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.


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!!

What, Exactly, Do We Mean When We Speak About Peace?

As much as I love the idea of peace and know that I am in favour of peace, when asked to explain what I mean by peace I have trouble.

So, I have set myself the task of seeking a way to understand what “peace” means to me in the hope that I’ll be able to explain the concept of peace to others.

Positive and Negative Peace

One of the first distinctions I have discovered is the notion of positive and negative peace.

Negative peace is the lack of violence and war. This can be created through the use of force. Galtung, one of the leading peace scholars, suggests that the use of coercive power by, for example, the U.N. or one or more countries to support or enforce a cessation of violence, are examples of negative peace.

This type of power may be used as a step towards positive peace. But it is not creating positive peace in and of itself.

According to Galtung, positive peace is “the integration of society”. This requires improved understanding between humans, through communication, peace education, dispute resolution, conflict management and arbitration etc.

In an analogy to health: Curative Medicine is equivalent to negative peace and Preventive medicine is analogous to positive peace.

We need to look at the conditions for absence of violence as well as the conditions for positive peace. (Interesting that we don’t have another term for positive peace other than “peace”; while we do have the term “absence of violence” for negative peace.)

So we still have not said what positive peace is.

Positive peace is emancipatory (i.e. positive peace creates freedom).

A Culture of Peace:

1998 UN resolution on the culture of peace:

“A culture of peace is an integral approach to preventing violence and violent conflicts, and an alternative to the culture of war and violence based on:

– education for peace,

– the promotion of sustainable economic and social development,

– respect for human rights,

– equality between women and men,

– democratic participation,

– tolerance,

– the free flow of information and

– disarmament.

My definition of Peace:

Peace exists in a society or community when the members of the society are able to achieve healthy fulfillment in their personal and professional lives in ways that do not interfere with the healthy fulfillment of others in their society or community.

So, what is healthy fulfillment? Hmm…. By healthy fulfillment I mean achievements that add to the physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual health of the individual and/or the community or society.

Having struggled with these concepts for a while I am coming to the conclusion that positive peace cannot exist without the support of negative peace.

In other words, positive peace exists when trust, cooperation and adherence to a set of norms and behaviours that provide the opportunity for fulfillment have been agreed to by the society and are being respected by members of the society, country or, ideally, the whole world.

But, as far as I know there is no example where these conditions are not protected or enforced by a set of laws and enforcing bodies such as a police force or army to, in effect, enforce these norms.

So, while I and others work to create positive peace in my life and in the world in general. I need to acknowledge that we need some form of force to support the peace we all cherish. With good will and hard work, force will not need to be used. And importantly, when force is used it must be used according to rules agreed to by the society as a whole. If these societally endorsed rules (i.e. laws) are not respected and followed, we get violence.

Johan Galtung Positive and Negative Peace Baljit Singh Grewal Aug. 30 2003

How Do We Really Find Happiness? A Critique of Martin Seligman’s Latest Book Flourish and Praise for Jeffery D. Sach’s The Price of Civilization

I was excited by Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness.  It offered a theory of happiness that made sense to me.  In Authentic Happiness  Seligman identifies three key elements that contribute to happiness:

  • Pleasant Experiences
  • Engagement and
  • A Meaningful Life

Of course we want to have fun just for the heck of it, that is, Pleasant Experiences.  But that’s not enough to make a happy life.  We also need one or more activities or endeavours that we can get totally engrossed in. That’s Engagement or Flow.

Finally, the ultimate element, or so I thought, is the notion that we need to have a project or series of projects, that are Meaningful to us.  Something we’re doing where we feel we are contributing to others outside of ourselves.  Seligman named this a Meaningful Life.

One of the reasons I liked this model was that it addresses the fact that as we in the so- called developed world have gained more and more material wealth and “stuff” we aren’t happier.

The theory in Authentic Happiness seemed to offer a really powerful explanation of this, at least by implication.  I wrote an article on this  (   in which I pointed out that accumulating more and more stuff does not lead to happiness.  What does lead to happiness is contributing to the good of others.   I saw this as a wonderful approach to changing our behaviour towards our environment.  That is, it provides a rationale for using less stuff and spending more effort just being of assistance to others in ways that are engaging for us based on our particular strengths.

So, when I saw that, in his latest book, Flourish, Seligman had added Accomplishments to his list of elements that contribute to what he calls “well being” I was alarmed.

Then when I read his rationale for the addition I was even more concerned.  He says that people’s report of their life satisfaction is 70 percent determined by the mood they are in and 30 % by how well they judge their life to be going at that moment.

I would suggest that a better way of measuring life satisfaction is to ask people how they judge the totality of their life.  Not how they see their life going at the moment.  Surely, a way can be found to measure this accurately.

A second concern or objection is that accomplishment is really part of the meaningful life element of Seligman’s original model.  If I believe that I am doing things that contribute to something outside of myself that suggests that I am achieving accomplishments.  What is more, placing accomplishment in the context of a meaningful life  is a much more desirable way to frame accomplishment as an element of well being or happiness than, for example, just winning at bridge as he suggests, even if the winner does so by cheating as he also suggests (see page 18 of Flourish).

And this gets at the heart of my concerns about the inclusion of accomplishments as a free standing element in his theory.  I fear it could lead to the type of meaningless and costly activities that create more “stuff” but don’t add to people’s sense of well being.

So when I opened Jeffery D. Sachs’ book The Price of Civilization, Economics and Ethics After the Fall and read:

 “ Our greatest national illusion is that a healthy society can be organized around the single minded pursuit of wealth.  The ferocity of the quest for wealth throughout society has left Americans exhausted and deprived of the benefits of social trust, honesty and compassion.  Our society has turned harsh, with elites …. among the most irresponsible and selfish of all. ”

 I felt I had found a voice for my misgivings about Seligman’s revision of his original theory.

Seligman’s new theory of happiness outlined in Flourish, seems to justify the pursuit of meaningless or even unethical so-called “accomplishments”.

THAT IS DANGEROUS!  We’ve seen how the unthinking pursuit of profit (i.e. meaningless stuff) has created the recent economic meltdown which has led to high unemployment and economic hardship for many.

Sachs argues eloquently that it’s that value system that is leading us away from a caring, mindful and successful society.

So let’s focus on creating Pleasant, Engaged and Meaningful lives for ourselves and others as Seligman suggested in his book Authentic Happiness.  That is an authentic path to happiness and well being!!

Career and Relationships Coach Bruce Rosove is certified as a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming; is an Emotional Fitness Coach and Coach Instructor; has studied Non-Violent Communication under Marshall Rosenberg; has level one training in Inner Journey Facilitation and has studied many other modalities.    

Contact him at: 613 233 8013 email: