Participant Comments: PNDC For People's Personal Lives

All the comments below are focused on the applicability of PNDC to people's personal lives — as individuals, couples, and/or parents. Most comments are from people who have taken workshops offered for the public by Sharon Strand Ellison. A few are from people who attended a conference or took a workshop sponsored by a professional or community organization. A few others are by people who have read Taking the War Out of Our Words or listened to one or more of the CDs, Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting or PNDC Principles and Practices.

Signed Comments

Although it's only been a short period of time, I feel a genuine shift to a calmer attitude towards everything I've done since the workshop. Driving, having dinner with friends, talking on the phone, it all just feels better because I know I don't need to be drawn in or snagged by any hooks. I even had a conversation with my mother where she actually listened to me!

I think that deep down, on some hidden level, we know we're hurting each other somehow when we're in power struggle, but it's so automatic, so expected and accepted, that we don't even think to stop and ask ourselves what that pain is all about. We have such powerful, untapped brains.

When I started speaking differently, it was so obvious. When I realized my words weren't betraying my actual feelings, I was blown away and I felt more in touch with my emotions. The best analogy I can come up with is that if I'm a camera body, I've just been given a new set of lenses. A set of lenses with no distortion. No matter what I'm viewing, the images that come out of me are true.

—Jesse di Franco, Graphic Design and Marketing

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I met Sharon Ellison when I attended one of her workshops as a member of the press. I was a skeptic when I entered the room.  At that time, and for the previous six years, I'd really been struggling as a parent.  I was a good parent and I loved my sons (ages 7 and 6), but I didn't really enjoy being a mom, and I faced my time with them with some anxiety and trepidation. (I have them half the time, and at that time they definitely preferred their father, and always had.) I began utilizing Sharon’s suggestions the day after the workshop. What I found was that I had been getting the words right, but my body language had been defensive.

Six months later, my relationship with them has transformed.  Being with them is now my favorite thing, and I look forward to our time together. Now they enjoy spending time with me as much as with their father. They are more not only cooperative, but more loving and affectionate. Sharon’s parenting workshop changed the entire course of my relationship with my sons.

—Carolyn Crane, Journalist

I've been having the same problems with my boyfriend of seven years for as long as I can remember and I haven't been able to understand his behavior no matter how hard I've tried.  For years I've been extremely hurt when he shuts down, disengages, or simply leaves the room when I try to discuss any problem with him.  

We were at the bookstore recently when he found your book and said he connected to it profoundly … I saw your book on the table and remembered how much he said he related to it, so I sat down to read it … your scenarios and phrases described … our situations exactly. I finally had what I'd needed for years: to understand that his behavior was not because he didn't care about my feelings and that there was a reason behind my feelings of abandonment. 

I sat up the rest of the night reading your book. I was overwhelmed with the immensity of what this newfound understanding meant to me. I just sat there and cried.  Even therapy couldn't do this for us. We now have answers to what's wrong and what we can both do about it. I am without words to sufficiently express my gratitude and the magnitude of the impact for us as a couple.


This is a masterful and elegant work. It is larger and more powerful than the Mars/Venus model! This work is a map. It gives me new direction, and I hope that my life in this world can become more worthwhile, and human.

—Phil Wilshire, Pharmacist

I just finished your book Taking the War Out of Our Words. It is chock-full of smarts. … I just want to congratulate you on producing a tour de force, which I pray I could influence all my clients to read. It is a reference book that keeps on giving.  It picks up where the Murray Bowen (family systems) thinkers leave off.

You provide tools to understand what it means to create boundaries, to differentiate and grow up, becoming one's own agent of authority, able to express self in a manner that is honest, appreciative, respectful, and dignifying.

—Shel J. Miller, Ph.D.

I have been able to test this method with the most difficult person in my life. To my absolute amazement I was able to defuse the anger and aggression in an instant. I am actually able to speak without compromising my integrity or becoming entrapped in power struggle. I am able to stay true to myself without a need for masking my feelings in order to remained protected. I believe this book may be preventing many years of unnecessary, damaging stress to my life. I will return to it repeatedly as a resource.

—Tifanie Hayden

I am a Stanford graduate and have taken coursework in negotiation. At Stanford, we used Getting to Yes and Difficult Conversations as the basis for an excellent class on negotiation. Once in the professional world, I have continued my study, with books including Getting Past No, Beyond Reason, The Power of a Positive No, and Messages. You cover the techniques of non-defensive communication with a clarity that resonated with me in a profound way. You address material not found in other, well-regarded works on negotiation and communication, and you address this material in a common-sense, ready-to-use manner.

Your CD gave me the strength to have a very difficult conversation with someone I care about very much, in an effort to rebuild that relationship. In the past, despite all of my training, I found myself getting defensive — so much so that I was unable to use any of the tools I had been taught! Your CD allowed me to stay curious, actually listen to the other person, and accomplish my goal, which was mutual understanding. We actually heard each other, for the first time in a number of years.

