“Pay It Forward” Fever

Two friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan spent the month of March “paying it forward” (aka performing Random Acts of Rainbow) in fun and creative ways. Thankfully, CNN captured them on this video. I plan to borrow their idea of assembling care packages for homeless people. (On the way to work, I walk past about a half dozen homeless people asleep under a “deluxe” lighted and heated overpass and have been wanting to do something for them.) What’s your favorite “pay it forward” idea from this dynamic duo?

Rising Above The Funk

If you’re feeling a little down like I am this morning, sometimes the best way to get out of the funk is to do nice things for other people. Here are two ideas for doing just that, while doing something nice for  yourself at the same time.

TOMS shoes Fall line has really expanded. This is Blake Mycoskie’s brilliant business that gives a pair of shoes to a person in need for every pair of shoes that it sells. It now includes not only classic TOMS but several styles of wedges, boots and cordones. I ordered a pair of Kilim classics from the TOMS website (no sales tax and free shipping for orders of $75 or more). As cute and comfy as they are, I’ll be sporting my TOMS all over Chicago this Fall.

As I write this post, I’m drinking a copy of Starbucks new “Indivisible” blend coffee. Five dollars from the sale of each bag of beans goes to Opportunity Finance Network for the Create Jobs for USA Fund to help create and retain jobs across the country. Community lenders will leverage the donations to secure additional financing (an average of seven times the donation amount) to help create more than $80 million in loans to community businesses focused on creating and sustaining jobs in underserved neighborhoods. These loans are expected to help create and sustain nearly 4,000 jobs.

For finding ways to make doing something nice for other people so enjoyable, and for helping me rise above the funk, TOMS and Starbucks are my Rainbows of the Week.

NVC 3: Feelings, Woo-o-o, Feelings

“The underlying intention in using NVC is to connect: to connect with ourselves first and only then to attempt to connect with others.”

(From What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication, by Judith Hanson Lasater and Ike Lasater.)

Connecting With What We Feel

The second step in practicing non-violent communication (NVC), after making observations without evaluations, is connecting with our own feelings and needs. Only then can we express them to others, which is essential to communicating in a meaningful and productive way. When we can identify our own feelings, it’s that much easier to identify the feelings and needs of other people, even when they don’t recognize them themselves.

I’m fairly representative of the general population in that I’m pretty clueless when it comes to identifying and expressing my actual feelings. Having been raised in an uber German household, I was taught to deny feelings as weak and self-indulgent (with the possible exception of anger, which seemed to be the one strong emotion that was OK to express). Heck, even in Morris Alpert’s song “Feelings”, the guy is “trying to forget” his feelings of love. Learning to recognize and express our feelings is a critical part of self-understanding and NVC. As explained in What We Say Matters:

“Unless and until we are aware of what we are feeling and needing, we are unlikely to relate in a direct way with others. Unless we are clear with ourselves, our words create consequences (karma) for everyone that we will probably not enjoy.”

Distinguishing Feelings From Thoughts

NVC teaches the importance of distinguishing between feelings and thoughts, assessments and interpretations, which are often expressed with the phrase “I feel”. Telling someone “I feel like you don’t understand me” isn’t expressing a feeling; it’s expressing an opinion about that person. Saying “I feel I didn’t get a fair deal” is also expressing an opinion.

In fact, any time the phrase “I feel” is followed by the words that, like, as, by pronouns (I, you, he, she, they it) or by someone’s name, we’re expressing opinions and thoughts, not feelings. When we’re really expressing a feeling, we don’t need to use the word feel at all. We can say “I’m feeling lonely” or just “I’m lonely.”

It’s also important to distinguish between words that describe feelings and those that express interpretations of other people. Here’s an example from Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life:

“‘I feel misunderstood.’ Here the word misunderstood indicates my assessment of the other person’s level of understanding rather than an actual feeling. In this situation, I may be feeling anxious or annoyed or some other emotion.”

Other examples of commonly used words that express our assessments of others instead of our feelings include abused, bullied, intimidated, let down, neglected, rejected, threatened and used.

Since many of us were raised in environments that discouraged us from expressing how we feel, it’s not surprising that we lack a “feelings vocabulary” beyond a few basic terms (happy, sad, tired, pissed off). To help with this, Rosenberg provides a “feelings inventory” – dozens of words, divided into “feelings when your needs are satisfied” and “feelings when your needs are not satisfied”. He also provides a “needs inventory” with a similar design. Armed with an increased literacy of feelings and needs, we can pause when we find ourselves being triggered by someone or something and increase our awareness of what’s happening inside.

