Nonviolent Communication: Nurturing Emotional Balance & Empathy
Workshops in Nonviolent Communication help teachers and administrators 'give from the heart', using compassion and empathy in the classroom.
About Your Organization
United Way of San Luis Obispo County
United States, CA, San Luis Obispo
Country where this project is creating social impact
United States, CA, San Luis Obispo
Is your organization a
Non‐profit / NGO / Citizen sector organization
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
More than 5 years
The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..
Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for 1‐5 years
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
As young children, most of us are taught to respond to extrinsic rewards, and to feel fear, shame or guilt when we are told we are wrong and have been punished. After growing up in a culture that tends to suppress emotions, it is no wonder that we are challenged to identify how we feel or what we need at any given moment; rather than reacting towards ourselves and others with compassion, habitual patterns dictate that we are more likely to respond to judgment and criticism by defending, withdrawing or attacking. Nonviolent Communication teaches us to respond with empathy instead, by focusing on universal needs we all share.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
Nonviolent Communication, which leads us to give from the heart, is based on four simple components: observations, feelings, needs and requests. We begin using Nonviolent Communication by first making only observations that could be captured on video, ceasing to evaluate or judge others; by refraining from evaluating, others are less likely to be defensive or submit to us out of fear or guilt. After making an observation, when we are able to identify how we feel in that situation, we can connect more easily with others. Having identified our feelings, we take responsibility for them by identifying our needs that are not being met. Honestly expressing our needs to others gives us a better chance of getting them met, resulting in a more positive, satisfying outcome. Finally, we make clear, doable and present-moment requests of others to let them know how they may enrich our lives.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Instructing teachers and administrators to use Nonviolent Communication at school helps staff interact more constructively with parents and students, and models a more compassionate, empathic way for students to interact with each other. Although learning Nonviolent Communication is like learning a new language—it takes practice and patience—in only 6 weeks of instruction teachers and administrators who begin using these new skills are already able to reap the rewards. Parents and students alike receive more empathy, and are able to start giving more empathy to others. Participants first learn to use the basic framework of Nonviolent Communication; for example, “When I see you talk to the student sitting next to you during independent reading, I feel frustrated because I value a productive learning environment where all students can focus on their work without distractions; would you be willing to read to yourself for the next 30 minutes, and then talk to your friend during recess?” This framework avoids punishing the talkative student (risking rebellion or compliance out of fear), while maintaining the learning environment. The teacher could also continue the dialogue, empathizing and asking the student what it is he or she needs: “It seems like you are having a hard time concentrating; are you feeling bored with today’s lesson?” “Would you like it better to work in small groups, so you can interact more with your classmates?” Using Nonviolent Communication with students gives them tools to interact with others peacefully, finding solutions that benefit all those involved.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
Nonviolent Communication is also being taught in our community by other certified trainers, however only our focus is specifically on teachers and school staff. The need for Nonviolent Communication among all community members is greater than the current capacity to offer instruction, so we hope increased visibility of our work, and that of other trainers, will only help attract more individuals to these resources.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
For relationships grounded in mutual respect and compassion, learn Nonviolent Communication to empathize and give from the heart.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Nonviolent Communication helps us be mindful of concepts we already know: listening, not judging, and identifying feelings and needs.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
To date, 23 parents, teachers, school administrators and other professionals who work with youth have participated in the introductory Nonviolent Communication course. From surveys, we know that after completing the course they recognize the value of: honestly expressing needs and feelings; empathizing with others’ needs and feelings; and making clear, doable, present-moment requests. Participants also indicated they intended to continue practicing the components of Nonviolent Communication. Anecdotally, participants have shared with us their celebrations when trying to use Nonviolent Communication in the classroom, such as an example where students who had teased each other decided, after some empathy from the teacher, to write apology letters for their behavior.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
Continuing with our current model, in three years we hope to reach 70 additional participants. Although this would not account for all the teachers in our county, by teaching those who work with youth we will expose many more students to the principles of Nonviolent Communication. If 50 of those participants teach classes with 25 students each, we have the potential to reach more than 1,200 students; our impact could be even greater if some of these students began using Nonviolent Communication at home, where their parents or siblings would be exposed.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
We recognize that teachers and school administrators may not feel they have time to participate in a 6 week class; to show them the benefits of Nonviolent Communication, we will gather testimony from past participants that demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of the tools they will learn. If a class is not full, it can be opened up to a broader audience including parents and other community members who work with youth.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
In six months, we will have planned, advertised and completed the next Nonviolent Communication course.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Identify class dates and location.
Notify schools and districts of the class.
Collect evaluative surveys from participants after the class is completed.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
In 12 months, we will have planned, advertised and completed two Nonviolent Communication courses.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Identify class dates and locations.
Notify schools and districts of the classes.
Collect evaluative surveys from participants after the classes are completed.
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
The foundation was laid by United Way’s efforts to advance the common good through its focus on education, income and health. Nearly everyone is willing to Live United on behalf of this broad focus. It is when we find ourselves advocating for strategies to implement some aspect of this focus, that all too often we end up descending into some form of paralyzing polarization or compromise our way into ineffectiveness.
It was within this context that Nonviolent Communication came to mind when the San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Department launched our community plan to implement Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) activities as part of California’s Mental Health Services Act. The goal of the PEI programming was to build the capacity of the community to increase resiliency by decreasing risk factors and increasing the protective factors which promote positive mental health, such as empathy, and reduce the negative impact of mental illness.
Tell us about your partnerships
United Way has forged partnerships with local Nonviolent Communication trainers and practitioners who serve as both collaborators and supporters. Our relationships with local schools and districts have been strengthened, and Nonviolent Communication is another service we are recognized for helping to share with the community. Nonviolent Communication is supported by the Center for Nonviolent Communication based in Albuquerque, NM; with nearly 300 certified trainers throughout the world, Nonviolent Communication is already being used in diverse cultures and settings.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
United Way executive and program staff are and will continue to be responsible for much of the planning behind the program. Rick London, CEO, has practiced Nonviolent Communication for many years, and continues to passionately share it with others; Kara Edwall, Community Impact Coordinator, is a more recent student, but looks forward to deepening her practice. Bob Metz, Center for Nonviolent Communication Certified Trainer, has been teaching for ten years to a broad range of students including parents, teachers, couples, professionals, counselors and inmates.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
While the program has been successful with the resources we currently have, we would welcome any additional support that would allow the program to improve and grow. Collaboration is a hallmark of many United Ways across the country, including ours, and we are always willing to offer our services if we can provide resources or support to others who are improving their communities.
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