About Communication Skills Learning, Training, Sharing


Welcome the Blog of the New Conversations Initiative (which we might also have called “Curriculum Development For A More Cooperative World”).  We are making a new start here, and carrying forward the work of the Journal of Cooperative Communication Skills at our previous web site. The blog format suits our intentions better, because Gene Knudsen Hoffman and I (Dennis Rivers) have always written for the general public rather than for a specialized, Communications-Studies-only, audience. Gene passed away in 2010, after a lifetime of inspired work on the theme of compassionate listening. This blog will provide a venue for publishing some of her timeless articles, as well as articles of mine and new contributions from participants around the world. I find it a considerable challenge to be a teacher and advocate of cooperative communication skills in a world continuously at war.  But I am inspired by the example of the two sides in the long running Northern Ireland conflict.  After generations of armed conflict, the combatants themselves realized that they had created a world in which there was no hope for their own children.  That gave them a powerful motivation to do a kind of peacemaking that seemed impossible at the time. In my own family, there were also conflicts that went on for generations, and I can remember the arrival of a baby girl being the impetus for the beginning of family peacemaking.  We were either going to pass the troubles on to yet another generation, or we were going to have to start talking and listening to one another in new ways. In this blog you will find the continuing efforts of the New Conversations Initiative participants to dream the impossible dream, which, it turns out, is not so impossible after all.  Last year (2018) we reached about 162,000 people with free communication skills learning/teaching materials!  And if you Google for the words, “free communication skills workbook,” The Seven Challenges Workbook comes up at the top of the list.  Thank you for making this web site a great success.  Gifts in support of this web site will help us continue to extend our reach. Dennis Rivers — January 2019      

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This Changes Everything
Capitalism vs. The Climate

By Naomi Klein

The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.

In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.

In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.

Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.





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The David Suzuki Reader
A Lifetime of Ideas from a Leading Activist and Thinker

By David Suzuki, PhD

In this revised and expanded edition of his collected writings, David Suzuki continues to explore the themes that have informed his work for more than four decades — the inter-connectedness of all things, our misguided elevation of economics above all else, the urgent need to deal with climate change — but with an increased emphasis on solutions to the myriad problems we face, his inspiring vision for the future, and the legacy he hopes to leave behind. There is also more emphasis on the personal, as he recounts episodes from his childhood and early adulthood and speaks eloquently about old age, death, and the abiding role of nature and family in his life. Written with clarity, passion, and wisdom, this book is essential for anyone who is an admirer of David Suzuki, who wants to understand what science can and can’t do, or who wants to make a difference.




 



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Powers of Two
Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs

By Joshua Wolf Shenk

Weaving the lives of scores of creative duos—from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Marie and Pierre Curie to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak—Joshua Wolf Shenk identifies the core qualities of that dizzying experience we call "chemistry." Revealing the six essential stages through which creative intimacy unfolds, Shenk draws on new scientific research and builds an argument for the social foundations of creativity—and the pair as its primary embodiment. Along the way, he reveals how pairs begin to talk, think, and even look like each other; how the most successful ones thrive on conflict; and why some pairs flame out while others endure.

When it comes to shaping the culture, Shenk argues, two is the magic number, not just because of the dyads behind everything from South Park to the American Civil Rights movement to Starry Night, but because of the nature of creative thinking. Even when we're alone, we are in a sense "collaborating" with a voice inside our head. At once intuitive and surprising, Powers of Two will change the way we think about innovation.





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On Becoming a Person

A Therapist’s Veiw of Psychotherapy

Carl Rogers

A classic (first published in 1961), scholarly but very readable book on the challenges of becoming a more authentic person who is open to new experience.  Rogers was a pioneer advocate of the healing power of supportive listening in both psychotherapy and everyday life. His most revolutionary idea was that Therapist did not have to ‘fix’ the client; if Therapist simply provided a deeply accepting environment and LISTENED, the client’s own sense of inner rightness would come into play and guide the client to find a solution that was right for him/her.

Biography Adapted from Wikipedia

Carl Rogers (January 8, 1902 – February 4, 1987) was an influential American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research and was honored for his pioneering research with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions by the American Psychological Association in 1956.

