PNDC for Professionals in Government 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 government 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 Professionals in Government Organizations

Training Context & Overview:

Introduction from Landing Page: The function of government agencies requires a dual emphasis, where protection and service for citizens also requires enforcement of laws and policies. Many people simply react negatively to government control and don’t show appreciation for either the protection or the services the government offers. Regardless of specific function, most government agencies are open to criticism from the media and various groups within the community. Being able to diffuse defensiveness is a skill that can give government employees the power to reclaim more of the gratification of being able provide important services.

More . . . Regardless of the function of a particular function of a government organization, such as land use, welfare, food stamps, postal services, IRS, fish and wildlife, and homeland security, employees and managers have countless laws and policies that must be followed, limited financial resources, and increasingly demanding citizens. In addition, law enforcement agencies often deal with increased hostility and violence. It would be hard to find a government organization that doesn’t come under criticism, and pleasing one contingent of people often means making another one angry.

Under the circumstances, it is hard for managers and employees in government to keep a positive attitude. Over time, many respond defensively to being confronted with continual dissatisfaction from citizens. Using old, outdated communication methods simply intensifies the pressure, conflict, and frustration, increasing the risk conflict among employees and the stress of dealing with an unfriendly public.

Training programs in Powerful Non-Defensive Communication will provide people who work together in various units and teams with cutting edge communication skills. Using these skills, people will be in a position listen to each other more openly, while keeping their ability to speak honestly and directly. People in government offices will be more able to defuse conflict with members of the public, and those in law enforcement agencies can use skills that decrease the chances of violent responses.

Participants will learn how traditional methods of communication are built on the “rules of war,” systemically creating and accelerating power struggle; as well as gaining understanding about the physiology and dynamics of defensiveness. Next, they will learn non-defensive communication skills for: (a) asking questions that prompt others to drop their defenses and answer honestly, and/or hold them more accountable; (b) giving honest feedback supportively instead of critically, prompting others to be more open to listening; (c) stating facts, opinions, beliefs, and feelings without trying to convince others to agree, so that instead of alienating people, greater understanding is created, and (d) predicting clear boundaries, prompting others to accept the reality of a situation, make productive decisions, and be more respectful.  

Using these skills, government officials and employees can respond non-defensively, with far more power, regardless of how defensive others are. It allows people to be natural and real in their conversations, rather than just using certain "techniques." In many cases, the process is disarming and others will quickly drop their own defenses, so people can work together to create the most viable solutions, even in difficult situations. The outcome is the creation of an environment in which each person can do her or his job functions more effectively and competently, enhancing individual and team performance. These skills also translate into high quality service to the public, effective facilitation of public meetings, community policing and public relations.

Biographical Information:

Sharon Strand Ellison, an internationally recognized communication consultant, is an award-winning speaker and the author of Taking the War Out of Our Words. Sharon is a pioneer in the development of methods for eliminating defensiveness and was a nominee for the Leadership for a Changing World Award, sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Advocacy Institute. She speaks at conferences and provides training programs for corporations and small businesses, as well as professionals from more than a dozen fields, including law, healthcare, education, and government. She also speaks at national and international conferences. While she has developed cutting-edge theory, her methods are hands-on, practical and straightforward. She is honest and direct, motivating people tp take accountability and be proactive in their skill development. She has provided training and/or conference keynotes for government agencies for over 30 years. Sharon has dedicated herself to continual learning in the area of cultural competence and brings that knowledge to her work.

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 also done psychosocial research at Stanford Medical School.

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; the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Toronto, Canada; and CCG Systems, VA.

Sharon and Ami are dedicated to creating leadership with integrity and building strength of community in every environment.

Partial Client List:

  • The United States Department of Justice
  • Department of the Navy, International ADR Conference
  • The Internal Revenue Service
  • United States Postal Service
  • United States Fish and Wildlife
  • Indian Health Services
  • San Francisco County Jail
  • Oakland Housing Authority, Oakland, CA
  • Oregon Employment and Training Counsel & Leadership Organization
  • Lincoln County Planning Department, OR
  • Multnomah County, OR
  • City of Portland, OR
  • City of Tigard, OR
  • City of Charlottesville, VA
  • Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers, CA
  • The Smithsonian Institute
  • San Francisco County Jail
  • Mahlon Sweet Airport, security guards, Eugene, OR
  • Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments
  • Oregon Correctional Institution
  • Oregon Children’s Services Division of Welfare
  • Milwaukie schools
  • Multnomah County Multi-Cultural Education Assoc.
  • Center for Families, Children & the Courts
  • Judicial Council of California
  • Napa Superior Court
  • Los Angeles Superior Court
  • Oregon Mayors Association
  • The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
  • The ADR Working Group for the United States Federal Government, with Sharon's speech made available on 200 phone lines and lived-streamed to offices in Washington DC

See More Complete Client List

Comments from Professionals in Government Organizations

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. 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. 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

This workshop was a powerful experience for our department. It was the first communication workshop we’ve had that was not a 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

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

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 that 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"

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. its 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

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.

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 also notice that 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

Ms. Ellison is energetic, efficient, innovative, concerned and sensitive to the needs of people. She is articulate and most impressive when speaking and works well under pressure. She knows her subject and has and uses relevant data. She has received many 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

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"

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This workshop was a powerful experience for our department. It was the first communication workshop we’ve had that was not a 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






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