Welcome! My work is about human consciousness and empathic communication distinctions, skills and processes for navigating the challenges and conflicts of personal and work life. It’s about learning ways of using awareness and language to mediate these challenges, inner and outer, through universal conversation maps that give the ability to deepen human connection and return to it when we lose it. For me, human connection is about integrating heart and soul with mind and self, imagination and rationality, the mythic/poetic/spiritual and the scientific, the sacred and the secular, the conscious and the unconscious. At the core, I see these conversations as being about healing and reconciling, making whole and healthy, our experience of conflicting dualities, the right and left hemispheres of our physiology and social-political worlds, our reptilian-survival and mammalian-relational evolutionary inheritance. Conflict can lead to new synthesis and integration at a higher level. This is the power of conflict. The practices of empathic conversation with ourselves and others, and the support of empathic community around us, build our capacity for resilience and resourcefulness and are an integral component of health and wellness, including healthy work life and organizational functioning. Ultimately, I see this work as part of how we human beings are evolving to respond together to the challenges we face and create a healthy and sustainable world.
My roots in this work started with being deeply influenced and inspired by humanistic psychology pioneer Carl Rogers, archetypal psychology founder Carl Jung, and by Mahatma Gandhi and his work with "nonviolence" in social-political change. In 1998, I met the founder of the international work of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), Marshall Rosenberg, and went on to study closely with him as my mentor. In 2002, following a harrowing adventure together working with Afghan tribal elders in a refugee camp on the Pakistan border, my close colleague Ike Lasater and I began co-developing a body of work and training program based in NVC called Mediate Your Life, which is offered in different parts of the U.S. and internationally.
The focus of our work has been to help people respond to human conflict in all its forms, inner and outer, with the ability to mediate with oneself and others to create empathic connection through communication skills and processes infused with compassion, mindfulness, and collaboration. A key and central aspect of the training is the use of a 3-chair model and mediation conversation "maps" for navigating different territories in the world of conflict. The mediation structure and maps represent universal forms of human conversation, a manual or guide to the human operating system for shifting from conflict to connection. From empathic connection, new creative possibilities and solutions emerge for the life and world we envision.
What is empathic connection? I like to talk about it in two ways. One is that it is experiencing the universality of our shared humanity in a way that holds the richness, beauty, and depth our individuality and uniqueness, as well as our connection to the larger community, society, and world. It is also our connection to nature and natural rhythms, and the play and dance and music of life — joyous celebration and the heartbreak of grief and loss. The other way I define empathic connection is that it is giving and receiving from the natural joy of contributing to one another's well being. It is acting from the heart, from honesty and compassion and courage. There are skills of language and attention that deepen and strengthen our natural capacity for this connection, and that bring us back to connection when we lose it, when we get triggered into the Fight-Flight-Freeze part of the brain (fear, anger, hurt, shame, depression). When we are in this kind of connection we function and work together at our best.
The skills and practices of empathic speaking and listening (with ourselves and others) allow us to respond effectively to our most difficult conflicts and breakdowns of relationship with others, and also to the daily stresses, overwhelm, irritations, frictions, upsets, disappointments, disconnections, and arguments that arise with friends, family, and at work. The stress of these interactions can build up over time and affect our health, well being, and quality of our relationships. With practices of empathic communication, and a supportive empathic community around us, we can transform these kinds of interactions into compassionate connection and collaboration. By doing this we strengthen and heal our relationships (and ourselves) rather than strain or damage them, and we develop resilience and resourcefulness.
I envision the skills and practices of empathic communication to be recognized in the cultural mainstream as an integral part of the health and wellness movement. This rapidly growing movement is not only about science-based approaches to diet and exercise, but also includes things like yoga, mindfulness/meditation, and spirituality, as well as compassion, emotional and social intelligence, and positive psychology, and including new paradigm organizational functioning (Reinventing Organizations). These health practices are being shown to contribute to more optimal and effective human functioning and well being. I believe empathic communication is foundational to these health practices and part of humanity’s evolution to be able to respond together to the challenges we face.
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For more in-depth resources on the Mediate Your Life (MYL) approach, see these books I have co-authored:
See links below to info and research on empathy, compassion, mindfulness, emotional and social intelligence, and positive psychology. Growing empirical evidence shows that these practices lead to increased mental, emotional, and physical well being and functioning, better relationships, and organizational benefits such as enhanced creativity, performance, productivity, and teamwork.
The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford School of Medicine, Self-Compassion, Positive Psychology Center, Greater Good Science Center, The Center for HealthyMinds, The Center for Mindfulness, Emotional and Social Intelligence — Daniel Goleman, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Brene Brown.
Within the challenges and conflicts in our lives, there is an energy that can propel us to the next level of well being, growth, and new possibilities. With the tools of empathic communication we can transform the power of conflict to create the life, relationships, and work we want, and contribute to the world we envision, one conversation at a time.
I envision a world in which we human beings are working together to respond to the challenges we face, and creating a peaceful, healthy, and sustainable world.
— john kinyon