An Update: New Goals & Resolutions

As my most involved romantic relationship to date came to an end two months ago, I must admit, it left me feeling lost. That’s not something most personal growth bloggers and gurus would like to admit, but I’m trying to honor my previous resolution of embracing vulnerability.

However, what I began to find in my last relationship was myself hitting some of the limits of embracing vulnerability. I knew this would happen at some point, and it was more painful and uncomfortable than I would have liked. Such is life.

Of course, the entire reason we don’t always embrace vulnerability is that we’re vulnerable. Life itself is never guaranteed. We are mortal. We have weaknesses. Our bodies, and even our minds, can fall apart – whether it be by a car crash, schizophrenia, dementia, or something less defined, less understood. We have limits, we have boundaries, as physical beings. With physical things, such as eating food and exercise and physical pain, the importance of knowing our limits is more clear than with the mental, emotional, and spiritual realms. But those limits are still there. The purpose of “embracing vulnerability” is to lean into our limits, or where we feel (fear) those limits are, to discover our boundaries and sometimes push them. To push ourselves. But the limits don’t go away completely and there are even limits to how far we can push our limits.

I am not a very assertive person in general. And as such, when I try to become assertive I sometimes go overboard or get angry because I don’t like feeling like I have to be assertive to get my point across. This is something I am slowly working on. But it has led to problems in relationships whereby I’m not good at setting firm boundaries. Or when I do finally get firm about it, I might word it too strongly and it could be heard as an ultimatum. Really it is just that I am wanting the other person to help me in setting my boundaries more firmly because I feel that I cannot do it. Yet in some cases, my partner did not want to help me set those boundaries or perhaps did not want to see that I had those boundaries.

I also don’t like saying no to relationships themselves – I don’t like ending things. At all. I know that I need to work on this, and frankly, I’m not really sure how, other than to get into a new relationship and work on it with that person.

But what I did take away from this last relationship is that is very difficult to lean into that vulnerability when I am unable to say no and unable to set firm boundaries. I don’t know when I will be able to really work on this in an intimate context, beyond some relatively minor situations, so I’m not going to set a resolution exactly. But I do have a new goal of really exploring this topic, of boundary setting, when I have a chance. Probably after I finish school, I’ll go to some personal growth or nonviolent communication events and explore it. Perhaps I will explore it with my current therapist. I think this is a big topic, for me at least – because it’s so challenging. For example, I will have to figure out to do with my fear of being alone, which is one of the main reasons I have such a hard time saying no and letting go. That’s a major thing in itself.

And on that note, I made a resolution some time last week or so to try to be as social as possible for the rest of this summer, until my next and final school term starts. I’m an introvert, and I tend to spend a lot more time at my computer than with friends in person, unless I’m in a relationship. I do have a major social hobby, dancing, but my other hobbies have been more introverted: studying languages and reading books. I also seem to only be compatible in relationships with extroverts, so my last relationship (which was intense and not entirely committed), I became very anxious with regard to the fact that my partner always found time to spend time with others, while I didn’t. While dating me she found people to kiss in random places without even (ostensibly) trying, while I never do. We were both busy with school, and she would try to guilt-trip me for distracting her from studying and homework, but then would still somehow always have time to go out without me, meet new people, and hang out with close friends. Meanwhile she was my closest friend by far.

So in order to overcome the loneliness, and alone-ness, I have become more extroverted in a way. For now. So far, it’s working out well. I am a very social introvert: very selective usually with how I spend my time and with whom, but constantly craving better and deeper connections. I’m also a relationship-oriented leader. And recently my work schedule has made it easier to socialize. So I’ve surprised myself with how well it has gone so far, and how much I still feel like going out. The loneliness has gone down a lot since I made this resolution. I have met a lot of new people, caught up with some friends, and made a couple of significant new friends.

I’ve even turned one of my introverted hobbies into a more social one – well, to be clear, it is inherently a social thing for me on some level, which is why it’s been one of my hobbies since I was 13. That’s the languages. After completing the Italian course on Duolingo, I got bored of the website. Last week I caught up with my French neighbor, chatting with him in French for an hour. Then on Friday at a discussion group I met someone who speaks French and who I felt a connection with. This Tuesday we went to a Francophone meetup together, and then I went to another Francophone meetup the next day.

I’ve also been dancing a lot, both club dancing and partner dancing. I’ve been able to attend a few queer women’s events. Had a coffee date and got a friend to give me a tango lesson last week. Got up the nerve to start dancing with someone I thought was cute at a dance over the weekend, she came out dancing with me another night, and I got a good kiss or two out of it.

I’ve also asked friends to invite me to more things, which has been helpful. I have scoured for interesting events. And I’ve made plans for a vacation to New Orleans next month to attend a leadership summit.

