I believe that the way that I have been most able to contribute to the Occupy movement has been through my involvement with OccupyVoice. My work with OccupyVoice has been to help staff calls, to encourage and inform others that the service is available, and to help get the word out in general about this resource. I’m hoping that this post will help a great deal in letting those who care about Occupy know about Occupy Voice.
Through OccupyVoice, I have learned a great deal, made friends, received support, and helped to support people “on the ground” in the Occupy movement. When I’m on a call, and I hear new callers expressing joy, gratitude, relief, or other emotions that mean they were touched by their experience and feel enriched by it, I feel immeasurably enriched and empowered. The fact that I can do everything from my bed — on the phone and/or on the computer — is wonderful for me.
What is OccupyVoice?
It is a dedicated phone line staffed by people trained in nonviolent communication (NVC) — also called compassionate communication — to provide support and strategies to anyone who needs it, whether pro, con, or undecided about the Occupy movement. The main feature I have been involved in is the phone conference center. This is a telegroup that anyone can call in to and be heard about any concerns arising from the Occupy movement or to learn de-escalation and nonviolent communication strategies. This service is available as a group phone session (conference-call style), or if someone prefers, for one-on-one empathic support, every day of the week, from 4 PM to 6 PM Eastern Standard Time (9:00 PM Greenwich Mean Time). No registration is required, and anonymity is available for those who want it.
Call in to OccupyVoice to experience . . .
- Effective and compassionate communication
- Conflict/anger transformation
- Effective communication skills training
- Role play/feedback
- Being heard and understood
- A place where people really share and listen
Who is behind OccupyVoice?*
We call ourselves OccupyVoice because we believe that what everyone has to say is important. This effort is run by volunteers. Callers pay only their phone service provider regular rate. We have multiple call-in lines to try to provide local call-in numbers, when possible. The call-in number we started with was for New Yorkers (because it was for Occupy Wall Street), at 347-304-9152; you can still use this, or you can use one of the many other numbers listed on the website.
The volunteers are trained in NVC, which was developed by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg. In NVC, we have some premises that we think make for a very powerful, effective, and compassionate way of connecting to other human beings:
1) We are all human beings, and we’re all just trying to get our needs met. No matter what a person says; no matter what a person does; no matter their tone of voice or the job they hold; no matter how scary or appalling we may find what a person says or does; they are human beings – like us – trying to get their needs met.
From this perspective, the more we can hear one another’s needs, the more likely we are to come to an understanding of what strategies will work for both of us (or all of us). From this perspective, getting my need met at someone else’s expense is not a long-term solution. The longer we can stay in dialogue, the better chance we have of coming to this understanding of one another’s needs.
2) We can hear one another better if we empathize – but this is a certain kind of empathy, a certain quality of listening. We define this type of empathy as being present to the other person, moment to moment, showing that we are listening to them and hearing their concerns with unconditional positive regard for them. The more we can be present to this degree, the more likely they are to eventually be able to hear what we need. If, instead, we argue, debate, defend ourselves, or tell them what we think is wrong with them, there is a greater likelihood that anger will escalate, people will disconnect from one another, and we won’t get much accomplished.
We are an international group — callers and staffers. Some of the people who staff the line have been studying NVC or related practices for decades. Others, like me, have only been studying it a couple of years. Staffers include people from the US, Canada, Argentina, Portugal, Israel, and elsewhere. Some staffers are fluent in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and other languages.
The giraffe has come to be a symbol for using NVC and giving empathy to oneself or others. They have the largest hearts of any land animal.
When is OccupyVoice available?
As mentioned above, there is a two-hour staffed call every day from 4:00 to 6:00 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Central, 2-4 PM Mountain, 1-3 PM Pacific).
Although the line is open around the clock, we currently have it fully staffed only for those two hours a day. However, sometimes staffers hang out there at other times, so you can try at another time, and you may or may not find someone else there.
