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“Sow a thought and reap a word; sow a word and reap an act; sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny.”
~ Hindu proverb
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Direct Communication Mindful Communication Appreciative Inquiry Nonviolent Communication Language as a Generative Act Netiquette Communication Case Studies
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Pages 9 - 10 Pages 11 -12 Pages 13 -14
A healthy congregation is one whose members cultivate a culture of direct communication while practicing deep listening and loving speech. In this way, language is used to open-up meaning rather than used to demean an idea or a person. It is not only about the words we use but who we address. Indirect communication, for example, can foster a culture of gossip, secrecy and suspicion, which prevents us from achieving the goal of transparency. Transparency Our seventh End reads, as members of First Unitarian Church “we apply transparency in our governance and ministry in order to build trust and to preserve the integrity of our democratic process.” Transparency is defined as appropriate openness and candor in the church’s decision-making process. The ultimate purpose of transparency in governance and ministry is to ensure that the members and leaders are well informed and better poised to participate in the life of the church. As leaders our intent is to, when reasonable, inspire all to share in decisionmaking and hold one another accountable for our shared ministries. We seek to contribute to a culture of confidence and mutual reliance, which renews the spirit of congregational polity. As leaders, our goal is to contribute to a culture of confidence and mutual reliance, which renews organizational self-worth. We cultivate our collective self-esteem by having shared knowledge about who we are and where we are going. In doing so, we affirm that the ultimate responsibility and authority of the organization rests with its members. In the context of communication, members and leaders of the church are accountable for the quality of exchanges between participants in the community. Here are some behavior patters that if addressed can help us build a community based on trust and respect. Indirect Communication There is a distinction in how we "talk with" others versus how we "talk about" others. For instances, our friends, supporters and confidants play important roles in our lives. They help us process our information and give us advice. And yet sometimes conflicts can get out of hand when those relationships inadvertently feed indirect communication by either triangulating situations or fuel misperceptions. And yet if approached mindfully, friends, supporters and confidants can empower direct communication to help create the culture where conflicts, no matter how small have the chance to be resolved. The practice of talk about others rather than approaching those related to the situation is called indirect communication. This behavior rewards gossip, which, as we know, typically involves details that are not confirmed as being true. This type of unmindful communication feeds misperceptions and undermines the effectiveness of a team. Moreover these patterns breed a culture of second-hand communication, anonymous feedback and triangulation. • Second-hand communication results in comments like “he said,” or “they think,” or “some people believe.” Communities that use these phrases feed suspicion and secrecy. This can be not only harmful to the parties involved but also erode the integrity of the person using such phrases. To counter this behavior simply use “I” statements. Meaning, speak from the first-person and only represent your own opinion; try not to speak for or represent others. The goal is to model ways to share concerns with those directly related to the situation and choose not to accept the invitation to be triangulated.
• Triangulation occurs when person A has a problem with person B but chooses to talk to person Y. Then person Y tells person B that person A is upset. Person B then tells person Y that they are upset with person A. You get the pattern: triangulation occurs when communication goes through a third party. To remedy this behavior simply be the leader who speaks directly to those concerned rather than talk about that person to others; and be the leader who chooses not to accept the invitation to be triangulated. Therefore, if someone approaches you with a concern about another person follow these three steps: o Listen: hear the person out; o Empower: invite the person to speak directly with the person with whom they have concern; o Connect: if they don’t feel comfortable doing it alone ask them if they want to you go with them. • These three steps can help prevent the pattern of Anonymous Feedback – comments made by those of unknown authorship. Often in conflictive situations we may feel uncomfortable speaking directly with another and therefore may have the impulse to avoid the conflict by sharing the concern anonymously. This is common in the internet age where we are encouraged to leave anonymous blog comments, which often lessen the quality of the exchange. Moreover, when anonymous feedback becomes pervasive in community, members and leaders unintentionally feed a culture of secrecy and suspicion.
Furthermore, the impulse to avoid conflict unfortunately can result in the perpetuation of conflicts. Problems are solved when those directly involved have the opportunity to listen, learn and understand one another’s perspective. To deny the opportunity for such reconciliation is to decline the opportunity to be in real relationship with one another. Said another way, direct communication creates the opportunity to build community whereas indirect and second-hand communication, triangulation, and anonymous feedback erode the sense of being in a healthy community.