I’m afraid of losing steam with all of this because I’m a nester, and it would tempting to just spend more time with this new woman I just met, but she’s not my future wife, and I feel like now is not the time to nest. Part of why I have so much energy to go out and be social right now is because I’m afraid I will be way too busy for it when the cold weather rolls around, and I may feel more like staying home because of the weather then, too. So maybe I’ll nest in the winter, but not now. I can can continue hanging out with my new friends, but I need to not rest of my social laurels, so to speak. I already did that tonight, although it was partly because it was raining. Ended up hanging out with her after work instead of going to an open mic, when I could have done both. Right now, I want to meet lots of new people and unless I find someone to fall in love with, I don’t want to give that up until summer’s up.

If I had more money, I’d do even more things. That’s another constraint, beyond time. I’d take a longer vacation if I could. I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got. It’s already given me a lot more confidence.

So in summary, I have a new goal of exploring boundary setting, and a short-term resolution of maximizing my social potential to help get me through the rest of school.

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A Year of Vulnerability

Happy Chinese New Year! Today marks the end of the Sheep Year and beginning of the Year of the Monkey. A year ago my new year’s resolution was to embrace vulnerability. And what a year it was – by far my most successful new year’s resolution ever.

Here are some highlights from the past year:

  1. I organized/facilitated a workshop on Nonviolent Communication and empathic conversations for my birthday, among friends. For me, just the act of facilitating a workshop/discussion for 9 people required embracing vulnerability. Heck, even to organize anything more than a hangout with a couple friends requires vulnerability because I normally don’t celebrate myself or trust that a crowd would show up.

    On top of it, the subject matter touched on this topic. Apart from one rough spot, the workshop went beautifully and as well as I dreamed! As a result, I reconnected with old friends and really became friends with my new favorite dancer, close friends in fact. I don’t feel that I have a lot of close friends, and when I do they are mostly men. This time it was a woman I was mutually attracted to, so that was rewarding on multiple levels.

  2. I was able to express my anxiety toward a woman I was dating very casually, which is something I have struggled with enormously in the past. I have tended to keep it inside, wanting to appear strong and confident and independent when in reality I was dying inside of anxiety. Even if it means they will realize I am not that strong and not that confident and that they’ll be less attracted to me, it’s still worth it to express my authentic self. It helps me to move on and, in fact, to become stronger and more independent. Because otherwise, I am just delaying the inevitable.

    I get so in my head wanting to be perceived a certain way, being afraid of being perceived a certain way, that I lose track of reality. By laying it all out there, I get feedback from the world, from another person, which grounds me because at that point it usually becomes undeniable. So yes, I was able to let go much more quickly than in the past, which was so liberating and led me on to new dating experiences.

  3. I sought out books that fit within my theme of embracing vulnerability. One of them is called “Ask For It,” a guide to asking for things for women. It argues that women struggle much more with asking for what they want and need than men do. This book changed my life.

    It helped me begin asking women for their phone numbers and going on dates again without having to go to a particular place to look for these women. I ended up going on dates with 3 women over the summer, which for me was a lot considering that I hadn’t met them any particular place. In addition, I became more assertive in asking for things from my coworkers at work. This has made things run much more smoothly.

    Then, I finally stopped putting off asking for help in figuring out whether I should start massage therapy school (given my past hand/wrist injuries). Which I am now on my break from, after completing my first 5-month segment! This has been the best decision of my life.

  4. I asked for financial support to attend a 4-day women’s Nonviolent Communication retreat back in August and ended up receiving over half the price of the event off! That was a $400 discount. I discovered that, at the age of 26, I was considered a “youth” and that the organizer therefore really wanted to support me in going. I ended up being the youngest attendee and having one of the best experiences of my life. It was totally rejuvenating, and I felt deeply connected to more people at once than ever before in my life. I was able to practice vulnerability throughout that retreat.
  5. My social life began thriving by the end of last summer. Massage therapy school made it easier to find time for friends because I’m normally terrible about asking friends to hang out. So now I could just ask them to come for a massage, which led to more hanging out. It also helped me connect with people in a different way.

    All I was missing was a dating life, come September. Well, by the end of September I had a budding friendship with someone I’d eventually end up dating. That was the first time I’d ever really done the “friends first” thing, and she also ended up being the first person I ever explicitly asked, “Can I kiss you?” It turns out this person is an amazing listener, an amazing friend, and an amazing communicator. In spite of us having many incompatibilities, we have now been seeing each other for almost three months thanks to the practice of embracing vulnerability and stellar communication skills. It has been my most intense dating experiences so far, and certainly one of the most rewarding. She fit perfectly into my year’s theme.

So it’s been without a doubt the happiest and most amazing year of my life so far. Unfortunately, the end of Sheep Year has been a bit rough for me due to dealing with the aforementioned incompatibilities and not having as much time for other friends, not to mention some health issues. I think the ending of my theme of vulnerability was perfect timing, actually, because in some ways I think I have already gotten so deep with this person that I’ve begun to run into the limits of embracing vulnerability, with her. When you have some fundamental incompatibilities with someone, being vulnerable often just brings out the painful truth and forces you to deal with it. And frankly, I’m not sure how much I’m ready to deal with right now because neither of us wants to let each other go. “It’s complicated.”

That being said, it definitely won’t be the end of my focus on embracing vulnerability – it’s just that now seems like a good time to turn the page and focus a little more on other things. My 2016 New Year’s Resolution is to focus on self-care, mainly in the physical sense. I need to take care of my body so it’ll be in good shape for life and the career I’ve chosen.

