Monday, June 21, 2010

Non-Violent Communication

A friend mentioned a couple of books when a group of us were just standing around in a parking lot after a meeting. I was fascinated with the titles and immediately asked the library for them. So, after having read them, I'm going to have to buy one of them for my library. I was a little irritable at first when I started reading - I saw that the author had cobbled several ways of communicating into one and called it non-violent communication. I've seen some of it in books on assertiveness, conflict resolution, and in one particular book on negotiations ("Getting to Yes without Giving In). But as I read on I saw that he had put the methods together in a unique way.

Here's what I got out of the two books - and, of course, I know it isn't really possible to summarize two books in a few sentences, but, for me, summarizing books this way is how I internalize what I've learned and, I hope, use it. When my summary isn't enough, I can go back to the book.

Summary: What most of us do is argue with each other to try to solve problems. We point out how we're right and the other person is wrong. In fact, not just individuals do this, political parties, organizations, businesses, nations, do this. It doesn't work and it never has and it never will. People, organizations and nations do what they do to try to get their needs met. All of our behavior and communication has the purpose of getting needs met. The only thing that could possibly work is for us to identify our own needs and other's needs and find better ways to get both sets of needs met in better ways than fighting and arguing about who's right and who's wrong.

We will have to begin by becoming aware of our feelings and the needs we are trying to meet. Instead of judging ourselves, we will need to be compassionate with ourselves, and then, of course, be compassionate with others and try to understand their feelings and needs. We will need to open ourselves up to do this even when the "other" is yelling and calling us names. None of this will be easy and it will be a lifetime job. But what are we going to do instead? Keep doing what we've been doing and get what we've been getting?

At 69 it's a little late to start practicing this. But whatever. I've got nothing else important to do. I'm thinking of all the conflicts I've had with people in my life and how completely clueless I was as to what my needs were, let alone what theirs were. In recovery I've been taught a lot about caring about other's needs and understanding other's points of view, so I've actually done some of this in some ways. A lot more needs to be done.

The books: "Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life." "Speak Peace in a World of Conflict." Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Here's my plan: I will work on noticing when I feel "out of sorts" with someone instead of just trying to ignore my feelings. I will identify what I'm feeling and what needs of mine are not being met. Instead of being a doormat or a witch, I will try to just politely ask for what I want without making the other person feel criticized. (This one is the tough one). I will try to guess what they're feeling and what they need and ask them if I'm right. I hope this will start a conversation that will end in both of us getting our needs met and I hope bring us closer.

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