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Speaking the truth with non-violent communication

The following is a collection of phrases that I regularly think, say myself or hear other people saying. Some seem positive and some seem negative. But none of them are true.

Understanding this and practicing the habit of speaking the truth results from my learning about non-violent communication. Sometimes non-violent communication is about respect towards others and sometimes it is about self-respect. It seems helpful to me because I can more easily share opinions with others, being more open-minded and leaving room for dialogue in place of conflict. When I practice non-violent communication with myself, I feel more self-aware and more confident.

 

I say: I have to write that report this evening

How many times have I thought and said such a phrase? The problem here is that such obligations don’t exist. No-one has a gun to my head and I am free to choose the consequences of not meeting the deadline. When I hold myself to such obligations, I am denying my own ability to choose what seems right to me. And when I use this as an excuse to stay home instead of having dinner with friends, I am being dishonest about my preferences.

I prefer to say: A deadline was set for the end of the day and I would prefer to write this report to achieve that deadline 

 

I say: I’m no good at playing the piano

Sticking labels on myself and my incompetence doesn’t make me feel good about myself. If I can’t play the piano at all today, it might seem fair enough to say I have a limited ability to play the piano. But when I judge that limited ability as “bad” I am holding myself to a standard which I value and then labelling myself as sub-standard. In my head, I create a self-image of someone hopeless.

I prefer to say: At the moment, I can’t play the piano to the standard I would like

Or: I can currently make sounds with a piano that do not correspond to the first graded level of piano playing

 

I say: That’s ridiculous!

..and I wish I could stop saying this! Sometimes it goes so quickly: Someone shares their ideas on things and in a flash before I can even stop myself, I pronounce these words, as if I was the holder of all the answers, the one who knows everything about everything. This kind of language is oppressive and impolite at the worst. At the very least, it translates as “What you say is stupid” and therefore doesn’t seem a nice thing to say.

I prefer to say: I don’t agree with your idea. It doesn’t fit with my way of seeing things.

Or: Given the information we have and my own vision and knowledge of the topic, I don’t see how that can work.

 

I say: She made me really angry

No she didn’t. She did something and I was angry. Anger is not something someone else can cause in me. To make such a statement is to deny the boundaries of responsibility when it comes to feelings. My anger is mine. Her (in)actions or words are hers. Changing this phrase to the preferred statement (below) helps me to take more responsibility for my anger and also to question which values and goals I have that are not in-line with the actions of the other person.

I prefer to say: She did XYZ and I feel angry

 

I say: It’s a beautiful day

Seems fair, right? But the truth is only that there are no clouds in the sky and the sun is shining with more heat than it was yesterday. It is also true that I like that kind of weather. But when I name things as “beautiful” I am imposing my vision of the world onto reality. Does this make it true? If I can imagine anyone having a different opinion (agricultural industry? not enough rain?) this should be enough for me to recognise that my words are no more than personal opinion.

I prefer to say: I like the weather today

 

All of the preferred statements above are attempts to use non-violent communication. For the purpose of this blog, I would define “violent communication” as any speech that mixes up (my) perception with (the) factual reality and imposes the former onto other people. When I push my vision of things on other people, it is not respectful to our differences or potential difference of opinions. It is a form of verbal aggression which can lead to confusion, conflict, loss of dialogue and even sadness and bitterness.

For example, telling my children they are being “bad girls” or that they “can’t do that” are simple everyday examples of violent communication that seek to impose my values onto them and to bend them to my will. As a parent, I might find it best that I decide for my children what they can and cannot do and I might even want to impose that on them. But when I present my ideas to them as the truth about “good” and “bad”, “allowed” and “not allowed”, my communication is violent: It imposes my vision of reality onto them in a non-respectful way. This particularly worries me since I know that my kids are like little sponges soaking up everything Daddy says for the future. If I can learn to instead say that “I don’t like what you are doing” or “In my house, I want you to follow my rules” this is much closer to the truth. It will open the dialogue with my children towards mutual understanding of what we all (don’t) like and or (don’t) want. And I leave them free to form their own opinion.

