Non-Violent Communication

Changing habits to meet values: using Personal Development Education and Education for Sustainability.

Dissertation submitted as course requirement for the MSc in Education for Sustainability, South Bank University.


My aim was to clarify the relationship between Personal Development Education and Education for Sustainability and to see if the learning principals used in Personal Development Education could benefit the field of Education for Sustainability.  I used modern Western principles of cognitive psychological learning and ancient Tibetan Buddhist approaches to mind training and focused on Personal Development Education which stresses the need for mindful, compassionate thinking and acting. 

I studied my own experience of learning Nonviolent Communication in order to assess it as an example of Personal Development Education.  I have selected educational resources, produced by the Center for Nonviolent Communication, as the organisations values appear to be in harmony with mine.  The resources are pertinent to Education for Sustainability as they aim to change habitual patterns of thinking and behaving.  However, unlike traditional Education for Sustainability resources which focus on political, economic, social and environmental activity the aim of the Nonviolent Communication resources is to develop mediation skills to reduce conflicts within and between individuals. I aim to see how compatible these philosophies and resources are.

I kept a reflexive diary over a period of three months to describe my Nonviolent Communication learning and to establish its effects in order to see if this method helps me to develop a compassionate, mindful and sustainable approach.  I then used a questionnaire to discover if my experiences were consistent with the experiences of others who have trained in Nonviolent Communication. I found that in general, participants on the programme did develop the ability to be more aware of their feelings, thoughts and behaviour as they occurred and that, by concentrating on the present situation, people, included myself, reported both a greater willingness and ability to connect with others and a keener appreciation of each moment.  As my findings appeared to be generalisable and trustworthy I went on to consider what learning experiences had taken place that could account for these changes and how these experiences might be used to enrich EfS.

I came to the conclusion that styles of learning in Personal Development Education, particularly awareness of mindful, compassionate thinking, guides our decision making and activities, enhancing one’s motivation and willingness to participate.   However, Personal Development Education requires participants to be willing and committed to making changes; this makes it difficult to roll out as a piece of mass education.  Replication studies by other author-participants would be useful to further establish the trustworthiness of this account and a style of academic reporting which is open to subjective story-telling would be useful in casting light on this area.  I also think that studies which consider broader contexts in which to explore the application of mindfulness would be useful.


Where Nonviolent Communication and The Center for Nonviolent Communication is used in this thesis, I recognise the copyright of these terms and fully acknowledge Marshall B. Rosenberg as the founder of this organisation.  More details about this organisation can be found at their website

I wish to thank those people from the Center who helped me by completing questionnaires and especially to Penny Vine who read through my questionnaire and offered advice.


1 Research Question p.

2 Definitions p.

3 Introduction p.

3.1 Motivation for my study

3.2 The scale of this study

3.3 Clarification on the methodological limits to my research

4 Literature review p.

4.1 How do Post-Development theorists suggest Education for Sustainability should be taught?

4.2 To what extent does Education for Sustainability already recognise a personal competence approach?

4.2.1 Knowledge isn’t enough

4.2.3 Connecting with values and the non-material

4.2.4 Gaian interconnectedness and Personal Development

4.3 How does Personal Development Education propose we learn new habits?

4.3.1 Barriers and possibilities for Modelling behaviour change in mainstream education

4.3.2 Emotional Learning

4.3.3 How does emotional learning lead to Practical Action?– A Tibetan Buddhist Account

4.3.4 Western Cognitive studies into mindfulness and Change

4.4 What are the theoretical connections between Mindfulness and Education for Sustainability?

 Research Question p.

  1. Methodology p.

5.1 Action Research

5.2Critical Realism

  1. Method p.

6.1 An introduction to NVC

6.2 Finding a place to start

6.3 Assessing the project

6.4 Trustworthiness

6.5 Generalisability

6.6 Ethics

  1. Results p.

7 .1 Note on raw data

  1. Analysis of Results p.

8.1 Has this curriculum enabled me to develop the abilities indicated above?

8.2 Analysis of Method – Are the findings trustworthy and generalisable?

8.2.1 Do my results conform with other’s experiences?

8.2.2 How credible are the results?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the questionnaire?

8.2.3 Can the results be transferred to any context?

8.2.4 Can others depend on the results I have found?

  1. Discussion

9.1 What aspects of Personal Development Education may strengthen Education for Sustainability’s ability to change habits?

9.2 Content of Education

9.3 Teaching Methods

9.4 Personal Development Education and the academic study of Education for Sustainability

  1. Conclusion – answering the research question

10.1 How do Post-Development theorists suggest Education for Sustainability should be taught?

10.2 How does Personal Development Education propose we learn new habits?

10.3 What are the theoretical connections between Mindfulness and Education for Sustainability?

10.4 How might Education for Sustainability learning benefit from a Personal Development Education approach?

10.5 Was the methodology appropriate?

10.6 Implications for future research

  1. Bibliography
  1. Appendices

1.Summary of Chapters of NVC educational material

2.‘Living in NVC Consciousness’ indicators


3.2 introductory letter

3.3 consent form

4.1 Record of communication with respondents

4.2 example of debrief letter

  1. My responses to ‘Living with NVC indicators, immediately after studying and one month later
  2. Returned questionnaires
  3. Chart showing comparison of responses
  4. Most relevant sections of diary to my analysis and discussion

Research Question

How might Education for Sustainability learning, benefit from a Personal Development Education approach?

Definitions and abbreviations

Personal Competencies

According to Goleman (2004, pp.26) these are: Self-Awareness (Knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions), Self-Regulation (Managing ones internal states, impulses and resources) and Motivation (Emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate meeting goals).

Personal Development Education (PDE)

A learning process which informs the development, ‘self organised evolution of an organism, a person, society or a country…based on self-determination’, (Shiva, 2006, pp.39) of the above competencies.


Focusing one’s awareness on the present moment in order to be aware of physical sensations, feelings and thoughts.  This is a process championed in the West by Langur and is now used by cognitive psychologists to help clients focus their attention to manage pain, stress and perform tasks more efficiently.  It is also a vital part of Tibetan Buddhist mind-training and meditation practices as a way of experiencing clarity.

Tibetan Buddhism

A huge, ancient and diverse collection of beliefs and practices; in this work I am mainly referring to the teachings of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan scholars who work with him on the ‘Mind and Life Institute’, which aims to study Tibetan Buddhist practices with modern scientific means and to find a spiritual context for the findings of modern scientists.


An equitable, empathetic love of all beings found in the teachings of many religions.  Here I emphasise Tibetan Buddhism’s focus on the ideal of the Bodhisattva as an image of ultimate compassion, who works to benefit all.  I make links with this and Christians such as Archbishop Tutu who show that Buddhism has no monopoly on compassion.  The vital role of compassion in sustaining hope and motivation to work in adverse conditions is noted by Post-Development thinkers such as Rahnema.

Education for Sustainability (EfS)

Acknowledging that there is no single definition of EfS and a great disparity amongst different thinkers, for the purposes of this study, I will be using EfS to indicate education which is identifiable, not by its environmental or social content but by processes which are ‘Contextual, Innovative and Constructive, Focused and Infusive, Holistic and human scale, Integrative, Process orientated and empowering, Critical, Balancing, systematic and connective, Ethical, Purposive and Inclusive and life long’, (Sterling, 2001, pp.22 -24).

Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

An organisation which seeks to train people to listen and speak clearly, to themselves and others, about their observations, feelings, needs and requests, in the spirit of compassion and empathy.  NVC sees everyday language as violent in that it conceals demands and externalises responsibility for our judgements, feelings and needs.


My motivation for study

Rahenma’s (1992) essay on participation asserts that people who guide or teach development must be highly self-reflexive beings in order to ethically steer the participation of others in their projects.  This has fascinated me for some time.  As a teacher and an individual concerned about globalisation I am aware that I am able to exert some influence on others and the biosphere, but that my actions can easily be distorted and can create negative or unplanned outcomes.   I used to think the solutions to inequity of power and material wealth, wars and the threat to our biosphere would come about by other people making different choices on the basis of new information which I could distribute.  However, I found that simply knowing certain products and activities are ‘unethical’ doesn’t stop people, including myself, from justifying them.  Also, thinking like this has resulted in me feeling either self-satisfied with my superior knowledge and choices or impotently angry with myself and others for not choosing to, or being unable to prevent harm.  I found I was being inconsistent, at war with everything in order to promote a culture of peace.

I have felt frustrated that I have not made a great deal of progress towards ‘becoming the change I want to see’.   In response to this I intend to analyse here whether pursuing intrapersonal development and the learning patterns of this educational style can complement factual ‘issue-led’ and ‘campaign-based’ learning, which is frequently associated with EfS, resulting in quicker or deeper changes to unsustainable habits.

I now see ‘EfS’ as learning how to live in a way that doesn’t cause ‘burn out’, environmentally, socially or psychologically, I attribute this thinking to the influence of Tibetan Buddhism on my, thinking.  To me Tibetan Buddhist thinking offers the possibility of changing ones own actions by observing thoughts as they happen and being open to a full range of responses – rather than unconsciously following habitual patterns.   I think that this can have significant political and social consequences.

The scale of this study

I see Pepper’s (1999) classification of ‘Ecocentric’ as that which best explains my philosophical position and agree with him that Eco-Scientific and Eco-Religious are not mutually exclusive positions (pp.40).  I see myself as a Critical Realist, drawn towards the Post-modern understanding that there are many ways to describe reality, but I think that some values and methods are more suitable than others for establishing a sustainable world.  I think that values which promote an inherent respect for one’s own life and that of others are necessary to avoid depression, fear and overwhelming anger.  Thich Nant Hant (2005) shows that the Buddha’s search for enlightenment was not driven from a desire to escape from the world, but to find a way of being which could sustain his drive to improve people’s living conditions, without becoming overwhelmed by the task.

‘Siddhartha (the Buddha) understood [his wife’s] need to engage in social action, and never failed to express his support…But although he understood the value of Yasodhara’s work, he felt that her path alone could not bring true peace.  People were entrapped not only by illness and unjust social conditions, but by the sorrows and passions they themselves created in their own hearts and minds.  And if in time Yasodhara fell victim to fear, anger, bitterness or disappointment, where would she find the energy she needed to continue her work?…He knew that the attainment of inner peace would be the only basis for true social work’ (Hant, 2005, pp.65-66).

Tutu (2005) describes a need for urgent action to protect humans and the planet and the need for personal change so that we can be sure that our aspirations and actions are authentic to our real selves.

‘There is much to be done to fulfil God’s dream and bring about the transfiguration of suffering that exists in our world.  But before we can address this suffering from a place of love and not hate, forgiveness and not revenge, of humanity and not arrogance, of generosity and not guilt, of courage and not fear, we must first learn to see with the eyes of the heart’ (pp.69).

He argues in agreement with Illich that grand notions of loving humanity are bombastic if in reality we don’t act with love to the people we are with daily.

For this reason I have chosen to focus on PDE learning which happens at a very small scale, but purports to be deep in its effect on one’s experience.  I will be looking to see whether I can find a useful method for ‘begin[ning] the genuine work of self-knowledge and “self polishing”, an exercise that enables us to listen more carefully to others, in particular to friends who are ready to do the same thing’ described by Rahnema (1997, pp.391).  He describes the first stage of this process as looking at things ‘as they are’ (pp.392); by acknowledging the present situation, rather than rushing to act we avoid naively worsening the situation and experience,

‘our powerlessness [which] can lead us to encounter the kind of deep and redeeming suffering that provides entry to the world of compassion and discovery of our true limits and possibilities [this represents] the first steps in the direction of starting a truthful relationship with the world [helping us to understand] that no-one is in a position to do more than one can’ (pp.393).

I associate the process he describes with the Tibetan Buddhist idea that developing mindfulness is the starting place to become more compassionate towards oneself and others.  Doing so requires acquiring personal qualities, the perfections of which are a life’s work in themselves.  I will focus on Rahnema’s views at the beginning of my literature review as I have been hugely influenced by them.

Clarification on the methodological limits to my research

To be successful, EfS requires change in social, economic, global and personal practice, as Fromm says, ‘changes restricted to one sphere are destructive of every change’ (1956, pp.361, his italics).  Here I am focusing on personal change, because of my own interest and experience in this area, because I think it is easily overlooked, given the urgency of the problems we face and because it is an area over which I have real influence.   It is not because I think PDE and the improvement of oneself and those closest to you provides all the answers.  I think that radical changes to education policies are necessary and work in this area is valuable, but it is not my focus here. I have relied on the work of EfS theorists who have made links between personal and global problems, these authors tend to belong to the Gaian, Deep Green or Ecocentric positions, with which I have aligned myself, I recognise that other perspectives will disagree and that the picture I show here cannot represent the whole spectrum of ideas.

My research here is heavily subjective, and so it is also open to challenges of not being reliable. Therefore, I will place my findings in the context of other people’s experiences to see if what I find is valid for other people in different circumstances.  I have experience of using this method as an aid to other personal development programmes that I have studied.  I imagine that this has influenced my choice of using a diary as my main method of keeping results, however, it is also used in action research, and alongside the voices of others, I hope it will allow some light to be thrown on otherwise hidden processes.  In the methodology section I will develop the link between my Critical Realist ontology and epistemology with Action Research and individual research to show how it is compatible with Buddhist thinking which informs the underlying principle of this research.

Lastly, I wish to be clear that I am not trying to prove that Buddhism or NVC are the only means of resolving conflict or teaching sustainability, indeed as a Critical Realist thinker I absolutely acknowledge that other methods are valid and necessary in order to achieve sustainability.  Also, I wish to be clear that any link between my education in compassionate mindfulness and my ability to act in accordance with my values also reflects my personal abilities and the challenges I face.  Any failure on my part cannot prove the fallibility of Buddhism or the methods of NVC, but my own.

Literature review

How do Post-Development theorists suggest Education for Sustainability should be taught?

Rahnema’s (1992) suggests that people participate in making the world a fairer place, only when they are ‘free and un-biased’ (p.126), in order that grassroots movements, led by ‘inspiring animators’ acting in a spirit of ‘love, conviviality and simplicity’ can have profound effects on social and economic forces  (p127).  He notes more frequently , that revolutionary figures are co-opted by historically powerful forces, developing the mindset of their predecessors while leaving the inequitable social structure in tact (p.128).  To counter this, he proposes that we must learn ‘to live and to relate differently’ (p.127); this entails a personal, creative journey, whose sole aim is to contribute to the greater good.

‘If the participatory ideal could, in simple terms, be redefined by such qualities as attention, goodness or compassion, and supported by such regenerative acts as learning, relating and listening are these not the qualities and gifts precisely impossible to co-opt?’ (p.129).

Informed by the notion that changes in individuals produce social changes (p.128), the competencies Rahnema lists cannot be used for personal gain.

Rahnema (1997) describes Post-Development thinking as ‘subversive’ in that it empathises with the marginalised and not with the elite, ‘radical’, in the sense of asking fundamental questions and ‘human centred’, by which he means ‘a perception of reality from the perspective of human beings involved in the process of change’ (pp. xi-xii).  He believes that the Western school system is a way to maintain power amongst elites, by dividing populations into a minority of graduates from a majority who seek learning as a way to gain recognition and failing to provide both groups with the abilities which are relevant to their lives and context, (1997, pp.120).  By developing citizens into consuming graduates, schooling distances people from traditional culture and themselves.  Rahnema describes the power of ‘the act of witnessing’ (1997, pp.401) and Rosenberg (2005) quotes Krishnamurti as remarking that ‘observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.’ (pp.28).

