Comments from People in Various Professional Fields


Business & Corporate Show/Hide Comments

Comments From Business & Corporate Professionals

Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is the missing link that bridges the gap between our desire to communicate effectively and our ability to actually do so. The immediacy and ease of application to difficult professional and personal situations is remarkable.

Robert Brownstone, Corporate Educational Specialist, Fortune 500 Company, Silicon Valley, CA


An innovative and practical process with unlimited potential. Ellison has developed a powerful method which will strengthen interpersonal relationships, increase organization effectiveness, and contribute greatly to building a more productive and harmonious society."

Diana Chesterfield, Corporate Diversity Affairs Manager, Nordstrom


There would be much less pain, insecurity, dishonesty, etc. in our society if people learned to communicate in a non-defensive manner. Among the scientists I work with, I've seen a person's years of work come under attack, and that person coming out of it greatly hurt and definitely on the defensive. Such conflict only serves to lessen the atmosphere of scientific cooperation and creativity it takes to make a company like mine survive. Your insights on our society's ways of dealing with conflict in all avenues of life left me incredulous at how much energy we are constantly wasting in using a war-model form of communication. Your ideas mapped out a way to handle tough situations in life without having to resort to becoming involved in power struggles.

Biomedical Research Scientist, CA


Your unique perspective of power dynamics and straight-forward tools provided our group with powerful options for training the workforce.

Karen Petty, HR Manager, Weyerhaeuser, Western Lumber Business


Sharon Ellison conducted a retreat on how to communicate non-defensively for all staff employees. Her style in presenting powerful principles so impacted all employees that we still reference and practice them to this day. In fact, yesterday some of our software development staff discussed how much difference practicing what they learned in the workshop, was having in their daily lives, both at work and at home. I personally reference and practice on something we learned from Sharon and her book almost daily in our workplace.

Sharon’s passion and obvious expertise for her subject area are so contagious that her gentle style lends even more power to her ability to help participants grasp and embrace the changes needed in order to communicate more effectively and with greater caring. We have had many powerful presenters and learning workshops that both informed and entertained, but we have never had one that taught us so well how to be more aware of what we are doing and how to change to improve. Sharon demonstrated the ways to communicate non-defensively by "catching" us in the act, as well as using the challenges we presented from real situations in our daily activities.

Finally, as referenced earlier, the impact of what we learned has not diminished but actually increased. I cannot imagine any other investment that would pay such high returns and I have certainly never known a professional who lives and demonstrates so powerfully principles that, if practiced, change the way we relate and the quality of our working and living together.

Pamela J. Nelson, C.E.O., CCG Systems, Norfolk VA


First of all, thank you for your excellent presentation. I found the materials and exercises informative and interesting. Too many HR-type formats are devoid of real content, often “packaged” in a way for wide audiences. They lack application in a particular environment. Yours, however, seemed quite appropriate and we didn’t just work with artificial models but found a real live opportunity to observe and practice your techniques. I found your style to be very professional and dynamic, and I gained a lot by watching you in action.

I also realize that the skills you advocate for non-defensive communication do not come easily. It seems like we all have a very natural response to protect and defend ourselves when we sense potential for conflict or confrontation. And we often don’t realize how we can actually trigger those events simply by assuming a defensive posture and attitude. Your method requires first recognizing when we use those behaviors and how those behaviors can get in the way of effective communication. Secondly, one needs to experience your approach to appreciate the immediate effect a non-defensive position has on the outcome of a conversation, debate, or negotiation. I can also see that you are a master of your own technique and that it will require some time and effort to learn and practice your methods. I believe the rewards are there for those who truly want to become more proficient in effective communication.

—Paul C. Watkins, VP Business Development, BioMarker Pharmaceuticals Inc.


Your presentation was wonderful! It touched a nerve for everyone. It was well received by the more knowledgeable group members, and by those who usually criticize and challenge speakers. It was one of the best presentations in the five years the Forum of Executive Women has been in existence. 

Jeanie Wilkens, Forum of Executive Women, St. Cloud, MN


The PNDC process I learned from Sharon enabled me to engage in and maintain a constructive dialog during an especially complex issue at work.  Employing PNDC enabled me to keep the points of discussion moving forward in a neutral, non-threatening and effective way. I was able to achieve a positive outcome to a situation that I think otherwise would have devolved into typical power politics with the core issue left unresolved. In my opinion, learning PDNC is an invaluable skill set for any professional working in the financial services industry.

—Kari Hovland, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Bank


Taking your workshop has made a world of difference in my management skills. As the owner/manager of two women’s clothing stores, I am faced with issues regarding supervision of employees and customer issues on a daily basis. In the short time since taking the workshop I am achieving success in dealing with the people problems at work. Furthermore, my staff has noticed, is impressed, and is now coming to me for advice.  If they have a "bad" exchange they come to me to discuss how they could have handled it differently.

When staff come to me with a need around interactions with either customers or other staff, I feel I have something tangible to offer them. I feel as though I have actually become a source of wisdom at work. I see the staff feel gratitude and respect towards me and I think they feel relieved and in possession of their own self-respect.  What we all like about this process is that we don't have to make concessions.  We can be honest and yet not hurtful.

—Carol Cruikshank, Owner, Cassis and Leaf and Pedal, Palo Alto, CA


Sharon demonstrated a quick grasp of the needs of our individual business. She followed through with developing and implementing an appropriate training program that helped to avoid the pitfalls of habitual power games. We felt especially happy with Sharon's consulting abilities. She helped each person in our business improve communication, stressing that even staff members who do no have direct customer contact have an effect on what the customer experiences. Sharon Ellison has a valuable service to offer to all employees in businesses whose lifeblood is customer satisfaction.

Kerry DeBuse, Co-owner, Genoa, ranked Portland, Oregon's # 1 restaurant, Zagat Survey


Not a day goes by that I do not reference Sharon Ellison's work. I am convinced that it is the clearest path to understanding and positive change. It is breathtaking.

—Frish Brandt, Co-owner and Director, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA


PNDC has had a profound impact on how I pursue difficult conversations with my clients.  Being an investment advisor, my relationship with my clients is very intimate.  We, as practitioners, can see attitudes and behaviors that can be self-defeating for our clients.  With PNDC I am able to have meaningful exchanges with my clients without defensive blocks. These interactions typically result in life-changing insights for all of us.  PNDC gives me the "guts to go there" with those around me.

Marjorie Bennett, CFA, Aegis Capital Management, Inc.


The goal of the Customized Training Department at Precision Castparts Corporation is to help our employees become not only better employees but better human beings as well. Sharon's workshop met that goal. Our staff has responded to Sharon's training program with a high degree of enthusiasm and they learned very practical skills in a short period of time, which they are able to use both at work and at home. The process she teaches can help employees develop excellent teamwork skills and strengthen family relationships as well. In fact, I think every person on the planet can benefit from the skills Sharon teaches.

Lisa Tomlin, Training Coordinator, Precision Castparts, Portland, OR

Consultants, Consulting Firms, and Coaches Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Consultants

My organizational development and consulting firm supports large systems change in Fortune 50 companies, foundations and progressive nonprofits. I am required to push leaders out of their comfort zone and into new territory where they re-connect with the courage required to inspire and motivate others. My training in Powerful Non-Defensive Communication has given me the tools needed to challenge and support each leader I coach. Quite simply, PNDC is a powerful tool that supports personal transformation. My practice and my clients have enjoyed tremendous success in using this highly effective communication method.

—Michael Bell, Principal, InPartnership Consulting


For many years I have coached other managers and colleagues at both Chevron and Kaiser. My coaching has focused on issues such as dealing with a difficult employee, communicating with colleagues who are peers, and building collaborative skills with teams where there are underlying conflicts that inhibit productivity. I see so much behavior in the corporate world where people feel victimized by others, avoid accountability, and pass blame. Using Powerful Non-Defensive Communication skills to ask questions that get at an issue quickly; give honest, yet respectful feedback; state opinions with clarity and power; and set effective boundaries can move employees and managers alike out of the victim-blame cycle. As I use these skills, I find that I can clarify my own position much more easily. As I coach others, I find the skills to be logical and easy to model, discuss, teach, and apply to almost any issue at hand.

—­Karin Kelly Givens, National Project Manager, Kaiser Permanente, Recipient, President’s Award, Chevron, 2000.


I have just finished your magnificent book. Words alone can't describe how I value the message you brought to me and others that read your work. Thank you so much for giving me this book which has already made my life better. I found it fascinating how I would think of various questions and then you'd answer them in the next chapter. You have given me some powerful tools to use.

— Terry L. Brock, CSP, President & CEO, Achievement Systems, Inc., & Syndicated Columnist for Business Journals


Every team I work with struggles with defensiveness — which ultimately gets in the way of becoming a truly high performing team. Sharon's tools help both individuals and teams to break out of defensive patterns and to learn more authentic and productive ways of communicating. In my ten years of studying communication systems, Sharon's is the most powerful and potentially transformative work I've come across.

—Jane Grossman, M.A., Team Effectiveness Consultant


As a teacher and a coach, I have found that my work with Powerful Non-Defensive Communication has been invaluable. Sharon both teaches and models PNDC in a way that I find challenging and exciting. Her ability to go to the heart of any issue that comes up inspires me. I have learned much from her about how to hone my own perceptions and give effective feedback to students and clients so that they can learn to communicate in ways that are more authentic and effective.

 —Vicki Dello Joio, Qigong Master and Life-Skills Coach


Sharon Ellison is a superb coach and teacher.  Her years of experience and professional training, combined with her keen insights and understanding of human behavior, bring tremendous depth and sophistication to her work.  I am a better coach, a better consultant, and a better human being as a result of Sharon's influence and teaching.

—Teresa Edmondson, CEO Edmondson Consulting


After a decade of being on the public speakers circuit showing my films about world peace, it became clear to me that creating peace really does begin with the individual. I wanted to clean up my own act. I was looking for a way to help me communicate with clarity and an open heart. After searching for some time, I had the good fortune to find Sharon and Powerful Non-Defensive Communication. Her book is terrific and so are her workshops. I hope she reaches a critical mass, so we can all improve our lives personally and globally.

—Vivienne Verdon-Roe, Academy Award Winner, Women for America, for the World

Education: K-12 Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Educators: K-12

I am struck by how this process is such a clear way of communicating without constant power struggles. Two groups of teachers at Thurston Middle School have asked Sharon to provide workshops for them. If, as teachers, we can communicate non-defensively, we can understand quickly what is going on with a student. Most of the time we never get to the heart of what is going on. I see a huge difference now in the response I get from kids and how calm I feel when I use non-defensive communication. If we could use it on a broad scale the number of problems we face with our children would be dramatically decreased.

I also think that having kids learn non-defensive communication in elementary school would make an incredible difference in their lives, as well as our lives as teachers by the time they got to middle school and high school. In fact, we arranged for Sharon to teach these skills to all of the seventh graders at Thurston Middle School. Literally, by the next day, we saw students successfully using the skills to resolve conflicts. I believe that if all children could learn non-defensive communication at an early age, we would have a different world.

Joanne Dunnck, Thurston Middle School, Springfield, OR


Sharon Ellison's presentation was extremely valuable for our school. An excellent teacher and presenter, Sharon helped us uncover our unconscious communication patterns when conflicts arise and examine how counterproductive, even harmful, they can be. Through her direct modeling and expertly woven anecdotes, we learned and practiced a new way to handle difficulties and conflicts.   Not only did her work give our staff tools to help strengthen our own colleagueship, but it also gave us valuable guidance in communicating effectively with parents and students.   As a Jewish Day School, we consciously teach the values of peace and loving kindness and Sharon's work in non-defensive communication supports us to model these values in our day-to-day interactions. 

—Lisa Friedman, Director of General Studies, Contra Costa Jewish Day School 


 Sharon's workshops for students on Powerful Non-Defensive Communication are right on target. Students were engaged in role plays and learned easy-to-apply, practical and useful methods of communication, including asking questions that allow them to not only disarm a verbal aggressor, but to actually open the doors to real communication and problem solving. We saw the kids transferring these techniques to real-life situations right away in the classroom and on the playground.

—Laurie Grossman & Karen Colaric, Community Outreach & Program Coordinators, Park Day School, Oakland, CA


The Berkeley PTA Council invited Sharon Ellison to speak in a public forum for the Berkeley community. She is a gifted public speaker. Sharon gave us information about non-defensive communication, did role plays and invited audience participation. She also had the opportunity to show us, in real time, how her method worked and it worked flawlessly. Everything Sharon did appeared effortless and graceful, yet effective.  The process Sharon teaches does work. So much important work is done in community forums across the country, in schools, in local government, and in grass-roots organizations. I think almost any group could benefit from learning Sharon's methods.

—Derick Miller, President, Berkelely PTA Council, Berkeley, CA


Sharon Ellison presented a full-day workshop on Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication for a group of 220 occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language clinicians and educators from all over the State of Oregon. The response to the training Sharon provided was remarkable. I have offered this conference with a variety of keynote speakers for 12 years and have never had such a positive response to a keynote speaker. I began receiving calls the morning after the conference from individual educators who had already been able to successfully use Powerful Non-Defensive Communication™ skills with students, parents, co-workers and in their private lives. Everyone who called asked if I could bring Sharon back to next year's conference for a follow-up presentation.

Gayl Bowser, Oregon State Coordinator, Regional Services for Students with Severe Orthopedic Impairments, Douglas County ESD, Roseburg, OR


Sharon worked with a wide age range of children, including pre-school, third-, and sixth-grade classrooms, as well as our peer conflict managers. Through providing role-plays, many children were able to take what they learned and use it at home and/or with other students in school immediately. By the next week they reported many examples of success in getting out of power struggles with other kids, including setting effective limits with much older siblings who were engaging in behaviors such as teasing and/or hitting them. Sharon took each student's response seriously and genuinely engaged the children at their own level in a way that was spontaneous and sensitive to their questions and concerns. I would highly recommend Sharon's training and further believe that learning non-defensive communication should be a part of every school's curriculum.

Mary Lynn Cummings, Counselor, O'Hara Grade School, Eugene, OR


I visited your workshop so that I might consider offering it to (K-12) educators and I was so deeply affected by the information, the role-plays and my own insights that I stayed for the whole weekend. Your specific concepts and skills make so much sense to me, and they are very organized, easy to understand and easy to practice. The workshop was outstanding. I appreciated your warmth and excellent modeling of non-defensive communication. Thank you for a wonderful experience.

Brooke Belcher, Program Director, Education 2000, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR


Sharon was our Keynote Speaker for our first Teen Summit at Delta Junior and Senior High School. She was received with respect as she role-modeled, told stories and dialogued with the students. I think the kids thought Sharon was pretty cool. They really got a kick out of role-playing with her. There was a lot of laughter and fun in this learning. We were able to break up into workshops, both for the student council and other students, which added even more benefit as the students were able to practice how to handle real conflicts. Sharon met with the upper elementary students where she herself was inspired by the importance of reaching the youth early. Sharon also provided training for teachers and parents in our school district. Sharon Ellison's ability to reach the people of Delta Junction was inspiring.

Ruby Hollembaek, Safe Schools Coordinator, Delta Junction, AK


I had the privilege of introducing Sharon Ellison when she spoke at the San Mateo County Special Education in-service on "Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication. Therapists, teachers, and classroom assistants commented on how struck they were by her cogent, thoughtful concepts and their practical application. Sharon's style of presentation was easy to relate to and authentic. Her compassionate, clear, and relevant presentation, along with her use of humor, created a sense of intimacy with audience members, and they became extremely engaged, personally involved. She was very available for audience comments and questions and her responses were particularly useful. Based on immediate feedback from participants, our Special Education Program Director invited her back to provide more training before she had even left the building. Weeks after the presentation, people are still talking about Sharon's work and both those who heard her and those who did not have the opportunity are eager for her to return.

Emily DeNola Chandler, M.A., Speech Therapist, Past Program Specialist, San Mateo County, Office of Education


Sharon Ellison is a remarkable teacher in the field of communications. Her innovative approach has given teachers and school based therapists powerful tools to communicate more effectively with parents, school administrators, students, and fellow colleagues. The effectiveness of her Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication process has been readily apparent and utilized immediately by a majority of our therapists. They have found the non-defensive communication techniques especially helpful when working as a consultant/resource person to parents and teachers.

Michael Friedl, PT, PCS, (Recipient: Judy Roe Therapist of the Year Award, State of Oregon, 1998) Pediatric Clinical Specialist, Supervisor of Therapy Services, Jackson Education Service District, Medford, OR


I have come to regard non-defensive communication as a powerful tool in my teaching and personal life. I learned how to actually gain power by not engaging in defensive tactics. Still, I was not totally convinced of the efficacy of this strategy until I used it at my middle school where I deal with kids seasoned in power struggles. It worked! Students were able to walk away from disagreements, both sides feeling okay about the results, not the usual fight/lose model. I think my students are now willing to consider a different way of solving their problems. The seeds of peace have been planted.

Linda Bennet, Thurston Middle School, Springfield, OR

Education: Community College Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Educators: Community College

Ms. Ellison conducted has conducted workshops at San Francisco City College for administrators, faculty, counselors, clerical and custodial workers, and security staff. Each person became an active participant letting down his/her defenses, asking questions, doing role plays. I have never seen such a positive response from such a diverse group of people.

I witnessed an administrator, known for being incredibly defensive and "on the attack," open up in a safe environment and learn the skills very quickly. My secretary felt free to raise numerous situations that she faces with angry or frustrated students and role-play them, learning alternatives to withdrawing or counterattacking. A security guard role-played a dangerous situation with street gangs on school property, learning to transform power struggles into effective dialogues. A faculty member described how a group of students were manipulating the classroom. Sharon role-played the situation showing how to clarify the issues and set clear limits. And perhaps, most importantly, everyone learned how to communicate with each other, whether we were colleague, supervisor or subordinate. It built a sense of community throughout the college.

Jennifer Biehn, Dean of Student Services, City College of San Francisco


Sharon Ellison clearly, systematically, and effectively presented her "Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication" model to the 35 students in my evening Peace and Conflict Studies class. Using a well-paced method of lecturing, questioning, discussing, incorporating student comments, role-playing, and using humor and personal anecdote, she held the interest of the students and gained their support. One young man, in fact, about 2/3 of the way through the class spontaneously volunteered that he had learned more about effective communication in 60 minutes than he had previously in his lifetime. Sharon's presentation was thought-provoking, useful, and inspirational.

Gerome Garger, Director of the Peace Studies Program, English and Social Science Departments, Lane Community College


The non-defensive communication techniques that Sharon Ellison teaches are truly an innovative contribution to the world. Lecturing in an Independent Living Program, an educational program for foster parents, foster youth, and social workers, she opened up the possibility for accurate and non-defensive communication to take place.  She related exceptionally well to all participants: gay foster parents, traditional foster parents, family care providers, grandparents, single parents, social workers, foster youth and probation youth. In turn, they responded exceptionally well to her as an individual and to the supportive environment she established. By directing participants through intrinsic challenges, scenarios and questions, the groundbreaking workshops left those that attended with a wealth of experience in communication.

—Jean Barry, Director, Foster Care Program, Merced College, Merced, CA

Education: University Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Educators: University

For centuries, Aristotle's model for communication has been taught in Western culture as the art of winning arguments. Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication replaces this traditional model with one that gives each person the ability to communicate effectively without engaging in power struggle.

Dr. Martin Jacobi, Dean, English Department, Clemson University


The important truth in what Sharon Ellison speaks startled me. And I was impressed with her humility, kindness and commitment to making the world a better place.

Jane Griswold, Employee Development and Training, UC Berkeley


Miami University was thrilled with Sharon Ellison's work with us. I have been sponsoring faculty development workshops for the last 15 years and have not seen a similar longevity of response for any prior speaker. I found Sharon Ellison's presentation to be qualitatively different in the depth of impact it had on our faculty. Also, I often find that the impact is greatest immediately after a workshop and, as people's memory fades, the impact also fades. In this case, faculty have continued to ask for additional copies of her material and to discuss and practice the skills.

Sharon was originally invited to speak at the Middletown Campus for a small group of faculty last year. As word spread, it was opened up at the last minute and about half of our faculty came and were so intrigued, we invited her back to keynote our August faculty conference for two of Miami University's campuses. The program took place a week before classes started and was not mandatory. The faculty from one campus had to drive 25 miles to attend and we had a 90% turnout of the entire faculty from both campuses. It is unheard of to have such attendance. I have to say it was magical. What she presented was exactly what we needed.

People are tired of the war metaphor and are searching for something better. Sharon provided something that has given people a new way to think about how they communicate with each other and students. I think in the aftermath of the 9/ll attack, the need for these skills and the depth of their importance is even more profound.

Gary Wheeler, Associate Executive Director, Miami University


As Executive Director of the UCSF Center for Gender Equity, I invited Sharon to speak at a leadership conference for women of color students in the health sciences. Some professors also participated. The conference was designed to increase the pool of women in career, academic paths in the UC Health Science system with a particular emphasis on women from underrepresented backgrounds. As always, Sharon’s presentation was engaging, participatory and highly valuable. She was able to communicate effectively across lines of culture and received the highest ratings from the attendees. Comments included:

“Amazing information! Very powerful. The best and most practical workshop of the conference.”

 “As a woman of color, I thought this was outstanding. She brought me to tears!”

“I think this was the best talk I have been to in my entire medical career.”

 —Amy Levine, Director, Gender Equity Center, UCSF Medical School


As a facilitator of what typically are challenging topics (sexual assault, date rape, stalking, relationship violence), I was paying close attention to your facilitation. I deeply appreciate your authenticity and continual sharing and self-observation of your own process and rhythms. I learned so much from watching your style and listening to you. Thank you for the energy, caring and sensitivity with which you facilitated — throughout the two days.

Nancy Chu, Title IX Compliance Officer, U.C. Berkeley


Thank you for providing one of the most gratifying experiences that I have had in my academic career. The information you provided was spectacular; your sensitivity was beautiful to witness.

Rose Salk, Associate Professor, Sociology Department, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN


Sharon is one of the very few “white” teachers whom I’ve seen succeed in attracting a significant number of “non-white” learners. Over and over again, I’ve seen her facilitate sensitive communications about difference in race, religion, class status, etc. and leave people feeling connected instead of alienated, and enlightened instead of embattled.

—Emily Zimmerman, Instructor, Korean Studies, San Francisco State University


Sharon Ellison's workshops took the campus and community by storm. I can easily say that in my five years here no speaker we have had has galvanized our community as effectively as she did. My colleagues in the Association of Faculty and Administrators were excited by the presentations. One faculty member told me that learning these skills has revolutionized her interactions with her rather authoritarian department head.

Members of the Women's Network, an organization for secretaries and support staff, appreciated her suggestions for empowerment in their dealings with supervisors. Women faculty and administrators at the Babcock School of Business and Management were so impressed with Sharon's knowledge that they have asked their dean to invite her back to conduct a workshop for administrators, faculty and students. A year after her visit, people are still actively discussing and practicing these non-defensive communication skills. I find Sharon Ellison's professional expertise and personal insight to be quite remarkable. She is truly a woman of courage and vision.

Dr. Mary De Shazer, Coordinator of Women's Studies, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC


Thank you for the wonderful two-day workshop you facilitated at UC Berkeley for the Staff Diversity Facilitator Network. Like you, deep down inside, I have felt for as long as I can remember that there must be a better way for human beings to relate to one another and to resolve their conflicts. I believe you have found the key. You touched my Spirit and I knew this was the right way for me. 

—Carmen C. McKines, Informal Discrimination Complaint Resolution Officer, U.C. Berkeley


I think Sharon has developed a program that is nothing short of revolutionary. Sharon's model is built on a peace paradigm for communication that stresses respect, clarity and honesty. The surprise is that the peace model is much more powerful and effective than the war model. Energy is spent on developing openness and clarity rather than defending, attacking, and persuading. 