Outside of family life, the same idea is valid in many environments. I might argue that something is “not fair” when I really mean to say that “I don’t feel comfortable with it” or “I’d like to find other solutions where I get more of what I want”. I might say “You’re performance is unacceptable” when a non-violent version would say “I expected you to achieve XYZ and you haven’t so I am not satisfied”. I might say “You’re disturbing me” when the truth is that “I’m working on something now and I don’t want to talk’.

 

When we use non-violent communication, we respect the rights of other people to think differently and (importantly) we give them an open-door to reply with their own vision of things. We state things as they truly are and not only as we see them.

If you are in the business of oppression and control, stay violent. But if you want respectful communication and the possibility of dialogue that leads to sharing and deeper mutual understanding , go non-violent.

 

See also:

 

Thanks for reading

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Super Dad inspires again !

When I was a boy my Dad was amazing.

At the end of a long day somewhere, as I would drift in-and-out of consciousness in the back seat, he would pilot the car home. I was unaware at the time as to what he was really doing. He was simply an amazing Dad who could drive. When we got home, he was use his super-Dad powers to scoop my 20 kilograms of dead weight into his arms and take me to bed, somehow magically getting me into my pyjamas without waking me up.

Between October and December, he would crack nuts, using only a nutcracker and his super-Dad strength. I couldn’t do this.

At the weekend or some evenings, he would magically remember all the things he needed to do to make spaghetti bolognese, which everyone would agree was brilliant.

And he had a great collection of music. Loads of different stuff. He introduced me to James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, ELO and god only knows what else. He was even the first person I knew to dig Nirvana.

Today, I am a Dad.

I drive a car, carry my kids to bed and introduce them to music. I still don’t crack nuts. But I can. Because I am amazing and I have super-Dad powers.

It would be easy therefore to think that my Dad was actually just normal. Just bigger and further on in life. But that’s not the point.

The point is that the little things we take for granted as adults continue to amaze and inspire our kids, and to affect their future.

I still make spaghetti bolognese like my Dad told me to and I can see the awe in the eyes of my girls when I do these normal things and they see super-powers.

And the same is true for the not so cool things. I don’t really remember what they were with my Dad, but it stands to reason that if all these other things were blown up into super proportion, then the not-so-good things were too. So what do my girls think when I am tired and miserable, impatient and angry?

And the inspiring never ends.

When I see my Dad today, I see someone who has understood what is important and what is not. Who has stopped running around and no longer does the things he doesn’t want to. I see a man who got his shit together to retire at 50. Who can build a pond or a vegetable patch or fix a motorbike. He still has super-powers and I still want to be like him.

So, I guess that whatever I am doing on Father’s Day, the point is the same: For better or worse, I am inspiring my kids.

All Dads are.

Make it count.

Good luck!

Days 3 + 4 at ATD2015

Back in Belgium, here is a mini-summary of the last 2 days of ATD2015, which thanks to Harry Potter and Lufthansa, could not be delivered earlier…

Day 3


Day 4

…and that’s pretty much it. Another year of ATD conference fun over 😦

It was really great!

Thanks for reading

@dan_steer

Day 2 at ATD2015

Time for bed, but not before a little summary of my second day at ATD2015:

