AVL NVC Consciousness Gathering – January 19th

Our next Asheville NVC Consciousness Gathering will be held on Tuesday, January 19th from 7pm-9pm. This event will be hosted at 29 Parkwood Ave, Asheville 28804.

In this meeting we split up into small groups to practice radical giraffe (rad honesty/ NVC honesty/rad NVC), holding space for honesty (empathy/compassionate presence), and active listening (verbal empathy/paraphrasing & empathy guesses).

I would like for each small group to have at least one person who is comfortable in their NVC. We will break into groups accordingly the day of (I’m not inspired to try to pre-decide who will be in which group).

Gathering schedule:
7 – 7:30pm: We will be reviewing NVC basics. This will be a good time to ask clarifying questions about the different components of NVC. Please try to arrive early if you know you will be inspired to be a part of this NVC review. Feel free to review the outlines from previous gatherings and bring your questions for discussion! For those already comfortable with their NVC, this will be an opportunity to share what NVC means to you and respond to questions from others in the group less familiar with NVC.

7:30pm-8:30pm: We will do a self-check-in (breathing meditation, mindfulness practice, self-awareness of what is alive in us) and go around the room to briefly share our check-in with the group. We will then break into small groups to practice.

8:30pm-9pm: We will come back together as a group and share our feedback, what contributed to our well-being during the gathering, what did not. For those of you used to leaving at 8:30, there will be a brief window to exit at this time.

We will officially conclude at 9pm where there will be a formal window for those who to depart. I say “formal window…to depart” because many people choose to stay later than our ending time to continue discussing. I wish to make it comfortable for those who have other things to do/other inspirations to leave at the agreed upon end time.

If you have your Feelings and Needs Inventories, please bring them. Even if you don’t think you’ll look at them, someone else may enjoy borrowing them.

*This event is free. There is a donation box if you’d like to share your green gratitude, and donations are greatly appreciated, however there is no obligation to do so.


Asheville NVC Consciousness practice group

Over the Summer I began hosting a bi-weekly NVC practice group here in Asheville, NC. The group is organized through Facebook and can be found here.

Our next gathering will be Tuesday, January 5th from 7pm – 8:30pm. It will be held at 29 Parkwood Ave, Asheville, NC 28804. Event details below.


There are 3 things that will excel your NVC practice.

1) Interior Clarity (Feelings and Needs awareness and vocabulary)

2) NVC Support

3) Practice, Practice, Practice

The intention for this next gathering will be to work on all 3.

To start, Geri Hubbe will address the topic of “inner listening, clarity, and insight, how to notice the sensations in the body and notice the emotions.” Geri will lead us in guided meditation of Body Scanning. Next I will show some simple hand positions when using NVC to help make the different parts more tangible – thinking, feeling, needing, and requesting.

As we take notice of our bodily state, we will then transition into practicing NVC, sharing what’s alive in us, what’s been troubling us, what we’d like to celebrate.

Something we will be practicing from now on in gatherings is to continue to raise awareness of and acknowledge our discomfort. I’d like to explore with the group identifying hand signals that would effectively indicate when someone is feeling uncomfortable and if they would like that discomfort to be addressed with the group or if they would like to “pass.”

For the NVC practice after the inner listening part, the format I envision is for me to be in the main room working with one person in front of the group with whatever is alive for them. Those interested in observing will see the NVC process in action, which I imagine will spur questions and other things that come alive for people. This will be a fluid process and we will shift between what comes alive for different people – it won’t be only one person sharing what is alive for them in front of the group with me, we’ll shift and flow as things unfolds.

At the same time as this is taking place in the main room, those who are interested in working through whatever is alive in them in a more private and one-on-one setting will pair up in the side room for NVC empathy practice.

*This event is free. There is a donation box if you are inspired to financially contribute to my work and well-being, and donations are greatly appreciated, but there is absolutely no obligation to do so.

How to “Be Yourself”

“Be Yourself” or “Accept Yourself” is not about attaching to the specific strategies you’ve chosen in life, it’s about having the courage to be honest with your feelings and needs, about honoring and being in integrity with your driving life force, even when it’s scary. When there is a disconnect with or lack of understanding about our driving life force, our needs, then it becomes incredibly challenging to find the clarity, the inspiration, and invigorated presence of Being You and Accepting You.

What is alive in me right now? Beneath the voices in my head, beneath the concepts and judgments, the ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing. Right here, right now, what am I experiencing? Needs are the expressions of life seeking to manifest itself in this moment. To be yourself and accept yourself, this presence and awareness is paramount.

The Ongo Book

I am inspired to share CNVC Certified Trainers Jesse Wiens and Catherine Cadden‘s kickstarter project “The Ongo Book – Embody Wisdom and Compassion in Everyday Life” with you all. And here is why:

I met Jesse at my first NVC workshop in 2010. Many of you who have heard me speak on NVC have heard this story of my first interactions with Jesse and this workshop but I’ll recap for those of you who have not.

