Monday, February 25, 2013

Why I love Non-Violent Communication (and just what the heck is it?)

Something you should know about me that will also help you understand this blog better, is that I’m a total fanatic for Non-Violent Communication (NVC). It’s sometimes called Compassionate Communication, a title which resonates with me more.

Knowing a few of the key characteristics of NVC will shed some light on to how I reason with and view the world; knowing more about the method itself will, no doubt, transform your life. I highly recommend it if you have the desire to be more understanding and compassionate with yourself and others, and more effective in your communication.

Marshall Rosenburg wrote the seminal text. Here’s what he has to say:
“NVC guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting. We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention. In any exchange, we come to observe carefully, and to be able to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are concretely wanting in any given situation. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.”

There are two really powerful things I’ve learned from NVC.

1: We all have the same basic needs and experience the same spectrum of feelings related to when those needs are met and unmet

Check out these feelings inventory and needs inventory.

This is the starting point for compassion and for interacting more empathically. 

2: Everything we do as humans, every action we take, every word we speak, is in an attempt to meet our needs.

When I first encountered this I thought: How can that possible be when some people’s actions are so obviously not going to get them what they need? I was thinking of my own passive aggressive behaviors, and of witnessing angry yelling, tantrums, and even withdrawing. Sure, I could see how asking politely might work to get your needs met, but a lot of the behaviors we exhibit, especially when we’re riled up, not so much.

What typically happens in a communication breakdown is that the strategy used by an individual to get their needs met, stimulates disengagement or an ego war with the other person. A lose, lose.

When we look past the behavior (the strategy itself) for the underlying need, it’s easier to muster up compassion and empathy because we see that we, too, have had an experience with those same needs and feelings.

I'm feeling excited to share this with all of you and to bring some of these concepts to life in upcoming posts. Stay tuned! 

Photo credit: P Shanks

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