Tough Talks

How to Communicate with Grace and Compassion

5-Week Online Course | Resuming in 2023

Dialogue is the basis of having great relationships, making decisions together, dealing with conflict, holding our boundaries, and just about all the things it takes to get along with other humans. When we communicate with clarity and compassion life becomes so much easier.

Communication that Works course image

Embark on a transformative journey to improve the quality of your communication.

Communication can open the door to learning and connection, or it can deepen our isolation and loneliness. In this course, we will develop our understanding of what makes communication work well, what gets in the way of our best intentions, and how to overcome those challenges.

Join Alyson Ewald to develop your ability to ground yourself in presence, listen with empathy, understand others, make clear requests, and get the support you need to practice great communication in your everyday life.

Each session will include the presentation of a key concept, activities to relate it to your own experience, and practice, practice, practice. This course includes active sessions with lots of exercises. Participants will be invited to explore the topics in between sessions and bring back to class what you’ve noticed or learned.

Are you ready to do the important work of improving your relationships by improving your communication? 

You will leave this course with…

  • The ability to communicate by cultivating presence
  • An understanding of how to attend to your nervous system; avoid fight-flight-freeze-fawn responses
  • The ability to develop empathy for yourself and others
  • An understanding of how to communicate about needs and wants without coercion
  • The ability to make requests, not demands
  • Knowledge of how to respect boundaries: your own and those of others
  • The ability to listen to understand and appreciate difference
  • Enjoyment in giving and receiving meaningful feedback
  • Design support for hard conversations

Meet Your Instructor

Alyson Ewald Communication that Works course instructor

Alyson Ewald

Alyson works with individuals and groups to design systems and practices that facilitate learning, connection, creative conflict engagement, and collaborative decision making. She is the facilitator for the social dimension of the online Design for Sustainability course hosted by Gaia Education. She has received training and experience in English teaching, Permaculture, Alternatives to Violence, Nonviolent Communication, Consensus Facilitation, and Restorative Circles. She has also served as board member for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, Scotland County Farmers’ Market, and FIC. She is an avid student of governance, conflict, and justice.

After receiving her BA in English from Bates College, Alyson lived and worked overseas for nine years. During that time, she taught English; coordinated exchange programs; led workshops on consensus, nonviolence, and facilitation; and founded and taught a leadership and skill-building program. In 2005, she co-founded Red Earth Farms, a community in northeast Missouri, where she continues to practice permaculture and social transformation.

The Online Course Experience

Live Interactive Sessions

Each week will feature a 2-hour live class with the course instructor so you can learn in a dynamic setting and get your questions answered directly. Get ready for interactive presentations, group discussion, small cohort activities and personalized support. Plus, each week there will be bonus sessions with guest speakers and panelists.

Journey with a Cohort

Join participants from around the world who are embarking on creating community for better living and more connection. You’ll have opportunities to network with like-minds and develop a network of support to carry your community project forward. Welcome to your global community of communities.

Deep Learning

Participants will have access to a private online space to connect with the instructor and other students through a discussion forum. Each week new learning materials will be uploaded to the space, including videos, worksheets and articles. You’ll be able to watch previously recorded sessions and stay on track with your weekly assignments.

Course Syllabus

  • Class 1: Prepare to Communicate: Attend to your well-being
  • Class 2: Cultivating empathy for self and others
  • Class 3: Communicating about needs and wants
  • Class 4: Listening to understand
  • Class 5: Appreciating difference and getting support

Course Schedules

All classes will be recorded and viewable with other class materials for up to 3 weeks after the last class. Live classes will be hosted via Zoom.
Please click the month below to view the respective class dates and times.

March-April 2022

March-April 2022

  • 3/29/22
  • 4/5/22
  • 4/12/22
  • 4/19/22
  • 4/26/22

All classes are on Tuesdays from 8-10am Pacific / 9-11am Mountain / 10am-12pm Central / 11am-1pm Eastern

June-July 2022

June-July 2022

  • 6/25/22
  • 7/2/22
  • 7/9/22
  • 7/16/22
  • 7/23/22

All classes are on Saturdays from from 9-11am Pacific / 10am-12pm Mountain / 11am-1pm Central / 12-2pm Eastern


Alyson is such a warm and compassionate facilitator. Sharing in groups is often difficult for me, but she creates a safe space where I am more comfortable sharing. This class pushed my edge of being vulnerable with others in group settings but also in my personal life. I’ve become better at sharing my needs and thoughts with my partner, which has been incredibly beneficial. We’re able to more effectively communicate with each other, which leads to more positive interactions – and the negative ones get discussed in a compassionate way and are handled in a timely matter.

– Jen Young

As much work as I have already done on my own communication skills, there is always more to learn! Alyson’s engaging exercises and activities continually challenge me to work on my own stuff. Plus, her classes are always so much fun! !

Christina Lovdal Gil

Alyson has invested a lot of thought and practice into how to engage in different types of communications that are successful in both process and outcome, including difficult conversations where emotions threaten to derail any meaningful movement forward. More importantly, she uses her approaches and awareness in her personal life, and assists others to find their best path forward in both simple and complex situations.

Dorothy Goertz

For me, this course reinforced ideas that I intrinsically knew, but I needed to be reminded of. From the first lesson, something just clicked; I knew this skill set was important and what I needed to grow in my listening ability, my need to identify and ask for what I really needed, and to hear the response to that need.

— Cat Beach

Join the Wait List

2023 Course Waiting List

Thank you for your interest in learning more about how to join, start, and grow intentional community. Please complete the form below to stay in the loop on our latest course offerings.

Need financial support to attend a course?

Apply for a scholarship. Those with low-income and from marginalized groups are encouraged to apply. FIC is committed to ensuring everyone has access to intentional community learning opportunities.