Nonviolent Communication & Corporations - Marshall Rosenberg Pt 3

Nonviolent Communication & Corporations

In a video on YouTube, called Nonviolent Communication and Corporations, Dr Marshall Rosenberg talks specifically about how the old domination structure affects how businesses function. As he passed away, this is the closest I can get to sharing his teaching; I have transcribed his words to share how he thought about this topic – radically different to our usual way of thinking and very inspiring. Part one is here; part two is here, and this is part three.

Paula: Not the case… in conclusion, she goes that attachment to un-investigated thought is innocence. So, she talks about the importance of looking at the thoughts, that we have and saying that hate is nothing than pure innocence. And I'd like to know if you can relate this to how you view anger…. which is an intense emotion that makes so many of us unhappy.

Marshall: Our approach to it, I think, has some parallels to what you've described; we say that anger is a result of thinking. Certain kind of thinking- thinking that implies wrongness. So, we get angry, because we pass judgment on the other person.

So, if I'm driving and somebody's driving in a way I don't like.. and I think, ‘what's wrong with that idiot?’ Don't they know any better than that,’ it's not that person's driving that makes me angry… it's that I'm judging them as wrong, an idiot... I'm thinking ‘they don't have any right to drive that way… they should be punished… they deserve to suffer’… it's that kind of thinking, that implies wrongness and deserving of suffering and the word ‘should’- all of those combined together is what creates anger.

So, we show people that if you are angry, first of all, the worst thing I can think of, is thinking that there's something wrong with you for being angry. Let's not think; there's anything wrong with anger. Next, we say, what I just did to you; we help people to see that their anger is created by their thinking. Thinking that implies wrongness, that the person deserves to be punished for what they're doing. Next, we teach people- don't judge yourself for thinking that way; don't think there's something wrong for thinking it and it'll keep the process going. The next step you teach people…

Paula: Excuse me, that's why you say, you don't have to be a saint to do this process… that it's okay if you're angry, just give yourself some empathy and…

Marshall: It's okay to be angry. How could you help but be angry, if you've been educated in the United States, you're going to spend a good deal of your life being angry - either at others or at yourself which takes the form of depression, guilt and shame. But it's the same thinking that causes depression, guilt and shame that causes anger. It's just where it's directed. If it's directed outward, we're angry; if we direct it toward ourselves, we feel depressed, guilt and shame.

Paula: Because we're punishing ourselves?

Marshall: Because we think that what we did was wrong. We think ‘it was stupid; I shouldn't have done it’ - if you think that way about yourself, you'll feel depressed, guilt and shame. But in a domination culture, you won't be educated to think that you feel that way because you've been educated, you think that you're mentally ill… so we have this destructive metaphor of mental illness, you see. Well, mental illness is not it, you just taught people to think in a way that makes them miserable.

So, back to your question of anger, we teach people how to be conscious of the thinking that makes you angry. Just to see it… just to see, it's not what the other person did. If people follow me and my work, they'd see that it's never what other people do that make you angry. I was working in with some people in Rwanda, and one of the Rwandan women had her whole family killed. I know this woman very well, she's never been angry. She has strong feelings but not anger. Other people in her tribe are furious with her because she's not angry at the other side. So, it's not what others do that make you angry; it's your thinking. She doesn't think in the way that makes her angry; her thinking leads her to use enormous energy now, to try to prevent this ever happening to somebody else. If we're angry, the thinking that leads to it leads us to want vengeance and to hurt the other side.

So, the next step we teach people after they've identified the thinking that creates their anger… we teach them, to look at the need that is being expressed through the judgmental thinking… see, we show people that all judgmental thinking is a tragic expression of a need. So, we say to people when you're angry, be conscious of the thinking that makes you that way. Next, connect with the need that's being lost through all of this judgmental thinking. As soon as they get in touch with that need, they find, that they’re no longer angry.

Paula: So, judgmental thinking blocks us from feeling our needs or feeling anything except the anger?

Marshall: It blocks us from being conscious of what need of ours isn't getting met. Our thinking is enemy image. We're thinking of the wrongness of the other person; we're not thinking of what need of ours is not getting met. When we're not in touch with our needs, we’re much less likely to get our needs met. At the moment we get in touch with our needs, we cannot be angry. We’ll feel scared, powerless, hurt, frustrated, sad... but those are feelings that nature put in us to mobilize us to get our needs met, not to punish others.

Paula: We were talking about Byron Katie's work - saying that we would all stop hating if we knew how. And it seems, you've just described to me this process of anger - do you have any final things to say about her comment that hate is nothing more than pure innocence and that innocence can be painful?

Marshall: I guess I'm not clear enough about what she means by that, to respond to.

Paula:  The way the way I see it, is that when someone is angry as you described, and they're out of touch with their feelings and their needs aren't being met... they haven't really investigated into themselves. However, I know from Byron Katie's work - she has something very simple in mind, that if you're hating someone... really, it's occupying your attention so much... so you're not self-realized, you're that-person realized, and you can shift it by taking a look at that discomfort. It's a very simple shift that she talks about and I can see and appreciate. But I personally had an experience in a workshop of yours, and you didn't conduct it, but it was somebody that you trained. Well, I was expressing my feelings to my intimate partner, and there was a moment where I felt heard and something happened in the whole room, and I was wondering if you have any comments to make about this, do we have a human need to be heard by others?

Marshall: We call this need by many things...the need to be heard. But technically I would say, it's a need for empathy - empathic connection; which means being heard in a special way, not intellectually understood... but you feel a presence... you feel the presence of somebody else, to what's alive in you.

You don't feel that they're evaluating it, analyzing it, they are just there with you, in that feeling. And yes that happened today in the training we did here where I'm at. At the moment, we probably had 15 people that had that transformative experience more than one time during the day - when they got in touch with things very powerful than them and one or more sometimes a whole group was just fully present...  it's a very precious experience. The Christians say, when two or more are gathered in my name, there I am. Also, you see, it's a very spiritual experience to have this quality of where we don't allow any analysis to get in there, just presence being there.

The Israeli philosopher and psychotherapist Martin Buber says that this is the most precious gift one human being can give to another; that presence, that just being with. Not intellectually understanding, not judging, analyzing, classifying, not trying to help, but just being there - the most precious gift one human being can give to another.

