Nonviolent Communication-Learning a new language

 In my post on the New Year I expressed my commitment to study and practice Nonviolent Communication.  Now here we are a month out and I haven’t even finished Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg. This is not because I have put it aside, it is because I can’t get through a chapter without reading and re-reading it.

 When I first picked up the book it was with the intention to be more receptive to what others were saying to me.  I wanted to break down the walls that fly up in defense when I hear something that goes contrary to how I think it should.  I didn’t want to be such a ‘right-fighter’.  I also wanted to be able to express myself more clearly and in a less negative manner.  Generally I was hoping to clarify what I thought I was already doing in order to better model this for my son.

Little did I know what a journey this would be.  The book, broken up into two main sections dealing with expressing ones self and empathetically responding to others, has me re-learning the way I speak, think and express emotion. The four main components of the communication system are observing the actions that affect us or others, expressing how we feel in relation to what we are observing, examining the needs that created those feelings within us and then requesting the actions that would help to enrich our lives (or meet our need).

Click here for a visual of the NVC components

As I have tried to put this book into action I am continually left speechless.  The two components that really trip me up are expressing how I feel and then examining the needs that created those feelings.  I have come to a realize that I have a very limited ‘feelings’ vocabulary.  The words I use most frequently to express myself are ‘mad, angry, sad, frustrated and happy’.  When weighed against the breadth of human emotion this is a pitiful list to be sure!

As for the needs, well that was easy right? What was I needing? I need you to be quiet so the whole class can take a nap now.  I need you to do the dishes right now so I don’t feel stressed out about them later.  Whenever I looked for a need behind a feeling it was usually focused on someone else.  Furthermore, I have found that I mistakenly label assumptions about others as feelings! For example I feel misunderstood when you say you don’t want to (insert issue here, manage money as I do, run the classroom as I do etc).  When I say that I feel misunderstood I am really stating that I think they are misunderstanding what I am saying.  I am taking away their power and not truly feeling my needs or hearing theirs.

I’ve had quite the long-lasting-aha!-moment.  This quote has really stuck with me “what others say and do may be the stimulus for, but never the cause, of our feelings” WHAAT?! Never? Wow, what an amazing and freeing possibility that only I am responsible for my feelings.

I hope that through knowing myself better and learning  language that will express my feelings I will be able to be a more compassionate mother, wife and citizen.  This is not just about conflict but about being responsible for our own emotions and lovingly supportive of others.  What a gift to give ourselves and our children!

As I continue on this (admittedly longer than expected) journey I will keep you all posted.  Please share your experiences!

Thanks for reading!

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