Accepting Responsibility For Our Feelings

Why bother with so much work to accurately identify and express how we feel in a particular situation? It helps us come to grips with the fact that other people don’t cause our feelings. Rather, as Rosenberg explains, “our feelings result from how we choose to receive what others say and do, as well as our particular needs and expectations in that moment.”

Instead of accepting responsibility for our feelings, we tend to blame others and think about what’s wrong with them and what they should do differently. The phrase “makes me feel”, as in “You make me feel angry”, is one example of how we use language to shift responsibility for our feelings from ourselves to outside forces. In Nonviolent Communication,Rosenberg identifies other common speech patterns that mask accountability for our feelings:

  1. Use of impersonal pronouns such as “it” and “that”: “It depresses me when the Cubs lose.”
  2. Statements that mention only the actions of others: “Mommy is disappointed when you don’t finish your food.”
  3. Use of the expression “I feel (an emotion) because” followed by a person or a personal pronoun other than “I”: “I feel angry because the doctor is running late.”

In each instance, we can deepen our awareness of our own responsibility, feelings and needs by substituting the phrase, “I feel … because I….” For example:

  1. “I feel depressed when the Cubs lose, because I want Chicago to have a winning baseball team.”
  2. Mommy feels disappointed when your don’t finish your food, because I want you to grow up strong and healthy.”
  3. “I feel angry that the doctor is running late, because I have a long list of errands to get done.

I have to confess that I’m enamored with the phrase “I feel … because I ….” It helps me catch my tendency to blame others for my own feelings (having been a frequent user of phrases like “You make me feel …”). It causes me to be much more aware of the fact that I have a choice in how to respond to people and events around me. It also gives me a tool for stopping in the moment and determining what need of mine isn’t being met that’s creating the unpleasant feeling. In addition to creating more compassion for myself, tapping into my feelings and needs and expressing them in a way that avoids assessing and blaming others allows other people to respond in a more compassionate and less defensive and aggressive fashion.

Don’t let the seeming simplicity of this practice fool you. It can be tough to apply, particularly in situations of conflict and charged emotions. But as I’m learning, the results it produces — both in ourselves and the people with whom we communicate — are well worth the effort. To get you started, here’s a fairly short (10-minute) video of an NVC training session with Rosenberg on expressing feelings and needs.

Next week: NVC 4: Making Requests

What’s For Lunch This Week?

Here’s another set of recommendations for healthy lunch choices at restaurants that are hopefully in your area. Once again, these are from a nutritionist at Northwestern Hospital, and she’s once again my Rainbow of the Week.

Corner Bakery

  • Asian Wonton Salad: 530 calories, 39g protein, 11g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 1910mg sodium
  • Mom’s Sandwiches, Turkey: 470 calories, 39g protein, 6g fiber, 0.5g saturated fat, 1400mg sodium
  • Mom’s Sandwiches, Roast Chicken: 500 calories, 42g protein, 6g fiber, 0.5g saturated fat, 1400mg sodium
  • Lentil Soup (cup): 140 calories, 8g protein, 9g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 930mg sodium
  • Chicken Noodle Soup (cup): 140 calories, 8g protein, 1g fiber, 1.5g saturated fat, 1080mg sodium
  • Tomato Basil (cup): 200 calories, 8g protein, 3g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 1500mg sodium
  • Chicken Tortilla (cup): 230 calories, 7g protein, 6g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 1310mg sodium

Jimmy John’s

  • Turkey Tom: 515 calories, 24g protein, 1g fiber, 3g saturated fat, 1094mg sodium
  • Tuna Slim: 401 calories, 27g protein, 0g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 1075mg sodium

Pret A Manger


  • Balsamic Chicken & Avocado: 530 calories, 23g protein, 12g fiber, 2g saturated fat, 940mg sodium
  • Slim BC&A: 265 calories, 11g protein, 6g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 470mg sodium
  • Hummus & Garden Veggies: 410 calories, 12g protein, 13g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 560mg sodium
  • Slim H&GV: 205 calories, 6g protein, 6g fiber, 0.5g saturated fat, 280mg sodium


  • Vietnamese: 550 calories, 30g protein, 4g fiber, 2g saturated fat, 1070mg sodium
  • Slim Vietnamese: 275 calories, 6g protein, 2g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 535mg sodium
  • Slim Chicken & Mozzarella: 310 calories, 18g protein, 3g fiber, 3g saturated fat, 530mg sodium