Paula: In my case, it was it was an intimacy...a profound intimacy... and yet, there was a group.. and you would usually think in a group, you can't feel that intimate. And so I guess, that's what I want to explore a little more deeply with you, because what is it about a society or a group that can accomplish something that even two loving partners can't?

Marshall: Well I think it is a very powerful experience when however many people can really be fully present at the same time to something that somebody's experiencing, and it's a very powerful, very beautiful experience.

Paula: I feel almost like if I need these people in the future... you know, we'll always have shared something. There's some kind of a bond... now, on the other hand, nobody is responsible for your happiness so, in theory, I should be able to go up into the mountains and be a yogi in the cave and accomplish that.

Marshall: Well, I think you can accomplish other things, that meet other needs, by being alone. You can learn to give this quality of empathy to yourself. We teach people how to do it because when you don't have the wonderful resource of others who know how to listen in this way, how to give it to yourself.

Paula: So, Nonviolent Communication teaches how to listen to ourselves.

Marshall: Especially when we need it the most. For example, when we have just messed something up. And we're really blasting ourselves using the old style thinking, thinking 'how could I have been so dumb?'. That's when we really need this quality of empathy, for what's going on in us, so we teach people at that point... how to give this empathy to themselves -  if they're not fortunate enough to have others around them who can assist them.

Paula: Do you think Nonviolent Communication is like meditation for the masses, for the society?

Marshall: Well, I've never thought of it that way. I have said that it does involve meditation at certain points. For example, when people are angry, and we say to people, you got to stop and see this thinking that's making you angry. Well, that's essentially a part of some people's approach to meditation, is just to become highly conscious of what you're thinking at any given moment. So we incorporate that, in our training- but I've never thought of our training as meditation for the masses. I would say it's a way of being conscious and how you choose to relate to other human beings and not only to be conscious of that but having skills from manifesting it, even when other people do not have the skills and even when you're within structures that are not facilitating human encounters... that are doing quite the opposite - they are facilitating competition, domination, violence.

Paula: I guess I'm just eager to see that the world is living more harmoniously and that consumerism is better understood as not being successful; I mean, we're a society of rich and oftentimes, very unhappy people.

Marshall: Yes, consumerism is not a need as we've said a couple of times already. And to be thinking that that's where our happiness is, as to what we can buy and consume- it's tragic for everybody.. the environment, for the other cultures that we’re ripping off while we play that consumer game. Yes, we need to show people what is a fun game. Not say that consumerism is bad, we need to show them something that's more wonderful and less costly and that's not hard to do.

Paula: Can you talk briefly about the stages of emotional liberation.

Marshall: I'm not too sure what you mean by…

Paula: Oh, you were speaking in your book about... well, I was sort of sensitive to the stage of the obnoxious part - where you say, you're not responsible for someone else's happiness.

Marshall: Yes. As I've mentioned to you already, we use human feelings to induce guilt. So, it's really a form of violence to say to somebody, 'it hurts me when you say that.' If they believe it, and then they feel guilty and do whatever I want - now, it's a form of violence.

So, we get a lot of people in our training, we've been educated that way. All they have to do is see somebody feeling hurt or upset with them and right away, 'oh I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'll change'. Now, when people start to wake up, and they see how much they've been terrorized by (unclear) until we can show them the approach that we advocate, they often go through a phase that I call obnoxious. So now, when somebody says, ' it hurts my feelings',  now they say, ' that's your problem, I'm not responsible for your feelings, don't play your guilt games with me,' you see.

Well, we try to show people a third level. We hopefully can get them past that. We try to show them that rebellion is just as much being dominated as submission. So, to have to rebel against the feeling... say, ' I'm not responsible' you're still giving the other person power-over. Submission and rebellion are the same game so…

Paula: When you say, 'I'm not responsible for your feelings', that person has power over you.

Marshall: Yes, that means you’re denying it - that takes energy to have to protect ourselves against it. So whether we agree with it or oppose it, we're still caught up in that energy. So our approach says, show an empathic connection with the pain this poor person is experiencing. Say, 'so, you're feeling hurt because your need for so-and-so isn't getting met,' we don't say, 'you're feeling hurt, because of what I did.' We show a respectful understanding for the feelings and the needs that are not getting met.

Paula: Definitely the development of virtue

Marshall: This is submission and rebellion. In my book, I give an example of my oldest son. The first day he came back from a public school, he was 12 years old at the time, he had gone to another school for six years that I had trained-  the teachers have quite a different way of relating to the students than in the public school that he went to. So, he came back the first day, and I said how was the new school, Rick? He said, 'it was okay, dad. But boy, some of those teachers.' I said, 'what happened?' He said, dad, I wasn't halfway in the school... really halfway in the front door and some man teacher comes running over to me and says,'my, my look at the little girl!'

What the teacher was reacting to, is that my son had very long hair, you see. Well in a domination school of course, right away the teachers want the students to know there's a right way and a wrong way. And the teachers are here to show you what's right and to use methods such as punishment, reward, guilt, shame and so forth. So I thought to myself, that is a wonderful way to welcome a child to a school...he's halfway through the door. So I said to my son, 'what did you do?'

He said, I remember what you said, dad, that in that kind of structure - never give them the power to make me submit or rebel. See, very important not to play the game.  I said, 'Hey, man- you remembered that? That thrills me. What did you do then?' Well, he said, 'I tried to do what you said dad - even when a person was treating you that way, try to hear what they're feeling and needing.' I said, 'you remembered to do that?  So, what did you hear?' He said, 'This was pretty obvious, dad - he seemed irritated, wanted me to cut my hair'.  I said, 'Listen, how'd that leave you feeling?.' He said, 'dad, I felt sad for the man- he was bald and seemed to have a problem about hair.'

Paula: So, you saw your son had developed empathy?

Marshall: Yes. And awareness that even when you're in a domination structure, don't play the game. See, don't submit or rebel. When you're really in touch with your own values, you play by your own story - even when you're surrounded by a domination culture.

Paula: That is so encouraging.

Man in the Background: (Unclear)

Marshall: Here in this case, even with an authority, who is brutalizing... in the case of trying to induce shame and so forth... my son is still living by the story, that this is a human being that has feelings and needs. He's not seeing this person as an authority - a teacher; he's seeing him as a human being. He's doing what Etty Hillesum did in her in her diary, that she wrote from a concentration camp, talking about how this Nazi guard was brutalizing her and others. But, within the midst of that, she tried to understand what kind of pain this man must have been going through when he did that to her. So, even though the structure is one where the guard is brutalizing people with weapons, she's living in a different world... she's living in the world that Rumi talks about... 'there is a place beyond rightness and wrongness, I'll meet you there'. So you can live in that world, no matter what structure you’re in.

