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Book Review: Say What You Mean

A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication

by Oren Jay SoferShambhala
reviewed by Kathryn Drury Wagner
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Book cover

Nonviolent. Mindful. Communication. Oh, Oren Jay Sofer, how the world needs you. Sofer is a teacher of meditation and leader of retreats; he is professionally trained in Somatic Experiencing, which is a method for healing trauma, and has a background in classical Buddhist training, including several years living in a monastery. His main area of expertise and interest is the interplay between contemplative practice and communication. In this, his first book, Sofer presents a rather extraordinary vision of how to engage with other humans, sans emotional conflict. Imagine, for example, clarifying what you most want to convey in a tricky conversation, and then actually getting to it. Imagine leaving the conversation with both parties feeling heard and seen. Imagine actually honoring whatever intention you had going into the conversation. Using a guidebook format with plenty of Q&As and literal scripts, Sofer sets out to show us how, while sharing the philosophy, spirituality, and history supporting his suggestions.

Sofer presents a rather extraordinary vision of how to engage with other humans, sans emotional conflict

If you’ve studied meditation, some of the concepts from Sofer’s toolbox will resonate with what you know, but how he then applies it to verbal communication skills feels fresh and exciting—not to mention utterly necessary in this day and age. As Sofer notes, “Our ability to develop empathy and genuinely contact each other holds an essential key to our evolution as a species and survival as a civilization.” When was the last time you actually looked forward to a challenging conversation? Yet, reading this book, I felt prepared to at least try. —Kathryn Drury Wagner


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