PNDC for Professionals in Non-Profit 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 non-profits.

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 Non-Profits

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Training Context & Overview

Introduction from Landing Page: The problems faced by non-profits are frequently paramount. Competing for limited resources can mean that employees receive low pay and/or that the organization does not have a secure future. While using volunteers strengthens the organizations resources, it can also complicate decision-making and communication. The people being served may have challenges that make the work difficult, whether they live independently or in housing provided by the non-profit. In addition, the job can require interacting with people and organizations with significant power, who may be invested in maintaining the status quo or are resistant to collaboration on issues being addressed. Since all these factors can impact relationships among staff as well, non-defensive communication skills are essential to a strong organization.

More . . . In keynotes and training programs, non-profit directors, employees and volunteers will learn how traditional communication methods, built on the “rules of war,” systemically create and accelerate conflict rather than defuse it. Even when people put best effort into communicating clearly, subtle cues can prompt defensiveness, both among people being served in organizations that may be hostile to the efforts of the non-profit, and among employees and volunteers within the organization. Participants will also learn how currently accepted communication methods such as active listening, empathetic listening, and “I messages” can also prompt unwanted defensive reactions.  

People in non-profits can gain strong leadership skills in the process of learning Powerful Non-Defensive Communication skills. Participants will learn to make changes in four areas related to the communication process: (a) intention, (b) tone, (c) body language, and (d) actual skills sets for asking questions, giving feedback, stating opinions and predicting consequences. Making these changes can alter and greatly enhance how we use power when interacting with others; they do not require the other person’s cooperation to be effective. Sharon will focus on:

  • asking questions in a way that often prompts others to drop their defenses and open up to genuine dialogue, getting at the heart of an issue quickly;

  • making statements by (1) giving honest feedback using three steps that make it more likely people will feel respected and want to listen, and (2) stating opinions, beliefs, and feelings with clarity, integrity, power and compassion without ever trying to convince others to agree. Doing so can build bridges of understanding instead of causing alienation;

  • predicting consequences in a way that prompts people to make careful decisions about the short- and long-term consequences of their choices and/or the actions of their organization. This process of making predictions can also be used to create clear boundaries with clients and within the organization.

Using these skills, people in non-profits can have greater impact in the groups they serve and enhance their ability to touch the hearts of others in the process of finding creative solutions to the many serious issues we face in our local and global communities.

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. She has provided training for Stir Fry Productions, producers of the diversity film, The Color of Fear, as well as contributing to the study guides for Shakti Butler's films, Light in the Darkness and Making Whiteness Visible. Sharon has provided training for non-profits for more than 30 years.

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.

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

  • The Center for Volunteer and Non-Profit Leadership
  • Open Hand
  • "I Have a Dream" Foundation
  • Youth Enrichment Strategies
  • The Women’s Funding Network, including an international training program for women of color
  • United Way
  • Community Partnerships, Boise, ID
  • Head Start
  • Empowerment Project for Women Prisoners
  • Rape Crisis Centers
  • Shelters for Domestic Violence Victims
  • New Community Meeting, bringing together GLBT people with conservative Christians
  • Matrix Parent Network
  • Vista Youth Program
  • The Napa Peace Table
  • The Women's Building
  • The Human Rights Coalition

See More Complete Client List

Comments from Personnel in Non-Profits

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 (ANSA,) an international membership organization made up of non-profits focused on nutrition services for the critically ill.

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 non-profit field. Her presentation for our managers 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'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

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

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

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 spoke, role-played examples and invited audience participation. She showed 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. I think almost any community group or grass roots organization could benefit from Sharon's methods.

—Derick Miller, President, Berkeley PTA

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Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is a trademarked name. © 1994-2017 Sharon Strand Ellison

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"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."

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





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