Paula: I remember in your book,she also said she was never afraid because she had that ability...

Marshall: Yes, Victor Frankl in his writings... he spent four years in a concentration camp... in his book, Man's Search for Meaning he says, the people who survived, were those who could get their need for meaning met - even in that structure. So Etty HIllesum is a good example of somebody who had meaning, could find meaning... because she had her own spirituality clearly defined and even within that structure, she lived in harmony with it.

Paula: You know I'm really honoured to know you and the work that you do because I feel that you are allowing those experiences... those people who've been able to achieve this kind of compassion... you're breaking it down, so it can be better understood and practised by others. I can't thank you enough.

Marshall: I love that gratitude. If I can do that, then I'm very satisfied, to take the wisdom these people had and pass it on... if I can do that, I'm very pleased.

Paula: Well, I definitely feel you're doing it, and I thank you so much for joining us today.

Man in the Background: Can I just ask you, since you said you’ve worked with the Palestinians and the Israelis, so why is there still trouble over there?

Marshall: Well, of course, the work, I'm doing there I started in 1988. I found a team of Palestinians and the team of Israelis that I felt we share the same perspectives and I brought that both teams to Switzerland so we could intensively work together. So we've been working together for about 12 years. No, we haven't solved the problem in the middle east... the violence... but we do have a thousand schools in Israel now functioning in harmony with our principles, so if we look 30 years into the future, I think our work, I would hope that it would make a big contribution.

In addition to that, I've worked with the police. We've worked with the doctors in refugee camps and Palestine so no, we haven't solved all of the violence there yet but we're making contributions to the society. And just today, in fact, this lunch I had with a woman who has access to Shimon Peres and he's got a copy of my book on his desk and she has access to him and now we're going to be talking about concretely what we can do now at a political level to get them to start thinking and communicating differently, so you never know.

Man in the Background: But don’t both sides have the same need? Don't they both want the same piece of land? I mean, how do you resolve these issues?

Marshall: Define needs. They both have the same needs; there's no question about it. But the same piece of land is not a need, that's a strategy, you see. If you think, how can that be solved?- It can't be.

But, if you do what I do when I do mediation... I don't even talk about how to divide the land until there's a connection - a connection at the need level - to get both sides to see that they have the same need.  Now, they'll start wanting now, to justify why they have the right to the land. And in my mediations, I would say, 'but what are our needs... let's look at the needs.'

You know, that's been argued for how many centuries? We are not going to know, who has the right on that basis?

But if we can get both of you clear... what your needs are, we can meet everybody's needs. But, when you look at what we call these communications that they have... I've been to one of those organized by the Swedish government... that the Swedish service.. they got some top people from Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan and they asked me to help in this. But they did it like most of these communications are done. You could see ahead of time; nobody's going to change anything, they are for the press, they're not really human interactions. In fact, they are usually not even looking at each other, when the other person's talking- they're off with their own people... what they're going to say back. They're not even listening, so it's not a kind of communication... like the Norwegian guy that grabbed the Israeli and the Palestinian and brought them into this house for a weekend got further than with all the years of these kinds of negotiations.

So what I would do is help to connect at the need level to see each other as human beings get rid of all this rivalry

Paula: But what would you do then...because there's a certain diplomatic protocol and I know you, you would escape it

Marshall: I'm saying, they can do that if they want. But if they really want my help, I would say let's just get to a room and let me do what I did with me these Chiefs in Nigeria. See one-quarter of the population killed in one year - a Christian tribe and a Muslim tribe. I start with; I'd like to hear from either side - whose needs are not being met in this country?

The Christian chief screams across the table, ' you people are murderers!' They'd scream back, 'you've been dominating us for 80 years. We're not going to tolerate it.'  You see, I asked for needs - they're giving me enemy images. My job is to translate these judgments into needs. So I said to the chief, who screams murderer, ' Chief, are you saying that your need for safety isn't met, at the moment and you want some agreement... that no matter what the conflict, no violence would be used.' He thought for a minute, 'that's exactly what I'm saying.' Well, yeah, that's exactly what he wanted to say, but he didn't have need language. He could only call them names.

So I said, what the chief on this side, please say back what his needs are? Chief on the other side screams, 'then why did you kill my son?.' I said, ' Chief, we'll get to that in a moment... but would you please, just first tell me what his needs are.' He couldn't. I had to repeat the needs. I had to repeat them three times. Finally, he hears it. Then I translate his judgments into a need. I get this side to hear it, just to get that far took about an hour because they kept screaming at each other.

But after one hour of my just translating judgments into needs, one of the Chiefs that hadn't spoken jumped up and looked at me and said (babbling) because they spoke Hausa, a language I don't speak... so I had to wait for my translator. I thought I had stepped on a cultural mores or something, but when I heard the message I loved it. The translator said, the chief says, 'we can't learn this in one day... to communicate this way, if we know how to communicate this way, we don't have to kill each other.'  You see, so it took people in a totally different culture about an hour to see that if you can just say what your needs are, get rid of these enemy images, we can resolve the conflicts.

Nonviolent Communication & Corporations - Marshall Rosenberg Pt 2

Nonviolent Communication & Corporations

In a video on YouTube, calledNonviolent Communication and Corporations, Dr Marshall Rosenberg talks specifically about how the old domination structure affects how businesses function. As he passed away, this is the closest I can get to sharing his teaching; I have transcribed his words to share how he thought about this topic – radically different to our usual way of thinking and very inspiring. Part one is here; this is part two. It is long - 4,738 words and so you may wish to find a way to read it slowly, when you have more time. I use the 'send to Kindle' extension on Chrome.

Marshall: These are people that’d be killed. Actually, I'm convinced that most schoolchildren could solve the conflict very quickly, if you simply told them what the resources are and what the needs of both sides are, you see.

Paula: So it doesn't take a PhD in psychology to put this into action.

Marshall: It takes somebody with a consciousness of human needs and an ability to translate moralistic judgments into needs. That's a core part of our training - that all language that criticizes others is essentially a tragic expression of an unmet need.