Kostas Bagakis, Philosophy and Peace Studies, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA


Sharon Ellison not only teaches non-defensive communication, she lives it. In the two presentations she has done for us, Sharon masterfully explains and models the art of non-defensive communication for her audiences. Attendees are energized by this new perspective, recognizing an immediate application to their interpersonal relations at work and at home. They also crave more. At the request of faculty and staff, we have invited Sharon back and plan future workshops for more intensive work on the specific elements of the non-defensive communication process.

Sharon strives to adapt her message to the specific needs of each audience and facilitates her workshops in an open and thought-provoking manner. It is particularly impressive to watch Sharon use this revolutionary communication approach to engage with audience members for the purpose of truly understanding and addressing their questions. Sharon's workshops exemplify instructional integrity. The consistency and integration of the content, her presentation style, and her personal commitment to what she teaches, illustrate and reinforce for participants the power of the non-defensive communication process.

Martha Stevens, Coordinator, Humanities and Fine Arts, Miami University

Finance Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Finance Professionals

PNDC has had a profound impact on how I pursue difficult conversations with my clients. Being an investment advisor, my relationship with my clients is very intimate. We, as practitioners, can see attitudes and behaviors that can be self-defeating for our clients. With PNDC I am able to have meaningful exchanges with my clients’ without defensive blocks. These interactions typically result in life changing insights for all of us. PNDC gives me the "guts to go there" with those around me.

—Marjorie Bennett, CFA, Aegis Capital Management, Inc.


With the external pressure of meeting deadlines in our financial planning and tax-consulting firm, we sometimes find it hard to remember we are on the same team. Sharon's workshops have helped us function as a unified team and given us techniques for relieving our clients' stress as well. We have offered our staff workshops with other consultants, and I can say that the unique benefit of Sharon's is that she gives direct, practical techniques that can be used immediately.

—Nancy Gallagher, founder of Gallagher and Associates


The PNDC process I learned from Sharon enabled me to engage in and maintain a constructive dialog during an especially difficult period at work. Employing PNDC enabled me to keep the points of discussion moving forward in a neutral, non-threatening and effective way. I was able to achieve a positive outcome to a situation that I think otherwise would have devolved into typical power politics with the core conflict left unresolved. I credit PNDC for enabling me to keep my workand career on the trajectory I wanted. In my opinion, learning PDNC is an invaluable skill set for any professional working in the financial services industry.

—Kari Hovland, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Bank


I have had the good fortune to study Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication with Sharon Ellison both in a large group and small group environment. Sharon is an excellent facilitator in both forums. Sharon can both keep the group on task yet follow the important threads that lead to deep learning. At the end Sharon is able to neatly tie the threads together and I always feel I take away a new learning experience. In addition to her leadership skills Sharon provides a level of comfort and safety that helps to create a more effective learning environment. Sharon clearly presents concepts and responds to questions and/or resistance with useful exercises always in a respectful, sincere, and honest manner.

My profession involves working with divorcing couples and teams of professionals. My specific area is finances. The PNDC process has helped me to facilitate more effective meetings with the spouses and help them to communicate what is important to each of them. Finally, on a personal level, I have used PNDC with my relationships with my husband and other family members. I have listened to the parenting tapes and quite effectively set boundaries with my son.

—Natalie A. Leininger, CFP, CDFA


As a financial planner working in the field of family law, our role as a neutral, we are often meeting with couples in conflict without the supportive presence of a second team member. Being able to facilitate difficult conversations and handle unanticipated emotional expressions or outbursts can be tricky to address and remain neutral. Sharon teaches skills that not only help us know how to respond appropriately but gives us skills needed to help us better understand the clients and build trusting professional relationships. As the awareness of the collaborative model in family law increases, more are drawn to seek it. With a larger pool of clients also comes an increase in difficult cases. We need to continually improve our communication skills and practicing Sharon’s Non-Defensive Communication process is the perfect way to improve our ability as financial professionals.

—Lisa A. Schneider, CFP, Schneider Financial Advisors, AIG Financial Advisors, Inc.


Your program was a major drawing factor assisting us in getting the greatest percentage of first time conference attendees at the Pacific Northwest Credit Conference in the last 10 years. Conference delegates were very appreciative of your information and expertise and are already putting the information to use. You had practical ideas that not only help us do our jobs, but also to communicate in a compassionate way and avoid the stereotype that people in finance often face of being "cold" and caring more about money that people!

—Robin Ashburn, Credit and Financial Development Division, Conference Chairperson, Eugene, OR


The material you presented for us was outstanding, both in content and visual aids. The content was clear and easy to follow. There is lots to unlearn and lots to practice. I look forward to using my tools for communication in a "new" and more empowering way.

—Georgianne Teller Singer, Account Executive, Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc.

Government Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Professionals in Government Insitutions

I am writing to thank you for the wonderful work you have done for our district employees. Your Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication method is truly fantastic and provides such effective tools for us all to do our work so much better. Your dedication to results and real caring for the staff impressed me greatly. Your efforts went above and beyond what could reasonably be expected from an outside consultant.

Maureen A. Tighe, U.S. Department of Justice


As an Oregon Mayor and President of Oregon State Human Resource Managers Association, I have had the unique opportunity to observe Sharon Ellison speaking to these two diverse groups within a couple of month's time frame.  It is remarkable that Sharon is able to adapt her speaking content to meet the specific topics and issues of each group. Sharon has the ability to establish rapport and build trust with her manner and presentation style, which is so comfortable that participants feel as if they are just talking with a close friend.  In my opinion, that's the secret to her success, participants are learning critical communication skills while visiting with someone they connect with and trust.  I would highly recommend and trust Sharon to speak to any group without reservation.

—Lore Christopher, Director, Human Resources, Executive Branch, State of Oregon


The first thing that comes across when Sharon Ellison explains her truly revolutionary idea of shifting our mode of communication to a non-defensive style is her passion for the subject. It's a full-blown technique for highly leveraging our effectiveness in communicating with others. Think of it this way. Have you ever heard a really good vocal group sing very, very softly, yet convey immense energy and emotion?  Any good vocalist knows that singing softly with intensity is much more powerful than just singing louder.

That's what goes on with Sharon's PNDC.  She takes you through exercises that enable you to "get it."  Then you are on your way to making new habits of communication that pay huge dividends.  As a 40+ year veteran of the conflict-ridden field of community planning, I only wish I had learned Sharon's methods 40 years ago. Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC) is a capability you just don't want to be without.

Al Bell, Senior Strategist, The Planning Center; Member, The Association of the California Planning Roundtable


Having the non-defensive tools is so important for us as an organization, as a county. All of us work in teams in various ways and team members have such a diversity of ideas as well as diversity of background and experience. You were so accurate when you talked about how we get into a war mentality, and then people think, "I have to win," and they get locked into power struggle, which can be like an addiction.

With regard to your keynote, in speaking to a large group of about 700 people, you used humor very effectively and engaged the audience immediately. You used yourself as a teaching tool and they could see you as human. You used imagery and painted a scenario which people could visualize. I found myself envisioning the people in your stories as you spoke and you linked the scenarios to the teaching points in a way that was moving. The beauty of your approach is that you showed us how to speak with clarity without being defensive or attacking. I have already used the skills you taught us.

Mohammed Abu Zayed, Ph.D., Speakers Committee, Chair, Multnomah County/City of Portland 9th Annual Diversity Conference: "Diversity: Tools, Action and Accountability"


I saw a group of male students that belong to a particular gang hanging around on the school stairs, making a lot of noise and acting like they had been smoking dope or doing some kind of drugs. I asked them to leave. When they didn't I told them, "If you leave now, things will be O.K. If you don't leave now, I'll call the police." I was surprised when they left right away. Before the workshop I would have tried to be friendly with them to avoid a conflict and say, "Hey, I know you're just having a good time, but you can't hang around here." Then they would have argued with me and we would go in circles. Now, I'm calmer and I state my position and set limits. I notice that the same students are less likely to break the same rules over and over. Before I took the workshop, I got into more confrontations with students who were breaking rules or making a disturbance. This whole term feels better as a result.

Security Guard, City College of San Francisco


Our staff frequently deals with clients in stressful situations. The concepts and principles for non-defensive communication you presented to us have already proven very beneficial in our everyday work. I had some skepticism about the idea of communication skills training. However, once I began to hear your ideas and visualized how they could be applied to many of my most difficult work situations, I became a believer. Your non-threatening style of presentation put us all at ease and made for relaxing learning.

