Speak Compassion

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict – Philadelphia, PA

by @ 11:01 pm. Filed under Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication, Site News

Here is a flyer for the Pre-conference workshop I am doing on Nonviolent Communication called, “Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict.” for the Society for Public Health Education’s (SOPHE) 60th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA on November 5, 2009.  The workshop and larger conference will be held at the Sheraton Hotel, Center City Philadelphia, PA.

Please pass this information on to folks you know that may be interested.  It is not required that participants register for the full conference. They can register for just the pre-conference workshop for just $65.00.   Please help me spread the word widely about this presentation.

Flyer: Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Presentation at the Society for Public Health Education Annual Meeting and Other Updates

by @ 11:09 am. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolent Communication, Site News

I have not been keeping up with this blog the way I would like because I have so many other things in the works.    I have another offering of “Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict” being presented on September 18, 2009 in New Haven, CT.   This day long workshop is designed to introduce participants to the ideas and process of Nonviolent Communication.  The cost requested fee for this workshop is $99.00 and you can register at www.community-mediation.org.

A few months ago, I submitted a proposal to present Nonviolent Communication at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).  The proposal was accepted and I will be doing a 3.5 hour pre-conference workshop on November 5, 2009 at the Sheraton Center City Hotel in Philadelphia, PA.   This workshop is open to the public and there is no requirement to sign up for the full conference.  The cost of this workshop is $65.00 and registration information is on the SOPHE website.  The title of the workshop is “Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict” and is a shorter version of my day long workshop re-focused for those working in the health education field.

I am excited about doing the SOPHE conference and I have a great workshop planned for those who attend.  We will explore the basic model of NVC and how to use this model when approaching difficult conversations about sensitive health topics that often bring up shame, guilt, embarrassment or even anger from those we wish to help.  By using the model of NVC to help connect with the needs that are behind each health behavior or strategy, we are able to explore new strategies that meet those needs at less cost to one’s health.   By focusing on the intention to connect to a person’s needs rather than working to change their behavior we are able to be present for them in ways that do not judge, blame or make demands.  For example smoking is a strategy that meets different needs for different people.  It may meet the need for companionship or calm.  It may meet the need for acceptance and inclusion for some people.   By exploring with clients, the needs met by smoking in a meaningful dialog, we are then able to explore new strategies to meet those needs at less cost to one’s health.   dsc_0010.JPG

There are many other exciting things happening for me.  I am excited that I am continuing downsizing my life.   My partner and I started with a 1900 square foot house filled with items and spaces we just didn’t use.  We moved down to about 1100 square feet after giving lots of donations to Good Will and having a tag sale.  We have now moved down again to an 820 square foot cottage where we really have room for what we need and that is it. It is liberating in many ways not to have to worry about “stuff” and on the other hand it is a lesson to live in such small settings.  I do still remind myself of the quote by Gandhi to “live simple, so others can simply live” as it is a reminder that many others have much less than me.  I want to be grateful for the things I have even when they are not perfect.    The beautiful part of this is that we are just a short walk to the beach on the Long Island Sound and have been enjoying the seagulls crying, the wonderful breezes off the water and long walks on the beach searching for sea glass.  I have learned it is not about finding pieces of sea glass and it is about the relaxation of looking for sea glass that is important.

I also just finished leading a 2-day staff retreat for one of the local nonprofits in New Haven, CT.  The first day was an introduction to NVC and some basic conflict resolution mixed with team building exercises.  Day 2 was spent doing some strategic planning, more NVC learning and some team building games.  I am excited to know this nonprofit agency will be more giraffee like than it was before.  The participants seem to enjoy the retreat and I enjoyed facilitating it.  I hope to do more work like this in the upcoming months.

I continue to write for “get” magazine in Rhode Island and just published a piece on ex-gay exorcisms.   My September article is about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and I am about to start working on an article about health care reform for October.  Keep your eyes open for those if you live in Rhode Island.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How Does Hate Speech Kill People, Part II

by @ 8:16 pm. Filed under hate speech, Joe's Rants

Part I of this article can be found here

The relationship between language and violence is the subject of psychology professor O.J. Harvey’s research at the University of Colorado. Using random samples of pieces of literature from countries around the world, he tabulated the frequency of words that classify and judge people [the types of words that often provoke defensive reactions like “threat” and “radical extremist” or other words that are used to classify groups or individuals in negative terms]. Not surprisingly, he found a high correlation between the frequent use of such words and the incidence of violence.  I does not surprise me that there is considerably less violence in cultures where people think in terms of human needs than in cultures where people labels one another “goo” or “bad” and believe that the “bad” ones deserve to be punished.  In 75 percent of the television programs shown during the hours when American children are most likely to be watching, the hero either kills people or beats them up.  The violence typically constitutes the “climax” of the show. Viewers, having been taught that bad guys deserve to be punished, take pleasure in watching this violence.

Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (pages 17-18)

While most anti-gay groups deny their vocal objections and misinformation about homosexuality have any affect on the violence experienced by GLBT folks, most experts on violence and hate would agree that the culture of animosity and fear of gay and lesbian people is fueled in part by the writings and messages sent out by anti-gay religious organizations like Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.   For the most part, any writings this writer has ever read from these groups contained little facts based on peer-reviewed scientific research and a whole lot of moral judgment, fear and dehumanizing of GLBT persons.  Over the last few years, several researches have come forward to publicly object to the misuse of their research by these religious groups.  At best the strategy these groups have been taking is to paint the image of gay people as an enemy or a threat thus causing their readers to react defensively to the threat.

The basis of the arguments made by these religious groups is that homosexuality is morally objectionable, against nature, and a threat to society.   They use words as metaphors for war to try and motivate readers to take action against the mysterious “gay agenda”that they present as a threat to society.  They use metaphoric language making reference to war something most people recognize as violence.   In a recent video posting on youtube Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth refers Matt Barber as a “culture warrior” fighting the radical extremists referring to “organized homosexuality.”  They talk about the “battle to defend marriage” or in one headline from the Concerned Women for America (CWA) site they refer to the “Undeclared war to ENDA Our Liberty”and use other war references like “cultural bombers.” In the same article they say (which is accompanied by the graphic of a handgun):

Our very survival is at stake, not just our economic well-being. When a spirited crowd rightly puts the screws to our rulers over their financial profligacy, someone needs to ask them as well why they’re serving as crew members on cultural bombers piloted by Pelosi, Obama and Kennedy.”


In the context of the article the writers at CWA are saying that GLBT supporters are a threat to the very “survival” of their readership.  These are strong words that not surprisingly add to strong reactions.   It is also not surprising that a group presented as a threat to survival, dehumanized into immoral, diseased, and other enemy images, is the second highest target for violent hate crimes in America.  As we have seen through the work of O.J Harvey’s work, such crimes can been seen as justified and even enjoyable because the perpetrators are “taking care of the bad guy” or removing a threat.   As long as GLBT folks are portrayed as a threat to marriage and society by groups and individuals like Matt Barber or Peter LaBarbera and his group Americans for Truth, such violence against can easily be seen like the climax of the show where the good guys beat up or kill the bad guys.   The violence is celebrated because the threat has been wounded or removed.  The bad guys have gotten what we have learned bad guys deserve.

In the case of CWA and the use of GUN in their graphic, not only is the group creating justification for the violence by portraying GLBT folks as the bad guys who deserve punishment, the pistol in the graphic is a clear message of what they seem to believe should be the punishment.  What these “pro-family” advocates need to see is that they cannot go around telling everyone GLBT people are the witches of the village, stack the wood and then claim no responsibility when someone shows up with a match.

This writer would like to see the consciousness of this debate change.   It is my firm belief that groups can disagree and still not use language in a way that leads to violence.   If we can get these groups to starting thinking terms of human needs rather than what people “are” or what they deserve, I am convinced we could reduce the number of hate crimes and violent incidents against gays and lesbians.   I am confident change could happen and yet doubtful we can get them to hear us.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nonviolence in Action:Joan Baez Uses Empathy to Diffuse Anger

by @ 8:28 am. Filed under Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

In today’s Nonviolence in Action: Joan Baez proves how listening without judgment or agenda can provide a healing source of empathy to those whose need it. I was really moved and inspired by this story as it is a perfect example of what I teac…h people when I share Nonviolent Communication with them. I would encourage you to read the book NVC: A language of Life if you would like to learn to do what Joan Baez was doing in this story.

Sample: From Daily KOS

Last night, four Vietnam veterans protested Joan’s concert in Idaho Falls with signs reading: “JOAN BAEZ – SOLDIERS DON’T KILL BABIES, LIBERALS DO” and “JOAN BAEZ GAVE COMFORT & AID TO OUR ENEMY IN VIETNAM & ENCOURAGED THEM TO KILL AMERICANS!”

Joan was informed that the men were protesting her concert about an hour before it was due to begin and she immediately walked out onto the street to talk to them.  When she approached, one of the first things they said was “We appreciate the work you did on civil rights and women’s rights.”  They wanted to make that point clear.

She listened closely as they discussed their views.  Primarily, they wanted to express the way they felt betrayed by anti-war protesters when they returned from combat.  Joan assured them that she stood by them then and now.  They had mixed reactions as she explained her actual positions and her support for all veterans, across the board.