Fromm (1956) presents a model of healing that I think can be adapted into a model of learning.  He sees individuals as striving for health; this fills the process with energy, and an awareness of current suffering and ‘in-neediness’- this results in a change.  Unfortunately he notes consumer culture encourages us to strive for the fulfilment of artificially constructed needs, through advertising, and, I would argue, schooling.  This alienates us from our real needs while demonstrating our ongoing lack of satisfaction. (pp.134).   Fromm and I both hope that it is possible to break this habit, by recognising this behaviour as being driven, in part, by ourselves.  Therefore, by changing ‘values, norms and ideals, so that they further, rather than block [our] strivings for health and maturity’ (pp.273-4).

Illich (1997) describes how his career developed to Rahnema, saying that ‘Once we felt powerless “to do”; now we recognise that we are powerless even to recommend’, (pp.108).  I can empathise with this feeling and respect it as an ethical position, but I recognise that I can ‘do’ things intrapersonally and that I affect those I interact with.  Illich continues,

‘social responsibility…is but the soft underbelly of a weird sense of power through which we think ourselves capable of making the world better.  Thus we distract ourselves from becoming fully present to those closes enough to touch’ (pp.108).

Rahnema (1997) agrees, saying that in the post-development era, cultivating ‘truth with great humility and strength and drawing on the courage necessary to see it through to the end, rather than trying to “advise” people in positions of power who seek to use such advice for their own ends…to begin with ourselves, to learn to free our truth and live with it as an artist does with the object of his or her creation’ (p.401-2).  Illich feels that the personal sphere is the safest place to work and the most profound, remarking, ‘The most destructive effect of development is in its tendency to distract my eye from your face with the phantom humanity I ought to love’ (1997, pp.106).

These readings suggest that Post-Development thinkers would advocate an EfS that develops personal competencies at its core.  To do so, Rahnema and Illich advocate watching and listening as well as speaking and acting – loving as well as arguing.  This is because it is easy to become confused into co-optive, hegemonic thinking and engage in activities which do not meet our real human needs, resulting in wasted energy, disappointment and counter-productive activity.

To what extent does Education for Sustainability already recognise a personal competence approach?

Knowledge isn’t enough

McKensie-Mohr and Smith (1999) show that the difficulty I have had in translating my knowledge about EfS teaching into practice is common.  They list examples of other information based education campaigns which did not stimulate the desired behavioural change.  They conclude that;

‘While environmental attitudes and knowledge have been found to be related to behaviour, frequently the relationship is weak or non existent’ (pp.9)

Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002) similarly conclude that, ‘more environmental education does not necessarily mean increased pro-environmental behaviour’ (pp.257) instead, they argue values, motivation, awareness, emotional investment, a high feeling of control, responsibility and priorities (pp.149 – 156) are factors which ‘form a very strong barrier which is often overlooked’ (pp.257).   Information gathering, then, is not the same as learning; it does not necessarily result in a change of activity.  Maiteny (2002) describes three responses to environmental education.  Firstly, short lived anxiety followed by no action, secondly ethical consumerism, and thirdly a feeling of personal responsibility and lifestyle change.  McKensie-Mohr and Smith note that to begin a new behaviour the learner must perceive the internal and external barriers to taking up the activity as being outweighed by the benefits of doing it.  Learning and behaviour change consists of identifying the barriers to new behaviours and forming new habits (pp. 5).

According to this model, people intelligently and responsibly try to meet their needs and planners can find ways to make sustainable options more likely to be selected.  This philosophy fits the Buddhist way of understanding people that Hant (2005) describes,

‘Each person’s disposition is a result of physical, emotional and social conditions.  When we understand this, we cannot even hate someone who behaves cruelly, but we can strive to help transform his physical, emotional and social conditions’ (pp.120)

Radical EfS thought uses Fien’s (1993) Vocational/Neo-Classical model of teaching, in which the teacher’s role is to be ‘an authority, transmitting knowledge’, as an unfavourable contrast to the ‘Socially Critical’ one, which prepares students ‘for participation in social, political, economic and environmental activities, with a stress on socially, morally and politically justifiable conflict resolution’.  One link between PDE and EfS is that they both recognise that learning facts does not necessarily result in change.

Connecting with values and the non-material

Sterling posits that EfS must have to have a radical agenda if it is to fulfil our needs.  His call links with Rahnema’s urge to carve out a new path.

‘it is increasingly clear that education that carries on its traditional role of replicating modernist – or even restructured modernist – society unquestioningly is no longer appropriate, and that we urgently need to find new models and approaches from which to build’ (pp.21, 2001, Sterling)

Maiteny’s (1999) describes how our natural experience of psychological ‘in needness’, which encourages us to secure necessities, driving us to learn and make discoveries, is manipulated by the consumerist ethic.  He concludes that;

‘sustainability depends on developing our cultural, psychological and…spiritual capacities…to override other [needy] damaging aspects of our nature’

This has parallels to the unconscious co-opting of our thoughts and habits described by Rahnema above and by the radical psychoanalysist Fromm.  Fromm (1976) describes Spinoza as contributing a ‘radical critique of industrial society’ (pp.99) when he summarises him as saying that;

‘passions which do not correspond to the needs of human nature, [such as greed or ambition] as pathological; in fact he goes so far as to call them insanity’ (pp.98).

In ‘The Sane Society’ (1956) Fromm goes on to suggest that our ‘acquisitive society’ (pp.83) has disturbed modern man’s mental health by a process of ‘abstractification’ (pp.110) in which a huge scale is imposed on human beings who can no longer see how they physically and psychologically relate to socio-economic systems (pp.119). In this context, he argues, ‘human qualities like friendliness, courtesy, kindness are transformed into commodities, into assets of the “personality package” conductive to a higher price on the personality market.’ (pp.147).

Kidner (2001) describes how industrialisation has created dualistic thinking about the world, allowing us to remove ourselves ‘psychologically, geographically and temporally’ (pp.10) from nature, seeing it as the irrational threat and consequentially wishing to remove ourselves further.  These actions spur those technological advances which actually increase the threat of global warming, disease and resource wars.  He goes on to say that,

‘since we are educated within this system, our thought processes are consistent with it…the character of the self therefore has to be viewed as an inescapable part of the problem’ (pp.12).

In contrast,

‘Effective education for sustainable development requires…opportunities for exploring individual experiences of desires, values, choices, actions and their impacts on other people and wider eco-social systems…A shift away from [material consumption] towards valuing non-material wealth will, ipso facto, contribute to reducing pressures on external life-support systems’ (Maiteny, 2000).

So EfS thinkers have championed the importance of personal values to motivate individuals to act independently, to question the norms of our Globalised economy and create opportunities for non-material needs to be fulfilled.  This is a further parallel with PDE.

Gaian Interconnectedness and Personal Development

Maiteny and Parker (2002) manipulate Wilden’s model (1987) to show how ‘cultural, religious, political and cognitive’ meanings, ‘social and economic’ groups and ‘biotic, ecologic and abiotic’ systems can be seen to relate to each other. Not only is the individual physically dependent on society and the environment but the environment is dependant upon responsible individuals and, according to Lovelock (2000), for its homeostatic regulation.

Positioning ourselves not only as creatures who threaten the earth but are an integral and important part of it, as Gaia theory does, enables us to throw off guilt and anxiety, and see that by,

‘depicting our role as one of guilty domination, [we have] conceal[ed] the extent to which we are victims as well as agents of the spread of industrialism’ (Kidner, 2001, pp.16).

By engaging with our very real problems differently, casting aside blame, guilt and neediness it may be possible to re-imagine our relationship with ourselves and the world, this is the hope I think PDE may offer EfS.

Two quotes from workers in personal development resonate with Kidner’s work and that of other Deep Greens.  Kabat-Zinn (2006), mediator and Professor of Medicine uses the Gaian hypothesis to inform his stress-reduction work, stating that;

‘The ability to perceive interconnectedness and wholeness in addition to separateness and fragmentation can be cultivated through mindful practice…If we hope to see things more clearly as they actually are and thereby perceive their intrinsic wholeness and interconnectedness, we have to be mindful of the ruts our thinking gets us into, and we have to learn to see and approach things differently.’ (pp.157)

While Stephenson Bond, quotes Jung, as saying that,

‘We can meet the demands of outer necessity in an ideal way only if we are in a functional relationship (are adapted) to our inner world, that is, if we are in harmony with ourself.’ (2003)

How does Personal Development Education propose we learn new habits?

As Maiteny (2002) makes clear, changing ‘deep rooted habits of thinking and acting requires often painful experience’.  This raises the question of how are we, as educators, going to motivate ourselves and others to adapt our behaviour in order to meet our radical goals for ourselves, the planet and society?  This is not a new question and it is not even very radical but it seems to me to be a significant stumbling block.

Barriers and possibilities for Modelling behaviour change in mainstream education.

It is commonly understood that teachers are most effective when they ‘walk the walk, Cogan (2000) describes this as being ‘living model[s] of what the students are to embody’ (pp.117) and this style fits with that described by Rahnema above.  In the ancient spiritual traditions of Tibet a guru or Lama demonstrates in his life the attributes he feels his students should have, in the UK the ‘Professional Standards for Qualified Teacher Status’ describe the attributes of a teacher who teaches personal qualities by their being.  However, from my experience, while most teachers are well motivated they have not tapped into the findings of psychologists and meditators who have studied how their habitual ways of thinking and acting can be reformed to break unsustainable attributes passed down from one generation to the next.

Trungpa’s (2002) list of the qualities of a Bodhisattva; generosity, discipline, patience, energy, meditation and knowledge, is, in my opinion, applicable to people who want to teach.  He then goes on to show how these qualities can be cultivated.  As these methods deal directly with change, I think they are inherently radical.  Perhaps this is why personal change in teachers and their pupils, welcomed by the General Teaching Council’s documents on Professional Values and Practice, has not been pursued at a necessary depth for intrapersonal education to be evident in mainstream institutions.

At an institutional level, Sterling (2001) explains that difficulties in change may be because ‘many people influential in the political, economic, social and educational arenas still have little or no interest in or awareness of sustainability issues’ (pp.19). While Katz (1968) goes further, challenging the assumption that schools are designed to promote equality, critical thinking and a generation capable of designing creative solutions to the problems we face (pp.136).  Instead, he argues, their design is to maintain historical inequity, materialistic, competitive, reward seeking thinking and the allusion that those in authority cannot be challenged.

Langer (1991) states that ‘in institutional settings, dependency is unwittingly, but flagrantly encouraged’ (p.95).  I think that until individuals move from what Press (1991) calls an ‘abstract willingness to act’, based on values and knowledge, to a ‘concrete willingness to act’ based on trying to change habits, the situation will remain the same (In Kollmuss and Agyeman, pp.250, 2002). 

By using the theoretical and practical examples generated by Tibetan Buddhist and Western Cognitive inspired PDE alongside radical EfS theoretical understanding of the need to make fundamental changes it may be possible to generate learning experiences despite of looming hegemonic limitations to the ability of teachers to radically alter the system they inhabit.

‘If in one class, one student lives in mindfulness, the entire class is influenced’ (Hanh, 1987, p.64)

Emotional Learning

Ruddock (1997, p.16) divides possible responses to any education activity into four categories.  In one, participants uncritically accept EfS information, while in another, seemingly indifferent people make no response to the EfS agenda, in the third it is rejected, while in the fourth, individuals use the information critically.  Amongst many things, the response to education is dependant on how the learner reacts to the stimulus.

Goleman (2004) concludes that our thinking and dispositions affect learning. When learners tackle subjects as fearful and alarming as inequality a lack of wilderness or future climate change, and we consider how they will respond, it is useful to consider that the,

‘emotional part of the brain, neuroscience tells us, learns differently than the thinking side of the brain’(Goleman, 2004, pp.6-7).

In Tibetan Buddhism, the model for a compassionate being is termed Relative Bodhisattva  – someone who engages ceaselessly in the service of others, motivated by the experience of compassion.  Goleman, (1991) describes this figure as having,

‘generosity; self-discipline; patience (which in English is too thin a term – it has the sense of strength and fortitude); energy, or enthusiasm, even for very tough challenges; stability of mind; clear focus; and wisdom, insight into the nature and cause of suffering’ (pp.97). [For a more detailed discussion of this see Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, 2004]

The active, humbly heroic quality of this ability finds equivalence, in my mind, to the Christian feeling of ‘love’ described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 verse 4 and St Francis of Assisi’s prayer.  Fromm (1976) argues that ‘the need to give and to share and the willingness to make sacrifices for others [is] affirmed and expressed in many communes throughout the centuries, whether religious, socialist or humanist’ (pp.105).

How does Emotional Learning lead to Practical Action? – A Tibetan Buddhist Account

According to Tibetan Buddhist understanding, someone with a compassionate disposition will automatically respond to information in a way that demonstrates care for oneself, others and the planet.

‘The point is not to want to benefit someone or make them happy…If you simply be then life flows around and through you.  This will lead you into working and communicating with someone’ (Trungpa, pp.213)

This is because the relationship between thinking compassionately and acting, is held to be very close as described in this quote, attributed to the Buddha,

‘The thought manifests as the word;

The word manifests as the deed;

The deed develops into habit;

And habit hardens into character;

So watch the thought and its ways with care,

And let it spring from love,

Born out of concern for all beings’.

According to Spinoza,

‘improvement of the intellect (and, specifically his own intellect) not merely as a theoretical exercise, but chiefly as a remedy…and as an instrument for distinguishing, appreciating, and achieving the one true and eternal practical good.’ (Garrett, 1996, pp.269, my italics).

Paul Ekman’s (2004) neuroscientific experiments to describe how, when someone responds emotionally to an event, the individual has three chances to make a novel response.  Firstly an ‘appraisal awareness’ – how they judge the event; as ‘rude’, ‘unfair’ or ‘kind’, then the ‘impulse awareness’, in which they choose which response they will give; to hit back or to thank, and then ‘action awareness’; the actor evaluates the reaction they gave (pp. 145).

According to Tibetan Buddhist thinking, we can train ourselves to choose a novel way to respond at any stage, though, the earlier we do so, the easier it is to avoid a habitual response.  However, the earlier stages generally pass unnoticed and once a thought has occurred, a habitual response is almost inevitable.  As Trungpa (2002), explains;

‘thoughts [that] link and sustain the emotions so that…we experience an ongoing flow of mental gossip…[however] perceive the precise details of our activity, this awareness creates a small space…we begin to see the pattern of our fantasies rather than being immersed in them…seeing another way of dealing with our projections [with] warmth and openness’ (pp.167-8).

The Dalai Lama goes on to explain to Ekman that in this mindfulness training, the aim is not just to be aware of your responses and stop them, but to decrease the incidents of destructive emotions (Ekman, pp.146).  This makes it possible to achieve what Rosenberg (b) describes as emotional liberation,

‘we respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear or guilt, or shame.  Our actions are therefore fulfilling to us, as well as those who receive our efforts…At this stage we are aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others’ (2005, p.60)

In the Christian tradition I think Desmond Tutu is describing a need for mindfulness when he says,

‘God says, “Be still and know that I am God”.  Each one of us wants and needs to give ourselves space for quiet.  We can hear God’s voice most clearly when we are quiet, uncluttered, undistracted – when we are still.  Be still and be quiet and then you will see with the eyes of the heart’ (2005, pp.100).

If we could learn to do this, all actions could stem from our values and we could choose to respond sustainably at all times.

Western Cognitive studies into Mindfulness and Change

Langer’s (1991) account on mindfulness education focuses not on training to achieve skills or knowledge, but education to pay attention to, and so develop creative solutions, to emergent problems (pp.45).  Looking at everyday things with attention helps paradigms to shift, habits to break and new methods to come to the fore.  She notes how we make ‘premature cognitive commitments’ (pp.33) to ideas we have come across early in our lives and rarely ever critically consider them when we meet them again,

‘If something is presented as an accepted truth alternative ways of thinking do not even come up for consideration…If we fall into a routine rather than make decisions anew each time, we can get mindlessly seduced into activities we wouldn’t engage with otherwise’ (pp.46 and 59).

