This site is a resource center and network for self-help and mutual support in learning new communication skills. We invite you to explore our free, open-source, workbook, a wide range of articles and training materials, plus an online bookstore, all to help you…
- communicate more creatively, successfully, and compassionately,
- encourage dialogue & civility / resolve conflicts / prevent violence, and
- build a more cooperative life in your marriage, family, workplace and community
About the Editor, Dennis Rivers
I believe that peace on Earth begins with all the little details and moments
of making peace in everyday life one new conversation at a time
Welcome to Communication Skills Learning Respources (www.NewConversations.net), a web site and extended learning community that explore new ways of listening, talking, expressing appreciation and resolving conflicts: at home, at work and in the world at large. New Conversations draws on the creative life work of such teachers as Mahatma Gandhi, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Robert Kegan, Marshall Rosenberg, and the Quaker peace activist and writer, Gene Knudsen Hoffman. All are advocates of a transformative civility.
The world we live in faces a rising tide of complex problems, from families in crisis, to nations at war, to both individuals and societies deeply in conflict with themselves. In the United States, where I live, all of this is made painfully clear by the recurring problems of mass murder and political assassination.
As I see it, we are trying to resolve these problems of personal and social conflict with the very same (not-so-great) communication skills that have helped to create the problems in the first place. This site offers visitors a wide range of free, new, teaching and training materials that explore the journey toward genuinely new conversations, a journey from coercion to cooperation, and a journey into new skill and awareness.
This site emphasizes distributing communication training and teaching material free of charge in an “open source,” creative commons, royalty-free format, as PDF files that can be shared with others, and as printed documents that can be copied. Our bookstore pages contain links to online bookstores around the world. This site is a public service of two small, book-related, businesses I own: Human Development Books, and Global-Find-A-Book. I receive small sales commissions from some of the book links on this site. Operating as a social entrepreneur allows me to have a much lower overhead than would be the case if I were to organize the New Conversations Initiative as a nonprofit corporation. I also accept with deep gratitude gifts in support of this work.
You will find material here about such topics as compassionate listening, conciliatory self-expression, creative questioning, radical gratitude, and deep forgiveness. I strive to present this material from a “be the change you want to see” perspective, so that you can start today, not needing to wait for anyone else to change first.
I have been working on the development of this site since 1997, and on the Seven Challenges Workbook featured here since 1985. I have been helped greatly in this work over the past fifteen years by an informal board of editors. This wonderfully kind group of about a dozen teachers, scholars, community activists, parents, and business people review and comment on the material that I present here. I have received special help over the years from Maia Maia, Edwin Shaw, Barnett Pearce and Gene Knudsen Hoffman. All of us are involved in one way or another in nurturing the life of dialogue and encouraging reconciliation, cooperative problem solving and conflict resolution. Together we form a kind of cooperative communication skills research community.
I have degrees in business (UCLA), religious studies (UC Santa Barbara) and communication studies (Vermont College). I am deeply grateful for the mentoring and encouragement that I received from the late Barnett Pearce, who supervised my communication studies MA work in the Vermont College Graduate Program. Other teachers who have also changed my life include Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, and Prof. Ramon Panikkar, a philosopher of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue who was also a friend and spiritual teacher of mine.
Mastering new communication skills takes time. The overall goal of this site is to support people in learning new ways of talking and listening over a period of several years, using the Workbook as an outline and providing, through the Bookstore, the best available books by a wide range of teachers, scholars and therapists. We encourage people to develop “study buddies” and small, cooperative learning groups. My experience has been that learning new interpersonal communication skills is a challenging activity, one that requires deep involvement, ongoing practice and support from others. My students, colleagues and I are always searching for better ways to provide support for that involvement and practice. One hope of mine that as more people use the workbook they will share their learning experiences with other learners by submitting comments and learning experiences.
The interpersonal communication field suffers from a kind of “embarrassment of riches.” There is so much good advice out there that I doubt than any one human being could ever follow it all, or keep it in mind while having a conversation. The workbook is my effort to identify, summarize and popularize the most important principles of good interpersonal communication, as understood by many communication scholars and psychotherapists. My goal is to make these great ideas easier to find, easier to understand and easier to practice. I am continually refining the Workbook by using it as the basis of courses I teach in both college and business settings.
Our Bookstore and Recommended Reading List highlights many excellent books on interpersonal communication, and especially those that have been the inspiration for the workbook. Our On-Line Library of essays, articles and papers is growing toward the goal of presenting a wide range of approaches to of better communication. The Library is proud to include some of the work of the late Gene Knudsen Hoffman, a Quaker peace activist who was a pioneer in the area of Compassionate Listening. We invite and encourage organizations to adopt the Workbook as their organizational interpersonal communications plan, and to create organization-based communication study groups committed to skill, mutual respect, honesty and compassion. (I am especially interested in Twelve-Step groups, food coops, Quaker meetings, and the world-wide card game, Bridge, as examples of self-organizing cooperative activity.) We are in the process of receiving continuous feedback from various individuals and organizations that are using the Workbook. We invite your comments and suggestions.
Dennis Rivers, MA Editor, www.NewConversations.net Owner and Publisher, Human Development Books and Global-Find-A-Book