Speaker: John Kinyon

Mediating Our Lives With Nonviolent Communication Techniques

Creating the life, relationship, and world we envision one conversation at a time with ourselves and others.”  -- John Kinyon

In 1998, John Kinyon had left a graduate program in clinical psychology and was looking around, trying to figure out how he wanted to apply those skills in the world.  He was at a mediation conference and heard a keynote presentation by someone about whom he had not previously heard – Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of the global “nonviolent communication” work. Listening to Rosenberg's insights, he recalls, “my jaw dropped open. This was everything I was looking for.”  Having experimented with different forms of mediation, facilitation, and organizational development, all of which he had found interesting, “something big remained missing. Marshall’s talk pulled together everything I most cared about in what I wanted to do in the world.” 

Kinyon embraced full-time communication and conflict resolution work and went on to study closely with Rosenberg for more than a decade. He then helped bring forth the work of nonviolent communication to the practice of mediation, helping establish the field of “nonviolent mediation”: drawing on Rosenberg's NVC tools to mediate conflict within ourselves, to mediate conflict between ourselves and others, and to support mediation trainees who want to become a mediating presence in helping others. By inviting disputants into greater nondual consciousness, Kinyon aims to help them resolve conflicts and to train others to mediate conflicts. 

For Kinyon, Rosenberg’s approach to nonviolent communication (NVC) represented a perfect marriage of the two streams of his personal motivation and inspiration:  the work of American psychologist Carl Rogers, to which he had been exposed in grad school and which represented a “simple but powerful way of thinking about therapy and how to be with people”; and the social-political nonviolent change work of Gandhi.  Kinyon had had “no idea how to put those together. Marshall was a perfect fit.” 

Kinyon now coaches disputants or trainees in mediation to use mindful empathy to penetrate the positions that appear to conflict until they experience the human needs that animate the conflicting positions. At this deeper level there is no conflict. Both sides share each other’s needs. They just have different beliefs and strategies around meeting those needs. At this unified level, the disputants can access different strategies that meet their needs. His approach provides skills and conversation “maps” for navigating challenges and conflicts, inner and outer, in all aspects of life. Maps, according to Kinyon, put together the language of needs with the skills of empathy. In potentially triggering moments, “all I have to do is remember I have a map, and then I have guidance to navigate through conflict.”

Kinyon studied psychology and philosophy while earning his undergraduate degree from the University of San Francisco (and played for USF’s nationally ranked soccer team).  He trained in the clinical psychology graduate program at Penn State University.  During his five years of doctoral study, he worked as a psychotherapist with individuals and groups, and as a research assistant at the Stress and Anxiety Disorders Institute.  After graduate school, John helped launch and develop a small commercial business before discovering Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

In 2002, Kinyon, Miki Kashtan and two others co-founded the Bay Area Nonviolent Communication organization (BayNVC), which began and still teaches nonviolent communications at the San Quentin Prison.  In 2003, following a "harrowing" adventure together working with Afghan tribal elders in a refugee camp on the Pakistan border, he and his close colleague Ike Lasater began developing a body of work and training programs based in NVC that came to be called Mediate Your Life (MYL), which for over 10 years offered year-long programs in different parts of the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia.  

Kinyon has been studying and practicing mindfulness, meditation, and consciousness traditions (including the poetic tradition) for over 30 years and has used this experience in developing his approach. He lives in the Bay area, and is author of the workbook Mindfulness in Conversation: Creating the Life and World You Want One Conversation at a Time.  He also is co-author of several books, including Choosing Peace: New Ways to Communicate to Reduce Stress, Create Connection, and Resolve Conflict; From Conflict to Connection: Transforming Difficult Conversations into Peaceful Resolutions; and When Your Mind Sabotages Your Dreams: Turning Your Critical Internal Voices Into Collaborative Allies,

What is the transformative insight triggered by Rosenberg’s work in NVC?  It is, Kinyon says, that “everything we think and do is about trying to meet a need, and whatever we are doing is the best way we know to meet the need.” That’s perhaps the premise. So then, he says, “the goal is to become conscious of our needs and of what we want to do to meet them, and then to learn if our actions worked or not (did they meet our needs?). The goal is to become conscious of our needs and choices, and to learn from those choices – to mourn, celebrate, and learn.”

Join us in conversation with this believer that conflict, like fire, does not have to be destructive -- with the right tools.

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