Paula: Why is there such a tendency to criticize others to make ourselves look good?

Marshall: Because we've been educated for 10,000 years, according to the theologian Walter Wink, in his book The Powers That Be. We have been educated for 10,000 years to maintain domination structures in which a few people dominate many and such structures require a language of domination, a language in which people at the top who claim to be authorities know what right, know what's wrong, know who's good, who's bad. Because those judgments are necessary to determine who deserves reward and who deserves punishment. So, we have been educated not to think of our human needs; we have been educated to think in terms of moralistic judgments.

So the way to undo this... we've got to be careful that the way to undo this... is not to say we've got to get rid of this thinking. Because getting rid of something creates resistance. What we have to do is get conscious of what do we want to replace it with, that will better serve life at less cost. So, when we go about systems change in our organization, we're not out to destroy what is or to get rid of it; we are out to transform it to better serve life. When we work with people taking drugs or alcohol, we're not trying... our objective is not to get them to stop taking the drugs or the alcohol; our objectives are to find another way of meeting their needs that's more effective and less costly.

Paula: On their body.

Marshall: And to the people around them and to the society. So, our approach is never to get rid of something. That's what leads to violence... you see, if you set your objective of getting rid of something, killing it usually works.

Paula: Is that your definition of violence?

Marshall: Well, we see violence at several levels. Physical level, of course, I would call violence intentionally harming... physically harming another person. I would say psychological violence is in any way implying wrongness of another person. But we also have structural violence. By the way, we have created laws that discriminate against certain people; I would call that another form of institutional violence so I think there's these different levels of violence- they're all interrelated.

Paula: What about the institution of marriage in this society. Is there violence built into that institution?

Marshall: Yes I would say violence in this sense that…

Paula: Because these are two people that were in love they decided to get married and then later on…

Marshall: And I'm saying very often the way love is... I mentioned earlier... the way love is defined, it does violence to both people; it almost makes them a slave to the other. For example, if to be in love and to be married means that I'm responsible for the other person's happiness, now we get into this guilt game where if they're upset I'm at fault; that makes the person you're the closest with seem about as much fun to be with as a prolonged dental appointment.

Paula: I know, I agree with that part of it. You know after the honeymoon is over they say but what about before the honeymoon even starts? Somebody... a man says, I'm going to take care of you and protect you and you know, he brings you flowers and roses and you just tend to have this knee-jerk reaction that he's making you happy.

Marshall: Yes. He is probably meeting some of your needs by that... by the flower to meet a need to be cared for. That part is beautiful - when people do things to contribute to each other's needs being fulfilled. The problem is with the training we get about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.  You see in a domination culture; women are trained that 'a loving woman has no needs'; she sacrifices her needs for her family, for her man. So the loving wife is basically this martyr, who has no needs herself but to do for others.

A man gets a similar training but a little different wrinkle and in the male case, it's 'brave men have no needs'. They are willing to even sacrifice their life in the service of the King. Notice in both cases, human needs are not nice; they're weak, dependent, selfish, needy, weak, sick. So you've got to maintain a domination culture, you've got to educate people to be disconnected from their needs and to learn all these roles of this is what a man should do and what a woman should do -  which is a sure way to make sure that you can't really enjoy each other.

Paula: So you.. thing is... to get the stigma out of need. If we can accept that needs are good, maybe we could say a saint has a great need to be one with God?

Marshall: I would say that not only a saint but if it's a need as we define needs, all human beings have it. All human beings have the same needs.

Paula: All human beings.

Marshall: All human beings have the same needs. The differences are in the strategies for meeting needs you see. All human beings have a need for nourishment, physical nourishment for their bodies -food. But of course, what is the strategy for meeting that? In some countries, they eat quite different foods to meet that need. So strategies differ.. from you know... culture to culture. But all human beings have the same needs. But we don't get educated to express these needs because people do not make good slaves when they're in touch with their needs. So if you want to educate a vast majority of the public to be nice, dead people so that they'll fit into corporate structures and do life-alienated work, you've got to educate them not to be in touch with needs, you've got to educate them to work for rewards in the form of approval or money. Or to be afraid of punishment... that you'll get fired. So you don't educate them to meet needs; to be educated in terms of needs is a revolutionary act.

Man in the background: What does the ideal society look like? Describe that...

Marshall: First of all, the ideal society... no one would do things for rewards or to avoid punishment because you wouldn't have rewards or punishment. You see, you would have life-serving missions for organisations; they would see that their objectives are to enrich the needs, enrich the lives of people. So, second characteristic... I've already mentioned - power-with tactics would be used, not power-over tactics. Power-over tactics are punishment, reward, guilt, shame, duty, obligation. Power-with requires communication so that people can see how their actions are in fact nourishing life and so it's gratitude... sincere gratitude that people work for... not approval, you see. But to see that how their actions are enriching life. And third, in the kind of what I call life-serving organisations - the role of authority is radically different than in the institutions we’re familiar with. Authority in life-serving organisation is a servant; they serve the workers, they don't control them... they serve them. If they have expertise, it is to serve the workers so that the workers can serve the life-serving mission. So, these are a few characteristics of a life-serving organization whether that be a family a school corporation or a government.

Paula: Do you think as a person practices nonviolent communication their needs change?

Marshall: Now you see, our needs never change. Our needs are always the same... the same as all other people in the world... but we might change as different ways of meeting the needs but the needs don't change.

Paula: What is that basically? The needs?

Marshall: The needs is life seeking fulfilment within each one of us. Trees have needs, bees have needs, humans have needs, all living phenomena have needs. It's life seeking expression.

Paula: So they're seeking greater happiness.

Marshall: They're seeking fulfilment. Fulfilment. The happiness comes as a result of the fulfilment. We are not after the happiness. Life is not to live happily ever after. It is to laugh all our laughter and cry all our tears. Life at times requires sadness....needs don't get met. Life and death go together you see, life is a process that's ever-changing.

Paula:When needs don't get met, you'd say that is... that the tears and the beckoning a new chapter?

Marshall: I would say that the pain is nature's way of mobilizing us to better meet our needs, the sorrow says a need of mine isn't getting met- it mobilizes me to do something about it.

Paula: And so we want to tune into that... we want to live that to make our life…

Marshall: We want to tune in to our sorrow, we want to tune into our joy, we want to celebrate when our needs do get met and we want to mourn when they don't get met.