So what’s next? It’s the Year of the Monkey! Monkeys are said to be “curious, creative, intelligent, and even a little mischievous.” I half-jokingly told my lover that my resolution would be to be all of those things… in bed. I’m not sure if that warrants an entire new year’s resolution, but those are definitely attractive goals, for me. 🙂


What’s your Chinese New Year’s Resolution?

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(All-or-)Nothing Ever Happens

Me in the club: “Nothing’s going to happen.”
Friend: “Nothing ever happens.”
Me: “I know!” (cracking up)
5 minutes later I approach two women leaning against the opposite wall, chatting. Spend rest of night dancing intimately with them. I really like both of them, and that was some really hot dancing. It was a good night.
Me to friend on Facebook the next day: “Something happened after you left, and yet nothing happened!”

Hadn’t been to a club in 7 months. I’ve learned to expect very little from my experience there, and to go infrequently, and it’s made the experience a lot better.

This is also my philosophy of dating now. I’ve figured out that if I go into a date thinking, “Nothing’s going to happen,” or “I’m going to be anxious and LET ME BE ANXIOUS BECAUSE THAT’S TOTALLY OKAY” or “What can I get out of this besides anything sexual or erotic?” then I am more likely to feel satisfied with the result than if I think “I must be self-confident” or focus on erotic expectations. I got mad at this one guy who told me to “grow some balls” and be confident about my date with one woman. I was like, no, sir, I have already spent too much time on the “fake it till you make it” approach. Because sometimes that just leaves me feeling even more anxious. I’m focusing on authenticity and vulnerability and empathy now, and letting the confidence flow naturally from there.

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NVC Bazaar Reflection / Review

Yesterday I went to a daylong conference called “Nonviolent Communication Bazaar: A Day of Learning and Connection Around Communication and Conflict Resolution.” It was at a local university. I had a bit of a mixed experience and want to share my reflection here.

Overview: Overall, I had a good experience, but was a little disappointed. I had very high expectations going in, and I had to leave before the final session (there were only three, but they were each a solid 135 minutes). I think it’s easier to be disappointed with these smaller conferences, since one disappointing session is a bigger deal than at a 3-to-4-day conference. I also think that since it’s new, there’s a lot of room to grow. I really hope it grows.

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Exercise: Shifting Toward Empathy

I found this exercise through the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication, created by the organization’s founder Thom Bond. The purpose of this exercise is to get us into the habit of shifting to a mental place of empathy when we’re in a conflict.

The exercise page is not very well-designed, but the exercise is fairly simple. I just did this exercise for the first time and will share my results.

Here’s my summary of how to do it (since that page is a bit hard to read):

1. On a blank page, write down a quote of something someone said to you that doesn’t enrich your life (that you have a conflict around). Doesn’t necessarily have to be a quote, I think, but that’s what the original exercise calls for. Any factual observation would probably work. For the first time doing this exercise, it’s usually better to go with a less traumatic event.

2. Below that, draw two large T charts. Write “F” or “Feeling(s)” over the left side and “N” or “Need(s)” over the right side.

3. With the first “T,” write your feeling(s) and need(s) connected to the quote/observation.

4. With the second “T,” writing the other person’s feeling(s) and (needs) connected to the same.

5. Observe whether you shifted a more empathetic place. About 20% have a neutral or negative experience with the first time they do this exercise.

My Experience

First of all, I think this is a really cool and useful exercise, which is why I decided to do it despite being lazy about this kind of prescribed exercise. And why I decided to share it despite having only done the exercise once. I also think it would be cool to do in a workshop.

I think this is something that I really need to work on, because once I get angry, I usually have a really hard time shifting back to a place of calm and empathy. It usually seems much easier to follow anger to its end and build up a grudge and resentment. This might be because the main reason I get angry at people is as a reaction to them getting angry at me, judging me, blaming me, or pressuring me…. and therefore, the other person is already definitely not coming from a place of empathy either. When neither person is in a place of empathy, then we’re really in a pickle.

Since I don’t work with paper much these days, I used Microsoft One Note for this instead of actual paper. This worked well.

I chose a quote from a sexual relationship that I’m no longer in, with someone I am on good terms with. This was a low-hanging fruit for me, as I don’t have a strong feelings about that particular conflict at this point in time. I chose feelings that I experienced at the time of the conflict. We eventually worked through some of these feelings and needs, but mostly by discussing other conflicts than this one. So this conflict was never completely resolved.

I ended up listing quite a lot of feelings and needs, referring to the lists of them in my NVC book. The list of feelings for the other person was almost as long. The only list that wasn’t long was the list of six needs for my former partner. I think I had a ton of unmet needs at the point of that conflict, which is why I listed so many. I listed less for the other person mainly because I think he had less unmet needs, but also because I had to guess for most of his. I only recall one need that he explicitly mentioned.

