened because of some reason not on this list, we don’t care. Too bad. Deal with it.

Given the realities of group dynamics among humans in most workplaces, this is a slippery slope. We know that groups of humans in most workplaces will almost always devolve into destructive competitiveness, destructive conflict, and destructive bias unless there are mechanisms in place to consciously and actively prevent this. Another way to say this is that many adults have never left the school yard. Again, we look to a combination of policies, trainings, ongoing education, and the consistent modeling of corporate cultural behavioral norms by those with the most organizational power as an effective solution. We know that if any of those is missing, the others will become meaningless and destructive behaviors will reign in that workplace culture.

What is also fascinating when looking at workplaces is: What makes it perfectly okay in this workplace culture for certain people to be treated in certain ways? What makes it acceptable among this group of people to target those who are on the receiving end of gossip, slander, bullying, hostility, disparate treatment, increased surveillance, harassment, discrimination, workplace violence, retaliation, exclusion, or other forms of mistreatment? When someone says, “I just don’t like him/her”, where does that come from? Most employees are smart enough to know that they can’t say their reason for disliking someone is a protected category, and a great deal of personal disgust can actually be attributed to unexamined personal bias whether it is conscious or not. This is another reason why mistreatment on its own is just as harmful as “unlawful” mistreatment. The harmful and abusive behavior is the same regardless of what drives it.

When we look at the hallmarks of cults and high-control groups, we recognize that there is control exercised by the leader(s) over Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions. (B.I.T.E.) (www.freedomofmind.com). Cults and high-control groups accomplish this control over individuals in a group in various ways. It is often done gradually. Workplaces want to have a certain amount of healthy control over employees and this is accomplished in healthy ways by being straightforward and transparent about the goals: We all agree to abide by these rules and we will all be expected to do so consistently. The End.

This only becomes confusing, obfuscated, and abusive when key words in that sentence are not meant or true. For example, maybe we “all” don’t abide by these rules; maybe only some of us do. Or, maybe we don’t really abide by them, but we say we do. Or, we say this but we don’t even try or expect this. Or, we say we have a zero tolerance for harassment, but we really allow it to go on. Or we allow it to go on under certain circumstances — maybe when our star salesperson is the worst bully but we consider him or her too valuable to address problems with. Penny wise and pound foolish.

When mixed messages like this are sent to employees, they realize they really are allowed to behave outside of the stated rules and norms and many WILL do so.

Some workplaces will begin to mirror cult-like behavior by trying to control behavior, intellect, thoughts, and emotions either inconsistently resulting in disparate treatment or in abusive ways. For example, expecting or demanding differing emotional behavior from men and women because of discriminatory ideas about what men or women are. Or, demanding that certain employees only express certain kinds of emotions but not others; this can also result in disparate treatment and/or be just unrealistic as well as abusive and unhealthy.

Prevention is the key. Prevention must consist of policies, trainings, ongoing education, and consistently modeled behavior by those who are most powerful in the organization. Heather Amberg Anderson says that Leaders are in the business of influencing behavior, and she is correct. When it’s too late for prevention, as it is in many workplaces, intervention is necessary. If only someone had noticed this and intervened at Yale. Someone might not be dead.

Emotional Intelligence training, diversity training, sound conflict resolution training, and Non-Violent Communication training can all work together to prevent bullying, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and workplace violence.

Every time there is an incident of workplace violence in the news, we all collectively wonder what happened. We wonder how it could have been prevented. We don’t really need to wonder about prevention. We have the answers. And, paying for EI training, diversity training, EEO/ADA training, sound conflict resolution training, and NVC training is alot less expensive and alot more pleasant than paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to address formal complaints, respond to formal charges from the EEOC or state human rights agencies, or to settle a lawsuit. And, there is nothing that can measure the costs of incidences of workplace violence upon all employees.

OSHA requires that employees be given a workplace environmet free from harm. The FBI cites workplace bullying as a high-risk factor for workplace violence eight times in a report on workplace violence, which has become a serious epidemic in the US (http://www.fbi.gov/publications/violence.pdf).

A white paper on SHRM characterizes workplace bullying as “the new sexual harassment”. Indeed, consider how sexual harassment was viewed before it became officially unlawful. There were many workplace leaders and lawyers who said, “Oh get over this; we don’t need yet another law to address this and we don’t need to legislate behavior”. But, we did need that law because of systemic sexual, psychological, and economic violence against women in the workplace.

As usual, the law has not yet caught up with clinical and organizational psychology. We know in the psychology field that the effects of bullying on someone are often extremely damaging and can often result in psychiatric disabilities whether those are temporary or permanent. We know that when two people are harassed in equally bad ways but one person’s harassment is based on a protected category and the other person’s harassment isn’t, that they are both going to suffer. Suffering does not cease because laws and policies do not recognize abusive and destructive behavior; in fact this refusal to recognize, identify, and sufficiently address the abusive and destructive behavior makes the suffering much worse.

Even those employees who have deficient EI skills will understand very clearly what they can and cannot do at work based on their corporate cultures. Permissive corporate cultures rely too heavily on assuming that employees understand what they can and cannot do without providing sufficient clear guidance, behavioral modeling, policies, and trainings.

We know that groupthink is a big part of this. In groups, humans will often do things they would never do individually. This can be harnessed for good, but left on its own in workplaces that are too permissive and do not adequately prevent abusive and destructive behaviors groupthink will often emerge around issues of competition, jealousy, exclusion, and unhealthy power and control over.

Any employee at any level who is deficient in EI skills and who is not given very clear behavioral guidelines, training, and modeling from their corporate culture can easily become a huge bully and/or unlawful harasser, causing extremely costly conflicts, unresolved conflicts, entrenched conflicts, conflicts that spread laterally throughout work groups and the entire organization, and conflicts that last years or even decades.

Even one conflict over something seemingly insignficant can easily draw in several people, can easily spread laterally, can easiliy last years and become very entrenched, and can easily harm morale, productivity, and the health of those involved.

And, when we look at Organizational Development and Organizational Psychology knowledge, we know that many conflicts arise out of misunderstandings, role confusion, ignorance of compliance responsibities, deficient EI skills, and actual bias. Emotional Intelligence research and knowledge teaches us that these can all cause the basic emotions of anger, fear, sadness, and disgust.

What is disturbing is when there are people in a workplace who derive personal and group joy from engaging in forms of bullying and harassment such as exclusion, gossiping, slandering, ridicule, scapegoating, etc. We know that when any person takes joy from someone else’s suffering, they are disconnected from their own pain. We also know that it is relatively easy for groups of people to derive joy from the suffering of others while denying they are in fact doing this. The holocaust is only one extreme example of this.

Anima Leadership Trainers based in Toronto, Canada (http://animaleadership.com/) use a combination of mindfulness practices, sound conflict resolution and communicaiton trainings, and Emotional Intelligence principles to provide experiential learning when they conduct their very effective diversity trainings.

It is very easy for a workgroup to unknowingly engage in any form of unlawful harassment without even knowing it and without any offending words to ever be communicated in any way. Subtle forms of this can include any kind of in-group/out-group dynamic based on any protected category. This is why impact is considered by investigators. It is entirely possible that a policy will say there is zero tolerance for retaliation, and yet mysteriously the impact is clearly that anyone who has ever made a formal complaint at the company has been placed under greater scrutiny than they were before or than other employees. Disparate treatment must be paid attention to even if there are no complaints. Disparate treament is another form of retaliation that can be subtle but extremely harmful and ultimately costly in many ways.

Most physical conditions are made worse by stress. Workplace stress is often more potent than other kinds of stress because it directly impacts people’s livelihoods and healthcare–their very survival. Workers’ Compensation costs often skyrocket in corporate cultures that have permissive cultures and do not adequately prevent abuses of power in the form of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. All of these behaviors are very primitive kinds of abuses of power and control. These behaviors say, “I will mistreat you because I can get away with it”. This concept is the same in issues of domestic violence. Lundy Bancroft (http://www.lundybancroft.com/) teaches that men who abuse women do so “because they can”.