The person-centered approach, his own unique approach to understanding personality and human relationships, found wide application in various domains such as psychotherapy and counseling (client-centered therapy), education (student-centered learning), organizations, and other group settings. For his professional work he was bestowed the Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Psychology by the APA in 1972. Towards the end of his life Carl Rogers was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with national intergroup conflict in South Africa and Northern Ireland.In an empirical study by Haggbloom et al. (2002) using six criteria such as citations and recognition, Rogers was found to be the sixth most eminent psychologist of the 20th century and second, among clinicians, only to Sigmund Freud.



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Powers of Two
Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs

By Joshua Wolf Shenk

Weaving the lives of scores of creative duos—from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Marie and Pierre Curie to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak—Joshua Wolf Shenk identifies the core qualities of that dizzying experience we call "chemistry." Revealing the six essential stages through which creative intimacy unfolds, Shenk draws on new scientific research and builds an argument for the social foundations of creativity—and the pair as its primary embodiment. Along the way, he reveals how pairs begin to talk, think, and even look like each other; how the most successful ones thrive on conflict; and why some pairs flame out while others endure.

When it comes to shaping the culture, Shenk argues, two is the magic number, not just because of the dyads behind everything from South Park to the American Civil Rights movement to Starry Night, but because of the nature of creative thinking. Even when we're alone, we are in a sense "collaborating" with a voice inside our head. At once intuitive and surprising, Powers of Two will change the way we think about innovation.




 

From the Inside Flap
A lyrical, revelatory synthesis of cultural history and social psychology that shows how one-to-one collaboration drives creative success
Weaving together the lives of scores of creative duos from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Marie and Pierre Curie to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak Joshua Wolf Shenk identifies the core qualities of that dizzying experience we call chemistry. Revealing the six essential stages through which creative intimacy unfolds, Shenk draws on academic research, original reportage, and historical evidence to show that creativity is not the work of an individual mind. In fact, it is a social activity, and the pair is its primary embodiment. Along the way, he describes how partners in pairs begin to talk, think, and even look like each other; how the most successful ones thrive on conflict; and why some pairs flame out while others endure.

In a book as formally inventive as it is intellectually compelling, Shenk shows that when it comes to the innovations that shape our culture, two is the magic number. Dyads are behind everything from “South Park” to the American civil rights movement to “Starry Night”; indeed, they are essential to creative thinking itself. Even when we re alone, we are, in a sense, collaborating with a voice inside our head.
At once intuitive and myth-shattering, “Powers of Two” changes how we think about how we think, and inspires us to reach out and think with each other.

Reviewers’ Comments

Powers of Two is such a brilliant, compelling book, it’s hard to imagine that Shenk left any part of himself behind in the writing of it. Or maybe, as he posits, his separateness suffered while his book gained from the merger with his adored editor: the sacrifice of self that’s necessary to achieve successful creative coupledom.” 
Chicago Tribune

“We sometimes think of creativity as coming from brilliant loners. In fact, it more often happens when bright people pair up and complement each other. Shenk’s fascinating book shows how to spark the power of this phenomenon.”
Walter Isaacson

When I spoke with John Lennon in 1980—the final in-depth interview of his life—he described writing many songs ‘eyeball to eyeball’ with Paul McCartney. Powers of Two conveys the intimacy and complexity of their collaboration—and collaboration in general—with brilliant clarity.”
—David Sheff,
author of All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

“In this surprising, compelling, deeply felt book, Joshua Wolf Shenk banishes the idea of solitary genius by demonstrating that our richest art and science come from collaboration: we need one another not only for love, but also for thinking and imagining and growing and being.”
Andrew Solomon

All future accounts of artistry and innovation will be enriched by the treasures Joshua Wolf Shenk has uncovered in the creativity of pairs.
Lewis Hyde, author of The Gift

 