The following excerpts derive from the mindfulness trainings as articulated by Zen Master, Thich Naht Hahn. These passages can be used for individual meditation or with families or within small groups. The purpose is to practice speaking mindfully. To “practice” is to try and try again, aware that the goal is not perfection but to simply practice the art of mindful communication. Community and Communication “Aware that lack of communication always brings separation and suffering, I am committed to training myself in the practice of compassionate listening and loving speech. I will learn to listen deeply without judging or reacting and refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community to break. I will make every effort to keep communications open and to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.” Truthful and Loving Speech “Aware that words can create suffering or happiness, I am committed to learning to speak truthfully and constructively, using only words that inspire hope and confidence. I am determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor to utter words that might cause division or hatred. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain nor criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.” Deep Listening and Loving Speech “Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering... Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord.” Non-attachment to Views “Aware of suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, I am determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. I will learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to others’ insights and experiences. I am aware that the knowledge I presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life and I will observe life within and around me in every moment, ready to learn throughout my life.”
From A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney. Ap-pre’ci-ate, v., 1. valuing; the act of recognizing the best in people or the world around us; affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials; to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems 2. to increase in value, e.g. the economy has appreciated in value. Synonyms: valuing, prizing, esteeming, and honoring. In-quire’ (kwir), v., 1. the act of exploration and discovery. 2. To ask questions; to be open to seeing new potentials and possibilities. Synonyms: discover, search and systematic exploration, study. Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. In Appreciative Inquiry the arduous task of intervention gives way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. Appreciative Inquiry seeks, fundamentally, to build a constructive union between a whole people and the massive entirety of what people talk about as past and present capacities: achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, elevated thoughts, opportunities, benchmarks, high point moments, lived values, traditions, strategic competencies, stories, expressions of wisdom, insights into the deeper corporate spirit or soul-- and visions of valued and possible futures. Taking all of these together as a gestalt, Appreciative Inquiry deliberately, in everything it does, seeks to work from accounts of this “positive change core”—and it assumes that every living system has many untapped and rich and inspiring accounts of the positive. Link the energy of this core directly to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a process developed by Marshall Rosenberg. It is a way to communicate with greater compassion and clarity. It focuses on two things: honest selfexpression — exposing what matters to oneself in a way that's likely to inspire compassion in others, and empathy — listening with deep compassion. One central tenet of nonviolent communication (also called "compassionate communication") is that everything a human being does (whether benign or hurtful) is an attempt to meet their human needs. Nonviolent Communication postulates that conflict between individuals or groups is a result of miscommunication about these needs, often because of coercive language or manipulative language (e.g., inducing fear, guilt, shame, praise, blame, duty, obligation, punishment, or reward). One aim of Nonviolent Communication is to create a situation in which everyone's needs are met. The reasoning is that from a state of mutual understanding and compassion, new strategies will be generated that meet at least some needs of everyone. Nonviolent Communication advocates that in order to understand each other, the parties express themselves in objective and neutral terms (talking about their factual observations, feelings and needs) rather than in judgmental terms (such as good versus bad, right versus wrong, or fair versus unfair). Practicing Nonviolent Communication means that one listens carefully and patiently to others, even when speaker and listener are in conflict. The listener may show empathy for the speaker by responding with reworded versions of the speaker's own statements ("I hear you saying that....") and attempting to recognize the needs motivating the speaker's words ("It sounds like you need...."). Resources: • • • Center for Nonviolent Communication: (818) 957-9393 www.cnvc.org - website for Center for Nonviolent Communication, the international peacemaking organization founded by Dr. Rosenburg in 1984. www.nvcacademy.org - free weekly practice group led by certified trainers www.baynvc.org - premier training programs www.newyorkintensive.org - excellent immersion program www.nvc4me.com - templates for printing Feelings and Needs cards Leu, Lucy. Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook: a Practical Guide for Individual, Group, or Classroom Study. Encinitas, CA: Puddle Dancer, 2003. Print. Rosenberg, Marshall B. Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life. Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer, 2005. Print.
