PNDC for Spiritual Communities

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 spiritual communities.

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 Spiritual Communities

See more about Training Options on the Menu Bar under Topics

Training Context & Overview

Introduction from Landing Page: Our spiritual growth is deeply impacted by how we communicate. Traditional methods of communication can block our potential for "walking our talk" —i.e., living out our ethics in our intimate and professional relationships, as well as in community. You can learn how to have internal dialogues that balance self-acceptance with self-examination. You can gain skills for expressing your beliefs passionately, without judgment, honoring each person’s humanity.

More . . . In Sharon’s presentations, you will learn about how the physiology of defensiveness impacts all of us. You'll then have an opportunity to learn how we can use power in our interactions in new ways, more in keeping with our spiritual beliefs. Participants will then learn Powerful Non-Defensive Communication skills for

  • asking questions that get quickly to the core of a matter,

  • giving honest feedback that creates stronger relationships,

  • having different opinions and beliefs without being adversarial, and

  • creating boundaries that enhance respect and reciprocity.

You will learn how to interact with others without getting defensive no matter how they respond. Sharon uses story to weave together the principles, as well as role-play and practice in longer sessions.

Learning these skills can give people in spiritual communities the ability to be both honest and compassionate with each other. Others often drop their own defenses in response, so the process is contagious. The skills are a potent tool for creating justice, for healing the violence that has pervaded human history. If we use a different paradigm for language, we can maximize our potential for creating strong spiritual communities that contribute to making peace a contagious process.

Length of presentation: Sharon is an award-winning speaker and can give a sermon or short (20-30 minute) oratorical presentation offered at many worship services. She can also offer a more interactive service. In addition, she can also facilitate an afternoon or evening workshop of two to four hours. If desired, she can do a longer workshop of one or two days or more. She also speaks at conferences.

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 began her career working with families in extreme crisis. Later, she started a private practice and has since been providing coaching and counseling for couples for more than 35 years. Her approach has always been to give direct honest feedback to each person in a relationship and to do on-the-spot coaching to help each person learn ways to respond without getting defensive. Sharon also provides an overview or map for the couple with regard to how the relationship functions as a “system” of interactions, which includes what she calls VERB elements: values, emotions, reasonings, and behaviors. Due to her commitment to teaching Powerful Non-Defensive Communication in group settings in order to offer more people access to the skills, Sharon no longer coaches individual couples. However, she offers workshops for couples and speaks at many conferences.  

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 is gifted in the art of identifying relationship systems. She is also highly skilled in modeling the interruption of any process that involves defensiveness and power struggle and guiding couples toward in-depth non-defensive conversations. Ami offers coaching and workshops for parents as well. Her husband, Jesse Combs also does training with parents, couples and groups of men. The mother of 16-year-old twin boys. Ami uses a hands-on approach when providing workshops and coaching for parents. She also speaks at conferences and provides training for early childhood education programs.

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.

Sharon and Ami are dedicated long been dedicated to social change and shares the belief of millions that our human survival depends on the skill we develop in creating a social evolution process that honors and protects our resources, as well as our capacity to live peacefully in a diverse global community. Sharon and Ami are dedicated to creating leadership with integrity and building strength of community in every environment.

Partial Client List

Training in Powerful Non-Defensive Communication has been provided for organizations from various spiritual traditions and denominations including:

  • Unity
  • Episcopal
  • Presbyterian
  • Methodist
  • Salvation Army
  • Buddhist
  • Jewish
  • Unitarian
  • Baptist
  • Catholic

She was also a keynote speaker at Facing a Challenge Within: A Progressive Scholars and Activists Conference on Anti-Semitism and the Left, Oakland, CA. She has also done presentations for community organizations working toward equality and peace, such as The Napa Peace Table, Diablo Peace Center, and the Human Rights Coalition.

In the vital area of cultural competence, Sharon has been 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 co-authored the questions for white people for the workbooks that accompanied the diversity films produced by World Trust, Light in the Darkness and Making Whiteness Visible. In conjunction with Native American women leaders, she created a national training program for indigenous women. Sharon has been a keynote speaker for Diversity Pipeline, a conference for women of color in healthcare sciences.

In addition, Sharon works with people in more than 13 different professions. Her clients include:

  • Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital
  • The U.S. Justice Department
  • The Centre for Dispute Resolution in London, England.
  • The Smithsonian
  • Stanford University
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Nordstrom
  • Xerox
  • Sheraton

She has been an invited guest speaker at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Sharon is dedicated to creating leadership with integrity and building strength of community in every environment.

Comments from People in Spiritual Communities

Sharon Ellison’s thoughtful, simple approach to non-defensive communication has an element of the revolutionary and transformative in it. Our congregations might be very different places if we all took Sharon’s work to heart … so might our world!

The Reverend Dr. Marni Harmon, Unitarian Church, Orlando, FL

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. 

 —Dr. Kostas Bagakis, Berkeley Buddhist Sanga for Teachers and Philosophy and Peace Studies Faculty, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA

As a Presbyterian pastor, I find the need for conversion to happen over and over again for individuals, congregations and communities. Taking the War Out of Our Words is a call to conversion.  It is a method that liberates us from the infection of hierarchy so prevalent in our language, including our words for worship.  It is a movement of the Spirit setting us free to speak in freedom rather than constriction, in love rather than resentment, in peace rather than war.  Sharon Ellison is a master teacher and communicator.  She knows, intellectually and intuitively, the process by which words give shape and form to our reality.  The intricacies of power dynamics are disarmed by her ability to engage any group of learners in a process that leads to healing and wholeness.  She is a gift of grace. 

Rev. Tiare L. Mathison-Bowie, Newton OH

Sharon Ellison presented a 3-hour workshop at Unity In Marin in February of 2004.  Her workshop attracted 75 participants from our small community that has an average Sunday attendance of 270 people.  People were inspired and uplifted and felt that her work is both evolutionary and transformational.  The excitement she generated was clearly palpable.  Her work fits perfectly with Unity teachings and was seen by many as a tool for going to the next level in our spiritual growth and effectiveness in the world.  As one participant said "she (Sharon) has come up with the actual language that fits the intention of genuine, well-intended spiritual seekers."

—Nancy Foster, Attorney, Mediator, and Unity Church member

Using Sharon Ellison's communication style described in her book, Taking the War Out of Our Words, has helped me facilitate both personal and group healing in community settings. This non-defensive, direct communication facilitates open, honest and deep sharing. It is an invaluable tool for expressing our spiritual essence, especially during conflict. I have recommended it to my congregation, colleagues and Youth Education Ministry. Each time I observe the power of this process, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for this dynamic work.

Jeanette Monterio, Transitional Ministry Team, Association of Unity Churches

The Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication • Contact Us
Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is a trademarked name. © 1994-2017 Sharon Strand Ellison

Back to Top

Quick Links:

Newsletter Sign-Up

Books, CD's & Downloads

Calendar of Events

Training Options

Stories, Tips & More

Hear CD Excerpts

Video - YouTube

Read Articles

Hear Interviews

Contact Sharon to Schedule An Event


"People were inspired and uplifted and felt that Sharon's work is both evolutionary and transformational.  The excitement she generated was clearly palpable.  Her work … was seen by many as a tool for going to the next level in our spiritual growth and effectiveness in the world"

—Nancy Foster, Attorney, Mediator, and Unity Church member






Calendar Site Map Contact Us