Man in the Background: (Unclear)

Marshall: Well, certainly we wouldn't have consumerism mixed up as a human need. I think we would have factories that would create life-serving things like clothes and other things that serve life. I think they would be much more local. I don't think they would be controlled by international forces.

Paula: Why do people like to have things? What is consumerism?

Marshall: They're educated... if you read the book by Michael Lerner, Spirit Matters, I think he does a good job in that book of explaining what he calls misrepresentation of needs. Our domination cultures want to educate people so that they get needs mixed up. For example, they educate you to think you need approval. You see, we don't need approval. What we...

Paula: And then you get the big car and the diamonds...

Marshall: Exactly. They think we need to get this approval from others by how we can consume... what we own... but that need for approval is really not a human need. If we really wipe away the false education, here's what it is. We all have a need to contribute to life but how do I know whether I've contributed to your life unless I receive some sincere gratitude. So if you tell me how a meal I cooked really enriched your life, it's not that I did it for the gratitude but the gratitude gives me confirmation that my need to contribute to your life was met. So that gets all distorted in a domination culture and we educate people to think that they need the approval.

Paula: And so the cars and the things become symbols of approval being given?

Marshall: Oh yes, yes... especially if you are raised in Detroit, Michigan like I was. When I went to my tenth high school reunion, the first question everybody asked everybody was what car are you driving? You see that that was the determiner of how you've made it in life... what size car you drive, but that's a distortion; that's a distortion of this need to contribute to life with this thinking that we need approval.

Paula: Do you think there's any basic difference between the needs of men and women and that that if there is a basic difference that can be the quote-unquote eternal conflict?

Marshall: Well, as I said, I think all human beings have the same needs. I think men and women have the same needs. Certainly, cultures teach men and women different ways of getting needs met and they also teach them, it's okay to have some needs if you're a man but not others. Maybe, women get different training but both men and women have the same needs.

Paula: I'm thinking of beings who talk about enlightenment and liberation saying that any qualification that you might have is not who you are... you're obviously not the person defined by the car you drive or even the person defined by the body that you have- as you learned when you were young people were not liking you for the color of your skin or religion. And yet it can go even farther that we have no qualification whatsoever including being a man or woman and a very enlightened person that I met, Sean Klein, said that as long as there's a man and as long as there's a woman there can never be understanding.

Marshall: Ask me whether I'm a man or a woman.

Paula: Are you a man or a woman?

Marshall: Some of the above, none of the above, all of the above and more of course.

Paula: sounds like you're describing sainthood.

Marshall: No, I'm just really describing what I think exists. I don't think any label using the verb 'to be' dehumanizes people. Anytime you think of yourself, what you are, or what somebody else, is I think you lose the beauty and the awe and the wonder of this living phenomena. So one of the things when we work with parents, we show them that the worst thing you can do is see these younger people you're living with as a 'child'; the very label 'child' keeps you from seeing the full humanness of this person.

Paula: Erm...But I still feel that's a quality of a liberated human being - sainthood. You always say, you don't have to be a saint to practice nonviolent communication but I see when I read about it and watch the results, you show people how easy it is to achieve virtue that has been considered exclusive for the very elite.

Marshall: But I see whole cultures that live this way, then they are all saints by that definition. Read Ruth Benedict's research - there's whole tribes... cultures in the world... they don't teach their people to think of what people are, they don't teach people to label and categorize; such tribes of our cultures have almost no violence.

Paula: Do they have enough spiritual power to protect themselves because you talk about the protective use of force also in your teaching...  will these societies survive?

Marshall: That's one of the tragedies... that they don't have the weapons I think... they have the spirituality that contributes to survival but other things don't they don't have.

Paula: But that shouldn't be a problem though, with your work, you don't use weapons.

Marshall: No but if people do.. that you're surrounded by... unless you can learn some ways of dealing with them, then you may not survive. So it's one of the hardest challenges we have when we’re called upon by such cultures to help them. For example, I was asked to work with some people from a tribe in Malaysia... my translator before the day began, we had a very interesting conversation about language;  because he said to me you know Marshall if you use the verb 'to be' today that would be very hard for me to translate, because we don't have it in our language- and I thought about that for a moment.

Paula: It is the first verb we learn to conjugate when learn.

Marshall: You would hear 'a good boy', 'bad boy', 'that's a right answer',' that's a wrong answer', so for me, to think for a moment, I said to him, "Well, how can I communicate today... if I can't label and categorize people? What if I want to say to somebody, 'you're selfish'," and he said, "Marshall, we just don't think that way, that'll be a real challenge for me" and I said, "Well, what would you do then, if I did call somebody selfish? He said in our language, "Marshall I would translate it this way. I would say Marshall says, he sees you taking care of your own needs, but not the needs of others. He would like you to take care of their needs too. "

And I sat there, thinking to myself, this is exactly what I teach people... that's exactly the language of Nonviolent Communication. So, then the sad question, is why was I asked to work with them, if they do naturally what I teach people around the world to do. The sad reason for that was this tribe had been living peacefully in the middle of the jungle for several generations, but they were living in amongst trees that have great value in the outside world. So, logging interest were destroying their habitats and their one senator for sixty thousand people in the Malaysian government... heard of work we were doing in Malaysia and he asked if I would work with their people... to show them how they might communicate with these people around them, that are coming in now, with this different way of thinking... they think they have a right to this because they paid money for it, they think they have a right to use weapons to clear them off the land... so, it's a real challenge to support these people in knowing how to survive, in the face of that kind of oppression.

Paula: That they're protecting the ecosystem that we need... the rainforests... I know you're not talking about the rainforest, but I would imagine the same would be true of tribes living in the rainforests and we need that air.

Marshall: So, there's all kinds of reasons for us to help such people learn how to protect themselves and the environment in the face of these forces that are trying to take it away from them.

Paula: So, it becomes imperative that we figure out what consumerism is... that it's not really a need.

Marshall: Yes, now consumerism is not a need. We need food, we need shelter but we don't need cars; but they can be a helpful strategy... if we can find a way to meet the need for mobility which the cars meet... if we can find and we have technology which could give us this mobility without destroying the environment and we need to get about developing transportation that can meet our need for mobility without destroying the planet.

Paula: Do you have any visions or even fantasies because of the cultures that you've seen to bring them to this culture... knowledge of what they're doing?