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Based on the book, “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. There are four components of nonviolent communication: 1. Observation (without evaluation) – the concrete actions we are observing that are affecting our well-being 2. Feeling (distinguished from thoughts) – how we feel in relation to what we are observing 3. Needs – the needs, values, desires, etc. that are creating our feelings (judgments of others are alienated expressions of our own unmet needs) 4. Request (using positive language) – the concrete actions we request on order to enrich our lives There are two parts of nonviolent communication: 1. Expressing honesty through the four components 2. Receiving empathically through the four components Some basic feelings we all have: Feelings when needs are fulfilled Amazed Confident Energetic Glad Inspired Moved Thankful Joyous Optimistic Relieved Surprised Touched Proud Trustful Comfortable Eager Fulfilled Hopeful Intrigued Stimulated Relaxed Feelings when needs are not fulfilled Angry Confused Disappointed Distressed Frustrated Impatient Reluctant Hopeless Irritated Nervous Puzzled Sad Lonely Annoyed Uncomfortable Concerned Discouraged Embarrassed Helpless Overwhelmed Lazy
Some basic needs we all have: Autonomy Choosing dreams/goals/values Choosing plans for fulfilling one’s dreams/goals/values Celebration Celebrate the creation of life and dreams fulfilled Celebrate losses: loved ones, dreams, etc. (mourning) Integrity Authenticity Creativity Meaning Self-worth
Interdependence Acceptance Support Appreciation Trust Closeness Understanding Community Consideration Contribute to the enrichment of life Emotional safety Empathy Honesty (the empowering honesty that enables us to learn from our limitations) Love Reassurance Respect
Some basic needs we all have… continued… Physical Nurturance Air Food Movement Exercise Protection from life-threatening forms of life: viruses, bacteria, insects, predatory animals Rest Sexual expression Shelter Touch Water How you can use the NVC Process: Clearly expressing how I am without blaming or criticizing 1. What I observe (see, hear, remember, imagine, free from my evaluations) that does or not contribute to my well-being: “When I (see, hear)…” Empathetically receiving how you are Without hearing blame or criticism OBSERVATIONS 1. What you observe (see, hear, remember, imagine, free from your evaluations) that does or does not contribute to your wellbeing: “When you see/hear…” (Sometimes dropped when offering empathy) 2. How you feel (emotion or sensation rather than thought) in relation to what you observe: “You feel…” Play Fun Laughter Spiritual Communion Beauty Harmony Inspiration Order Peace
FEELINGS 2. How I feel (emotion or sensation rather than thought) in relation to what I observe: “I feel…”
NEEDS 3. What I need or value (rather than a 3. What I need or value (rather than a preference, or a specific action) that causes preference, or a specific action) that causes my feelings: “…because I need/value…” my feelings: “…because I need/value… REQUESTS Clearly requesting that which would enrich my life without demanding 4. The concrete action I would like taken: “Would you be willing to…?” Empathetically receiving that which would enrich your life without hearing any demands 4. The concrete action you would like taken: “Would you like…?” (Sometimes dropped when offering empathy.)
LANGUAGE AS A GENERATIVE ACT
The Six Speech Acts: We Speak Ourselves into Community The predominant interpretation of language is that it is descriptive: we communicate with others to recount how things are. Consultant Beverley Rhinesmith-Pape, who serves as Reverend Nate’s Executive Coach, will be using the Newfield Model to help us understand how language is not simply descriptive but that language is a generative act: it has to do with actions, with coordination of action, and with creating and recreating. If practiced mindfully, we can move from a broad interpretation of language as descriptive toward the understanding that specific distinctions in language represent new possibilities for taking action and producing results in the congregation. Put simply, language is powerful and can be used as an everyday spiritual practice to build community. In this context, there are Six Speech Acts that serve as the primary distinctions in the domain of language as a generative act. 1. Assertions. An assertion is a fact. It belongs to the thing being observed and can be either true or false. It’s a statement that is measurable and can be verified by an objective third party. 2. Assessments. An assessment is a judgment and opinion. It belongs to the observer and in many ways may reveal more about the observer than they do about what’s being observed. No third party may prove an assessment true or false. An assessment can be either grounded or ungrounded. They are personal judgments made by different observers out of different standards, beliefs, moods and experiences. Many times assessments have to do with the future and impact it profoundly. Regardless if negative or positive, they influence interpretations and actions. Many people live their life as if an assessment (opinion) is an assertion (fact). 3. Declaration. “A declaration is an utterance in which someone with the authority to do so brings something into being that was not there before.” A declaration generates possibilities. It shifts the conversation to new context. To make a declaration has more to do with starting a process and creating something than it does with merely naming a goal or objective. In this way, we use declarative langue to open or initiate; to close or conclude; to resolve; or to evaluate with our assessments. Key declaration include: • • • Yes No I don’t know • • • I apologize I forgive you Thanks you • • • I love you I am … This is not working