Instead, a mindful attitude towards others can reduce conflict, by ensuring that we are open to new information (pp.76) which helps to empathise with others.  It does not ensure that we will reach resolutions of all conflict, but that we can be confident that ‘various possible perspectives will newer be exhausted’ (pp.79).  By being aware of the choices we have available, change becomes possible (pp.81).

Marion (1997) states that mindfulness sustains compassion and vice versa.  Being more aware increases our empathy, making us more aware of others.

‘ “mindfulness” allows for compassion, tolerance and empathy to grow and brings us different ways of practicing and teaching…in life-affirming ways’ (Napoli 2004, quoting Marion, p34).

After detailing many scientific studies into mindfulness, Langer concludes that,

‘While some people think that mindfulness takes a lot of work, the research…shows that mindfulness leads to feelings of control, greater freedom of action and less burn out’ (pp.206)

What are the theoretical connections between Mindfulness and Education for Sustainability?

Based on her work, many studies have been done into mindfulness.  According to Napoli (2004), mindfulness training can enable teachers to;

‘(a) aid in curriculum development and implementation, (b) deal with conflict and anxiety, (c) improve the quality of their personal lives, and (d) facilitate positive changes in the classroom’ (p.31)

Kabat–Zinn and Segal (et al), have studied and demonstrated mindfulness for others to learn, Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness training as,

‘the result of the accumulated effects of repeated learning experiences, framed in a particular way, rather than from general discussions or blind techniques [instead mindful learning] weaves experimental and conceptual input together to create those shifts and that the accumulating effects will lead to changes’ (pp.65).

Segal seems to use the same dichotomy as Fromm’s ‘having’ and ‘being’ – under the labels of ‘the doing mode’ and ‘the being mode’ (pp.70-75) respectively.  The doing mode is the ‘default’ one, in which we feel we are on ‘autopilot’, while the ‘being’ mode is an alternative in which we are focused on the present moment.  The ‘being’ mode must be learnt and practiced to become accessible to most people, it is rehearsed by ‘bringing our awareness to the present moment…[which allows us to] start to see that we have a choice…this is often the first step in taking care of ourselves differently’ (pp.77).

Fromm (1976), describes a change of culture in the consciousness of a person, to a state of ‘non alienated activity’ – in which the person ceases to evaluate herself as an independent being, connecting to their environment and their activity and, ‘experiences self as the subject of activity’ (pp.94-5).  Thus, mindfulness could be seen to counteract Fromm’s concern that the Industrial experience of the alienating experience of ‘having’ rather than ‘being’ in which our name, body, feelings, belief, position in society and self-image, are transformed into our possessions (pp.76-79).   Being aware of the moment in mindfulness, fits in well with Fromm’s healthy ‘being’ state with

‘the experience of fullness, not emptiness which needs to be fulfilled…[on the other hand] happiness is not the opposite of sadness, but depression – which is a severe form of boredom – of feeling nothing’ (1956, pp.202 and 292).

Furthermore, I think that there is a connection between this sort of experience and both the embedded nature of Sterling’s interconnection and the opposite of Maiteny’s concept of ‘in-need’ mentioned earlier.  Rahnema states that locating the sacred in the everyday and learning to ‘listen and share, free from any fear or predefined conclusions, belief or judgement’ (pp.127) are important abilities in ‘ideal participants’.  These qualities can also be described as being ‘mindful’: living in the moment.

Moving beyond theoretical similarities I will try to discover if the field of PDE can be used practically to support EfS.  I will look to see if the outcomes of one PDE programme are in line with the changes that the Post-Development and EfS theorists identified as being necessary to producing societal and environmental change.

Research Question

How might Education for Sustainability learning benefit from a Personal Development Education approach?


I have selected to study myself as a student of NVC material to in order to experience what Heron (1998) describes as a sacred science style of intra and interpersonal enquiry.  Thornton and McEntee (1995) quote Hall as saying, ‘I have never studied anyone else: I’ve only studied myself ’ (pp.256).  I am drawn towards self-study as a method because it avoids ethical dilemmas posed by studying others and it will give me the greatest access to motivations, thoughts and feelings that are raised in the PDE project.

While conceding that ultimately, Fromm (1976) is correct in stating that ‘the living human being cannot be described at all [as it is unique and constantly changing]words point to an experience, they are not the experience’ (pp.91-2), I am going to try to describe my personal experience.  Heron suggests two ways to report this kind of enquiry; either as a study or as a story.  For my purpose, a study is mandatory and my aim in doing so is to describe the process and method I have used, in order to ‘point a way…and so inspire and invite readers to enquire into their own transformational skills’ (pp.127).  I will later consider if this restraint is useful for the EfS I have described above.

My design has similarities with the ‘individual, experiential research’ described by Heron (1998, pp.2).  He describes this as a ‘lived enquiry’ (pp.18), which he describes as having a similar style to action research (pp.112) as it involves ‘being intentional about living as enquiry’ (pp.18).

Action Research

I will be relying on an action research method to conduct this investigation; Hansey (1972) in Johnson (1994) defines this as,

‘small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of this investigation ( pp.116),

From her list of the eight main aims of action research projects, mine include being a ‘spur to action…personal functioning…innovation and change and problem solving’ (pp.117).  This method enables me to be unconstrained by the purely objective, and, from observing other’s behaviour and try to account for it and strip away innumerable and omnipresent variables.  This would, I feel, make my study less useful to me and more open to the criticism of being unrealistic,

‘unlike other methods, no attempt is made to identify one particular area and study it in isolation, divorced from the context giving it meaning’ (Johnson pp.120).

Instead, the action research method allow me to acknowledge that there is something worthwhile in a study which does not prove or falsify, but to look at the relationship between causes and their consequences; what Buddhists call ‘karma’ and part of interconnected relationships identified by Gaia Theorists.

The diary or journal is a common feature of Action Research and pertinent to me, as for the most part I am working alone.  I will complete the diary to help me consider discoveries made about the two aims stated by Kemmis and McTaggart (1988), firstly writing, ‘about the practices we are studying [and also about] how our action research project is going’ (pp.24).  I intend to follow the action research method that ‘Lewin described…as proceeding in a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of planning, action and evaluation of the result of the action’ (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1988, pp.8).

Critical Realism

Garrett (1996) juxtaposes Descartian thinking with Spinoza’s philosophy and I find myself in the latter camp.  The former, reporting he,

‘sought to improve the sciences…by providing a better foundation for them.  He justified this endeavour ultimately on the grounds that it would bring human beings greater mastery over nature.  Spinoza, in contrast, sought primarily to improve the character of human beings – both himself and others – by improving their self-understanding.  He justified this endeavour on the grounds that it would bring human beings peace of mind as integral aspects of nature’ (pp.267).

While producing a scientific report I am eager to make use of the humanities and especially cultural studies research, which Alasuutari (1995) describes as,

‘consciously and self-reflexively eclectic in theoretical terms and pragmatic and strategic in its choice of methods’(pp.23)

I therefore aim to balance a flexible approach with a rigorous one as I want my work to be trustworthy enough to influence and be of use to others.  I am, therefore, drawn towards a Critical Realist understanding of the world as,

‘A socially constructed perception of underlying structures and mechanisms of the real world…Knowledge formation depends on the building of models to understand these [real world] structures and mechanisms so that, were they to exist, they would account for the phenomena examined’’ (Plant, 2005, pp.76).

As with any science, any knowledge claimed is best used carefully, with the understanding that it is provisional.  This paradigm suits the Buddhist idea of knowledge, in which the Buddha reminded his followers that his,

‘teaching is merely a vehicle to describe the truth.  Don’t mistake it for the truth itself…Accept only the things which accord with your reason’ (Thich Nhat Hanh, 2005 pp.384 and 421).

It also accords with mindfulness theory, which, according to Thornton and McEntee (1995), ‘does not assume a single right way of doing things… [with] qualities of authenticity and internal consistency’ (pp.265).


An introduction to NVC

I have decided to use educational material published by the Centre for Nonviolent Communication.  It describes the process it teaches as,

‘help[ing] connect us with what is alive in ourselves and in others moment-to-moment, with what we or others could do to make life more wonderful, and with an awareness of what gets in the way of natural giving and receiving.  NVC language strengthens our ability to inspire compassion from others and respond compassionately to others and ourselves.  NVC guides us to reframe how we express ourselves, how we hear others and resolve conflicts by focusing our consciousness on what we are observing, feeling, needing, and requesting.’

It is particularly useful to me as it explicitly focuses on being in the moment, mindfulness, and compassion.  Thornton and McEntree (1995) suggest that language is a useful focus for maintaining attention (pp.225).  It can be overtly used to observe and rethink the habitual internal dialogues Trungpa described earlier.  Basterfield (2006) describes a link between sustainability and greater awareness of violence when she says,

‘Violence is a part of our society’s culture, in a way which is both damaging and unsustainable. And yet the extent of violent behaviour is no less troubling than our response to it – we are becoming numb to violence’ (pp.30-31)

NVC also claims to be sustainable in the widest sense; it begins a process that does not end.  I think this is akin to the use of ‘effortlessness’ by Tibetan Buddhists, not used to indicate that the learning is undemanding, but with well-founded motivation, an individual will inevitably benefit from the new paradigm,

‘creat[ing] a quality of energy which mobilizes us into action…we respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear or guilt, or shame.  Our actions are therefore fulfilling to us, as well as those who receive our efforts…At this stage we are aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others’ (Rosenberg, 2005, p.60).’

I have also chosen it because it is a secular organisation and therefore I hope people with different world views than mine might find it useful, however it does have a very strong values element, which I think accords with Rahnema’s ideal and the kind of spirituality Maiteny describes.

‘Unless we as social change agents come from a certain spirituality, we’re likely to create more harm than good.  …If we do not first make a radical spiritual change within ourselves we’re not going to be effective; in fact we may even contribute to what is already going on’ (Rosenberg, 2003 (a), pp.5)

The educational material I will use is Leu’s NVC workbook which describes itself as ‘A practical guide for Individual, Group, or Classroom Study’ to ‘refine and practice’ the theoretical process described in Rosenberg’s introductory text ‘A Language of Life’ (2005).   The workbook is designed to complement the Rosenberg text and a summary of the programme is in Appendixes 1.  By using a published educational material I am replicating the informal work of others, from whom I can compare my results, and I am making my work easier to be replicated by others.

Finding a place to start

According to the action research spiral, I began by selecting unsustainable behavioural and attitudinal habits.  By this I mean areas where my lack of personal competence regularly led to a feeling of ‘burn out’, ‘in-neediness’ or ‘not enough’.  To do this I consulted the ‘NVC Concepts and Processes’, listed in the ‘Knowing NVC’ section of the ‘CNVC Trainer Certification Preparation Packet’ (2005, pp.12-13) that lists many possible outcomes of the curriculum, which must be met by NVC trainers.  By previously studying NVC literature, attending a foundation course and a few practice group sessions, I have come to understand the basic concepts and theory underpinning the practice.  Therefore, the area I chose to develop was translating my understanding into practice – the outcomes are described in the second section, entitled ‘Living in NVC Consciousness’ (Appendix 2) in the ‘Preparation Packet’.  Living in NVC consciousness is described as having awareness of one’s motivation, the ability to empathize with oneself and others in each moment and using this motivation to clearly communicate, give, receive and experience gratitude, abundance, joy, compassion, freedom and peace,  (summary taken from pp.13-14).  These characteristics are similar to Rahnema’s characteristics of a ‘participatory ideal’ and the Tibetan Buddhist concept of a Relative Bodhisattva. I will use these as indicators to assess my learning in this project.

Assessing the Project

Beginning in mid July 2006, I completed one chapter per week, for thirteen weeks, as the coursebook suggested.  I made notes in a diary to demonstrate my understanding and reflections on the material in the workbook to see to what extent I had been able to meet the indicators in the ‘Living in NVC Consciousness’.

When I have completed the course I will ask myself two questions; firstly, has this curriculum enabled me to develop the abilities indicated above?  If so, it follows that an NVC education may help practitioners work as change agents in the way Rahnema suggests, and therefore this type of education is relevant to EfS.   Secondly, what styles of learning has the PDE material used?  Have these styles been successful and could they be used to teach behaviour change in an EfS curriculum?

In order to validate my findings as to the usefulness and applicability of the curriculum, and to gather more information about other people’s experiences of the learning styles, I devised a questionnaire to be sent to people who have trained in NVC. This questionnaire consisted of three closed questions in order to determine their level of training, and six open-ended questions to determine what and how students learnt.  The recipients were assumed to have a relatively high degree of education, be competent at self-reflexive skills and have had exposure to technical terms and therefore be able to express their ideas coherently.  (For blank questionnaire, consent form and covering letter see Appendix 3)

I did not see the contents of their replies until I had finished the course and had written the responses in the appendixes in which I reflected on my diary and experiences.  I aimed to use the answers to the open questions to hear the respondents flexible, fluid accounts of their personal journeys to see how typical, or not, my findings were.

‘allow[ing me] to make a truer assessment of what the respondent really believes [and] can produce unexpected or unanticipated answers’ (Robson, 2003, pp.276).


Anastas and MacDonald (1994, pp.60), explain that according to the Critical Realist perspective, theory and data give, at best, approximate glimpses of an underlying reality.  Therefore, Critical Realists do not have the same expectations about reliability, that a repeated experiment will yield the same results every time, or validity, that things really are as they appear to be, as a Cartesian scientist would.  Instead, Lincoln and Guba (1985) use the measure of ‘trustworthiness’ to determine the ‘credibility, conformability, transferability and dependability’ of results.  I hope to meet these terms by demonstrating that the data gathered in my diary and by the questionnaires is interpreted stringently to see if my conclusions can be generalized.

Anastas and MacDonald go on to say that the process of study must be, itself, scrutinised.  According to Robson (2003), this requires a ‘researcher-as-instrument’ approach, which requires ‘Personal qualities such as having an open and enquiring mind, being a ‘good listener’ and showing sensitivity and responsiveness to contradictory evidence’ (pp.167-8).  This poses extra demands and opportunities upon my study; they are useful as they highlight the qualities of mindfulness and personal competencies I am developing, yet problematic, in that I am engaging in this study on the understanding that my abilities in these areas are restricted.  I hope that by recognizing my limits in this area, I will be seen to meet, to some degree, the condition of self-awareness and that my desire to report honestly and openly will offset my limitations.

In accordance with Robson’s advice (2003, pp.171-6), I have built in some methods to compensate for researcher bias.  By making available this personal study for others to examine, I am required to interpret my data rigorously – ensuring that my interpretations and decisions are justifiable.  Throughout, I have tried to be clear about my own values in order that my reader can understand my perspectives – rather than to suggest that my view is inevitable or correct.  I intend to triangulate my findings with that of others with experiences of using NVC, paying particular attention to responses that do not fit with my preconceptions, and so am using a published programme to leave a clear trail for others to follow.


The real world of emotions and actions is an inherently unpredictable one.  In this project I am looking for general patterns and what underlying educational experiences elucidate them and why.  I will seek to establish ‘internal’ generalisability, in which findings are said to be generally true in a particular setting or context, and ‘external’ generalisability, which allows results to be true beyond a setting, for other people and over time (Maxwell, 1996).  For, learning to be successful, it should have a permanent, but not necessarily fixed, impact on one’s attitude, thinking and behaviour, and these changes should be largely consistent with others, or at least those in a similar context. I am soliciting responses from people with an experience of NVC, who have stayed with the process, so it seems that we have a similar context for ‘internal’ generalisability and yet I have only met one of my respondents, so in fact, our contexts may be very different.  I am keen to consider how long the education has an impact by doing some follow up work one month later to give a sense of some ‘external’ generalizability – for our contexts are always in flux.  The best way to establish ‘external’ generalizability, would be for the study to be replicated by other researchers looking for similar experiences.

