This New Year join a relationship gym!

By Kathy Wilcox

Happy New Year! Having completed the official end-of-year season of overeating, we’re now launching into the season of resolutions. Out with the eggnog! In with the treadmill! It’s time to join the gym. We may or may not stick with our resolution to exercise but if we want to lose pounds, we know how.

For many, however, the holidays are equally famous as the season of stress. If you’re lucky, you enjoy hours at the dining room table with parents, siblings and children. If you’re like many, though, proximity to family may simply remind you of incompatible opinions, unresolved disagreements or ancient wounds. As the holidays wind down you may be wishing for more harmony, consideration, understanding or acceptance within your family. But what can you do? Even if we resolve to “do better” next year, we don’t always know how. I have a suggestion. But first, a quick story.

At Thanksgiving dinner Bill sat beside Alice, his favorite granddaughter. Animatedly Alice described a business she was launching. Immediately Bill was reminded of a friend’s failed attempt to start a similar company. Eager to support his granddaughter, he started giving her advice. Abruptly Alice stood up, ready to leave the table. Bill took a breath. “I guess you’re not looking for advice right now, are you?” Startled, Alice nodded, and Bill made another guess. “Were you just trying to show me how excited you are about the next adventure in your life?” Alice smiled and sat down. “Exactly!” she said, “I knew you’d understand!”

How did Bill recover his equilibrium and connect with Alice so quickly? For a year he’d been practicing a form of emotional movement that allowed him to progress away from his own pain and toward an empathetic guess about someone else. This practice is called Nonviolent Communication® or NVC. Bill had been attending a “relationship gym”: a weekly group at which he practiced active compassion for himself and others.

NVC is the brainchild of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, a psychotherapist who earned his PhD under Carl Rogers, widely considered the father of humanistic psychology. Rosenberg developed NVC as a means of cultivating compassion, for oneself and others, through a set of techniques designed for 20th-century people. His organization, the Center for Nonviolent Communication, has certified hundreds of trainers around the world. The Center’s website ( describes NVC as follows:

Nonviolent Communication contains nothing new. It is based on historical principles of nonviolence —the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart. NVC can be seen as both a spiritual practice… and a concrete set of skills which help us create life-serving families and communities. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.

If your New Year’s resolutions include more effective communication with your family members – or anyone, including yourself – come to the “relationship gym” being offered next month at the Life Path Center. Eliane Geren, a trainer certified by the Center for Nonviolent Communication, will offer a workshop, “Dealing With Difficult People — Including Yourself” from February 22-24. The Friday Introduction is free of charge. For details or to register, contact Donna Haughney at 415 109 0906 or email

Kathy Wilcox, professional writer and NVC practitioner.


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