I ended up with a kind of neutral experience from this exercise. Mostly right now I am feeling overwhelmed from having done it. I think this is because I listed too many feelings and needs, although I also highlighted the ones that were prominent. Next time I do this exercise, I’m going to try to limit the list to around 3-5 each. Or maybe only one. The original exercise only calls for one, actually.

I think I’m also feeling neutral about it because this conflict is mostly in the past for me, since I rarely interact with this person anymore, and it happened more than 6 months ago, and some of these issues were resolved by other means.

Looking Forward

I want to keep doing this exercise and see how much it helps me. If I have interesting experiences, I will probably share them here.

As part of my Chinese New Year’s Resolution, I am going to commit to doing this exercise at least once a month for the Year of the Sheep, or until I reach the point where I feel like this exercise is not worth the time and effort.

I also will probably buy the NVC facilitator’s book to get more exercises like this.

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My First NVC / Empathy Workshop

Last night, I celebrated my birthday by facilitating a workshop on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and Empathy. It was the first time I had facilitated on these topics, and I am delighted with how it went.


Eight people plus myself attended, although one person stepped out for nearly the entire thing due to a work emergency. This is the first time I’ve organized an event single-handedly that had more than 6 attendees, and more attendees than I was expecting. Since it was my birthday, I was highly selective about the people I invited, and I told them so. I think the combination of dinner at a vegan restaurant, my birthday celebration, letting them know it would be a small and intimate gathering (that they were selectively invited to), and the topics of NVC and empathy all combined probably helped bring more people out.

I deliberately chose people who I knew were interested in NVC or thought probably would be, people who I thought would want to celebrate my birthday with me, people who I thought would be very supportive, and people who I really wanted to spend my special day with. I think this was a good selection method. I ended up feeling my needs for connection, support, love, and appreciation were very much satisfied.

I also made clear what my background in NVC is, how much I’m familiar with it, and that I’m by no means an expert. But that I’ve studied NVC and practiced it on my own for a while now. Maybe this authenticity and clarity, and reasonable confidence, also boosted people’s confidence in attending.


I broke down the workshop into two parts based on two books I read: NVC and Empathy. These two are related because NVC is based on empathy, and both were about communication. The part specifically on empathy was intended to make for lighter, fun conversation since it was a birthday celebration. But it was also something I really wanted to do, and it fit pretty perfectly with a workshop on NVC.

Each part involved explanation plus group plus paired activities. I think this worked awesomely and created the exact kind of balance I like.

I made the NVC part longer because it was the most important and interesting part, and also required longer explanation. I prepared 3 pages of outline for this workshop, and went through the outline 2-3 times. For me, that’s decent preparation. I was nervous, but I was well-prepared enough that it didn’t go too badly.

Part I: NVC

Most of this part was spent explaining NVC—no one else had read the NVC book in its entirety, and my purpose was to give an introductory workshop to my friends. I really enjoyed this explanatory process.

Preparing for it gave me another opportunity to think long and hard about the whole thing, and how the concepts of NVC are organized. For example, I didn’t realize that the part of the book that talks about responsibility is in the chapter on needs, for good reason. I also reread parts of book and watched NVC videos in order to refamiliarize myself with it. And that’s what I wanted to be doing anyway – perfect motivation!

I had an opportunity to share my personal stories – as part of the explanatory process – of using and benefiting from NVC. That was gratifying. I also got interrupted 2-3 times for someone to jump in and share their experiences, and I greatly appreciated those moments. For me, those stories were self-affirmations as well as affirmations of the whole process of NVC. I heard subtle sounds or saw subtle nods of appreciation when I shared certain things. By sharing stories, I think we got to be vulnerable and honest in an unusual way, and to get support and love in return. That met my need for beauty.

I explained why I was doing this workshop on NVC, the four components and two parts of NVC, and the importance self-empathy.

I gave out two handouts, taken from the NVC book website, which corresponded with what I was explaining and helped with the activities. One was an outline of the components and parts of NVC, and the other gave lists of feelings and needs. “These are really useful handouts,” someone said, and others agreed.

The activities were:

1) Group activity: share stories of using NVC in our lives. A couple people shared some cool success stories.

2) Group activity: Does anyone have a conflict they’re working through right now that they want to share, and then we can work through it together using NVC? (Only had time for one.)

This activity didn’t go as I had planned because the person who offered their conflict was the same one who was resisting parts of NVC pretty hard. I also had trouble following the story of their conflict, which went on for several minutes, and I didn’t get a good sense for what the conflict actually was. So when I tried to apply NVC, it didn’t seem to work for the most part.

I also generally didn’t know how to deal with someone who was seriously resisting the very idea of NVC. When I asked if she would like to try going through the four components, I think she got a little upset and replied in a shaky voice, “I think it’s pretty clear that I already went through the four components.” And it turned into that person using it as an opportunity to say something like, “I don’t know if this process works. And I don’t like using it the way it’s described in the book.” So I ended up keeping quiet after that, and just saying, “Well, I still believe in this process, but I’m not very good at it.” What I meant to convey in saying that was that I still believe in it, but didn’t know how to respond to what she was saying at that moment. I am of course not a formally trained facilitator, and I knew how limited my skills were.