4. Requests. Requests can come in the form of either an offer or a promise. A request is a speech acts that directly involve other human beings and involves having conversations with others and coordinating future action. There are several elements to making effective requests, such as being a committed listener; clearly articulating future action and conditions of satisfaction; determining a timeframe by when those actions are met; as well as setting the mood of the request; and to recognize that the request is being made in a particular context. What can we do with a request: we can either accept, decline or make a counter-offer. 9
LANGUAGE AS A GENERATIVE ACT
The Six Speech Acts: We Speak Ourselves into Community
5. Offers. Offers are discussions of requests that are equally applied. Offers are connected with building community in ways that requests are not. One way to look at the nature of a congregation is as a set of coherent offerings made by, with and to one another that address the concerns of the members. In this context, the agreements we make with one another, the covenants and commitments we articulate become generative acts by which we constantly use to build and rebuild community. 6. Promises. A covenant, or a promise, is a commitment and an agreement directly connected to our relationships, our public identity, effectiveness, our personal well-being and of course leadership. Four aspects specifically impacted by our making or breaking commitments: trust, relationship, success, and self-esteem. In order create a culture of commitment we can affirm four valid response to the request of a promise: • • • • Yes – acceptance: now we have a promise. Or, yes, now we can renegotiate the promise. No – decline: we do not have a promise at this time. Commit-to-commit: let us promise to get back to the requestor with the answer at a specified time. Counter-offer: we will couple a decline of this initial request and initial conditions with an offer to accept if certain conditions are changed.
Esteemed twenty-century theologian, Martin Buber, who is best known for his religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship, offers a helpful framework to understand the nature of promises: “Human beings are promise making, promise breaking, promise renewing creatures.” May we as leaders consider how the promises we make, the offers we negotiate, the requests we pose, the declarations we claim – base on either our assessments (opinions) or assertions (facts) – become language that generates actions. May such language generate ways for us to move deeper into relationship with one another so that we may work together to build a beloved community.
Netiquette is the customary code of polite behavior used with electronic communication. The following document serves as the email policy and procedures developed by the 2009-2010 Board of Trustees. Purpose of Email Email is a way to electronically disseminate information to a wide audience. It is best used when the information is not personal, not time-critical, and is expected by or of use to the recipient. The following recommendations should be kept in mind when writing email: 1. Subject Line. Email subject lines should be descriptive and as specific as possible. 2. Format. Emails should be formatted as plain text so they can be easily read by the widest audience. Avoid HTML formatted messages. 3. Contact Information. Include your identifying information at the bottom of your email. At a minimum, this should include your name, but it could also include your email address and a short quote. Keep in mind that your email may become public, so only include phone numbers if it is okay to make them public. Email should not be used in the following circumstances: 1. Conflicts. Email should never be used for conflict resolution. There are many ways to misinterpret the written word, which can cause unintended results. Resolving conflicts through email can also leave a paper trail of unintended or improperly considered remarks. The best way to handle conflict resolution is a face-to-face meeting, or if that is not possible, over the phone. If the conflict involves a large group of people, then a group meeting should be held to resolve the conflict instead of subjecting all involved to a long chain of accusatory emails. 2. Privacy. Email should not contain information that the sender or the recipient would not want to have made publicly available. 3. Time Sensitive Matters. Email should not contain unexpected information that needs to be acted upon in a timely manner. There is no guarantee that an email will be read by a certain time. If there are time constraints, phone calls or in-person meetings are preferred. 4. Chatting. Email should not be used to make a quick comment such as “I agree” or “Me too”. These types of messages can quickly fill an inbox. If you would like to solicit feedback from your email recipients, specify what conditions warrant feedback. For example, “Please reply with your comments if you disagree.” Forwarding Email Emails should not be forwarded without the approval of the person who originally sent the email. Likewise, printed copies of emails should not be shared with anyone who was not a recipient of the email without approval of the person who originally sent the email.