There is really no difference in the workplace. Abuse is abuse. Violence is violence. Harassment is harassment. Bullying is bullying. We now recognize the harm that schoolyard bullying does to children and adolescents who have taken their lives or otherwise suffered psychological trauma; there is no difference in these effects on employees in workplaces.

The very good news is that there are easy solutions for all of this that are much less expensive that lawyers’ fees and allowing lowered productivity and morale to exist as these destructive behaviors are allowed to exist. What it comes down to for organizational leaders is: What are you going to choose to invest in? Are you going to demand certain behavioral standards from all of your staff and from yourselves? Or, are you not going to demand certain behavioral standards from all of your staff?

If leaders are not willing to demand consistent behavioral standards from their staff members, they need to ask themselves why and they need to clearly realize the costs and consequences of not doing so. Henry L. Thompson, Phd, the founder of High Performing Systems, has done excellent work on Catastrophic Leadership Failure (trademarked), and explores how deficient emotional intelligence skills will lead to bad decisions, which you can read about here: http://www.hpsys.com/PDFs/CatastrophicLeadershipFailureOverviewv2_18SEP2007.pdf

The choice is clear: either choose prevention, education, training, clear policies, consistent policy application, and behavioral modeling by leaders OR risk lawsuits, increased workers’ compensation claims, formal charges of EEO violations, traumatized employees, costly unresolved conflict, entrenched untrue organizational myths, an injured corporate repuation, the loss of quality employees, and/or workplace violence.

The choice is yours. What will you choose for your company? Regardless of your position at your company, it is important to be aware of these issues and to raise them with your HR department and/or your boss.

One can only wonder what prompted the recent fatal case of workplace violence at Yale University. Since it has been classified as workplace violence, it will be interesting to follow any OSHA investigation into this as well as any legislative efforts around workplace violence prevention in response to this crime. There are currently at least 12 states in the US with legislative efforts to address workplace bullying. There are more and more states implementing workplace violence prevention laws.

Dr. Laura Crawshaw, The Boss Whisperer®, offers excellent trainings that address these important issues. Boss Whispering® is the art and practice of coaching abrasive bosses to rein in their agressive workplace behaviors. Much like horse whisperers who calm unmanageable horses, Boss Whisperers work to tame the fears that drive unmanageable managers to trample on coworkers’ emotions. Based on extensive research, this informative and enjoyable approach to developing interpersonal insight and changing behavior has proven effective with leaders at all levels. The process involves an initial two-day onsite assesment followed by regular in-person or telephonic coaching sessions. Positive results are usually evident by the third coaching session. Dr. Crenshaw’s important work can be found at http://exec-insight.com/.

“Violence in the workplace is a serious safety and health issue. Its most extreme form, homicide, is the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), there were 564 workplace homicides in 2005 in the United States, out of a total of 5,702 fatal work injuries.” (OSHA)

The most important point is that these are not just academic pursuits; OD, EI, diversity, and leadership researchers are also practitioners who work in the real world with real people in real workplaces. OD, EI, diversity, and leadership work is not ivory tower work; it is about observing what happens in work groups, learning what can be done better and why, and then intervening to address dysfunction and improve group dynamics and workplace culture. It is motivated by exactly the motivation described by Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently on 9/15/09 when she spoke at a law school and said she became a lawyer to make others’ lives a little bit better. She urged the law students in her large audience to use their law degrees to make people’s lives a little bit better.

In order for any of us to do this, we must approach workplace issues with intellectual and emotional honesty, we must develop our EI, we must apply standards and policies consistently, and we must use all of the knowledge and research available to us in order to do the best we can for any workgroup. This is true whether we are HR/OD professionals, attorneys, organizational leaders, learning officers, consultants, mediators, investigators, board members, trainers, or others who have any influence over the issues facing modern workgroups.

What we can learn from the Yale murder is that it is our responsibility to observe, survey, solicit feedback, and intervene in workplace environments. If someone says someone else is controlling and territorial, that is something to address and intervene in before it escalates while we aren’t looking. If someone else is prone to explosive temper, it needs to be taken seriously. If there is ridicule, gossip, bullying, or other behavior that points to in-group/out-group or scapegoating operations, we need to intervene.

Intervention can take the form of coaching, training, transferring employees, mandating anger management, demanding changed behavior, mandating emotional intelligence development for all employees, implementing corporate cultural values, using experiential trainings around diversity, conflict resolution, and communication, and other actions.

What is most important for those of us who intervene is that we name situations clearly and transparently what they actually are. When we say that bullying is bullying, violence is violence, harassment is harassment, disparate treatment is disparate treatment, discrimination is discrimination, errors are errors, screaming is screaming, dishonesty is dishonesty, etc., we keep ourselves and others intellectually and emotionally honest. When we fail to do this or fail to do this consistently, we become part of the problem and can actually do much more harm than good.

When we look at other forms of violence and assaultive, unhealthy power and control-over others in various slices of modern human existence, we can see a history of behavior that can only be described as denial.

Rape victims have been blamed for dressing too provacatively, “asking for it”, “wanting it”, and otherwise held responsible for the violent and life-changing assaults they’ve endured.

Children and adolescents who have experienced incestual violations have long been ignored as the family was considered a soverign domain in which no authority had the right to intervene. Some children and adolescents have also been accused of having “asked for it” or have been blamed for having been “seductive”.

Before the Civil Rights Movement in the US, victims of lynchings were said to have been “uppity” or have “not known their place”.

Gay people who were unjustly victimized by the police in the Stonewall Riots were blamed and told they deserved the violence they received.

It is important to address conflicts in workplaces in a sound manner and to do so with as much training as possible. Certainly it can be useful to explore how each party has contributed to a conflict, however, when one party’s contribution is simply that they are a woman, are of color, are disabled, are gay, are trying to do their job, etc., it does need to be made clear that there is no sharing of blame or contribution to a conflict. There are times when conflicts in workplaces exist simply because one person is abusing another because of a personal need to abuse someone or because of needs for trainings around diversity issues or sound supervisory skills. Blaming when it is unwarranted is the kind of dangerous dynamic that can become contagious, can become a group dynamic, can result in scapegoating, and is an indication of a severe workplace problem that is most certainly a risk factor for workplace violence.

By all accounts, Annie Le had no trouble with her accused murderer and co-worker. However, clearly, he had a problem with her. I doubt that anyone would say Annie Le had any contribution to her death. Therefore, it is important for us to bear in mind that if she were alive and there were to be some intervention, we would want that intervention to be done soundly. It is ill-advised to demand that a victim of any form of workplace violence share blame for the situation when that is not true. Untrained persons in workplaces who attempt to resolve conflicts by making everyone share the blame equally do more harm than good. It is extremely important to bring in qualified, ethical mediators and to bring in qualified, ethical trainers to mandate sound conflict resolution skills for all workplaces.

Prevention is acheivable. And it is worth the money in that it will save lives and it will create healthier workplaces.

NYSDRA (www.NYSDRA.org) has one of the most brilliant workplace conflict mangagement trainings that exists. I recommend it as highly as possible. Bernadette Poole-Tracy, EdD is the presenter of that training and her combintation of ADR and OD knowledge and experience are like an innoculation against workplace violence, bullying, dysfunctional conflict resolution, and ignorance around the enormous costs of unresolved workplace conflict.

There is no longer any excuse for any workplace to be without these crucial trainings that save money, time, unnecessary angst, harmful stress, and lives.

Please Consider Using GoodSearch.com and GoodShop.com to Help the National Domestic Violence Coalition

The National Domestic Violence Coalition Needs Your Help!

As you know, I’m a supporter of National Domestic Violence Coalition, and as you can imagine nonprofits and schools are facing a fundraising crisis this year.

