Resolving conflict and reducing stress. Creating peace and harmony, within oneself and with all sentient beings. We want it, but how to get there?

"The cause of violence is separation," Ingrid Skoog metaphorically shouts from the rooftops of Bloomington. "Separation from our hearts' compassion for ourselves and others. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) seeks to reconnect us with our innate humanity, our desire to contribute to one another. Connection is the essence of this practice."

"Nonviolent Communication is both a set of communication tools and a spiritual practice," Skoog said during a recent workshop at her east-side studio, Moving Compassion. "By examining the needs behind what we do and say, NVC helps reduce hostility, heal pain, and strengthen relationships, both professional and personal. The key is that human needs are universal."

Skoog has practiced body-centered therapy in Bloomington for 20 years. She now travels frequently to San Francisco, where she's completing a leadership training program in NVC. She is also earning her certification from the international Center for Nonviolent Communication ( ... ).

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Developed in the 1960s by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication is also known as "compassionate communication." Its purpose is to "strengthen our ability to inspire compassion from others and to respond compassionately to others and to ourselves," said Skoog.

Influenced by Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the humanist psychologist Carl Rogers, Rosenberg discerned the root of violence in our culture's tendency "to focus on our heads — our diagnoses, our interpretations, our analyses of one another — rather than our hearts," said Skoog.

Through a four-step process (Observations, Feelings, Needs, Requests), NVC seeks to instill a language of the heart that emphasizes an awareness of needs rather than an imposition of judgments. NVC is now practiced internationally by teachers, parents, partners, and workplace consultants.

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Participants in NVC workshops often use animal hand puppets. The puppets serve as physical reminders of the language's metaphors: a giraffe for trained, compassion-filled communication (largest-hearted of all beasts, able to stick its neck way out), and a jackal (no explanation necessary) for life-alienated thinking and speaking.

"Changing patterns of thinking . . . can change communication profoundly," said workshop attendee Lauren Robert. Robert operates Life Support, a performance counseling business, and is a graduate of the New York Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution.

"Ingrid's workshop is a gift bestowed on those who are open to it, as she teaches skills that open doors to a more comfortable fit with the world and beautiful opportunities for intimacy that our souls long for," Robert said.

In addition to hosting workshops such as the upcoming "Principles and Practices of Nonviolent Communication" on Oct. 6, Skoog offers weekly and monthly training groups for teens and adults, where those new to the language can try out their skills and ask questions.

She also teaches NVC to kindergartners at the Bloomington Developmental Learning Center. For more information, call 333-1982 or e-mail ingridskoog@yahoo.com.

Melissa McReynolds can be reached at melissa@galfriday.biz.