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Sylvia Haskvitz has been a trainer with Nonviolent Communication since 1981. "Compassionate Communication," a workshop focusing on the tools to help us hear what others are saying to us—even if they communicate in a way that's not constructive or in a way we don't like—takes place from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday, March 7, at SpiritsChild Bookstore, 3870 W. River Road. The cost is $22 pre-registered, or $30 at the door. For more information, visit www.nvcaz.com/tucson, or call 869-8680 to register.

How did you get involved with the communication process?

I think it started when I was about 15, when I was in a home economics-style class. That's when I discovered what most of us needed as human beings were those communication skills. I was a registered dietician first, and then I really started to get into communication. I then combined these two together to write my book Eat by Choice, Not by Habit.

Why is this important to you?

I see (promoting communication) as a way in which the world can be a much more compassionate place to live in. ... When we see this world as a scarce place, then we begin to feel disconnected from those around us.

What is the most important part of nonviolent communication?

I would say, first, looking at how you treat yourself. What are the messages that I say internally? Do I blame or shame myself or criticize myself? When we listen to that, then it's pretty hard for us to do anything other than be stuck in that place. This process turns those negative messages into messages of compassion to then be used in a positive way.

Anything else important?

Well, the consciousness of what I live by in each moment. When I live in a world where I think there has to be a right and a wrong, then I get into a power struggle. This is about seeing the good in everything—not about who is right and who is wrong. Just remember that at this moment, we're doing the best that we can.

What exactly will this workshop help people do?

This workshop is about sharing with others the tools to stay in that area of compassion. How do I find tools when someone says something that's hard for me to hear? Our main goal is to hear the message, even if the package that they're delivering it in isn't too pretty. Sometimes, I take things personally and get defensive; then I have a chance to stop and tune into what's really going on.

Can everyone benefit from the practice of nonviolent communication?

Yes! Some people say, "I'm not violent, so I don't need this." So I say for those people: You don't have to call it nonviolent communication; just call it compassionate communication. If you blame someone, we still call that violence. When someone is blamed, shamed or criticized, they are hurt, and so that is considered violence.

Is there anything we can practice on our own?

To me, the beauty is that most people in our day-to-day communication are not hurt that seriously. When someone tells us, "I had a really bad day," we might just say, "Oh, I'm so sorry," or we might say, "You think you had a bad day? You want to hear about my day?" Instead, try guessing what was wrong with their day. We can open ourselves up to be more vulnerable by guessing at something we really didn't know about. The person will see that vulnerability and can then dig deeper and tell us more about their experiences.

So opening up ourselves will help those in our lives open up to us.

Learning to dig is really a great way to get over grief and even to celebrate. There are very easy tools for everyone to learn to say how grateful you are. And by thinking of what needs are met by that act, you are able to say more than just "thanks." You can specifically thank someone for what they've done for you. Instead of saying, "Thanks for walking the dog tonight," you should say, "I am so happy that you walked the dog tonight. You realized I was really busy and wouldn't get to do it until later. I really appreciate that you took time to see what I needed help with; thank you." A sincere (declaration) like that means more than just a thank you, and the person you're thanking will know you took the time to really think about the ways in which they helped you.

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