Update from Yantai, By Jim Manske

Today is the third day of an extended weekend training here in Yantai, and our 9th day of training here over the last year.  I sometimes joke that we love doing NVC here in this small village.

In 2010, there were almost 7 million people here!  That’s bigger than every city in the USA except for New York City.  And most Americans have never heard of it.  Yet by Chinese standards, a small city.  (Shanghai and Beijing have over 20 million!)

“Opened” by the People’s Republic in 1984, Yantai has been transformed from a sleepy port and fishing village into a vibrant and sprawling city linking various parts by subways and wide, modern boulevards lined with buffers of thickly planted vegetation: ground cover, shrubbery, flowering trees and evergreens that create a natural barrier between streets and the buildings set back from the avenues.  Sadly, the mixture of exhaust from power plants and cars along with the natural moisture from the nearby sea create a perfect place for smog, not unlike LA.

About 2/3 of the participants come from Yantai, and the rest have come here from at least ten other cities around China, making this a “national” training.  Most of the practitioners have practiced NVC for at least a year or two, and some are already on the path to becoming certified trainers.  (Right now, in a country with over a billion people there are no certified trainers!)

The sense of joy, community and connection inspires my heart.  So much laughter, tempered by a serious attitude when it comes to diving into the learning.  Weijun, one of the organizers and a senior certification candidates claps his hands sharply at the appointed time to begin, and silence quickly descends.  This is a 5000 year old culture of deep obedience to authority, after all.

We encourage folks to question that authority in a gentle way:  “Why are you getting quiet?  Why are you attending to us as teachers.  Are you doing this out of a habit of obedience or because you are connected to your needs?  What needs are motivating you?”

There are almost 40 folks studying with us this weekend, and we are focusing on “NVC as a Mindfulness Toolbox”, material which we began developing about a year ago in Maui and Oahu.  The first day we focused on Self-Connection; yesterday we shifted to Empathy; and today we will settle into Mindful Dialog.

Of course, they feed us way too much food.  Besides the 3 meals a day that is the current Chinese middle-class habit, there are snacks available during the training, unlimited tea and coffee, and they have fully stocked our refrigerator with yogurt and fruit that we have barely touched because we are bloated from the abundance.

This weekend marks the more than halfway point on our journey to China.  Monday we head for a brief stop in Shanghai, than finish with two weekend trainings in Shenzen and Guangzhou.

One last moment of reflection and hope.  Yantai is a port city on the Bay of Korea.  Just a few hundred kilometers away is the Korean Peninsula, and yesterday there was big news that the two Koreas may be moving toward a peace treaty after more than 60 years of war, tension and uneasy truce.  After our nuclear missile scare in January, the urge to peace feels quite present in my heart, and I hope that the various parties can come to a peaceful agreement.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate something that President Trump has done!  What a refreshing possibility.  I’d love to have some evidence that my enemy image is at least a little shaky, and that I can touch celebration as well as mourning about our current political situation.

Please keep practicing with Hawkeye, Becky and with one another!  We look forward to seeing you in May!

Warm aloha from chilly Yantai,


“The Zero Step:  What we do before we open our mouths influences what happens next!  Jim Manske Certified Trainer for The Center for Nonviolent Communication

“The Zero Step:  What we do before we open our mouths influences what happens next!  

“Know what you want before you open your mouth.”  -Marshall Rosenberg, developer of Nonviolent Communication

The Story of the Zero Step 

Shortly after meeting Marshall Rosenberg in November of 2000, Jori and I started attending the Community NVC Practice Group in Albuquerque. One member of the group, Mel Schneider, offered the group a lesson he called “The Zero Step”.  Mel started the presentation by writing the numbers 1 through 4 on the whiteboard:







He then filled in the blank next to each number, enumerating the four components of NVC.

  1. Observation
  2. Feeling
  3. Need
  4. Request

He briefly reviewed what each component meant.  He said something like, “Observation refers to what we see and hear.  Feeling means the physical sensations and emotions we notice in our body.  Needs are the universal values that cause our feelings.  Requests are the action step that moves us forward into making life more wonderful.”

This was already familiar.  As I once heard Marshall say, “you can learn the basic components of NVC in 5 minutes or less.”

Then he went back to the board and wrote a 0 at the top o



  1. Observation
  2. Feeling
  3. Need
  4. Request

And after the 0 he wrote two words


  1. Observation
  2. Feeling
  3. Need
  4. Request

Intrigued, we all leaned forward.  I thought, “What is this?  I don’t remember seeing this in Marshall’s book!  He didn’t mention this at the workshop we just went to. I wonder what this is about.”

Mel explained that his understanding and practice of NVC centered around the idea that “all the rest” of NVC follows from one underlying premise: the intention that we each bring to every communication matters to the outcome!  He also reminded us of the ever-present environment in which we practice NVC: the present moment.

In other words, when we take the time and energy to get clear about our intention, before communicating with one another, we increase the likelihood of living compassionately.  In the moments before we engage in a conversation, the choices we make profoundly influence everyone involved.  When we begin with an intention to connect, we naturally enter into the present moment, the only “time and place” that the connection we so fervently want actually exists.

