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Thinking Directions



How to Have Rational Conversations on Emotionally-Charged Topics

A 4-Day Communication Intensive
for People Who Wish Everyone Were Rational
 

In this 4-day interactive intensive, you will learn:

This methodology works whether you're discussing your political ideas or your team's project, an ethical question or a goof-up, how you use your free will or how you spend your free time. Please come with real-life communication issues to think about and use during exercises.

Day 1: Foundations

Jean Moroney, presenter. Day 1 lays the foundation for the course. This will be a working session with individual exercises. You will learn:

Days 2 & 3: Methodology

Jeff Brown, Certified CNVC* Trainer, presenter. These two days are an interactive, experiential workshop for learning the skills using role-plays and other interactive methods. You will learn:

Day 4: Integration

Jean Moroney, facilitator. Day 4 is devoted to consolidating what you learned and discussing philosophical issues. We will:

This 4-day seminar reinforces a particular worldview, holding the following ideas to be true:

*CNVC is the Center for Nonviolent Communication, the organization Marshall Rosenberg formed to teach and spread his communication methods. This workshop is an adaptation of his methods, as reinterpreted from the perspective of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, specifically, as an application of rational egoism.

Communication Intensive

Read all about it:

Testimonials from Past Participants

Highly recommended! Problems become more tractable when using the OFNR method; they seemed much easier to solve. I was surprised that guessing at someone’s feelings or values and then asking them if my guess was correct can really help to connect, even when the guess is wrong.
--Susan Harbison, Geneticist, Rockville, MD

This intensive gives you very focused, specific strategies both for handling real-time difficult conversations, and for preparing for conversations. I was able to integrate it with negotiation strategies I already knew. Naming the rational values made for a more positive interaction.
--Paula Hall, Lawyer, Newton Center, MA

I got so much out of the communication intensive and the followups. For example, getting a chance to roleplay a person I was having trouble with was eye-opening. Putting myself in "his shoes," and framing that situation focusing on values within the drill made the situation much more palatable for me. But the biggest benefit I got was the method of "self-empathy" or "self-connection." It is really a pleasure to use the process to stay emotionally grounded so that I am now able to handle situations that used to be difficult for me.
--Dave Bones, Music Teacher, Portland, Oregon

It's great to know there is a technology for rational collaboration between people.
--Don Thompson, Director of Product Development, NJ

The communication intensive offered a lot more than just communication skills. The fundamental skill I developed was how to identify and appreciate my deepest values. The values focus makes everything clearer--it's easier to make objective decisions and easier to resolve conflicts, whether external or internal. The free trial in the Thinking Lab really helped me integrate this. 
--Rachel Knapp, Tustin, California 

It's hard to tell your wife and kids that you'll be away for four days for a training, but the communication intensive was worth it. I know they benefit from what I learned there. 9 of 9 attendees agreed that we needed all four days.
--Kevin McAllister, Engineer, Warminster, PA

The communication intensive has most fundamentally helped me to clarify the role of my values as the engine of my life. It also provided skills to communicate and build relationships based on shared "deep rational values." This approach brings out the best in oneself and the people in one's life. The result for me is living in a "benevolent universe" much of the time, even while facing the challenges of today's culture.

Specifically, I learned to be more focused on values--first my own, then other people's; more purposeful in conversations, more reasonable and respectful in expectations. This makes listening much more interesting, and as a result I actually experience far fewer "challenging conversations," less conflict, more mutual understanding, cooperation, and even appreciation.

Jean's clarification based on Objectivist principles adds a breadth and depth to the NVC skills and provides not just the "how," but the "why" for these wonderfully effective skills. These skills are especially valuable to anyone who wants to spread Objectivist ideas in our culture.

The intensive was so valuable that I took it a second time.

I enthusiastically recommend this intensive to anyone who wants to more clearly enjoy their life and relationships, both personal and professional, and to increase their effectiveness in communicating their values in a manner that people can genuinely listen to and understand.
--Catherine Dickerson, Certified Parent Effectiveness Training Instructor, Solana Beach, California

Interested?

The next 4-day intensive is scheduled for Orange County, California August 27-30.

If you're at all interested, or you would like to discuss whether this intensive is a good fit for you, let's talk. Email me at: jm@thinkingdirections.com

What is the method?

I, Jean Moroney, call it "Rationally Connected Conversations" (RCC). It is an adaptation of Marshall Rosenberg's Observation-Feeling-Need-Request (OFNR) process, commonly referred to as "Nonviolent Communication." I have over 100 hours of OFNR training, which I have found very valuable. The mechanics of the process are identical to Rosenberg's original OFNR method, and two of the days are taught by a trainer certified by the organization Rosenberg founded.