—Gregory, Business Consultant

Your Powerful Non-Defensive Communication Parenting Class that my husband and I attended really saved our family. The eye-rolling, "dissing," blaming, general negativity, and confrontational style that was all pervasive before the weekend, has been replaced with tools for creating honest, open communication.  Even my husband, a combat veteran who was trained by the military to be reactive, was able to shift into a non-defensive style — something he had been trying to do, but was unable to accomplish for 30 years. Although our two teenagers did not attend your class, they have reaped immediate benefits — something years of family and individual therapy has not been able to accomplish. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for dedicating your life to this work, which has the power to make this world a much better place.

—Jan Fishler, Tin Cat Media - Producers of Educational DVDs

Sharon, I have really learned a lot about using PNDC and I can’t wait to delve whole heartedly into the material!  I used it yesterday with my 16-year-old while she was in an extreme place with me.  I stayed centered in myself and refused to continue a dialogue unless she would not escalate or be able to give me her full attention.  I held my boundaries really well, and it's like I have my child again.  Other communication models did not offer me the clarity and permission I needed to set boundaries with my children as well as PNDC.  I look forward to learning more!”

—Aida Baker

How many times have I said "Well, I know what she's going to say, so why bother asking?" This kind of anticipation is exactly what keeps us in conflict with others. Sharon’s book teaches the art of asking questions without any assumptions or expectations. If I can step back, breathe, ask questions without attachment, I may disarm both of us. I'm seeing now that other people’s seemingly offensive behavior is often really defensive behavior. Miraculously, when we ask a non-defensive question, what we hear is rarely what we anticipated.  And here is where the learning and the real communication begins. Sharon, you are one of the people who will help turn us from the violent society we are to a more powerful and loving one.

—Jenine Sternlieb, Host, A Novel Idea, KRCB Radio

In this workshop I saw you handle conflicts that arose with a skill and effectiveness that amazed me. I saw you show a well-developed sensitivity to differences such as gender and culture that was unbiased and open to new information. You also focused on holding each person (including me) accountable — gently and disarmingly — for specific behavior and its impact, and coached each of us to say directly what we want to say without attacking, defending, hiding or giving up.

—Emily Zimmerman, Korean Studies, San Francisco State University

I have a teenage daughter and after attending one of Sharon’s lectures I purchased her CD set with hopes it might strengthen our communication . . . So enlightening were her insights that I felt as though I needed a total lobotomy to undo years of misguidance and miscommunication. And then I listened to them again and even began to try out some of her suggestions and have had positive results with them already. I realized that, above all, the real gift in Sharon’s work is that of hope, the idea that it is never too late to change. She has given us a way out of our power struggles with our children to a way into a healthy struggle-free life with them.

—Yvonne O’Hare, San Francisco Parent Coalition

While tools like Steven Covey's 7 Habits can make a marked improvement in people's lives, Sharon's work with PNDC goes down another level, addressing our basic communication methods.

—Mike Scrobonia, Corporate Operations Manager

I was amazed by the results when I used Sharon's methods.  I had a conversation with my son which was enriching, productive and gratifying in a way that no prior conversation had been within memory. We both
emerged from our formerly unshakeable patterns. 

—Thomas Harmon, parent of a child with special needs.

My 9-year-old daughter told me that she had an assignment at school last week to write about one thing that has changed in her life since she was born and that she wrote that our family gets along so much better now with more respectful communication.  I attribute that to my learnings from you.

 —Ruth McGuffey, Corporate Manager

I thoroughly enjoyed your wonderful energy, and the clarity with which you explained everything. I admire you for doing something that is truly a representation of who you are — and you do it superbly. It is my belief that the universe supports us when we can be who we are fully. I agree that so many options for how to resolve individual and community problems have been invisible as long as we have operated inside the "war model" for communicating. I see your book becoming a best seller, and your message spreading out across the nation. So simple, I don’t know why no one has discovered it before.

—Rob Merlo, Engineer

The vision in itself is powerful — that we could create a world where this model of communication was practiced uniformly, or better yet where this model was automatic. It almost takes my breath away to imagine it. Imagine the changes the we would see.

I found the workshop format extremely valuable, providing solid information along with a nice balance in practicing and receiving feedback. The idea of communicating with integrity and authenticity is a laudable goal. How to do that without powering over others is a true art, and one I now look forward to cultivating with a mix of joy, excitement — and a little apprehension! Now I will work on summoning the courage to test the ideas out here in the trenches!

—Ellen Russell, Consultant

I am sure I will be absorbing the material I learned and practiced in this workshop for a very long time. I have already pulled out the excellent workbook you provided to review the material again and to begin integrating it into my thinking (action next!). At this point, the biggest impact on me of the workshop has been a new level of awareness about my own motives in communication, my personal methods of dealing with conflict, and the ways these limit my growth and connection to others. I am excited. I can feel how this new awareness, along with the many, many practical tools you taught, will enable me to move into a more open, yet at the same time more secure, approach to those around me.

I want to affirm your success in presenting a large amount of complex material in a clear, simple and comprehensive manner. I appreciated the combination of theory, practice, and story telling which enabled me to learn the material more thoroughly through engaging the analytic, practical and creative brains simultaneously. I want to especially recognize the skill and delicacy with which you balanced the need to manage the time and cover all there was to learn with the students’ individual needs and concerns. Your modeling of respectful and truly nonjudgmental curiosity, and at the same time your very genuine tender concern for each of us, helped me to participate more fully and, I believe, receive the material intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Thank you, Sharon, for this enriching experience.