Matt Spangler, Director, Lincoln County Department of Planning and Development, Newport, OR


I would like to thank you for sharing your knowledge and information from your book on Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication with the Smithsonian family. The attendees stated that they found the session useful, fun, and interesting. Most importantly, people left with ideas for how they could immediately begin to alter and improve their communication skills.

Constance B. Newman, Under Secretary, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.


This workshop was a powerful experience for our department. It was the first communication workshop we’ve had that was not run-of-the-mill. Everyone saw themselves and their behavior.  We made a group decision to do the practices because your efforts will not be honored or effective if we don't work with the material. 

Carolyn J. Douglas, M.S., Brownfields Program Team Leader, US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, San Francisco, CA


People learn so much from stories instead of being lectured and Sharon gave such good examples; she showed the real emotions that people feel when misunderstandings happen and how they can fester inside of you, even for years!

During her keynote people learned that they can have an avenue to address misunderstandings and conflicts instead of having them eat away at their hearts and souls. Sharon got the audience excited about learning something different, and people don't always get excited about wanting to change! It was so clear that this can be used in every aspect of our lives without feeling threatened. Sharon made us laugh and moved us to tears. The audience wanted more.

Beverly Bolensky, Dean, EEO Investigator, City of Portland, OR, Steering Committee & Speakers Committee, City/Country 9th Annual Diversity Conference: "Diversity: Tools, Accountability, and Action"

Healthcare Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Healthcare Professionals

Thank you for your outstanding presentation at our recent conference. You were so inspiring and we were re-energized by your enthusiasm for our efforts. We were so fortunate to have had the benefit of your wisdom and experience. Your insight into the art of communication was invaluable. We are all on an emotional high, even though we know there is still a great deal of work ahead and there will be barriers and resistance. We know that we will continue to be in touch with you and there will be many opportunities for future collaboration. 

—William D. Rhine, M.D., Medical Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital
 & Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine

—Joan Forte, RN, BSN, Patient Care Manager of the IICN, Stanford Hospital, Johnson Unit, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital


I am integrating material from your book and what I learned in your workshop into my Leadership in Nursing Management class. It has helped all of us to practice speaking in a way that generates information rather than defensiveness. My students are captivated by the material and recognize how valuable your work is to them as leaders returning to their jobs in management. The average age of our students in the RN to BSN program is 40 and the average number of years they have worked as RNs is 7. Thank you for providing us a "conscious" communication method, which is crucial in these times of rapid change and high stress in the health professions.

—Aida Sahud, Dr. Ph.H., M.P.H., MSN, RN, Associate Professor, Holy Names College


Sharon Ellison is fabulous! She did an incredible job at our annual conference where she presented “The Power of Non-Defensive Communication” to over 300 people at our opening plenary. The response was a standing ovation.  Everyone felt they had been touched and educated. Sharon's work has very broad implications for communication at every level with staff, clients, and volunteers, and can greatly enhance the services we provide. The appeal and application of PNDC is universal and offers a powerful tool for social change.  In fact, the potential for professional and personal growth is unlimited.

We have already integrated Sharon's concepts and material from her book into ANSA's leadership development program and will be inviting her to present as part of our Leadership Development Institute. I highly recommend her and her work and believe she is a rare and exceptional talent.  Sharon is a brilliant speaker, a tremendous motivator and an outstanding educator.

Frank Abdale, Executive Director, Association of Nutrition Services Agencies, an international membership organization focused on nutrition services for the critically ill.


Sharon Strand Ellison has provide training for The Eugene Clinic, which has approximately 60 physicians and 400 staff members. Her evaluations were consistently high. I heard about Sharon from one of our receptionists who had attended Sharon's workshop on non-defensive communication and said it was the most useful communication presentation she'd ever heard. What impressed her the most was that she'd been able to walk away with tools she could use immediately. Sharon is one presenter who hears and internalizes participants' difficulties with communication and consistently infuses her presentations with fresh, applicable examples.

—Sheila Dill, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, The Eugene Clinic, Eugene, OR


This workshop not only helped me to improve my communication with members of the health care team, but has contributed to my ability to help our team bridge the gaps that often occur in crisis situations. I believe that using these non-defensive communication skills is the key to promoting healthy interactions and healthy lives.

—Dorothy Rollins, Quality Management Coordinator, Providence Hospital, Portland, OR


I have participated in a number of Ms. Ellison's workshops and in an ongoing training group. The concepts and techniques of her method are extremely useful in a professional medical environment to enhance understanding and clarity between patients or clients and the professionals involved in their care. In addition, this communication process facilitates accurate communication and can defuse defensiveness between professionals themselves, so necessary for good teamwork and optimal patient care. Although I have extensive clinical experience, I have learned a tremendous amount from this work and encouraged many of my colleagues to participate as well.

—Ragna C. Boynton, M.D., Pediatric Cardiologist, Berkeley Pediatric Medical Group


Our attendees received more than they were expecting from your keynote and your breakout session on "Dealing with Resident and Family Complaints."  I was surprised at the degree of knowledge you had of Long Term Care and the type of situations that can cause our employees to feel and act defensively with family members. Your presentation was a breathe of fresh air.  You provided powerful tools that can both help improve customer satisfaction and reduce turnover at the same time. Too often, we sacrifice good employees because we act as if "the customer is always right" even when we know that they are not. The principles in your presentation and your book apply to almost every setting.

—Robert Vande Merwe, Idaho Health Care Association


I have been to many, many workshops on communication and always have come away believing I have learned something. However, I have never been to one where I had the experience of changing the whole way I communicate rather than learning a few techniques or tricks. This workshop stimulated me to change at a core level, both in how I communicate and understand others as they communicate with me.

—Barbara Davis, R.N., Director of Nursing Services, Corvallis Manor


You are an articulate, strong speaker...You did a great job checking out with the audience and moving with our needs...You moved people from skepticism to acceptance...I like your premise that I can reclaim my personal power by not getting into power struggles...I can get my integrity back…You did a great job of modeling your message in the way you handled the workshop...It is definitely a new way of communicating...It makes people more accountable...I can start applying this information right away and it will be helpful in all aspects of my professional and personal life.

—Comments from participants in the annual conference for Health Care Communicators of Oregon, including public relations personnel from Oregon's major hospitals, health care systems, and insurance companies, Portland OR


The ability to communicate well is at the core of Nursing Practice. We are often at the hub of situations that are extremely stressful and chaotic. As nurses, we are also often the only link between patients and their doctors, between patients and their families and between the different medical disciplines. In addition, I believe most nurses would say that communication with doctors, and sometimes with other nurses, is one of the most difficult aspects of their jobs. This is a major cause of demoralization and frustration among nurses which, over time, can lead to burnout, stress-related illnesses, and, in some cases, the inability to really advocate for ourselves and our patients. Sharon’s work provides us with the tools to ask thoughtful and thorough questions, giving us the ability to gather information from patients, physicians, and peers in a way which is not only efficient, but also maximizes the likelihood of a genuine, cooperative response. We can also state our position clearly and firmly without antagonizing others. These skills can keep us out of power struggle. I can imagine few places which would benefit more from Sharon Strand Ellison's Powerful Non-Defensive Communication techniques as greatly as a hospital or a health care setting. 

—Helen Greenspan, RN, Oakland, CA

Law Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Attorneys

Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication can significantly improve how we, as lawyers, practice law. Law schools historically have not taught communication skills. Likewise, there has been little in the way of high-quality continuing legal education on the subject of communication.

Only a very small percentage of cases make it to the courtroom. In my experience, most of the lawyer's time is spent in verbal interactions — with clients, opposing counsel, witnesses, etc., in person, on the phone, in settlement negotiations, depositions and interviews. This communication, regardless of the setting, tends to be adversarial and defensive, which I have found is often counterproductive to achieving an early, acceptable resolution to the client's legal matters. This causes many people to lose faith in our justice system, and foster criticism.

There is a better way of doing it, one which can assist the lawyer in representing clients better. With skill in communicating non-defensively, I believe that lawyers would be in a unique position to model appropriate conflict resolution skills to clients and others with whom we come into contact with in our work. I believe that Sharon's workshop can provide lawyers, judges, mediators, and arbitrators with a highly effective approach to communicating with power, dignity and integrity in our professional and personal lives.