  • Avocado & Pine Nut: 440 calories, 9g protein, 9g fiber, 5g saturated fat, 470mg sodium
  • Turkey, Basil & Hummus: 400 calories, 22g protein, 5g fiber, 3.5g saturated fat, 1030mg sodium
  • Spicy Shrimp & Cilantro: 290 calories, 22g protein, 3g fiber, 2g saturated fat, 640mg sodium


  • Chicken & Avocado (balsamic dressing): 540 calories, 22g protein, 12g fiber, 3g saturated fat, 190mg sodium
  • Farmer’s Market (lemon shallot dressing): 360 calories, 8g protein, 12g fiber, 2g saturated fat, 620mg sodium
  • Harvest (lemon shallot dressing): 360 calories, 7g protein, 5g fiber, 4g saturated fat, 350mg sodium
  • Tuna Nicoise (balsamic dressing): 390 calories, 29g protein, 4g fiber, 4.5g saturated fat, 650mg sodium


  • 6” Oven Roasted Chicken: 320 calories, 23g protein, 5g fiber, 1.5g saturated fat, 640mg sodium
  • 6” Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki: 380 calories, 26g protein, 5g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 900mg sodium
  • 6” Turkey Breast: 280 calories, 18g protein, 5g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 810mg sodium
  • Apple Slices: 35 calories, 0g protein, 2g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 0mg sodium
  • Light & Fit Yogurt: 80 calories, 5g protein, 0g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 80mg sodium

Nutritional values include toppings and dressings as listed on the menu, unless otherwise indicated. Enjoy, and here’s to your health!

NVC 2: Making Observations Without Evaluations

“Observation without evaluation is the highest form of intelligence.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

In NVC 1, we learned about the basics of non-violent communication (NVC), developed by Marshall Rosenberg. The first step in NVC is calling to other people’s attention – concretely and specifically – what they’re doing that affects us. The trick is to make observations about what we see or hear without mixing in our evaluations of meaning and significance. In the words of Detective Sergeant Joe Friday, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Why bother focusing on the facts and avoiding the tendency to mix in judgments about people’s behavior? As Rosenberg explains in Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life:

“When we combine observation with evaluation, we decrease the likelihood that others will hear our intended message. Instead, they are apt to hear criticism and thus resist what we are saying.”

When I’m not consciously trying to observe rather than evaluate, I might say something to a co-worker like, “Why do you always slam the conference room door?” If my goal is to get the person to close the door more quietly, that statement won’t help. Nor will it promote a good working relationship between us. Because I used an exaggeration (“always”) and an evaluation (“slam”), the person will very likely react with defensiveness. Instead, I could say, “Both times you shut the conference room door during today’s meeting, it sounded really loud to me.” By separating observation from evaluation, I created a statement that’s less likely to become the crux of an argument and more likely to inspire compassion and a positive reaction from my co-worker.

The authors of What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication describe an example of observation versus evaluation that most of us will recognize:

“Imagine the following. A parent knocks and enters the bedroom of a teenager with the following words: ‘This room is a mess. Please clean it up by tomorrow morning because company is coming.’ We almost guarantee that the response from the teenager will be: ‘It’s not a mess.’ If the parent persists, the teenager will likely switch to, ‘But I like it this way.’ And if that fails, the teenager will resort to the time-honored, ‘Whose room is it anyway?’ We would bet lots of money that what follows is not a period of sweet connection between parent and child.

“A more desirable connection is likely to result if the interchange begins with observation language. Pay attention to how different you feel when you imagine the communication starting with, ‘When I see your clothes on the floor, dishes with food on them on your desk, and your bed unmade ….’ The key point here is to notice the difference between making an observation and making a judgment. For example, to say, ‘When I see that your room is a mess’ is not to make an observation. The term ‘mess’ is a judgment; messes are not desirable.

“Observation used in this way is an expression of what we call spiritual speech. It is learning to leave out our judgments and beliefs about what is observed and just describe it as a camera would record it. ….

“We are not proposing a new set of rights and wrongs. It is not wrong to use judgments. We just want you to be aware of using them, so you can learn what ensues from using judgments and what ensues from using observations instead. Then the choice is yours.”

In NVC 3, we’ll shift the focus to from making observations without evaluations to identifying and communicating our feelings and needs that arise from what we observe.

What’s For Lunch?