The good news is that more than 900 of the top Internet retailers and travel sites including Amazon, eBay, Target, Apple, Expedia and more have joined forces with GoodShop.com to donate part of every purchase to your favorite charity or school at no additional cost to you (more than 72,000 nonprofits are now on-board)!

It takes just a few seconds to go to http://www.goodshop.com, select your charity, and then click through to your favorite store and shop as usual.

Also, Yahoo has teamed up with GoodShop’s sister site, GoodSearch.com, to donate about a penny to your cause every time you search the web. This is totally free as the money comes from advertisers.

To give you a sense of how the money can add up, the ASPCA has already earned more than $23,000!

Please tell 10 friends about GoodShop and GoodSearch today. They’ve been featured in the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Oprah Magazine and more.

Charities need our help to spread the word now more than ever! Please click on the National Domestic Violence Coalition website to the right on my blogroll for more information about the very important work they do.


Emotional Intelligence, NVC, Conflict Resolution and Anger ~ What Have We Learned?

We’ve learned many things and we can look at these and see which of these helps us most.

To Learn More about Emotional Intelligence and How it Can Help Men and Women:

In Emotional Intelligence, we see anger as an adaptive and intelligent emotion, letting us know that something is wrong or perhaps even threatening to us. We can choose to use anger as fuel in situations of injustice. We’ll want to do so as skillfully as possible, ofcourse. But what does that mean? Certainly yelling at a child to stop running into traffic is a skillful use of anger (and fear), so we can’t say that all yelling is bad. Some yelling is useful.

However, we’ll want to know how our choice of expression falls on those we aim it towards and we’ll want to know if their experience of our expression will meet our objectives or not. If only the moments during which we experience anger happened more slowly so we could strategize toward that goal! All we can do is practice, build our skills, learn, read, surround ourselves with others who are also practicing, and do our best with support.

In NVC, we look at anger as an emotional signal that a crucial need of ours is not being met. Often we realize that we are looking for this crucial need to be met, as the song goes, in all the wrong places. The very good news is that once we’ve identified our needs, we can set about having them met in all the right places.

NVC does give us formulaic communication tools to help us express our anger in more constructive ways–without the need for the fantasy time slow-down mentioned above. We can observe, state our feelings, state our needs, and then make a request. This will sound absolutely ridiculous in the example I’m about to provide, but it really can work. I do this to make a point, however.

I’m noticing that when you punch me in the face, I’m feeling really angry.
I’m feeling angry because I have a need to be treated with respect and have my well-being protected.
I’d really like it if you would punch that bag over there instead of my face.

There are a bunch of aspects of NVC that I am still learning about, but which I currently call the “crucial invisibles”.
Or, as my wonderful trainer, Thom Bond might make into both a joke and a new word: “the crucibles”.

So, the point, which the forumla doesn’t point us to is: are we looking to have our needs met in all the wrong places?

Are we in a relationship while we value mutuality, respect, kindness, care, consideration, yet we do not get these needs met?
Are we in a job while we value competence, effectiveness, ease, respect, and integrity, yet we do not get these needs met?
Are we living in a place while we value peace, nature, rest, ease, and community, yet we do not get these needs met?

I asked Thom Bond if there had been any studies done on people who study NVC and whether or not they wind up making massive changes in their lives after learning these simple yet profound truths about feelings and needs, and he said he knew of no studies but that yes, people do tend to make life changes.

Are you in a workplace or relationship where your experience is that you’re banging your head against a wall? Your needs are probably not being met and you are probably having alot of unpleasant feelings about that. Is it realistic for you to get your core needs met in this relationship or in this workplace? These are very important questions for all of us to ask ourselves.

When we combine EI and NVC, we come up with a number of tools to help us deal with our anger. Sound Conflict Resolution methods can also help. NVC and EI have contributions to make to conflict resolution as well.

NVC TOOLS For Men and Women:
Please click on the letters “NVC” (below) to learn more about how NVC can help us all:


View more presentations from UCSC.

NVC Feelings List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

NVC Needs List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

In EI we look at assertiveness, flexibility, self-awareness, and a number of other important factors. The expression of anger is allowable in EI and certainly encouraged so long as it is productive and not violent.

Let’s say the conflict is that one person is punching another in the face (as above) and they’ve met to resolve this conflict.

If the person who is unequivocally punching the other person is the face is unaware that s/he is doing this, s/he is lacking in sufficient self-awareness. If the person being punched in the face is unaware that s/he is being punched in the face, s/he is lacking sufficient self-awareness.

(Bear with me, the face-punching is just a symbol of anything you’d like to substitute).

If the person being punched in the face is aware of this but is low in assertiveness, this could go on forever without ever being addressed.
If the person doing the punching is lacking in flexibility, s/he may not change the behavior and this could go on forever.

In NVC terms, we understand requests as things that can be responded to with a yes or a no.

So, if I ask Joe to please punch that punching bag instead of my face, he might say yes or no.
If he says, yes and his actions then follow through, we have success.

If he says, no, however, NVC teaches us that a NO is really a yes to something else. Maybe Joe will say that he has a medical problem, a spasm and he cannot control where he punches and he is very sorry that his hand keeps hitting your face. He’d like to punch the bag instead, but he needs a doctor’s help. Problem sovled!

However, what if Joe’s response is “Yeah, i’ll punch that bag instead of your face, sure!”
But, then Joe continues to punch you in the face with no further discussion.

NVC teaches us that this is a NO disguised as a yes. It is still a NO. The person being punched in the face has a crucial invisible:

Getting punched in the face sounds pretty horrible, and it probably is causing alot of unpleasant feelings and creating alot of unmet needs. What will this person do? Will they believe the yes that was spoken or the NO that is actually happening?

Will this person choose to stay far away from Joe? We can only hope.

In Conflict Resolution, we do our best to look at conflict as inevitable among humans and so an opportunity to get more information about the many possible solutions that exist and how anyone in the conflict can probably contribute. We also see the value of anger in conflict resolution and we encourage the expression of it. Again, we see anger as an important signal that something is very wrong.

We do our best to use behaviors such as inquiry so we can better understand the other’s position.
We do our best to use a measured amount of advocacy so we clearly state what we need and want; keeping in mind that needs are very different from positions. We may think we MUST have the window closed, when really we are cold and putting on a sweater may solve the problem.

We also do our best to look at unifying responses and remember that we are on the same team–if, in fact, we are. In many conflicts, we are not on the same team, and it’s important to recognize this.

Frequently in conflicts, we are the recipients of information we don’t really want. We learn about ourselves, how we come off to others, how we’ve been misunderstood, how we may have contributed to that, and how we have harmed others and made mistakes, sometimes very grave mistakes.

We also may learn that the other with whom we have a conflict doesn’t really meet our needs, doesn’t really care as much about the conflict or about fairness as we had hoped or thought, and we may find ourselves with difficult decisions to make:

Should I leave this job?
Should I leave this relationship?
Should I distance myself from this painful family relationship for my own well-being?

When conflicts become particularly difficult, it’s a great idea to involve a skilled mediator. However, not everyone is open to that. So what do you do when that happens?

In NVC, we say that if someone doesn’t want to connect with you, why would you want to connect with them? Ofcourse, this very reasonable question can feel glib if we’re talking about an important relationship such as a parent, sibling, spouse, or child. Sometimes, just a cooling off period is needed–but it needs to be a real cooling off period and not complete avoidance of attempts to connect and resolve.

In Conflict Resolution, we call this impasse, and there are many helpful ideas about how to address impasse.

In EI, we look at how a number of skills can be developed to increase the likelihood of each person’s ability to resolve conflict by being aware of self and others.

Perhaps most importantly, NVC addresses that we all have a right to have our needs met and that we never want to meet our needs at the expense of someone else’s, which is a huge point in many conflicts.

We also know that anger frequently masks hurt. There is a great deal of anger in the world. What are we angry about? What are we hurt about? What needs of ours are not being met? What are you angry about? What are you hurt about? What needs of yours are not being met? Are you looking for your needs to be met in all the wrong places?