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The Helping Relationship
Processes and Skills

by Lawrence M. Brammer and Ginger MacDonald

Counseling is not just a specialized profession reserved for a few trained individuals. All people are called upon at certain points in their lives to serve as counselors, listeners, or helpers in some way. Basic counseling skills are a necessity for every single individual, whether one is a parent listening to his teenager, a family member helping another cope with the loss of a loved one, a doctor counseling a patient about a terminal illness, a friend providing support for another friend, or even a business professional engaging in active listening at a meeting or interview. Counseling requires leadership and compassion, and it is a skill that all must possess in order to live with others in the world. This book describes in non-technical language the human helping process and provides training for anyone interested in becoming a helper. Filled with examples and step-by-step outlines on how to develop basic counseling skills, this book focuses on helping people learn to help themselves and each other. Providing a systematic approach to acquiring helping skills, this book cuts through psychological jargon and reaches across various professions and settings. Readers are asked to consider important personal issues of being a helper as they enter professional or paraprofessional roles as helpers. Social workers, counselors, human service professionals, business professionals, law professionals, medical professionals, and anyone interested in becoming a helper.






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Spiritual Activism
Leadership as Service

By Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael

Over the past half century the issues facing activists have changed, as has our understanding and awareness of spirituality. For activists, spiritual philosophy is rising up the agenda because it offers distinct, tried and tested approaches to deep questions: Where did it all go wrong? What does it mean to be human? What is the place of leadership? What is the nature of power?

The book begins by defining spirituality for a modern audience of all faiths and beliefs, and goes on to consider the problems and necessities of true leadership. Drawing on a rich history of spirituality and activism, from The Bhagavad Gita, to the Hebrew prophets, to Carl Jung, it is both guide and inspiration for people involved in activism for social or environmental justice.

The text is enriched with tales from the authors’ own experiences. It contains case studies of inspirational spiritual activists (including Mama Efua, Desmond Tutu, Gerrard Winstanley, Sojourner Truth and Julia Butterfly Hill), which demonstrate the transformative power of spiritual principles in action.




About the Authors

Alastair McIntosh is a Scottish writer, scholar, broadcaster, and activist on social, environmental, and spiritual issues. He is a fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, an honorary fellow in the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University, and an honorary senior research fellow in the College of Social Sciences at Glasgow University. He has written numerous books, including Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition; Radical Human Ecology; and Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power.

Matt Carmichael is a climate activist, English teacher, and writer. He was a founder board member of Schumacher North, a forum devoted to exploring and promoting the ideas of deep ecology, sustainable development, and social transformation, and is the creator of the Delta Course, an intensive course on spirituality for groups of people from any or no religious background.


Reviewers’ Comments

“This book itself is a spiritual journey, with a grounding in psychology, history and theology. It helps us to explore how we can bring our deepest values into action at this crucial time for the world!”
—Starhawk, author, The Spiral Dance and The Empowerment Manual

“This book offers a brave, bold and very timely guide to doing just that. If you think you want to change the world, you need to read it.” —Paul Kingsnorth, author, One No, Many Yeses: A Journey to the Heart of the Global Resistance Movement
“The perilous path we tread is littered with burnt out, sold out, freaked out activists. If we wish to engage effectively and for the long run in this world full of wounds, for our efforts for Earth and Justice to be truly sustainable, it behoves us to take great care of our psychological and spiritual wellbeing. This book provides us with an important tool for the journey.”
—John Seed, founder, The Rainforest Information Centre


“The word brilliant is overused, but it genuinely applies to Spiritual Activism. No other book brings together social change theory with insights from psychology and spirituality like this book does.”
—Brian D. McLaren, speaker; activist; author, We Make the Road by Walking

“With its clarion call that spirituality is central to activism, this is truly a book for our age, challenging the preconceptions of most activists, let alone those who still see spirituality solely as ‘an inner journey.”
—Sir Jonathan Porritt, first chair of UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission; former director, Friends of the Earth

“This is a refreshing and heartening book. It inspires positive action with a rich and skilful integration of spiritual philosophies, psychology and case studies of great activists.”
—Katrina Shields, author, In the Tiger’s Mouth

“Can we somehow manage to act both rightly and effectively? McIntosh and Carmichael have carefully studied the obstacles that have always made this look so hard. Their careful, sober reasoning and their case studies, reveal a map that leads the right way.” —Dr. Mary Midgely, philosopher