I have not selected people outside of the NVC community, as it is necessary to be very motivated to engage in PDE training and they would have no longer term experience to reflect on.  As I am asking for the experiences of people who have invested heavily in this training, therefore the issue of generalisability is not; “Do all the respondents report a process positive?”, but “Do participants, including myself, find it helpful in a similar way and is this process concurrent with the aims of EfS, and if so can EfS benefit from this as a learning style?”.  Alternatively, if their responses are dissimilar, it would suggest that the experience of using this PDE is too varied to draw valid conclusions from, and therefore, it is an unhelpful guide for changes in EfS – though its original merits for individuals will still stand.


The reason for using myself as the main subject of my experiment, is to overcome ethical and practical barriers that I would encounter trying to instil change in others.  For the questionnaire I intend to seek contributions with the same ‘sense of rightness’ that Cohen et al (2003, pp. 71) describe.  To ensure this, my research will be carried out in accordance with The British Psychological Society’s 2006 Code of Conduct, and the guidance from the British Educational Research (2004).  The BPS emphasizes the importance of ‘respect, competence, responsibility and integrity’ (pp.9).  Maintaining a respect for my own authenticity and other people’s views is both a part of the aim of my project as well as a necessary condition of good research.

To ensure that I treat those who support me in an ethical way, I have only solicited the help of people who had previously advertised their willingness to help people learn more about NVC, by releasing their email address through the Center’s publications and electronic mail groups.  I have endeavoured to ensure their informed consent by giving people four weeks to reflect on my initial letter which gave plenty of information about whether they were willing to participate.  I have made myself available to answer questions and asked them to complete a written consent form.  I think that the open-ended questions allow people express themselves fully without demanding more time than they are willing to give.  Respondents had the choice of remaining anonymous even to me, by replying without giving their name; this respects privacy and allows for candid responses.

Before tabulating their responses to make them easier to compare, I paraphrased their open answers into a few words.  I sent a copy of this to the majority of respondents who had given contact details.  I asked them to tell me if I had understood correctly – most thought so, but a few reframed their answer.  I did this because I am aware that changing someone’s own answer, could be seen as arrogant and inducing experimental bias, however, I am trying to follow the technique used in counselling; whereby a counsellor repeats back what he or she has heard to show understanding, and allows the speaker to correct any assumptions.  The respondents reacted positively to my request, so I think that my intention was understood.  Finally, I debriefed participants about my findings and recommendations and thanked them for their participation once more, so as to engage them in my research project that would not have been possible without them.  (See Appendix 4 for a summary of this process and for a typical paraphrasing letter.)


Note on raw data

After completing the questionnaire, I wrote a short response to each indicator once the course was over and again a month later to see how much of my learning had stayed with me (See Appendix 5).  I was very grateful to receive a lot of responses to my questionnaire, especially as when I completed it myself, I realised it did take a great deal of reflection and thought to do so.  (A copy of responses, including my own, in full are available at Appendix 6, Appendixes 7 shows the paraphrased responses for easy comparison, and pertinent extracts from the diary are in Appendix 8).

Analysis of Results

Has this curriculum enabled me to develop the abilities described by Rahnema as necessary for change agents.

In Appendixes 5, I have considered each of the Living in NVC consciousness indicators, which people hoping to become certified NVC trainers are asked to reflect on.  These all refer to practical experiences of reflecting and using NVC.  I responded to these indicators before I had read the questionnaire results and for all but one, commented that I had made progress on being mindful, by compassionately identifying my own, and other’s, feelings and needs, as they arise.  By appreciating a situation as it is happening and with greater awareness than usual, I found that I could enjoy moments more fully, and resolve intra and interpersonal conflicts more easily or come to an understanding in hindsight which would allow me to understand the problem more clearly.  A few key lessons included listening rather than talking, stopping rather than doing, accepting my rights to and enjoyment of commodities with gratitude, even as I acknowledge I would like the world’s systems to be fairer and more appreciative of relationships and everyday experiences.

Analysis of Method – Are the findings trustworthy and generalisable?

Before considering what aspects of this educational package make it useful to EfS, it is first necessary to account for the accuracy of my findings.  I will do so under the criteria set by Lincoln and Guba (1985).

Do my results conform with other’s experiences?

It is unsurprising that the people I questioned, favour NVC as a method for working.  Instead, I aimed to find out if they would report that by using the NVC materials they had developed the kinds of characteristics and skills that Rahnema described.  If so, it would indicate that NVC is useful in teaching EfS.

I found that the respondents often did choose to describe the personal characteristics he emphasizes. (Question 4, Appendix 7).  Rahnema highlights, ‘love, conviviality, simplicity, inner freedom, attention, sensitivity, goodness, compassion’ as necessary characteristics for change makers (Rahnema, 1992, pp.127-9).  Many NVC respondents choose words similar to empathy, compassion and patience.  People report being able to stay calm in times of stress and use time better to bring their awareness to the demands of the present moment.  Being able to stay calm in a crisis and apply empathetic understanding allows people to feel more in control of a situation allowing them to feel resilient and autonomous.  Therefore, I think that NVC allows the development of the personal characteristics Rahnema describes.   The answers in the questionnaires were consistent with my findings and Rahnema aim.

One crucial difference between PDE materials and EfS ones, is that for PDE materials to be successful, the change needs only occur inside the individual – for instance feeling happier or less anxious.  EfS requires a sustainable change in behaviour to manifest itself.  Therefore, I asked respondents whether they thought NVC had helped them to carry out actions that are consistent with the values they reported above (Question 6, Appendixes 7).  There was a wide variety of responses to this question yet all but one respondent, who had had little training with the method, thought that they had been able to use the materials practically.  Generally, people reported an ability to have greater self-understanding and more empathy allowing them to communicate and hear others more clearly.  These skills are comparable with the ones Rahnema lists, which includes; ‘recovering one’s inner freedom, meaningfully contributing to a communal struggle to improve life, protecting others from violence, learning, relating and listening’ (Rahnema, 1992, pp.127-9).

In the literature review, I commented that attitudes and skills can be distributed by modelling sustainable beliefs and behaviours to others.  I asked the respondents if NVC helped the respondents to show others what they have learnt (Question 9, Appendixes 7).  All but one person thought that using NVC had enabled them to have a helpful influence on others; reporting that they are more able to interact in a meaningful and relevant way.  Many respondents report acting at a new level of openness, but instead of feeling vulnerable, this process enlivens them.  I certainly found this to be the case.  Rahnema comments that ‘very sensitive animators’ (pp.127) are able to listen to and empower others.  He lists famous men, but here I find a resonance between his famous examples and those who try to consciously listen, empathize and support others, because to do so involves acting in a conspicuously different way to usual styles of communication.  Therefore, I would suggest it is possible for PDE to contribute to the model of EfS I am using in this study.

Using the collated results from the questionnaire, I think that an overall pattern emerges in which my personal experience fits comfortably.  From this pattern, I suggest that other people in different contexts who enter into this education with a clear understanding of it and the right motivation, may well obtain similar results.

How credible are these results?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the questionnaire?

I think that the results from my diary and my responses to the questionnaire and ‘Living in NVC consciousness’ indicators can be judged as credible, because my findings are consistent with those of the respondents.  I answered the questions before viewing their results yet my answers fit comfortably alongside theirs. However, I do think that my questionnaire could have been improved in several ways to obtain clearer answers from respondents.  The difference between question four, about personal qualities and question six, about skills development, was understood less clearly than I hoped with empathy and understanding being used as answers to both.  However, as people answered in their own sentences and I reflected back my understanding, it was possible to tease these aspects apart.

One difficulty in assessing learning methods and comparing my experience to others, is that few of the respondents had used the Leu workbook; no one had used it for personal study, while some had used it as an aid to teach others.  Therefore, it is not possible to say what the effect of this particular activity has been on my study and be able to compare it with other NVC resources.  However, as my experiences seem to be inline with other people’s, a general view of NVC education can be formed.

I had hoped for a more critical response to Question 9.  I had thought that by asking, ‘If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sort of role model you yourself value?  Why is this?’, respondents might suggest limitations that NVC has in allowing them to influence others.  This did not happen.  One respondent queried the questionnaire, saying that it was not possible to put critical ideas forward, and I explained I would be happy to include any critical ideas she had, but she declined, saying that she didn’t want to make any, but wanted to be sure that my report would consider critical as well as positive comments.  Another respondent said she had not been able to demonstrate any learning from NVC, but this was due to her inexperience with the method.  She then went on to say that it had benefited her personally and hoped in the future she would be able to use it to influence others.

This question was also problematic because some respondents found the term ‘role model’ to have little relevance for them.  When I came to answer this question for myself, I was aware of the difficulty of knowing what one’s effect on others actually is.  Also, one principle of NVC is not to become involved in evaluative thought processes especially not to hear other people’s judgments of you, positive or negative.  Therefore, answering a question about your impact on others is very difficult.  For this reason, the respondents tended to restate their new found abilities, in answer to question 9, rather than proclaim effects they had bestowed on others.  This thinking is inline with that of the Buddha, Spinoza and Tutu above; that aptitudes and abilities have positive effects which spread out from informed intention.

When I came to answer this question several months after writing the questionnaire, I realised that, though it was short, the open answers required a great deal reflection, and I thought that might have discouraged some people from replying.  Out of thirty people targeted, twenty replied.  Most people who stated a reason for not being involved, said they had too many commitments already.  However, to obtain the depth of response I needed, it is unsurprising that those who participated would be required to spend a while reflecting on their answers.  So to some degree, this was unavoidable and considering that I did not have any personal connection with these people, twenty responses may well be a good figure.  As the responses from this sample were largely harmonious, I don’t think a much greater sample would have yielded significantly different results.

I also felt that I had established a strong and ethical relationship with my twenty respondents, as they seemed to reply honestly and openly, and though two asked for anonymity, most wanted to receive information about how their response had been used and about the findings of the project.  People who wished to clarify their answers did and were pleased with the changes.  I think this shows that they valued my interest and wanted to be correctly understood.  Although the questionnaire took time, some respondents stated that they valued the questionnaire as a way of thinking about NVC for themselves.

Can the results be transferred to any context?

I have already shown that both my experiences and the respondents have similarities.  This indicates that my experience was not anomalous, but it does not indicate that everyone using these resources will have a consistent experience.

In fact, I do not think that the experiences I have accounted for here, can simply be rolled out for everyone to ensure planetary happiness in one sweep. Rosenberg makes clear, and I am in full agreement, that it is essential that those involved are doing so because of a pre-existing desire to connect with others, and not as a way to force co-operation from others.  PDE targets students who are willing to honestly reflect on themselves and are open to change.  My reflections began by recognising I wanted a structured approach to developing my abilities to act according to my values, even when under strain.  Therefore, I do not propose that PDE be formally added to mainstream Initial Teacher Training programmes, or be a mandatory part of the development of EfS leaders.  Doing so would be an attempt to co-opt the learning, by trying to manipulate the learner into becoming something they are not rather than using the learning as a vehicle for self-change.  Doing so, in my opinion, may well be harmful, and is almost certainly wasteful making it unsustainable in all senses.      As Rahnema describes,

‘participation soon turns into a parody, and an invitation to manipulate designs, when it represents only a ritual amongst alienated persons acting as programmed robots’ (1992, pp.128).

To exemplify this, I will tell the story that one respondent chose to add to her questionnaire.  She described being introduced to NVC a year and a half ago, receiving her training as part of the professional development, provided by a Local Education Authority.  She described feeling angry at being forced to spend time on a course that purported to offer no specific answers or strategies to the problems which were demanding her attention. The training was slow and unspecific; she says she did not know what ‘it’ was.  However, the following day she found herself using some of the ideas discussed to satisfactorily resolve a difficult situation.  Now, she no longer resented the course thinking.  Instead that she had found another tool to add to her ‘strategy box’, to ensure her needs were met.  After one year she noticed that it has become more than that she was using NVC to help her feel calm in times of stress and empathetic towards people she ‘is intrinsically opposed to’.  She reports developing a sense of perspective, humour and a readiness to be honest about herself.  While she still finds the process a little contrived, she says that ‘it helps’.  As a result of this, she took some colleagues to hear Marshall speak.  Those who had never hear of the process, thought it was a waste of time and those who hadn’t practiced, thought it was a ‘fad’.  She comments that her and an interested colleague have really struggled to bring others along.

Therefore, it is important to note that what PDE represents is very different to professional development learning, as the learner must be active in the process and have a real desire to change.   In this context, I think that the results may be transferable.

Can others depend on the results I have found?

One hurdle with this project has been thinking of a way to record dense subjective information in a way that meets the criteria of an MSc course.  From a Cartesian perspective it is difficult to say for certain how Leu’s workbook developed my abilities to meet the ‘Living NVC’ characteristics, because I have been subjected to other influences over the last 13 weeks.  Trying to prove a change in thinking is not only open to changes of not being verifiable.  Proving that this work is not fictional has been made easier by using the accounts of others.  It is more difficult to show that, as I have an interest in this field, I am not biased in searching for evidence of change when in fact the evidence is wide ranging.  For example, the responses to the questions were very broad and I have narrowed them down in the analysis of my results, to show how the respondents confirm my experience and the possibility I raised in the literature review that PDE could contributed to EfS, I could be charged with deliberately selecting responses to meet conclusions I was already committed to.

I have tried to overcome this problem by being open about it, by including detailed accounts of my raw data, by checking my understanding with the respondents, by using a method that can be replicated by others and lastly, I have maintained high ethical standards both for my participants and in order to gather the support of my reader.  The similarity of other people’s experience has also made me feel much more confident in my results.  Convincing my reader of this, may be more problematic.  I can only hope that my writing sounds sincere enough to captivate an interest in my reader to verify the work for themselves.


What aspects of Personal Development Education may strengthen Education for Sustainability’s ability to change habits?

I have selected pieces of my diary which were particularly important to me in terms of gaining the new understanding I have presented above, in Appendix 8.  I have done this in order to identify aspects of NVC education which allowed this learning to take place.  I found the following conclusions, suggested by the learning materials, to be useful to me.

  • Reflect on the thinking behind past actions which one now regrets, without guilt/blame/shame.
  • Consider how you interact with others, as an adviser an educator or as an equal.
  • Become familiar with making strategies which involve the people you are with in the context you are in right now.
  • Expressing yourself not to prove you are right or have power, but because you want to connect with someone else and express something of you to them. Whilst also accepting that they may disagree or not help you and working from this new ground, rather than continuing to show them how you are right.
  • Moving beyond ‘enemy images’ to understand the person who appears to be a barrier to you, to listen and see what you have in common.
  • To listen to the person, not the rhetoric.
  • Accepting that you feel angry and that’s OK if you use it to alerts you to your needs, firstly, however, calm down and be compassionate.
  • Trust in yourself to act without having to rely on blame/shame/guilt.
  • There are many ways to resolve problems and you can keep on searching for the resolution with others.

To verify this, I wondered what it was, about the educational materials, that encouraged the respondents to develop these new attributes and skills.  Looking at replies to the condensed responses to questions five and seven, (Appendix 7) people reported that the trainers who led workshops, and the activities they organised, were instrumental in developing skills (question 7).  It is difficult for me to compare this with my experience of the Leu textbook.

