Friday, 27 April 2012

Nonviolent Communication

Communication is the basis for all our interactions with other human beings. When we are able to communicate with compassion we can avoid the consequences of disagreements that get out of hand. Wherever people work together with a common purpose whether in a family, at work, or organizations, there will always be disagreements and conflict. The question is how to resolve these conflicts without letting it get out of hand with all those involved coming out of it feeling empowered rather than damaged.

Dr Marshall B. Rosenburg established the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) in 1984 to share the skills and techniques to train people to focus on the awareness of others' needs as well as their own needs. What motivated Marshall Rosenburg to start such an organization?

Marshall Rosenburg:
  • Grew up in an inner-city Detroit neighbourhood and witnessed violence on a daily basis.
  • He questioned the reasons for violence and chose to study clinical psychology and received his PhD in 1961.
  • Nonviolent Communication training evolved from Rosenburg's quest to find a way to easily and rapidly disseminate peacemaking skills.
  • This training is seen as a powerful tool for peacefully resolving differences at personal, professional, and political levels.
  • Rosenburg works with educators, managers, mental health care providers, lawyers, military officers, prisoners, police officers, clergy, government officials, and individual families.
'Marshall Rosenberg chose the name Nonviolent Communication to refer to Gandhi's philosophy of “ahimsa” or “nonviolence”. Marshall shares Gandhi's belief that true peace between people is achieved only when violence has subsided from the heart, to be replaced by compassion.'
What Makes Us Act Violently in Speech and Action?
Most of us are conditioned to focus on the following when we say something to others:
  • Judgement
  • Blame
  • Diagnosis of self and others
  • Deserve-oriented
We find ourselves saying 'You are always …', 'It is because of you...' or 'You are no good so you deserve …'.

On the other hand, if we shift the focus on the powerful human needs, such as:
  • respect
  • understanding
  • safety
  • our needs
  • other's needs
When using NVC we focus our attention on four ingredients of communication:
  • Observations
  • Feelings
  • Needs
  • Requests
Keeping the above points in mind we would say, 'When you do that.... I feel my need for … is not met. Would you please …?

This would work 80% of the time. However, there might be situations when aggressive behaviour is  necessary to ward off immediate danger or to protect others.

The value of learning Nonviolent Communication (NVC) cannot be underestimated. In today's world where people are facing many stressful situations it is easy to give in to violent behavior.

The first Object of the Theosophical Society emphasizes such a compassionate outlook:
  • to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distiction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
Hence Nonviolent Communication would give us the tools to put into practice what we recognize in the First Object.

The above is a short summary of the Thursday members' meeting we recently had at the Wellington Branch of the Theosophical Society. Murray Stentiford was the visiting speaker from Auckland who gave a presentation on the topic of Nonviolent Communication.

Many interesting points were raised during the discussion.

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