Yes. This experience did not shake my belief in the power of NVC, and I would have been more disturbed by this experience had this person not already expressed to me their strong reservations about (as well as interest in) NVC before attending.

Another attendee ended up offering a seemingly better listening ear than I did, though not by going explicitly through the four components of NVC. I was so glad she was there.

I’m pretty frustrated by  how this activity went not getting my need for harmony/truth/growth met here, and it was exactly the sort of thing I feared would happen. That I would propose an activity and have no idea how to walk through the process of NVC with the other person. I did have further thoughts about why I thought this person was frustrated and why the process of NVC wasn’t working for them, but I didn’t know how to effectively express those thoughts in the framework of NVC.

Now I’m dying to know if this was just not a great example of a conflict, or how a very skilled NVC facilitator like Marshall Rosenberg himself would have handled this. For me it’s difficult because in general I have trouble following what people are saying a lot of the time, especially if they ramble. This wasn’t the only person who shared stories I had trouble following during this workshop. Although I was perhaps extra distracted since I was also facilitating this topic for the first time.

3) Paired activity: name a feeling we’re experiencing right now, and then name a need that’s causing that feeling. I did this activity with the attendee who I thought was most helpful to the participant I was struggling with in the last activity. I explained that I was feeling anxious about not knowing how to respond, and this person said something to me that helped me meet my needs for support and reassurance.

4) Paired activity: share a conflict someone is going through and work through the four components of it. We didn’t do this activity because we got started about 25 minutes later than planned (due to eating and late arrivals) and didn’t have time.

5) Group/closing activity: share a feeling you’re experiencing right now, connected to a need. Most people shared something. Some said they were feeling fulfilled or stimulated to be learning about NVC, which they thought was important. One said their need for connection was being met. I shared that I was feeling very appreciative that all of them were there, and it was meeting my needs for support and connection. I wish I had added that it met my need for celebration!

Part II: Empathy

This part was inspired by a book by the same name, by Roman Krznaric. In this book, Roman shares ways in which we can create a culture of empathy. He defines empathy as both an emotion (feeling with) and a intellectual, imaginative leap (stepping into another’s shoes), which I think complements the idea of empathy as a need. Then he goes on and on about the importance of conversation, and curiosity, in inspiring a culture of empathy, and in creating a deeper connection between people. He offers the ideas of the Empathy Café, with an appetizing selection of empathy-inducing questions, and the Empathy Museum, among other practical ideas.

So I explained all this, and explained the importance of curiosity. I told a couple of stories—one of how I used this book’s inspiration to increase my sense of connection. And one of how the most memorable conversations in my life were long, intense, profound, and empathic conversations driven by curiosity. Those conversations changed my life. I have never felt more deeply connected to another human being in my life than I did with this one person who I had conversations with like that for 10 days straight. I will never forget the passionate way she asked me questions. I will never forget the inspiration I felt when she said, “I just want to learn about you.” It opened my heart not just to her, but to the world and other people.

Then we did four activities.

1) Group activity: Share stories of how curiosity has contributed to some of our most wonderful, memorable, and empathic conversations.

2) Paired activity: Empathy Café Menu. I took this straight from the book. I just typed it up into a fancy-looking menu, and handed it out. It’s broken down into the “six habits of highly empathetic people,” which are chapters in the book. Plus “Dessert.” Under each habit is a list of questions. I asked participants to pair up and ask each other questions from the menu. This was fun and interesting. We were running short on time, so it ended up being much briefer than I’d have liked.

What I would improve: I totally meant to tell people that if they didn’t want to answer a particular question, they could decline and go with another question. Maybe even let people pick the questions they wanted to answer. Must remember this for next time.

3) Paired activity: My personal Empathy Café Menu. This one had my name at the top. I had brainstormed a long list of questions in my journal, and I decided it would be faster to type up this menu if I invented my own categories rather than trying to decide which ones fit which of the original categories—since my brainstorm wasn’t based on the original categories, but upon categories of interest to me, and the types of questions I thought would create the most mutual connection for me. Questions that stimulated my own curiosity!

I ended up with a selection of question categories that I was pretty damned pleased with: The Convo, The Dancer, The Erotic, The Definition, Communion, The Type, The Storyteller, The Fear, The Helper, The Revival. The second and third categories were perfect because 4-5 of my known kinky friends were there, and 3 of my dancer friends were in attendance. When I read the categories and got to “The Erotic,” someone said, “Oh! That’s me!” 🙂

I also printed out this menu as a fancy document. And I had participants do the same activity with this menu as with the last. Some said they were excited by this idea and made immediate plans to use the menu on their own.

This time, using my own questions, I ended up having an even more interesting conversation than in the last activity. But again, running out of time, so it didn’t last long.

4) Solo/Group activity: Jot down 2-3 of your own questions. Initially I was planning on doing this as a paired activity, but people wanted to do it as a group, probably since it was the closing activity and we’d just done 2 paired activities. We had time for one person to ask a question, and 3 people to answer. That was fun! The question was, which work of art are you most proud of creating? For me it was poetry, for another it was something for an art gallery, and for another it was a theatrical performance.