Marshall: Well, yes I have studied with Benedict and Margaret Mead and other anthropologists to see how cultures have existed in the past and yet, met their needs though especially the ones that at least from anthropological evidence seem not have had much violence. I've tried to learn from them, what we can bring and learn in our culture.

Paula: I mean, that we should have more shows about these people's lives going in documentaries maybe...

Marshall: Oh, I think we need to learn from them, yes very much so. I think we need to learn... from people like William Ury and his book The Third Side who's gone back and studied such cultures for thousands of years and seen, he's seen cultures that didn't have violence... you need to see... have him and others like him share their knowledge; and show us what we can learn from those cultures to bring us back to the state where people can get their needs met without violence.

Paula: Can consumerism be even something like fishing for compliments? Like you were saying when a little girl is judged, 'oh, you're such a sweet little girl' that that's actually a disservice to her.

Marshall: Compliments and praise I think are equally violent, as negative statements like insults; because, notice both of them are using the same language form- they are both using categories. We're putting people in a category when we say, 'you're a stupid idiot' or when we say 'you're a brilliant person', we're dehumanizing the person in both of them. So rather than giving a compliment or praise, our training shows that people will get much more out of your sincere gratitude if that's what you're trying to do... is give a sincere gratitude... don't tell people what they are... tell people specifically what they've done that enriches your life, express how you feel about that and what needs were met... you'll see that people learn more from that, than they do from praise or compliments. But, you see praise and compliments are given for the motive of reward, to manipulate.

Paula: And approval

Marshall: Approval- the same way it can be used, for the purpose of manipulation

Man in the Background: (unclear)

Marshall: The gratitude... for example, let's say, that I'm a teacher and the student has just written a paper. If I say 'good paper, that's a very good paper, you're a good writer', that has almost zero information value in terms of learning. But if I say, the number of facts that you quoted in this paragraph, I felt very delighted with that, because it really fulfilled my need for greater clarity about this subject, I've given the student much clear idea of how I benefited by this performance. That's what we call sincere gratitude... it's based on needs that were met. That's much more honest, and it's much more supportive of the learning of the student, for example.

Paula: And they'll have greater fulfilment in their life purpose.

Marshall: They'll see how their behavior has contributed to somebody's well-being. In this case, by putting this number of facts in the report, it contributed to somebody's clarity about the subject matter. That's far more valuable information than the judgment 'good paper'.

Paula: So if you say 'good paper' you're trying to keep the person up in their head and they live life waiting for one compliment after another and trying to avoid the blame and then…

Marshall: And you perpetuate a domination culture, because you have educated them that the main job is to do what authority thinks is right.

Paula: Right, but I'm also thinking the next step too, we can get kind of addicted to the compliments and then, that approval and then, that need for the cars and all of the things that are destroying the environment.

Marshall: Exactly and it's the purpose of schools- is to educate students to be nice, dead people.

Paula: Right

Marshall: Because that's what industry requires. Nice, dead people who will do work without questioning whether it serves life. They'll do it just to get the boss's approval. I work with managers who tell me that they have just been in other trainings that taught them to make praise and compliments to employees daily, showing that the production goes up if you give praise and compliments. Teachers have been told the same thing - praise and compliments will increase students’ performance. I tell both teachers and managers that I've seen that research and it does work for a very short time - until people see the manipulation in it and then it no longer increases production, but what's worse, it destroys the beauty of gratitude. Now you can't even be sure, when somebody is giving some gratitude whether it's sincere or whether the person is using it as a device to get you to do what they want.

Paula: Right, you pick up on the manipulation and you resent it.

Marshall: And this is what our schools do. Because it's their job to train people to work within structures in which they'll work for praise, approval, salaries and they won't look at whether what they're doing is polluting the environment, whether it is destroying work experiences and other cultures, exploiting other cultures... no, people have been educated to go in and put in your eight hours a day, working for the salary and for the approval.

Paula: Is nonviolent education important to teach in schools refugee camps or corporations or all of them?

Marshall: Well, we call them life-serving educational schools and we have right now, about a thousand of them in Israel; we have some in Palestine. I've written a book called life-serving education in which I outline what these schools are like and how different they are from the usual public schools. We have a few in the United States, we have some in Italy and some in Serbia, Sweden; so, yes the education is quite different.

First of all, in the life-serving education... is that the teachers and the students work as partners. The teachers don't tell students what they have to do, they assess the students to identify their own objectives. Students don't work for grades, they don't work for approval, having picked objectives that they see will enrich their lives, they work to serve their lives.

We structure the school so that it's not a competitive arena. It's an interdependent community, so that all of the students contribute to one another's well-being, learning... if a student has just learned something and some other student wants to learn it, instead of competing on the test where the one who's learned it is going to get a higher grade, the one who has already learned it, turns around and teaches the other so that everybody is both a teacher and a student.

Paula: Wow, I'd like to ask you a few questions about enlightened people. And I realize, even to use the word enlightened by how you define it is in itself violent. So let's say some people I’ve run across, who've had almost a quantum shift, even in their physiology and their whole attitude in the way they look at life... at least I feel, that's serving my need better to relate to you, the excitement I have about individuals who are developing.

Marshall: I like that way of describing you're telling me. that there are certain people by the way they think, communicate, stand, sit, whatever, do it in a way... that you are pleased with, you’re excited about, it meets some basic needs of yours. So you're not saying they're enlightened, you're describing what goes on in you, when you're with those people.

Paula: Right and I thank you for helping me with that clarity. In any case, one individuals’ name.. her name is Byron Katie... and she felt at about forty three years old,t she got some clarity is how she said... and then she found that there was a natural invitation to help others in her life. And she like you, doesn't shy away from difficult situations; but rather feels the real the need of hers to go in and share what she has. She said that, we would all stop hating if we knew how. And she says hate is nothing more than peace, than pure innocence... and that innocence can be painful. She goes on, 'wouldn't you stop if you knew how', and she talks about investigating our thinking and she says this investigation leads to love. She says open to love... the worst that could happen is love and in your work, I see this a lot. The end result of doing these steps- observation instead of evaluation, being in touch with feelings understanding our needs, making requests for our life to be better ends in in real love although there's a knee-jerk reaction against it that somehow by being vulnerable we may be wimps or run over by people we find that that's actually.

