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Dr. Marshall Rosenberg has done the pioneering work in the field of nonviolent communication.
The purpose of nonviolent communication is to contribute to the well-being of the persons involved in the relationship. It is aimed at relating to each other with authenticity, empathy, compassion and openness. It is meant to connect with each other without judgment, to resolve dividing differences and build human bridges.
The following four interrelated steps are involved in learning and practicing nonviolent communication.
1. Describe the specific behavior of the person that has caused disturbing feelings in you. Describe such a behavior without using evaluating, judgmental and labeling words or phrases. For example: you are a liar; you are rude and insensitive; you don’t care; you never listen; you will never learn; you are a nag; you are a jerk etc. Such expressions invariably result in reactive, defensive, avoiding, distancing and alienating behaviors. In other words, they are counter- productive. We need to change our vocabulary and the ways we communicate our feelings. The right way of communicating would be specific, clear, descriptive and to the point. For example: When I talk, you interrupt me before I finish my sentence. You do not look at me when I talk. You do not follow what we agreed upon. Describe the specific situation rather than describe it in generality.
2. Make I feel statements. For example, when you do not do what you said you would, I feel upset. I feel disappointed. Feelings words are different from thinking words. For example: I feel you are not listening to me. I feel that he is angry.
3. Make I need statements. I felt upset when you did not listen to me. I need you to attend to me when I speak. I need to be recognized. Needs and feelings make us alive. How we express our needs and feelings makes our communication and our relationship helpful or hurtful, constructive or destructive.
4. Make a request and not a demand. I would like you to look at me when I talk. I would like you to be fully present when I talk.
What do I want the other person to do for me? What does the other person want me to do for him? How do we create and sustain our connection? This requires connecting with the needs and feelings of each other. Empathy for oneself and empathy for the other person is one of the most important ingredients of connecting with ourselves and with each other. Empathy is the language of the heart, not of the head. Empathy creates aliveness in our communication. It creates aliveness in us and in the other person. We feel someone cares for us and is willing to understand what we are going through without passing judgment.
Why do I do what I do? What are my needs that are not fulfilled? How do I feel about it? When I am caught up in my anger or is afraid and anxious, I need to breathe, pause and create space in my body and mind to listen to my feelings without reacting and continuing telling my story in my mind. When we explore ourselves empathically, compassionately and authentically, we understand ourselves and work on ourselves. What does the other person want me to do? What are his needs that are not fulfilled? And how does he feel about it? When we explore ourselves in relationship with each other, we become more alive and explore ways and means of sustaining this aliveness in our relationship. We make it sure we do not blame us or the other person for not having our relationship alive. Blame, guilt, shame, humiliation block the flow of aliveness in our communication and relationship.
Communication is a bipolar process. Both of you, the receiver and the giver, will have an empathic and open minded stance in listening to each other. Both of you will reveal to each other your inner world of unfulfilling needs and feelings. Both of you will implement the model of nonviolent communication: describe the specific behavior displayed, specific feelings experienced, specific needs fulfilled or not fulfilled, and request to fulfill mutual needs.
In empathic communication, we remain fully present with each other. Our body language, our eyes, our posture, the words we use and the tone of our voice are powerful indicators of our empathic connection. Am I fully with you? - is an important awareness question for us in empathic connection. This is a very potent aspect of communication. What we need to change in us and between us can be explored with each other openly and compassionately. Change within ourselves and the other person takes time. It takes a good amount time, patience and persistence to get rid of years of conditioning and change our well established habitual patterns. It can be done slowly but steadily in the environment of empathy and positive regard. This way, we contribute to the well-being of each other and make our relationship fulfilling.
It will be very helpful to share and discuss one specific experience you have had with someone in your family. Make it a priority. Set aside time for it. Apply this model of nonviolent communication and see how it works. It is a good idea to keep a journal recording what worked how it worked and what you learned from your experience. Your journal will show how your energy is flowing and creating a nurturing, supportive and growth enhancing environment in your family.