Actually, someone else also asked a question to the group at this point, but it was from my menu. It was, “Do you think partner dancing enhances empathy?” The person who answered said she wants to become a dance therapist, so I thought her answer was pretty awesome.

After the workshop,

three of us dancers went swing/blues dancing together. I ended up asking someone a question from my menu, and he gave an interesting answer, and then he wanted a copy of the menu. The coolest thing about that was just sharing the menu with him. We discussed some of the other questions. He said he was planning on using it the next day, and I’m sure he did since he’s extremely outgoing and talkative.

I also had the opportunity to talk further with the person who was resisting NVC in the workshop, and they said they’d get very angry or upset (?) if someone asked them how they were feeling during a conflict. They said they were very skeptical of one of the examples given in the NVC book and thought “there was probably a lot more going on” in the conversation example than was explained.

I still don’t know exactly what would help them to appreciate NVC, but I pointed out that I thought that something they said was coming from a place of blame rather than empathy. I don’t think I got significantly further at convincing them of anything, but I responded to their skepticism of a success example in the book by mentioning another example…. before I said anything, I sensed that they were about to again express grave doubts about this example. But before they could say anything, I told them how I had cried reading that because I could relate to that story so much, and I knew it was real because it resonated so deeply with me. And I explained that I do prefer to be talked to the way that’s described in the book.

Then this person sounded a little surprised and said, “Huh. That’s interesting.”

I wanted to at least get across the point that even though they might not think this process would work for them, it works for me, and it really does work for other people. Because I thought they seemed skeptical that certain parts of it work for anyone, at all.

Honestly, I was resisting in response to their resistance, and this wasn’t the most empathic place to be coming from. I told them I was nervous about someone coming who was strongly resisting the idea of NVC, because this was my birthday celebration and my first time facilitating this, but I absolutely didn’t want to rescind the invitation if they were interested in NVC. I am still resisting in my head, and I am still frustrated, but I’m sure I will use this as a learning experience somehow.

Reception / Feedback

I think all except maybe one person (who was strongly resisting certain aspects of NVC) really liked the workshop overall. One attendee wrote: “Thanks so much for hosting us! I had a great time. :D:D” Another wrote: “I had a wonderful time as well! Thank you for all your hard work to make this workshop terrific.” A third person wrote: “Thanks for a very interesting and engaging evening! I had fun explaining the whole thing to [my wife] in the car on the way home. We might buy the book and read it together. You did a great job at facilitating the evening.” A fourth person (who was already familiar with NVC) wrote: “It was a lovely evening and I enjoyed practicing NVC and meeting some new friends. You did a really great job giving a concise overview of NVC.

And another person told me (I’m paraphrasing), “I found it very affirming for everything I experienced over the last weekend. This was the kind of conversation I had with a friend, and the workshop really affirmed for me that I’m on the right track and need to do more of this. That was the biggest thing I got out of it.” This last person also said they’re very interested in attending further workshops like this if I do more.

And on that note, when 3 of my friends left, we were like, “We totally need to hang out again/one-on-one soon!” Which I find really affirming and another sign that they enjoyed the workshop and think I have worthwhile things to say.

The Last Conversation

Someone who attended the workshop, and drove me to the dance, also gave me a ride home. This was the person I thought helped me the most to meet my need for support during the workshop. This was also the person I was most excited to have there, although I was very excited about the people attending in general. She is one of my very favorite dancers, and I feel a strong connection and intimacy with her.

When we got to my house, we sat in her car and talked for hours. This was the first time I had her completely one-on-one – not at a dance, not at an event. This was our first extended conversation together. And we both found it really fulfilling. The workshop provided a LOT of fodder for discussion, and we ended up having a pretty vulnerable discussion. She shared things with me that she said she had shared with very few people, and I felt so connected to her as a result. We even practiced a little using the tools of the NVC framework, such as by talking about our needs. I remember discussing the NVC book, the significance of anger, the five love languages, the difference between the erotic and the sexual, and the personal significance of eye contact. I just really got to know her in a new way, and it was absolutely wonderful. The time flew by.

The Birthday

There’s not much better way to end my birthday. NVC is a language of life, so what better way to celebrate life? I highly recommend facilitating a workshop on NVC or empathy (if one is well-prepared) as a way of celebrating one’s birthday. My friends thought it was pretty neat and creative. My need for creativity was certainly met, among many others.

And you know, getting older is scary for many of us. This is a great way to give ourselves empathy as we go through this fear of getting older.

Conclusion and Chinese New Year’s Resolution

I consider this workshop as fitting in nicely with my resolution to embrace fear and vulnerability and shyness with empathy. I got to practice public speaking in a really affirming way, which is in total contrast to the last time I engaged in public speaking (also facilitating a workshop). The previous time was a couple weeks before I started studying NVC, and at that point I was feeling pretty terrible. I was terrified during that workshop, and thinking back on it hurts. But having this new experience is healing for me. I find speaking in front of groups very, very scary, in general. And I want to join Toastmasters or something to get into a regular practice that will allow me to overcome this fear.

