John Kinyon provides communication training, coaching, and facilitation to the public and organizations. He is co-creator of the Mediate Your Life training program, which is a year-long public training offered in different parts of the U.S. and internationally. The training gives people the ability to connect across conflicting differences and divides, and work together in highly effective ways to reach new possibilities and solutions. John's work is based in the international work of Compassionate Communication (Nonviolent Communication, NVC), developed by Marshall Rosenberg, who John worked closely with for over a decade. John has been a certified trainer of the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) since 2000, and a leader in the world-wide NVC community. John is co-author of the books: From Conflict to Connection: Transforming Difficult Conversations into Peaceful Resolutions, and Choosing Peace: New Ways to Communicate to Reduce Stress, Create Connection, and Resolve Conflict.
Two NVC trainers went into dangerous, war torn territory to share the skills they found so valuable but end up learning that they need to first apply those skills before those they came to help could receive what they had to offer. Only when the foundation of connection and trust was built could they mediate the conflicts using empathic communication.
The American mythos of Independence Day is that liberty, equality, and opportunity are for all. Yet since the country's formation, these needs have been for some at the expense of others. It started with the brutal robbery and genocide of Native Americans and slavery of Africans. And this theme continued for generations in various forms, including how we related to other peoples, countries, and the ecosphere. To achieve true justice, liberty, and opportunity for all we may need to overcome the ego's sense of separation. Compassionate noncooperation may also be key.
Control may help us feel safe in an unpredictable, unsafe, wild world. Wanting control may be a response to shielding ourselves from feeling fear and being aware of our vulnerability. The more we insulate from fear, discomfort, and vulnerability, the more we are cut off from aliveness; we can become more anxious, and depressed. The more we control the more we are disconnected from empathy and care. With aliveness come joy, peace, love, awe.
We can shift from being absorbed and identified with our inner chatter and feelings to being the space of awareness of these things. Observe your breath. Then observe your mind generating thoughts. Next, feel sensations of your body, particularly the difficult ones. Now, connect with the underlying energy of needs. Ask your unconscious mind for universal needs words related to what you now notice, think and feel.
There are many polarizing issues we can resist and fight over. The word "resistance" can mean fighting against what we don’t agree with in counterproductive ways. It can also be the illusion and futility of mentally fighting against reality of 'what is'. But acceptance, non-resistance, of what is doesn’t mean powerless resignation. Another way to resist is to accept and love whole-heartedly, with empathy and care for the people doing the things we are resisting.
NVC is a process. It’s the willingness and effort to empathize with both sides of a conflict, encouraging each side to empathize with the other, and then seeing what solution can arise, working together to meet the needs of both sides. Empathy is the experience of being not separate as well as being an individual. It's seeing we're all part of the one ever-flowing consciousness of being, all unique expressions of this unity.
When outraged or resigned over polarized issues, pause to ask yourself who may be benefiting from this conflict? What are we not paying attention to that’s even more important? What matters most? Am I being distracted away from something more important? What do I really want? Where can I choose to focus attention and action for the wellbeing of all life on the planet (which is also my wellbeing and the well being of those I love)?
How do we talk to ourselves and with others about polarizing topics in a way that's supportive? Seek to understand and be understood rather than press for agreement. Bring mindfulness into the conversation. Slow down and use structure to support everyone. Release knowing the solutions, answers or outcomes. Keep focus on shared universal needs. From this place we can say what's in our hearts and minds, and trust the process.
It's tempting to shut down a heated conversation when it’s painful and overwhelming. What can give us strength to stay open to hearing and being moved, to being open to new possibility, is recalling the “triad of conversation.” The triad is self and other and then awareness on the third side of the conversation. Here we can return to connection, to what we share and need in common, to a searching together for the way forward.
“Nonviolence” is not just a political tactic. It is a “soul force”. It is the force of love meeting and transforming what appears to not be love. It is speaking and listening with courage, compassion, and an open heart and mind and rooted in our truth in a way that bridges understanding. And doing so without demand nor trying to convince -- all in the face of any anger, fear, oppression, inequality, violence or disagreement.