All the respondents commented that the change in their personal qualities (question 5) had been influenced by the framework NVC gives, to understand feelings and needs in a new way.  Many commented on the structure NVC gives to analyse observations, feelings, needs and strategies.  It is not a matter of acquiring a large amount of new knowledge – merely having a new way to examine thoughts people already have and are interested in.  Respondents reported that this had given them a fresh insight into a previously fixed mindset, allowing them to see their thinking and behaviour as a series of habits that could be explored, challenged and changed.  This enabled them to explore how their observations and judgements relate to their feelings and needs, and come up with a few strategies for meeting their needs flexibly, and in a way that causes least harm.

Content of Education

I think EfS could learn something from the PDE field, if it encouraged educational material which recognises that in addition to knowledge and presenting a sustainable argument based on rational analysis, the feelings of participants will determine their response to the facts.  By admitting and accepting their feelings, the sustainability student may be more aware of the influences behind their goals and behaviour they may be better able to empathise with another’s thinking.  They may be able to move away from the idea that other they are involved in an oppositional relationship against people are hostile to sustainability and towards a position which recognises that other people’s emotions need to be acknowledged and engaged with as part of the process of looking for strategies to break unsustainable habits.  As well as a technical understanding of the problem, a compassionate understanding of one’s own, and other’s behaviour, needs to be accessed by EfS.

Mindfulness being aware of what is happening at the moment, seems to be a very important skill in developing a compassionate understanding of one’s own, and other people’s inner worlds.  A major part of the NVC curriculum is identifying and labelling feelings and needs as they arise because, we are so often caught up in an intellectual understanding of the problem, that we overlook our feelings and those of others.  However, it is often these feelings which will determine whether we resist acting on the information we receive, or how thoughtfully we respond to it.  Therefore, I think that EfS’s resources and teaching would be more effective if they encouraged students to think mindfully.

The NVC resource demonstrates how actions that result from internal guilt or external blame are likely to be stressful for the actor, and therefore short-lived; they are emotionally unsustainable.   Activity which comes from an internal drive to contribute to something which the actor values, not only results in action being taken, but also strengthens the drive to act again.  Here the actor recognises that they are part of an interdependent system and that, by contributing to social or geological sustainability, they are also maintaining their own psychological sense of well-being.  Using this aspect of learning may allow EfS to develop a non-denominational spirituality that can be a source of energy and wonder, in a field that is too often overwhelmingly depressing.

Teaching Methods

The NVC style of learning is experiential, with a large degree of personal reflection supported by teaching practitioners who have been through the process and model, rather than describing it.  This is the style of teaching that Segal et al and Kabat-Zinn use to teach mindfulness to help their clients, and the style used by Tibetan Buddhist teachers with their pupils.  PDE suggests that by focusing on solving the world’s problems by giving advice to an abstracted world, we are distracting attention from the problems we have and are continuing to create.  Instead, working on ourselves and with, ‘those we can touch’ (Illich, 1997),  requires facilitators to model with humility, that which they are capable of.

The respondents to my questionnaire report that experiential exercises run by people who demonstrate that there are other, valid ways to interact, have helped them develop confidence and skills.  Without this teaching, students may not otherwise have the chance to meet people who acknowledge that there are alternative ways to interact with external pressures and internal demands, than those that we have been socialised to place on ourselves.  Fromm comments about the process of regaining control of our real needs which have been co-opted.  In response, NVC education explicitly raises one’s awareness of the needs which lie behind the judgements and demands we make of ourselves and we hear in others.  Learning to listen differently, shedding the ‘having’ mode that is demonstrated all around us, and entering into the less-alienated activity of the ‘being’ mode, takes confidence and practice.

The shift from our old habits to new more transparent ways of thinking and being, resolves the phenomena Kidner describes, of feeling abstracted and distanced from our communities, the physical world and ourselves.  It delivers a way of being aware of oneself in the moment and the possibility of communicating this to others – delivering a possibility of stillness and peace which sets up a virtuous cycle in which more careful learning can take place. This could be a way to nullify the effects of a grasping consumerism that presents economic and ecological problems as well as personal ones.

Personal Development Education  and the academic study of Education for Sustainability

In the above section, I have tried to maintain the ‘study style’ described by Heron (pp.127) because I recognise the need for solid, trustworthy, transparent, rational argument that other people can follow and challenge, and because of the dictates of my course.  However, I do also find it limiting, because the teaching materials I have trialled and evaluated are based on an introspective, subjective experience.  To fully report and understand this aspect of education, I think a method of academic writing that goes beyond the study and into Heron’s ‘story style’, is needed.  I think that EfS needs to use psychological and cultural understanding of how learning takes place.  It is not sufficient to copy the models of teaching used in mainstream educational establishments.  They have focused on active learning, but space needs to be made for reflection on actions at the intrapersonal level as well as communicating with others about internal experiences.

According to the authors in my literature review self development based on self-determination, values and emotions more essential than knowledge in contributing to inner and outer change.  Students are more likely to be motivated by education that can be transferred to any immediate situation, because it will be perceived as being useful, therefore students are more likely to choose it stay with it as a life long practice.

A great strength of NVC is the belief that needs can be met, to some extent, if one is open minded about the strategies employed to meet these needs.  I think that this introduces the possibility of radical and subversive thinking – that there are many alternatives and many allies if we seek them clearly.  To describe these strategies and plan to enact them may well require a debate in how to present them.  I see a conflict between acknowledging the importance of non-material ways to engage in the world and a traditional way of explaining that vision in the form of a study.  If other means are valued, how are we to engage in them?  I propose that it is necessary to maintain a wide definition of EfS that is inclusive to less formal ways of reporting experiences which are valuable but currently marginalized.  The area of intrapersonal development has probably received less attention because of its complexity, but I think the results of this study demonstrate that, to have an impact on daily decisions which contribute to unsustainability, EfS needs to broaden it’s remit, teaching and style, in order to present a wider picture of how we learn and change.

Conclusion – answering the research questions

How do Post-Development theorists suggest Education for Sustainability should be taught?

EfS is already a broad school and it has very different meanings for a range of theorists.  Here I have focused on the Post-development thinkers, particularly Rahnema and Illich.  Rahmena posits that sustainability is a personal way of being, as well as a subject about how the biosphere, society and economy can best continue.  He says that, to be effective, people who wish to make changes must distil in themselves the personal qualities they think are important.  They must be able to resist co-opting external and internal forces.  If they are successful in this, they will inevitably be of interest to others who will be moved by their example to change themselves.   Both Illich and Rahnema conclude that rather than influencing people with persuasion and rhetorical facts, the experience of touching others with the gift of one’s own example, is the most powerful mechanism for which deep and permanent change can occur.

To what extent does Education for Sustainability already recognise a personal competence approach?

I have used a selection of broadly Deep Green or Gaian thinkers, to show that within the field of EfS, it is already recognised that PDE has a role to play.  Along with others, they concur that knowing that our behaviour needs to change is not enough.  Maiteny suggests that our unsustainable behaviour is motivated not just with shallow desires for ease and luxuriance, but by much deeper rooted psychological factors which consumerism has been able to latch onto; particularly our perceived needs to ‘have’ and be satisfied at a rarely perceived spiritual, cultural and biological level.  Kidner posits that this need, which capitalism encourages by promising to provide all the things we crave, has been engendered by it as well.  As we have become physically dislocated from geo-physiological rhythms, our sense of self and our society have joined forces to inculcate damaging patterns of thought and behaviour leading to an unhealthy internal, as well as planetary state, which is very hard for us to diagnose. Sterling suggests that our education system, part of this disordered society, perpetuates unsustainability by replicating what we already have; he calls for radical change.

How does Personal Development Education propose we learn new habits?

I suggested that PDE based on compassion and mindfulness, may offer a solution to this fix by offering a rehearsed strategy to work on our sense of self in supportive communities, to break down some of the confusion which has been past onto us by our dysfunctional culture.  The practice of focusing on what is happening in ourselves, moment by moment, has been traditionally taught in Tibetan monasteries to enable individuals to allow them to become aware of their own feelings and behaviour, and develop empathy for others.  This ability has been studied by western scientists, from Langer to Goleman, to inform their beliefs about how we can be more emotionally intelligent – about how we go about our work and achieve our goals.  Segal et al and Kabat-Zinn have used it in clinical applications, to improve individuals’ physical and mental health.

NVC uses cognitive psychological principles to dissect individuals’ experience of themselves, in the moment to understand their own observations, feelings, needs and hopes, in order to express these and empathise with the experience of others to resolve or help mediate conflicts.  Based on my own experience of using this material, and by asking twenty other people about the outcomes and processes of their experience, I sought to understand whether a focus on mindfulness and compassion could lead to behavioural changes, and what pedagogical principles were at work.

What are the theoretical connections between Mindfulness and Education for Sustainability?

Napoli (2004) concluded that teachers who use mindfulness, are better able to deal with intrapersonal issues and enable change for their students.  I saw a connection between the interconnected vision of Gaia theory and the mindful awareness that all accumulated internal experiences eventually produce a changed behavioural pattern a new habit, and I was keen to see if mindful teaching would have a role in improving EfS ability to change habits in thinking and behaving.  To see if it could change conceptual ideas about ourselves as individuals, our need to have, and our abilities to sustain ourselves spiritually, culturally and biologically.

How might Education for Sustainability learning benefit from a Personal Development Education approach?

I concluded that EfS would benefit from a PDE approach in some ways: I think that PDE‘s emphasis on experiential learning, including intrapersonal reflection on feelings, needs and perceptions of others, would be beneficial in developing more sustainable ways to think and behave.  Using internal motivations to realise values and develop goals is more beneficial than strategies that invoke guilt or blame, because doing something that one values is, no matter how difficult, a more joyful, enriching process.  Tapping into this vigour gives EfS greater energy than fear of the future and hostility towards ‘enemies of sustainability’.  The methods employed to achieve changes, consisted of devolving a student’s responsibility to students to choose to take part in the learning and their own willingness to reflect on new ways of understanding the old information they held, about themselves and others.  Teachers of the process, who demonstrated new ways of thinking and understanding through experimental activities, were found to be crucial in this process.  I found that through mindful study, I was better able to adhere to the values of compassion, generosity, a joy in life, and increasingly wanting to be mindful in the future.  After one month of completing the study, I found I was using what I had learnt applying it increasingly.  The learning sustained itself.

However, the benefits of this type of learning is caught up with the individual student, and so, in a sense, it cannot be taught.  The positive respondents to my questionnaires chose to learn this material years before this study.  They helped me understand how transferable my experience is to other people who wish to learn PDE not its effects on changing ‘undeveloped’ people.  I think that in addition to the dispersal of factual material and political events which EfS is more familiar with for change agents, who are looking for ways to overcome destructive thinking and behavioural habits those which lead to feelings of burn out, this resource is an example of how PDE can support EfS’s change agent’s manage feelings of being overwhelmed by the problems we face, and could help them to influence others in a positive way.  I also think that this study can act as a challenge to others to consider how, if we recognise that psychological and non-material factors have a great deal of influences over our behaviour and how we change it, how the formal methods employed by academics in EfS can engage the study of personal development and change more fully, while keeping reporting trustworthy.

Was the methodology appropriate?

I think that the research question I posed was viable, and that my choice of methodology was very useful in providing a response to it.  By focusing my study at a very small scale, I was able to focus on subtle changes to my thinking and behaviour which have added up to change, which for me, has been substantial in answering the research question posed.  In my personal search to overcoming barriers, to changing my habitual ways of handling feelings of hopelessness and burn out resulting from the overwhelming scale of social and environmental problems, I found myself distanced from others by their apparent uncaring attitudes and responses and frustrated at myself for failing to be able to respond.  Instead of focusing permanently on the large scale, and feeling indifferent towards small-scale changes in kindness and openness towards others, I have reversed the situation.  It has been a success for me as I can experience more of what I knew Rahnema was right to advise.

However, my methodology had its limitations.  Transporting this very small scale piece of research which is by its nature personal, into an objective, academic world has been inherently difficult.   I tried to overcome charges of subjectivity by enlisting the responses of others, and feel that my results are generalisable and trustworthy.  However, I have had more difficulty than I expected in formally writing up my findings in a way which allows me to convey to complex internal changes.  I have tried to overcome this by detailed written responses based on my diary entries, and the outcome of my learning.  I found my experience comparable with that of others but I still have a sense that the quality of the experience is inexpressible in this form.

Also, I would have liked to have established, more firmly, the relationship between more mindful and compassionate thinking, and socio-political actions.  For example, are people trained in NVC more likely to be involved in direct actions or local groups to protect vulnerable people and the environment, or are they more skilled at negotiating with political or private organisations to have a more sustainable influence on the wider world?  Or, could a group of people experiencing burn out become more optimistic after they volunteered for NVC training?  I am sure that a deep-seated belief in one’s ability to overcome obstacles leads to more energy being put into making personal and social changes, and that this can be supported by educational programmes which would be pertinent to EfS.  I hope that this is clearly different from the proposition that positive thinking makes goals easier to accomplish.  I could perhaps have achieved this by studying the experiences of the participants in my research at greater depth by interviewing them before and after a series of trainings, and finding how they would describe their experiences.

Implications for future research

In the future I would like to extend this project by trying to study the role of other aspects of mindfulness training; including meditation practices to see how it could be applied to teaching for sustainability in individual humans and in society.  This would see the study move beyond the NVC education resources used here, to other examples of PDE.  I will also, try to continue studying mindfulness, which has, as this project has gone on, acquired an increasingly important role to me.  The University of Wales offers an MA in teaching Mindfulness Based Approaches to individuals and organisations, and I think that this study has pointed me in the direction of this area for further study and work.

I am also interested in exploring ways to write about personal experiences in ways that have value for readers, and can be taken seriously by influential bodies that have historically been influenced with a bias towards Cartesian science.  Moreover, I would like to see more interest being taken in subjective science through the replication of this and others studies   I hope that this study will help other students write studies which are rigorously subjective, because I think that there are many important areas which cannot be studied by traditional means without loosing an important way of understanding. 


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SEGAL, Z. V. WILLIAMS, J. M.G. and TEASDALE, J. D. (2002) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression; a new approach to preventing relapse. The Guildford Press New York and London.

SHIVA, V. (2006) ‘Voice from the South: In the name of Development’. Resurgence Magazine, (No.236).

STEPHENSON BOND, D. (1993) Living myth: personal meaning as a way of life. Shambhala publications. In MAITENY, P and PARKER, J. (eds.) 2002 Unit 6 Reader: Science and Culture in Education for Sustainability.  London: Distance Learning Centre, South Bank University.

STIRLING, S. (2001) Education in Change. In HUCKLE, J. and STERLING, S. (eds.) Education for Sustainability London: Earthscan Publications Ltd.

The British Psychological Society (2006) Code of Ethics and Conduct [Online] Available from /the-society/ethics-rules-charter-code-of-conduct/code-of-conduct/code-of-conduct_home.cfm [Accessed on 8 September 2006]

THORNTON, L. J. and MCENTEE, M. E. (1995) Learner Centered Schools as a Mindset, and the Connection With Mindfulness and Multiculturalism. Theory into Practice, Vol 34 (No. 4), pp.251-257

TRUNGPA, C (2002) Cutting through Spiritual Materialism, Shambhala Classics.

TUTU, D (2005) God has a dream: A vision of hope in our time, Rider and Co.

WILDEN A. 1987 The rules are no game: the strategy for communication.  London: Routledge  and Kegan Paul.

Appendix 1 Summary of the main ideas found in Non-violent Communication: A language of life

This book is the key NVC text, by Marshall Roseburg, it introduces the main aspects of NVC thinking, speaking and listening.  Below, I have described the 13 chapters of the book each of which deals with one key concept under the title, here written in bold type.  These 13 chapters correspond to 13 sections in The Companion Workbook, by Lucy Leu, providing 13 weeks of activities to guide a week of reflection on each.  Typically the activities involve recalling and paraphrasing ideas from the chapter, identifying or writing statements which follow NVC language principles and those which do not, reflecting on one’s personal experience of how hearing and speaking in these ways feels and considering the effect of intention, thinking and action on conflict resolution.  As she states, ‘However impressed we are by the NVC concepts, it is only through practice and application that our lives will be transformed’ (pp.3).  In this way, the two books are meant to complement each other; one providing informative content and the other an educative process.

