Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Four, Issue Seven:
Group decision making based on needs consciousness

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 feature article was written by guest contributor Marie Miyashiro. The article focuses on decision making based on needs consciousness. Marie is a business consultant who incorporates NVC into her process, Integrated Clarity®.


From Either/Or to Both/And Decision Making

by Marie Miyashiro

Marie R. Miyashiro is an internationally recognized business consultant, facilitator, writer, keynote speaker and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) practitioner. She has developed an effective organizational model base on the understanding that the vitality of organizations and workplace systems is best served by including the needs of all.  Marie helps us hold the needs of individuals and the organization/business with care and consideration. In 2011 her book,The Empathy Factor – Your Competitive Advantage for Personal, Team, and Business Success, was published by PuddleDancer Press.

I like to thumb through The Empathy Factor business book and see what jumps out as a focus for my work day. This morning, I landed on page 75 and a quote from business strategist Dev Panaik. He says, in an article titled Innovation Starts with Empathy:

As sophisticated as our neurological systems for detecting the feelings of others might be, we've created a corporate world that strives to eliminate the most human elements of business. Companies systematically dull the natural power that each of us has to connect with other people. And by dulling our natural impulse to care, corporations make decisions that look good on paper but do real harm when put into practice in the real world.

Let’s explore this idea that the organizational systems we work in – profit, nonprofit and government agencies alike – inadvertently encourage us to care less about each other and the people we serve. Why? Not because we don't care, because we're hard wired to care; empathy is an automatic response in humans and we have little control over this, according to psychologists. Instead, I believe it's because we've unconsciously implemented structures and processes in our organizations and teams that emphasize needs like progress and predictability over needs such as connection and inclusion. For example, the idea of "the majority rules," and voting, with winners and losers to the vote.

Last week, I met with the executive team of a new technology start-up and their business attorney. They are in the process of developing their internal team working guidelines for activities like decision-making protocols and conflict resolution procedures. They already had a sense that alternatives to traditional processes like Robert's Rules of Order could serve their business plan, internal team and investors more productively; but they couldn't figure out what these "nontraditional" strategies would look like or how they might work. I shared my understanding that strategies such as Robert's Rules of Order and other methods that divide a group into yeas and nays undermine unity and effectiveness.

The reason? The people who aren't in agreement with a proposal often become a less engaged subset of the team because their needs are not heard or addressed in this kind of voting. The premise in protocols like these is that even if you don't like it, too bad, you go along with the majority because majority rules. The need for progressing a proposal outweighs the need for diversity of opinions and inclusion.

On the flip side, you can have discussion and diversity of proposals ad nauseum when hearing everyone's ideas and the needs behind them goes on much longer than anyone wants and very little progress is made to advance action steps for the team. We've all been in meetings like this.

For me, both of these approaches – the majority pushing forward without including the minority or the minority proposing countless ideas and wanting to be heard without a focus on progress – represent what I call "two bad choices." Each emphasizes either order/progress over inclusion/group cohesion or vice versa. This is "either/or" thinking when "both/and" approaches exist. You can have your cake and eat it, too. The most successful teams and businesses know this and operate from this thinking.

There are alternate options that hold both the needs for progress and inclusion at the same time. The central idea behind strategies that can do both is that they are needs based. By "needs," I mean a very particular thing – not wants, wishes or requests, but universal human needs as defined by the work of Marshall Rosenberg, developer of NVC, and Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. Basically, universal human needs are needs that every human being has. These include needs for sustenance like air and water to needs for autonomy, love, contribution, etc. A list of human needs and more detailed explanation is provided on page 54 of The Empathy Factor.

A surprising and powerful thing happens, in my experience ,when people can identify and hear the needs being expressed through an opinion, question or proposal. People shift from being for or against something to deeply understanding what matters to the person expressing themselves. When this connection occurs, strategies start to arise that address the needs of all individuals, who were previously on opposing sides of a proposal. Conflict occurs at the strategy level, not the level of needs.

Think of this simple example. You and a group of friends plan an evening of dining out. If people start naming specific restaurants first, there is a pretty high likelihood that someone will say, "No. I don't want to go there," and include their reason for this opinion. Then, if this person suggests someplace and someone else doesn't like it for whatever reason, you have another conflict. By now, some people may be getting frustrated in thinking that the group won't easily get to a plan that all agree on. Why? Because the naming of restaurants are specific strategies and don't address needs.

If instead, the group asked this question, "What kind of evening would we like to have together? What needs do we want met?" The conversation would go something like this. One person might say, s/he wants a quiet and private evening where the group can talk and eat at a leisurely pace. The needs here might be for connection and relaxation. Another might say that s/he is taking public transportation. The need here might be for ease. A third person might say s/he is on a budget and has a specific price range that would work for them. The need might be for resources.

By this time, some restaurants which are strategies to meet these needs might be suggested as a short list that is narrowing in on all the needs that matter to the group. With much less conflict and more efficiency of time, both the needs for progress of the proposal and inclusion of all personal needs can be valued.

