FINDING NEW TOOLS TO COMMUNICATE BETTER – NVC
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Comunicação Não-Violenta: Técnicas para aprimorar relacionamentos pessoais e profissionais.
Marshall B. Rosenberg
FINDING NEW TOOLS TO COMMUNICATE BETTER – NVC
I have lost count of how many times I was involved in a conflict just because I do not express myself in a proper way. But then, a thought comes to my mind: “What does proper means?” I keep thinking if being that “immaculate” Saint Women of Holy Somewhere was what others were expecting from me, and how should I fit – or care about fitting – something that does not fit me. When working and living in a multicultural environment – also in a place with most of your own culture – is always interesting to recognize how this “proper” way of communicating is malleable. Honestly, having ANY kind of bonds and relationships with people that are just NOT like you – we are all unique! -, can be a rollercoaster of feelings. The question on my mind while reflecting is: is there a way to clearly communicate with everyone?
Since I was a kid, I was the bossy one or the one even the boys were afraid of (time passed and I discovered that they always have been the easiest ones to scare), even though, friends with everyone. The way I communicate started to stand out to me quite early and I have not managed to be perfect in that sense till now. Everyone was always saying how rude or full of attitude I was. At one point, Luiza is crying like a baby and acting sentimental, on the other day she is hurting people with words. I have decided I want to change how I communicate, not aiming to be perfect and act like a robot, but to evolve and acquire new skills that I can use in my personal and professional life. This way, I can be better at communicating not only my feelings but also my needs and whatever I disagree with.
In one of my therapy sessions, the words “non-violent communication” caught my attention. One of my tasks was to read the NVC book by Marshall Rosenberg (1934-2015), and till now it has been one of the best experiences I have ever had reading something and I am eager to finish the book and learn more. I was able to find a tool that was not about “being positive” and everything we see in these worldwide “guidelines” of nowadays. It is a tangible method that teaches you not only to say the right thing but how to say it. It is not easy to use it – for me -, but it is effective and understandable. The author of the book “Non-violent Communication” had a really engaging life history, of course, full of conflicts either for living in violent neighborhoods or for the prejudice suffered by being Jewish. That is also the reason he got interested in solving problems and produced the amazing NCV method, which he utilized in times of crisis and wars all around the world.
BUT WHAT IS NON-VIOLENT COMMUNICATION?
One interesting aspect of communicating is that we are always thinking about what to reply to while the interlocutor speaks. People are not really listening to what the other person has to say or and most of the time are not interested in understanding the feelings and thoughts underneath the reason they are saying it in that way. It does not really matter the situation, we always want to win the conflict because in our minds we want to be the ones with the right arguments, the right principles and values.
I believe this system of not really listening to others has become automatic for many of us, and that is why it is so difficult as well to develop empathy with each other. I mean real empathy, the one Marshall points out in his book and I do agree with him when he claims that we all like to give and to receive compassionately. He also explains the kind of languages that contribute to “life-alienating communication,” in other words, a type of communication that is prejudicial and makes relationships fall apart, such as moralistic judgments, which usually puts on someone else the burden of going against our principles or/and expectations. Or even more straightforward language like swearing and insults.
For a broader comprehension, I believe it is important to quote the content made by PuddleDancer Press on the Non-Violent Communication official website: “Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a unique and powerful process for inspiring compassionate connection and action. It provides a framework and set of skills to address a wide range of concerns, from the most intimate relationships to global political conflicts. The purpose of NVC is to help all involved to sharpen their awareness of language so that they can express what really matters to them, and also hear what really matters to others. It involves empathic communication whereby we can attune ourselves to both our own and other people’s real needs.”
In my understanding, NVC is a method of communication in which we learn how to observe, how to use language, to grow empathy, acknowledge our own feelings, express our needs sincerely and listen to what others have to say, not only hearing the words but really putting effort into it with the goal of understanding, caring and ultimately, getting what we expect to. According to Marshall, the process is divided into 2 parts: the first would be to express ourselves utilizing the 4 steps (observation, feelings, needs and request). The second one is to receive or listen through the same components, it is always about giving and receiving, as I believe every kind of relationship (romantic, professional, family, etc.) should be.
The first step is observation. We observe things happening around us, words being said, and it is very usual to interpret – or try to – based on our own opinions and values. We are used to automatically judge and the first step is about not making assumptions, not judging but only observing in the most neutral way possible. It is always important to wonder if what is being observed brings us something positive, if it adds some kind of value to our life. Then without judgment, point out what bothers you or not in what was said or done. It is not easy to do it but if you have the goal of making your relationships more harmonic is worth the try.
Going forward to the next step, it would be necessary after observation to evaluate how we feel about the situation or what was said. Language is extremely important in this case since many times we don’t express our feelings exactly how we feel them, then we end up using the wrong words in the wrong situations, even if we are thinking that they were the best options. Being honest with our own feelings might be the key to this step, along with being aware of proper language and learning how to use it in each kind of situation. Acknowledging our feelings, identifying those clearly inside us, and keeping the guard – or proud – down would be crucial factors to use the second step, and when you do that, you are able to start digging for the correct words to describe how you feel. Communicating honestly is vital in this step and Marshall says being vulnerable is important to figure all those feelings out.
When it comes to the needs, it is fundamental to recognize which type of need is connected to each feeling, so when expressing the last step – request – the situation is well explained, makes sense, and does not hurt anyone. It is necessary to be direct when formulating the request and connect it with real actions, leaving no space for misinterpretation. Say exactly what you want, using proper communication skills and connecting with your needs.
Image available on https://www.dailynvc.com/my-definition-of-nonviolent-communication
Overall, it takes time and patience to learn how to really use this tool. On the other hand, the text flows in quite an amazing way, since it feels like a conversation with the reader. Adding to that, across the book there are exercises and examples to learn the Non-Violent-Communication techniques. What interests me the most is the empathy part, which I plan to make another essay about soon and show some more examples of NVC. In the meanwhile, I will try to apply what I already know about the method in my daily life.
Written by Luiza de Oliveira Vago.
ROSENBERG, Marshall B., 2006. Comunicação Não-Violenta: Técnicas para aprimorar relacionamentos pessoais e profissionais. Editora Ágora, 1ª edição.
ROSENBERG, Marshall B., 2015. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Lucy Leu, 3rd Edition.
The 4-Part Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Process, https://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/learn-nonviolent-communication/4-part-nvc/, Accessed on 20.10.2021. Content by PuddleDancer Press.