Sunday, March 07, 2010

Non-violent Communication Workshop

Well, yesterday I watched a masterful job of presenting Non-Violent Communcation skills to an audience of almost 100 registrants. Holly Eckert has got to be THE epitome of successful saleswomanship; it wasn't that it was a hostile crowd---far from it---but every questioning or dubious commenter was answered respectfully, positively, and non-defensively.

The hesitant, nervous participants were encouraged, supported, and praised for their courage in getting up in front of the group, baring their lives in an effort to find a way to communicate effectively with family members or friends when problems arise.

Some problems were real, others were made-up on the spot, but every response, correct or not-so-correct, was treated respectfully and with good humor. There was a lot of laughter, a few tears, a great deal of enthusiasm.

Having been through years and years of counseling training and because I was responsible for quite a few of the logistics for the workshop, I didn't participate fully in the workshop, just caught it on the fly between errands, food prep, and solving problems. I was pleased to note that many of my longtime listening and responding skills fall into the NVC pantheon of communication skills.

But I was reminded of something I've always believed: human actions all emerge from a need, whether perceived or unconscious.

When I get defensive, it's because I'm scared and need to feel safe. When my feelings are hurt, it's because I'm insecure and need to feel accepted. When I'm angry, it's because I'm hurt and need to feel comforted (or reassured, or some such).

When others are crabby, it might be because they are in physical pain and need comfort, or exhausted and need rest, or frustrated and needing appreciation and/or help.

One of the most helpful thoughts that I use to deal with those who frustrate or annoy me is to ask myself "under what circumstances might I behave the same way?" I don't know why, always, the person is so annoying, but if I can frame it in a personal way, it helps me get to a place of understanding and, hopefully, compassion. And that's the point of NVC---getting to compassion.

4 comments:

Chalicechick said...

I find the recent "non-violent communication" trend so fascinating, at least partially because it has a lot in common with what one learns in law school negotiation.

IMHO, when you have a dispute with someone, what is being called non-violent communication here is just fine for preventing arguments. But the people who are really good at it tend to walk away with most of what they want as well.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks for your thoughts, CC. It's very much in alignment with what I learned in counseling school too. And then there's Proverbs: "A soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up anger."

Mile High Pixie said...

You make a good point about putting yourself in another person's shoes when disagreeing with them. I believe it was the psychologist George Miller who said something about in order to really listen to another person, you have to assume that what they're saying is true and then try to imagine what it is true of.

Masasa said...

I love the framing of the question, "under what circumstances would I behave the same way?" I also have taken up as one of my mantras, "All behavior is communication," which is something that began when I was learning about some of the neurology work being done by the HANDLE institute of Seattle (http://www.handle.org/).