  1. Giving from the heart

Introduction to NVC’s four components; ‘The concrete actions we are observing that are affecting our well-being.  How we feel in relation to what we are observing. The needs, values, desires, etc. that are creating our feelings.  The concrete actions we request in order to enrich our lives’ (pp.7).  These must be expressed honestly and received empathetically, rather than being seen as stages to work through to meet one’s goals (pp.7).

  1. Communication that blocks compassion

‘Classifying and judging people promotes violence… [and] obscures awareness of personal responsibility’ (pp18-9).  ‘We can replace language which implies lack of choice with language that acknowledges choice…We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think and feel’ (pp.21).

  1. Observing without evaluating

‘When we combine observation with evaluation, people are likely to hear criticism’ (pp.26).  We must state the facts as they are to create something everyone can agree with, this also makes it more likely that what we say later will be less confrontational.

  1. Identifying and expressing feelings

‘Distinguish feelings and thoughts.  Distinguish between WHAT WE FEEL and WHAT WE THINK we are.  Distinguish between WHAT WE FEEL and HOW WE THINK others react to us or behave towards us’ (pp.42).

  1. Taking responsibility

‘What others do may be the stimulus of our feelings, but not the cause’ (pp.49) instead ‘connect your feeling with your need: I feel…because I need’ (pp.52).  This involves three phases, ‘First stage: Emotional slavery: we see ourselves as responsible for others’ feelings.  Second Stage: “Obnoxious”: we feel angry; we no longer want to be responsible for others’ feelings. Third stage: Emotional liberation: we take responsibility for our intentions and actions’ (pp.58-60).

  1. Requesting that which would enrich life

‘Making requests in clear, positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want’ (pp.70). ‘Much time is wasted when speakers aren’t certain what response they are wanting back’ (pp.78). ‘When the other person hears a demand from us, they see two options: submit or rebel…to tell if is a request or demand: Observe what the speaker does if the request is not complied with’ (pp.79).  ‘Our objective is a relationship based on empathy and honesty [and not to get our request met]’ (pp.81).

  1. Receiving empathy

‘Empathy: emptying the mind and listening with our whole being’ (pp.91) ‘No matter what others say, we only hear what they are (a) observing, (b) feeling, (c) needing, (d) requesting…Listen to what people are needing rather than what they are thinking about you (pp.94-5).  ‘Behind intimidating messages are simply people appealing to us to meet their needs’ (pp.99).

  1. The power of empathy

‘Empathy allows us ‘to repercieve [our] world in a new way and move on’ (pp.113).  ‘When we listen for their feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters’ (pp.120).  ‘Empathy lies in our ability to be present’ (pp.127).

  1. Connecting compassionately with ourselves

‘We use NVC to evaluate ourselves in ways that engender growth rather than self-hatred…[seeing] self-judgements, like all judgement, [as] tragic expressions of unmet needs’ (pp. 130 and 132).  This enables us to understand our past choices differently by ‘NVC self-forgiveness: connecting with the need we were trying to meet when we took the action we now regret’ and in the future, ‘we want to take action out of the desire to contribute to life rather than out of fear, guilt, shame or obligation’ (pp.134 and 136).

  1. Expressing anger fully

‘The cause of anger lies in our thinking – in thoughts of blame and judgement’ and not in others (pp.143).  We can use ‘anger as a wake up call… [to] become aware of our needs’ [then] anger gives way to life-serving feelings’ (pp.144 and 146).  ‘Steps to expressing anger: 1. Stop.  Breath. 2. Identify our judgemental thoughts. 3. Connect with our needs. 4. Express our feelings and unmet needs…Our need is for the other person to truly hear our pain’, to do this, it is O.K. to ‘take your time’ (pp.149 and 152-3).

  1. The protective use of force

‘The intention behind the protective use of force is only to protect, not to punish, blame, or condemn’ (pp.162)  ‘When we fear punishment, we focus on consequences, not on our own values.  Fear of punishment diminishes self-esteem and goodwill’ (pp.164).

  1. Liberating ourselves and counselling others

‘Focus on what we want to do rather than what went wrong’ (pp.174).  To do this we empathise and reveal our selves, rather than telling others what we think, by interpreting and diagnosing situations and other people (pp.177).

  1. Expressing appreciation in Nonviolent communication

‘Compliments are often judgements – however positive – of others…Express appreciation as a way to celebrate, not to manipulate…Saying “thank you” in NVC: “This is what you did; this is what I feel; this is the need of mine that was met”’ (pp.185-6).  This enables one to ‘receive appreciation without feelings of superiority or false humanity’ (pp.189).

All quotes taken from M. Rosenberg Non-violent Communication: A language of life (2005)

Appendix 2 ‘Living NVC’ section of The CNVC Trainer Certification Preparation Packet (2005)

 ‘Knowing NVC’ section

This is a list of criteria that NVC purports to teach and which trainers must develop competency in.  Doing so should enable the participant to demonstrate the following aptitudes in all aspects of their lives.  This is the action part of NVC which I am looking to develop in my research.

(1) ground myself in the consciousness of feelings and needs — to live more fully from the heart

(2) deepen my capacity to empathize with myself

(3) develop my ability to be present moment by moment

(4) deepen my capacity to receive the world empathically

(5) develop awareness of my own intentions when speaking or acting

(6) bring clarity to my communication — to express myself in a way that is readily understood by others

(7) create fulfilling relationships and to live in harmony with those around me

(8) deepen my sense of interconnection with others and all of life

(9) increase my capacity to give from the heart

(10) appreciate myself and other people more

(11) be able to live more often in the place of gratitude and abundance

(12) take more joy in the joy of others

(13) cultivate compassion in my life

(14) deepen awareness of what I am wanting back from others when I speak or act

(15) deepen awareness of when my ‘Giraffe ears have fallen off’ (i.e. when I have forgotten that I have choices in how I hear a message)? And what do I do when I then become aware that I had forgotten

(16) feel more alive

(17) be more aware of when I am in my head and disconnected from the heart

(18) experience more freedom in my life

(19) be able to ‘express anger fully’

(20) experience greater clarity in my life

(21) experience more peace in my life

This list is produced by the Center for Nonviolent Communication on (2/11//2005) in a document entitled the CNVC Trainer Certification Preparation Packet (November 2005) [online].  It is available at: [Accessed17 June 06]

Appendix 3.1 A copy of the questionnaire emailed to participants in my research.

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s)
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s coursebook
    • Foundation level
    • 1 or more Deepenings
    • Attended a practice group
    • NVC Certified trainer
  2. How long have you known about NVC?
  3. How long have you been actively trying to use it?
  4. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?
  5. Why do you think this is?
  6. What skills have you developed using NVC?
  7. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?
  8. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?
  9. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sort of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Appendix 3.2  Letter emailed to participants with questionnaire to explain my research.


Dear NVC friend,

I am conducting a piece of research for my MSc in Education for Sustainability with the South Bank University, London.  And am writing to request your help by letting me know a little about your experience of using NVC.

I have been interested in NVC for the past few years during which I have been working in schools.  I have received foundation training in Nonviolent Communication and attended an event with Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD.  I have read a great deal of the NVC literature and viewed many DVD’s and currently attend an NVC practice group, near Leeds.

I am very interested in using NVC as an educational tool to bring about personal and professional change.   I am writing about my own experiences of using NVC for my dissertation, particularly the Lucy Leu’s workbook which I am using to give structure to my academic work.  I am looking to find people who have used NVC materials or attended a foundation training in NVC who would be willing to share some of their experience with me.  Therefore, I have attached a questionnaire with nine questions for you to answer as briefly as you like.

Use of this information will be confidential and anonymous and you have a right to withdraw from the study at any time.  I will use the information you give me to indicate if my experiences are common or not.  I am not trying to prove or disprove any thing Marshall B Rosenberg or the CNVC says, but to draw links between the CNVC’s aims and education for personal and social change generally.  I am happy to send you information about how I intend to use your comments before I finish the project and will be happy to discuss any discrepancies in our understanding.  If you would like to verify any of this information please contact my dissertation supervisor, Paul Maiteny at [email address].

Please complete the attached consent form and questionnaire and email or post them both back to me.

If you do not wish to take part please let me know by emailing me, so I will know not to wait for a response.  I would appreciate receiving your comments before the end of October so that I can process them and get back to you if necessary.  If you know of anyone else who might be willing to answer these questions please could you forward this email to them or let me know and I will send them a paper copy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I hope to hear from you, please do not hesitate to contact me if anything I have missed anything or written anything which is unclear.

Rachel Barraclough

Appendix 3.3 Consent form emailed to participants with letter and questionnaire

Title of research project:

Changing habits to meet my values: A response to Rahnema’s challenge of the ‘participatory ideal’.

Name of researcher: Rachel Barraclough

Name of dissertation supervisor and contact number or email: Paul Maiteny

I have been given information about the research project and the way in which my contribution will be used. It has been explained to me how the information that I give the researcher and anything else that I tell them will be kept confidential, and that my identity will be protected when the researcher uses the information that I give them.

I understand that I can withdraw my consent to take part in the research at any time.

I give my permission for the information that I am about to give/have given the

researcher for the above project to be used for research purposes only.

Signed by the participant:


email addressResponse receivedDebrief sentResponse to debrief
Too busy
YesYesRequest for change
Too busy
No response
No response
Too busy
YesYesWould have liked more critical question but
is happy for results to be used as they stand
Too busy
YesYesAppreciated check
YesYesSmall edit done
No response
YesYesSmall edit done
No response
Too busy
No response
Too busy
No response
No contact addressYesNo
No contact addressYesNo

Appendix 4.1 table showing number of replies received and reasons given for not participating in the study.  List of those sent copies of how their responses would be used to make appendix 7, those who replied to this email and what their response contained.

Appendix 4.2 An example of the debrief sent to a participant, using the results of the questionnaire to form Appendix 7’s results

Hi [Name],

Thank you once again for answering my questionnaire.  Before I opened yours I tried to complete one for myself.  Only then did I realise how difficult it was.  I have felt really moved by the openness of your answers and astonished that your answers show that in your life NVC has achieved its aims.  In my experience most educational materials and organisations do not do, this.  I have tried to summarise the answers you have given me to make it easy to compare different peoples experience and to reduce the use of NVC terms so that everyone can understand the results.  I do intend to include your full questionnaire response in the appendixes too so my interpretation can be verified by other people.  However, it is really important to me that you can see how I have understood your answers so that I feel confident in my interpretation and so that you know you have been understood and can raise any concerns with me now.

  1. What personal qualities have you gained?   Openness, tenacity, flexibility 
  2. How did NVC help with this?     Understanding of multiple perspectives, and hope that differences can co-exist.
  3. What skills have you developed?    Listening, requesting and renegotiating
  4. How did NVC help with this?    Listening, requesting and renegotiating
  5. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this? New knowledge
  6. How has NVC helped you influence others? NVC helps me live the values of equality, compassion, honesty at both practical and a spiritual level and make day to day decisions that I hope care for the planet, its peoples and myself.

Please let me know if you are unhappy with any part of this interpretation and I will be happy to make amendments.  Of course, you are still free to withdraw at any point.

Best wishes, Rachel

Appendix 5, the quickly written responses I made immediately and one month after completing the Lucy Leu education book to the NVC indicators, listed in Appendix 2.

Has my ability improved in these areas?

Purple indicates my initial responses to these questions (3/10/06), green one month later (1/11/06).

(1) “ground myself in the consciousness of feelings and needs — to live more fully from the heart?”

I am aware of feelings and needs and can use these in conflicts to empathise with other people’s needs rather than focus on the content of the disagreement.  I have found that when I have asked about my guesses of needs and feelings a resolution has come about which is acceptable to me.

I am increasingly able to recognize, at least in hindsight what my needs are, what other people’s needs are and what they assume my needs to be.  For example, it is suggested that my primary need may be for financial security, I may view this as a secondary need and this informs my choice.  When someone supposes it to be a primary need this can be confusing unless I recognize the difference between my priorities and theirs.

(2) “deepen my capacity to empathize with myself?”

I am able to stay in touch with my feelings more.  I can recognize a wider range of feelings and notice how strong they are and subsidiary feelings.   I still feel reluctant to be as generous with myself as with others.

I have been very aware of the need to develop trust in myself recently.  To trust that I will get this work done, that I will find supply work; that what I am doing is OK and if it isn’t working I will react.  I think this kind of trust is very important because it allows you to take the focus off your problems and on to other aspects of life, in the knowledge that you are not being irresponsible, but you are simply living with a set of unresolved problems, and there will always be problems.  Acknowledging the bad bits about how you feel without letting them take over allows other feelings, apart form fear and anxiety, to emerge.

(3) “develop my ability to be present moment by moment?”

I notice if I am feeling irritated and what the stimulus is, so I can address it and not confuse it with an irritation with someone or myself, e.g. By turning the radio down, rather than trying to be heard over it, or stopping what I am doing to eat.

I notice when I have stopped being present with my needs because I feel agitated, when this happens I can pause.  Sometimes this allows me to break away from the stimulus, at other times I can understand my worried feelings better.  Both end results are useful.

(4) “deepen my capacity to receive the world empathically?”

I still find it difficult to see how this can be done, especially with modern demands on our time and impersonal suffering which we know of but can do little to meet.  I am trying to observe things and accept them as they are in order to help where I can.  I am trying to sit with uncomfortable feelings for enough time to recognize them rather than rushing about trying to fix things, this is new and I think a good direction to go in.

‘This (being aware of my habit to judge others) has been very powerful – I have been watching myself educate in response to others pain. I am getting better at asking if someone wants information and accepting a “no”’ (journal 29th August).

I am continuing to notice this habit to ‘help others help themselves’, this can be seen as rather patronising if someone wants to be heard.  I am trying to hold back and offer this support if it is requested, explicitly or implicitly, and being very aware that it is up to the other person to choose how to use the help if it is requested.   I am trying to listen as a default action and respond deliberately, I think it used to be the other way round.

(5) “develop awareness of my own intentions when speaking or acting?”

I often do this a little late, I realize what I want when I am not getting it, rather than what I want before beginning speech or action.  I assume that my intention is known to others, when it is not.  Once I realize that I have lost touch with it I am increasingly able to state it.

I switch between the role of an educator and an empathiser in conversations with people, even when one role is more suitable.  Being aware of this means that I can be conscious of giving an explicit choice to the person I am speaking to.

(6) “bring clarity to my communication — to express myself in a way that is readily understood by others?”

I am aware of how easy it is to be misunderstood.  When I don’t understand myself, I stop and refocus.  I try to be clear and honest about everything I know about myself to give others a chance to understand.

I find myself more aware when a conversation has become confused.  I find it still a little difficult to explain to the other person where the confusion has occurred.  People find it rather challenging to be told they have misunderstood, doing it gently and quickly is difficult, but by being present at least difficulties are noticed quickly.

(7) “create fulfilling relationships and to live in harmony with those around me?”

I can enjoy the company of people, even if I do not agree with every aspect of them and what they do.  I can see something beautiful and kind in them and feel more unconditional positive regard for them, realizing that we all have our challenges and that people are frequently doing the best they can under unknowable conditions.

The above statement still holds true! Which is a big change for me.  I can genuinely enjoy the company of people who are very different to me when I find some values we share, and if you are expansive about how these values manifest they are actually quite easy to spot.  I think giving up on trying to ‘educate’ right behaviors into other people means you can focus on the positives they have and you still remain true to your values, but rather than talking about them, you are doing them.