I see this as a method for keeping a conversation on track. A tricky conversation may go fine--for a while. But often, one of you becomes triggered emotionally. Whether the emotion is anger or fear or guilt, it severs the warm connection between you. Often, one person's defensiveness triggers another.

This emotional disconnect makes it hard to have a meeting of the minds. You still want to make a mutually-agreeable decision, or solve a shared problem, or get information across to the other person, but the emotions get in the way.

What you need is a way to break out of the emotional spiral. You need a unilateral action that puts the conversation back on friendly, productive footing. You need a way to continue the conversation on a rational foundation.

That's what Marshall Rosenberg's OFNR method does. When you use the method, you will remain emotionally grounded, even if you're given extreme provocation. You will be able to defuse another person's defensiveness quickly, and effectively. And you will be able to raise and discuss emotionally-charged issues without triggering defensiveness in you or the other person.

So what is different about RCC? The explanation and justification of the method. My professional mission is to help people who want to be rational to learn all of the mental skills they need so that they can live happily and productively, for themselves and with other people. Everything I teach helps individuals be more self-aware, so they can make choices that are rational--rationally selfish.

I spent considerable effort integrating Rosenberg's ideas with my worldview, Objectivism. I found important agreement with Rosenberg on issues such as a commitment to reason-emotion harmony, integrity, honesty, respect for individual sovereignty, and a deep focus on values. However, his explanations didn't meet my needs for logic, integration, and understanding. And although I saw that his methods were implicitly rational, the presentation seems in places to reject logic and rationality.

I have worked through these apparent contradictions, in order to develop a consistent way to explain the method in terms of objectivity, "deep rational values" and the desire to reach rational agreement with another person. From having explained my approach to hundreds of people, I have seen that my conceptual organization makes it easier for logical, "left-brain" thinkers to understand and appply this would-be emotional, "touchy-feely" material. The conceptual understanding helps people learn the method faster, and apply it more effectively.

For some time, I've thought about how best to bring this life-promoting practice to others like me who want a rational, logical explanation. I have developed a 4-day intensive for this purpose, with opening and closing days with me, and the two inbetween days with a certified NVC trainer. The first day gives the conceptual framework for the whole course, and deals with the internal understanding of the issues. The 2nd and 3rd days are an immersion in Rosenberg's methods. This immersion includes real-time practice, in which you test drive the method in role-plays. The particular role-play method ("NVC Dance Floors") is incredibly helpful for automatizing the concepts and applying the process in real life. The final day is devoted to debriefing, practice, and action planning.

My colleague in putting this together is Jeff Brown, a certified NVC instructor who I think is ideal for a "left-brain" audience. He is a master of the technique, embodies the principles emotionally, and explains the steps logically and clearly.

This is a deep dive, for serious thinkers, who want to transform their ability to discuss difficult issues. It's not cheap--the 4-day program is $1197.

The next 4-day intensive is scheduled for Orange County, California August 27-30.

If you're at all interested, or you would like to discuss whether this intensive is a good fit for you, let's talk. Email me at: jm@thinkingdirections.com

Logistical Details for the Communication Intensives

Schedule

Day 1 12:00 noon - 6:00 p.m.*
Day 2 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. [Note: Time will be 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. for Irvine intensive in Nov. 2017.]
Day 3 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. [Note: Time will be 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. for Irvine intensive in Nov. 2017.]
Day 4 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

 

What you get

All of this is only $1197 per person

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the intensive four days?

It's four days so you can use the RCC process in real-life conversations after the class. To achieve this, you need time to understand, time to practice, and time to integrate after the practice. Day 1 is for understanding the methodology and clarifying one's own selfish reasons for learning the skill. This is a crucial prerequisite for getting the most out of two days of immersion in the practical mechanics. Two days of training using your own real issues is the minimum needed to gain confidence in the skill. Finally, participants need a fourth day to cement the lessons, address philosophic questions, and address any problems they foresee using the method. All but one of the people who attended the earlier versions of this workshop agreed they needed all four days.

Why are there two presenters?

I provide the Objectivist perspective and integration; Jeff Brown provides the expertise in teaching the real-time practical mechanics (Rosenberg's OFNR method). I chose Jeff Brown because his approach to teaching OFNR best fits with "left-brain" people.

Are there less expensive, less time-consuming courses on Rosenberg's methods?

Yes, of course. There are many certified trainers around the world. There are likely short and long courses being offered in a city near you. You can find out at The Center for Non-Violent Communication. Plus, I recommend some specific resources in the table below.

