PNDC Workshop: Track 2 - Core Skills

Inspiring Statements: Honesty without Judgment
Facilitator: Sharon Strand Ellison
Saturday, Nov. 5, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. & Sunday Nov. 6 - 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
—Time extended to 5 p.m. for those who have more questions
Location: Oakland CA: Place TBA - ~ Track 2: PNDC Skill Development - 12 Hours


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Inspiring Statements: Honesty without Judgment
Inspire Others Instead of Trying to Convince and Prompting Resistance!

See Below Learning Methods for Sharon's Newsletter about this Workshop and the Myth of the "Art of Persuasion" —along with a PNDC Story

Overview: Being able to state opinions clearly and strongly is a key factor in our success in any conversation, and absolutely crucial when it involves problem solving and/or conflict. Traditionally, statements are made with the intention to prove a point or convince others to agree. The problem - verified now by scientific research - is that when we try to convince others of anything, even perhaps just to listen to us, we signal a automotic response of fight or flight.

This process of convincing others to agree also reinforces a system of interaction based on the premise of one person being "right" and the other "wrong" or, one person "winning" and the other person "losing." It is a recipe for creating and accelerating conflict, whether we are encouraging our child to feel confident about their appearance or intelligence, deciding where to go on vacation, resolving conflicting view on work-related projects, or having different viewpoints about politics or personal beliefs.

Unfortunately, most of us - whether we like it or not - still have the urge to convince ingrained in our psyche. Far too frequently - and often unconsciously - we still interact in ways that involve trying to get others to change in some way. Conversely, stating a position without trying to convince or can prompt others to be more open to considering new ways of thinking and feeling.

Workshop Content: We'll first examine examine common "pitfalls in current best communication practices" specifically related to how we give feedback and express our own experience. Second, we'll cover how to make four simple changes in (1) intention, (2) voice tone, (3) body language and (4) phrasing. Third, using four steps, we'll apply these changes to (a) how we give feeback so that others are more likely to want to listen instead of feeling criticised and (b) how we can state our own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs so we build understanding instead of polarizing people and/or groups, creating needless conflict and degrees of alienation.

Practice: Finally, we'll spend the majority of the workshop learning and practicing four steps for giving feedback and stating our own position with clairty, compassion and power. Practice will consist of participants applying the skills to their own situations and having group discussions to hone the skills.

Learning Methods:

We'll use a range of methods for learning, including presentation of concepts and skills, discussion, story telling, mat work, analaysis of how to shift the power dynamics in actual situations, and practice, including role-playing, group exercises, mapping out conversation, and honing the skills practiced.

The Myth of "Art of Persuasion"
Danger of Trying to Convince Others to Agree - Plus a PNDC Story

The "Art of Persuasion" has been promoted for centuries as a skill and form of power to which we should aspire. Persuasion is generally defined as arguments or appeals to induce cooperation, submission, or agreement. The goal is to change someone's behavior or reasoning, what they are feeling or their beliefs. One definition explains what kind of power it is. "It is more often about leading someone into taking certain actions of their own, rather than giving direct commands." To achieve this goal means we are masterful at controlling others.

If it sounds manipulative or coercive to you, you can find quick confirmation by looking at a just a few of the synonyms: seduction, brainwashing, cajolery, con, conversion, enticement, exhortation, inducement - plus potency and power.

I found the antonyms even more illuminating: disability, discouragement, impotence, incompetence, hindrance, ineffectiveness, and weakness. I was shocked by how blatantly these words suggest that if we aren't skilled at manipulating others, we have no power. 

What has this got to do with you and me?

I believe we have all been affected at a cellular level. When someone is not listening to us or following our advice, unconscious programing drives our need to convince them, often for "their own good." I constantly catch myself doing it. And when we fail — which I think we do more often than not— we are likely to level judgments at the other person. If we succeed, and the other person does what we want but it doesn't turn out well, then they will likely hold us accountable and blame us! One synonym for persuasion is "arm-twisting," an act that would prompt most people to react defensively. The act of convincing others to agree or change is — I believe, one of the most significant causes of conflict in the world. 

What is the alternative?

Have you seen a musician, a dancer or an actor whose performance appeared to be so effortless, yet so incredibly moving that you knew you would remember it forever? The word we often use to describe such an experience is simply just how moved we were by it. I think that kind of response comes from the heart, voluntarily.

Gorgias, a Greek Sophist, said "The power of speech has the same effect on the condition of the soul as the application of drugs to the state of bodies." Some ways of speaking "bewitch the soul with a kind of evil persuasion." Others, "instill courage."

When we learn to speak without trying in any way to control others, we can access a source of constructive power — one that it can seem magical in the ease with which it inspires courage and even compassion. 

A Short Story of my Own:

During a first counseling session with a couple, the wife, Marty, said to her husband, Jack, "You are always so angry!" His face instantly became contorted and his eyes widened into an intense stare as he said through gritted teeth, "I am NOT ANGRRRY!!!!" 

What are the odds that I could say anything that suggests that I might think he is angry - without him seeing me as siding with his wife? 

Most people have said the odds were between slim and non-existent. At the same time, if I say nothing, then I'm not doing my job in providing counseling with integrity for either Jack or Marty. I said to him,

"What I see is that the lines in your face look almost etched into a mask of anger."

He stared at me blankly, then asked, 

"Do you have a mirror?"

"Yes," I said, down the hall in the bathroom."

He walked out of the room and came back moments later and said, 

"My god, you're right."

What does his response have to do with being inspired to have courage?

First, he had the courage to drop his denial and engage in some self-examination with open curiosity.

Second, how many times do you think Marty had accused him of being angry, he had denied it and they had argued? They had been married 18 years. Yet he walked back in the room and in that moment, after countless power struggles over whether he was angry or not, he freely said that he could see the anger in his own face - in front of Marty. I think that takes courage. He also seemed surprised, perhaps fascinated by this new insight, yet relaxed, calm.

As we learn to speak to others in ways that free us from power struggle regardless of how others respond — we can simultaneously having a much greater potential for inspiring spontaneous, self-directed change. 

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