What Does It Mean To “Fight Fairly”?

When we think of conflict, do we think of fighting and arguing? Some of us do. Sometimes we do. Do we think of yelling? Some of us do and sometimes we do. It really depends on who we are, how we handle conflict, and with whom we are having our conflict.

In sound conflict resolution methods, we approach the conflict as an opportunity for learning, growth, resolution, and perhaps even a more positive outcome. However, we know this works best when both or all parties are using sound conflict resolution methods. If both or all parties are NOT using sound conflict resolution methods, it is very easy for the one or ones who are trying to use them to become “de-skilled”.

This is also true of learning and developing EI and NVC (non-violent communication). If we are the only person in the situation or conflict using and trying to integrate our study into real life, it is very easy to become de-skilled. NVC groups often offer practice groups because practice is necessary to be ready to use these skills in real life.

They ARE skills, and they are also muscles that most of us have never or rarely used. It makes an awful lot of sense to practice with others who are also studying, learning, growing, and practicing so that we are all speaking the same language and can provide informed and helpful support to each other as we practice, make mistakes, make progress, and improve.

It is said that the more one practices NVC, the easier it gets. This is great news and not always true of the multi-faceted development of EI skills and learning and practicing of sound conflict resolution skills.

When we talk about fighting fairly, we are talking about the golden rule: doing unto others as we would want them to do unto us.

We are talking about being honest, not omitting information even if it makes our “adversary” look good or ourselves look less than great. It means saying things like, “well, to be fair, it is true….” That’s it, BEING FAIR.

It means being intellectually honest. It means not fudging facts or details. It means admitting when you’ve made a mistake or an incorrect assumption. It means getting out of any emotional grooves you may be stuck in (see my previous post about being stuck in emotional grooves), and it means telling the truth.

It means NOT playing television (or real-life) lawyer and spinning the facts in your favor. It means telling the real truth, the real whole truth, and the real nothing but the truth. That is fair fighting.

It also means expecting the very same from others that you would allow of yourself behaviorally. This is huge. This is about having behavioral standards. If you are allowed to have a bad day, then so are others. If you are allowed to become de-skilled but then catch yourself and do better, then you must allow others these same imperfections and treat them as learning moments with graciousness. If you are allowed to totally blow it with your communication skills for an extended period of time, then so are others.

If you are allowed to slip and yell but then calm yourself down, then you must also allow others this same imperfection. If you are allowed to slip and curse, then you must allow others this same imperfection and learning moment.

This is very much about trust, fairness, and mutuality.

You cannot very well go around saying that it is not acceptable for others to curse but it is acceptable for you to curse. You cannot go around and say it is not acceptable for others to yell, but it is okay for your to yell. You cannot go around and say it is not okay for others to get worked up and have a hard time calming down if you yourself do or have done this same thing.

If anything, you now share even more in common and can choose to use these moments as mutual learning opportunities so you can share greater understanding, empathy, shared-reality, and compassion.

There have been lists written about “fighting fairly” and sometimes these lists include well-intended suggestions such as:
No yelling
No raising any other issue
No name-calling
No walking away

And many of these can be very useful and very good suggestions in certain situations.

However, there are times when it is okay and even necessary to say “I really want to connect with you, and I really want to continue this conversation with you but right now I am afraid of what I might say; I need to cool down and take a break. I can talk to you about this in a couple of hours. How about 4pm?”

The very important message here is not just that it’s okay to do this, but that you are not completely walking away. You are STILL committed to connecting, having the discussion, and resolving the conflict. If you think this is a free pass to get out of the discussion entirely, you are mistaken; as that is the complete opposite of connecting and resolving and is a statement on the value you place on the relationship.

When someone tries to get out of the discussion entirely and does not want to continue it, they are no longer participating in the relationship. This is simply not acceptable within important personal relationships. For work relationships, it is also not acceptable; however, whoever has the greatest authority (unless there is a conflict resolution policy), will call the shots on this kind of issue in the workplace.

So, if you are having a conflict with someone, AND WE ALL WILL–SINCE CONFLICT IS INEVITABLE, it is best for us all to:

1. Learn as much as we can about Emotional Intelligence and our own personal development of our own EI.
2. Learn as much as we can about sound conflict resolution methods and find others who are learning these same methods and practice.
3. Learn as much as we can about NVC (non-violent communication) and find a practice group in which we can practice, grow, and learn.

Why do athletes practice? Why do we practice public-speaking? Why do we ask children to practice learning the ABC’s?

Because that is how we learn. With the ABC’s it is using an easy-to-remember song.

With athletes, it’s learning to respond to any number of situations using the skills, muscle, endurance, memory, and clear head needed to succeed.

With public-speaking, it’s about knowing one’s topic, being prepared for questions, and knowing our speech well enough that we’re not just reading it.

With conflict, we are using EMOTIONAL and INTELLECTUAL MUSCLES that many of us have never ever used. It’s alot like trying to wiggle your ears or roll your tongue when these are new things for you. You may be looking for and trying to physically feel a muscle you’ve never used before, and it may be hard to even find the muscle to begin with. In moments of frustration, you may ask yourself if you’re even capable of this and if you even have this muscle!

Once we find the muscle, once we know what it is to give and receive empathy, once we know what it is to approach someone else’s anger with curiosity and not a blast of anger or defensiveness back at them, we begin to develop incredibly powerful and useful muscles that become easier and easier to use each time we need them.

Once we find others with whom to practice, we’ve found a safe community of others to become better and better at this with.

Ideally, we’d have everyone on earth learning and practicing EI, NVC, and sound conflict resolution skills. Someday, I believe we will. Imagine a world in which all schools, houses of worship, workplaces, athletic teams, families and other groups regularly practice and then use in real-life conflicts all of the excellent skills in these disciplines!

What a world!

Fighting fairly means allowing others to be as imperfect as you allow yourself to be in your processing of, responses to, and expressions of feelings. It is also a commitment to addressing all feelings, needs, and issues. Many times a fight will include overlapping issues, and that is okay. Fair-fighting also means a commitment to always working to doing better and always connecting and resolving when the relationship matters.

Fair-fighting also means having as much awareness as possible about how we have tended to handle conflict in our past and making a commitment to never using methods of coercive control, power-over others, or any other behavior that is found on the Power and Control Wheel that is used by professionals who research and work with issues of relationship violence.

Relationship violence is not just physical; how we handle conflict can easily become violent and unhealthy if either partner responds with behaviors that meet the definition of coercive control, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, or emotional blackmail. These behaviors are not limited to conflicts that occur between romantic heterosexual partners; these abusive behaviors can occur between homosexual partners, between family members, between friends, in the workplace, on sports teams, in houses of worship, or within any group or people that numbers two or more.

Please keep reading as I explore how issues of unhealthy and abusive issues of power and control can affect us in every area of our lives – UNLESS – we choose to consciously recognize them, name them, address them, disconnect from persons who behave in these ways, and do everything we ourselves can do to ensure that we conduct a fair self-examination and get whatever training, therapy, education, and practice we can to ensure that we do not engage in these behaviors and consciously choose to replace old dysfunctional behaviors with new healthier behaviors such as NVC, emotional intelligence skills, and sound conflict resolution skills.


NVC, EI, and Conflict Resolution – Looking at When They Can Work and When They Can’t

In NVC (non-violent communication), we learn that NVC is not for every situation. For example, you may not want to connect with someone. You may want to resolve something with them, and there are many ways to do that, but connection isn’t always necessary.

NVC TOOLS For Men and Women:
Please click on the letters “NVC” (below) to learn more about how NVC can help us all:


View more presentations from UCSC.

NVC Feelings List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

NVC Needs List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

For example, look at bullying or harassment in the workplace. If you learn that persons with whom you work take pleasure in ridiculing employees, perhaps even you, how do you address this? Smart Workplaces have policies prohibiting such conduct even if it is not “unlawful harassment”, however many corporations still do not have these rules in place.