  • ATD has a wicked new marketing video. Beautiful images and anthemic sound!
  • Thank you VERY much to Tony Bingham for mentioning my work to the 10000 attendees present. Ego sufficiently stroked for the year.
  • The first keynote speaker Andrea Jung had some really positive content to share
  • Clear blue skies. Hot, but not humid = a nice outside morning moment shared with new (Kim + Bart) and old (Lorenzo) friends
  • Queues in the expo for a caricature were too long… but I got a few Minnie Mouse ears for the girls 🙂
  • Lunch was had amongst the monkeys
  • My session M101 on “Practical Use of Social Media for Formal Learning” was great fun. The fire marshalls turned up for the first time at the conference to turn people away. 450 attendees minimum 🙂
  • …and yes, I won the selfie contest for the day. Thx to the 64 people who retweeted 🙂 #AskAndYeShallReceive
  • Julie Dirksen explained the elephant and the rider in a great session on why people don’t change behaviour and what you can do about it
  • Karl Kapp owned his session on gamification. Had seen the content before, but hadn’t seen the gamified version of his session. Very inspiring, great story-telling and just going home thinking “I can do SO much more to improve my trainings”
  • An improvised dinner with Mr Kapp(tain Kirk), the other monkey (Anders), Rick_Lozano, my client and now-new-friend Yves Plees and the aforementioned friends from SD turned out to be very entertaining and inspiring, as we discussed everything from tattoos to skydiving and barefoot running… jungle survival, husband/wife relationships, gamification, live music and work-life balance … why you can’t fly effectively defend airspace over Belgium in a fighter-jet, learning Swedish in Gent (but not Norweigen!), mid-life-crisis and motorbikes, and …. …. to living the dream, going your own way, education and the industrial revolution. How will I sleep tonight?!!

Tomorrow = Sugata Mitra on today’s educational challenges, the NeuroScience of Bias and 3 of 7 other sessions yet to be decided.. and buying a magic wand for Annabel from Harry Potter-land.

But first, 6 hours sleep please :-/

Day 1 of the ATD ICE 2015

Quick summary of the day:

Looking forward to tomorrow!

My session at 1pm

D

The Happiness Advantage and The Orange Frog – Dick Ruhe at ATD2015

Following on the accidental theme of happiness in Orlando today, I wonder if The Universe is trying to tell me something.. Time to get happy? As a fan of Tal Ben-Shahar’s “Happier” and the unpronounceable Hungarian-American’s “Flow” I am intrigued to see what session SU31XD has to offer. 

Dick Ruhe has taken the stage to tell us what the latest research on positive psychology can do for the workplace. (Tip number one: If anyone is looking unhappy, just slap ’em!) 

Ruhe starts by noting that most organisations seems to have the happiness formula backwards. We tend to think: Work hard -> Get success -> Get happy. But actually, it’s the happiness we need first. When we can find ways to get happy, we will work better and get better results. And when we keep this in mind people produce better business results. According to Ruhe, there are 7 principles we need to bear in mind if we want intrinsic motivation and increased engagement…


The happiness advantage
Organisations need to know this: Happy people get better results and attrition goes down. Ruhe cites how the brain creates endorphins and people feel better. But he adds that studies of successful organisations show that happy people are more satisfied and tend to stick around.

Do you believe this?


The fulcrum and the lever

The lens through which we see the world (the fulcrum) doesn’t shape us. It’s the way we see things that shape us. Two people can see the same situation completely differently. And if we can do something with that (the lever) we can influence our happiness and our results. Ruhe says that will require effort from leaders. We need to look for and embed positive (happy) experiences and work towards getting more of that. 

Are you doing this?


The Tetris Effect

These are the patterns we have for doing things in the organisations. After time, those patterns become habits and traditions and we continue to get more of the same things, over and over again. We need to see how the pieces are falling and what we can do about it to line things up better for happiness.

Are you doing this?


Falling-up

When people fail, falling-up is about how they focus and take action to move in a new direction to bounce back. The “on the other hand…” vibe. Ruhe mentioned a study where people were told to imagine they had walked into a bank which was being robbed and got shot in the arm. They were asked: We’re you lucky or unlucky? 70% said “unlucky”.

What would you say?


Zorro circles

The brain perceives big movements and big changes as overwhelming, which limits forward progress. But if we can start off small and see results, the brain can record the “win” and maintain the belief that their efforts can have an impact. 

Are you helping your people see their results?


The 20 second rule

This is all about doing something that easily will move us forward. The next concrete (easy) action. For example, if you are thinking “I need to run more”, you might start making a big plan with a SMART objective and some challenges in there. But when it comes to actually running, if it’s easier to turn on the television than go running, no change is going to happen. We need to make it possible in 20 seconds to take some easy action towards are goal. Whatever it is.

