Communicating with compassion — In our competitive world!
The term ‘Non-violent Communication’ evokes a reaction, often as being a ‘touchy-feely’, ‘idealistic’ concept. It feels like such communication is impossible to put into practice in the competitive world we live in. In our daily lives, we feel that every situation demands that we must be aggressive, win every argument, to go ahead at any cost even when we may be walking over people.
The other reaction could be, that such a form of communication sounds fake, guarded, not expressing the truth or trying to be ‘politically correct’. So when I decided to spend my weekend attending the NVC workshop I had several questions –how do we have a ‘Nonviolent’ communication in our stress-filled urban lives? Is it relevant when we constantly are competing for something — at home, on the roads, at work and even in leisure? How can communication cause violence?
Recently a celebrated actor, spoke against a certain type of humor in a program and said he felt the words used were not funny but violent. How does one cause violence through words without instigating a violent act? When you read the dictionary meaning of violence, it is — ‘a behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something’. I was curious to know and also skeptical about losing my weekend.
However as Shantigarbha, our facilitator slowly led us through the process of ‘Nonviolent communication’ he got us involved. Through simple exercises of sharing everyday conversations we practiced how to observe without judging. Most important here was to notice words we use to express our feelings. He then made us work on observing our feelings, which was tough because we all were trying to ‘think’ what we are feeling instead of getting in touch with what we were ‘feeling’.
Feelings are a sensation in the body and not a thought. For example tightness in the stomach when we feel tense or angry, or the lightness when we feel happy. This struggle showed us how disconnected we are with our bodies, with what is happening within and how we are constantly intellectualizing by being in the head.
Then we were asked to observe what ‘need’ of ours is being fulfilled or unfulfilled, which is causing the feeling. For example, if our need of being appreciated is fulfilled we feel happy but if it is unfulfilled we feel angry and our expression through words changes.
This process of observing the situation-identifying the feeling- what is triggering this feeling- which emotional need is being fulfilled or unfulfilled helped us understand ‘Self- Empathy’. If we need to empathize with others we first need to empathize with ourselves and that is the foundation of NVC process.
Marshall Rosenberg, the pioneer of NVC has aptly said — ‘With NVC we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others’. During the workshop we realized NVC is not about being nice or saying nice words but connecting with yourself and expressing honestly.