Have recently been listening to 4 CDs in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication series. The most wonderful thing I found in this NVC series: it’s both a new way of thinking about relating and communicating, and a new language to do it with.
I think most of us grow up with terribly distorted and dysfunctional communication at home and school tends not to teach us much better either. In the former we often encounter violence, passive aggressive behaviour, manipulation and neglect that come across as blaming, screaming, withholding and other emotionally violent ways of being with each other. The latter, the school system, tends to instruct us by enumerating what we have to do, inscribing ways we have to behave and generally dictating how we have to be. Most of this tend not to bet in touch with our needs and are mostly non-consensual, in other words emotionally violent to some degree. No wonder we grow up and end up in relationships with thoroughly dysfunctional communication in which we don’t know how to meet each other’s needs, listen and be heard.
NVC has been used in relationship counselling, life coaching, in organisations and in the political sphere between warring sides in order to achieve a productive dialogue. The most beautiful aspect of it for me is how it helps us get in touch with our feelings, with ‘what is alive in us’ as opposed to the intellectualisation and rationalisation processes that are the publicly accepted hallmarks of someone intelligent and competent… when in fact heaping a lot of intellectual process on top of our feelings often ends up blocking the process of communication, blocking what is actually going on and what is deeply important for us.
I highly recommend the NVC CDs and hope to learn how to transform my own communication in my everyday life. It would be so much better to communicate my actual needs, disarm other people’s anger by being compassionate and helpful, stay vulnerable in the face of a perceived attack and transform my own thinking about how to achieve better outcomes and be in harmony with myself and with others around me.
A really good tool is expressing our own feelings instead of talking for the other person. Unfortunately the English language and our upbringing conspire against us and often when we think we are expressing a feeling we are actually interpreting or making a judgement on someone else:
- I feel you have been unfair towards me…. is not a feeling, it’s a thought and assessment
- I feel I cannot continue on with you being so aggressive – is another assessment and an angry statement about the other person being aggressive
- I feel sad and upset because I feel my need for emotional support has not been met lately in our relationship, especially when there’s so much fighting
- I feel scared when I hear you raising your voice, I can hear you are upset but I wonder if there’s another way for you to express your feelings
These expressions that focus on your own feelings express vulnerability and openness and avoid being judgemental or shirking responsibility for your own feelings.
Here’s a really funny roleplay by two NVC practitioners. It looks really silly at first but then through role play you can see how anger, resentment and conflict can be transformed into understanding and calmer cooperation… quite magical if you manage to do it in your own life!