Laura Parrish, Attorney, Past President of the Lane County Bar Association, Eugene, OR


After seeing you in action and learning more about the PNDC process you teach in the full-day workshop, I believe it is more powerful and effective than any other communication technique I have seen. I wonder what could happen if you were involved in the Middle East peace talks.

Maureen A. Tighe, U.S. Department of Justice


I think that your models and hypothetical examples were most helpful in understanding these new concepts for communication. You presented your material clearly and beautifully. The way you demonstrated how to better communicate before the group was masterful. Your love of the material and patience in working through conceptual glitches was much appreciated. I find the application to the field of law intriguing.

Carson Bowler, Attorney, Portland, OR


The Powerful Non-Defensive Communication process has been invaluable to me in my work as an attorney and mediator. I allows me both to utilize and to model non-defensive communication methods with parties who are in the midst of conflict or are unable to communicate effectively. The formats for non-defensive questions have been particularly helpful, as they allow me to move beyond a party's position to find the true interests that lie behind it, without creating defensiveness. In turn, this helps the parties to feel that they have been thoroughly heard, creating more potential for the resolution of conflict. Sharon Ellison's book, and her technique, should be studied by attorneys and mediators everywhere.

Emily Doskow, Attorney and Mediator, Panelist for the U.S. District Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Pane

Collaborative Family Law Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Collaborative Family Law Attorneys, Therapists &
Financial Planners

Collaborative Family Law Attorneys

I first encountered Sharon and her teachings in 2006 in San Diego at the IACP Forum and I can still remember the silence of the audience being pierced by little astounded gasps as the profundity of what she 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 at the Toronto Forum in 2007. 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, Past-President, Ontario Collaborative Law Federation, Adjunct Professor, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law


I’m absolutely stunned by the power of the non-defensive process Sharon teaches. I’ve gotten used to the concept of how good communication skills, including listening, “I messages,” and reframing help manage and reduce the emotional temperature in the room. I’ve accepted and even been excited to learn about concepts like emotional flooding so I could tell myself, clients and students not to even try to have a rational conversation when you’re flooded or when the other person is flooded; rather, to wait 15-30 minutes for the brain to be re-capable of rational thought. But listening to Sharon’s examples and process, I realize that by putting yourself in a place of true, deep curiosity, you can almost instantly defuse the other person’s defensiveness. What amazes me is not just the incredible success, but also the speed and directness. The potential to actually have a constructive and respectful conversation over an issue that could easily push anyone’s buttons is amazing.

—Arlene Kostant, Attorney and  Mediator, San Francisco, CA; Negotiation Instructor, UC  Hastings Law School & UC Berkeley Boalt Law School


I consider you a treasure, as does each and every legal professional I have spoken with regarding your work and the manner in which you present it.  In the highly complex and emotional area of family law in which we work, learning how to relearn the manner in which we deal with one another is nothing short of extraordinary. I formerly thought of myself as a professional who had good self-awareness and excellent non-defensive communication skills.  After reading your book, listening to your tapes and attending several workshops that you have offered, I am now acutely aware of how much better my communication can be in my professional and personal life.  My clients have commented on the manner in which I deal with difficult situations and difficult communications.

—Suzan Barrie Aiken, Attorney, Mediator, Mill Valley


My professional life has changed dramatically since the day I discovered Sharon Ellison's theory of Powerful Non-defensive Communication. Non-defensive communication skills have enhanced my effectiveness as a lawyer, mediator, and as a law professor who teaches counseling and negotiation to law students. Although I prided myself on being a problem-solver and collaborator, with both my clients and counterpart lawyers, I found myself shifting into defensive modes more than I liked, especially when I felt most strongly. I struggled to understand how and why I was undermining myself, and what to do about it. When I met Sharon, heard her lay out her theory, and watched her demonstrate her approach, I was amazed at how many answers clicked for me. The theory and the practice of PNDC gave me a clarity, control, and a new mindset that had eluded me in the past.

—Carolyn Kass, Associate Professor; Director of the Legal Clinic; Co-Director, Center for Dispute Resolution; and Director of the Family and Juvenile Law Concentration; Quinnipiac University, School of Law, Hamdon, CT Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Corvallis, OR


I have experienced Sharon Ellison’s PNDC presentations, both in a brief workshop at a national conference and at a full-day seminar she presented to our group in Chicago a few months later.  Her presentations were riveting, powerful, and effective.  Her voice, her manner, her inclusiveness and her approach helped each participant to understand the importance and the effect of PNDC on personal communication experiences as well as professional ones. I try to utilize Sharon’s methods whenever possible and have found it has made a profound difference in how I approach problem conversations professionally and personally. As an adjunct professor teaching a law school seminar on Alternative Dispute Resolution, I require my students to first read and then discuss Taking the War Out of Our Words so that they will be receptive to the paradigm shift necessary to fully understand ADR.  Sharon Ellison has my utmost respect and admiration.  I would unhesitatingly recommend any program she offers to any group who may have the privilege of attending it.

Sandra M. Rosenbloom, Attorney at Law, Northfield, IL


Collaborative Family Law Therapists

I signed up for Sharon Ellison’s  PNDC Level One Training in the hopes of learning communication skills that would be useful in my work with Collaborative Divorce cases.  What I came away with is the foundation for a new way of communication, which, I believe, has the potential to be transformational in any relational context, professional or personal.

Sharon’s style is warm, engaging, humorous, and inclusive.  She has a wonderful way of tailoring the workshop to address the needs of those present.  She is a gifted storyteller, and uses stories to demonstrate the incredible difference that can occur when a person uses PNDC.  She was patient and kind in guiding us through our first bumbling attempts at using PNDC skills.  I would love for all of my collaborative divorce colleagues be trained by Sharon in PNDC, as I believe would be enormously useful in our work with families.  PNDC provides a structure to have difficult conversations without engaging in posturing and increased hostility. Couples can learn to reach peaceful resolutions and relax their vigilance about winning and losing.

—Emily Weaver, MFT, Oakland, CA


Being aware of one’s feelings and reactions to clients is one of the cornerstones of a therapist’s training. Newer paradigms of countertransference also distinguish between feelings that arise from the therapist’s own history versus those that may be evoked by the client. Through metabolizing or working through their own feelings, therapists can use this understanding to help the clients. Sharon Ellison’s analysis of defensive communications can be a key to helping therapists understand the feelings the client invokes in both ourselves and others. Her methods of non-defensive communications allow the therapist to quickly work through countertransference feelings and more importantly, provide the tools for communicating to the patient in ways that are most likely to be heard.

Ms. Ellison’s workshop provides techniques and experience in changing countertransference feelings into helpful interventions for the client. While techniques are frequently discussed in theoretical terms, this workshop provides not only a theoretical paradigm but a valuable experience and practice—something that is all too frequently missing in post-graduate workshops.

—Mary Krentz, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist in Private Practice in Oakland, CA; Assistant Professor at the Wright Institute, Berkeley, CA, 1989-2001.


I found Sharon's presentation fascinating and extremely relevant to my work not only as a divorce mediator but also as a coach in collaborative divorce. I was able to apply her non-defensive communication techniques immediately in the next four-way meeting between coaches and clients and the clients responded very positively — it was very exciting!! I look forward to taking more of Sharon's workshops.

—Debbie Katz MFT, Collaborative Practice Group of Contra Costa County


I have taken Sharon’s workshop, as well as participating in a study group led by Sharon with Collaborative Divorce Mental Health Professionals (i.e. psychologists and marriage and family therapists) and Collaborative Family Law Attorneys.  Learning and practicing non-defensive communication techniques has been invaluable for both my clinical and collaborative work. Many clients come to see me dealing with life situations and transitions that are extremely stressful. Helping clients deal both with their stress and the concomitant anxiety that results from these life situations is critically important.