I facilitate executive and work teams in this process regularly. They report how satisfying it is make progress while preserving and, in fact, enhancing group cohesion at the same time. Many times, key decisions that have been unresolved for months or years, can be addressed to the satisfaction of all. Progress is made without leaving anyone behind. You can read workplace case studies and find specific meeting tools to support this "both/and" approach in chapter eight of The Empathy Factor.

Suggestions for Practice

  1. Read The Empathy Factor at Work
    by Marie Miyashiro

  2. Participate in one or more of these upcoming NVC in-depth sessions:
    • 10 month-long Maine NVC Integration Program, beginning in September pdf icon details

    • Workshop with Robert Gonzales, Bar Harbor, ME, in October
      pdf icon details

back to top

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.

July 29 – August 2, Belfast, ME
Sustainable Communication: Theory and Practice of Nonviolent Communication

This 3 credit university course can be taken at the undergraduate or graduate level.
Learn NVC while earning university credit. Great for re-certification too.
Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


Sept 2013 – June 2014 Maine NVC Integration Program
Opening My Heart – Opening Communication

An Intermediate NVC Experience
Now open for enrollment!
Led by Peggy Smith (Certified NVC Trainer) & Leah Boyd (NVC Mediation Program graduate)
pdf icon details and registration
Feedback from participants in the 2012-13 Integration Program:
"This is FAR more than I imagined."
"This is just what I was hoping for and more so!"
"The practices are so accessible and I am getting so many insights already."
"I am so grateful and looking forward to the home practice."


Oct. 4-6, Bar Harbor, ME
Awakening Our Passion, Living in Compassion:
The Embodied Spirituality of Nonviolent Communication

with Robert Gonzales pdf icon details and registration


Oct. 25-27, South Portland
From Conflict To Connection: the Fundamentals of Nonviolent Communication

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


back to top

Special announcement

Open Communication is thrilled to announce a new office in Belfast, ME. CNVC certified trainer, Peggy Smith, is available for
private NVC coaching at this location.
FMI: website / 207-789-5299

Also available: NVC based mediation services with Leah Boyd of
Peaceful Purpose.
FMI: website / 207-336-2423



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.

back to top


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.

back to top

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



Years ago, in conversation over dinner, a friend and teacher I very much admire described a passion: NVC workshops that had been developed around the work of Marshall Rosenberg. I listened with curiosity as she enthusiastically described a practice of self-reflection and interaction with others that was enhancing her self-connection and creative conflict resolution. "Hhmmm," I thought. "It's surprising she needs that." How could it be, I wondered that she was having conflict in her life. I knew her to be a gracious and inspiring leader, with many friends. Why couldn't she, of all people, just get along by avoiding conflict? The memory of her NVC descriptions settled into my consciousness like a seed, dormant but definitely alive.

It took me years to come to an awareness of longing for more skills in the midst of ordinary conflicts, which arise not only in working relationships, but even in the midst of flourishing friendships. Eventually, it became clear to me that there's a significant price for settling conflict through denial and accommodation. It became obvious that authenticity is a lifeline of connection with one's own vitality as well as that of others. But I was not sure that I could move toward authenticity without leaking embarrassing judgmentalness and irritability.

In a way that now seems fortuitous, I began hearing from friends and acquaintances about their experiences of NVC with Peggy Smith right here in Maine. What did I have to lose? I decided I'd try a 2-day workshop to finally see for myself what my old friend had been talking about. I took a Level I workshop and enjoyed the interactive learning, the humor, and the nearly Zen clarity of ideas. I recognized elements of mindfulness in the practice, and I experienced NVC as deeply accepting of human nature, "the full catastrophe," in Jon-Kabat Zinn's words. I discovered in my initial experience that NVC is a wonderful opportunity to practice embracing all of human feelings and needs, our own and those of others. Curious by nature, I wanted to see if I could more fully participate in this opportunity to cultivate more courageous and compassionate communication.

I've now completed a year-long Maine NVC Integration Program and I experience in NVC a way of non-judgmentally approaching ordinary fear and conflict. I'm taking a fresh look at some of the stories I have the habit of telling myself about conflicts and differences that are a part of everyday life, at work and at home. More and more I experience shifts (sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic) away from long practiced habits of fear and defensiveness to curiosity and openness. This has not meant an end to conflict! It has however meant that I have more moments of tenderhearted willingness to listen rather than feeling defensive or avoidant. This in turn means more moments of the life-giving comfort and joy of authentic connection.

The Maine NVC Integration Program sessions (many of which take place at beautiful Ferry Beach) and the connection with a practice group and empathy buddy between meetings provide opportunities and exercises for enriching awareness of one's own feelings and needs. Building on that awareness, my practice of listening for and accepting the feelings of others is deepening. I am grateful for this way of connecting across inevitable human differences without losing the heart of our common human connections. It took me awhile to seize the opportunity presented in NVC; I'm delighted that I didn't miss the chance!

contributed by Kathryn Tracy


Home  |  Newsletter Archives