During the workshop I was doing a “NVC dance” activity with another participant. I got frustrated with the activity (but really I was venting my frustration in life) and Jesse came over to me. He offered deep compassionate presence (empathy) and empathy guesses to my frustration in a way that I had never experienced before. In this transformative space, my anger quickly evaporated to grief and I wept.

After connecting with what was alive in me for a while and having this huge acknowledgement and energy release, I started feeling really guilty that I was “hording all the time” with the NVC trainer – that the other participant was missing out. I was also feeling a bit embarrassed that I was crying so openly in the midst of so many people at the workshop.

I shared this out loud to Jesse and the other participant and to my surprise, the other participant shared how meaningful witnessing my and Jesse’s interaction was, and how much she was longing for the men in her life that she cared about to express their emotions in a connected manner. And then Jesse shared his gratitude for me crying. I was shocked – these other people were benefiting from me sharing my vulnerability, my needs weren’t just a burden to them. This was when I experientially learned what I already conceptually learned, the NVC belief that life can be mutually beneficial and win-win, that it doesn’t have to be one person winning and other losing.

I have wept nearly every time I have thought about this story and I am weeping now. I am weeping out of care, gratitude, and celebration for that experience with Jesse, for seeing first hand that there is another way to communicate than I had been trained to communicate in this culture, an extremely connecting and meaningful way to interact. And I weep out of honor, presence, and mourning for my need to be understood and heard, a need that was so fully spoken to in that moment and a need that was so rarely spoken to before that moment.

Shortly thereafter I attended another NVC retreat at Jesse & Catherine’s home, where I met Catherine. I have so much respect and gratitude for Jesse & Catherine and all that they are bringing to this world. When I saw their kickstarter book, I was inspired to share their project with you all because I believe there are so many of us longing for what this book offers, and I’m longing to contribute to you, to them, and to the flourishing of compassionate understanding. I invite you to watch the short video about their project found at the top of this page.

Here, now.

Shoulds control our minds and our ability to fully connect with ourselves and others. Let go!

There is an amazing world (t)here in the presence.

For those of you who fear chaos and violence when you hear this, breathe deep!

In connected presence, my nonviolence towards you is not because I should, it’s because I’m inspired.


I believe being silly, and the underlying Need for play, is heavily discouraged as adults. I have so much appreciation for NVC recognizing play as a universal human Need. We’re trained to believe that children play but adults are responsible and work and do not play.

Acknowledging this vital human Need has really opened the door to authenticity, self-acceptance, and joy for me. Which in turn has facilitated my curiosity about life and human interaction. And when we can face the unfamiliar with curiosity rather than judgment, it makes it much easier to be present with “how can we make life more wonderful?” rather than “who is right and who is wrong?”

[gratitude, compassion]

Have you acknowledged your need for play lately?

New partnership: Sustainable Way of Life and POTTY Generation – Empowered Communication for parents

I’m pleased to announce that on September 19, 2015, Sustainable Way of Life (SWL) began a partnership with Charlotte, NC based POTTY Generation. SWL will serve as lead referral for NVC services offering Empowered Communication training for clients and staff.

This is exciting for a number of reasons – Adriana Vermillion, founder of POTTY Generation, is a close friend of mine, and I enjoy collaborating with her. I’m also delighted when businesses incorporate NVC into their company values. And Adriana has more than incorporated NVC into POTTY Generation values, she lives NVC values on a daily basis.

Many of us spend at least half our waking hours either at work or at school. The more NVC is incorporated into the places where we spend so much of our lives, the more likely we are to increase personal fulfillment, authentic expression, empathic listening, and harmonious interactions with one another. Empowered Communication (NVC) offers action-based, effective, and efficient tools to foster connection, integrity, and care.

I’m also very excited because SWL will be working closely with parents. Life is short and I highly value personal fulfillment. Unfortunately, many of our entrenched behavioral patterns are life-alienating and life-disconnecting. To raise the next generation with understanding and compassion rather than guilt, shame, and obligation; for our young people to have the actionable tools to effectively commune with one another; to break the ingrained communication and behavioral patterns ever present in our culture and so lacking of connection…what an amazing opportunity! I am thrilled and honored to play a role in fostering sustainable relationships.

With that, I thank you for your time and energy in receiving what I have shared. I thank you for being a part of my continual and endless pursuit towards effective contribution.

With care, excitement, and gratitude,

Matthew Miller

Life Consultant & Founder of Sustainable Way of Life

Intent, impact, and feedback

In NVC, the intention with which we do anything is as important as the action itself. For example, if I ask you to wash the dishes and you do so out of obligation and resentment, I would rather you not wash the dishes because I value our connection more than the dishes being washed. It’s very important to remember that NVC is not the model, it is the intention to connect.

At the same time, our intentions do not guarantee a specific outcome or response for someone else. And if we’re more focused on a specific outcome than connection, then we’ve lost sight of the purpose of NVC. This brings us to intent versus impact, or what I like to call effective contribution. I thank CNVC Certified Trainer Roxy Manning for her insights on this topic in the 2013 NVC & Social Change Telesummit: A Path With Heart, organized by CNVC Certified Trainer Alan Seid.

