Practice Nonviolent Communication

meets every Monday

7:30 pm - 9 pm.


Regents Park Apartments

5050 S Lake Shore Dr. Chicago, IL

                      The Trainer
                             What people say about working with DR. HEMLATA POKHARNA

A friend recommended Hema to me after I began leading a startup nonprofit in addition to my work as a professor and author.  Hema’s program exceeded my expectations.  She blends expert guidance with patient listening, drawing from a wealth of information, experience, and perspectives.  I particularly appreciated Hema’s ability to help me see the interconnectedness of my life, including how my approach to work affected my family relationships.  I also found Hema’s incremental approach to change helpful to setting realistic goals, and I saw tangible improvements in my approach to a range of issues from email management to donor meetings to eating.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Hema and I highly recommend her. 

John Inazu, JD, PhD
Professor of Law and Religion, Washington University in St. Louis


I met Hema during my cardiology fellowship. For several months she met with the fellows on a weekly basis. Even though our meetings were brief, I always walked away feeling that I had gained something valuable. We learned about meditation and discussed issues such as work-life balance. Through her expertise in nonviolent communication she helped us manage what were sometimes complicated relationships with attendings, patients and nurses. I was particularly troubled by my interactions with a mentor, and was so grateful for Hema’s guidance. She enabled me to understand what might be driving my mentor’s actions, how to temper my frustrations, revise my own expectations, and make the most out of my relationship with my mentor. 

Hema’s kindness and compassion are immediately apparent when you meet her. This is one of her many qualities that makes her so well-suited to work with health care providers. She puts people at ease with her calm demeanor and warm smile. But she is also extremely adept at asking focused – and sometimes difficult – questions that foster introspection and self-discovery. Hema has an in-depth understanding of the challenges that health care providers face, and is an ideal person to help us on this path.

Tamara Polonsky, MD
University of Chicago


Hema has been instrumental in helping me transform my life. I was going through many stresses at the time we met: caring for a loved one living with a terminal disease, raising my children, and working long hours. My husband traveled often and I frequently faced challenges alone when one of the boiling pots would spill over. I came to view the world with some skepticism and negativity and felt as if I were a victim of my circumstances.

One day, it happened that one such pot boiled over with a hospital admission of my loved one. She had deathly infection and the doctors were not sure she was going to get through it. My first reaction was to despair and let my mind race to the end…burying her when I still was able to hold her warm hand in mine at her bedside.

This was where I learned the important lesson of present moment awareness. Hema helped me connect with my inner wisdom and that of my loved one to trust and savor the moment, instead of wasting it preparing for bad things to come.  The realization meant that I first had to acknowledge and deal with my inner fear of my loved one dying.  While I thought at first that I needed to “conquer my fears,” I realized later that there was more power over the situation if I acknowledged the fear rather than to seek to overcome or suppress it. Because Hema coached me to tap into my inner wisdom, I became more self-reliant.. While many would say, of my loved one “Boy, I’ll bet you can’t wait until she’s out of the hospital,” I would think, “Yes, but perhaps I should celebrate the time we have now.” What I didn’t realize at the time was that I would go through many more such roller coaster rides with her health for the next several years. Had I wasted each “present moment”, I would have missed out on the last years of her life.

The act of connecting to my inner wisdom later helped me make some crucial decisions in my career path. I relied less on external evaluations of myself and possessed more confidence.  I was able to be less attached to the outcome of situations, helping me overcome personal academic failure. Hema helped me send out more positive messages to others (even my own family) and I found that I received an abundance of positive energy back. The process of inner healing helped me put the building blocks in place. It was as if many phases of my life were falling into place during my transformation. While I was focusing on career and the health of my loved one, I began to see that this paradigm shift helped my marriage relationship and that of my kids as well.

I suddenly began to feel as if I were on the strategic, offensive end of things instead of the defensive end. I began to feel more as a co-conspirator with those around me to make good things happen. I spent less time assuming that the motives of others were negative or “out to get me” and more time imagining alignment with my ultimate vision. I started to feel happier and more satisfied with life and had more gratitude for what life was giving me.

I relied on Hema to coach me through tough personal challenges of the past and continue to utilize her teachings in my everyday life. I have the sincerest gratitude for how she has touched my life.

Physician, Harvard Medical School of Medicine


Hema provided me with simple and actionable insights, which improved my understanding of my own worries and needs. With those insights, I am able to better connect with colleagues, family and friends.

Peter Cassel


I became chief of a major section at UCMC at the relatively young age of 38.  Although, I was technically, academically and intellectually prepared for my position, there was something hindering my advancement.  The section was good, not great.  My relationship with patients was good, not great.  This created a lot of frustration, anxiety and anger.  This came to a crisis situation when in-fighting, and destructive behavior was adversely affecting my talented faculty.  Through a recommendation from a colleague, I contacted Hema and she became my personal coach for over one year.  