How can you move forward now?


Social investment
Connecting with the people around us makes everyone more happy. Ruhe suggests that we take more time to do this, everyday. 

Are you?



Reading back my notes, some of the points seem so obvious, I wonder what I get from it. But if I’m honest, I know I can do better.

Can you?
Thanks for reading

@dan_steer


The 10 most important questions for ATD2015

It’s that time of the year again where weary trainers and learning managers shuffle out of their caves to meet up with their geeky friends and ATD it ’til the sun goes down. In my own cave, I fired-up my iPad app for the ATD 2015 International Conference and Exposition to see what’s on the agenda and how I will spend my long-awaited 5 days in the sunshine state of Florida. A few questions came to mind…

 

1 What will I learn, if anything?

This is my 4th consecutive year at the conference and although the question may seem a little arrogant, I am wondering exactly what I will learn this year and what new topics could possibly still be left. This is the first year I don’t have “some learning-thing” on my mind before leaving. And although I always come away with a thin-red-learning-line, I can’t imagine what it will be this time.

 

2 What’s in a name?

Since this is the 1st year ASTD is not ATD, will anything be different? Will we truly be innudated with Hollywood Talent producers, as the new-name-naysayers suggested in 2014? Or is “talent” just another way of saying L+D ?

 

3 Will JD Dillon still have a beard?

Seriously.. I saw him in Vegas for TK15 and literally didn’t realise it was him for about the first 30 seconds. Only by a process of association with Justin Brusino and Bianca Woods did I manage to extend my hand to the strange bearded fellow and say “hello”.

 

jd

 

4 What is the obsession with “rock” in the learning world?

When choosing sessions to (maybe) follow, I keep seeing this word in titles. If I follow them all, I’ll come home standing out as a rock-star at work and training like a rock-star … whilst turning my boss into a rock-star , as well as my company’s learning content and having had my brain rocked. And all of that before I even squeeze through tht back-door to get into what will surely be a sell-out neuroscience session with David ( …. wait-for-it … ) Rock.

 

5 (In the same vein) Is there really NeuroScience in everything?

If you search the ATD conference site for sessions with the word “neuroscience” in the title, you will get even more results than you would for “rock”. It’s in our training effectiveness, our behavioural change, Captain Kirk and Mr Spock’s decision making, happiness, performance advancement and performance management, person biases, leadership , employee engagement and learning design. So, if everyone and everything has something to do with neurosciences, question 5 is actually 3 more questions:

  • Did someone hypnotise the advisory board before they chose all these sessions?
  • Will the rooms for the NeuroLeadership Institute sessions be sold-out as I predicted above (as they rightly should be, because David and Josh are awesome) or will the neuroscience-lovers spread themselves out elsewhere?
  • Should I have entitled my own session “The NeuroScience of Social Media for Formal Learning” ?

 

9 (see above, it works, honestly) Did Rick Lozano pack an extra guitar to jam with me and is he going to dress as Elvis for his sessions?

If there IS one rock session you should follow, its Rick’s. Seriously – if you don’t go and see at least ONE of Rick’s TWO sessions (really – they gave him two!) you will miss the opportunity to move like Jagger. I followed him before and it was awesome. HE was awesome? He IS awesome. Got it? Just go!

 

ricpicsmall

 

10 Will the  bookstore have a nice new ATD-branded polo-top for me to buy?

I promise, if they don’t, I’m just going to wear my grey ASTD one anyway. So there!

 

Don’t forget to check out David Kelly’s ATD2015 backchannel page here.

And catch me throughout the week via my YouTube channel for speaker interviews and DisneyDiaries, Twitter for cynical discussions and attempted humour with JD and absent-Bianca and this blog for a much more serious live-account of the sessions I follow.

 

ps – all my session posts from all previous A(S)TD conferences can be found via this tag.

 

D

 

 

Honest Out of Office Reply

What I would have written if I’d been a bit more honest…


I don’t want to do any work for 2 weeks. But because I’m a self-employed workaholic I have trouble not looking at my email. 


