Addressing The Causes of Violence

I believe that the use of force by one person over another is caused by their lack of skill to get the need met in a more positive way. If they had the skills to get their emotional or other needs met in a healthier way they would not use violence.

So, I frame the issue as one of finding ways to help perpetrators of unhealthy use of force, to learn healthy ways to meet their needs.

It is up to society, families, parents and other loved ones to find ways to help these, what I judge to be, unfortunate souls to learn and use healthy ways to get their needs met.

The ManKind Project (MKP) is one organization that teaches these skills and provides support to people in using these approaches to meet their needs. Many other organizations and individuals such as coaches, psychologists, teachers etc. also work hard to help people to learn positive life skills. I believe the world needs more people and organizations offering this type of help.

I also believe that many parents need support in imparting these skills and resources to their children.

A happy, emotionally, skilled and mature person does not lash out. A happy emotionally skilled and mature person offers friendship and support to others.

So, a positive and proactive approach to ending or reducing violence in society is to make these types of supports more widely available.

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The Joy of Conversation

The Joy of Conversation

By Bruce Rosove,

Conversation is an art form. But do people value being good at conversations ? Or more specifically, do people want to speak and listen and do they know how to do it well?

Conversation consists of both speaking and listening.

Listening is an art form. Many people pay a great deal just to be listened to. If you’ve ever gone to a coach, a counsellor a therapist, a doctor or even a dentist you know how important being listened to is. Imagine a dentist who does not listen to us before he or she starts work. He might drill or pull the wrong tooth! So listening is important. People value being listened to. But do people value being the listener? Or more specifically, do people want to listen and do they know how to do it well?

The answer varies.

How do you feel about listening to others? How do you feel about being listened to? Do you have a system that helps you listen well? Can you describe the process you use to make sure that you listen well and that your message is heard accurately?

There are at least two elements to good conversation skills. Focus, that is, giving your full attention to the other person and Structure. Both full attention and structure are key to having successful conversations.

The First Element: Focus

To focus, each person must give his/her full attention to the conversation.

This means that both need to let go of all their concerns and focus on the conversation. This is easy to say, harder to do. It takes effort.

So, if you are listening, listen with your full attention. Wait for the speaker to finish his or her thought. Let go of anything but paying attention to the speaker’s words. That is all. Do nothing but listen. Just listen!

And if you are speaking concentrate on offering a clear message and watch for signs that the other person wants to ask a question or to have something clarified. If you don’t pick up on this, your conversation partner will likely miss important information you are offering.

The second element of good conversation, structure, makes it much easier to focus.

The Second Element: Structure

By “structure”, I mean a set of stages in the interaction. Each stage has its role to play in making sure that, if we are listening we are listening attentively, assisting the speaker to get in touch with his or her wisdom and passion about the topic in question. If we are the speaker, structure helps us organize how we deliver our important message.
Being focused means we are speaking clearly and watching for signs from our listener that he or she needs to ask a question or clarify something. This structure helps us be attentive to our listener.

The Five Steps in a Conversation

1. Setting a Contract

Have you ever thought you were in a conversation only to discover that the other person did not really want to speak with you? Setting a contract is designed to make sure that both the listener and the speaker really want to have this conversation. It seems obvious, but, quite often one of the two people in this situation don’t want to talk right then.

Creating a contract for the conversation can be as simple as saying:

“Would you like to spend the next 10 minutes discussing this situation?”

The amount of time and other details of the agreement to have a conversation vary, of course. The key is to make sure the other person is open and able to take part in the conversation. Sometimes the invitation to converse leads to a plan for a conversation at a later time.

2. Identify the Topic
If the other person does agree you can move on to the next stage, Identifying the topic. Again, it seems obvious, but it is important to ensure that you both are clear on what the speaker wants to speak about and that the listener is open to discussing that topic.

It is up to the person wanting to speak to say what it is they’d like to discuss. And it’s up to the listener to reflect back to the speaker his/her understanding of what the topic is.

Once the topic is agreed to it’s time for the speaker to begin speaking about the topic.

As the conversation moves along, it is important to pause and give the listener a chance to ask clarifying questions. And that takes us to the next stage in the structure of a skillful conversation.

3. Clarifying Questions
Once the speaker has described enough of the situation that the listener thinks he or she has a sense of the message. Or if the listener realizes he/she is not clear about what the speaker has said, the listener asks questions either to confirm understanding or to get clarification if needed.