We met every Wednesday for lunch for an hour and during that time she changed my ability to communicate and mange relationships not only with faculty but also with patients and family members.  She, through her coaching and probing, brought out and help me cultivate my “emotional intelligence”.  Her method uses “non-violent communication (NVC)”.  

My first reaction was to dismiss NVC.  After all, I was not a violent person and did not want to hurt anyone.  But Hema made me realize that violence is not only physical.  But that we can hurt people equally through our words and poor communication.  She first made me aware of the issues.  Then she coached me and helped me improve my ability to listen and understand the needs of others; to better create win-win situations; and to help articulate a vision and direct a group of faculty towards lofty goals.  

The NVC program has also helped with clinical medicine. Many times, patients have visited other physicians and come to us with anxiety and doubt.  Through Hema’s coaching, which has filtered down to my entire support staff, we are able to unmask the fears patients might have and make them accept and thrive after surgery.  Hema and the principles of NVC have made me a better physician and leader, helped create a thriving and harmonious group of outstanding surgeons, and permitted us to communicate with patients leading to improved clinical results.  

It is amazing how emotional harmony leads to improved productivity and innovation.  Hema has been an invaluable positive force in my career – I hope she will have the opportunity and platform to help many others in a similar fashion.

Valluvan Jeevanandam MD
Professor of Surgery; Section Chief, Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery   
University of Chicago Medical Center


"Much more than I expected. That is how I would describe my experience working with Hema as a coach. I expected good practical advice,  focus on living out of connection with oneself and others, and tools to effectively negotiate conflict. In all of these areas, Hema has delivered. But I have received more. Through Hema's coaching I have come to identify and address deeper fears and anxieties. She has taught me very concrete but also heart-level practices that have helped me to daily choose to live toward the things I truly value. As a result, I have begun to live with greater purpose, clarity, and relational connection to those around me. I have much more confidence in addressing conflicts and other challenges that arise in my life, and much more peace in the process."

Farr A. Curlin, MD
The University of Chicago


Soon after marriage, my husband and I started having children (now ages 12, 10, 7 and 5).  We decided to homeschool when our first child was 4 years old. Our vision for education has been as follows: “Education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue and it is accomplished by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty.”  (Andrew Kern) But in the late winter of 2012, I hit a dark season.  I felt seriously discouraged about my family, our homeschooling, and myself.  I knew I needed help, another set of eyes to help me understand what was happening. 

In the meantime, my husband had begun to receive professional coaching from Hema.  He sought her help because he was struggling with interpersonal conflict in his work. Yet, what he learned from her has transformed all of his interactions with colleagues, with family, and with himself. Specifically, he has been learning to practice the presence of God. Building on this foundation of daily connection with God, he has been learning to accept others as they are and to accept reality as it is, including the reality of his own and others’ needs. He has learned to practice celebration and gratitude and to trust that God has abundant capacity to meet all of the needs. Out of this trust, he has learned to be open to new strategies that might meet his and others’ needs, and to let go of the impulse to try to change others.

As my husband was learning from Hema, I could clearly see the benefits in his work, but also in his interior life and in his relationships with the children and me. So he and I asked Hema if she would consider coaching me.  Wise decision!  Hema has been the main channel God has used in my life to encourage me in this season, to help me clarify and live aligned with my intentions and values, and make space for me to connect more deeply with God, myself, and the people around me.

My husband and I are both Christians, so we were somewhat surprised that God would use a woman who is not a Christian to teach us so much about living in trusting relationship with him. Yet that is exactly what we have experienced, and for which we are eternally grateful.
When I started coaching with Hema in April 2012 instantly my vision was encapsulated in the term BEAUTY – bringing beauty to the world, especially my family.   For me this meant, and continues to mean, being increasingly transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, being fully who God created me to uniquely be while accepting myself (and others!) along the journey.  Much of the coaching centers on the quality of relationships in our home, particularly as I homeschool my own children.

With that in mind, I’m sure you will understand why the following essay, recently written by my 12 year old son, brought such joy and celebration to my husband and me, as well as Hema!:

Do You Know How to Play With Your Little Sister?
By Age 12 years
             Is your sister a pest to you?  She may not seem like much fun but, if given the chance, she can be one of the most enjoyable people you’ll ever meet!  All it takes is you to start playing with her.
            First, to play with your sister, you must have two essential pieces of equipment.  These incredible objects are you and a sister who wants to play.  Secondly, and most importantly, the “you” object must be cheerful and kind.  However, do not fake these emotions!  If you fake your cheerful kindness in a sarcastic way, your sister will give you the “man, you are such a bum” look, and transform into her slumped shoulders, pouty face position.  Likewise, if you really cannot be cheerful, you, and she, will not enjoy your time together.  Therefore, before you ask to play with your sister, consider how well you will be able to play with her.
            Thirdly, when you ask her to play, do not barge in on her privacy!  Chances are she will want to play with you but occasionally this will change.  If she consents (remember, it’s a privilege to be able to play with her,) ask her what she wants to do.  On the other hand, if you know that your sister will pick an activity that you despise playing, give her some choices to pick from that both you and she can enjoy.  At times you may need to play some thing that you don’t like.  Remember, the goal is to be with her, not to play your favorite activity.
            Lastly, when you get tired, need to do something else, or when your sister is getting on your nerves, stop playing.  An annoyed brother means a cranky, irritable (quick to get angry) brother, and sisters don’t enjoy that.  Make sure you do not simply walk out of the room.  Express your needs and feelings, give or think of a game that she can play by herself, and then move on to what you need to do.  The important thing is to always be kind!  Sisters adore kind brothers.
            Playing with your sister may be hard for you, but remember, even when she doesn’t show it your sister loves and is proud of you, and she is always excited for a chance to play with you.
 As you can see, our home and family, already rich in the Christian faith, has been made richer still through our connection with Hema, a Jain woman coaching us in the principles and practices of NVC.  This interfaith relationship has been healing and life-giving for all of us, and we thank God for it.


“WOW! Is the only words I can start this testimonial with. At the time I started working with Hema, I had a very great company with much potential, but as it’s leader I had difficulty in getting my staff to see this potential. Therefore leaving me often tired, overwhelmed and frustrated.  In my working with Hema over the last year, I have moved from this potential of being not only a wish but a reality for my staff to see how we all collectively make Covenant Security Solutions as success. She helped me work through dusting away the cobwebs I had, to allow me to be a clearer beacon of hope and light for my staff so they could understand their roles, responsibilities and potential within  this great organization.  As a result I am more confident as a leader, less stressed and more aware of where I need to be to allow us all to shine to our highest potential. Hema is a true gem !”

Danyetta Fleming Magana
Covenant Security Solutions


I began coaching with Hema at a time when I felt darkness about my relationships, my work, and myself.  Discouragement and frustration – even sadness -- characterized my days. Most pressing: I was not able to lead our children in homeschool and home life well.  I knew I was not in a healthy place, but I could not see clearly how to get to a brighter one.  My current strategies were not working for me.  My husband had been working with Hema for a while in his professional work and I had seen the positive outcomes – not only in his work setting, but also overflowing to our home life.  So to Hema I went for help.

I began by identifying what needed changing, as well as visualizing what it would look like and what it would do for me (and the people around me) when those changes occurred.  Hema listened carefully as I expressed my guiding values and shared with her the readings that inspired and spoke truth to me.  She incorporated all of that into our coaching sessions, being attentive to guide me toward alignment with what I had expressed.

Since working with Hema and learning NVC (non-violent communication) I have experienced serious changes in my thought patterns and in communication skills.  I feel as though a glass ceiling has been removed.  “The truth has set me free.”  A reality that once seemed unattainable has become a real possibility.  Ingrained and ineffective habits of thought and communication are being replaced with rich, true, healthy ones.

Through coaching with Hema I have been able to better understand the needs driving me, and to clarify my guiding values and goals.  The ongoing coaching keeps me focused, moving forward, and aligned with what matters most to me. 

Her helpful phrases and creative ideas provide practical tools for making changes. Communication role-play during coaching equips me to put into practice what I’m learning about NVC (non-violent communication). 

I am extremely grateful for the clarity I’ve gained in this process, and the ongoing support I’m receiving to stay aligned with my deepest desires for myself, my relationships, and my work. 

Coaching with Hema has been enriched by the fact that my husband and I both are doing so.  The new awareness, the shared goals, and the new communication skills have strengthened our marriage and family life.

To be specific about changes:

  • I have much more confidence and energy.  As I’ve grown in accepting others and myself, I’ve experienced the freedom to take risks, to try new activities, to reach out to experiences and people.  I “stretch and grow” more than I did before coaching.  I see new possibilities as I continue to nurture an “abundance mentality” and as I nurture acceptance of myself and of “what is.”  I understand that I am empowered to make choices in my life.  If things don’t work as hoped, I know I can accept myself and make adjustments as needed. Practically, this has impacted my work (homeschool teacher and home manager) as well as my personal life.
  • More loving, grace-filled, peaceful, creative and effective communication happens between my kids and myself as I seek to understand them and seek connection first (versus being “right” or forcing a certain outcome).  When we find strategies to “hold all the needs” in the household trust and compassion is built.  The bonds, the connections are healthier.  When communication does not go well, I better understand what could change to make it better.
  • My husband and I have learned ways to better organize our household, inviting the kids into greater interdependence and contribution in the home.  It has been extremely positive.  The kids have embraced the changes.  They are stretching, growing, maturing, and gaining practical skills.
  • I’m finding joy, peace, and freedom as I move away from control and attachment, and toward greater detachment from outcomes.  I am understanding the difference between desiring and demanding, and am learning to let the desires enrich my life, but to let go of the damaging demands.
  • I have experienced great satisfaction in identifying how I want to be living (what’s important to me) and in actively fostering awareness regarding staying on track.

Kimberly Curlin