Do you really want to connect with someone who finds ridiculing others enjoyable? Probably not. But you can still resolve these issues by complaining to an appropriate person who will share your understandable outrage, take the matter seriously, and has the authority to take swift and appropriate action. If there is no such person at your workplace, you may want to speak with a counselor or someone at your city or state Human Rights Commission just to ensure that your legal rights are not being violated and to protect yourself from the very real harm that results from any form of harassment.

We can use NVC in such situations, however, to generate self-empathy and to give empathy to those who have been harmed by such reprehensible conduct. We can use Emotional Intelligence to manage our emotions through the complaint process. We can use conflict resolution and NVC skills if we have to write a written or official complaint or participate in any kind of mediation.

Harassment in the workplace is a serious issue. What is extremely disturbing is when workplace leaders allow harassment to happen and to continue. Retaliation is also of great concern. When there is increased scrutiny on an employee’s job performance, when an employee’s job performance is held to higher or different standards than other similar employees, and when for example an employee is singled out for discipline and given much more harsh discipline for something like a few errors but someone else in the organization who has engaged in harassment, policy violations, and/or ethical violations is not disciplined or is not given any real consequences or is not documented in performance evaluations, then there is disparate treatment and it certainly appears to be retaliation.

Many employers sadly do not understand their compliance responsibilities. Shockingly, they don’t understand what retaliation is.

There definitely ought to be a licensing exam for anyone running a corporation, government entity, educational entity, or non-profit organization. It would save a lot of grief.

MHS is developing an instrument that measures integrity. This will be a fascinating new development.

Wouldn’t it be great if it really worked?

HR/OD professionals must be aware of their own personal legal liability exposure. When business leaders or corporate attorneys engage in, sanction, or knowingly look the other way when unlawful harassment, discrimination, and/or employment retaliation occur, many HR/OD professionals believe they should be fined; and in egregious cases, lose their positions and/or their legal licenses.

Many state Bar Associations do not have clear enough codes of conduct for lawyers in employment situations. Certainly, employees and former employees who are experiencing retaliation or who have experienced harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation from attorneys in the workplace may consider the option of filing formal ethics violations complaints about any attorney who participated in unlawful harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation with their state bar association’s professional responsibility division.

Retaliation is a primitive abuse of power. It says: “I have more power than you do and I have the power to make you suffer because even though you just filed a complaint or brought a concern to my attention and you are well within your rights to do this; I don’t like you doing this and therefore I don’t like you. So, I’m going to get rid of you and cause you stress and grief because I can.”

Retaliation often takes the form of increased scrutiny, such as the use of video and/or audio recording equipment for surveillance of someone who has made a legitimate EEO complaint. Retaliation can also take the form of holding job performance and interpersonal behavior to standards that others are not held to around those things, which is “disparate treatment”. Retaliation should be documented by any employee experiencing it and witness statements should be obtained whenever possible. Complaint options are many for people experiencing retaliation: EEOC, State or City Human Rights Division or Commission, and other options if you work in government: Public Integrity Commission, Inspector General’s office, Attorney General’s office, etc.

This is a very disturbing problem because of what is at stake and because it’s so unnecessary. What is at stake? Everything!
The company’s corporate culture
The tension every employee will feel as they witness this happening
The stress on the employees being retaliated against which will become contagious
The rumor mills
The complaints that may be filed against the company
The trust other employees will now not have in the company’s non-retaliation policies
The trust other employees will now not have in any grievance or complaint procedure
The company’s reputation as employees talk to their friends and family
Wasted energy and time on retaliation efforts
Excellent employees either quitting or being wrongfully terminated
The possibility of negative media attention
The possibility of extremely expensive lawsuits against the company
If there is a group of harassed employees, there may also be the possibility of a class-action lawsuit against the company

For HR professionals, this is particularly alarming as it is our job to raise certain issues and concerns with our corporations. But, what is an HR-person to do when the people they are earnestly trying to warn and educate about not retaliating or looking the other way when unlawful harassment and discrimination occur don’t want to hear it?

CEO Consultant, Heather Anderson says, “if your fly was down or you had spinach in your teeth, wouldn’t you want to know?”

Believe it or not, there are some business leaders who do not want to know. OR, they are willing to hear it from others, but not their HR person.

This is just like someone you happen to dislike for whatever reason who calls you up or rings your doorbell and says, “Hey! Your house is on fire!” and you ignore the message because you do not like this person and you give no credence to anything they say. So, you stay home, watching tv, as your home burns down.

Then, a neighbor of yours whom you like tells you “Hey, Your house is burning down!” And you look around and say, “My house is burning down!” and you run out and call the fire department. Think of what could have been saved had you listened to the first person who told you this! Why would you refuse to hear a crucial message from one person but not from another?

Why is this? It is very destructive. It’s also an extremely fascinating workplace dynamic called “power-sharing”–or, in many cases–“Refusal to Share Power”. Refusal to Share Power indicates deficiencies in Emotional Intelligence. See below:

To Learn More about Emotional Intelligence and How it Can Help Men and Women:

When we combine EI skill development, NVC skill development, and sound conflict resolution skill development, we create healthy, functioning, safe, profitable, and legally compliant workplaces.

Look for my new book which will discuss many solutions for HR Professionals around this issue of “refusal to share power” and other HR/OD challenges!


Integrating EI, NVC, and Conflict Resolution Skills ~ Practice Is Important!

I knew that I would eventually be tested, as we all are regularly, by something that would test my emotional sanguinity and groundedness, but I had no idea it would be so soon.

I had a very unpleasant conflict with someone very dear to me, and we both lost it. We both yelled. All of my good intentions to use all the amazing EI skills I’ve been working on developing and all the critical NVC skills I’ve been learning for the past nine weeks just evaporated. We know this is called becoming “de-skilled” and we know it can happen to almost any of us.

NVC TOOLS For Men and Women:
Please click on the letters “NVC” (below) to learn more about how NVC can help us all:


View more presentations from UCSC.

NVC Feelings List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

NVC Needs List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

I’m thrilled to attend a 4-day NVC Empathy Intensive with Thom Bond from NYC NVC in the Hamptons this coming week. I cannot wait and am almost completely packed!

Thom’s email announces: “Camp, Swim, Eat, Hike, Snorkel, Row, Laugh, Cry – Amazing New July Empathy Intensive Info –

Living from Within – 4-Day Empathy Intensive
July 16th – 19th on Long Island
This intensive offers an opportunity to understand and practice empathy and self-empathy at a new level and identify practices you can use for the rest of your life.

This intensive is open to anyone who seeks to understand and practice NVC empathy. No one will be turned away for lack of experience. We are offering tracks for folks with levels of experience from beginner to intermediate to advanced.

Thom adds this:
“Most of the people I’ve worked with over the years, myself included, get to a point (or have gotten to a point) where we know what NVC is, yet struggle to “integrate” it at the depth we know is possible.

I have found, time after time, that it is our ability to internally empathize and selfj-empathize that is a key to being compassionate with ourselves in our significant relationships and in our professional lives. Through empathy and self-empathy we can understand what we want and how to get it in a way that is in harmony with our values. We can hold a more compassionate view of the world more often. We can practice NVC.

These intensives are intended to support and inspire participants in breaking through and having a deeper and more sustainable integration of empathy and self-empathy than ever before. In a supportive, community environment, we experience challenge, guidance, nurturing, and support in all the pieces that go into empathy, self-empathy and seeing the world empathically.

Throughout our time together, we will deepen our capacity for being present, being aware of our focus, and our own capabilities and willingness, moment by moment.

Going Deeper:
Feelings and Needs are the heart of empathy.
So, our relationship to them directly influences the quality and depth of our empathy.
At these intensives, through practice and exercise, we will broaden and enrich our understanding and experience of feelings and needs (our own and others’) and thereby deepen our practice of empathy and self-empathy.

