Right now, I’m reading Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg. After I read about the concept of nonviolent communication, I knew that it would be a tool I could use to build better relationships with everyone in my life.
As the website states, the purpose of nonviolent communication (NVC) is to:
- create human connections that empower compassionate giving and receiving
- create governmental and corporate structures that support compassionate giving and receiving.
I’m only about a quarter of the way into the book, but it’s already helping me shift the way I listen, speak and write. So far, I have been most successful with expressing my feelings as feelings, not as attacks of the other person. The NVC model offers a process with four components for communicating our observations, feelings, needs and requests.
First, we observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are we observing others saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching our life? The trick is to be able to articulate this observation without introducing any judgment or evaluation—to simply say what people are doing that we either like or don’t like.
Next, we state how we feel when we observe this action: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated, etc.? And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified. An awareness of these three components is present when we use NVC to clearly and honestly express how we are.
For example, a mother might express these three pieces to her teenage son by saying, “Felix, when I see two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV, I feel irritated because I am needing more order in the rooms which we share in common.”
She would follow immediately with the fourth component—a very specific request: “Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?” This fourth component addresses what we are wanting from the other person that would enrich our lives or make life more wonderful for us.
I am feeling confused by this email. I am also feeling like it would work better as a phone conversation . . .
Would you be willing to share more about what you are thinking and feeling in regards to this email?
(You will notice that I did not use all four components of the process as suggested by the model. I don’t think it’s always necessary though, as simply being able to state feelings and requests can go a long way in getting to a place of mutual understanding and satisfaction.)
He said “yes” to my request and we set up a time to talk over the phone. The lesson for me is what could have been an unproductive, frustrating, back and forth string of emails ending in hurt and anger turned out to be a useful phone conversation about what we both were needing and wanting from each other. I am feeling optimistic about this particular encounter and the possibilities of using NVC to improve and enhance all of my relationships from now on.
Say what you feel. Get what you want.
Questions for Reflection:
- When was the last time you told someone how you really felt or asked for what you really wanted? Tell us what happened. How did the other person respond?
- How can you express your feelings or requests better next time, with the same person or a different one?