Replying to Email When replying to email, keep the following recommendations in mind: 1. Subject Line. Do not change the subject line. Many email readers group messages together by subject line, and keeping the same subject makes finding responses easier to manage. 2. Content Relevancy. Eliminate as much content as you can from previous messages while keeping content relevant to your reply. Remove headers and signature lines to reduce the amount of scrolling your recipients need to do to read your message. 3. Audience. If you are replying to a message sent to the group, and your comment is relevant to the group, then reply to all the message recipients. If your message is only meant for an individual, than reply to that specific individual alone. This reduces the amount of irrelevant email filling up inboxes. 4. Attachments. Remove attachments from your reply. If the original email had attachments, don’t send those attachments back to everyone who received the original email. Use of Email by the Board The Board of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia should use email to circulate documents required for upcoming board meetings, such as the agenda, minutes, and any necessary reports. The board should also use email to make corrections and adjustments to these documents as needed, complying with the guidelines set forth above. The board should not use email to discuss any sensitive matters relating to church finances or personnel. Any information circulated by a board member in email should be regarded as being public and may be in conflict with the commitment to confidentiality.
COMMUNICATION CASE STUDIES
Now that we have learned various communication techniques, the goal is to apply these practices to the following cases. 1. An esteemed leader approaches another esteemed leader, “How dare that person want to put that bulletin board there with out consulting me. She’s so irresponsible and dictatorial.” 2. The minister offers a sermon about a controversial topic. A member is so upset with the minister’s position that he says to a teacher who was volunteering in the religious education program that morning, “That minister lacks moral integrity and is completely self-consumed with her own agenda. It’s like she is never open to other points of view.” When asked if he felt comfortable telling the minister about his concerns he said, “I already wrote it up on the worship feedback journal.” The volunteer teacher later read the journal to see that he wrote a scathing critique and did not sign his name. 3. The leaders of the auction are trying things a bit differently this year and a long-term member approaches a Trustee and says, “You have to stop them from charging so much and for getting rid of the lesser priced items. They are so classist and pretentious. Don’t they know we are a church?” 4. A friend of the church approaches a Trustee and says, “The music director told me that the organist position was cut. He doesn’t care about what we want and he is always pushing his own agenda.” 5. “The ushers need to be trained to how to work the microphones and to remember to extinguish the candles,” says a Trustee to a member of the Ministry Leadership Team. 6. An active member of the church sends and email to the chair of Stewardship and Cc’s six others that reads, “You have to stop arm-twisting the congregation for money. It’s like we are constantly shaming people to give to the church.” 7. “This deep listening and loving speech crap is just a way to keep us complacent,” says one member to another. “This whole walk-on-water routine is just a way for the minister to play us. It’s like every time we try to be honest she spins it like a politician to make it seem as if the only credible way to talk is by using PC fluffy BS.” 8. A member of a neighboring church sends an email to the email@example.com email address that says, “Your singles group limited their participation to those in their 30s and 40s. Why would they discriminate that way and betray our principles?” 9. A member approaches the microphone during a congregational meeting and says, “This is ridiculous. We never even have space for our own programs and our church isn’t even ours anymore. There’s never any room for our own things and those tenants are just taking over.”
10. The minister says in a Finance meeting, “Well, that person is irresponsible and keeps overspending.” The Finance chair asks the minister, “Did that person have a budget and if so were spending guidelines communicated?”
COMMUNICATION CASE STUDIES
11. A long term member apologizes to a new visitor for the presentation offered that morning in the sanctuary saying, “I’m sorry you came this Sunday. We’re not normally this kind of church.” 12. “I heard that this event was replaced with a non-related church event.” The leader who is listening to the concern asked, “Are you on the ministry team that is planning either event?” The person responds, “No.” 13. A guest speaker offers a prayer that draws upon Christian theology and requested the use of a theist-based hymn. One member turns to a visitor and says, “It’s totally inappropriate to use that kind of language in a UU service.” 14. An email exchanges occurs between members of a particular ministry team about a contentious issue. One recipient presses reply-all and Cc’s six additional people, some of who are on the Board. The replies continue to escalate with emails that include words that are in all caps. 15.
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