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It's time to Graduate from Draining Guilt
By Holly Michelle Eckert

Have you ever found yourself playing mental tennis, trying to convince yourself that what you’ve done (or left undone) was justified or not? Do you ever avoid certain people because you get an icky feeling when you’re around them? Perhaps you’ve caught yourself digging in your heels defensively when a particular subject comes up? Keep reading this article below >>  
Parenting Article
Valentine's Intimacy -- As Good as Chocolate but Without the Down Side
By Neill Gibson and Beth Banning

This Valentine's would you like to recapture that yummy closeness you want with your mate? Is it time to infuse your relationship with the chocolate-like sweetness of intimacy once again? If this sounds good to you, read on to discover our seven-step recipe for coaxing that confectionary delight of intimacy back into your relationship. Keep reading this article below >>

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02.13.10 -- Living in Love: Nonviolent Communication at "The Work" of Byron Katie with Holly Michelle Eckert and Pamela Grace, Seattle, WA

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Graduate From Guilt, continued

If you had a magic microscope to see the underlying cause of these behaviors, you might very well find a dark, gloppy mass of guilt. Interacting with (or avoiding) guilt can lead to exhausting inner arguments, a dispiriting combination of self-righteousness and self-condemnation, and miserable relationships.

Fortunately, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) offers an empowering alternative in relating with our guilt. Through NVC-style mourning and forgiveness, we are able to explore what is underneath the guilt and find resolution, freedom and peace. I’ve written more on this subject in Graduating From Guilt, which is scheduled for publication by PuddleDancer Press this April.

Here’s an example from just a few minutes ago in my own life. As I sat down at the computer to write this article, my mind was blank. The room felt stuffy to me, and I also felt a bit tired. So I picked up a few dollars of my birthday money and strolled to my neighborhood coffee shop for a latte. As I was walking back, I heard a little voice in my head say, “You shouldn’t need that coffee to get creative. Can’t you stick to your budget, or your diet? What’s wrong with you?”

My initial response to this self-condemnation was to try to convince my inner critic not to worry. The counterargument protested, “Ease up! The drink has hardly any calories with nonfat milk. In fact, it is a good source of calcium! $3.25 of birthday money is not going to break the bank. My gosh, many writers get their ideas flowing by going outdoors, talking a walk or having a brief conversation -- it’s perfectly reasonable.”

Presenting these justifications only inflamed my inner nag, which then prepared to step up the assault. Fortunately, before the next round of attack began, I realized what was happening and chose to enter the process of NVC mourning. Rather than defend my actions, I relaxed into empathy for that self-critical voice. I looked for the need that was not getting met by purchasing the drink and tried to imagine what that voice really valued.

Within that framework, I found that the critical voice needed reliability, health, accountability and trust. As I sank into those needs, I also invited the uncomfortable feelings that arise when these needs are not met -- anxiousness, fear and irritability. I then sat for a moment with those feelings.

After a minute or so, I could sense the tension easing. At that point, I knew that it would be safe and productive to express my counterarguments -- not in a defensive, justifying tone, but through the framework of the positive motivation -- what was I trying to accomplish by getting the coffee? What needs could I have been attempting to meet?

The first need that sprang to mind was creativity. I needed to stimulate my creativity, and fast; I was under a tight deadline and had a lengthy list of time-sensitive projects. That brought me to needs for efficiency and productivity. Ten minutes and $3.25 were certainly bargains considering I might have otherwise sat blankly in front of my computer for an hour!

I was also thinking of needs for health and accountability with my diet by ordering nonfat milk in my drink, and, much to my delight, the little chat with my friendly barista, Molly, gave me the opening line of this article. I realized that our connection gave me inspiration and playfulness. I then checked in again with my feelings and was pleased to find myself sitting in contentment, appreciative of the choice I’d made.

I smiled at the computer screen and the half-empty travel mug in front of me. I’d Graduated From Guilt.

Connecting with the needs important to both sides of my inner argument allowed them to reconcile. By first addressing the needs that were not met by what actually happened (the mourning step), the pathway was swept clean for the positive motivations to be recognized (the forgiveness step).

These two steps are the heart of the Graduating From Guilt process, which is covered in detail in my book of the same name, scheduled for publication this April from PuddleDancer Press. The full process consists of six steps to help you travel securely and effectively from start to finish. The short book is full of examples and stories to inspire your own transformative process and thus reclaim your aliveness. Watch NVC Quick Connect for a pre-order special coming March 5!

Holly Michelle Eckert is a the author of Graduating From Guilt (coming April 2010, PuddleDancer Press), as well as a certified trainer with the global Center for Nonviolent Communication and the Nonviolent Communication Skills Online. Since 2001, she has worked with thousands of participants in her Radiant Relationships seminar series, led women’s retreats, facilitated organizational mediations and provided communication coaching for families and individuals. In 2008, Holly founded the Nonviolent Communication Training Center of North Seattle.