Since one major antidote to anxiety is information, I find that in informing clients about non-defensive vs. defensive communication adds an effective communication skill set that helps to reduce their anxiety. For clients to feel more effective and empowered to confront their challenges leads to them feeling more competent and confident. Being able to offer both the information as well as the practice skills of non-defensive communication has increased my success in couple and family therapy.  Learning this skill has also improved my therapy practice. I am noticing that, in some cases, behaviors I may have interpreted as client resistance, I am now seeing as defensive reactions resulting from how I have communicated to the client.  With non-defensive communication I find my clients better able to respond to my interventions and interpretations. I highly recommend Sharon’s training for psychologists as well as other mental health professionals.

—Marc Berke, Ph.D., Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist; Collaborative Divorce Mental Health Professional; Director, Diablo Counseling Associates, Danville, CA.


Collaborative Family Law Financial Planners

It was a year or so in the making to get Sharon Ellison to visit Rochester. From the very first moment, sitting among 25 of my collaborative colleagues, I knew this experience was going to change the way we communicated in our community. Folks who usually don't have much to offer, or at times are skeptical of workshops, went out of their way to make sure I understood what impact this was having on their thinking just hours into the experience. To say it was positive, incredibly helpful, or countless other descriptives seemingly do not do it justice. To explain that we were, and will forever be, changed by our work with Sharon just begins to scratch the surface. On Day 1, and in a text message with her ex-husband, one of our members immediately practiced some of the learning and was astounded with the results. On Day 2, other stories emerged that followed a similar pattern.

This work impacts all aspects of a person's life, personally and professionally. Learning from Sharon can only enhance one's relationships. There is no downside, other than being unable to have her live amongst us and continue to help us practice and grow. I wish everyone could experience Sharon and her gift even once in their own lives … we would have far less conflict, and so much more energy to devote to the positive aspects of life.

Personally, I am a better practitioner of my craft, a better mother, a better friend, a better wife. On behalf of my family, friends and clients, thank you for sharing your gift so willingly.

Donna M. Maier, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, The Maier Group, LLC and President, Collaborative Law Association of the Rochester Area


In our role as a neutral, we are often meeting with couples in conflict without the supportive presence of a second team member.  Being able to facilitate difficult conversations and handle unanticipated emotional expressions or outbursts can be tricky to address and remain neutral.  Sharon teaches skills that not only help us know how to respond appropriately but gives us skills needed to help us better understand the clients and build trusting professional relationships.  As the awareness of the collaborative model in family law increases, more are drawn to seek it.  With a larger pool of clients also comes an increase in difficult cases.  We need to continually improve our communication skills and practicing Sharon’s Non-Defensive Communication process is the perfect way to improve our ability as financial professionals.

—Lisa A. Schneider, CFP, Schneider Financial Advisors, AIG Financial Advisors, Inc.


I have had the good fortune to study Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication with Sharon Ellison both in a large group and small group environment. Sharon is an excellent facilitator in both forums. Sharon can both keep the group on task yet follow the important threads that lead to deep learning. At the end Sharon is able to neatly tie the threads together and I always feel I take away a new learning experience. In addition to her leadership skills Sharon provides a level of comfort and safety which helps to create a more effective learning environment. Sharon clearly presents concepts and responds to questions and/or resistance with useful exercises always in a respectful, sincere, and honest manner.

My profession involves working with divorcing couples and teams of professionals. My specific area is finances. The PNDC process has helped me to facilitate more effective meetings with the spouses and help them to communicate what is important to each of them. Finally, on a personal level, I have used PNDC with my relationships with my husband and other family members.  I have listened to the parenting tapes and quite effectively set boundaries with my son. 

—Natalie A. Leininger, CFP, CDFA

Mediation Show/Hide Comments

Comments From ADR Professionals

We are still basking in the afterglow of the conference. Our conference committee has never heard so many accolades. This was our most attended biennial conference since our initial conference in 1998. Sharon gave four plenaries during the two-day conference. They were highly rated by participants and we received many evaluation comments indicating strong appreciation for the personal connection she made with many of them. Sharon certainly knows her subject, exhibits ease in communicating key concepts, and has an engaging method of presentation. She made it very inviting to ask questions and make comments, which enhanced the experience for professionals getting advanced training. Sharon interspersed the topic with humorous stories that were engaging and delivered her message. We are already getting requests for an encore.

~ Kathleen Bird, Director of the Office of Dispute Resolution Services for the 7th Judicial Circuit of Missouri, Treasurer of the Missouri Association of Mediators & Chair of the 2013 Heartland Regional Conference of Mediators


I’m absolutely stunned by the power of the non-defensive process Sharon teaches. I’ve gotten used to the concept of how good communication skills, including listening, “I messages,” and reframing help manage and reduce the emotional temperature in the room. I’ve accepted and even been excited to learn about concepts like emotional flooding so I could tell myself, clients and students not to even try to have a rational conversation when you’re flooded or when the other person is flooded; rather, to wait 15-30 minutes for the brain to be re-capable of rational thought. But listening to Sharon’s examples and process, I realize that by putting yourself in a place of true, deep curiosity, you can almost instantly defuse the other person’s defensiveness. What amazes me is not just the incredible success, but also the speed and directness. The potential to actually have a constructive and respectful conversation over an issue that could easily push anyone’s buttons is amazing.

—Arlene Kostant, Attorney and Mediator, San Francisco, CA; Negotiation Instructor, UC San Francisco Hastings Law School, UC Berkeley Boalt Law School


As a mediator and trainer of mediators, I consider Sharon Ellison's Powerful Non-Defensive Communication to be the ultimate language of conflict management. On a practical level, fluency in PNDC provides me with a variety of useful tools for mediation: for example, how to formulate essential questions and ask them directly, without putting disputants on the defensive. In a large sense, PNDC provides a model of communication in which people with differences seek to understand one another in their full complexity, rather than engage in a simplistic power struggle. I highly recommend this training to anyone who wants to facilitate mediations that are not only successful, but actually transformative.

—Mady Shumofsky, Conflict Management Consultant, award-winning Mediator, member of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution


Once again you have made a significant impact on the lives of people in our community with your "Powerful Non-Defensive Communication" workshop. As you are aware, the two sessions you held were well attended by folks who responded and participated with gusto, reporting immediate, successful application of your principles.

—Michael Connelly, Director, Community Mediation Services, Eugene, OR


The seminar achieved a great deal by getting the delegates to analyze their own behavior and assess how defensive behavior can arise during the course of legal negotiations. It is an invaluable course for anyone who is involved in negotiations of any kind. It was an excellent day, with a very clear, professional and unpretentious presentation. It was also refreshing to have someone challenging something as fundamental as our rules of communication without preaching or being too idealistic.

—Katy Lawrence, Centre for Dispute Resolution, London, England


Sharon Ellison provided a day-long keynote for the Northern California Mediation Association Annual Conference. It was one of the best-attended conferences we have ever had. People felt excited and challenged by the content and structure of her keynote, role-plays, and interactions with audience members. She received a standing ovation.

— Emily Doskow, Attorney and Mediator, Panelist for the U.S. District Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Panel


I first encountered Sharon and her teachings in 2006 in San Diego at the IACP Forum and I can still remember the silence of the audience being pierced by little astounded gasps as the profundity of what she 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 at the Toronto Forum in 2007. 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, Past-President, Ontario Collaborative Law Federation, Adjunct Professor, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law


I consider you a treasure, as does each and every legal professional I have spoken with regarding your work and the manner in which you present it. In the highly complex and emotional area of family law in which we work, learning how to relearn the manner in which we deal with one another is nothing short of extraordinary. I formerly thought of myself as a professional who had good self-awareness and excellent non-defensive communication skills. After reading your book, listening to your tapes and attending several workshops that you have offered, I am now acutely aware of how much better my communication can be in my professional and personal life. My clients have commented on the manner in which I deal with difficult situations and difficult communications.

—Suzan Barrie Aiken, Attorney and Mediator, Mill Valley


My professional life has changed dramatically since the day I discovered Sharon Ellison's theory of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication. Non-defensive communication skills have enhanced my effectiveness as a lawyer, mediator, and as a law professor who teaches counseling and negotiation to law students. Although I prided myself on being a problem-solver and collaborator, with both my clients and counterpart lawyers, I found myself shifting into defensive modes more than I liked, especially when I felt most strongly. I struggled to understand how and why I was undermining myself, and what to do about it. When I met Sharon, heard her lay out her theory, and watched her demonstrate her approach, I was amazed at how many answers clicked for me. The theory and the practice of PNDC gave me a clarity, control, and a new mindset that had eluded me in the past.

