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New Communication Skills in Action

The New Conversations Initiative 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

A public service of Human Development Books, publisher and bookseller, and an extended learning community focused on cooperative communication skills. We support the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.

Most popular resources for individual and group study about effective interpersonal communication skills…

The Seven Challenges Workbook: A Guide to Cooperative Communication Skills for Success at Home and at Work (100 pages, PDF & HTML) by Dennis Rivers. ( free in PDF and web page formats, printed copies: $12+postage. In India: Rs.325.) How to change your world, one compassionate conversation at a time.

Also available in:

ESPAÑOL : Los Siete Retos

PORTUGUÊS: Os sete desafios

Other languages: volunteer translators wanted

Explore listening and communication skills for conflict resolution

Compassionate Listening : An Exploratory Sourcebook About Conflict Transformation by Gene Knudsen Hoffman,Leah Green and Cynthia Monroe. Free PDF, 33 pages. (Cover illustration by Meganne Forbes.)

Human Becoming :  An anthology of excerpts from Jungian psychotherapist David Richo’s many books on our journey toward becoming whole and human. (90 pages, PDF, free)

The Geometry of Dialogue : A Visual Way of Understanding Interpersonal Communication and Human Development. By Dennis Rivers. Exploratory study using mandala-like flow charts to map and facilitate human interaction. (220 pages, PDF, free)

New Conversations Library Free e-books, essays and scholarly papers in PDF and html formats, and a variety of links, for a world in need of transformation and reconciliation.

BBC NEWS ITEM: Communication skills ‘cut re-offending’

Derek thinks he is a lucky man.
Man's mouth
Therapists say helping offenders communicate provides long-term benefits
Aged 20, he is serving a sentence for a violent offence in Polmont Young Offenders’ Institution. But he is getting help for the problem he believes was at the root of his offence – his communication difficulties. “I speak very fast and people didn’t really understand what I was saying. It caused conflict because I had to repeat things. “It’s caused me lots of problems, at school and with my family.” His therapist at Polmont, Jan Green, has helped Derek spot when he should make himself calmer to help him communicate. “It’s helped my confidence,” he said. “And it’s helped me get education.” Derek said he also hoped it would help him relate to his son when he is released from Polmont in a few years’ time. The institution is unique in having had speech and language therapy for the last 30 years.

NEWS ITEM: How much difference does conversational style make in a person’s overall health?  Recent research indicates that, for married women in the U.S., it is literally a matter of life and death:


A study of nearly 4,000 men and women from Framingham, Mass., asked whether they typically vented their feelings or kept quiet in arguments with their spouse. Notably, 32 percent of the men and 23 percent of the women said they typically bottled up their feelings during a marital spat. In men, keeping quiet during a fight didn’t have any measurable effect on health. But women who didn’t speak their minds in those fights were four times as likely to die during the 10-year study period as women who always told their husbands how they felt , according to the July report in Psychosomatic Medicine. Whether the woman reported being in a happy marriage or an unhappy marriage didn’t change her risk.  ( read article )   [my emphasis in red]

A New Bookstore Section on Civility, Dialogue and Social Conflict

Guest Articles/Essays/Web Sites:

Active Listening for parents of toddlers (from the New York Times) The Role of Dialogue in Resolving Community Conflicts (from PBS) Melinda Smith is a conflict resolution expert who has worked in Kalispell, Montana, to help the residents to come to an agreement about sharply contested land-use issues. Positive Deviant is a magazine article about the transformative power of deep listening, as it occurred in a program to reduce child malnutrition in Vietnam.  It is one of the clearest examples I have ever read of what is now called “appreciative inquiry,” which advocates that helpers pay disciplined and systematic attention to the strengths, capacities and past successes of those people they wish to help. Citizens’ Coalition to Reaffirm and Extend the Geneva Conventions offers a way of addressing the global problems of violence and torture. Our latest article is The Trouble With Torture… Psychological and political arguments against extreme interrogation and preventive detention Sandhi Institute Nonviolent communication training and community building in war-torn Sri Lanka. <p >[Please suggest great articles you have read / sites you have visited for this section. Submit suggestions through our Contact Page .]
Resources for Communication Skills Classes and Groups Need conflict resolution and civility help right now? Try our Conflict Emergency Kit .
Invitations & suggestions on how you can participate today  in the new Conversations Initiative, a cooperative communication skills extended learning community  

Volunteer translators wanted: The Seven Challenges Workbook is now available in Spanish and Portuguese (in both printed book and free PDF file formats) thanks to the wonderful generosity of our volunteer translators, Ilia Morales Figueroa, Annette de Paz and Irene Schardijn.  We invite translation of our books, articles and teaching materials into all languages. (No language community is “too small.”) We will be delighted to make your translation available free of charge as a PDF file and/or web page on this site, and to arrange for it to be printed on demand. If you are studying for an MA in translation, please consider translating one or more of our documents as part of your MA program.   (For more information, please send an inquiry using our Contact Form ).

web us/blog us/recommend us — Spread the word about free teaching and training materials.You can encourage the development of more cooperative communicating in families, organizations and nations around the world by placing one of the following links to the Seven Challenges Workbook and to our library of free resources on your personal, organizational, school, college, university or business web site and/or blog.  Copy one of the following links and insert it in the appropriate page on your site. Also, please see the social share buttons below the left-side menu.  (Thanks and blessings) free library of communication skills books, essays and training materialwe recommend the free, Seven Challenges communications skills workbook available at free library on communication skills Free books, essays and training materials on how to communicate and solve problems more compassionately, more gracefully, and more creatively. The free library

New Conversations Initiative Blog

January 2006 Issue A new translation, the next ten years, and you are already a communication skills trainer

July 2005 Issue Beyond the Hall of Mirrors Reflections on War, Terror and Human Interaction

The New Conversations Initiative Communication Skills Global Bookstore (includes new entries on listening, question asking, and violence).Presented in cooperation with Human Development Books, Berkeley, CA, publisher of The Seven Challenges Workbook , and sponsor of this site. Books available in USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Germany, France, and Japan through HDB’s Global Find-A-Book Service.  Your book purchases at the Communication Skills Global Bookstore support this site. is proud to be a participant in the following communities:

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

Dennis RiversWelcome to The New Conversations Initiative, 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, and do not have to distract my visitors with continuous fund-raising appeals. 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 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, Owner and Publisher, Human Development Books and Global-Find-A-Book

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