Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Four, Issue Eight: Working Together Effectively

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 explores how groups (work teams, committees, boards, cooperatives, intentional communities) can work more effectively using needs-based consciousness.


Working Together Effectivelysunflower

by Leah Boyd

Small businesses, teams, departments, committees, boards, councils, alliances and cooperatives are all examples of groups of individuals who work together toward a shared purpose. Whether it be a for-profit business, a non-profit organization, a municipality, a faith community or a group of activists, groups of people working together can find themselves stuck and frustrated at times. Some of the common challenges faced by groups include:

Consultant Marie Miyashiro presents a model she calls The Sandwich Model in which she describes the three levels occurring within any group – the "I", the "You" and the "We". The "I" is simply each individual entering the group with her/his own internal life – her/his thoughts, experiences, opinions, conditioning, etc. The "You" is the level at which each "I" is interacting with other "I’s", such as in a conversation between two or more people. The "We" is the level at which individuals acknowledge something larger than themselves, of which they are a part. This is the team level, where a group of individuals come together around a clearly defined purpose and each individual is focused on contributing to that purpose. When a group of individuals come together without commitment to a clearly defined purpose, then it isn’t a true "We." These types of groups often find themselves in a lot of struggle and frustration. It’s quite challenging to be effective when there’s a lot of talking, not much listening and a general confusion about the main objective and process.

When groups find themselves being less effective than they would like, they often look to consultants for guidance in creating positive changes in their group experience. Through workshops, retreats, on-site consulting, etc., a consultant is able to assess the situation and offer appropriate training and assistance. However, research indicates that only 30% of the groups that embark on the important work to change their group’s efficiency are actually successful in making lasting change. Why is this so? According to Marie Miyashiro, this is due to a "lack of connection to human needs and the needs of the "We" - the shared purpose coupled with personal meaning. . . The research and evidence about this is clear - people have needs for understanding, respect, contribution - to know their views matter. . ."

Dr. Jane Connor with Dr. Dian Killian, Dr. Robert Wentworth and Martha Lasley, MBA, partnered with Merck, Inc., to produce research on the effect of workplace communication training on qualities such as efficiency, effectiveness, motivation and teamwork. The conclusion drawn from the study stated, "The success of any business depends on people working together to accomplish tasks that support the organization in achieving its purpose. As documented in this study this is most likely to occur when the quality of relationships and communication between people is high and individuals are thriving."

All indicators point to a certain quality of relating as a key factor in the on-going success of groups. This quality of relating is sometimes referred to as empathy – the ability to connect to others and imagine how it is for them. Marshall Rosenberg’s work, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is based in the premise that there are needs that are universal to all humans. Of course there are survival needs such as food, water and shelter, but he goes beyond this to say that there are equally important needs basic to human thriving such as to be heard, to matter, to contribute, to be effective, etc. Since we all have these needs, we can relate to them as they arise in others. We can observe what is being said or done and we can imagine what need is motivating what we observe. In doing so, we see the humanity of the other and are much more likely to stay connected, curious and willing to engage than we would be otherwise. This behavior is extremely helpful in group situations, where disconnecting and seeing each other as "wrong" or "the problem" can be very debilitating to the group’s effectiveness, flexibility and creativity. From an empathic standpoint, we can relate to where the other is coming from, even if we don’t agree with their actions or lack of action. The study and practice of NVC is one way individuals can increase self-awareness, leading to increased inner clarity, improved communication with others and more effective contribution to group efforts.

According to Marie Miyashiro, groups have needs of their own as well. In her process, Integrated Clarity™, she identifies six Universal Organization Needs: Identity, Life-Affirming Purpose, Direction, Structure, Energy and Expression. Gaining clarity around the needs of the "We" strengthens the potential of the group to thrive, just as gaining clarity about personal needs assists individuals in thriving.

The same research indicating that only 30% of groups make lasting change also stated that there was a common denominator in the groups that did make lasting change. Each of these groups became strong on process. They learned and applied strategies such as: a crystal clear shared purpose; a well defined discussion and decision making process; well defined roles; and agreements about meeting protocol. Having a strong process in place makes a group resilient and able to rise to challenges. A group with a solid shared purpose is able to hold all decisions up to this purpose to be certain that any choice they make fully supports and/or advances it.

The Merck research concludes, "People working together effectively can support the right tasks getting done, greater efficiency and higher quality. Directing resources to improving these foundational aspects of business functioning has the potential for major payoffs." Most of us have had very little training in working with others effectively and most groups are lacking in well-understood processes that support their important work together. With the assistance of an NVC-focused consultant or trainer, groups can learn skills to support the thriving of the individuals within the group at the same time as supporting the overall thriving of the group. Happier, more productive groups of people working together have the potential to achieve the purpose for which they have gathered in a way that they enjoy.

Suggestions for Practice

  1. Think about work or community groups you are a part of. Consider in what ways you find they work well. Consider in what ways you wish they worked differently. Use your feeling and needs cards to discover what needs are nurtured by participating in that group. Use the cards to connect to what needs might not experience nurturance by participating in that group.

  2. Come engage with Leah Boyd and Peggy Smith at their talk at the Common Ground Country Fair, September 20 – 22, 2013, Unity, Maine. They will be speaking about how groups can work more effectively and collaboratively by building on needs-based consciousness for the "I" and the "We." Their presentation, "Thinking For Collaboration," will be Friday at 5pm, repeated Saturday at 9am, and again Sunday at 1pm

Leah Boyd is the founder and principal NVC-based mediator at Peaceful Purpose Mediation. She has a passion for groups and helping them fulfill their visions and dreams effectively. Leah, along with Peggy Smith, co-teaches the Maine NVC Integration Program. They will further their collaboration by launching Clarity Services, an NVC-based consulting business in October, 2013. The shared purpose of this venture is to bring needs-based consciousness to businesses and groups operating in Maine.

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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.

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


Dec. 7-8, Unity, ME
Level 1: From Conflict to Connection: the Fundamentals of NVC

Fundraiser for MOFGA El-Salvador Sistering Committee
and two environmental projects in the West Bank, Palestine
FMI contact Peggy: 207-789-5299 / email



Invitation to
Monthly Empathy Circle

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.


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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Poetry Corner

Maxine Hong Kingston reads
Sandy Scull's Sea Salt

ocean and gray sky


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