Keep learning these vital communication skills with these books and training resources:


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"Connecting with the
needs important to
both sides
of my
inner argument
allowed them to

- Holly Eckert












Graduating From Guilt

Graduating From Guilt
by Holly Michelle Eckert

Preorders begin
March 5, 2010
More information coming soon!


Valentine's Intimacy, continued

What do intimacy and chocolate have in common?
Well if you feel the same as most people do about chocolate, you want it -- even crave it sometimes. We enjoy smelling it, cooking with it, and of course eating it! Many of us drive miles out of our way to try the newest chocolate confection.

But, as with anything in life, it's good to maintain a healthy balance in our lives so we can fully enjoy the opportunities to savor those chocolate treats when they arise.

This is also true for intimacy. We all want intimacy, even crave it at times. We can't help but enjoy that delicious closeness that intimacy with another person gives us. And if we want to maintain intimacy in our relationships, we have to be careful to balance the distractions of our busy lives with the effort we put into keeping our intimate connection alive and well.

So if you're willing to go the extra mile to indulge in the newest chocolaty treat in town, then consider trying this seven step recipe for creating all the intimacy you desire, right at home!

The Valentine's Intimacy Recipe for Couples

Step 1: Prepare the Bowl -- Create a Supportive Space for Intimate Conversation

Many experts suggest that honesty is the best policy. To put this policy into practice, we suggest you talk to each other and really get to know how you each feel about your desire for intimacy.

Discuss what you each enjoy and what things you like to experience during your intimate times together. Starting by sharing this kind of intimacy about intimacy can create a deep connection.

While this is a great first step, we believe that how and where you have this conversation makes a huge difference in the outcome.

We suggest that you start by creating a sacred space for open dialogue -- one with clear communication guidelines that will help both of you feel safe and comfortable. Begin by discussing whether there is anything that would prevent either of you from speaking honestly, and if so, take care of these issues first.

When we work with people we often hear them to express fears about being judged, or criticized. This fear can prevent people from feeling safe enough to share openly. Take the time to discover anything that might cause discomfort for either of you about having this dialogue.

Once you have each shared these concerns, come up with some specific ideas that will ensure this mixing bowl will be a safe space for both of you to share openly.

Step 2: Choose Only the Best Cocoa -- Leave the Past in the Past
Think about it, you've set up a supportive space for dialogue, why waste your valuable time by being evasive or wanting the other person to read between the lines. Pledge to protect this space so that open, honest, intimate communication can thrive.

The fastest way to start indulging in the sweetness of your new chocolaty intimacy is to make agreements about what you will and will not talk about. Make sure you set aside any bitter ingredients that are more appropriate for a different recipe. Ingredients to be sure you include:

  • An agreement that you'll be open and honest about what you want that would improve the intimacy in your relationship.
  • An agreement that you'll only bring up past events if they'll help you determine what you would like to have in the future.
  • An agreement that you'll focus on one topic at a time and refrain from attempts to "fix problems" in other areas of your relationship.
  • An agreement to refrain from analyzing what was wrong in the past or who was at fault -- let go of discussing "who did what, when."
  • An agreement that you'll focus instead on what you'd like in the future and discuss "who can do what now."

Add any others ingredients that will support each of you. Remember to include only the best cocoa of openness and honesty for your intimate time together.

Step 3: Mix in the Milk -- Create a Mutual Intention
Intimacy takes both trust and the willingness to understanding what is deeply satisfying for both of you, as individuals and for your relationship. And a commitment to support your partnership's ability to grow, evolve and thrive. This unconditional positive regard for each other could be described as adding "the milk of human kindness" to your recipe.

A very effective way we've found to do this is by working together to form a mutual intention for your relationship. You can do this by coming up with a clear, concise statement about what you both want to create in your relationship.

Here's an example:

We intend to create a relationship with each other of freedom, inspiration, and caring where we both experience fun, support, and true intimacy.

Your mutual relationship intention takes the yummy cocoa of openness and honesty, adds the milk of caring, and stirs these together with what you both deeply value, and creates a lasting foundation upon which you enhance the intimacy in your relationship.

For help in creating your values-based relationship intention, you're welcome to download our complimentary Values Exercise worksheet from the Free Stuff area of our website.

Step 4: Blend in the Butter -- Ask For What You Want
Now that you understand what's most important about intimacy for each of you -- at a personal value-based level -- it's crucial that you explore what these values mean for each of you in practical terms.

Let's say you've identified "caring" as one value in your relationship intention statement. For one person caring might be a hug at the end of the day. But for the other a hug might not mean caring at all. For them caring is shown through time spent discussing the days events and sharing what tomorrow might bring.

To create the buttery smoothness you want from this recipe, take the time to discover what each value word in your mutual intention means to each of you. Then discuss the concrete kinds of activities that will transform your mutual intention from words spoken to actions taken. Make a list of these.

Aaah! The creamy butter of knowing exactly how to get what you want, blended with the satisfying cocoa of openness and honesty, and mixed with the milk of mutual intention… you're another step closer to the chocolaty-delight of intimacy.