—Carolyn Kass, Associate Professor; Director of the Legal Clinic; Co-Director, Center for Dispute Resolution and Director of the Family and Juvenile Law Concentration, Quinnipiac University School of Law, Hamdon, CT


Nonprofit Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Non-Profit Professionals

Sharon has the remarkable ability to convey her message about the power of non-defensive communication to absolutely any audience-regardless of their primary language, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or educational experience.  When Sharon conducted a workshop for the mostly Latino immigrant parents and guardians of "I Have a Dream"- San Francisco, she presented the components of non-defensive communication, using PNDC role plays and personal examples to get her point across. 

As I translated the presentation into Spanish, I could see that our families were really enjoying and learning the PNDC process, and that Sharon's natural graciousness, humility and humor helped make the material accessible, helpful and relevant to their lives as busy, working, immigrant parents of rapidly americanizing adolescent youth.  They left smiling and equipped with realistic, practical new tools and strategies for talking and listening, setting boundaries, communicating their values and perspectives, and building strong, healthy, reciprocal and respectful relationships with their sons and daughters.

Abby Rovner, Project Director "I Have a Dream" Foundation - San Francisco


In a short time Sharon Ellison impacted the lives of hundreds of local human service and business professionals.

—Betty Schnettler, Program Director, Stearns County United Way's Voluntary Action Center, St. Cloud, MN


Sharon Ellison’s work is such an important method of communication. It has allowed me to work toward interacting more effectively with my colleagues in the nonprofit field. Her presentation for our managers at has opened many doors for me and my colleagues. As I continue to practice the techniques and observe my own reactions to situations, I have been able to reach a clearer understanding of what I need to communicate and what I want from a particular interaction. This has allowed me to either avoid conflict or shorten the time length of conflict. I am also, as a supervisor, more able to set firm, respectful, boundaries when needed.

—Artrese L. Morrison, Director of Volunteer Services, Distribution, and East Bay programs, Project Open Hand


Sharon Ellison did a great presentation, as our keynote speaker for our recent conference for Parent Training and Information Centers in the western states.  Multiple layers of good communication skills are crucial for the staff of our Parent Training and Information Centers, first, because they are parents of children with special needs, themselves, who must navigate the complex systems of services in order for their children to benefit. In addition, the parent center staff must model good communication techniques for the families and professionals they are working with.  Sharon’s strategies embedded in the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication presentation provide techniques the conference attendees can use to defuse some potentially contentious or tense situations, allowing all parties to feel heard and respected.  Even though we only had Sharon for a limited time, we all left with practical nuggets.  We all wished we had the opportunity for the full series!

—Nora Thompson, Executive Director Matrix Parent Network & Resource Center


Mental Health: Social Service Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Mental Health: Social Service Professionals

Ms. Ellison has been and is in demand as a consultant, workshop leader, teacher and therapist and is known as a tireless leader. She has effectively been able to translate concepts into treatment techniques. She is most impressive when speaking before groups. Sharon knows her subject matter, has and uses relevant data. Her addresses are honest and factual, well organized in approach. She has been of immense aid to all of us who work in the helping professions and has received many plaudits and commendations from this community for her abilities and efforts.

Lewis M. Simmons, M.S.W., A.C.S.W. Assistant Director, Lane County Juvenile Department, Eugene, OR


The skills Sharon Ellison taught us have been of tremendous value in dealing with protective service investigations which are often emotionally loaded and can tend to be confrontational in nature. I am now much clearer in asking questions in a way that truly obtains the information I need without threatening people with whom I am speaking. The skills have also been invaluable to me in negotiating solutions to situations that involve ethical dilemmas and/or threats to clients' health and welfare. I have also noted the impact of these training sessions in our staff communications. There is a higher level of trust and ability to speak openly, and we have been more successful in resolving issues we might have avoided previously in our interactions with each other. Finally, my colleagues and I have reaped great benefits in using these skills in our personal lives.

Morgan Brody, Protective Service Investigator and Foster Home Licenser, Cascades West Council of Governments, Senior Services, Corvallis, OR


I have had two opportunities to participate in training/consultation sessions provided for C.S.D. staff by Ms. Ellison. "Communicating with Small Children" involved interacting with a play group of selected children. Remarkable and observable behavior changes occurred as a result of applying techniques learned. The more recent series of sessions was designed to increase staff's observational skills and to increase workers' ability to "engage" resistant clients in constructive utilization of agency services.

Ms. Ellison has demonstrated the ability to be flexible and responsive to the needs of group members. Role plays, utilizing actual difficult case situations, have been particularly effective in demonstrating practical application of techniques learned. Ms. Ellison's own obvious genuine concern for people and the dynamic manner in which she presents materials spark and hold group members' interest. I highly recommend both the content and manner of presentation to you as a potential training contractor. Skills learned will no doubt have many professional and personal applications.

Debra Stratton, Branch Manager, Benton County Children's Services, Corvallis, OR


Mental Health: Therapists Show/Hide Comments

Comments from Mental Health Professionals

I believe this is the most powerful structure I've learned in my training as a Marriage and Family Therapist. It has tremendous implications for most human interactions.

—Bette Acuff, Ph.D., M.A., MFT,  San Francisco, CA


The sophistication and depth of the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication paradigm Sharon Strand Ellison has developed can be of immense value to psychologists. The theory transforms our concepts of power in human interactions. Both Sharon’s theory and practice challenge psychologists to expand their own awareness and knowledge and enhance their capacity to pass skills learned on to their patients.

—Dr. Gisela Bergman, Licensed Psychologist, Eugene, OR


Sharon has continued to advance and perfect her concepts of the nature of emotional maladaptation and has developed her method of working with disturbed persons toward an ever-increasing level of refinement. She has shown a special aptitude in coping with people showing problems of extreme dependency and self-destructiveness and has succeeded where many psychotherapists would have given up. She has conducted many workshops that are of her own unique style based on ideas and theory coming out of her inventiveness and creativity.

—Dr. Reid Kimball, Psychiatrist, Eugene, OR


I'm thrilled to have participated today in your workshop. I'm moved by this vehicle of paradigm shift—how it works and that it works—that it exists. I feel like a fish that always has been in polluted waters and didn't know it, but sensed that something was wrong. When the waters get clear, as they did today, I can feel it and it feels so good, right, and powerful.

—Barbara Phillipls, MFT


Ms. Ellison provided ongoing training in play therapy for the psychologists and other staff at the Child Center. She is a skilled therapist who is able to combine interpretive feedback with skill training, role-playing, and limit setting. She is intuitive, insightful, and supportive and is well liked by children and staff alike. Besides being a highly competent therapist, she is also an excellent trainer and teacher.

—Dr. Susan Richter, Psychologist, The Child Center, Eugene, OR


Thanks for developing such a transformative human theory. It’s truly a gift. And thank you for your superb coaching, teaching, and commitment to this work.

—Judy Levey, Psychologist, Berkeley, CA


Thanks so much for your clarity, commitment, compassion, and sensitivity. I appreciate the way you walk your talk and your warmth—a great coach and role-model.

—Sandra Lewis, Psychologist, Berkeley, CA


When I first encountered Sharon's work, I was astonished at the depth and strength of the power contained in non-defensive communication. As I have utilized her teachings in my professional work with clients, they also have been amazed, as well as delighted, at the deep changes in their lives that this power facilitates. I wish that everyone in the mental health field, as well as all educators and parents, could have access to Sharon's teachings for their own professional use and to pass on to their clients and/or students.

Moreover, given where we are at this time in our human history, I believe learning to communicate effectively, which, in essence, means learning to live non-defensively, is essential for our survival on the planet. To practice the powerful, non-defensive communication skills Sharon teaches so well is not only personally and professionally thrilling and gratifying, it is also being an active participant in broader change of consciousness. Needless to say, I would highly recommend Sharon's training for social workers and anyone ese.

—Jane Mara, MSW, Eugene, OR


See also Social Service and Therapists comments under Collaborative Family Law: Therapists

 


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