For the first few days I will pretend to relax and have non-work-related-fun, whilst deep-down being regularly pulled back into wondering if anyone has asked me something I can answer, or commented on the tweets I programmed 3 weeks ago. 


After those painfully long but proud days of not turning on my WIFI connection (except to tweet that I’m on holiday with no WIFI) I will eventually allow my finger to slip to the Gmail app and see all your emails come in, before selectively reading and maybe even replying to the ones I care most about. 


Those to whom I reply will be confused as to if I am really on holiday or not. They may even get the idea that I am constantly available even when I say I’m not, thus sending more requests during my “time off”. This will in turn serve to reinforce my own workaholic perception that I must be available 24/7 for people more important than me or else they won’t love me. 


The people whose emails I don’t read will be ignorantly none-the-wiser, imagining I’m actually not reading email (like I said I wasn’t) rather than knowing I just didn’t care about them as much as the other people.


Eventually, when these dreadful 2 weeks of on/off connected-dissonance is over, I can finally go back to work and everything will be normal again. I will breath out and all that stress of being on holiday will be over.



Breaking the wall of idolisation in Furious 7

If grown men have shed a tear in the cinema these last few weeks, it is not for nothing. Even those who manage to maintain their proper place in the audience without playing “Is it him or his brother?” during the first two hours of (Fast and) Furious 7 will have a hard time not being sucked through the fourth wall to join Vin Diesel and friends in their sad tribute to a lost friend during the final scenes.

And it is indeed the actor Vin Diesel they will join. Not his character Dominic Toretto. But the wall-breaking in question is unprecedented: A strange mélange of perceptual positions, a reflection of the human need to idolise and the sad story of every young man who wants to go just a little too fast.

 

Breaking the fourth wall is a storytelling tool we have seen many times before in the movies.

When Ferris Bueller and Jordan Belfort look the audience in the eye, they are giving us permission to sympathise and join them in their comedic or tragic story. They are looking out, talking to the audience, as if they too were a spectator of the story, sitting right there next to us. But of course, they are not even in the room. Only the audience is. The rest is just moving pictures.

At the theatre, things are different. Actors are actually there. But their physical proximity on the stage is no burden to the suspension of audience disbelief. Although we could stand up and touch the actor at any time, it is not the actor we are looking at, but the character in the play. The wall remains intact. It is only when the final curtain falls and the cast steps out from behind to take a bow that the distance is broken and we can make contact with the actor.

In today’s era of “view-with-commentary” Blu-Ray and social-media friending of the stars, we may feel closer to our favourite film stars than ever before. But we know it is not really true. They are not talking to us at all, but to another studio microphone or iPhone keyboard on the other side of the Atlantic. We remain the audience.

But Furious 7 is different. The men sitting in the cinema are as much a part of the tragedy as the men on the screen. What makes the fans cry during those final scenes is not a cheeky wall-breaking wink from Ferris Bueller mid-scene, a handshake with the leading actor backstage, or a revealing DVD-commentary from a sad co-star. It is a true fusion between cast, character and audience that we are not accustomed to in modern cinema, proper to our human need to idolise and fundamentally linked therefore to the tragic story of Paul Walker and our relationship with him.

 

Idolising others is normal human behaviour.

As children, the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is inevitably the result of our relationship with some hero-figure we would like to emanate. I still want to surf because Johnny Utah did; and every one of my guitar-faces has been subconsciously replayed and rehearsed whilst watching concert footage of Steve Vai.

As adults, we may be less outright in our expression of idolisation, but we still hold the image of successful others on a pedestal and we still strive with more-or-less effort (and success) to be something we are not.

This has probably been the case forever. As Alain de Botton explains so well in his book “The News: A User’s Manual” we have always idolised. Romans did it. The church does it. The role of an idol in any society is to give us someone to identify with, look up to and learn from.

The success of our favourite movies depends on such identification. If you can’t empathise with Cooper‘s promise to his daughter in “Interstellar”, there is no investment or reason to stay with him on the 80-year journey home.