Moreover, if you are taken aback by the idea of "rational selfishness" another source of training might be better for you.

 

Recommended Reading on NVC

Given the caveats I mentioned above, here are the three best books I've read on NVC:

Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. This is the foundational book on the subject.

Urban Empathy by Dian Killian. This is illustrated--like a graphic novel, but non-fiction--and very effectively concretizes how NVC is used in real life.

Connecting Across Differences by Jane Marantz Connor and Dian Killian. This book is quite readable, and discusses the conceptual distinctions well.

I also recommend the 3-hour introductory video with Marshall Rosenberg.

If you do seek out another source of training, I have a few suggestions for you:

First, read Rosenberg's book beforehand so you are familiar with the concepts. Trainers vary a lot in how thoroughly they cover the basic concepts.

Second, and most importantly, I recommend you take classes only with certified NVC trainers. I have learned a tremendous amount from just watching certified trainers. Every certified trainer I've met (approximately 10) has had an amazing grasp of the process. Although the certified trainers varied in their teaching styles and effectiveness, the least skilled was good. I learned from every one of them. (The best are amazing.) In contrast, I've taken a few classes from people who weren't certified, and frankly, they were not a good use of my time. (This is why I bring in a certified trainer to this intensive.)

Third, I do not recommend online classes on NVC. I have tested out several, and so far, I have not found any that work. You need the in-person connection.

Finally, set your expectations appropriately. Expect to do considerable philosophic detection by yourself. If you are a pro-capitalist, expect to be the only pro-capitalist in the room. Expect a lot of strong emotions in the room. Expect interactive learning, with very little lecture.

I am setting expectations, not discouraging you. I have found NVC training to be extremely valuable.

Interested?

The next 4-day intensive is scheduled for Orange County, California August 27-30.

If you're at all interested, or you would like to discuss whether this intensive is a good fit for you, let's talk. Email me at: jm@thinkingdirections.com

About Jean Moroney

Jean Moroney

Jean Moroney helps ambitious people achieve challenging goals. She teaches them how to think on their feet, take action, and cross the finish line. Ms. Moroney has an MS in Psychology (CMU, 1994), a BS & MS in Electrical Engineering (MIT, 1985 & 1986), and graduate training in Philosophy from the Ayn Rand Institute. She has 10 years' experience in industry as an engineer and program manager. Her corporate clients include Microsoft, Amazon.com, BB&T, Canadian Bank Note, and Rogers Communications. She has taught her methods all over North America.


About Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown, M.A. (Columbus, OH), has been a Certified Trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication since 2005, and has led hundreds of trainings in 30 U.S. states and 9 countries including South Korea, Japan, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Germany, Romania and the U.K.

People who experience Jeff's training, coaching, and group facilitation describe him as having a combination of authenticity, vulnerability and humor that engages audiences of all kinds.

Jeff uses approaches from developmental psychology to design and retrofit existing systems, organizations and social structures so that people of all value systems have meaningful expressions of what matters to them while respecting -- and not interfering with -- people with other values.

Jeff served as the Executive Director from 2009-2015 for the Compassionate Communication Center of Ohio, a nonprofit organization based in Columbus, Ohio. He has a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica and facilitates difficult conversations with people in conflict using mediation, victim-offender reconciliation and Restorative Circles.

Jeff Brown is an able instructor and rational thinker. Having profited from 2 days of his NVC training, I warmly recommend his work.
--Harry Binswanger, Author of How We Know


FAQ For Objectivists

On the surface, Objectivism and NVC have very little in common. Why are you integrating them? Ayn Rand says, "Judge and be prepared to be judged." Marshall Rosenberg says, "One kind of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness on the part of people who don't act in harmony with our values." Ayn Rand talks about the role of the mind. Marshall Rosenberg talks about giving from the heart.

That said, I've found that Rosenberg is in agreement with Objectivism on four key points:

Rosenberg's method clarifies values in social relationships. It is a means to understanding how to judge others justly and cooperate effectively.

In addition, Rosenberg's discussion of these issues has informed my own work on goal-setting and productivity. In particular, learning his method has helped me to maintain a "motivation by love" mindset--a creative mindset (focused on achieving values)--as opposed to a "motivation by fear" mindset (focused on avoiding harm).

Isn't "Nonviolent Communication" a package deal? "Nonviolent communication" is the name of Rosenberg's book, and the most common name for his method. That name will be a turnoff to many Objectivists, because it seems to imply the issue is tone and manner, not content. That is misleading. I've heard that the "Nonviolent Communication" name was chosen just for association with Gandhi, not for any precise meaning, and that Rosenberg was not satisfied with it. Indeed, most certified NVC trainers rename the method, so I'm comfortable renaming my variation "Rationally Connected Conversations."

