Practicing Nonviolent Communication at the RoundGlass Learning Summit

Aside: To begin with, I want to acknowledge the horrific violence that is currently unfolding in India since this blog is about my three-day experience attending the RoundGlass Learning Summit in Jaisalmer, India just last week, which was originally to take place in Delhi. It is disheartening to see the violence towards Muslims in India, the new Citizen Amendment Bill, and I can’t help but wonder if India has forgotten its history and ties to Gandhi — whose last fast was in efforts to reunite the hearts of Muslims and Hindus upon India gaining independence from British Rule.

Back in September, I was invited to attend the RoundGlass Learning Summit in Jaisalmer, India. It’s a three-day opportunity to connect with other motivated folks from around the world and look at how to create an education platform that integrates holistic well-being. For the past several months, all 120+ participants have joined zoom calls at various times of the day/night to connect and delve into the meaning of holistic well-being. From those sessions, participants came up with several small groups (implementation and research, community action, nature, sports and wellness, etc.) to focus their energies and I was selected to join the Community Action group.

I arrived in Jaisalmer, knowing there would be only 2.5 days of working with the other 120+ participants from around the world. What I didn’t know was that our small group would only have half that time to connect and come up with a plan of holistic well-being within Community Action.

My small group consisted of eight participants, representing six different countries and six different languages, with an age range of 19 through mid-50s. Our goal was to come up with a short mission statement and a plan for the remainder of 2020. I’m excited to continue working with my group on Community Action and the potential of connecting with RoundGlass for another Learning Summit in 2021.

My greatest joy of the trip was seeing the ways in which the Gandhi Institute has impacted my thinking and ability to navigate spaces. For example, my small group was struggling at one point with building connection, trust, etc. due to the sense of urgency to accomplish our mission statement. At one point, one group member demanded that other members write down ideas. I reflected back to her, using the framework of nonviolent communication (observation, feeling, need, request) without actually naming it to the group. By not naming it, I felt that the nonviolent communication framework had more power to connect — rather than yet another participant entering the space, vying for attention for their work or nonprofit. I was motivated by looking at some of our younger group members, who were facing language and age barriers to participate. By asking the demanding group member if she could reflect on what she was feeling and then helping her sift through her needs, she was able to come up with a clear request of the group. And, was really open to hearing that a request is different than a demand, allowing space for ‘no’ being an option and possible response.

I felt the growing tension in our group dissipate in that moment. I found myself letting her out of my box of judgment, realizing her urgency and demanding behavior stemmed from a place of passion for education. That became the connection point for all of us. What a shift internally for me and also for the whole group! Those five minutes spent to flush out what was really going on with her was incredibly beneficial and allowed us to accomplish our small group work more quickly since there was better understanding within the group.

I’m still reflecting on this incredible experience and all of the gifts it has opened in my life in regards to possibility and choice — and immensely grateful for the Gandhi Institute and my exposure and continued learning of Nonviolent Communication as a framework to build connections within a community.

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