A few posts ago I made a recommendation for a book that I've been reading (and studying) called Non Violent Communication, A Language of Life, by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It has me excited!
I've read the book, and a couple of others on the same subject, also published by PuddleDancer Press, and have now found a Compassionate Communication network here in BC. The network is a group of people, all of whom value this type of life giving communication; they offer training, and practise groups all over the province. I found my training event, an 8 week session that starts in April!! Compassionate Communication is the perfect compliment to the conflict resolution training that I've just completed, and am sooo excited to be taking my learning to another plain.
So, what exactly is Non Violent Communication (NVC) or Compassionate Communication?? And how does it speak "life"?
The premise is that all behavior is in direct link to a need...in other words, we act because we need. And we seldom truly know what that need is, that drives our behavior, which in the case of communication, is our reaction to things we see or hear. We see or hear something, a feeling is generated, that feeling is linked to a need we have, and depending on what that need is, and whether it is or is not being fulfilled, we then "behave" or "react" accordingly. Sound complicated?
Let me demonstrate; this is a little, true life experience that happened just last week and the names have not been changed to protect the innocent. LOL.
On Thursday, I had a papt test (I happen to suspect that I have no male readers), and when I got home from work, in the kitchen, puttering alongside Jim, I commented "my day started with a papt test" and his response? "big deal". Can you visualize my reaction?
I was immediately, and I mean, instantly, ticked off...mad even and my words demonstrated that. The reaction was so instant, like it was a default position. Jim and I had one of our typical "bicker" sessions, nothing too hurtful or destructive, but all the same, not life giving.
Later, I got to thinking about NVC, pondering the questions that NVC teachs you to ask, such as, what was I feeling when I first heard Jim say "big deal" and what need was the "trigger" for that feeling. Now, it's obvious that I was feeling "ticked" or "angry", but those feeling are usually self protective, "cover" feelings, that cloak what is really going on. So I unpacked it more,and got down to what it was I was needing, which is always the "heart of the matter". When I heard "big deal", I was hurt because I value (need) understanding and empathy expressed through verbal affirmation. Rather than express that I was hurt because I value understanding and empathy, and make a request for same, I reacted in anger, making a demand for same. The best defense to hurt feelings is offending someone elses.
Once I was able to discern that my need for understanding and empathy had not been met and that was why I reacted the way I did, I was able to give myself the compassion and empathy I needed; I was also able to ask God for it. Once I dealt with my own feelings, I was then free to hunch out Jim's...what unmet need compelled him to react to my initial comment the way he did? Again, after pondering, it occurred to me; out of respect for him, I'll not go into detail, but suffice it to say, I tend to complain alot, while he seldom complains at all. I tend to see the negative while he usually sees the positive, and this "complaint" about my papt was just one more thing. This realization opened up a whole prospect of how I can contribute in a healthy way to the life of our relationship.
That essentially is NVC...see/hear a behavior, note the feeling it compels, determine the need the feeling relates to, and make a request that enables that need to be met. And once you've taken care of your feelings and needs, take the same care and compassion towards the other persons feelings and needs.
Like I said, life giving!
Why is this life giving? Because God created us in His image; this means that we are built to want to meet peoples needs; as the blood drive says, "it's in us to give". We do not respond to demands, but we almost always want to go the extra mile to meet a need, including, and hopefully, especially, the needs of those we love. So when we learn how to suss out our needs, how our needs compel our feelings, and how our feelings compel our words, and deeds, we are so much closer to living and speaking true "life" giving life.