If you’re in a place to connect and trying to contribute to someone’s well-being, and the strategies you choose are not in harmony with that person’s needs, then you have extremely vital feedback letting you know that different strategies would be better suited to contribute to this person’s needs.

If I’m longing to express my care and support for you and I say something like “You just need to try harder next time,” and when hearing this you feel annoyed and frustrated because you’re in touch with your needs for understanding and support, than it is very evident that the strategy I chose was not an effective one. The impact of our strategies are also equally as important as the intent.

Unfortunately, we often get stuck and disconnected when our goodwill is not received how we would like it to be. We often get confused and completely disconnected from the original intent – to connect with this other person. We may say things like “But you’re not listening to me!” or “But that wasn’t what I was trying to say!” or “You’re putting words in my mouth!” or we simply don’t say anything and just experience this disbelieve, alarm, and discomfort.

Some common examples come to mind when I’ve seen this happen:

  • Parent to child communications [see example in paragraph 4],
  • Partner to partner communications [example above],
  • Friend to friend communications [example above],
  • And between someone from a privileged group communicating with someone from a disenfranchised group.
    • An example of this might be a white person saying “Can I touch your hair?” or “You must really like Obama, huh?” to a black person. These questions may be triggering for a black person. In these scenarios, the white person, in their discomfort and confusion, will often lose sight of the original intention to connect and be unwilling to offer empathy to this other human being who is clearly expressing that the particular strategy chosen was not in harmony with their needs. Rather than hear this, i.e. accept the feedback we are receiving from a place of care and longing to connect, we instead make it about ourselves and get defensive. [See defensive quotes a above]

If our intention is to connect and we want to effectively contribute, then accepting the feedback given by others in relation to our strategies, the impact of our strategies, is paramount. If we are trying to control how others respond to us, then we are not embodying NVC and the intention to connect. Let the intention to connect, this longing to contribute to one another, carry you through this discomfort to the other side, to offering compassion and care to the metaphorical “no” of our request to connect. Otherwise, if we cannot hear a “no” with as much love as a “yes,” it is not an NVC request and we have lost sight of NVC altogether.

Autonomy and choice

We all want to have authority over our lives. Our need for self governance is powerful. But, realistically speaking, the need for autonomy doesn’t mean getting the ideal — it means choosing strategies from the realm of our awareness within systems of limitations.

This is how we can speak to our need for autonomy even as we find ourselves in highly non-preferential situations that are not in harmony with our needs. Recognizing that we have choice does not mean that the choices we’re aware of are preferential; it may be choosing between bad and worse. But we can choose how to act. We’re responsible for our choices.

Important note: This does not mean we’re responsible for the actions others. Each of us is responsible for ourselves.

While this is a hard lesson to learn, I believe it is empowering. And when we’re surrounded by stimuli that suck our power and sense of autonomy, I support that which I find empowering.

Here is one strategy to help develop this sense of clarity and control over our own lives. Take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle splitting the page into 2 columns. Title the left column, “I have to ___” and the title the right column, “I choose to _____, because I want/need/value ______.” 

The entire dialogue about autonomy and choice can be a very sensitive topic. I recommend starting your list with items that are not significant triggers for you. 

For example:

I have to _________.I choose to ________ because I want/value/need _________.
I have to cook dinner.I choose to cook dinner because it's much cheaper than going out which speaks to my need for security.
I have to take the dog for a walk. I choose to take the dog for a walk because I value my health and need for movement as well as my dog's health and need for movement. Plus she enjoys it so much and I enjoy contributing to her well-being.
I have to wash laundry.I choose to wash laundry because I want to wear clean clothes.
I have to work. I choose to work because it provides a strategy to speak to my needs of security, sustenance, and shelter. I am also fortunate that my work speaks to my needs of contribution and meaning.

Remaining compassionate in trying situations

I hold the belief “Behind all anger is sadness.” As I find some one else’s sadness much easier to connect with than anger, this belief helps pique my curiosity as to what needs someone might be in touch with when they are angry. It helps me remember that this is a human being who is suffering.

A phrase that I go to often when I find myself annoyed/frustrated/angry with others is “This is a human being with needs and feelings.” For example, when on the freeway and someone merges in front of me closer than I would prefer and I start to feel angry and in touch with my need for safety, I remind myself “This is a human being with needs and feelings.” This helps break habitual patterns and re-humanize the Other. This person might be speeding and making frequent lane changes because they are trying to get to work on time – i.e. feeling anxious and tired and in touch with their needs of ease and security (don’t want to get yelled at by their boss and fear being late might negatively impact their job situation).

At the same time, I take time to recognize that anger is valid. My anger is valid. Your anger is valid. Anger is a clear red flag and indicator that our needs are not being spoken to. It’s okay to be angry. Conflict arises when the strategies we use to express our anger are not in harmony with the needs of those around us.

These two phrases, “Behind all anger is sadness” and “This is a human being with needs and feelings” really help me to remain compassionate in trying situations. I hope reading this has contributed to your well-being and ability to remain compassionate in trying situations.