Healing Journeys Interview

Healing Journeys with Suzie Daggett, Compassionate Communication Nonviolent discourse elevates the conversation

The Union, September 10, 2004
Suzie Daggett interviews Terri Harmon, MATP (Master’s of Transpersonal Psychology) a mediator with the Conflict Resolution Center in Nevada County and a teacher of Compassionate Communication at the Living Compassion Center for Mediation and Communication Services.

How did you get interested in the study and teaching of communication skills?

Before I moved to Grass Valley, I was a manager in the corporate world of Silicon Valley – a liaison between the technical staff and the customers. I always looked for the win-win solution for any situation in my job and in my life. Since I have had a life-long interest in learning and teaching about different ways to effectively communicate, I earned two master’s degrees. When I moved here four years ago, my focus was to further the knowledge of communication – both interpersonal and for business. I learned about Nonviolent Communication (NVC) from a friend about three years ago, which has opened up a deeper sense of effective and compassionate communication.

I now teach about NVC as well as use the principles in my work as a mediator.

What is Nonviolent Communication?

Marshall Rosenberg wrote “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life,” and is the creator of a process and an organization to create connection between people who want to contribute to each other with compassion. Marshall recognized that labeling people and experiences is dehumanizing. What gets in the way of the heartfelt communication is violent or life-alienating language, which brings a judgment to the conversation.

For instance, consider these two different ways to communicate: Compassionate: “I’m feeling frustrated because my need for respect isn’t being met.” Potentially alienating: “I need you to show me more respect.” The compassionate, nonviolent method takes the four-step process and reflects feelings and suggests an action piece.

The potentially alienating method can be heard as demanding and demeaning. The four components of the NVC model are: observations – what I observe that may or may not support my well-being; feelings – how I feel in response to an event; needs – what I need that causes my feelings; and clearly requesting – concrete action that assists without demanding.

One of the guidelines in the process is taking responsibility for our own experience – knowing that we are responsible for our own actions but not other peoples’ experience, or how they feel about the communication. As we begin a conversation, we are constantly looking from a place of respect and connection. It is important to recognize that we are all connected. We do not take care of ourselves at the expense of the other person, or take care of the other person at our own expense.

Why practice nonviolent communication?

It helps bring clarity to the thinking and talking process. Getting in touch with our needs and desires and how we go about what we want in a compassionate way is a beneficial way to communicate. There is a sense of freedom as we respect others and ourselves during the process. Once we lose the judgments and resist labeling the person we are communicating with, there is room for more interpersonal actions to be taken, and it ends up working best for all.

You are also a mediator, what is mediation?

There are many types of mediation, but I work with transformative or relational mediation. It is about relationships – perhaps neighbors needing to come to an agreement about a fence or barking dogs. They have chosen to stay in good relationship with each other, but they need a neutral party, the mediator, who hears and validates both sides.

When both sides are heard and respected, problem solving can happen far more satisfactorily. This can happen through the courts, but also through private practice. The Conflict Resolution Center of Nevada County is made of local therapists, attorneys, and mediators who offer their services. They help resolve conflicts without entering the court system where a judge decides what is right or wrong. Mediation is not about right or wrong, but finding a solution to support the two parties to express themselves and come to their own resolution.

Are there other communication avenues to explore?

Another angle on communication is a way to take defensive words and actions out of our language. I am introducing Sharon Ellison, an award-winning speaker, to this area Sept.15, 25 and 26. She will be giving a workshop on “Taking the War Out of Our Words” – how to ask disarming questions; identifying six defensive modes; nondefensive parenting skills; nondefensive social changes and more.

What do you get out of your practice?

I love the work I do! I love being of service and bringing hope to family members, groups, and adversaries. I love to teach and continue to learn more communication skills daily!

Suzie Daggett is the TV host of Healing INsights on NCTV, and was the  publisher of INSIGHT, the Directory of Healing Arts Practitioners.