So I am considering doing a workshop like this as a monthly occurrence, as a yearlong commitment for this Chinese year. I have a lot of fears around this, a lot of reservations.

For example, how could future workshops possibly be as good as this one? What if it becomes mundane, and the people I so enjoyed coming this time no longer feel it is special and therefore don’t come back? How am I going to sustain strong attendance? I’ll be damned if I’m going to get all prepared and then no one shows up. Or one person shows up, and it ends up being awkward and unfulfilling. Or what if I publicize it and the type of people who come are not the type of people I want to be surrounded by? I’ve attended other workshops and my sense of belonging was greatly hindered by the fact that I was the only person under the age of 40. It also didn’t feel fresh–it was like, here are these people who’ve been coming to this event for months or years, and to them it’s just another day…. boring. I didn’t even feel like they considered my presence there remotely memorable; the sense of connection was lacking. If that happens to my workshop, I will shrivel and end up only begrudgingly motivating myself. I’ll be damned if I’m going to force myself to do this workshop while lacking the motivation.

I have other fears as well.

But if I do this, I’m thinking it won’t just be a workshop on NVC. It will be a shifting workshop on vulnerability and empathy, with energizing themes. Because I’m having trouble imagining what a yearlong NVC-only meetup would look like for me as facilitator. This workshop worked well as a thing that I was introducing my friends to. But if it’s just that intro, it’s got to be new people every time, not regulars. But then, if it’s just like that other group I attended, it would be like, each week we focus on a different aspect of NVC, and you’d better be familiar with NVC already or you might not know why the hell you’re there. What I mean is, why would someone attend if they weren’t already familiar with NVC?

So what would these energizing themes be? One time it might be an Empathy Café Menu specifically for dancers, or specifically for those interested in talking about sex, or specifically for women or kinksters or queer people. Or just, an entire event focused on the Empathy Café. Or a workshop specifically about vulnerability as a thing to embrace. Or about shyness. Or connection. Or story-telling. Or mental health. Or socioeconomic issues. Or vulnerability at work. And sure, I might also do some themes that are just aspects of NVC, but that would only be 50% of the workshops at most. Or maybe all the events will be split up between NVC and Empathy Café discussions. I might also partner up with other organizations for these workshops, and have co-facilitators or guest facilitators for some of them.

I would like it to be such that there could be regular attendees, but at the same time, people might not want to attend all the events because they will change enough that a different group of people will come to the next one. But when they hear a specific theme that resonates with them, they will get excited about attending.

It would be a way to do so much of what I love. To have a pretty broad plan that would allow me to explore all kinds of ideas and interests through workshops, with other people. The public speaking aspect in itself would require embracing my fears. But I’ve noticed that the other workshops/discussions I’ve facilitated were also along the theme of vulnerability, so clearly this is a theme I’m very interested in as a facilitator. I want to start these conversations. I find them exciting.

And maybe I could do for this what I did for the birthday workshop: I could invite input as to what people are interested in.

So I have a vision. I’m not ready to make a decision yet. But I’m using this post to visualize, share my ideas, and invite feedback.

My concrete plan: over the next three weeks, ask people in my social circles for feedback on this idea and gauge interest level.

Update: A few days after this workshop, I got into a conflict with a housemate that became very verbally violent. I was having a lot of trouble empathizing with someone who was judging me very harshly and hatefully. One of my workshop attendees (the most supportive one) had messaged me the previous evening expressing a joyful feeling caused by a need being met. I was happy to see her practicing NVC with me, and I took this as an opportunity to reply back expressing how upset I was about this conflict, also practicing NVC. She asked if I wanted to talk about it.

Since I was having enormous difficulty practicing empathy on my own in this moment, it was so helpful to have a friend to talk to about it who was familiar with NVC and eager to practice it with me. That conversation was very comforting and wonderfully met my need for support and reassurance, and helped me get closer to meeting my need for empathy that was sorely lacking from the previous violent conversation.

Often when I get into a conflict that I haven’t resolved, I will turn to a friend and just let off steam, and I may or may not feel slightly better. They’ll give me some advice that may be a little helpful, or maybe that I don’t think is relevant at all. Typically, not much changes in those conversations, other than distracting me from the conflict, or giving me a slight, vague sense of reassurance.

But this time, she asked me very relevant questions that helped me get focused on resolving the conflict, and strongly reassured me. We also had general conversation about NVC while discussing this conflict. And I found out that she had come up with her own empathic communication framework on her own when she was very young. This makes me so glad I did this workshop, because I have now connected in this area with such a naturally empathetic and like-minded person. Now I have a new friend to practice NVC with, and I wouldn’t have even shared my conflict with her if it weren’t for her attendance at my workshop. By doing a workshop like this, I am preparing my friends to be able to help me work through conflicts and listen to me in a more productive way. And hopefully to be able to do the same for them. If conversations are more productive, this enhances the friendship and sense of connection in that relationship as well. How revolutionary is that? For me, very.

Although I haven’t yet resolved the housemate conflict, I’m feeling a lot more confident about it than I would have previously.