Throughout the intensive, we will build on that work with well-defined empathy and self-empathy processes to get immediate and fruitful practice

As an NVC trainer, I (Thom Bond) am committed to supporting myself and everyone in sharing a level of connection that transcends conflict and enriches our lives, our relationships, and our world.

It’s a great time in history when we can so clearly identify, learn and practice the skills of making peace within ourselves and in the world. I am profoundly grateful to be a part of that. These intensives offer a new way to contribute to a more wonderful life and world for generations to come. Plus they are alot of fun!” (Thom Bond).

I can’t wait! I look forward to learning more and to having experiential practice in a supportive community learning environment.

I already know that I want to do my best to learn as much as I can about NVC and become a certified trainer.

EI theory is wonderful. Reading about EI and NVC is wonderful. Conferences, books, and classes are wonderful.

To have the opportunity to practice with others is amazing.

We all need practice. We need to unlearn so much of how we’ve been taught to understand our feelings and needs. We need to forgive ourselves and others when we don’t do our best. We need to promise to do better. We need to take action to ensure we’ll do better. My action is to attend this practice intensive.

What will your action be?


Rage Versus Healthy Anger: How Can We Help Ourselves by Using NVC and EI?

Note on Authorship: this post was created by a recovering addict and survivor; the author is “Will H. – RecoveryMan.com Webmaster” . He has a website at: http://www.recovery-man.com

There is also an article below on NVC and Additiction written by Wayland Myers, Ph.D., (c) 1997.

What is Raging?
Rage is a shame based expression of anger.
Rage is by definition abuse. Ragers react to strong emotions with rage. (i.e. feelings of fear, sadness, shame, inadequacy, guilt or loss convert to rage.)

Ragers were typically shamed or punished by their caretakers for expressing emotion when they were young; i.e.: “Be a man and don’t cry”, “Nice girls don’t get angry” or “I’ll give you something to cry about”.

Raging gives the rager a feeling of power – offsetting their shame and feelings of inadequacy.Rage sets up a neurochemical reaction in the brain that can be addictive, producing what is known as rageaholism or ragaholics.

What Rage Looks Like: Screaming, physical expressions of anger, violence or threats of violence, sulking, manipulation, emotional blackmail, silent smoldering, and anger used to punish.

What Healthy Anger looks like:
Healthy expression of anger involves confrontation of what makes you angry and an effort to set boundaries. (What you will do in response to what makes you angry.)

i.e: When you (a behavior), I feel (a feeling) , and to protect myself I will _________.

Healthy anger is not used to punish, is not violent, and isn’t used to intimidate, control or manipulate. It is expressed, discussed, and moved through.

Healthy anger is not stuffed down and ignored. (Stuffed anger created resentment and a wealth of physical / mental and emotional problems.) Healthy anger is not expressed in passive aggressive and manipulative ways.

Unhealthy Anger is component of Alcoholism, Addictions and Abusive Relationships. Anger management is critical to recovery from addictions and trauma, childhood sexual mental or physical abuse, and relationship recovery. Addictions are in part a coping mechanism to deal with feelings by masking them.

Alcoholics and Addicts often “use at” the source of their anger. (i.e.: I’m angry at ______ so I’ll have a drink, take a drug, or act out sexually. Obviously this is a highly self destructive response to anger.

Unexpressed anger related to childhood abuses often results in addictive problems later in life. (To stuff down the feelings of shame, anger, isolation, fear, sadness and loss the abuse creates.) Very often chronic relapsers in recovery programs, or chronic addicts are survivors of childhood abuse.

The sad irony is that by pushing feelings down alcohol and drugs make it impossible to work through our feelings and move past them, keeping the survivor trapped in a downward spiral. This is part of why even moderate drug or alcohol use in non addicts severely compromises their progress in therapy. (If you are stuffing down your feelings how can you work on them?)

Regarding anger, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feeling we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.”

Thank you very much to Will H. for these poignant teachings which he has learned from personal experience. Thank you, Will H. for the courage to be honest and share your learning with us. These are great gifts and we appreciate them.

So, how can NVC and EI help us deal with healthy anger, unhealthy anger, and rage when we either experience or encounter them in others?

NVC TOOLS For Men and Women:
Please click on the letters “NVC” (below) to learn more about how NVC can help us all:


View more presentations from UCSC.

NVC Feelings List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

NVC Needs List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

http://www.NonviolentCommunication.comArticle reprinted by PuddleDancer Press with permission from the author.

1 This definition is adapted from one I heard from author John Bradshaw years ago. I believe he said that he got it from some international
health organization’s diagnostic manual.
(c) 1997 Wayland Myers, Ph.D.
An Attempt to Define a
Nonviolent Communication
Approach to Addictive
by Wayland Myers, Ph.D.

One of the many ways the Nonviolent CommunicationTM (NVC) process has blessed my life is that it has helped
me learn to relate to an addictive substance user in a clearly non-shaming, non-coercive manner. This has been
hard for me. I have experienced great pain loving and living with people caught in destructive substance use.
I have been afraid to give up the option of coercion. But, I have persevered to learn and embrace an NVC
approach because it appears to me that one of the primary emotions which drive addictive behavior is shame.
People using addictive substances often suffer from a great sense of unworthiness and self-loathing. In fact,
shame is such a disruptive part of their lives that the famous 12 steps devotes steps 4 through 9, half of the
steps, to helping people resolve shameful feelings. I find that an impressive and enlightening commitment.
For many substance users, NVC’s approach to their problem may be experienced as a surprising breath of
fresh air because it views their substance use as an understandable strategy for meeting certain of their
needs, and it expresses a compassionate curiosity about which needs those might be. For those who love the
substance user, the tools of NVC can help them express their feelings and needs in ways most likely to be
heard non-judgmentally by the user. That is, NVC can help the dialog between all parties to be conducted
in an atmosphere of curiosity, compassion and discovery, rather than criticism, contempt or coercion.

A Proposed NVC Definition of Addictive Use
I find it helpful to think about what differentiates simple substance use from addictive substance use. Here
is my working definition of addictive substance use: Addictive behavior is a discomfort reduction/pleasure
seeking strategy characterized by1:

1. A compulsive need,
2. to engage in mood enhancing behaviors,
3. whose long-term practice causes a decline in the quality of one or more areas of the practitioner’s life
(health, relationships, finances, etc.).

(c) 1997 Wayland Myers, Ph.D. http://www.NonviolentCommunication.com

Addictive Behaviors, page 2

I view a “compulsive” need as one whose push for fulfillment is very strong and whose non-fulfillment causes
us significant distress.

“Mood enhancing behaviors” are activities which move us from distress, to comfort or pleasure states. There
are many: alcohol/drug use, food, sex, religion, work, etc.

Differentiating constructive pleasure seeking behaviors from addictive behaviors:
The third part of the definition helps me differentiate constructive pleasure seeking behaviors from those
that I see as reaching the level of being addictions. With addictive comfort/pleasure seeking behaviors, their
long-term practice causes a decline in one or more areas of the practitioner’s well-being.

Guiding Beliefs
The following are based on personal experience and current addiction research and theory.

1. Atypical Brain Biochemistry: Addictions appear to be largely the result of atypical brain biochemistry,
but they are also partly learned behaviors. Addictive practitioners, whose brains have been studied, show
a pattern described as “reward deficiency syndrome” which involves difficulties metabolizing dopamine
(a pleasure producing neurotransmitter). The result is that the daily experiences which move a “normal”
person from distress states to comfort/pleasure states do not do so for those prone to addiction. So, these
people may seek other means to increase their dopamine.

2. Hard to see: The addictive substance user has a very hard time seeing his/her mood altering strategies,
and the resulting consequences, for what they are – compulsive and destructive to their personal and
communal well-being.

3. Tough to change: Because the drive to engage in the mood altering behavior is powerful, and that
behavior has become a strong habit, it is very hard for the user to resist and change it.

