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A prominent trainer in Compassionate Communication (also known internationally as NVC or Nonviolent Communication) has been working with CooperRiis, and she says the effort is some of the most exciting work she has done in the U.S.

Roberta Wall, who is certified by the Center for Nonviolent Communication, has coached thousands of trainees on five continents. At CooperRiis, she’s been teaching “Compassionate Communication,” which uses a concept she calls “connect before you correct”, among other things.

Perhaps a resident or staff member doesn’t want to participate in a team activity, for instance. Rather than simply having staffers shepherd that community member, Roberta’s advice calls for communication with the person as a friend or ally. First gain an understanding of why the person is reluctant, she says, then work together to solve a “shared dilemma.”

Connecting empathically during that process (i.e. with what a person is actually feeling and what is important to them) helps us heal, Roberta says. We won’t feel like we’re being “handled,” so we are less likely to give up or give in.

To be sure, Compassionate Communication, as in the principles developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, is not new to CooperRiis, but this marks the first formal training for our team by someone who is a certified facilitator in these principles, giving them more tools and techniques.

“The potential impact is huge,” says our training coordinator, Lisa Murphy. “The concepts are relatively simple, but incredibly deep on another level.”

Our volunteer coordinator, Kevin Riordan, says Compassionate Communication helps create a key relationship between residents and staff.

“A healing community needs that connection at the human level, that relationship and that shared human experience,” he says.

Roberta says what makes her work at CooperRiis exciting is that rather than have trainees scatter after the learning sessions – which often happens – the CooperRiis team will remain together, helping each other.

“I see this,” she says, “as a model for changing the entire world.”

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