Nothing is more valuable than our health and, as the saying goes, you are what you eat. For many of us, when it comes to lunch, what we eat comes from a fast-food type of restaurant. Here are some recommendations for healthy lunch choices at restaurants that are hopefully in your area. I got this information from a nutritionist, and she’s my Rainbow of the Week.


  • Bombay Chicken Light Salad: 164 calories, 19g protein, 4g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 735mg sodium
  • Cosi Signature Lighter Side Salad: 383 calories, 10g protein, 6g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 504mg sodium
  • Shanghai Chicken Salad: 316 calories, 26g protein, 5g fiber, 2g saturated fat, 850mg sodium
  • Tandoori Chicken Light Sandwich: 376 calories, 35g protein, 2g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 889mg sodium
  • Hummus & Veggie Sandwich: 397 calories, 13g protein, 7g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 532mg sodium
  • Turkey Light Sandwich: 391 calories, 26g protein, 2g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 526mg sodium
  • Tuna Sandwich: 447 calories, 40g protein, 3g fiber, 2g saturated fat, 856mg sodium


  • Vegetable Burrito: 593 calories, 15g protein, 6g fiber, 4.5g saturated fat, 524mg sodium
  • Bangkok Burrito: 639 calories, 24.5g protein, 4g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 918mg sodium
  • Vegan Wrap: 671 calories, 14.5g protein, 12g fiber, 2.5g saturated fat, 414mg sodium
  • Tuna Garden Wrap: 535 calories, 28g protein, 4g fiber, 5.5g saturated fat, 979mg sodium
  • Spicy Noodle Bowl: 505 calories, 19g protein, 4g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 139mg sodium
  • Asian Noodle Bowl: 600 calories, 26g protein, 3g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 544mg sodium
  • Warrior Chicken Bowl: 496 calories, 23g protein, 7g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 717mg sodium
  • Chicken Teriyaki Bowl: 420 calories, 24.5g protein, 5g fiber, 0.5g saturated fat, 1489mg sodium
  • Bliss Bowl: 491 calories, 10g protein, 6g fiber, 4g saturated fat, 73mg sodium
  • Spicy Lemongrass Soup: 348 calories, 20g protein, 2g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 988g sodium
  • 7 Vegetable Soup: 255 calories, 11g protein, 3g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 877mg sodium
  • BBQ Chicken Salad: 287 calories, 18g protein, 9g fiber, 3.5g saturated fat, 633mg sodium
  • Wild Pacific Salad: 188 calories, 26g protein, 4g fiber,0.5 g saturated fat, 669mg sodium
  • Antioxidant Crunch Salad: 420 calories, 24g protein, 7.5g fiber, 2g saturated fat, 409mg sodium
  • Asian Chop Salad: 338 calories, 23g protein, 6.5g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 596mg sodium


  • Smoked Turkey Sandwich: 420 calories, 33g protein, 3g fiber, 0.5g saturated fat, 1650mg sodium
  • Tuna Salad Sandwich: 510 calories, 29g protein, 5g fiber, 4g saturated fat, 1160mg sodium
  • Asian Sesame Chicken Salad: 450 calories, 32g protein, 4g fiber, 4g saturated fat, 810mg sodium
  • Thai Chopped Chicken Salad: 470 calories, 36g protein, 5g fiber, 3.5g saturated fat, 1460mg sodium
  • Vegetable with Pesto Soup: 150 calories, 5g protein, 12g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 930mg sodium
  • Chicken Noodle Soup: 120 calories, 8g protein, 3g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 1380mg sodium
  • Black Bean Soup: 240 calories, 12g protein, 9g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 1270mg sodium


  • Turkey Breast (originals): 395 calories, 29g protein, 6g fiber, 1g saturated fat, 1550mg sodium
  • Chicken Salad (originals): 530 calories, 29g protein, 6g fiber, 3g saturated fat, 1180mg sodium
  • Tuna Salad (originals): 490 calories, 35g protein, 6g fiber, 3g saturated fat, 1040mg sodium
  • Grilled Chicken (originals): 444 calories, 29g protein, 3g fiber, 3g saturated fat, 1886mg sodium
  • T-K-Y (skinnys): 270 calories, 20g protein, 4g fiber, 0g saturated fat, 1048mg sodium
  • Little Tuna (skinnys): 444 calories, 29g protein, 3g fiber, 3g saturated fat, 1886mg sodium
  • Chicken Salad (salad, with no-fat vinaigrette): 510 calories, 22g protein, 7g fiber, 5g saturated fat, 1052mg sodium

The nutritional values include toppings and dressings as listed on the restaurant’s menu, except the Freshii salads include a half portion of dressing. Enjoy, and here’s to your health!