(8) “deepen my sense of interconnection with others and all of life?”

I am aware that I do make a great deal of effort to shop thoughtfully.  I am able to contemplate the intricate processes which result in a meal, in terms of systems theory and Gaia and feel grateful to be part of such a complex system.

I used to feel a lot of pain about the inequities of the system which brings me food and clothing and I still do.  However, I am now also able to see the complexities of this system with wonder and accept that it makes sense to experience gratitude, in that, I am fortunate to receive such gifts.  I don’t think this makes me more apathetic about inequities which underlie trade but more appreciative of what I have and less in need of new products.  I can enjoy cooking more now and the little things which go unnoticed when you are feeling angry at huge anonymous problems.  I think this is a better place to be, you can’t change things by being miserable, but by being thoughtful and prepared to act when you can.

(9) “increase my capacity to give from the heart?”

I am much more able to give generously, in terms of sharing things, but also in terms of sharing time with people.

I am much more thoughtful about my friends.  I find this quite difficult as it is not part of the image I have cultivated, I am more known for my sarcasm, but it is actually a quite freeing to let this go and be open and honest sometimes, even if it involves more vulnerability.

(10) “appreciate myself and other people more?”

I can identify a movement towards being more ‘generous’ than I have been at previous points in my life.

I just feel more grateful generally.  I enjoy short exchanges with strangers, but I also sympathies with the busy countenance of someone who hasn’t time to speak.  I am in touch with my motivation, not to succeed, but to be honest and compassionate much more, so when things go wrong I now mix kind sympathy for myself into blame.

(11) “be able to live more often in the place of gratitude and abundance?”

Some days I am able to do this successfully.  I notice that I have all that I need and that right now everything is fine and I am privileged to feel like this.  Politically I find it hard to feel grateful for many things including food because I fear that they have been ‘taken’ rather than ‘given’ from people with little power.  However, I can feel gratitude for being part of an interconnected system.

I think it is easier to experience abundance and gratitude in a local place with known people rather than with unknown stereotypes of oppressed workers or global fear.  While I recognize that these represent real people and real disasters, this is only half of the story, economically marginalized people can be mobile in other ways, other people who appear happy may be miserable.  Staying with what is known makes it easier to see ‘gray areas’, and in this gray, some light.  I can be grateful for the real abundance that surrounds me, especially in terms of relationships that I often take for granted.  In doing so I can come from a place of wanting to help others, when it is possible.

(12) “take more joy in the joy of others?”

I am much more able to see that others are not in competition with me, but that their success lightens everyone’s load, in that they are under less stress and more able to offer support and a source of happiness.  Sometimes I struggle, but the direction of my response is changing.

I am still more able to celebrate the success of others than I once was, I think this is because I am better able to recognize and feel gratitude for what I have.

(13) “cultivate compassion in my life?”

Defiantly towards other people, more slowly to myself when things are not working how I want them too.

I am developing the ability to stand back and hear in third person the blame/shame/guilt messages I play to myself.  This doesn’t necessarily make them go away, but it means that I can realize that I am giving myself a hard time and that it doesn’t have to be that way.  This makes them less solid and I can sometimes see that they are not necessarily real.

(14) “deepen awareness of what I am wanting back from others when I speak or act?”

I can think much more clearly about what a positive outcome would be for me in a situation and can request it clearly and honestly, this is a new direction for me as I have often found it easier to protect myself behind what must be confusing messages, to try to get what I want.  I now realize that this is much more difficult and gives one less power and more anxiety.

I am much more able to leave the past to consider how I would like things to be in the future, and be more realistic in this.  I can see the real benefit in coming up with requests which another person can act on in the present, if they so choose.  Often we do not know what we would like someone else to do, in this instance, how can they possibly guess?

(15) “deepen awareness of when my ‘Giraffe ears have fallen off’ (i.e. when I have forgotten that I have choices in how I hear a message)? And what do I do when I then become aware that I had forgotten?”

I could think of no response to this a month ago, which now strikes me as strange because if I cannot interpret a message I receive from myself or someone else in a way I do not respond with shame/blame/guilt or depression I now automatically stop.  This gives me an opportunity to stop a conflict getting worse, which is bound to happen if I respond in this state and to give myself some empathy before thinking about the position of the other person and going back to solve the problem with a more compassionate mindset.

(16) “feel more alive?”

I have found that my ongoing meditation and yoga help me to feel more alive than I used to.  I am also trying to be in the moment more, to appreciate what I have, rather than feeling like a stressed person completing lists of tasks.  This is an area of ongoing work.

Still on going! I am increasingly able to make more time for myself to enjoy life, by going for walks, spending more time with friends and less time worrying, by cultivating gratitude and feeling more at peace.  I try to read positive, but informed literature and find that this does open my mind to hope and wonder, while remaining aware of challenges we face.  This ability has come about by prioritizing how I choose to spend my time by thinking what I need in the moment, rather than trying to continue with old habits.

(17) “be more aware of when I am in my head and disconnected from the heart?”

I am aware of this, but still fearful of letting go of the messages in my head would be irresponsible, while knowing that I could follow my heart.  I need to develop more trust of myself in this area.

I feel this when I am preparing to educate someone, rather than listening to them.  I can increasingly stay with what someone is feeling and empathies with this rather than judging and fixing them.  I think that as I continue to practice this I will develop more trust in my abilities.

(18) “experience more freedom in my life?”

I am really trying to do this, but again feel fear that it might lead me to being ‘irresponsible’, I struggle to communicate my different worldview with others who do not share it, which can feel quite dizzying.

Like being more alive, I am increasingly able to see choices in my lifestyle where I couldn’t before.  It is still enormously difficult as learnt habits have a very strong pull especially when new ideas seem incomprehensible to others.  I think this is another area where you can develop trust in yourself as you go.

(19) “be able to ‘express anger fully’?”

I think that this has improved but it takes time for others to hear the content of your new messages differently, especially if they feel guilt and blame easily.  I can explain why I feel angry in terms of my feelings and needs and explore other feelings triggered by my anger e.g. fear, anxiety, rather than blame others.

I am increasingly able to spot anger and break it down into other feelings in a way which I think is authentic.  I tend to find that most of my anger lasts very shortly if it is recognized and not fueled.  Stopping is a really important part of this process.

(20) “experience greater clarity in my life?”

I am able to be much clearer about what is causing me to feel stressed or at peace in any moment and to appreciate these feelings as important messages about needs that are not being met.

I am much more able to be clear about what feelings I am experiencing, how strong they are, what other feelings exist and how I can enjoy them or resolve them.  I try not to cling to good experiences as I have noticed feelings constantly change and clinging to happiness can result in disappointment.  I also find that negative feelings subside.  I am then able to plan how to respond to events and feelings, including the choice of not responding.  I am therefore, much clearer about what motivates my actions and if things go wrong why this might be.

(21) “experience more peace in my life?”

By resolving conflicts and expressing myself clearly I have experienced more peace, but I would like to develop this area much more.

I am able to notice moments of peace and not peace and notice patterns of behaviour which has caused these feelings.  I understand what is going on in me much more and therefore I am able to understand unhappiness and accept it more often.  This I now think is the key to peace because otherwise you are always avoiding unpleasant events and trying to create nice ones, then you can never rest.  I do wish to be clear that some moments of unrest may be calls to act to help others.  If you can hear this peacefully and respond thoughtfully I think this help is more likely to be useful.

Based on the ‘Living NVC’ section of The CNVC Trainer Certification Preparation Packet (2005, pp.13 -14).

Appendix 6 copies of questionnaires returned by email.

Questionnaire 1

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s) – read all key books and have about 8 CDs
    • Foundation level – yes
    • 1 or more Deepenings – yes
    • Attended a practice group – yes
    • NVC Certified trainer – yes
  1. How long have you known about NVC?

I first heard Marshall speaking in Alberta. On the basis of listening to him speak for half an hour I booked to go on a 10 day Intensive in Switzerland. Something incredibly powerful touched me at a very intuitive level about his message.

  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it?

For the last 5 years. Initially I became very stuck focusing on ‘doing giraffe’. After about 2 years I realised NVC is very much about a change in consciousness.

  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?

NVC has radically transformed my life! It has enabled me to respond with a much deeper level of understanding and compassion towards others and myself. It has brought into a much sharper focus our connection with other human beings. I have also become much more aware of our unity rather than our separateness. I have also noticed developments in empathy, a much deeper understanding of listening [it has little to do with words!] being able to hear what I would once have termed negative messages without defensiveness and a much increased awareness of connection with others.

  1. Why do you think this is?

NVC offers us a practical way to transform hurt, blame, criticism, judgement into an understanding of the unmet needs at the source of distress. It supports people in being able to listen to one another even in the most challenging of times. It doesn’t focus on doing or technique or strategies but as I put in question 3 more at a change in consciousness and change in habitual ways of behaving and thinking.

  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?
  • Listening to self and others
  • Offering and receiving empathy
  • Conflict resolution with self and others
  • Relationship building with self and others
  • Mediation
  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?

An understanding of the intention of NVC at a practical and spiritual level

Concept of jackal and giraffe

NVC dance floors

Transforming of jackal statements into giraffe

Focus on empathy

Understanding of needs

  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?
  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

NVC offers a very simple and practical tool to ‘walk the talk’. Having said this I have not found it to be easy! This sounds a contradiction. It is also the most common observation I have heard people make about NVC…how simple and how hard! Marshall does explore this on the Speaking Peace CD. I have found that by choosing to make the practice of NVC a daily practice, through attending an NVC practice group and by attendance at trainings this helps me to stay within Giraffe consciousness. [Forgive me for not explaining terms I am using].

NVC has been the greatest gift and learning of my life! It has also provided me with the biggest challenge of my life! I have laughed and cried the loudest with this gift. It has also provided me with a deep sense of purpose and hope for what I perceive to be a very ‘poorly and sick’ planet. I have been inspired by the stories of reconciliation from across the globe and have been so inspired I am going to India to explore how NVC operates cross culturally.

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

[details omitted]

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Questionnaire 2

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s) – yes
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s coursebook
    • Foundation level not officially, but was accepted on Deepenings because of training days with Marshall
    • 1 or more Deepenings – yes
    • Attended a practice group
    • NVC Certified trainer
  1. How long have you known about NVC? – 12+ years
  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it? – 12+years
  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?




  1. Why do you think this is?

I’d had some training in Rogerian counselling and the nvc process helped me to build on this and gave me a tool  I could use very effectively  in much of my work.

  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?

Better counselling skills and listening skills

Mediation skills

Developed my emotional intelligence and helped others to do this.

Assertiveness skills and a simple process to teach others. ( I love the simplicity of the 4 steps, but I do appreciate that like any skill we learn, there needs to be lots of practice and even after many years I do slip back into old habits sometimes)

  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?

Marshall’s inspirational talks when he goes through the 4 steps

Experiental workshops with 2 of the UK trainers – doing role plays and the dance floors.

3 days with MR on mediation training.

  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?
  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

Yes because it aids honest communication in a compassionate way.  – Truly assertive communication.

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Questionnaire 3

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s)
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s coursebook
    • Foundation level
    • 1 or more Deepenings
    • Attended a practice group
    • NVC Certified trainer – CERTIFIED TRAINER SINCE 2004
  1. How long have you known about NVC?


  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it?

MARCH 2003

  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?
  1. Why do you think this is?
  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?


  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?
  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?
  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

[details ommited]

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.


Questionnaire 4

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s) Several
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s coursebook
    • Foundation level YES
    • 1 or more Deepenings
    • Attended a practice group YES
    • NVC Certified trainer no but delivering


  1. How long have you known about NVC?

7 years

  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it?

7 years

  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?

challenging compassionately instead of challenging aggressively

  1. Why do you think this is?

Recognition of meeting needs equally and moving out of domination culture conditioning

  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?

demonstrating empathy authentically

  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?

Marshall’s teaching on social change

  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?
  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

NVC has been my bridge to becoming a living demonstration of that which I seek in others and has helped me to live in an energy of abundance.

I actively model what I speak

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

[details omitted]

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Questionnaire 5

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s)
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s coursebook
    • Foundation level
    • 1 or more Deepenings
    • Attended a practice group
    • NVC Certified trainer
  1. How long have you known about NVC?

Approx 8 years

  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it?

8 years

  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?

Tolerance, self acceptance, enthusiasm.

  1. Why do you think this is?

Nvc emphasis on uncovering life-enhancing needs, and on empathic responses

  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?

Mediation , conflict resolution

  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?


  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?


  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

Joy in life, respect and tolerance for others..  Fun!

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Questionnaire 6

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC Certified trainer
  1. How long have you known about NVC?

Six years

  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it?

Six years

  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?




  1. Why do you think this is?

Openness: it encourages awareness of others point of view and insight into their mental processes and perceptions, giving countless examples how what they hear is different to what I hear and vice versa.

Tenacity: Increased trust in the process means I can keep going with a connection, clarification or a relationship I find tricky, (where previously I might have lost hope/ given up), because I experience increased likelihood of a connection being created or restored.

Flexibilty: From learning that there are multiple ways to get needs met, and by being creative with requests I can let go of particular strategies much more easily.

  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?

Much deeper empathic listening skills

New presentation and group facilitation options

A process for mediation and conflict resolution.

The ability to make more do-able requests.

New ways of dealing with people saying “no”.

  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?

Teaching (live and by CD, video), reading and practice in each of the subject areas above.

  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?

I used it to help facilitate a practice group and enjoyed the lists of examples and exercises as it saved me having to think up my own when pushed for time!

  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

I don’t think I want to consider myself as a role model, but hope to make a positive contribution to those I come into contact with. NVC helps me live the values of equality, compassion, honesty at both a practical and a spiritual level and make day to day decisions that I hope care for the wellbeing of the planet, its peoples and myself.

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

[details omitted]

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Questionnaire 7

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s)
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s coursebook
    • Foundation level
    • 1 or more Deepenings
    • Attended a practice group
  • NVC Certified trainer Yes
  1. How long have you known about NVC? 6 years
  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it? 6 years
  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?

Being non-judgemental

Developed my compassion, for myself and others.

Given me self confidence and self esteem for the first time in my life.

  1. Why do you think this is?

I see my own  and other people’s beauty, and see us all as one, as part of a whole. Everything I see in others I recognise in myself, and the other way around.

  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?

Speaking about my feelings and needs with clarity and confidence.

Hearing other people’s feelings and needs, however they are expressing themselves.

Facilitating groups and holding a safe space for people to share themselves.

  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?

Working very hard at my self-development, listening to myself and giving myself empathy.

Receiving empathy and healing from Marshall and Valentina and other people committed to NVC.

Working with the Certification package over a period of 2 years.

Attending IIT’s with Marshall

  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?

I used the workbook at my practice group on several occasions but I did not enjoy turning NVC into an academic project. I found it useful to focus on  some of the topics  now and then, but I prefer to use my life experiences as my teacher.

  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

Yes, because I try to live with NVC consciousness all the time, not just when I am training or interacting with people, either my family or community or friends . NVC is my spiritual practice.

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

[details omitted]

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Questionnaire 8

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s)
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s course book (NO)
    • Foundation level
    • 1 or more Deepenings
    • Attended a practice group
    • NVC Certified trainer ++ (80 days training over 10 years)
  1. How long have you known about NVC? 10 years
  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it? 10 years
  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?

