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Learning to Have Tough Conversations from the Heart

To bring greater understanding and compassion into the world, we have to get better at having tough conversations. As a divorce coach working with people whose relationships are complicated, I strive to help clients speak with each other in a respectful and empathetic manner. Many of the methodologies I learned to help our clients are available to everyone, in all walks of life. They have a foundation in research and neuroscience. Learning how to speak compassionately, takes a desire to be heartfelt, knowledge, practice and the recognition things have to change.

In the late sixties and seventies, Nonviolent Communications (NVC) was being used to help resolve collegiate, international and racial crises. The goal of this methodology is to resolve conflict respectfully and considerately. The four-part process to bring about constructive conversations revolves around profound, non-judgmental observation and listening, expressing story free feelings, expressing needs, and requesting actions. NVC has been the basis for many other effective, compassionate communication programs. For more information on NVC visit

The cornerstone of Gottman Method Couples Therapy identifies four negative communication styles that predict divorce. They're aptly called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. We've all been the recipients of these negative communication styles: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. A quick read on how to remedy these confrontational styles go here

Mediators, collaborative divorce professionals, and organizations learn Non-Adversarial Communications (NAC) to improve both relationships and conversations. The process is to create a connection with ourselves and others has deep roots in NVC. Our typical conversations convey thoughts, ideas, and judgments. In NAC, Intention creates a mutual understanding of what is centrally important to all concerned. Intention enables our abilities to focus attention on expressing and listening for feelings and needs. To learn more:

The Arbinger Institute helps organizations and their people to turn outward through a three-step process: Mindset Change, Leader Development, and Systems Improvement. The premise is that common organizational challenges like low engagement, poor collaboration, or lack of innovation are the result of a self-focused inward mindset. We tend to see ourselves as in or out of the box. When we’re in the box we see people as objects. We don’t take into consideration their needs, wants, desires. To be out of the box we count others the way they want to be counted, with needs wants and desires. Breakthrough results only happen when people shift from an in the box mindset to an impact-focused outward mindset. The institute's methodology grew out of a rigorous and decades-long study of human interaction. For more go to


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