On fulfilment, integrity & money: An interview with Alan Seid (part 3)


In this part of the interview, you’ll find out how Alan maximises fulfilment & integrity in his relationship with money, also using the lens of Nonviolent Communication. Here is part 3 of the interview; for part 1, click here and for part 2, click here How does nonviolent communication affect how you view consume and spend money?

That’s a good question. My 'off the top of my head' answer is that I’ve installed NVC as part of my internal operating system that it’s running in the background unconsciously now so. How I view, earn and spend money- I think I’ve already answered this; I see money as a strategy that contributes to needs or not.

Sometimes after spending on a certain thing, I may say, oh Jeez, was that the most life-serving way of spending that money? I always look at it through the lens of needs. I’m able to feel my feelings, or my own life connected mourning around it and if needed beneficial regret. If I spend money on something that I later regret, I harvest the learning from it. For example, with my children, I’ve given in a couple of times when I’m with them in the car, and they’re just like (makes baby noises). Fine, I give in- we go to the drive through sandwich place. Afterwards, I think why did I get non-organic white bread,  overly packaged food that is polluting.  Then, I slow down, I give myself empathy, then I give them empathy,  and then we do something that I’m not going to regret. That’s also modelling something more life serving for them.

You know the other way that it’s affected me that’s important is about eight or nine years ago I became a business coach. People started approaching me for business advice which was mind blowing to me because I didn’t see myself in that way. I’ve transformed how I see marketing. I see that there is life-disconnected, life-alienated marketing and there is life-serving, life-connected marketing. One of the ways I define marketing is that it’s an attempt to describe to people how their needs are likely to be fulfilled when they interact with whatever it is we are offering.

So regarding earning money, also having an NVC lens helps me connect with my audience at the level of deeper needs so that I can contribute to them

Do you have a particular Aha moment from a money workshop that you’d like to share?

I’m thinking of a close friend; I remember sitting at her kitchen table, and she was sharing in a matter of fact way some very explicit and personal sexual fantasies. I think everyone around the table was like wow! And she was just matter of fact- like, you know, yeah, I prefer almond butter rather than peanut butter on my sandwiches. But then when she started to talk about money she could barely speak, she was quivering and broke down crying.

The Aha moment was realising, wow! Money is such a loaded topic. A lot of people have much more ease talking about sex than talking about money. So yeah I mean I’ve had a lot of people have Aha moments about how they use money - to manipulate their children’s behaviour or how money was used in their lives as a reward or punishment which created a lot of pain around money and so on.

Where do you mainly see the dysfunction of money in our society?

I see it everywhere on every level - individuals, couples, families, absolutely everywhere.  It goes back to this question of who are we as human beings? What constitutes the good life? What is our shared destiny on this planet?  When you look at it at a government level, there are so many things we can change -systems and structures. Taxation is a very simple one where we can be taxing things that pollute, create illness and destroy the environment. We can use taxes to create incentives for things that are more life serving. So, taxation could be a way of stimulating or curtailing different things I can't find anywhere in society where there isn't dysfunction around money.

What are your thoughts on common themes you come across, like scarcity thinking or lack of financial literacy?

Probably the most common theme I come across is 'money is bad'.  Also, its opposite, 'money is good' like 'money is my God.'  I see people spending decades chasing money because they think it will bring them happiness and they have a big house full of things but there's a spiritual emptiness,  a lack of meaning and purpose. I think those are our scarcest resources in this day and age -meaning and purpose.

In some ways, money tends to highlight who we are already. A kind person will probably use money to help others.

If I believe money is the best thing in the world, I end up chasing, chasing, chasing money and missing out on life. If money is bad or evil,  and then I struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle because money wants nothing to do with me, money stays far away from me because I treat it like it's evil. I have a very close friend who used to say to me,' money isn't important so I don't think about it.' And when we checked in with each other, he would share 'oh I'm so stressed out, because I don't know how I'm going to pay rent next month,  I'm thinking of moving to another city because there's more work,'  and he didn't notice that money was running his life.

Yes, because money is a great recipient of all our unconscious projections because it's so complex like you said and it is so deep that it is easy to put all the stuff that we don’t like on to money.


This is the last question Alan, in terms of your money related courses, what would you like people to know?

In terms of my money related courses,  I would like people to know, I will be launching the very first version of a brand new program called 'The Compass' later this year.

It will be the most comprehensive program that is based on twenty-five plus years of research into best practices so it's really a form of cross training for change agents, for people who want to leave the world a better place than they found it, and who are also devoted to their personal growth and development. There are eight curriculum areas, the eight directions of the compass and one of those happen to be the South, which is focused on money. Best to also head over to my website and check out the free resources.

Well, thank you so much, Alan. Is there anything that you would have liked me to ask you that I missed?

No. One thing I will add is that people misquote the Christian scriptures when they when they say 'money is the root of all evil. ' It is 'the love of money is the root of all evil.' I'm pretty sure that what it's referring to is an obsession over money. I mean, when I'm infatuated with money, that's the root of all evil. So that's one of the things that I'm pondering these days.

Thank you so much, Alan. I really appreciate your time. Fifty-five minutes and very, very precious.

Yeah, it was a pleasure and an honour. I appreciate it.

PS: I have no arrangements for money in exchange for any recommendations I make on my blog; I really only want to recommend people whom I believe in.


On fulfilment, integrity & money: An interview with Alan Seid

Alan Seid

Alan Seid works as a breakthrough coach with people who struggle with how to manifest or create their vision. He helps them break their vision down into a step by step process so that they can actually get there. Alan is also a Certified Trainer in Nonviolent Communication. He coached me, gave me a lot of clarity and support with my own vision, in the early months of starting my business. Alan & I chatted for an hour on Zoom, I have transcribed the interview for you to read and edited only for conciseness. You can check out his Blackbelt Money Skills course, get on the waiting list for it if you want to feel more empowered around personal finances.

What got you interested in teaching with the money focus?

Initially what I was interested in was not being stuck in a 9 to 5 till you die reality, not being caught up in what we call the rat race and work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work in order to buy stuff I didn't need with money I didn't necessarily have in order to impress people I didn't necessarily like.

I did not want to fall into that trap of work, spend, consume, work, spend, consume. A few years after this realisation, I ran into the precursor to Your Money or Your Life which was an audio course called ‘Transforming Your relationship with money.’

