In a world torn by violence of all sorts, wars, furious struggles for power, a world spattered with crass language, uncivil discourse, racism and contempt for the ethnic differences, Marshall B. Rosenberg has constructed a Nonviolent Communication system which facilitates the flow of communication needed to exchange information and resolve differences peacefully.
“Nonviolent Communication, a language of compassion” focuses attention on compassion, rather than on fear, guilt, blame or shame. He tells the reader that we learn to speak but not communicate. He starts by asking what happens to disconnect us from our compassion, leading us to behave violently.
“While we may not consider the way we talk to be “violent,” our words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for ourselves or others,” he writes.
Although his notions appear to be clear enough, it is clear that most people experience and receive violence in their daily lives yet find it extremely difficult to deal with it. The starting point is how to give. “When we give from the heart, we do so out of a joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver. The receiver enjoys the gift without worrying about the consequences that accompany gifts given out of fear, guilt, shame, or desire for gain. The giver benefits from the enhanced self-esteem that results when we see our efforts contributing to someone’s well-being.”
What can we do to avoid falling into what seems to be an inevitable spiral of violence?
Rosenberg pinpoints four components of Nonviolent Communication:
1) Observation: We observe what is actually happening in a situation, what elements are enriching our lives, what elements are producing agitation. The key is to be able to articulate the observation without judgment or evaluation.
2) Feeling: We state what we feel when we observe the action—do we feel hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated…
3) Needs: We try to determine what needs of our are connected to the feelings we have identified.
4) Request: We attempt to determine what requests we have or what requests persons we relate have in the context of any particular situation.
“As we keep our attention focused on the areas mentioned, and help others do likewise, we establish a flow of communication, back and forth, until compassion manifests naturally: what I am observing, feeling and needing; what I am requesting to enrich my life; what you are observing, feeling and needing; what you are requesting to enrich your life.”
Although the author does not mention how the Nonviolent Communication system could be applied to politics and wars, the reader will likely come to his or her own conclusions.
Nonviolent Communication, a language of compassion,
by Marshall B. Rosenberg,
PuddleDancer Press, P.O. Box 231129, Encinitas, CA 92023-1129.