Sunday, May 19, 2013
I now practice Compassionate Non-Violent Communication.
My experiences have left me with one central dictum: to commit violence is the worst thing I can do, firstly because it always comes back to me. Also, because I feel we are all one, so doing violence to others is doing it to myself. I recently encountered an established method of living this ideal. I read a book about NVC, a form of communication that seeks to eliminate violent judgements and dominating language. It instead focuses on the beautiful and universal needs that belong to all beings, and on the feelings that accompany the fulfillment or frustration of those needs.
I am part of a group that meets weekly to practice this and learn more. We first check in with how we are feeling and what needs are active for us (either being met or not met), and then as individuals, we bring up issues or challenges that we'd like to work on, and our facilitator, James Prieto, helps guide us through it in the format of NVC.
People are generally able to see other people's needs as valid and important. We tend to get into conflicts when our strategies to meet those needs bump into other peoples' strategies for meeting their needs. So, in those situations, rather than judge and attempt to dominate the other person, we return to the level of feelings and needs to restore the human connection. When both sides have had their needs heard, then a new strategy can be found that seeks to meet both party's needs.
The core of the communication is as follows: observations, feelings, needs, requests. Evaluations, or judgements tend to break the connection between people, and are not brought into the conversation, except to break them down into the core feelings and needs they are attempting to express. Observations, on the other hand, are unbiased statements about what is happening. So the format for a typical interpersonal problem would be: "I observe that you ____ (did something that made life less than wonderful for me). This makes me feel ____ (a negative emotion like sad, angry, scared, etc), because I have a need for ____(some primal need like safety, support, love, respect, etc.) . Would you be willing to ____ (clear, positive request)?" Demands engender resentment, as they are a form of violence, implying a punishment if the demand is not met. Requests are open to discussion and refusal, but make clear to the other person what need of yours they can meet to make life more wonderful for you.
I highly recommend this method of communication to all, as it can make your relationships stronger, and make you stronger as a person.