With Laura Borel at Merigar West April 5-7, 2019
Our Community is founded on collaboration. In order to collaborate, it is very important to communicate, to relate to each other. As a Gakyil, we believe it is useful to use the opportunities that arise, including techniques structured by various types of experts in this field and, above all, to share their approaches and support each other.
In previous years we have had courses on communication with Gianfranco Brero and with Valentina Lo Surdo that presented ways to improve communication in front of an audience, such as talking to groups of people of different origins, cultures and abilities.
A few months ago, Laura Borrel was at Merigar for some weeks. In her professional life Laura helps volunteer communities to work more effectively through the medium of Non-Violent Communication, or communication that is based on a deep respect for the dimension of other people. It is an approach in which we learn to distinguish between our observing and describing our feelings and our continual confusion with judging others and remaining closed to different points of view.
As a Gakyil we had followed a course with Laura in the autumn and found it not only an interesting approach, but in its simplicity it helped us to pay more attention to the relationships between ourselves and the many people who work and collaborate with us in both small and big tasks. For this reason we thought of proposing this experience to all the practitioners who come to Merigar.
Three days of intense and very interesting work. This is in a nutshell the description of the course organized at Merigar from April 5 to 7, 2019. Laura Borel guided a group of twenty participants with competence, professionalism and deep empathy. A few simple rules to put some order into the interventions and allow everyone to express themselves without overlapping each other, and then we started. Laura led the course with discretion using the contributions of each person to point out what the characteristics of non-violent communication are: expressing requests clearly, avoiding making judgments, making our needs explicit, and taking into account our feelings and those of the other.
A first round of interventions was followed by some practical exercises in which we worked in smaller groups, chosen with totally random criteria, which alternated exercises, then exchanged experiences and conclusions gained in the few minutes of work. A characteristic of Laura’s work method is frequently alternating types of activities, to allow everyone to try their hand at various aspects, and to keep the attention and interest alive.
Very soon it became clear that a fundamental element for non-violent communication is the feeling of empathy that must be established between the subjects of communication. A lot of space was devoted to discussion, also supported by short videos, on the meaning of the word “empathy”, compared to sympathy, pity, or compassion. An empathic communication, which “comes from the heart”, is certainly felt and reaches the other person, although empathy can often be confused with one of the other attitudes listed, and the results are not the same. This reflection was very profound and touched each of the participants.
One of the proposed exercises was particularly enlightening to understand the value of collaboration. It consisted of completing a simple task, the same for each participant. We could help each other, in terms indicated by Laura, and the exercise would be concluded when all four members had reached the individual goal. Only when the individualistic logic that almost by default acted within the group was overcome, was something unblocked and we arrived at the shared solution … very interesting in its simplicity.
Another experiment with amazing results that Laura invited us to do was to write down the strengths that each one attaches to and recognizes in him/herself and share them with the others, who were free to add, confirm those already listed or those added by others. It was very interesting to find out how sometimes the image we have of ourselves and what others have of us may be different from the one we take for granted.
Beyond the technical tools that Laura provided over the three day course, certainly useful for improving the quality of communication and collaboration, the seminar brought out the need and desire to find spaces where it would be possible to communicate in a group, to clarify one’s thoughts and feelings, to deepen mutual knowledge, and to feel more involved in the decisions, processes and motivations that lead to taking them.
An important job for the life of the Community, a job that, ultimately, becomes a real practice.