4. The help of supportive, enlightened others is often needed: Addictive substance users often
find their mood altering behaviors hard to change by themselves, and the help/support of others with
addiction recovery experience is often empowering.

Marshall Dialogues with a Substance User

In various workshops, Marshall has spoken about the approach he likes to use when talking to an addictive
substance user about their use of those substances. Neill Gibson, of PuddleDancer Press, extracted many
quotes from workshop transcripts and I have mildly edited and woven them together in a way that I believe
presents the essence of Marshall’s philosophy and experience. Here is Marshall in his own words(mostly):

I don’t like the concept of addiction.

First of all, I think the whole concept of addiction is destructive. Let me show you what I mean.

Upon first meeting with an alcohol user, I might ask, “Can you tell me what needs of yours are being met by
drinking? I understand you’ve been drinking a fifth of whisky a day.”
“Can you tell me what needs you’re meeting?”
“I’m an alcoholic.”

Do you see the difference between the question I asked and the answer I got? I asked what needs are being
met, he tells me that he is an alcoholic.

I say, “Excuse me, but I’m not asking what you think you are.”

“No, I know I’m that. The doctors told me I’m an alcoholic.”

“Yeah. And I’d suggest that it’s not going to help us to label you. In fact, it often leads to self-fulfilling

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I ask you why you drink; you say you’re an alcoholic. So, why do you drink?

‘I’m an alcoholic.’ It’s a circle. You didn’t answer my question. What needs of yours are being met?”

“But, I’m an alcoholic.”

“I know that’s what you think.”

“It’s what the doctors told me.”

“It’s what others have told you. I’m not sure it’s going to get your needs met to keep thinking that. I’m asking
you what needs of yours are being met by drinking a fifth of whisky a day?”

“Are you saying its right to do it?”

“I’m not saying its right. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m saying you wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t meeting needs.”

“It’s killing me. The doctors say it’s killing me. I’ve lost two jobs. I had a divorce.”

“So, a lot of your needs are not getting met by drinking, which means you must be meeting some needs that
are pretty important to you or you wouldn’t be doing it. So, I’m confident if we identify those needs, we’ll
find other ways of meeting those needs that are more fun and less costly, that will meet all of your needs, like
your needs for physical health and others as well. You tell me you keep drinking even though you know
you’re an alcoholic, so I think that it doesn’t help to label yourself an alcoholic.

So, let’s look at what needs of yours are being met and then I’m confident we’ll find other ways of meeting
your needs.

“Now, when I say we’ll find other ways, nothing is going to be easy, because in our culture it isn’t easy.

Many of our basic needs are pretty hard to meet. For example, one of our needs is for community, a supportive
community. I know how to get it met. Go into any bar, any neighborhood tavern, and buy a round for people
the first day you’re in there. And the next day you go in, you’re part of the community. It might be more of a
feeling of community than you’ve ever experienced. People know your name, they recognize you. And when
you sit there and talk about your rotten boss they say, ‘Yeah, that guy’s an asshole,’ and you come as close to
empathy as you’ve ever been in your life. You don’t know the difference between people agreeing with your
judgment and empathy, but it feels damn good. And you get some relaxation from all the tension and so it
meets a lot of needs. Am I right?”


[Marshall doesn’t conclude this sample of dialog with a summary of how it represents why he thinks the whole
concept of addiction is destructive. I believe his point is that when people think about themselves as “being
addicts,” it can prevent them from seeing how their use of the substance is an attempt to get important needs
of theirs met.]

I don’t try to get them to stop using.

A second point: When I work with drug addicts, I don’t try to get them to stop taking drugs. I start by empathically
connecting to what needs of theirs are being met by doing drugs, and then I let them know what need of mine
is not being met by how they’re doing that, the fear that I feel at how they behave, or the discomfort I feel.
And we explore other ways of meeting both of our needs that are more effective and less costly. I don’t
ever want a person to give up something that’s meeting their needs until I can help them find something
that’s more effective and less costly. It is also important to me to maintain the awareness that all blame, all
judgments – like I’m dirty, like I’m an alcoholic, I’m an addict – these self-judgments get in the way of learning.

They make it hard to learn more effective ways of living at less cost.

I often start by asking, “What do you need to hear from me in order to trust that I’m not here to get you off
drugs?” The response I usually get goes something like this,


They just can’t imagine that anybody working with them doesn’t have that objective. I have learned that the
more the other person’s behavior is scaring the hell out of me, the more important it is that I make sure that my
objective is not to change this person, because then I’m going to contribute to violence rather then eliminate it.

I might follow up by saying, “I’m starting with the impression that you already know that the drugs are not
meeting your needs in some ways. You wouldn’t be taking them if they weren’t meeting some needs. So, I’m
not here to get you off drugs. I’m here to help you get clear what you’re needs are and to examine whether
there are other ways of meeting those needs that are more effective and less costly.” Then, I often end with
the request, “Can anybody tell me back what you just heard me say?” The problem I usually encounter is that
not one in the group has heard me the way I intended. It might take maybe an hour for them to really hear
the difference, but it’s important to me that they do.

An example from my life:

I went totally jackal one day when I was looking for something and saw a pack of cigarettes in my daughter’s
drawer. I forgot everything I preach about giraffe. It all went out the window, and I was a total maniac jackal
which is why it took her four months to find another way of getting her needs met rather than four days.

One reason; much of that time she needed to protect herself from this mad person.

So if I’d really wanted to have shortened the time, I would have gotten the empathy I needed before I went in
and made a difficult situation even worse. And I would have gotten myself clear that my objective wasn’t to get
her to give up cigarettes. My objective really was to create the quality of communication that would allow both
of us to get our needs met, without any commitment. Maybe I would end up not only with her smoking, maybe
I’d choose to smoke too. So it’s not easy when you care for somebody to have that perspective.

An appropriate way would have been for me to have about 5 hours of giraffe about my fear, I would have
had to cry, beneath that anger at first was fear, and anger at the tobacco companies, anger at everybody in
the community that allowed this to be sold, I had rage, I had fear all mixed together, so I would have needed
about 5 hours of empathy first. Then I might have even needed somebody to help me by empathizing with
the question, “What need could anybody possibly have to use that shit?”

That question would reveal to me that I hadn’t had enough empathy for my needs. So I would have liked
to have started this way, “Marla, are you smoking because you’re nervous and it helps you relieve tension?”
I would have tried to empathize.

“A little, Daddy, but not just that, but all of my friends do it.”

“Oh, so you really have a need for companionship, and when everybody else is doing it, it meets this need for
companionship?” And whatever it was, I would have liked to have started with a respectful empathy for what
needs were being met by doing it.

And then I would have liked to have been enough in touch with my own needs, needs that weren’t mixed
up with all this rage and judgment about our society allowing people to do this, encouraging it, and letting
people advertise it. I would have liked to have had enough empathy for that that I could just talk to her
about the need that directly involved us. And I’d say, “Marla, I’m confused and scared. I’m confused because

I’m guessing you know what this could do. Do you know that, what cigarettes could do?”

“Yeah, Daddy, I know it can be bad for your health.”

“Oh, thank you. I’m glad. I just wanted to check out that you knew that, but I’m also scared then at, how
knowing that, you’d still do it. I have a strong need for your safety. Can you tell me back what you hear?”

“That I shouldn’t smoke.”

“Thank you for telling me that’s what you hear. I’m not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t do it. I just really
need you to hear what my feelings and needs are.” See, the more she hears the should, she’ll end up like
many people do for 30 years, every day they’ll say, “I shouldn’t smoke, I know it,” and they’ll smoke. That’ll
just contribute to it. I don’t want her to hear she shouldn’t smoke. I want her to hear how scared I am, and
what my needs are.

“You’re scared, Daddy, and you need to be sure of my safety.”

“Thank you for hearing that sweetheart. And would you be willing to explore with me a way to get those
needs met you were talking about, about reducing the tension that you’re under, and connecting with your
friends in a fun way? Would you be willing to explore with me another way that we could get those needs of
yours met, and meet my need for your safety?”