NVC 1: The Basics of Nonviolent Communication

“It is through our speech that we are known, for it tells a story of our thought life and essential self. How we speak can open or close doors, heal or hurt, create joy or suffering, and ultimately determines our own degree of happiness.”

This quote, from the foreword to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s book Speak Peace in a World of Conflict: What You Say Next Will Change Your World, kicks off a series on non-violent communication, or NVC. I first encountered Rosenberg’s work at the Chopra Center. I was there for the meditation practice, but as a lawyer dealing with conflicts every day, I was intrigued by Rosenberg’s book entitled Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

A clinical psychologist, Rosenberg has applied NVC in conflict zones ranging from Rwanda and Serbia/Croatia to corporate board rooms to interactions between family members. NVC is premised on the concept that everything we do is to enable us to meet some need. Yet we’ve been raised in a world where we’re discouraged from identifying our needs and feelings for fear of being labeled weak and dependent. This leads us to engage in communication that’s harsh, judgmental and critical, i.e., “violent” communication. This type of communication, laden with diagnoses and demands, provokes defensiveness and aggression instead of creating connections and relating to each other based on compassion.

NVC guides us to shift our communication mindsets from violent to nonviolent by utilizing four skills:

  1. Observing what’s happening within us and around us without judging or evaluating.
  2. Identifying and expressing what we’re feeling, as opposed to what we’re thinking or how we’re interpreting the situation.
  3. Connecting those feelings to needs that create them.
  4. Making and responding to requests to take action that will fulfill our needs, without making demands that will be met with punishment if not satisfied.

These skills are applied to enhance self-empathy (compassionate awareness of our own inner experience); empathy (listening to others with compassion); and honest self-expression (expressing ourselves authentically in ways that are likely to inspire compassion in others).

This may sound like a strained form of hippy-dippy-trippy communication. But the focus is less on the four steps themselves and more on our intentions when we speak. Shifting our mindsets to nonjudgmental observations, feelings, needs and requests can be as valuable as years of therapy for our relationships with others and ourselves. Becoming aware of our own feelings and needs and transforming our own inner dialogue paves the way for us to develop empathy for other people in our lives and to listen to them with compassion, even if they’re not practicing NVC:

“As NVC replaces our old patterns of defending, withdrawing, or attacking in the face of judgment and criticism, we come to perceive ourselves and others, as well as our intentions and relationships, in a new light. Resistance, defensiveness, and violent reactions are minimized. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt and needed rather than diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion. Through its emphasis on deep listening — to ourselves as well as others — NVC fosters respect, attentiveness, and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart.”

(From Nonviolent Communication.)

So how do we keep our attention focused on feelings and needs and avoid the seemingly natural drift into judgments and demands? This series will go over key aspects of NVC designed to help us do just that. Also, Rosenberg’s Center for Nonviolent Communication offers training in NVC. To get the ball rolling, here’s a video of an introductory class with Rosenberg on the basics of nonviolent communication. Hang in there with it. Rosenberg’s approach may be far different than what you’re used to, but the results can be profound.

Next week: NVC 2: Making Observations Without Mixing In Evaluations

Fundred Dollar Bills

Looking for a fun and creative Random Act of Rainbow to perform this week? During his stop in New Orleans in “Craigslist Joe”, Joe Garner learned about Fundred Dollar Bill, a nationwide art project to help eliminate the devastating effects of lead-contaminated soil that places children at risk for severe learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

The goal is to collect 3 million Fundred Dollar Bills — hand-drawn interpretations of U.S. $100 bills created by people like you and me, using a template furnished by the project’s sponsors. The cumulative total of 300,000,000 Fundred Dollars represents the equivalent cost required to make safe every lead contaminated property in New Orleans, so that every child is protected. The Fundreds will be presented to the U.S. Congress with a request for an even exchange of the creative capital for real funding to make safe lead-polluted soils in New Orleans. The model will then be made available to other lead-polluted cites.

You can get a cool template for your Fundred Dollar Bills here. If you enjoy coloring books as much as I do (I’ve never outgrown them!), this project is made for you. When your Fundred Dollar Bills are completed, send them to:

The Fabric Workshop and Museum

a.k.a. The Philadelphia Fundred Mint

1214 Arch Street

Philadelphia, PA  19107

Attn: Christine Roberts


The Fundred Dollar Bill project is continuing through the 2012-2013 school year.