I’m a Master

On December 12, 2014 I graduated from Northern Arizona University.  During the last eight months of my graduate school experience, I worked on a Master’s Thesis.  The first several months had me interviewing subjects, training them in Compassionate Communication, and interviewing them again.  As I finished the interviews, I began data analysis.  I read through all 18 transcriptions of the interviews (2 for each of 9 participants) multiple times and extracted common and disparate concepts and themes. Then I focused on writing. And boy did I write and write and write.  At times I doubted whether I’d finish and, at the same time, the support I received from dearest Katie and my thesis committee was buoyant!  I defended my thesis on November 17 which game me several weeks to make revisions and turn in the final copy on December 9th!

The Thesis Basics



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     Interpersonal communication is essential for developing and maintaining relationships. Strong interpersonal relationships undergird communities by facilitating their formation and supporting their maintenance and growth. This study explores the effect of training in Empathic Dialogue, a system of communication based on Nonviolent Communication, on the interpersonal communication skills of nine participants.The participants were interviewed prior to attending two three-hour training sessions, and again between one month and three months after the sessions.

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Fireworks: Praticipant’s Visual Representation of a Mutually-Satisfying Dialogue

Before turning to the empirical study, I make sense of the theoretical strengths of this position. First, in order to argue that Nonviolent Communication constitutes a virtue, I outline Aristotle’s definition of virtue and the process by which one develops virtue. I then introduce the theory of McDonaldization, based on Max Weber’s theory of rationalization, and apply it to interpersonal communication. Finally, I review Nonviolent Communication based on the dimensions of McDonaldization, the results of which support my contention that Nonviolent Communication opposes McDonaldization.

I present my finding that Empathic Dialogue had a positive impact on the research participants’ communication skills. I then address these findings through the lens of Aristotle’s virtues and McDonaldization. Finally, I consider wider implications of these findings on the development of sustainable communities.

For the Visually-Inclined…

This link gives you an overview of the thesis as a Prezi!

A Few Excerpts

Research Statement:

The research question that this study explores is: What are the impacts of training in Empathic Dialogue, a needs-based communication system composed of three inter-related skills (empathy, self-empathy, and honesty), on individual’s abilities to create mutually-satisfying dialogues?

Literature Review:

Exchanging Energy: Rachel's Visual Representation  of a Mutually-Satisfying Dialogue

Exchanging Energy: Participant’s Visual Representation of a Mutually-Satisfying Dialogue

In this chapter I review the core literature that will be used to explore my research question. I start by going over the history of the Nonviolent Communication model, research studies addressing it, and critiques about it. Next I explore the work of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, focusing primarily on his book The Nicomachean Ethics. I describe Aristotle’s perspective on the importance and character of friendship, and his definition of virtues and the process of acquiring them. I then propose the argument that Nonviolent Communication meets Aristotle’s criteria for being considered a virtue. In the final section I discuss George Ritzer’s theory of the “McDonaldization of Society” which is based on Max Weber’s concept of “rationalization.” I describe this theory’s major concepts and use additional sources to describe its relevance to interpersonal communication and NVC.


I utilized qualitative in-depth interviewing as the methodological approach…In this study, I did two interviews, one before and one after the two Empathic Dialogue training sessions and recorded the participant’s responses…I convened two three-hour training sessions for the group of nine participants…I created the training content and materials based on my familiarity with the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Model.

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A Rainbow of Connection: Participant’s Visual Representation of a Mutually-Satisfying Dialogue

Findings and Analysis:

The findings of this study show that training in empathic dialogue has a positive impact on participants’ abilities to engage in mutually-satisfying dialogues. The training led to changes in their definitions of mutually-satisfying dialogue and the different skills of the NVC process. The participants developed clear definitions of how the skills work together in dialogue, and shared experiences in which they employed the skills. Participants shared insights they had gleaned from the training and its application in their lives that improved their interpersonal communication skills.

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A Group with Heart: Participant’s Visual Representation of a Mutually-Satisfying Dialogue


I am hopeful that my recommendations will help individual members and the communities to which they belong explore new communication strategies to create more ease and flow in their work. When individual members improve their communication skills, the quality of communication in the community improves. When entire communities prioritize, reflect on, and craft agreements about their communication practices, they nurture relationships between

members and increase members’ capacities to relate well with those outside their bounds. Given the challenges currently facing our world and new ones that will arise, I believe sustainable relational webs are a foundation of sustainable communities. By taking a step back to bolster their communication processes, communities can then move forward to effectively address the unmet needs present in our world.

You want to read the whole thing?

Bless you!  Here’s the link: McCain Thesis — Stepping Back to Move Forward!

Stay tuned for more blog posts as I move out of school-mode and (back) into contribution-to-the-world-mode.  The world needs more people who can Communicate with Heart!!!