HomeVolume 7July 2022The beautiful life that’s in you

The beautiful life that’s in you

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The beautiful life that’s in you

THOM BOND is a thought leader, peace educator, author, and mediation consultant who is best known for “The Compassion Course.” He’s also the founder and Director of Education for the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication (NVC). In part 2 of this interview, he talks with ELIZABETH DENLEY about his personal experience with NVC, and the associated learning curve.


Q: Can you talk about your journey with NVC? Is it ongoing? Is there an unfolding sense of wonder? Or is it simply a framework? How do you see this whole process?

TB: When we first start the process of integration, we make visitations into the parallel universe. Then, if somehow we can create a new path by practicing over and over and over again, we start seeing a new set of things out there. As one of my students said, it changed her relationship with her husband, her cat, and her plants. I was just like, “Yes, yes, yes! You’ve got it right!”

It’s a never-ending story, a never-ending process. It’s always about, “What else can I learn about life today? What else can I experience that’s happening to me in a life-connected way?” And, when I live in a life-connected way – which means I see the divine energy of life in you – that’s what I’m going to relate to: not the behaviors but the beautiful life that’s in you. It’s not easy, but over time we really start to see beyond the surface.

So, you could yell at me, “Thom, you’re a loudmouth. You just love to hear yourself talk. You’re driving me nuts.”
Instead of trying to defend myself, I could say, “Wow, you’re hurting right now. You’re in pain. I’m hearing that. I can only imagine it’s really frustrating for you right now to be here with me. You’d love something to be different.”
If I buy into the outer judgment, then I’m going to say, “No I’m not! What about you?” … and here we go, right?

There’s a way to break that cycle. First is to empathize with myself enough to know what I want in life. Even in the moments when somebody is coming at me I still know what I want. Second, I know how to get through that process: we start with what I call lifting light weights. Don’t work with devastation; work with annoyance, and work your way up to devastation.



Going way back to before I met Marshall Rosenberg, if I think about how many feelings I had then, I would say two – good and bad. Then I picked up his list of feelings, and it blew my mind. I realized, “Wow! I can have such a rich experience if I’m willing to see it. And somebody has given me words for it.” I love that, by the way. I really studied those words, because they were so helpful. Imagine, there’s a feeling called “nettled” versus just “pissed off” or “not happy.”

So, we start to look at the nuances of what we feel, and when we express them we also start to notice them in others, and we ask people about how they are feeling. What are we doing? Well, we’re inviting a life-connected relationship in that moment. That’s the process.

I have noticed that it actually goes in stages. I’ve watched this for over two decades now and I’m no different than any other human. First I found out NVC existed, which was really important (I prefer to call it NBR – Needs Based Relating – but let’s call it NVC here). Before that, I’d never heard of it. I didn’t know what it was or what it did. That was the starting point. Somebody had to tell me about it.

That’s why we constantly do intros, very carefully. The intros are the hardest trainings. The advanced trainings take care of themselves. It’s that beginning where we’re going to make the first turn off the superhighway of judgment and cultural bent, and say, “Well, there is this little path over here, let me show it to you. ”That’s how it starts.

Then, when we know NVC exists, we say, “Okay, needs; I think I know what needs are. I get it. I think I know what feelings are. I can even name them.” We start to see them and name them.



I want to help people
get into relationship with
their feelings and needs, so that
they move past that point of
thinking that “feelings are a bad idea,
and needs mean I’m selfish,”
and find out that actually
it’s a way to live life.



Then comes the next part, where it’s our habitual self up against this incredibly brand-new conscious self. This lays the groundwork for our transformation.

So what is it I want to do as a trainer? Well, I want to help people get into relationship with their feelings and needs, so that they move past that point of thinking that “feelings are a bad idea, and needs mean I’m selfish, ”and find out that actually it’s a way to live life. It’s an awareness that can inform them so well that they can simply transcend those outer layers of conflict, the judgment of right/wrong thinking, should/shouldn’t thinking. NVC goes right past it.

As trainers, we have to be good at it. I’m very rigorous as a trainer. I will never say this is easy. I will never tell you that you’re doing something you are not. It’s so important for us to do this well so that we can sustain the practice.

It’s the relationship part that really gets a lot of us. We start a relationship and we develop that relationship. The next part is: “Okay, now that I have this relationship with needs, what does that mean for me?” Well, it means that I can be empathic. And if I can be empathic, that means I have my hands on the buttons and levers of compassion. And now I have some say in how I’m going to be in the world, and I can really start living out my values.



Q: That was just lovely. You just defined the process so simply, thank you. Any last things you want to add?

TB: Well, yes, thank you. You guys have been great partners for us in the past. We reopened the registration for you two years ago, because somebody at Heartfulness found out about The Compassion Course the day after we closed the registration. So we re-opened it, and quite a few folks came.

I haven’t found anything that is not compatible with it. I work with rabbis, priests, ministers, etc., and everyone says, “We want to have a more compassionate self.” And we have the skill set to actually be it.

One thing I would add is that I don’t believe this comes easy, but it does happen if you stay with it, which is why my course is one year. In fact, it’s perpetual, because the day one course stops, the next day a new one starts. Some people take the course every year, so it’s a pretty long-term prospect.



Marshall asked me, “Can we teach this without the language model please? Can we teach this as awareness, as consciousness?” That has been my goal. Then it stays with us. We don’t have to memorize it. We live it. It’s real, it’s part of us. It’s not something we do; it’s who we are. And that’s way harder than memorizing observations, feelings, needs, and requests. The thing is, it works.

I worry for NVC because I think some people oversimplify it. They don’t perhaps know how to teach it at an advanced level and so they leave people short of the line. So if anyone out there thinks they have studied NVC and it hasn’t worked, maybe it wasn’t NVC that they were actually being taught, because it works when we teach it carefully.



It’s an awareness that
can inform them so well that
they can simply transcend those
outer layers of conflict, the
judgment of right/wrong thinking,
should/shouldn’t thinking.
NVC goes right past it.



Q: Thank you so much, Thom.

TB: Cool. Today is a wonderful day. Last week, the largest publisher in Germany published The Compassion Book in German. So the course is now in 15 languages, and the book is in 3. It’s a process, and it’s just going to keep going I hope.

Q: And this magazine goes out across about 160 countries, so hopefully it will also generate more interest.

TB: Thank you.

Q: Wonderful, and lovely to meet you.


Thom Bond

Thom is a founder and Director of Education for The New York Center for Nonviolent Communication. He is the author of The Compassion Book, founder of The Compassion Project, and the author of Shifting Toward Compassion and 64 Days for Peace.

1 COMMENT

  1. If I want to take up this course, whom should I contact, and what is the fee structure?
    Thanks & regards

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