Attitudes: More capacity for Compassion for my self or others, less arrogant, more patient,

  1. Why do you think this is?

This is a interesting question, I like it phrased as, Why has NVC so much POWER:  to me it is the KEY-DIFFERENTETION SYMPATHY v EMPATHY, with empathy your are clearly in touch with your needs and others needs, and they both matter. The is a shift out of duty , obligation, shame, anger, guilt, that opens thing out in our relationships. Clarity of who’s needs are on the table. ~ NVC helps people:
• increase safety
• foster citizenship values
• reduce and resolve conflict

  • help people be honest with out being insulting
    • develop emotional intelligence
    • create a culture of respect
    • rediscover the joy of teaching and learning

NVC transforms:

  • Blame (its your fault …)
  • Criticism (that’s just not good enough)
  • Labels (lazy, English, neurotic)
  • Insults (you stupid idiot)
  • Threats (if you don’t … I’m going to …)
  • Attack (“I want to demolish you”)
  • Self-diminishment (doing any of the above to ourselves)
  • Guilt, depression, anger and shame

…….. into life-giving messages.

How you can deal..

  • parents who are  unhappy with the way that school does things,
  • children who struggling to work within the  values of the school
  • colleagues  needing  support because  they are having a stressful time
  • conflict
  • bullying by finding new ways to get their needs met
  • criticism and cynicism

Learn new ways to:

  • build self esteem the nonviolent way
  • be honest without insulting
  • manage our own stress
  • to clarify  what people really  want
  • mediate
  • offer empathy
  • Apologies fully
  • Expressing Anger Fully and Compassionately
  • See that Violence is a tragic expression of an Unmet Need

NVC facilitates:

  • Harmony in relationships
  • Openness and clarity
  • Accurate understanding
  • Being honest without being insulting
  • Hearing complaints constructively
  • Giving and receiving feedback that supports learning and self-esteem
  • Hearing “No” without taking it as a rejection
  • Expression “No” without guilt
  • Expressing anger without attack or blame
  • Receiving anger compassionately
  • Speaking about what you don’t like without making matters worse
  • Handling conflict with confidence
  • Apologising without losing self-respect
  • Expressing appreciation so that it is received
  • Receiving appreciation so that it nourishes
  • Responding with compassion in difficult situations
  • Transforming inner critical voices into supportive ones
  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?

~Most importantly to get clearer WHAT IS MY INTENTION AT ANY ONE MOMENT IN TIME –  to be clear who’s need are on the table – Self empathy, Empathy for others – More empowered in situations of Conflict, able to offer clear and effective support to others in conflict t – Personal and professional relationships  improved – more able to find ways to create a quality  of connection where every one can get all needs met – more in touch with my needs –  more able to make requests to get my needs met – Not take what others say or do so personally as much –

  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?

( are you asking  what is it that has made the difference in my learning?) Most of my learning has taken place at Peer led 5 day workshops ( I call them how to enjoy conflict workshops)

  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?

I got as far as page 2 and it has sat on my shelf since I got it in 2001

It did not meet my need for autonomy of learning. Iv just looked at the current

edition and see a lot has been  re-written.

  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this? More able to show my venerability ( less ashamed of being fully me)

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

[details omitted]

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Questionnaire 9

Response from Jo McHale 27th Sept 06

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s)
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s coursebook
    • Foundation level
    • 1 or more Deepenings
    • Attended a practice group
    • NVC Certified trainer
  1. How long have you known about NVC? Six years
  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it? Six years
  1. What personal characteristics, temperaments or attitudes do you think NVC has enabled you to develop?

Greater understanding of, and compassion for, ‘angry’ or ‘aggressive’ outbursts from people

  1. Why do you think this is?

The principle that whatever we do, we do to meet some need, helps me look for the needs behind what people are saying or doing, instead of judging their behaviour.

  1. What skills have you developed using NVC?

The NVC form of empathy

  1. What aspects of the training have allowed you to develop this?

What I have found most useful is observing others giving empathy, and reflecting on my own style and forms of words, trying different things and observing the effect on others – and noticing the effect on me when I receive empathy. I  haven’t  experienced workshops as contributing much to my skill development. I have gained more from working alongside a very skilled practitioner.

  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?

Not applicable

  1. If you consider yourself to be a role model in your professional or personal life, do you consider NVC as helping you to become the sot of role model you yourself value? Why is this?

I draw extensively on NVC in my role as facilitator of workshops. I try to model the core principles – of focusing attention on what is alive in myself and others in the moment, and of holding onto the intention to connect with compassion.

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect on my work.

Questionaires 10 to   sent by post follow

The responses I made to my questionnaire

Please complete these questions in a way which is meaningful to you.  Please be as honest as you can, including problems as well as successes.

  1. Please state your level of training
    • NVC book(s) or DVD(s) Yes
    • Completed Lucy Leu’s coursebook Yes
    • Foundation level Yes
    • 1 or more Deepenings No
    • Attended a practice group Once
    • NVC Certified trainer No
  1. How long have you known about NVC?

2 and ½ years

  1. How long have you been actively trying to use it?

¾ year

  1. What, if any, changes to your personal values or attitudes do you think NVC enabled you to develop?
  • To realise that we all have the same basic needs, no ‘good’ or ‘bad’, just ‘fulfilled needs’ or ‘unfulfilled needs. Knowing this helps me to accept others even if I don’t understand them. Compassion even if empathy isn’t yet possible.
  • What I want is often a strategy for getting something else, rather than the only thing that will make me OK.
  • I can look at my habits and see what motivates then and devise alternative plans.
  • I am more aware of the relationship I have with myself, the thoughts and judgements I make about myself and the need to trust myself more.
  • It is OK to be yourself, any message you want to give, a ‘no’ a thank you or an expression of how you feel is OK. In fact it is necessary for yourself and others that you are authentic in order for your communication to be worth much.  This authenticity is a third option which is often forgotten in the dilemma of whether to submit to authority or rebel from it.
  • While I still blame and judge myself and others I am aware that these thoughts have no solid reality. When I notice I am doing this I am able to step back and look at things more flexibly and with more humour.
  1. What aspects of the training helped you to make these changes?
  • I am able to recognise the needs which underlie my impulses because of the work on recognising needs.
  • I able to recognise my feelings and watch them change, demonstrating that good feelings cannot be maintained or manipulated by achieving certain outcomes.
  • Time for reflections on past conversations which didn’t ‘go’ anywhere and were frustrating and alienating for me, where I knew there was something ‘missing’ but couldn’t imagine how to respond ‘correctly’.
  1. What, if any, changes have you made to how you interact with people because of your understanding of NVC?
  • When I find myself telling myself I ‘should’ or using ‘deserve’ language I can remind myself that they are not healthy and do not meet my values. Once stopped I can work out a possible way to reformulate my ideas and action plans.
  • I can recognise other people using judgements and know that I can disengage with the words but hear my feelings or there’s and prevent a conflict from worsening. I can then connect to a compassionate attitude and heal the conflict.
  • I have made requests in NVC language to other people, including my dissertation supervisor. I have felt more able to ask for things and accept their responses.
  • I can choose to stay ‘in the moment’ with someone whose conversational content    I disagree with, rather than have to educate them or empathise with an absent person who I think has been wronged.  I cannot communicate with someone who is absent and show them my sympathy; I can choose to hear the universal needs behind someone’s words, even if I find them disagreeable, to understand them in the present.  I don’t have to agree to begin to understand another person’s world view.
  • When NVC hasn’t ‘worked’ it is because my motivation is to ‘get’ something, rather than make a connection with someone. The motivation to ‘get’ something is of itself violent and is not very productive in the long term.
  1. What aspects of the training have been significant to the development of these habits?

The cognitive theory has exposed me to new ways of seeing things that I assumed were facts. For example, that you have to deserve other people’s gratitude for it to have worth, rather than accept that you have done something that benefited from them that come naturally or that your feelings and behaviours originate in yourself rather than as automatic responses to external events.

  1. If you have followed the Lucy Leu coursebook, what were the most valuable aspects of this training? And what limitations did you find?

Valuable        (a) Time spent regularly reflecting on Marshall’s ideas and reflecting on my experiences.

(b) Using note book let me look back over past weeks and see what has been achieved.

Limitations         Unfortunately I was not able to meet with the practice group as I had hoped, I can see how using the book with others would lead to a greater variety of insights and experience sharing.

  1. Has NVC helped you to show others different ways to resolving conflicts?


  1. If yes or sometimes: why do you think NVC has made this possible?

I have been able to defuse conflicts in myself allowing me to recognise judgements I am making of myself and to put them into a more balanced context.  I am able to see when, in the midst of a conflict both sides have fundamentally similar needs and these needs are compatible.  I am able to gradually use this understanding to sweep away feeling of resentment and to move on quickly to resolving and healing.

  1. If no or sometimes: why do you think this has not been possible?

Sometimes a conflict has gone on in myself or with another for longer than I would have liked.  I would like to move towards a position where conflicts were resolved at an earlier stage, within me and with other people.  This, I think takes greater awareness of a conflict developing and skill at moving quickly to ones values and using empathy to communicate basic similarity of needs.  Essentially continued practice at developing mindfulness.

Please state your contact details if you would like me to send you a copy of how I intend to use your response.

Thank you for helping me to meet my need to reflect more openly on my work.

Appendix 7 showing the results of the questionnaires follows

Appendixes 8 Diary Extracts

The diary I kept consisted of short answer questions to recap on the theory of NVC and longer answers in which I framed sentences according to NVC to practice this language of conflict resolution, lastly some answers were reflections onto ones past and present in light of the theory.  Questions, in bold, are abbreviated or taken directly from the Leu textbook.

Below I have written a selection of particularly important moments in my diary which I hope will elucidate some of the thinking behind my questionnaire responses and discussion section of the report.  As these comments were written quickly to myself the vocabulary and structure of these ideas are not how I would write them formally, instead I have written up the notes I wrote at the time and used brackets to help my reader understand.

Names have been omitted.

4/7/06 Chapter 1 ‘Giving from the heart’

Identify occasions when you have given from the heart and when you have not been able to.

  • I remember giving protection and love to *** though before this exercise I carried a lot of guilt for not meeting his needs for peace, security and respect.  I now realise I didn’t know how to do this.
  • I feel very sad that I have not given freely in the past – but have often submitted resentfully to giving things up.
  • I really want to give from the heart and see its value but find it difficult.

I have not given freely in the past because it has conflicted with my need for things to be just/fair and because I have thought I didn’t have enough time/money.

6/8/06 Chapter 5  ‘Taking Responsibility for Our Feelings’

General reflections

I can use NVC to communicate with others which is something I find very hard in my Buddhist practice.  I can recognise others suffering but find it hard to express it and request help and use my observations as a way to engage with others who are suffering in a positive way.  Rather than isolate myself by watching suffering from a distance, being reluctant to join in negative talk, e.g. gossip I can focus on the speaker and listen.  To do this I don’t need to hang onto words and analyse them to work out who is guilty and who wins.

I am very good at using facts to show people why their illiberal ideas are ‘wrong’.  I have used this strategy successfully since I can remember, as a child. I am comfortable with it and it fits understanding that you should ‘spread facts’, this is also part of a teacher’s job.  To stand back and empathise rather than demonize an illiberal thinker is counterintuitive.  [When confronted by an illiberal idea] I feel angry and defensive – needing to win to protect my ideas of myself as someone who is ‘right’.  It is very anti-ego to empathise with someone’s ‘negative’ emotions and guide them to the need that lies behind their ideas, a need we all share.  I have, on occasion, managed this [to empathise] with racist comments from children in a very successful way, [with peers it is more difficult].

28/8/06 Chapter 6  Requesting That Which Would Enrich Life’

Activity 2 present a clear request in NVC language and reflect on the process of doing so.

‘Would you be willing to stop what you are doing and look at me while I speak?’

Actionable – idea that request should be do-able in present rather than on a future occasion is striking to me – this request can change present and/or give feedback rather than hope for possible change in the future.

[Later idea relating to comment] Empathy for who you are with, ‘racist’ woman NOT travelling community who are being disliked.  No use making empathy with an absent person when the person you are with is upset. [I have always empathised with person/group I see as being the underdog, rather than focus on the person in front of me and see past my own judgements of them]

28/8/06    Chapter 7   ‘Receiving Empathetically’

Response to work done so far

Big area –not intellectualising – discussing thread of argument to prove you are right.

Very powerful – watching myself with to educate in response to pain.

[I am] getting better at asking and accepting a ‘no’ [as a response to my request, rather than keep arguing till I convince someone that they should meet my request].

5/9/06  Chapter 8    ‘The Power of Empathy’

Q.5 Recall a situation when you perceived someone as being vengeful with the intention to cause you hurt, then see if you can sense what their feelings and needs may have been.

I can empathise with people with less power (students) easily – but I don’t have confidence in my ability to respond.  I find it difficult to empathise with those in power as I associate power with choice and responsibility.  Maybe we get power for giving up choices and independence – and in fact [people with power] deserve more sympathy.  I can intellectually see these people as vulnerable but in situations I find it hard to move beyond enemy images.

I can’t think of a time when I have been heard – not judged, helped or educated.  I have talked and shouted my way trough life.  I haven’t heard or trusted that I can be heard.  This idea has never occurred to me.  Without speaking meaningfully you cannot be heard.

I feel resentful at making an effort to hear when I don’t get heard, this resentment turns to sadness.  Intellectually I know that by giving you receive, its my path (blah, blah, blah) and that I have neither given as a listener or as a speaker.  The barrier of resentfulness is the difference between [my] nice intentions and action.

10/9/06 Chapter 9  ‘Connecting Compassionately with Ourselves’

Q.4 Give specific examples of how you are becoming ‘the change you seek’ in the world

  • Studying NVC – I want more education for myself and the world.
  • Hope in relationships – Acting as a close friend by being honest about my feelings/hopes and dreams.
  • Feeling happier and more confident about the future – result of being more mindful and making less mistakes [falling into habitual, unhelpful thinking and activities].
  • Resolving conflict better – learning to leave things to meet others needs.

20/9/06 Chapter 10   ‘Expressing Anger Fully’

Q.1d  Recall a time you felt angry, sit with the awareness of your unmet needs, and see what you find.

When I realise the deep need I had for understanding, fun and love and I realise that the needs were not being fulfilled I feel optimistic I can get these needs met in another way.

General reflections on this topic

Having completed this exercise on anger I feel open because I can see there are many reasons for *** not to have responded.  I would like to have the confidence that I know when to assert myself and when to wait patiently.

1/10/06  Chapter 12   ‘Liberating Ourselves and Counselling Others’

Q.1a Observe yourself over a typical week.  Later review what you observed of your inner dialogues and judgements

I know how to stop this [negative self talk] but am addicted to this kind of thinking (school, society, family – what you DO that counts, what you HAVE mentality).  Without it I feel too free, dangerous, heady, wild.  I lack trust that I will be motivated if I take away my blame/shame/guilt and fear of it.  I know it adds to my stress and I wish to be free of it, but I choose to compound it.

6/10/06  Chapter 13  ‘Expressing Appreciation in NVC’

Reflections on the course

I am aware of my tendency to educate in any situation – to show people their choices and expect them to act as I would, or to tell people why their prejudices are wrong.  The big thing I have learnt is that I can only speak to people who are present- I cannot defend people who are absent and talk about their concerns.  In the momentness.  It is no use to tell people that they are wrong.  Instead I can express my sadness that they have not had the positive experiences can break down prejudice.  Also request to solve problem must be in present with all present.  Cannot solve an unexpressed problem or work with an absent person.

If the content of an argument gets lost, that’s fine.  Instead of proving how right you are stay in the moment with feelings and needs of other person and self and connect with these.  You can return to argument later, if necessary.

Differently trusting in and believing in own feelings and needs – [While my decisions about work and study consciously link to my values] when I talk to others I ‘pick up’ their feelings and needs [or the ones I think they have] and this destabilises me. [Instead of telling stories to justify my choices I can ] express my needs and feelings and communicate my conscious choices to others [to give myself and others clarity].

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