We are also working on a system where those who are seeking the services of OccupyVoice can text, tweet, or call for support, and a volunteer will get back to them. I’m not sure yet how many volunteers are available to do this, but if it’s something you’re interested in, you can get in touch using the website, and someone involved with OccupyVoice will do their best to connect. Please visit the OccupyVoice website for further information on these options.
How do I call in?
Any day of the week, at 4 PM EST or 1 PM PST (9 PM GMT), you can use any of the access numbers at the OccupyVoice website to call in. They all take you to the same call. Find USA access numbers here, and international access numbers here. If you’re in the USA and you can’t find a number that works for your area, you can use the toll-free call-back option. (Note: This feature seems to work fine for some people and not at all for others, and we don’t know why yet.)
How can people who Occupy from home use OccupyVoice to support the movement?
- If you know of people who have suffered or witnessed violence or who are seeking an outlet for their emotions, pass on the link to the OccupyVoice website or give them the phone number and call-in times so they can get support.
- If you know people — including, but not limited to, those in a marginalized group — who really need to feel heard and affirmed that their needs matter, to recharge their batteries, or to communicate when they do not believe they are being heard, OccupyVoice can be useful.
- If you are a business owner or worker that has been affected by a nearby encampment, a city or government official, or a police officer whose job and/or life has been affected by Occupy, you can call for support or strategies for dealing with conflicts.
- If you know occupiers who are running into new challenges in trying to strategize with winter descending, police or city crack-downs, conflict among members, calling OccupyVoice might help them get clearer on their needs and how to listen to and communicate with others at the encampment.
- If you are in favor of the Occupy movement, but friends, family, or colleagues are opposed to it, OR if you are opposed to the Occupy movement, but your friends, family, or colleagues support it, calling OccupyVoice can help you develop strategies for listening to and understanding others who have a different perspective and find common ground in caring or connection.
- If you are committed to nonviolence as an effective means of social change and want to learn more about understanding and applying deeper levels of nonviolence, OccupyVoice can provide information and resources.
- If you have been following Occupy events from home — watching youtube videos, following it on Twitter, reading about it in the paper or on TV — and are feeling worried, hopeful, frightened, frustrated, or helpless, OccupyVoice can provide you empathy that will help you get clearer on your needs and offer strategies.
For anyone to whom the descriptions above apply, or anyone else, OccupyVoice is a resource.
My personal experience on OccupyVoice
Most people who call want to receive support for concerns arising from the Occupy movement or learn de-escalation or nonviolent communication strategies. Perhaps even more than dealing with what happens in the moment, OccupyVoice can offer support and strategies for responding to the aftermath of both blatant violence as well as in-group conflict, and for long-term healing, peace-building, and transformation of consciousness. When I’ve taken part in OccupyVoice, we’ve heard from callers who have witnessed or tried to intervene in violent situations, people who are trying to spread harmony and understanding among comrades, people who are frustrated by lack of progress toward their group’s goals, people who have experienced discrimination, people who have witnessed police violence, people who have seen videos of camps being destroyed or people being hurt, and other situations.
What’s your experience?
I have both given and received support, and it’s been a wonderful experience for me. I’ve learned a lot and met many people who have touched and inspired me. Every time I’m on the call, I learn something new.
I think it would be extremely useful for those who have called in to the line to post about your experiences in the comments. After all, every call is different. If you have used OccupyVoice, how did you feel about your experience? What did you learn? What did you take away from it? Have you gone back? What would you most like others to know about this resource?
*Most of the “Who is behind OccupyVoice” section, except for the last paragraph, was written by Suzanne Jones, a frequent facilitator on the daily call. If you’d like more information on OccupyVoice or to get involved, please drop her a line at suzannej [at] ymail [dot] com. (I love being on the line when Suzanne is facilitating. I have learned a great deal from her warm, compassionate, and wise facilitation.) A few other phrases and sentences were borrowed from others creating documents to spread the word about OccupyVoice; I am grateful to them for these additions. However, I take responsibility for the contents of this post, and hope you will comment if you find any errors.