PNDC for Community Service Organizations

Using This Information Packet: This packet includes (1) an overview of the training; (2) short biographies for Sharon Strand Ellison and her daughter, Ami Atkinson Combs, who are the primary master teachers of the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication™ process developed by Sharon; (3) a partial client list; and (4) comments from people in community service organizations.

The overview starts with the introduction from the landing page and then continues with more information. You can start with "More . . ." if you've already read the introduction. You can also return to the Landing Page to access additional information about workshops, training topics, conferences, and coaching.

Training Context & Overview
Biographical Information
Partial Client List
Comments from People in Community Organizations

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Training Context & Overview

Introduction from Landing Page: Organizations that support our communities are the lifeblood of the community, whether they offer environments for networking and building businesses, seeking spiritual growth, mentoring young people, providing resources for those in need, creating social change, and/or providing entertainment. Unfortunately, community organizations can be torn apart by internal strife. Beyond that, informal groups as well as organized ones with different values and goals can be in varying degrees of conflict with each other. The degree to which community organizations and sub-cultures can not only live in peace together, but build on each other’s strength will determine the vitality of the community as a whole. Using non-defensive communication is vital to such community building, within and among organizations.

More . . . Sharon Strand Ellison demonstrates how traditional communication methods, across lines of race, class and culture, have been built on the “rules of war," so people get defensive instantly when they feel misunderstood, negated, criticized or “under attack” in any way. Essentially, the very way we communicate systematically creates and accelerates conflict. Whether we react passively or aggressively, our defensive reactions lead directly to power struggle. Using these traditional methods for communication, we have shaped human interactions at all levels— personal, professional, and in our local and global communities. Now that we are living in communities that are increasingly diverse, this old system of communication leads quickly to polarization of individuals and groups with cultures needs and/or cultures.

In Sharon’s keynotes, public speeches, workshops, and training programs, you will learn Powerful Non-Defensive Communication, a new paradigm for listening and speaking in ways that can eliminate defensiveness. Using the skills learned, people in community together can practice the kind of genuine dialogue where individuals can speak honestly and take accountability. This kind of dialogue is a foundation for building bridges of understanding, creating strong bonds across lines of difference, and achieving the kind of creative problem-solving that makes community organizations strong and flexible. This, in turn adds strength to the community as a whole. You will learn to:

—Ask questions that get at the heart of an issue quickly and prompt others to respond sincerely and openly,

—Give honest feedback without conveying judgment so others are more willing to listen,

—Express opinions clearly and strongly while building bridges of understanding, and

—Set boundaries that increase competence reciprocity and mutual respect.

Beyond simply learning isolated communication "techniques,” participants will have an opportunity to change habitual mind-sets that keep us locked into defensive patterns as well as leaving with skills they can use immediately to engage in genuine, spontaneous, heartfelt conversations.

Biographical Information

Sharon Strand Ellison, M.S., Executive Director of the Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (IPNDC), is an internationally recognized communication consultant, an award-winning speaker and the author of Taking the War Out of Our Words. Sharon with her daughter, Ami Atkinson produced the award-winning audiobook, Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting. Sharon is a pioneer in developing methods for eliminating defensiveness so people can communicate with constructive power. She was a nominee for the Leadership for a Changing World Award, sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Advocacy Institute. 

Sharon has been a speaker and involved in many community projects with a focus on strengthening relationships among diverse people and groups. She was a keynote speaker for the Multnomah County/City of Portland 9th Annual Diversity Conference: "Diversity: Tools, Action and Accountability, as well as for the Nordstrom Regional Diversity Managers annual meeting. She has provided training for the UC Berkeley Staff Diversity Facilitator Network and the Multicultural Education Association. Sharon has worked on community-based projects such as training 450 freshman in a high school where there had been a gang murder.

Sharon also speaks at conferences and provides training programs for professionals in more than a dozen fields. Her clients include Kaiser Permanente; Nordstom, Regional Diversity Managers; Wells Fargo; the United States Department of Justice, Stanford University, The smithsonian, and the Centre for Dispute Resolution, London, England.

