Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Three, Issue Twelve: Disagreeing without Disconnecting

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

This month's theme is Disagreeing without Disconnecting. Continuing October's theme of dealing with conflict, this month's feature article offers another perspective on how to stay self-connected and maintain our connection with others' humanity, when in the midst of conflict.


Disagreeing without Disconnecting

by Lynd Morris, CNVC certified NVC trainer

In light of the recent elections, chances are good that you’ve observed or participated in political discussions with people whose perspectives were different than yours. Did you leave these conversations feeling drained, frustrated, confused, or sad? Or did you leave them encouraged, hopeful, warmed by the open and connected communication you experienced?

How can we support ourselves and others to move toward instead of away from each other when disagreements arise?

By listening deeply, and speaking honestly and compassionately, we honor the aliveness of everyone involved, whether we are discussing politics with colleagues or sitting down to dinner with family and friends during the holiday season when disagreements surface.

I was recently asked how I stay connected with others whose views differ radically from mine. I was reminded of a particularly memorable airplane trip not long after the United States had entered Iraq. I was seated next to a U.S. Army officer who began talking with me as we sat on the tarmac for a delayed take-off. His comments quickly focused on the instability he’d experienced in Bagdad. He began describing how he’d like to eradicate all of the terrorists in that city. I had on my seatbelt, the plane was on the runway, I was a captive audience. But I was not helpless. I had my mindfulness practice plus a year of training in Nonviolent Communication under my belt. It was time to live what I’d learned. By the time our trip was over, the officer took my hand and, with tears in his eyes, thanked me for having heard him so profoundly. That is what NVC and presence can bring into our lives.

How can we support ourselves and others to move toward instead of away from each other when disagreements arise?

Moving Toward Instead of Away from Conflict

Following are two fundamental practices I use when I am part of discussions in which any of the participants (including myself) appears to be going on the offensive or defensive.


Being comfortable connecting with different points of view is easy if you’ve already explored the ground on which you are taking a stand and you have easy access to compassion for yourself and others.

This means, pay attention to the signals your body is constantly sending you. Are you feeling tense or relaxed? If you notice any tightness or contraction in your body or emotions, take a pause (get a drink of water, use the restroom, employ any other easy reason to take some deep breaths that will allow your mind to catch up to whatever your body is letting you know it needs).

Once you’ve inventoried your physical well–being, sense what needs or values are awakened in you and are calling for your attention.

What often happens for me at this point is that I become aware of a host of thoughts flooding my mind, thoughts I've probably been assuming were "reality" such as:

"Considerate people don’t interrupt!"
or "He obviously wasn’t listening to me!"
or "How can she ignore the implications of what the candidate said?"

Having just taken those extra breaths, I now have a little more spaciousness to consider the needs/values hidden beneath those thoughts such as:

"I really enjoy being able to speak whole thoughts without others talking; this supports my own clarity and my ability to express myself accurately."
or "Wow – I’m longing to know I’ve been heard and that what I’ve just said is welcomed, respected, and useful to my listener."
or "It is so important to me that people communicate honestly and transparently and consider the consequences of the actions they advocate."

Greeting these needs does not mean meeting them – externally, at any rate. I can meet all the needs I become aware of internally simply by remembering a time they were met and then savoring the energetic experience of living these needs fully. From this place of even briefly savored fullness I am better able to return to the conversation at hand without insisting that others meet those needs for me. (however much I might enjoy it if this happens!)


If we enter any situation or conversation attached to a particular outcome, it is likely others will sense this and they may even experience whatever we say or do as containing some degree of demand that they change or share our beliefs. Any trace of demand can set up an adversarial situation in which our listeners, without even being aware of it, respond in one of the two primary ways most of us respond to demands:

  1. rebelling (which usually produces heated arguments)
  2. submitting (which often results in superficial withdrawal, resentment, and eventual rebellion)

A challenging, but relationship–changing, alternative is first to explore the grounding steps described above, then follow these by setting aside our own passion and convictions for a few moments, to allow our awareness to fully enter the other person’s perspective – without judging or reacting – just really, really listening.

This ability to take someone else’s perspective is founded on greeting and honoring his or her needs and values, silently or aloud. It is not hard to enter another's perspective if we have already been nourished by savoring our own needs first, thus enabling us to dig deeply beneath the strategies the other person is advocating, to sense the needs and values he or she is trying to protect and support.