“For any of us who find that the spiritual moment flows from the practical, that prayer (or song, or silence) refreshes on the knife-edge of activism, this book will be an invaluable resource and inspiration. It addresses questions of power, leadership and accountability with honesty, insight and wisdom, and speaks with humanity and humour on the importance of community in human development.”
—Rev. Kathy Galloway, first woman leader, the Iona Community

“Ever since the first Gulf War in 1991, Alastair McIntosh has stood in solidarity with our community to strengthen interfaith relationships. I warmly welcome the recognition in Spiritual Activism that true Islam can contribute to human rights, justice and peace for all in today’s world.”
—Dr. Bashir Maan, first elected Muslim politician in the UK; former president, Glasgow Central Mosque

“Nuclear disarmament, as this thoughtful book suggests, is more than a matter of dismantling the weapons. We must also dismantle our minds and hearts to change our current ideas of true security.” —Bruce Kent, Vice President, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

“We’ve tried to heal what ails us and our world with smartness, money, technology, economic growth, policy, and politics–all necessary and all insufficient. Having tried everything else, it is now time to add spirit exercised with discipline, going to the heart of the matter where wholeness, healing, and Holy converge. Highly recommended.” —David W. Orr, professor, Oberlin College; author, Down to the Wire

“To my fellow activists, even the most sceptical, I insist read this excellent book and learn some vital lessons from the most successful and longest lasting social movements in history.” —George Marshall, founder, Climate Outreach Information Network




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Devil's Tango
How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step

By Cecile Pineda

As much personal journal as investigative journalism, this account traces the worsening developments at Fukushima Daiichi during the first year following the nuclear disaster. Often poetic in tone and philosophic in scope, this day-to-day reportage is peppered with the author’s reflections and dramatic monologues as she investigates the public’s willing blindness toward the nuclear power industry’s disregard for public safety in the pursuit of profit. The book offers a unique perspective and attempts to come to terms with Fukushima’s catastrophic consequences on the planet.

"A revelation and a searing denunciation of the worldwide nuclear energy industry. . . . Contains everything you always wanted to know about Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and nuclear energy in general but were afraid to ask. It is a work of a conscience truly in touch with, and deeply concerned about, humanity." —John Nichols, author, The Milagro Beanfield War.




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Devil's Tango
How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step

By Cecile Pineda

As much personal journal as investigative journalism, this account traces the worsening developments at Fukushima Daiichi during the first year following the nuclear disaster. Often poetic in tone and philosophic in scope, this day-to-day reportage is peppered with the author’s reflections and dramatic monologues as she investigates the public’s willing blindness toward the nuclear power industry’s disregard for public safety in the pursuit of profit. The book offers a unique perspective and attempts to come to terms with Fukushima’s catastrophic consequences on the planet. "A revelation and a searing denunciation of the worldwide nuclear energy industry. . . . Contains everything you always wanted to know about Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and nuclear energy in general but were afraid to ask. It is a work of a conscience truly in touch with, and deeply concerned about, humanity." —John Nichols, author, The Milagro Beanfield War.




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Gaia's Garden
A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture

By Toby Hemenway

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers. Many people mistakenly think that ecological gardening—which involves growing a wide range of edible and other useful plants—can take place only on a large, multiacre scale. As Hemenway demonstrates, it’s fun and easy to create a “backyard ecosystem” by assembling communities of plants that can work cooperatively and perform a variety of functions, including: >>> Building and maintaining soil fertility and structure >>> Catching and conserving water in the landscape >>> Providing habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and animals >>> Growing an edible “forest” that yields seasonal fruits, nuts, and other foods This revised and updated edition also features a new chapter on urban permaculture, designed especially for people in cities and suburbs who have very limited growing space. Whatever size yard or garden you have to work with, you can apply basic permaculture principles to make it more diverse, more natural, more productive, and more beautiful. Best of all, once it’s established, an ecological garden will reduce or eliminate most of the backbreaking work that’s needed to maintain the typical lawn and garden.


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