 

In the Fast and Furious franchise, we are given double reason to idolise. 

The first is Paul Walker himself. A handsome, successful strong man, women want him and men want to be him. Poster-boy for Davidoff’s “Cool Water”, humanitarian and father, any near-middle-aged movie fan could be forgiven for having a man-crush on Walker. Most do not have the triceps to be Vin Diesel, nor the Humvee to be The Rock, and Bodhi died already in 2009. And Walker gets to drive really fast cars, which is probably what we all wanted to do when we grew up. The man was a walking success story.

paul walker

Paul Walker, star of the Fast and Furious franchise

The second reason is Walker’s Fast and Furious character Brian O’Connor, who through his own idolisation of Dominic Toretto gives us permission to idolise in the first place. In the original episode, we are introduced to young man who just wants to be cool. Submerged in the world of fast cars and booty, we see the action through the eyes of a child who cannot believe he is really there. And in fact, he is not. O’Connor is undercover as Spilner, pretending to be something he is not, just as we all do. When O’Connor/Spilner nearly beats Toretto in his first quarter-mile race, his “I almost had you” is akin to the feeling of placing a beautiful triple-word score in Scrabble against your father. “I fooled you”. You thought I was just a child, but the boy has become a man. Almost.

 

This strive to identify and subsequent idolisation is the foundation for what is happening today in the cinema.

And it happens in a very special way. The wall is not broken, but transcended by our double identification with Walker/O’Connor and our own confusing place in his story.

And so, in the final scenes of Furious 7, the tearful man on the screen is neither character nor actor. He is both and we can no longer tell if we are looking at Dominic Toretto or Vin Diesel.

And neither is he talking to character Brian O’Connor, nor to the lost actor Paul Walker, but again, to both.

As the soundtrack reminds us that our hero and star is gone, we being to wonder: Who are we exactly? Are we still the audience of these fictional characters? Or the mourning fan? And are we mourning this unknown film-star or have we by now become the man himself? As we consciously realise the extent of our own childish idolisation, we mourn for the person we have never known and for the man we will never ourselves become. And just as this confusing process of self-identification is nearly complete, the camera pans full out to leave us planted back in our seats unsure of exactly what is happening, who we are and who we want to be.

 

Video tools, apps and tips

It’s the final concurrent session of ASTD2014, we are going to make a video. It should be easy, (almost) free, relevant and successful. Bring it on Stacy Bodenner!

 

So, your CEO comes to you and says “Make me a film for our 30th anniversary”. You have a USB microphone, a webcam and $300… *

20140507-134525.jpg
* I’m secretly hoping to beat this budget, but frankly, it’s not much of a cost to off-set if you will make more than one film

 

Tools you might want

 

What apps or software can I make video with?

  • ScreenR allows you to capture whatever is on your PC screen + add audio. Easy and intuitive.
  • MS PowerPoint if you just want to convert your PPT slides into simple video – make it less text-driven and feel free to use some animation. Click on “send to”..
  • Vine app if 6 seconds is enough for you
  • Animoto app if you want to use videos (Vine included) and photos already on a smartphone or tablet
  • MS Movie Maker (free on MS) allows you to trim video, add photos, sound and transitions
  • Garage Band if you want to make your own music. It’s easy, even if you are not a musician and don’t have instruments. Honestly! Cost about $6. Or just get on Creative Commons for a list of free legal music sources
  • If you want a a full editing suite at about $12 on ipad, try Pinnacle (formally known as Avid Studio)

 

Little tips

  • Make a storyboard in advance to think about what you want to show and say
  • Use the rule of thirds for set-up of your picture frames
  • Avoid having light coming through windows onto your subject’s face
  • You can use MS PPT slides to make logo images or backgrounds or transition slides
  • Render your video in the highest possible quality
  • Keep your videos short … 30 to 90 seconds
  • Take the time to add some title or closing text

 

See also my tips from Matt Pierce at ASTD2013

Thanks for reading!