Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Seven, Issue Ten:
NVC & Social Change, Part 4

Our newsletter appears approximately once a month. 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. Email: newsletter at

In continuation of our current focus on Social Change, this month we turn to the more intimate, but still very far-reaching, aspect of restoring and repairing relationships. Our feature article was written by newly CNVC-certified NVC trainer Leah Boyd, who has been an NVC mediator for some time.


Restoring and Strengthening Relationships

by CNVC-certified trainer Leah Boyd

With over 7 billion people on the planet, we are bound to bump into each other now and then, both figuratively and literally. When this happens we’ve often been taught to say, "I’m sorry" in a way that is more of a social convention than an attempt to create healing and restore connection. As children many of us experienced our parents or teachers insisting we speak the words whether we felt them or not.

"Say you’re sorry and say it like you mean it!"

In NVC we learn that we are not the cause of other people’s feelings, but rather something we do or say can stir what is already present within them. This is not to say that we take no responsibility for how our words and actions affect others. Rather, we recognize that anything that we or anyone else says or does is motivated by the human needs we all share. This is a shift from thinking one of us is right and one of us is wrong – to understanding we are both attempting to nourish needs in the best ways we know. Sometimes our attempts are tragic in that they don’t actually serve the needs we were hoping to nurture.

Marshall Rosenberg described a four-step process to bring about reconciliation and healing when we realize we have done or said something that has stimulated pain in another. The focus of this process is not on admitting we have done something "wrong" and apologizing. Rather the focus is on empathy, mourning, understanding and restorative action. In describing the steps I will refer to the person who has done or said something that has stimulated pain as the "Actor." I will refer to the person whose pain has been stimulated as the "Receiver."

The process can be initiated by the Actor inviting the Receiver to speak. Here is the four-step process:

  1. Receiver expresses to the Actor whatever they want the Actor to hear about the situation and the Actor empathizes by listening from presence, reflecting the gist of what they are hearing (just enough so the Receiver knows the Actor is clear about what action he/she is pointing to) and guessing needs. The Actor continues listening to the Receiver until the Receiver feels heard (or until the Actor reaches the limit of their capacity to do so).
  2. Actor expresses mourning by taking full responsibility for the act, acknowledging the suffering of the Receiver and making it clear that the Receiver’s pain matters to the Actor. Mourning can have the following areas of focus:
    • I’m sad when I hear what you’ve experienced.
    • I see how my actions impacted you.
    • I’m mourning how my actions didn’t nourish the following needs that I hold dear.
  3. Actor expresses the needs they were trying to meet when they chose the action. Only do this step if the Receiver clearly wants it. Often when the Receiver has received enough empathy and has experienced the Actor’s sincere mourning, they naturally ask, "But why did you do it?" The Actor then responds to the Receiver’s real longing to understand. If the Receiver hasn’t asked for this, and you sense they might wish to hear it, you can ask them explicitly if they would like an explanation to contribute to understanding.
  4. Restorative Action: Receiver and Actor consider what would contribute to healing and re-connection, the rebuilding of trust and increasing the likelihood that this painful scenario won’t be repeated. Often the Receiver wants to know that their pain has in some way contributed to growth in the Actor that will prevent others from experiencing similar pain from the Actor’s actions. This step can lead to specific agreements between the Actor and Receiver.

Often in situations where pain has been stimulated it becomes complicated. I may be aware that my action has stimulated pain in another AND in addition I may be holding that they have also acted in ways that have stimulated pain in me, either connected with the current incident or in the past. Or I might be carrying an Enemy Image of the other person. When the Actor is carrying their own pain or judgment they are less likely to be effective creating clarity and connection.

Very often we have a good deal of pre-work to do in order to be ready to make amends for our piece in the puzzle. If we are making amends with the expectation that the other person will then be inspired to make amends for their part in it, our intention will not be clean and the other person is likely to sense this as pressure. It can be very helpful to do pre-work, such as self-empathy, an empathy- buddy session, working the enemy images process, and/or role-playing the restorative conversation with a neutral party.