The listener will be asking questions that help him or her understand exactly what the speaker is saying. I often see this stage as the heart of the process. This is where you support the speaker to get in touch with exactly what he or she wants you to know. Often speakers will be surprised or pleased that this part of the conversation has helped them understand for themselves what they need or want. They get in touch with their own wisdom! This can be very empowering for the individual. It’s also very satisfying for the listener!

Note that if the listener has not understood what the speaker has said. Or if the understanding is only partly correct or complete, the speaker will clarify. This can take several sets of the speaker explaining, the listener asking clarifying questions and the speaker providing more information to make his or her message clearer.

The key is that you are both working to gain understanding. I sometimes think of this as a sort of “dance”.

4. Summarize
Once, you, as the listener, feel you have a good understanding of what the speaker has been explaining to you. It’s time to Summarize. This is the fourth stage in the structure. In this stage, Listeners summarize what they think the speaker has been telling them and ask the speaker whether they have got it right. Often the speaker will say that you’ve got it partly right. If that is the case you ask more clarifying questions and summarize again when you have a clearer picture. When the speaker tells you that your summary describes what they were trying to communicate you have completed this stage.

5 Deciding on What, if any, Actions to take.
Once the speaker feels he or she has been heard and understood by the listener, it is time to discuss whether any action is needed and who does what if actions are needed.
This can lead to another stage in the conversation.

The key is that each person in the conversation is heard and feels that he or she has been heard accurately.

Some more tips for Listeners.

In all stages

Ask open ended questions like: What do you think the problem is?
Avoid questions that start with the word “why”.
Questions that ask “where”, “when”, “how” “what” work well to help the speaker be more and more clear about what he or she is trying to explain or explore. These questions are especially useful in the Clarifying stage. But they can be useful in all stages.

In the Clarifying Questions stage

Do not ask questions that are action planning in disguise.

Questions like: “Have you tried x solution to your problem.”
Are action planning in disguise.

If you’re in the Action Planning stage you could ask:

“What would you like to do about (the problem that you have now identified).”

Where are the Conversation Skills Useful?

The skills I have outlined here are skills that we can all use. We don’t have to be professional listeners to benefit from listening in this way. Listening in this way can be of great value when you are doing a job search, when you’re doing research for a project or when you are in a conflict with a spouse, a child, a neighbour or a co-worker. Good conversation skills are important just about any time you are speaking with someone. Generally, the more important the conversation, the more important these skills are.

Good conversation Skills can bring a great deal of peace to your life and the life of those around you.

A Forgiving Walk

I walk for exercise. I walk on a busy street in Ottawa, Bank Street in the Glebe, because the sidewalks are clearer in the winter there than elsewhere.

One of my frustrations is that cars coming out of the side streets often ignore me as a pedestrian and block the crosswalk that is designed for pedestrians who are making their way across the side streets. The drivers are so intent on seeing whether there is car traffic moving back and forth on Bank that they forget or ignore the pedestrian traffic.

I’m good at being righteously indignant. I also have a strong belief that Ottawa, and cities in general, should make it as easy as possible for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users to get around the city. So my fear of the cars coming at me from the cross streets is accompanied by my righteous indignation because these unthinking drivers are making it dangerous for we pedestrians. Both my fear and my indignation lead to ANGER!

A few days ago I was preparing for a coaching session with a client. One of the processes I was preparing to work on with her is the Ho’oponopono Healing process which is a forgiveness process.

Saying this mantra:

I’m Sorry
Please Forgive me
Thank you
I love you

is a way of forgiving myself for my part in the hurt to myself or bad vibes or whatever the negative situation is. That’s all and that’s a lot. In saying these four phrases we are calling in, what I think of, as a healing energy. Others might call it Spirit, The Creator, etc. It is a way of surrendering and admitting that each of us creates our own reality, in small but significant ways.

I surprise myself when I say or write these words because I’m not religious in any conventional way. I do believe that there is much we humans do not understand about the magic of the world. When I consider the immense complexity of the spruce tree growing outside my window for example, I know there is much about my world I can’t explain. I saw it grow from a seed that happened to land there. How could that seed become a tree? We don’t know the answer.

Think of how complex that is.

Just as we don’t know how our sincerely saying:

I’m Sorry
Please Forgive me
Thank you
I love you

helps me let go of hurt and pain when something negative happens to me. We don’t know how calling in the healing energy of Ho’oponopono can heal negative feelings.

Now let me finish my story about my walk. I had been literally shouting at drivers who barged onto the cross walk just as I approached a cross street.

