Erik Peña Salazar
Erik Peña Salazar was born in Bolivia and has lived most of his life in Canada. He trained as an engineer at the École Polytechnique de Montréal. When he finished his studies and started working, he encountered “conflict everywhere at my workplace, with my mum and my girlfriend. And it was not only me; depression and burnouts were common, and I very soon realized that it was not only in my workplace, but in many organisations.” He writes, “I quickly noticed that I was not prepared for something essential: to contribute to the quality of my relationships.” As many of us do, he began looking for answers to questions he couldn’t yet articulate. “I heard there was a workshop,” he reflects. “And I said, Let’s see. I went, and I loved it.” Thus was his introduction to Nonviolent Communication (NVC).
A Workplace Turning Point
One day, Erik’s supervisor entered his office and unleashed a tirade on him, tearing through his performance, sputtering a few insults. Erik had just begun learning NVC, having only attended one workshop. He listened to the man’s complaints, and replied, “When you say those things it hurts me. So the next time you say such things I will ask you to leave my office.”
Erik reflects on this recollection of his early application of NVC. He recalls the surprise that hung in the air between himself and his supervisor. Finally, he completes the thought with, “I know I wasn’t being fully responsible for my feelings, was addressing an ultimatum and not caring at all for my supervisor’s needs. It wasn’t good NVC, but it changed my life since I was used to shutting up.”
The next few moments were thick with tension. “He turned red,” Erik reflects, “completely red.” Without another word, the supervisor left Erik’s office.
The next day, Erik was summoned to a meeting with the boss who had seniority over both him and his supervisor. “I was very scared,” he says. But the response he received surprised him. “He told me, ‘We know what this person is like, but he is indispensable because of his knowledge and experience. We are sorry. What can we do so you can work better together?’”
It was hard, and scary. NVC did not behave as a magic wand; it did not wave all the problems away. But it changed his life. Erik had begun articulating his needs. The time of silence, keeping things for himself and suffering in silence, had ended. Erik had entered a space of conscious communication, a principle that would come to guide his life.
The more Erik invested in NVC, his path became freer and happier. “My mum became my best friend. I started living more fully and doing things that mattered to me,” he says. “I did my work as an engineer with much more meaning, truly feeling, helping my colleagues. I became more efficient, and I got new responsibilities.” Eventually, Erik went to work for his father, whose company was struggling. “Since I was no longer attached to money, I worked for him just to be with him.” Pleased that his father’s company is now doing better, Erik says, “I think that applying NVC helped a lot. So, NVC was giving me incredible results at work and in my personal life. If it is good for me, why not share it with others? That’s why I decided to become a certified trainer.”
Today, Erik dedicates his full energies to his organization, Communication Synergie, offering workshops and training in NVC. He serves groups and individuals, families and teens.
And, he brings to his work a deep understanding of the struggles people face in corporate environments, where he “saw a lot of burnout.” A part of his dream, he says, is to reach into the workplace. To that purpose he is “happy” to see more and more businesses seeking his help to adopt NVC.