Taking Risks Thanks to Self-Compassion – Greg Brooks-English

I believe everyone we meet impacts our life’s path. Some people, however, create a substantial shift in its trajectory. When I heard Greg Brooks-English talk about Nonviolent Communication (NVC) at a KOTESOL workshop in Daegu over eight years ago, I felt this type of shift. From that day forward I have felt compelled to learn more about this approach to communication, and have dedicated a large portion of my life to this learning. It is through NVC that I first learned about the concept of self-compassion. I am grateful to Greg for his passion in sharing what he learns about making the world a gentler place. I am also grateful that he was willing to share once again for the Teachers Talking about Self-compassion series.

[See below for more information about the upcoming (October 24-25) NVC workshop in Seoul, South Korea.]

Greg's NVC Giraffe

Greg’s giraffe – In NVC, the giraffe is a symbol for speaking and listening from the heart. Read “Compassionate Communication” to learn more.

Tell us a bit about your life as a teacher. In what country or countries do you currently teach or in what countries have you taught?  What subject or skills do you teach or have you taught?

I teach at Yonsei University’s International Campus in Seoul, South Korea as an English Residential Fellow. My primary courses are freshman English, and nightly activities. The courses are Listening and Speaking at intermediate and advanced levels, as well as Reading and Writing. I also teach a freshman seminar called Meditation in Daily Life. In the past I have taught Communication for Human Society which is an introductory three credit course in Nonviolent Communication, as well as a freshman seminar called Democratic Capitalism. I also taught another three-credit course titled, World Issues and the Media. The activities I lead are Speaking “Terrible” English Night and Women’s Sports.

What strategies do you use to practice self-compassion/self-care? 

One strategy is a professional inventory in which every few years, or as needed, I check in with my colleagues and ask them to offer me feedback by answering two questions: A) What have you observed me say or do in the past several months or years that you didn’t like or would do differently?; B) What have you observed me say or do in the past several months or years that you really appreciated and liked that you’d like me do more of? This inventory really gives me a sense for how I’m perceived by those I value, and clarify anything by our staff who might have developed a story that was inaccurate and started believing it.

Why is self-compassion/self-care important to you in terms of the work you do as a teacher? 

Self-compassion is essential as a teacher to me in that if I don’t have a measure of it I can’t take risks in the classroom and experiment. Also, it strengthens me to grow and develop and change into the teacher I really want to be. If I’m judging myself with moralistic judgements like “you’ll never be a good teacher” or “you sucked!” or “you really F-ed up that one”, then it doesn’t give me any space to connect with the living human energy I was trying to meet by attempting such an action. Instead, self-compassion gives me space to notice, “I regret having done that and next time I’ll do this instead”, or “that didn’t go the way I was hoping”, or “I’m feeling really disappointed about how that went and really am longing for a better outcome next time…what can I do to make that happen now?”


In addition to his work at Yonsei University, Greg has played a pivotal role in bringing NVC to the expat community in South Korea. One of these roles involved organizing a practice group at the Korean Centre for Nonviolent Communication. Next weekend (October 24-25) there will be an introductory workshop here. I have the honour of teaching one session alongside my first NVC teacher, Katherine Singer. If you are interested in joining, please sign up here: NVC introductory workshop registration.