The Ghost of Communication Yet to Come

BY KAYLYN HASLUND
For the UAS Whalesong
On Oct. 30, Evening at Egan’s fifth event, “Strengthening the Spirit of Collaboration at Work, at Home, and in the Community” appeared in our University’s library. Kathleen Macferran and Jared Finkelstein, two certified trainers with the Center for Nonviolent Communication. They began simply with introductions and a quote from one of their comrades Miki Kashtan, “Collaboration is a very exacting discipline, and rests on only one uncompromising commitment: to attend to everyone’s needs.”
They started with a few questions from the audience, attempting to start collaborating with the public that came to the event, as well as gauging what type of audience they were dealing with. It opened the floor for the audience to get to know our presenters and decide if we would want to work with them. And many found that in fact they would love to work with the presenters, both of them who appeared open for discussion at multiple points.
In their presentation was a PowerPoint, focusing on the main points of focus for them, specifically starting out with the Mandala of NVC (Non-Violent Communication)—a graphical representation of word relationships and how they relate to communication. Within it were ideas of language, communication, thinking, and the use of power. With this they began the discussion of how some of these ideas both held us back, as well as push us forward in collaboration. They gave an example with a Hoberman sphere, which shows how even one small action can impact everything else. This was to show that we should pay attention to other people and what we care about. They also had a diagram called the NVC Tree of Life, which showed ways initiating understanding through empathy.
After this, they had the audience participate together, sharing stories of a time when we received something from someone that we couldn’t repay and how that gift impacted us. This was to teach each person that in those moments we were valued as a person because we weren’t required to give back.  The person I sat next to personally shared the lessons a family member gave him and how it had impacted his life.  And we can see that every individual has a story like this, where they were put before someone else and valued as dearly as their own person.
We then began to share what words we thought of for what we would want in collaboration, thus giving everyone an idea of basic human needs, though collaboration is different for every individual. Some of the words were honesty, understanding, and openness. It showed that many people wanted the same thing to form a good collaboration. It also revealed collaboration being completely up to each person on whether or not they decide to participate. Which as college students we can easily relate to, in both class sessions and group projects. How easy it is for each individual to ignore one another’s needs.
It showed a possibility for what could one day be our world, through patience and time of course, but a something that could occur. Working together and finding solutions that appease everyone’s beliefs, though that may seem idealistic to some.   People could willingly come together to make a society in which we would want to live and learn amongst one another. At points it did seem impractical, as it is normal to disagree with someone, and some members of the audience wonder if it really would get us anywhere as a species.
It came to a point that we started to see how everyone and every need matters, though there was still some discord on if everyone totally believed that. Jared Finkelstein thought that someone must matter if you have even the slightest opinion on him or her. That message implied that, in fact, yes each individual in some way or another matters, though there sounded to disparaging beliefs from members of the audience.
Ultimately the event showed ways of being practical and understanding others when assembling a group or trying out collaboration. It also began a conversation on methods of nonviolence and how we can apply these ideas to working amongst each other. It’d be good to see these very practices come to fruition on our own campus, to see our community working together and attempting to better the place we live in.

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