Step 5: Supply those Special Flavorings -- Negotiate, Leave Compromise Behind
Compromise is recipe for frustration and resentment, not the rich chocolate of intimacy! You'll definitely want to avoid this recipe entirely.

Why? Compromise is based in the belief that there isn't enough to go around, so you'll have to give up on some things you want and settle for whatever's left over. Fortunately, this just isn't true. Compromise only happens when you lose sight of your underlying values and stop negotiating too soon.

Negotiation requires a commitment from each person that they will give up nothing they value, while at the same time having an equal commitment to giving up any particular strategy that would prevent the other person from experiencing what they value.

Go back to your relationship intention and look once again at the values you identified. Review each of the concrete actions you decided would bring those values to life.

If any action on the list does NOT create the intention for BOTH of you, rethink it. Find a strategy that will work to satisfy your relationship intention for you both.

Remember, don't compromise -- never do anything that you don't really want to do. The ability to stay true to yourselves in the process of negotiation is what allows the unique flavorings you each bring to the relationship to mingle and create your own unique delicacy!

Step 6: Sprinkle Sugar Liberally -- Gratitude
Any time of any day is a GREAT time for adding the sweetness of appreciation to your relationship. While you are creating intimacy, take plenty of time to identify the things you enjoy about each other and your relationship. Finding those things you are grateful for and expressing your appreciation goes a long way to ensure sweetness in what you're creating.

Make a list and then express your appreciation to your partner: Give Them That Sugar!

You can always find one tiny little thing you are grateful for. And noticing even one grain of sugar is all it takes to begin finding all the sweetness you desire!

Let's recap what's in your recipe for that deep, rich chocolaty goodness of intimacy so far:

  • Create a Supportive Space for your Open Dialogue
  • Leave the Past in the Past
  • Create a Mutually Inspiring Relationship Intention
  • Ask for What You Want and Hear What Your Partner Wants
  • Apply the Power of Negotiation
  • Give the Gift of Gratitude

Step 7: Delight in Your Intimate Delicacy! -- Renegotiation and CELEBRATION
You're getting closer to the delicious taste, touch and smell of Intimacy! You've followed the instructions this far. Now it's time to follow through on the agreements you've made about who is willing to do what, and when.

We suggest, each time someone keeps an agreement; you both acknowledge and CELEBRATE this wonderful contribution to your relationship. Let each other know very clearly the ways that keeping the agreement has contributed to your life and the intimacy you are hoping to create.

Of course you each hope that what you've agreed to will happen. But the truth of making agreements is that sometimes they happen, and sometimes they don't. Normally when an agreement is not kept, this can result in disappointment, irritation, and frustration.

Here's a much more satisfying way to respond…

When the inevitable happens and an agreement is not to be kept, don't dump the recipe in the trash can. Celebrate that the agreement wasn't kept!

Why? Because all it means is that you weren't as clear as you needed to be when you came up with the strategy and made the agreement in the first place. If you had been then the agreement would have been kept.

Each agreement is your attempt to invent a new level of intimacy. Don't give up if one part of the experiment fails. Edison failed thousands of time while trying to invent the light bulb. But he knew it was a great idea, so he kept right on trying different strategies until finally the light came on.

So all it means when an agreement isn't kept is that it's time to renegotiate. Go back and repeat steps 3 through 6 and figure out what was missing the prevented the agreement from being kept. Make an new agreement and try again.

Renegotiation and celebration are the yummy toppings that make for a Double Chocolate Treat.

Enjoying Your Blended Confection
Whipping up more intimacy in your relationship this Valentine's Day can be like creating the most heavenly of all chocolates.

All it takes is:

  • For both parties to be willing (two cooks in the kitchen)
  • That you have the resources you need (fresh ingredients)
  • And a mutually satisfying intention to guide you forward (blending in each of your personal favorites)

If you follow these seven steps we're confident you'll satisfy your craving for the rich chocolaty sweetness of intimacy in your relationship.

And don't forget to lick the bowl!

If you want even more of our couple's intimacy tips, please join us for our segment of The Awakened Relationships Teleseminar series. Though this is normally $29, as a special offer for our friends, here's a VIP Coupon that will give you access to the wisdom of all the speakers (not just us) for F_R_E_E! Just put in your Discount Code BN0215GC in the discount box when you Sign Up.

And for other great relationship tips, visit our blog: www.NewAgeSelfHelp.com

Neill Gibson is co-author of the PuddleDancer Press booklet What's Making You Angry? He and Beth Banning are the founders of Focused Attention, Inc. They would love to help you learn new communication, relationship, and personal growth skills that will support you in having more fun in your life, and inspire a more conscious, loving and peaceful world.

Keep learning these vital communication skills with these books and training resources:


Family Communication


"Intimacy takes both trust and the willingness to understanding what is deeply satisfying for
both of you, as
individuals and for
your relationship."

- Neill Gibson and Beth Banning
























"Negotiation requires a commitment from each person that they will
give up nothing they value, while at the same time having an equal
commitment to giving up
any particular strategy that would prevent the other person from experiencing what they value."

- Neill Gibson and Beth Banning