The “Rest of NVC”

I have come to understand that “all the rest” of NVC also supports our clarity of intention because each component of NVC awakens us to another important quality of consciousness- Openness to Outcome.  Rather than pre-judging the moment based on beliefs and images rooted in the dead past or the imagined future, we open to the possibility of something new arising that can make life more wonderful from now on.

In each moment, our consciousness focuses on what is arising with four lenses:

1.What’s actually happening, right now?;

2.What feelings are arising, right now?

3.Who needs what right now?

4.What might contribute to those Needs, right now?

So the intention of NVC, in a dynamic feedback loop with NVC’s components, creates and sustains a natural quality of connection, a quality that makes compassionate giving and receiving both possible and inevitable.  We creatively move through each moment of presence, awake and open to the almost infinite potential of what could be.

What happens if we forget the Zero Step?

With another intention, the same four components can be used at a great cost, one that adversely affects one’s own well-being and integrity, and likely leads to something other than compassionate giving and receiving, a world based on who deserves what punishment or reward.  In other words, violence rooted in separateness.

When we view the world through a screen of life-alienated “jackal”* consciousness, we live our lives alternating between the dead past and the imaginary future.  We fall into habits of:

1.Evaluation and analysis

2.Separative thinking and moral judgment

3.Resistance and addictive attachment

4.Demands and expectations

Even after we learn the basics of NVC, we may fall into these mostly unconscious habits.  We may begin to use NVC as a mechanical process devoid of warmth and care.  We can use the lens of NVC to become analytical and diagnostic.  We can try to use NVC to manipulate others to get what we want without regard to our interdependence.  We might start judging others for not using NVC “the right way”, or correcting others for not being vulnerable enough, honest enough, empathic enough.  We might become the “NVC Police” correcting others for using words that are faux feelings or when they seem to mix up needs and strategies.

“”We might ask ourselves whether we are more intent on applying the process “correctly” than on connecting with the human being in front of us. Or perhaps, even though we are using the form of NVC, our only interest is in changing the other person’s behavior.” -Marshall Rosenberg

Becoming aware of any of these deeply embedded habits awakens us to the possibility of shifting our intention.  Instead of an intention to correct, we can shift, right now, to an intention to connect!

What does living this intention look like?

When we shift our orientation to connection in the present, it affects our body, mind and world.

For the body, the intention to connect results in heightened awareness of sensations and emotions which can be read to support us in cultivating our own vitality, ensuring that our body’s needs are met with ever-increasing reliability.  We learn to listen to the body and respond compassionately to its requests.

For the mind, we experience clarity, insight and openness to outcome.  The safety and security we experience in our body influences our minds to become both vulnerable and empathic.  We enjoy each moment as an opportunity to sense fully the whole range of human experience with a respectful quality of allowance.  The luminosity of our awareness invites self-connection in the service of life.

With body and mind in resonance, our interactions with the world shift.  The separateness we have habitually felt dissolves into connection and compassion.  Our willingness to both give and receive blossoms.

Now, we can connect!  More and more often we can catch ourselves connecting naturally.  Every time we notice a pleasant sensation in the body becomes an opportunity to taste and express gratitude.  Each moment of sadness or despair invites us to inquire into the source of our pain:  what need is crying, “please!” right now?  Each connection to a need invites us to open to the possibility that there exists a strategy (or a myriad of strategies) to fulfill the needs arising.

Here are some practices to experiment with to connect with The Zero Step:

•Acknowledge, “I am Giraffe*”, or “I’m putting on my giraffe ears.”

•Cultivate Warmth toward self and other

•Care for your vitality as well as the vitality of other(s)

•Cultivate Gratitude

•Cultivate interest in what is alive: What’s actually happening? What feelings are arising? Who  needs what right now? What might help?

•Mental practice:  This refers to a strategy of using the brains power of simulation to practice the Zero Step in challenging situations before they happen.  I sometimes do this kind of practice just before going to sleep and/or just upon awakening.  If I end up in a sleepless period in the middle of the night, one can also utilize the time for this kind of practice.

Write down one new thing that you will do to cultivate your zero step.

(*Giraffe is the symbol of Nonviolent Communication, chosen by Marshall Rosenberg because giraffes have the strongest heart of any land mammal.

C) 2017 Jim Manske peaceworks radicalcompassion.com

Jim Manske
Certified Trainer for The Center for Nonviolent Communication, cnvc.org
President, Network for NVC
Please join me in a commitment to live from the consciousness that we are
Please, let every word that you speak or type be empathically cleansed of
any thought or feeling of separateness before you open your mouth or press “send”. (This in no way implies there is a correct form!)

Please, let every word you hear be filtered by empathy so all you hear is “Please” and “Thank you”.

Please, let every communication express our common aim of living nonviolence and compassion.

May we remember our vision and mission each and every moment, and measure our own actions (and inactions) in relation to those commitments.