Violence occurs everywhere in our society. The feeling of insecurity is increasingly felt by many and the breakdown in communication and dialogue leads to aggressiveness, misunderstanding, and even hate and paranoia between each other.
Many of us presume we are not violent because our vision of violence is, in most cases, made of battles, murders and wars. However, the acts of ” passive violence” are more insidious than the “physical violence” as it’s the passive violence that fuels the fire of the physical violence.
Habits of thinking and speaking tend to alienate people from experiencing compassion and to perpetuate conflict. Some of these are:
- Moralistic judgments implying wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values
Example: “The problem with you is that you’re so selfish,” ” This is not correct,” ” Idiot! “
- Making comparisons between people
Example: comparing our own achievements to the ones of Mozart or Einstein is a type of reasoning that blocks compassion in ourselves and towards others.
- Denial of responsibility that obscures awareness of personal responsibility, thoughts, actions and feelings by attributing their cause to vague impersonal forces or events.
Example: “I started smoking because of my friends”, ” I hate going to work but I have to do it”, ” I did it because it was stronger than me.”
” You Must…”,”that’s how… ” using the imperative forms of verbs: “Give it to me “, ” Do it “, ” Shut up ” …
The non-violence is about bringing out what is positive in us. This involves replacing the self-centered, selfish, greedy, hateful, full of prejudices and aggressive behaviour with love, respect, understanding, appreciation, kindness and attention to others.
The Non-Violent Communication techniques presented by M. Rosenberg in his book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life prove to be extremely valuable for living with less conflict and a little more sociability. These tools help with finding the right words and behaviours in order to become better listeners and be listened by others and this, even in tense or new situations.
When we communicate, we unknowingly mix three levels of discourse (facts, interpretations, feelings) which all have different impacts on our interlocutors.
Even if we cannot live without interpretations, when they are too present in our communication they can create tension and misunderstandings and manifest a tendency towards speaking without checking the facts. This can lead the speaker to the claim of being the sole possessor of THE truth and to lose his ability of listening.
Thus, to improve our relationships with others, it is necessary to re-balance our communication:
- By adding the explanation of the facts on which we base our interpretation
- By suppressing the “You”- messages that suggest blame and accuse
- By qualifying our statements with “I”-messages so that we remain open to other points of view
- By formulating clear requests for action to meet our needs
How to Practice Non-violent Communication?
Start by focusing your attention on these four steps:
Step 1. Facts: what happened in a neutral, objective, descriptive and measurable manner
The first component of NVC is to separate observation and evaluation. So start by observing without judging. Observe clearly what you see, hear or touch and what affects your well-being, without any evaluation. When we combine observation and evaluation the person we are talking to may interpret it as a criticism and resist what we are saying.
Describe the situation or the behaviour so that any other person can see it exactly like you. Use a factual and “non- evaluative” language (which means providing details of the situation without labelling, criticising, analysing …).
You would be more likely to say: ‘In twenty matches I haven’t seen Jack score a single goal’ (observation), rather than ‘Jack is a bad footballer’. (judgment)
Rather than “Immigrants are so clueless on gardening ” (judgment) say ” “I have not seen our immigrant neighbours mowing their lawn. ” (observation)
Step 2. Your Interpretation: inferential process which consist to give meaning to a situation and which reflect our beliefs about ourselves, the others and the world.
Be careful to distinguish feelings and mental interpretations. A common confusion is due to the use of the verb “feel” in sentences where we express our thoughts rather than our feelings. For example, in a sentence such as “I feel I didn’t get a fair deal”,” the word “feel” should actually be replaced with the verb “think”.
Avoid using “You”-messages that blame and accuse: ” you are …”, « you should …”. This kind of message naturally generates defensive reactions that can lead to conflict.
Instead, prefer the “I”-messages where you state you point of view: ” I think … “, ” From my point of view”.
Instead of saying, “You’re rude,” “You are arrogant”
“From my perspective, when you do not say hello, I find it somewhat rude “.
Step 3. Feelings/ Emotions: State the feeling that the observation is triggering in you
Describe the impact the situation has on you (impact that others are not always aware of, by the way). Try to avoid false sentiments that reflect judgments and criticisms.
Ask yourself the question “How do I feel right now?”/”What are the feelings associated with this situation?”. By developing an emotional vocabulary that allows us to clearly identify and describe our feelings, we can more easily connect with others. Despite the general belief, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can actually help resolve conflicts.
Instead of saying, “You don’t love me” say, “I feel abandoned / I feel disheartened/ I feel ignored……”
Step 4. Request: request clearly for a specific action you would like to be taken, free of demand
It is recommended that requests use clear, positive, concrete action language.
The requests made in an authoritarian manner are in fact demands. Therefore, requests are distinguished from demands in that one is open to hearing a response of “no” without this triggering an attempt to force the matter.
” Do not say,” You never listen to me! ” but rather: ” When I talk, can you wait until I have finished before speaking as I need to ….? ”
Would you be willing to…? /Would you like ….? …. Because I need/value….
Even if NVC is not a way of speaking that should be followed at all costs it offers a set of tools that facilitate the expression of compassion by strengthening relationships. It helps us reconsider how we speak and we listen to each other. It creates a quality of listening, respect and empathy and create a reciprocal feeling of generosity. Some people use NVC to better understand their own needs, others to deepen a relationship, establish effective working relationships or managing political situations.