It is surprisingly easy to acknowledge and celebrate the life–serving needs/values we all are seeking to meet by whatever actions we advocate. This is made infinitely easier by remembering that honoring others’ needs does not in any way mean agreeing with their strategies for meeting those needs.

There is an added benefit to taking another’s perspective. By listening so profoundly, we not only move into deeper connection with the other person's humanity (and he or she naturally is drawn to connecting with our humanity), but we also have the opportunity to learn and grow by exploring the unfamiliar territory they’ve offered us.

Suggestions for Further Practice

  1. If you are interested in guided practice in connecting to someone, even when they are saying something you disagree with, participate in the 1–day workshop, Responding In Conflict – stay connected with NVC, January 19, 2013.
  2. During the next three days, when you notice yourself disagreeing with what someone is saying, whether in person or in the media, try taking a few calming breaths and internally guessing what needs are under the statement, before responding in any way to the words. Notice if this practice changes the quality of the conversation or your inner state in any way.
  3. If someone’s words are so upsetting that you don’t want to guess their needs, take a time out and practice the Freeze Frame technique from the May 2012 newsletter.

Lynd Morris is an NVC trainer certified by the International Center for Nonviolent Communication. For nearly eight years she has led NVC classes and workshops in Maryland and Virginia and has assisted at or co–led numerous NVC residential trainings across the United States, including leading the adult program at family camps in Virginia and Colorado. Lynd was an original editor for Phases of the Moon newsletter; we are happy to offer her own feature, combining excerpts from Capital NVC’s November 2012 newsletter and Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center’s November 12, 2012, announcement.

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Upcoming Trainings

Trainings listed here are in the Maine region. If you wish to list an event, please follow our guidelines for submission. Please note that both certified and non–certified trainers, (who are willing to follow certain requirements of the Center for Nonviolent Communication), may be leading the posted trainings. Listing here does not imply endorsement by the Maine NVC Network of the trainer or the event.

Six Week Level 1 Course
Beginning Wednesday, January 16, 2013, Camden, ME
Growing Peace Within Me and the World

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


January 19, 2013, Falmouth, ME
Connecting Through Conflict: listening and responding when we disagree

This intermediate NVC experience will enhance our ability to connect
at home, work and wider community
Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


January 26, 2013, Unity ME
Everyday Empathy: a journey of understanding and love

Offered by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


February 15-17, 2013, Nobleboro, ME
Bringing Mindful Speech To Life

Second annual weekend of mindfulness with Peggy Smith and Theodate Lawlor,
Members of Thich Nhat Hanh's Tiep Hien Order
pdf icon details and registration


March 23-24, 2013, Belfast, ME
Building Bridges of Communication: the basics of NVC

This Level 1 workshop is a fundraiser for WERU Community radio
Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


April 6-7, 2013, Falmouth, ME
Level 2

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


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Invitation to
Empathy Circles

WEEKLY: Mondays 10-11:30 am, Belfast
FMI contact Marshall or Carolyn:
Phone 338-0842

MONTHLY: First Friday of each month, 10am-1pm
at The Start Center, 37 Start Rd, Camden
You are welcome to come when you can. If this is your first time coming, please contact Linda beforehand:
Phone 322-2122 / email



Do you want to receive emails about upcoming NVC trainings and other NVC events in and near Maine?

Join the Maine NVC Network
Yahoo Group

The group is moderated and is only used for announcements of regional workshops and other Maine NVC Network events. Inclusion in list serve announcements does not imply endorsement by the Network.

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The Compassion Exercise
"Just Like Me"
by Harry Palmer

This exercise can be done anywhere that people congregate (airports, events, beaches, etc.). Use it with strangers or loved ones, unobtrusively and from some distance. Do all five steps on the same person.

  1. With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness for (his or her) life."
  2. With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in (his or her) life."
  3. With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person has known sadness, suffering, and despair."
  4. With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is seeking to fill (his or her) needs."
  5. With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is learning about life."

This is one of thirty exercises that can be found in ReSurfacing®: Techniques for Exploring Consciousness, by Harry Palmer ( 1998). Excerpted with permission. © 1994, 2011. ReSurfacing® is a registered trademark of Star's Edge, Inc. All rights reserved.

N.B. Inclusion of this exercise does not imply an endorsement of Avatar or Star's Edge by the Maine NVC Network.


Call for Volunteers

The health of the Network depends on the joyful efforts of all who yearn to bring nonviolent consciousness to our region.
To learn more, email our volunteer coordinator.


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