As I started applying the program to my own life, my life started to transform and blossom in many ways. It turns out that one of the things that come easily to me is to stand up in front of groups and articulate other people's information. So, as I was doing the nine steps in Your Money or Your Life, eventually I moved to the Seattle area and began teaching workshops on Your Money or Your Life because I was invited to do so.

I'd simply just had these opportunities show up to share the material and I was very excited about it so I kind of stumbled into the workshop and seminar business and it happens to be something that I do very well. So, initially, it was a personal interest that then just became enthusiastic sharing.

So, what is the Financial Integrity program all about?

I think what people need to understand about the financial integrity program is that it is not about making money. It is not about how to create a livelihood. It is really about how to have clarity and awareness and have money play a role in your life that is of integrity and in alignment with your values and your life purpose and so that you're maximising your fulfilment in relationship with money.

So you said the nine step program of Your Money or Your Life, led you towards financial integrity, would you share a couple of things that changed in your life?

Well, it happened as a result of just doing the steps in the program because the program is essentially a methodology for investing cautiousness into our relationship with money and when we're defining money in a particular way. When money is a representation of the hours that I spent in order to earn it, then money acquires an intrinsic value rather than simply an extrinsic value. So that twenty on a piece of paper now actually has real meaning because it took so many hours of my time or so many minutes of my time to earn that twenty. So, when I'm spending money, I'm spending my finite life energy, it's no longer this external paper or metal that comes and goes for my life.

Also, there are certain questions that you're asking yourself as part of the program: did this expenditure of my life energy bring me fulfilment in proportion to how much I had to work for it and was it in alignment with my values and life purpose.

I'll give you a specific example in the 1990’s; I was working as a Spanish interpreter in downtown Seattle. Back then I was a serious music collector and had been since about twelve years old; I love all kinds of music and I’m a musician myself. So back then I was buying one CD every week and when I was asking myself the questions 'am I getting proportionate fulfillment and is this in alignment with my values and life purpose', I noticed that automatically I started to spend less on music and this is before the internet, this is before everything was downloadable, this is when people were buying CD's. So my spending more or less organically just naturally started to shift so that I was buying one CD per month instead of one CD per week.

And so my fulfilment per CD was a lot higher. And it was more in alignment with my values to lower my demand on plastic, cream plastic in the world, and I enjoyed I enjoyed what I was buying that much more so that's an example of my fulfilment and my integrity going up my spending going down. And as a result, I was saving the other three C.D.’s a month that I would have been buying and that money was going into my savings.

Wow, that’s quite a tangible benefit.

So, it's not about cutting back, reducing, depriving yourself, it's about maximising your fulfilment and your integrity and as a result spending tends to level off. Which by the way is very good news for the planet.

True. If someone wanted to have a better relationship with money, where would you suggest they start?

I think by being truthful with them. Just acknowledge & notice what your patterns are with money. One of the toughest things about money is that the tendency to go unconscious with money is so strong; we would much rather just not think about it.

It becomes a very painful place in our lives and then and that tends to reinforce our not wanting to look at it because it's painful. A lot of what I think we don't know how to do very well in our society is grieving and mourning; allowing ourselves to feel the pain, the disappointment, the heartbreak, the stress, the frustration, whatever it is in relation to money and allowing ourselves to go through that process. By doing that, we can come out the other side a little bit more refreshed. Now, certainly, I could recommend Your Money or Your Life or my course Black-Belt money skills which is my articulation of the nine steps.

But that step would probably make sense after being honest, like really being able to look at yourself in the mirror and say ‘wow, my patterns with money are not working for me, I need to do something about this.’

I agree - so being truthful, and then examining unconscious patterns for what you might need help and mourning and grieving.

Yes. I think there are three stories that we really need to question in our society, they are stories about who we are as human beings, what is the ‘good life’, and then what is our shared future together on this little blue ball hurtling through space that we call Planet Earth. We are not just consumers. And the good life is not about more toys or more, more, more, more, more and lying in a pool on a rubber floaty thing with a drink in your hand; I get bored with that in about ten minutes. I think that a lot of the unconscious patterns that happen around money have to do with these stories about who we are and what constitutes the good life and I think we really need to question those.

Say more about who inspired you in your relationship with money

Joe Dominguez, Vicky Robin, Monica Wood, who was sort of like the godmother of the nine-step financial integrity program. Also, Peace Pilgrim; she is a genuine American saint of the twentieth century. In 1953, she abandoned all her material possessions and decided to go on a pilgrimage for peace. Her message was, ‘We are not going to reach peace between nations or between groups of people or between individuals if we don't first attend to our own inner peace.’ She carried only the clothes she had with her, a comb & a tooth brush. She carried no money, accepted no money and she walked until offered shelter and fasted until offered food. There is a video you can find of her teaching to a college class on spiritual growth and at the time of this talk, she had been walking twenty-six years.

I also found the generosity model of S.N Goenka’s ten-day silent meditation courses and the way they run their finances inspiring; when you do one of these ten-day silent meditation courses, everything about the Course is already paid for because previous participants made a donation for somebodies future course.

For part 2, click here

Upwardly Mobile by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg


In a video on YouTube, titled Upwardly Mobile, Dr Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Nonviolent Communication sings about the middle-class rut. My favourite line of the song around which I also carry some grief is 'I love money for the status it brings, not the people it could feed.' Hope it provides you with some fodder for reflection.

If I'm 98% perfect in everything I do, it will be the 2% I’ve messed up I’ll remember when I'm through. I’ve been saving, slaving, working my butt to the bone. I'm surrounded by people day and night, but I still feel all alone. Guess I’ve been upwardly mobile, inwardly futile, caught in a middle-class rut, racing to a know not, where to get a know not what. Deodorants hide my body. Tranquilizers hide my soul. Secrecy’s been a part of me since middle-class was my goal. I'm a patriotic consumer. I love money for the status it brings, not the people it could feed.

I guess I’ve been upwardly mobile, inwardly futile caught in a middle-class rut, racing to a know not, where to get a know not what. Upwardly mobile, inwardly futile, caught in a middle-class rut, racing to a know not, where to get a know not what. Racing to a know not, where to get a know not what.

Other resources: 

Upwardly Mobile– Song version on YouTube


Thank you HappyRon for your wonderful work in helping us enjoy Marshall Rosenberg’s Songs.