Episode #4: Nonviolent Communication for Everyone with Kathy Sdao

Marissa MartinoPaws & Reward Podcast

Join Marissa Martino interview one of her favorite mentors in the animal training industry, author of Plenty in Life is Free, Kathy Sdao. During the episode, they discuss what Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is and how we can use these principles when communicating with our canines and our loved ones. 

When training dogs (and people), both Marissa and Kathy subscribe to a philosophy rooted in least intrusive, minimally aversive (LIMA) methods. They strive to approach all learners, both human and canine, with this approach. NVC resonates with them so much as it parallels and complements this shared philosophy when it comes to communicating and training with our dogs. Nonviolent communication for everyone!   

Developed by Marshall Rosenberg, NVC is based on the idea that we all have the capacity for compassion, and that we only use violence or harmful behavior, when we don’t have a more effective way to meet our needs. It tries to find a way for everyone to get what really matters, without the use of coercive or manipulative language.

NVC helps people develop compassion for themselves and others. During the episode, Kathy talks about the use of the jackal and the giraffe puppet. The jackal represents the voice that is harsh and critical while the giraffe represents the kind and compassionate voice. Not only can you turn the giraffe voice to face others and direct kindness outward, you can also turn the puppet to face yourself and offer yourself the compassion you deserve.

There are 4 skills when practicing nonviolent communication: 

  • Observing: What are the facts about this situation? 
  • Noticing your feelings without judgement or stories: What comes up for you? Is that the whole truth?
  • Identifying your needs: What need is not being met right now?
  • Making a request: What would you like to see happen?   

We love these skills, not only because they help facilitate a nonviolent conversation, but they are also amazing skills for any dog trainer or pet parent to become fluent in in order to support the relationships between your dog and yourself! 

For example, with our canines, I want to be a keen observer of all things (environmental triggers, my dog’s body language, what they find reinforcing) in order to set up a successful learning process and create lasting behavior change. I also want to notice my reaction and my learner’s reaction to the training process so that we both stay under emotional threshold. And lastly, I want to be aware of my needs in the training session and make sure I am stating them clearly to avoid miscommunication. Check out the episode to listen to real life examples from Kathy.

Resources mentioned during the show:

Where to find Kathy Sdao:

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