VIDEO: George Lakoff – Empathy and Sustainability Part 1

by @ 7:07 am. Filed under Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

I loved the part of this video where he points out that “you cannot be rational without being emotional” which points out just how important our emotions really are in our daily life.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Does Hate Speech Kill People? Part I

by @ 10:46 pm. Filed under Americans For Truth, hate speech

It is my professional and personal opinion that hate speech helps to cultivate the culture of violence that currently exists for GLBT folks around the planet.   Hate speech takes the “us vs. them” mentality and creates the justification needed for winning over an enemy and the objectification of gays and lesbians that allows people to use violence against us.   Clinical psychologist, hostage negotiator, professor and author, George Kohlrieser writes in his book Hostage at the Table on page 106:

People do not kill people – they never have and they never will.  People who kill [or use violence to injure] perceive other people as objects; they are killing in a state of detachment or broken bonding.  The killer must see the other person as nothing more than an object or enemy to be eliminated.  If at any moment that object becomes a human being – a person provoking empathy in the killer – the act of violence is stopped cold.  The problem arises with those individuals who are so wounded in their attachment capacity that they cannot feel empathy, form human bonds or maintain bonding under high emotional stress.

Hate speech that objectifies GLBT folks into demons, possessed beings, a diseased threat, or immoral heathens is the exact type of stuff the aids wounded people into becoming killers or bashers.   While anti-gay activist may not actively be promoting violence against gays and lesbians, they are certainly providing the material to help objectify us or make us seem less than human to a mind who is already wounded.  They work hard to present GLBT folks as anything other than human by to conveying others that we are a threat to children, diseased, against god, or militant.

We currently live in a society that associates gays and lesbians with negative “things” and feelings.  We hear young kids saying “that’s so gay” for anything they find negative or bad.    Add to this culture of negative messages, the words of anti-gay groups like Americans for Truth About Homosexuality or Concerned Women for America that claim GLBT persons are not human but instead, “a threat to marriage” or “predators after our children” or “threat to our free speech”  or a “threat to taxpayers” and you have a recipe for murder, violence, and hate crimes.

Research has shown that many killers and gay bashers show little or no remorse for their actions because they believe they were “justified” for taking out the enemy. The killers feel their victims had it coming because the killers didn’t see the victims as human but instead saw them as objects. This writer can’t imagine where they got that notion.   Much like Kohlrieser points out, that in order for them to take the violent actions they have taken, a disconnection from the victim’s humanity must take place.  At some point, the offender must have begun to see a gay and lesbian person as an enemy, a threat and no longer human.  When one reads many of the quotes and comments from anti-gay writers, it is no wonder to me that killers can so easily see gays and objects rather than humans.

Excerpt from the link above:

“For the first time on Wednesday, jurors in the Bartow, Florida murder trial of Joseph Bearden – charged with the stabbing death of Ryan Skipper – heard testimony suggesting why some believe the killing was actually a hate crime. According to a key prosecution witness, the defendant admitted that he felt no remorse about killing Skipper – an openly gay man – because he had done the world a favor by getting rid of a homosexual. “

As an example of this type of dehumanizing of GLBT folks,  I refer to a recent article written by Peter LaBarbera from the group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.   In this article LaBarbera paints a picture of a transgendered activist as a “tranny” and while he never states it directly, he wants the reader to see transgendered folks as a threat to taxpayers or an enemy who will force to make others do things they don’t want to do.  LaBarbera writes:

“No American should be forced to pay for these nature-rejecting procedures with his or her tax dollars. Homosexual groups like Human Rights Campaign boast of their support for taxpayer-funded “sex-change” operations in cities like San Francisco”

Even in just this small paragraph, the writer is trying to get the reader to see transgendered and homosexual persons as a threat to taxpayers and society as a whole.  He is NOT making the case that a bill or piece of legislation is a problem for the taxpayer but the “homosexuals” themselves.  There is even a failure to note that transgendered and gay folk are also taxpayers.   By this simple distinction, this becomes not a piece to rally against legislation but a rally and call to arms against transgendered and gay Americans.  To a mind that is already wounded this is just inspirational language to take GLBT human beings and make them objects worthy of elimination.

A huge part of my message in writing this blog is that I believe there is a better way.  I believe folks like Peter LaBarbera could learn a language of life that gets all of our needs met.   I do believe that those who are opposed to rights for gays and lesbians can voice their oppositions without dehumanizing the very people they claim to love.  There is a better choice and I can assure you, it is a choice.   We can choose a language of compassion or a language of war.

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Mahatma Gandhi

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