Book of the Week: Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Duchess Susanna and I have worked hard to improve our communication skills. All of us are taught in school how to speak a language, but not how to communicate. Our society often teaches that communication is not as important as power. We are taught that the most important thing is make sure you are not the loser. Nonviolent communication (NVC) provides tools to seek a win-win situation.
The ability to communicate better is important in relationships, whether they be personal or political. Too often we waste a great deal of time talking around what we need because we can’t figure out how to get to what what both really need. Even worse, we are most frustrated when we know we are reacting negatively to someone else’s emotional outburst, even though the voice in the back of our head wants to head us in a positive direction. Too many times we find that both parties walk away unhappy, and neither feel they have communicated what they want to say. Nonviolent communication teaches skills to help us work together to get what everyone needs..
I want to share my view of some of the skills I have gained from NVC training. First is active listening. That means stepping back from our emotional entanglement, and even our own need to feel we are solving someone else’s problem. Active listening means we are trying hard to understand what the other person is saying. We have to dig down to get at their concerns, without judgment. This allows us to understanding what their emotional state is, and what caused it. This often requires repeating back what they said in our own language to check with them if we are understanding correctly.
Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.
The second tool is understanding feelings. We need to do this for ourselves and the person we are communicating with. This requires discussing the triggers that caused those feelings in order to get past the emotions to the needs that are unmet. In other words, conflict resolution is not conflict avoidance. Negative emotions and the circumstances that triggered them need to be recognized to be dealt with. The purpose of this understanding is not to judge either party, it is to seek a resolution.
The third tool is understanding needs instead of solutions. Too often an impasse is reached because one party proposes a solution that does not meet the needs of the other party. Concentrating on the proposed solution will continue the impasse. The party proposing the solution may not have even looked at what their own needs are. The solution proposed may cover too much, or the wrong, territory. Instead, the parties need to step back and look at what their unmet underlying needs are. When both parties understand what both persons unmet needs are, they are able to fashion a solution together that satisfies all.
Lastly is the skill of forming a request. When we have actively listened to our partner; worked through our emotional states; and expressed our unmet needs, then we need to know how to form a request. That means we integrate all the work we have done into a request to the other person for how mutually resolve the conflict. Success means that both sides are completely satisfied that their needs are met.
The biggest part of the skill of forming a request is being willing to accept “No” as an answer. That means the resolution proposed does not meet the needs of your partner, and more work needs to be done.
Dr. Rosenberg is not an armchair philosopher. He has tested his conflict resolution methods around the world. As his website states:
Since the inception of the Center, the response to Nonviolent Communication training has been extremely positive. It is seen as a powerful tool for peacefully resolving differences at personal, professional, and political levels. Dr. Rosenberg has provided Nonviolent Communication training in 60 countries; Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, Colombia, Congo, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldavia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Puerto Rico, Russia, Rwanda, Scotland, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, Yugoslavia. He works with such groups as educators, managers, mental health and health care providers, lawyers, military officers, prisoners, police and prison officials, clergy, government officials, and individual families. He is also active in war-torn areas and economically disadvantaged countries, offering Nonviolent Communication training to promote reconciliation and peaceful resolution of differences.
Our friend Greg is an NVC trainer. The video below contains part of a talk he gave on how NVC creates peace.
The full talk can be found at Vimeo.
- Royal Book of the Week: July 18, 2011 (peacecouple.com)