So that’s how I would have liked to have done it, which is where I got to after about four months of anguish
and fighting and preaching.

The protective use of force.

If, as a parent, I wanted to protect the other children in my family from getting exposed to this (the drug
use), my own self from the anguish, and if the person was saying, ‘Look it’s my life, I choose to get my needs
met through the use of drugs,’ I can see that I might chose to practice the protective use of force. I might say,

“I agree that it is your life, but if you chose to do that, then I chose not to live in a house where I have to deal
with it,” and I might start locking the person out of the house.

That wouldn’t meet all of my needs, obviously, but it would meet my needs to protect the other children in the
family, myself from anguish, and all of us from a lifestyle where drugs are involved. I might get so desperate
that I would use force in this way. But, here again, I think if we are really conscious, I would want to be really
sure I had looked at all ways of resolving this without force. But that’s what it might look like, perhaps, in that

An NVC Approach to Classical Intervention Methods

In addiction treatment, there is a procedure called “intervention” that is used to help inspire a loved one to
seek help. An intervention is an orchestrated meeting with the addictive practitioner that consists of the
nonjudgmental, loving, brief, clear presentation of the experiences and dreams of a core group of people
who love or work with that person. These experiences and dreams are usually read from letters written

Here are some examples of how I might present these experiences and dreams in a
NVC fashion:

When I learned of a possibly impaired driving episode with children:

1. When I heard that you had driven the children home after drinking three pints at the pub . . .
2. I felt afraid and disappointed . . .
3. because our children’s safety is very important to me and I want them to be transported under the very
best conditions possible.
4. Would you be willing to call me the next time you’ve had more than one pint so I can drive them

Let’s imagine that the drinker objects and says, “Are you saying that I was too drunk to drive the kids safely?
That’s totally not true. I would never do that!”

An NVC response might be, “No. I’m saying that if I had the choice to send the children home with someone
who has consumed a pint or less, or someone who has consumed more, I’d chose the one-pinter just to be
most sure.”

Notice that parts 1 and 2 of the dialog orient my listener as to what it is that has happened that I am reacting
to and how I am reacting emotionally. I stick to pure descriptions of what happened and what I feel, and
avoid using judgmental or moralizing language.

I find the third part to be the most valuable. This is where I reveal the deep, easy to identify with needs which
are producing my emotions and leading me to make the specific requests that I make. My listener gets to
know precisely where I am coming from and why.

When I discovered that the mortgage had not been paid
1. When I found the delinquent notice from the mortgage company . . .
2. I felt sad and very afraid . . .
3. because I love our home and I want our lives to continue to be lived here, and because I want to feel
relaxed and confident, trusting, that my partner is doing what she agreed to in order to make that happen.
4. Could you tell me what happened that prevented the mortgage from being paid on time?

When I was embarrassed in response to my partner’s behavior at a party

1. When I heard you begin to use rough and loud language at the party last night, and noticed that others
were staring at us . . .
2. I felt disappointed and embarrassed.
3. That happened because I want to feel proud, warmed and delighted by what my partner contributes to a
party, and last night, when you got rough and loud, I didn’t. I would also like to be recognized by others for
having a partner who is not only fun, but is also respectful of the needs of others to enjoy their part of the
party in peace and social comfort, and when people stared at us I didn’t believe that was happening.
4. Could you tell me what you hear me saying?

Let’s suppose my partner answers, “You’re saying that you are uptight and can’t stand for me to have a little fun.”

An NVC response might be, “I appreciate that it might sound that way to you, but I’d like to clarify. I love and
enjoy you. I find you to be great fun at parties and really enjoy that. I am saying that when I hear you use loud,
rough language at a party, and we subsequently receive long stares from people, that I feel awkward and
embarrassed because I like to remain just a fun, regular party member and not be singled out for long, enigmatic
stares. I just want to have fun with you and be nobody of special note. Does that make sense to you?

“Yeah, I guess so.”

These are just a few examples of what might be said at an NVC styled intervention meeting. I hope they
convey not only the spirit, but also some useable ideas.

In a typical intervention format, the meeting ends with a specific request for the addictive practitioner to
commit to receive help right then. Something like this is said,

“We would like you to come with us right now to enroll in XYZ rehab (or whatever). Are you willing?”

From an NVC perspective, addictive behavior is rational: The substance user is trying to take care of themselves
in important ways via their using behavior. An NVC practitioner has the means to compassionately help
the user take a detailed look at which needs he or she is trying to meet. I know of no treatment approach
that includes this willingness to take a look at what is fulfilling and helpful about the addictive behavior
before asking the person to consider changing it.

The second benefit I see in an NVC approach is that it can help the substance user and their loved ones
communicate about this condition, and its impact on their lives, in ways that create a deeper, fuller, more
respectful joining between them. I believe that two people, feeling connected, heard, and valued by each
other, possess a far greater power to achieve a life enhancing outcome than two who are scared and feeling

Wayland Myers, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in the Northern part of San Diego County (USA).
He has 15 years of in-depth personal and professional experience in living with those who struggle with
addiction. Myers has also written a book, Nonviolent Communication: The Basics As I Know and Use Them,
which is published in English, French and Spanish and has sold 18,000 copies. He uses NVC extensively in his
life and work with individuals, couples and families. If you have questions about this article or would like
to speak with Wayland Myers about the application of NVC in addiction or recovery, please contact him at

For more information on Nonviolent Communication visit the PuddleDancer Press website at http://www.NonviolentCommunication.com

For more information about the Center for Nonviolent Communication please visit http://www.CNVC.org

About Nonviolent Communication

From the bedroom to the boardroom, from the classroom to the war zone, the Nonviolent
Communication (NVC) process is changing lives every day. NVC provides an easy to grasp, effective method
to get to the root of conflict, violence and pain peacefully. By examining the unmet needs behind what
we do or say, the NVC process helps reduce hostility, heal pain, and strengthen professional or personal

The NVC process is now being taught in corporations, classrooms, prisons and mediation centers around
the globe. And it is affecting cultural shifts as institutions, corporations and governments integrate NVC
consciousness into their organizational structures and their approach to leadership.
International peacemaker, mediator, author and founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication,

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg spends more than 250 days each year teaching the NVC process, including some of
the most impoverished, war-torn areas of the world. More than 180 certified trainers and hundreds more
teach this life-enriching process in 35 countries to approximately 250,000 people each year.

About the Center for Nonviolent Communication

The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) is an international nonprofit peacemaking organization
whose vision is a world where everyone’s needs are met peacefully. CNVC is devoted to supporting the spread of

Nonviolent Communication training and consciousness around the world.

Access local, national and international training opportunities, download trainer certification information,
connect to local NVC communities and purchase a variety of other NVC learning materials at:

About PuddleDancer Press
The premier publisher of Nonviolent Communication related works. Find these resources and more at:
• Shop NVC—Continue your learning—purchase our NVC titles online safely and conveniently. Find
multiple-copy and package discounts, learn more about our authors and read dozens of book
endorsements from renowned leaders, educators, relationship experts and more.
• NVC Quick Connect e-Newsletter —To stay apprised of new titles and the impact the NVC process
is having around the globe, visit our website and register for the quarterly NVC Quick Connect
e-Newsletter. Archived newsletters are also available.
• Help Share NVC—Access hundreds of valuable tools, resources and adaptable documents to help
you share this valuable process, form a local NVC practice community, coordinate NVC workshops and
trainings, and promote the life-enriching benefits of NVC training to organizations and communities
in your area. Sign up for our NVC Promotion e-Bulletin to get all the latest promotion tips and tools.
• For the Press—Journalists and producers can access author bios and photos, recently published
articles in the media, video clips and other valuable information.
• Help Share NVC Community Forum—Scheduled for launch in mid-2005, the Help Share NVC
Community Forum provides an online space to support the continued spread of the NVC consciousness

Join our forum today at http://www.ShareNVC.com