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Finding Words That Work in Business
By Ike Lasater

We all face difficult conversations in the workplace: criticism from our boss, a conflict with a client, a co-worker we find irritating, a subordinate who submits incomplete work -- all might entail a conversation we do not look forward to having. When we anticipate that an interaction might be complicated, there are steps we can take to engage with the other person in ways that are more likely to be satisfying. Keep reading this article below >>  
Parenting Article
Transforming Business Culture
By Marshall B. Rosenberg

In many corporations it’s not easy to get people to talk at the level of needs and feelings, not to mention that they don’t recognize what theologian Walter Wink says is important to know -- that every institution, every organization has its own spirituality. And when the spirituality of the organization is “production over all,” that’s the only thing that counts. Keep reading this article below >>

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"We need to know
how to hear people's feelings no matter
how they're communicating."

- Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.


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World-renowned author, peacemaker, and conflict resolution expert, Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. talks about the keys to prevent all forms of conflict and violence in this 10-minute video.


Finding Words That Work in Business, continued

Handling Difficult Conversations
We might think about this in three stages: preparing for the conversation, having it, and then learning from it afterward. These three stages may then repeat. If you find that there is an ongoing difficulty in having the kind of connection and relationship you would like to have with a person, you might cycle through these three stages again and again, learning more each time.

The preparing stage involves making sure that you have done your enemy image work ahead of time (see Chapter 5 of Words That Word In Business). If you anticipate that the conversation will be difficult, you might well have judgments and analyses of the person based on past interactions.

Doing the enemy image process -- giving yourself empathy for your judgments and doing silent empathy for the other person -- can help you transform the intense emotional charge you might otherwise have going into the conversation, a charge that will tend to create exactly what you don’t want.

This is particularly true when you have thoughts that you want to make sure you don’t act on. For example, some part of you may believe that the other person is not treating you fairly. If you simply think, “Well, I don’t want to say anything about them not treating me fairly,” you have actually increased the likelihood that your judgment will leak out in some way. In doing the enemy image process, you rehumanize the person and connect with your own needs.

In preparation, you also may want to practice having the conversation with someone else in a role-play. You can tell the other person what you imagine would be difficult for you to hear from the person, and then in the role-play take the time to give yourself empathy, do silent empathy, then formulate a response. In practice this may take a few minutes, but you will still be learning in-the-moment reaction skills by slowing it down -- skills that may well serve you during the actual conversation.

Right before having the conversation, you might want to plan in some time to do self-empathy. Typically, there will be an upwelling of concerns and anxieties before going into a difficult situation; planning a self-empathy session around your reaction to anticipating the conversation, especially with a support person, can help you be present when you go into it. Setting an intention for the conversation ahead of time will also help. You can keep your intention fresh in your mind during the conversation by writing it on a three-by-five card, your hand, or your notepad.

You might well have planned how you want to start, and you may have role-played various versions of the conversation, but in the actual conversation, you want to be as present as possible and not rely on a script that cannot be true to the present moment. Holding your intention foremost in your mind instead of a planned script will help you maintain the kind of spontaneity and flow that the other person is likely to expect from you.

If you are able to do self-empathy during the conversation, it can help by keeping you present to your needs; however, when first learning, it may be more than enough challenge to simply be in the conversation with as much presence as you can muster.

I have found it is best to anticipate that after the conversation, there’s going to be a flood of judgmental thoughts about yourself, the other person, and the situation -- try to schedule a time to do empathy.

During this time, you can celebrate and mourn the needs met and not met in thinking about what happened during the conversation, and you can guess the needs of the other person. You can then shift into figuring out and naming what you learned. In this learning, you might replay how the conversation went, either in your head or again in a role-play with someone else -- but replay it as you would like it to have happened. In this way, you are creating neural networks that store the information in the brain in a way that makes it more readily available when you are next in a similar situation.

After going through this process, you then think about the next step, if there is one. As you plan for that step, if it includes another conversation, you cycle back to the first stage of preparation.

This article was excerpted from Words That Word In Business, scheduled for publication by PuddleDancer Press April 5. Pre-order this new book March 5-April 4, 2010 and save 40% off list price.

Ike Lasater, J.D., MCP, is the author of Words That Work In Business (PuddleDancer Press, Spring 2010), and a former attorney and cofounder of Words That Work, a consulting and training firm helping organizations achieve results through better communication and collaboration. He has worked with individuals and organizations in the US, Australia, Hungary, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland and Sri Lanka. He is a former board member for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, and the Association for Dispute Resolution of Northern California, and the co-founder of the Yoga Journal magazine.

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


Family Communication




Practice Pause:

Think of a difficult conversation that you
have been avoiding.
Go through the preparation process, and see how you feel then about having the conversation.

- Ike Lasater








Graduating From Guilt

Words That Work
In Business
by Ike Lasater

Preorders begin
March 5, 2010
More information coming soon!



Transforming Business Culture, continued

Excerpted from Speak Peace in a World of Conflict

In such organizations, human feelings, human needs, humanness doesn’t matter. Ultimately, the company pays for it in terms of both morale and even production, because when you get people believing that their feelings and needs are understood, production will go up.

Another thing we teach business people is how to do performance evaluations that don’t criticize employees when they don’t do what supervisors like. In this sense, we teach teachers the same thing. We also teach parents how to evaluate without criticism.

I was explaining this to managers in one company. I started by saying something that’s part of our training -- how to make clear observations, how to get people’s attention by expressing what they’re doing that you don’t like.

I asked this group of managers I was with this question: “For example, what behaviors would you like to work on today that are problematic among the employees?”

One said, “Some of these people are just disrespectful of authority.”

I said, “Just a minute. That’s what I would call a diagnosis. I’m asking what they do. You want to evaluate somebody’s performance. If you tell them they’re disrespectful, you’re likely to create a defensive response. What you see is what you get. I would suggest if you want to evaluate people in a way that improves performance, start with a clear observation.”

He couldn’t do it.

Another manager said, “Well, I’m working with employees who are lazy.”

I said, “Sorry, that’s another diagnosis. It didn’t answer my question about what they do.”

And one of them finally said, “Darn it, Marshall. This is hard.”

Krishnamurti says the ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.

When I was showing them how to make observations, one of the managers jumped up; he literally ran out of the room. The next morning he came in and apologized for his abrupt departure. He said, “You know, yesterday, when you were showing us how to do performance evaluations and how to be sure that you make clear observations and not use any language that sounds like criticism…?”

“Yeah, I remember that.”

“The reason I jumped up and ran out on your training yesterday was that while on my way to the training I had stopped at the office and dropped off my performance evaluations for my secretary to type. In the first 20 minutes yesterday you showed me why it’s a nightmare of mine every year when it’s time for performance evaluations. I can’t sleep nights before that time. I know that a significant number of them are going to get hurt and angry. It’s going to make matters worse. And you showed me right away that I was confusing observation and evaluation. So I ran back to get my evaluations from the secretary before she typed them up.”

He continued: “I was up until 2:00 a.m. last night trying to figure out how to be clear about what the employees do that I don’t like, without mixing in diagnosis or criticism.”

And of course you don’t have to be in a leadership position at a corporation or place of business to understand or use this work. You can be at any level in the business. By distinguishing between observations and evaluations, we can very far in building teams built on trust and mutual respect, which has a positive impact on all other aspects of the organization.

International peacemaker, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., is the founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, author of Speak Peace in a World of Conflict, the international bestseller, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, and several booklets.

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


Parenting Article


"The quality of an organization can never exceed the quality of the minds that make it up.”

- Harold R. McAlindon