—Ruth Wilson

This is fascinating material — brilliant. You are a master. Your methods are so extraordinary. You are like a contemporary Freud. It is so outrageous what you have discovered. And actually, it's so simple, it's beyond belief that we haven't been here before. I think when the world finds out about you, Sharon, it's just going to be an explosion of marvelous things.

—Carol Sachal, Owner of Carol's Cow Hollow Inn & Albion House Inn, San Francisco, CA

Albert Einstein was able to visualize and communicate a more profoundly accurate model of how our physical Reality is structured, as a quantum space-time fabric.   I believe Sharon Ellison has done the same with a more profoundly accurate model of how our human Relationships are structured, as a linguistic virtual reality. Changing how we speak changes how we relate.  Her work might transform humanity in the 21st century.

Stephen Weitz, Ph.D., Biochemist

…I can still remember the silence of the audience being pierced by little astounded gasps as the profundity of what Sharon was talking about became evident.  It was in many ways, for myself and what I believe to be the overwhelming majority of the audience, a "eureka!" or "a-ha!" moment wherein one comes to realize that one has been unconsciously acting in the world in a way that is so counter-productive and unnecessarily harmful — and more importantly — that within grasp is an awareness and a set of techniques whereby one can act in the world in a way congruent and harmonious with our highest intentioned selves.  

From that introduction to Sharon and her work, I have had a hunger for more exposure and familiarity with her material (her books and CDs) and participated in a full-day workshop with her . . . I continue to marvel at the simplicity and beauty of her words, concepts and what in many ways is a complete and self-contained "way of being," and I continue to strive to take it all, literally, to heart."

—Chris Arnold, Collaborative Lawyer and Mediator

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Unsigned Comments

I am staggered by the flood of responses I am having to this workshop. Amazed at Sharon's insights, excited by the possibilities, and also terrified by the prospect of truly getting beyond the defensive postures to dealing honestly with intimate relationships.

What I'm learning from PNDC is to become aware of how I point the finger and place the blame on others for my own defensive reactions. I'm also seeing that their seemingly offensive behavior is really defensive behavior.

I went home after the first session and asked my husband one non-defensive question and we had the best conversation we've ever had.

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After last night's session, I awoke this morning like a student eager to get to class and learn more. I think this approach will take effort and commitment, but I am excited about its possibilities for me personally, and beyond me to our society and the world.

This workshop came at a time when I was looking for a way to express myself in my relationship with more heart. I got what I needed!

The workshop was incredibly empowering and inspiring. The skills and lessons should be taught to us starting from a young age.

I am amazed how the results are almost identical for men and women and for so many diverse personalities.

Yesterday I found myself feeling quite critical of the whole process. It seemed contrived and artificial. Today I see it differently. It is a bridge to get us from our past way of being and dealing with life's problems to a new and better and more honest way of being. If it seems strange and difficult at the beginning that is because we do not realize the extent of our immersion in the old, dysfunctional way of relating. I'm 78 years old — it's going to be hard to change. But I'm going to try.

This workshop had a transforming effect on me. I learned a great deal about how I communicate and about my own inner power struggles.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous at first about coming. I have sometimes walked out of workshops, but you made me feel very comfortable. I not only enjoyed the workshop immensely, I learned a lot! I had no idea that this would be so helpful and pertinent. I'm aware now that there is another way.

I think you are inspiring revolutionary behavior! I love how you gave everyone opportunity to participate.

I think the work you are doing is not only extraordinarily significant; it is just plain extraordinary!

I learned how to relate with people in a way that I can find strength for myself.

The concept of the material you teach is astonishing to me. I have spent most of my life defending or attacking, and getting nowhere fast. I look forward to distilling this and putting it to work.

I can not only improve my current relationship, but can see what I could have done differently in past ones.

At one or two points I felt as though I might not be able to stay with it. I wasn't sure of its value for me. But then the time went very quickly when I perceived the potential of these communication skills and saw the impact they were having on others present. I feel as though I have only a very small clue as to the enormously positive changes my practice of non-defensive communication can bring about. I learned much about myself in the whole workshop.

The best part for me was the practice time, because I was able to experience my old ways in comparison with the new way.

The most important thing I felt all day was how much I wish that I could have taken this workshop 40 years ago.

I feel I will use this, not only in my present relationship, but also in reviewing (and revising) my part in past relationships.

I felt the premise of the workshop was very important for the evolution of the planet. I am glad you are doing this work.

Frustrating, overwhelming feeling of inadequacy to the task, and as if I've been offered a route to a new form of communication that is like a golden gift, to me and others. I have great hope for the changes this could bring me.

I feel that the workshop gave me a method to live what I believe is possible in relationships. Sometimes I got chills in my body or tears in my eyes from your statements about how we can be non-defensive and still be safe/protected — that in fact, this is the way to be safe.

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