Ami Atkinson Combs, Director of IPNDC, is a graduate of Mills College and co-author of the audiobook Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting. As Sharon’s daughter, she has been an active participant in the years of discussion as Sharon envisoned and refined the PNDC Communication model. Ami has done psychosocial research at Stanford Medical School, been on the Newborn and Parent Advisory Board at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, and worked with severely emotionally disturbed children.

Ami’s innate understanding of systemic patterns in communication is alsp a cornerstone of her work with organizations, helping individual teams as well as the organization as a whole to strengthen their communication internally and with their client base. She offers coaching and trainings for educational institutions, nonprofits, corporations, and community organizations. Her clients include: General Dynamics, CA; Lockheed-Martin, CA; Habitat for Humanity, CA; the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Toronto, Canada; The Wisconsin Council of Churches; The Association for Early Childhood Education, National Conference; and CCG Systems, VA.

Partial Client List

  • Violence Prevention Association of Contra Costa County
  • Association of Nutrition Services Agency, national conference
  • The Association for Dispute Resolution of Northern California
  • The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
  • Law Societies of Canada, bi-annual conference for judges and attorneys
  • Women’s Global Health Imperative, International Conference
  • Diversity Pipeline Conference, for women of color in health sciences
  • The Centre for Dispute Resolution, 10th anniversary conference, London, England
  • Oregon Mayors Association
  • The Center for Volunteer and Non-Profit Leadership
  • Women’s Funding Network, Women of Color in International Development
  • District Attorney's Victim Assistance Program
  • Shelters for Domestic Violence Victims
  • I Have a Dream Foundation
  • San Francisco Jail: Empowerment Project for Women Prisoners
  • Rape Crisis Center
  • United Way, Head Start
  • The Napa Peace Table
  • Diablo Peace Center
  • The Human Rights Coalition
  • Vista Youth Program
  • Youth Empowerment Now

Comments from People in Community Organizations

Important work is done in community forums across the country, in schools, local government, and grass-roots organizations. PNDC method works flawlessly. I think almost any group could benefit.

Derick Miller, President, Berkeley PTA Council

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

Sharon's work has had a tremendous impact on the Napa Valley Peace Table's ability to make open and honest community building a successful priority. The session was attended, among others, by our mayor, the district attorney, the superintendent of schools, the president of the community college, as well as some of Napa’s most exciting young student leaders. Sharon’s own communication skill and her powerful training program made it easy for all of us to realize how our words and attitude affect our ability to create "community" rather than chaos. The Napa Valley Peace Table's goal of bringing a multicultural, multigenerational vision to the Valley's future was jump-started at the heart by Sharon's easy to understand non-defensive communication tools.

—Dorothy Lind, President, The Peace Table, Napa, CA

As an Oregon Mayor and President of Oregon State Human Resource Managers Association, I have had the unique opportunity to observe Sharon Ellison speaking at conferences for 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, Past President of the Oregon State Personnel Management Association (HR Managers for the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative Branches)

Sharon Ellison was the keynote speaker for the California Planning Roundtable State-Wide Leadership Conference. The first thing that comes across when Sharon 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. Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC) is a capability you just don't want to be without. 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."

—Al Bell, Senior Strategist, The Planning Center

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.

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

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/Multnomah County OR, Steering Committee & Speakers Committee, City/Country 9th Annual Diversity Conference: "Diversity: Tools, Accountability, and Action"

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"Sharon's work has had a tremendous impact on the Napa Valley Peace Table's ability to make open and honest community building a successful priority. The session was attended, among others, by our mayor, the district attorney, the superintendent of schools, the president of the community college, as well as some of Napa’s most exciting young student leaders. The Napa Valley Peace Table's goal of bringing a multicultural, multigenerational vision to the Valley's future was jump-started at the heart by Sharon's easy to understand non-defensive communication tools."

 —Dorothy Lind, President, The Napa Peace Table



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