The alternate name is "Compassionate Communication." This, also, will raise concerns with Objectivists, because it implies an altruistic perspective on relationships. I explain the method as a means of being rationally selfish and just--hence, I have chosen a name with more accurate connotations.

What did you actually learn from Rosenberg?

Rosenberg is conceptual. He has reconceived important value issues.

First, he developed key conceptual distinctions. The four main distinctions are: observation vs. inference, feeling vs. interpretation, value vs. strategy, and request vs. demand. Nowhere outside of Objectivism have I seen such emphasis on differentiating fundamental concepts. The clear conceptualization radically improved my understanding of how to introspect.

Second, Rosenberg has a new concept, he calls universal needs. (I call them deep rational values.) This is a profoundly important idea, which illuminated all the work I had previously done on productivity and goal-setting. Identifying and focusing on the top rational value at stake in a complex situation simplifies and clarifies everything.

How does this relate to other communication books recommended by Objectivists?

There are other popular communication methods for dealing with emotionally-charged situations. The best known to Objectivists are Thomas Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training and Leader Effectiveness Training, and Haim Ginott's methods, which were popularized in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk and other books by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I have long recommended all of these.

These competing methods resemble Rosenberg's method in important respects. (All three thinkers came out of the Carl Rogers tradition.) Their books have certain advantages. Gordon is particularly good at giving rational, egoistic explanations for the methods. Faber and Mazlish are particularly good at showing real-life practical applications.

But none of the other methods emphasize conceptual distinctions. And none of them include the concept of deep rational values. That is unique to Rosenberg's method.

Why isn't Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication book on many Objectivist reading lists?

Unfortunately, despite all its virtues, NVC is justified by Rosenberg using altruistic, non-judgmental, pacifist principles. As an Objectivist, if you read Rosenberg's book, your hair will occasionally stand on end. Getting the full value from the book takes significant philosophical detection, and some "double-entry bookkeeping."

This is why I developed a course on NVC to appeal to Objectivists. I have put hundreds of hours into learning the process, validating it on the basis of rational egoism, and renaming or reframing certain elements to integrate them better with Objectivist principles. You can take advantage of this intellectual division of labor by learning from me.

Why is this course particularly helpful for Objectivists?

Like everyone, we need those skills to nurture our personal relationships. As Objectivists, we have another reason to develop them. We disagree about fundamental issues with almost everybody we run into. A conversation on any topic can become emotionally charged if we choose to raise deeper philosophic issues. We need these skills so that we can raise the deep issues, when it's appropriate, confident that we can handle the emotional storm that might ensue--without losing either our friendship or our integrity.

Of the many workshops I have attended, this one was unique. In part this was because the other participants were fellow Objectivists with whom I enjoyed interacting. They created a welcoming environment in which to learn the skills. The uniqueness was also due to the very effective follow-up calls with the group during the three months after the event. These six calls provided more practice, more explanation, and more opportunity for questions, which allowed us to integrate the ideas. And they ensured that the excitement and motivation to change, which is often experienced at the end of an intensive workshop, did not quickly dissipate. I continue to benefit from an increased daily focus on identifying objective values, which I learned in the workshop.
--Jeri Eagan, Former COO, Ayn Rand Institute

The objective approach to values in this intensive enables both deep self-discovery and effective connection with people out in the real world--especially those who don't know the same things you know. The practice of Rosenberg's OFNR method helps you connect in difficult circumstances (and give yourself compassion when you forget). I particularly recommend this intensive to Objectivists who want to have more productive political conversations now that Trump is shaking things up.
--Harry Mullin, CIO, Alkemists Labs, Orange County, California

This is a great workshop for learning to initiate and handle difficult conversations, whether at work or on the personal level. I had several personal insights about what I do that interferes with successful conversations. I appreciated how effectively Jean addressed sticky questions and objections about how to integrate NVC with Objectivism.
--Allison Kunze, Montessori Teacher (retired), Grand Island, NY

Interested?

The next 4-day intensive is scheduled for Orange County, California August 27-30.

If you're at all interested, or you would like to discuss whether this intensive is a good fit for you, let's talk. Email me at: jm@thinkingdirections.com

 

 

 

 

Jean Moroney

Interested?

The next 4-day intensive is scheduled for Orange County, California August 27-30.

If you're at all interested, or you would like to discuss whether this intensive is a good fit for you, let's talk. Email me at: jm@thinkingdirections.com

Questions?
Email me.
    --Jean Moroney