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Chinese New Year’s Resolution: Embracing My Inner ‘Sheep’

It’s now the Year of the Sheep (Yáng) in the Chinese Zodiac. Since my mother is Taiwanese, and a sheep, I consider it a good idea to make this my first ever Chinese New Year’s Resolution. I’m also doing this because it’s near-perfect timing for where I am in life right now.

Resolution: Embracing my inner “sheep,” a.k.a. fears/vulnerability/shyness, and self-empathy.

The empathy is closely related.

Actually, I spent a lot of the past year focusing on this, but primarily in a social sense. I want to continue focusing on it in a social sense, and seeing myself blossom in this way, but I want to also focus on my fears that are blocking me from general task-centered activities, such as those related to career, finance, and personal organization. Many of these fears (most?) are also social. But instead of being about intimate relationships/friendships, they might be like the fear of asking for a raise or the fear of applying for a job or writing an important email.

This is going to be a project, including elements that I’ve used in a previous project on self-coaching. I’m definitely going to use self-coaching. Unfortunately, that project didn’t seem to stick with me, in that I didn’t continue self-coaching at all afterward. However, I’m glad I did that project, and I’m going to consider this one as building upon that one (as well as a lot of other things). I want this one to stick. A major goal of this project is to figure out how to develop a system for facing my fears that will last me far beyond this project.

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Update on My NVC Journey

In my last post, I said I would continue to focus on nonviolent communication (NVC), and I have. It hasn’t been in as structured of a way as I would like, but I have definitely continued to focus on it and reap the benefits of doing so. I also just gained so much from that one month of focusing intensively on it that has stuck with me, and the benefits are continuous.

Some examples of how learning NVC has benefitted me since my last post:

1. I’ve had an ongoing, profound boost in confidence in my ability to deal with conflicts and therefore to maintain healthy relationships. Which has spread to confidence in other areas, such as my job.

2. I’ve been able to maintain a good relationship with my boss, and feel like I’m actively maintaining it rather than him just being in a different mood about me. Once he said to me, “You don’t care, and it shows.” In the past, I would have just heard this as a judgmental criticism, as him not caring about me. And I kind of did at first. But then I decided it would be more beneficial to both of us if I simply listened for his need here. Why was he saying this? Not because of me—he was saying it because he was needing something. Although I did not go as far as asking him what he was needing, I did listen for it and make a guess and change my behavior to try to meet the need I guessed.

A few days later, I asked for a raise, and got it. This was the first time I had asked him for a raise, and I was quite pleased with the result. I’m even more pleased because I’m pretty sure that when I told my coworker, this gave her the confidence to ask for a raise for herself and another coworker, which they also got. All three of us had been discussing this for a while.

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Mission Accomplished: 30 Days of Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

My commitment to 30 days of focusing on nonviolent communication was satisfied as of September 28. It was a resounding success. Here is an overview of how it went, as well as some thoughts for the future.

The Social Media Element

In order to keep myself focused, I committed to practicing NVC at least once a day on social media (mostly Twitter). I missed only one day, and that was just because I was busy that day and forgot. I made up for it the next day with multiple posts.

This was indeed helpful in keeping me focused. Otherwise I may have spent my days thinking about NVC without ever concretely practicing it. Although I did practice it in other ways, I think I spent a far greater time thinking about it than practicing. I think that it is also helpful just to think about it, because our thoughts can be violent or nonviolent, but NVC is often work. Particularly, it is work to learn to communicate nonviolently when we’re so used to communicating and thinking violently.


I did see some major effects on my relationships from practicing NVC during this month.

First and foremost, I had one of the most important conversations I’ve ever had in my life. A long-term sexual relationship I was in was up in the air – we had been struggling for months and didn’t know where things stood with each other. We had both been procrastinating on having this conversation with each other.

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Consumerism Breeds Perfectionism

Perfectionism in our society is tied to consumerism. If you don’t DO anything but consume perfect images of others, of course you’ll be perfectionistic. I’m talking about the combination of consuming many things without ever doing them. Without exercising our own creativity, our own abilities.


Oh look! Let’s watch these privileged wealthy people judge a bunch of young dancers and tell them whether they can dance or not!

I remember in high school watching So You Think You Can Dance? and always wishing I could be a talented dancer like on that show. Being frustrated that I didn’t have that opportunity, but was just sitting there watching a show and accomplishing nothing. That’s why I came to hate TV. I didn’t get to do much as a youngster other than watch TV.

And I was a major perfectionist. My first week of college, I auditioned for a dance performance group at my university (experience not required). I quit in the middle of the pirouettes because I felt too embarrassed that I couldn’t do them at all – everyone else was able to at least get through them, even the ones who told me they’d never had any dance lessons in their lives.

Now that I do social dancing, I don’t consider myself a talented dancer, but I don’t care that I’m not a talented dancer. Because that’s not what dancing is about. To me, dancing is about physical activity, creativity, feeling the music, physical intimacy, human connection, having fun, community, relaxation, learning, self-expression, inspiration, beauty. Perfectionism doesn’t fulfill any of these universal human needs, but comes from a misguided attempt to fulfill them. Dancing, however, does.

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