But when I started studying the ho’oponopono process I began to question my aggressive self-righteous behaviour. So the next day on my walk I was much calmer. And only in retrospect I realize that not one car encroached on the cross walks as I approached them and several cars did come to the intersections at the same time as I did. I was not even aware of the difference in the way drivers were acting until the evening of that day when I reflected about this whole episode to my men’s group. It was only then that I realized what a difference my different behaviour/attitude seemed to make.

So, I really benefited from my changed attitude. I really benefited from living the forgiveness or trusting way of Ho’oponopono.

I know each of us can. Much love. Thank you. Please forgive me and I love you!!

The Benefits of Anger

Aristotle said “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.”

I was having lunch with my best female friend. We were eating lunch talking about our respective personal growth when she said:

“I still get angry.”

Without really thinking about it I blurted out: “People are always afraid or ashamed of their anger. “Anger is a very helpful emotion. What’s not helpful is violence.”

To my surprise and pride, she pulled out her digital device and said. “I want to write that down. That’s important!”

What the hell was I speaking about?

Well, it’s true. God or Nature or whoever or whatever designed humans gave us the emotion of anger for a reason. Anger has the potential to help us function well in the world.
So what is anger’s function and how can I use it to my best advantage?
Anger is there to give us a warning that danger may be present. Notice I said it may be present. It’s a signal to check. That’s the key. We need to check as soon as the anger develops. And that’s where anger can be a problem. Often we are not as in touch with our emotions as is ideal. So by the time we become aware of our anger it has built to a point where it is very tough to control.   And that’s when it can do great harm to ourselves and to others.

So, the key to using anger in a positive way is to be aware of our anger as soon as it starts to be present in our bodies. That way we can take action immediately to lower the danger or the pain that is causing the anger.

I repeat:

Anger is our early warning system that something is wrong and that we need to take actions to deal with the problem that has triggered the anger.

Actions to deal with our anger can be:

  • Going inside and asking ourselves: “what is irritating about the present circumstance I’m in and then adjusting in some way.
  • Moving away from a noise that is bothering me
  • Asking our partner for clarification of some action that she or he is taking that is irritating us.
  • Framing my judgment(s) about the irritating circumstance in a way that lowers my negative feelings about that circumstance.

That last bullet: Reframing my judgment(s) is tough.
The Dalai Lama has co-written a series of books called The Art of Happiness.  In these, he stresses that anger is the enemy of happiness.  So, it is important to minimize the negative aspect of anger by dealing with the cause of the anger. He speaks at great length about the benefits of compassion as a way to avoid feeling anger. Compassion for self and others is a key to re-framing our negative judgments in a way that moves us away from anger towards understanding and acceptance.
That’s the subject of a full article of its own.
But, how can I become aware of my anger as soon as it develops? Here is one way to improve your “anger early warning system”:
The next time you are angry notice everything you can about how you felt as you got angry. Even if you blew up, take a minute as soon as possible and think back to what sensations you felt inside your body that could warn you that anger is developing:

  •   Many people feel pain around the back of their neck or shoulders when they are angry.
  •   Others get tightness in their throat.
  •   Still others get fluttering in their stomach.
  • Others feel a tightness around their temples.

The key is to be aware of these or other physical sensations and then to check to see if they are, in fact a sign that something is annoying you. Soon, you’ll be able to use these physical sensations inside your own body as an early warning system that you are getting angry.
Conclusion:
Dealing with anger requires that we become aware that we am becoming angry, identifying what we are irritated by and then taking actions to alleviate the irritation.
And the key to using anger as the signal it was designed to be is to be aware of our emotions at all times.
Summary:
1. Be aware that you are angry as soon as you become angry.
2. As soon as you are aware of your anger act in a way that will lower your
irritation by either:
a. Acting gently to change the circumstance that is irritating to you (e.g. through a conversation or some other  non-violent action; or
b. Changing your judgment about that circumstance in a way that removes the source of the pain or sense that you’re in danger.

By following the steps above you will be harnessing the benefits of anger while lowering its negative effects.
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Bruce Rosove is a Certified Career and Relationships Coach as well as a Certified Emotional Fitness Coach and Coach Instructor. He has studied Non-Violent Communication under Marshall Rosenberg, is certified in Neuro Linguistic Programming, and has level one training in Inner Journey Facilitation.  Bruce can be reached at: 613 233 8013 email: Bruce.Rosove@Rogers.com Blog: http://ThisMakesMeHappy.wordpress.com/