A Language For Life
1 Non-violent communication (NVC) is a method of interaction that fosters compassion and understanding among participants. It operates on the premise that human beings are inherently good and all possess the same universal needs. According to Marshall Rosenberg, creator of the technique, conflict between individuals is always the result ofunmet needs. These needs may reflect the requirement for physical well-being, interpersonal connection, or personal autonomy, among others. When both parties acknowledge and empathize with each other’s basic needs, disagreements can be dealt with in an effective manner. (Question 25-26)
2 Rosenberg, commissioned as a peace-keeping negotiator among nations and a conflict resolution specialist in business, claims that we have been raised on a language of violence that encourages people to label, criticize, and judge others in an effort to place the blame for internally felt negativity on external circumstances. For instance, one might label a person by saying, “You’re totally inconsiderate,” instead of admitting hurt feelings related to a specific unmet need. This outdated use of language, explains Rosenberg, is a historical remnant of hierarchical control-based societies where the ruling class positioned themselves as the dispensers of moral education and external justice. Accordingly, individuals have come to feel it is their right to label and judge others instead of reflecting upon internal mechanisms that are causing them distress. (Question 27-28)
3 Non-violent communication is a four-part conflict-management strategy that attempts to bring the focus back to these internal mechanisms by specifying non-judgmental observations of the problematic behavior, owned feelings, basic needs, and reasonable requests. First, it is necessary to objectively observe and identify the behaviors that are bothersome. To be effective and to cause the least amount of defensiveness in the other party, these behaviors need to be stated in a factual and unbiased manner, with absolutely no form of evaluation. For example, instead of saying, “How dare you always make me sit and wait for hours on end?” one might say, “The last three times we have made plans to get together, you have anived more than 45 minutes late.” Implicit in the former statement is a judgment that the individual is inconsiderate. The truth of such an assertion notwithstanding, such an implication only serves to escalate hostility rather than resolve the problem. (Question 29-30)
4 Second, feelings elicited by the troublesome behavior are expressed. Non-violent communication necessitates the ownership of one’s feelings. For instance, the statement “You make me angry when you anive late” would be inappropriate, for it attributes the cause of one’s emotions to an outside source. (A) This is flawed logic. (B) A person’s behavior can be the stimulus for, but never the cause of, another’s emotional state. (C) Instead of anger, another potential reaction could be pity for a disorganized friend. (D) There are any number of possible reactions. Therefore, instead of saying, You make me angry, it is necessary to own the feeling by saying, “I feel angry.” (Question 31-32)
5 According to Rosenberg, what generally contributes to negative emotions such as anger is not another’s behavior but rather an unmet personal need. In the case of the unpunctual friend, it ts not the person’s actions that cause anger but rather an unmet need for the proper consideration of one’s time. A discussion of feelings and needs is an admission of humanness that serves to connect individuals, for everyone has a similar set An NVC response incorporating both of these elements might therefore be “I’m feeling angry because I need you to acknowledge that my time is just as valuable as yours.” While stating feelings and needs is essential, it is equally important for the listener to provide an empathetic response. This kind of compassionate interaction keeps the channels of communication open and sets the stage for the resolution of conflict. (Question 33-34)
6 Once feelings and needs have been clarified, a clearly stated request can be made to resolve the problem. For instance, one might say, “I am asking that you make an effort to anive on time or ca11 to let me know you will be late.” Requests are differentiated from demands in that the receiver of the message has the right of refusal. Individuals should be accorded the freedom to act autonomously, and no one has the right to coerce another into doing something against his or her will. (Question 35-36)
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