A few more words about, "I’m sorry." The first time I tried using this process to repair a relationship I ran into a challenge around these words. I listened empathically for about 45 minutes, and then I mourned the impact of my actions. I acknowledged how sad I was and shared how my actions didn’t nourish my deep values.

Next I asked, "Would you like me to explain why I did what I did?"

To which she replied, "No, what I want is an apology. You’ve said a lot of things, but the one thing you haven’t said is ‘I’m sorry.’"

Well now I was stumped. As I understood it from the NVC perspective, I wasn’t supposed to say that! And yet these were the words she longed to hear. So I said, "I’m sorry that my actions stirred up so much pain." This seemed to be all she needed and we were complete.

I came away telling myself I was a failure because I’d used the "s" word. I talked with one of my teachers, Ike Lasater, about it and he said that from his perspective it’s the energy that matters, more than the words. If we are saying "I’m sorry" from the energy of self-blame, self-judgment, because it’s the "right thing to say" or just to get this unpleasantness over with, then it misses the mark. If we are saying "I’m sorry" as an expression of mourning over the ways our action didn’t nourish needs, we’ve hit the mark.

I accept that I will sometimes do or say something that stimulates another’s pain. I celebrate that this process1 allows me a way to heal a rupture in relationship, and restore connection.

1 In the Mediate Your Life intensive program this is called the Making Amends Process. Because "making amends" can have a connotation of accepting blame for some people, in this article I often refer to it with more restorative terms.

Leah Boyd is a certified trainer with the Center For Nonviolent Communication. She is an NVC-based mediator who helps many people regain trust and make agreements after situations of conflict. If you want support in making amends or in reaching agreements you can reach Leah through her website.

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.

Level 1 trainings


Level 2 trainings


Relational Health Certificate Program, October 2016 – March 2017, Belfast, ME
3.6 CEUs / 36 contact hours
Peggy Smith will be teaching a session in this course.


Bringing Mindful Speech To Life
Sixth Annual Mindfulness Retreat
January 27-29, Nobleboro, ME

led by Dharma Teacher Peggy Smith, and Theodate Lawlor,
members of Thich Nhat Hanh's Tiep Hien Order
There are now just one or two openings left! Register today:
Online registration, followed by online payment option here.
Printable pdf flyer with mail-in registration option here.

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  • Monthly Empathy Circle:
    • Belfast, ME
      Second Friday of each month, 10am-1pm
      (formerly first Friday)
      Open Communication office, 243 High Street, Belfast
      You are welcome to come when you can.
      If this is your first time coming, please contact Linda beforehand:
      Phone 207-322-2122
      email: chezcote5 at

    • Authentic Communication Groups
      Falmouth, ME

      with Andrea Ferrante, trainer and coach
      Two groups meet biweekly, one on alternate Wednesdays; the other on alternate Mondays.
      Authentic Communication Groups are coaching groups designed to open you up to an approach to living that offers greater peace, personal empowerment, and conscious connection to that which sustains and enriches life.

    • See also the Practice Groups page.


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.


Congratulations to Leah Boyd!

who has become certified by CNVC as an NVC trainer. Only the second CNVC-certified trainer in Maine!

Poetry Corner:
A Visitation
by Alison Luterman

It was very kind of my ex-husband,
dead these dozen years,
to show up in my dream last night.
At first I was scared:
when we parted there was blame
to spare. We were young
together, we were idiots, we literally
drove our car into a ditch,
and I no longer recall
how we got out. Some helpful stranger,
probably, equipped with chains. There was need
of rescue, from our own folly most of all.
But here's what I miss: no one else
remembers the summer we were twenty-six,
invincible, directionless,
driving the back roads
of Kansas or Utah, stopping for Cokes
and to stretch our legs at some dusty
gas station where the locals eye us
with suspicion: You're not from
around here, are you? No, obviously,
we didn't fit in — except, for that small span of time,
with each other. In my dream last night
we didn't touch. He was beaming
at me, though, in the old way,
as if I'd been forgiven all my failures,
as if there were nothing to forgive.


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Open Communication

welcomes individuals and couples, who want NVC-based support, to meet with them at their new office in Belfast, ME
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