"My whole life has been centered around communication and connecting, and to have you identity that as a spiritual path really caught my attention." - P.C., Illinois, USA
For yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater and her husband, mediator Ike K. Lasater, language is a spiritual practice based on giving and receiving with compassion. In What We Say Matters, they offer new and nurturing ways of communicating.
Long-term students of yoga and Buddhism, the authors here blend the yoga principle of satya (truth) and the Buddhist precept of right speech with Marshall Rosenberg's groundbreaking techniques of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in a fresh formula for promoting peace at home, at work, and in the world.
The authors offer practical exercises to help readers in any field learn to diffuse anger; make requests rather than demands or assign blame; understand the difference between feelings and needs; recognize how they strategize to get needs met; choose connection over conflict; and extend empathy to themselves and others.
What We Say Matters
Review by Nancy Alder
When I was asked by YogaDork to review What We Say Matters by Judith Hanson Lasater and Ike K. Lasater, I jumped at the chance. Let’s face it, as a yogini reading anything by one of the founders of Yoga Journal is an honor and a privilege. This book is not a typical “yoga” book as Ms. Lasater has previously written. It is instead collaboration with her husband Ike, a fellow yogi, Buddhist and professional mediator, which she describes as a “labor of love.” That the book is a result of teamwork is clear as each chapter is told in back and forth tales from each of the Lasaters. They equally contribute to the first person narrative and the reader is able to determine the speaker by the use of “I (Judith)” or “I (Ike)” throughout the pages.
What We Say Matters describes the Lasaters’ experience with Nonviolent Communication, a technique pioneered by Marshall Rosenberg, under whom they have both studied. Nonviolent Communication is a way of focusing on intention behind your words, being connected to what you say, feel and mean, and essentially practicing spiritual speech. In other words, knowing that what we say changes the outcome of our lives. The Lasaters talk about practicing satya, or truth, in communicating with others, and we believe them because they do just that with their book. Whether it is discussing with a teenager about cleaning their room (Judith), or talking with the head of Afghan Refugee camps in Pakistan (Ike), they share with honesty how they communicated. The stories describe both their successes and failures, and in this they remind the readers of their humanness.
Is What We Say Matters a “self-help” book? Yes, because it offers us tangible ways to change negative patterns in our everyday verbal interactions with others. Each chapter outlines aspects of Nonviolent Communication and ends with an easy to follow guide the reader can use to put these techniques into practice. Yet, it is the honesty and openness with which the Lasaters share their negative and positive communication stories that makes this book wonderful. By offering familiar examples, like a spouse returning home late and the anger-filled battle that can ensue, the reader feels like they are not alone in experiencing daily conflict, and is provided an approachable method to change their negative patterns.
WWSM is a glimpse into the life long partnership of Judith and Ike, a bond that has grown successfully through the study of yoga and Buddhism. Sharing how they utilized the self-observation tools learned through these practices to approach the terrible twos with their first child offers the reader an accessible exmple of ‘spiritual speech’. The fact that both of the Lasaters are used to dealing with audiences (whether via mediation or yoga) of mixed understanding is clear. They speak to all people, and their book is appropriate for anyone with or without a background in the fields the couple have mastered themselves.
After reading this book I’ve found myself tuning into the words I use on a much deeper level. I am wearing my Nonviolent Communication tool belt as provided by the Lasaters and know that approaching conversations with a more spiritual speech promises me less conflict. I have seen their techniques in action when dealing with my small children, and I have reconsidered my frustrations with my husband arriving home late from work. While WWSM is not a panacea to the world’s conflicts, it does offer us some valuable and easy tools to temper them in their own space.
Nancy is co-founder of Namaste Book Club and a valued YD contributor.