If you follow along on TLV, you probably have noticed I jabber about the importance of communicating a great deal. That’s because it’s super important, and also because I have been working on my communication skills over the past 6 months, so I’m often brewing on it.
Now, we already know that talking is not always communicating. But let’s say you are communicating—expressing thoughts and feelings effectively—are you doing it peacefully?
I’ve been working on my peaceful communicating skills, also known as non-violent communicating, or NVC. This method is based on the idea that all human beings have the ability to be compassionate, and that we only resort to hurtful behavior when we don’t recognize a more effective strategy. Sounds pretty spot-on, yeah? The way we act is learned from our surroundings, our families, communities, what we watch on TV, etc. So violent or hurtful behavior is learned; NVC is an attempt to unlearn it, or to focus on a gentler strategy.
The whole concept is centered around living with awareness, and communicating that awareness with our partner – or whoever we’re speaking with. It’s about practicing mindfulness. Ohhhhm.
I know what you’re thinking: NVC, WTF? Can’t she go back to writing jokes about giving handjobs on airplanes?
I’ll admit, some of the stuff behind NVC is a bit crunchy; spirituality is at the base of it. But that doesn’t mean you have to be super spiritual to practice some of it and help you communicate more effectively, and less aggressively. Here are a few easy-peasy tips:
Keep requests and statements in the positive. Instead of saying “I hate it when you forget to flip the toilet seat down,” say “I love it when you remember to put the toilet seat back down.”
“Please stop playing Stairway to Heaven on your guitar while I’m on a conference call,” becomes “Baby love, could you please remember to be quiet when I’m working?”
Be specific. “You don’t care about my feelings!” is a general statement, and general statements tend to put us on the defense as they boil a large number of actions, individuals or feelings down into one unit. This is similar to why stereotyping is so dangerous.
Instead, try something specific, like “when I told you it hurts my feelings when you don’t text me back, and you continue to ignore my messages, it seems as if you don’t care about my feelings.” This gives an actual situation to address, instead of a general accusation, which is more combative.
Stick to observations, rather than evaluations. This can be paired with being specific. For instance, “you stopped making an effort” is an evaluation. “It’s been several months since you planned something special for the two of us” is an observation. Evaluations can seem judgmental, and often differ depending on who is doing the evaluating. Someone can argue an evaluation (“I do make an effort, I made you dinner twice last week”), but an observation is more straightforward and less aggressive.
Let’s not deny responsibility. Violent communication often comes around when we deny responsibility for our feelings by placing all of the weight on the action of the other person involved.
Instead, we should imply that our feelings are correlated with the other party’s actions, but we need to address that they are still OUR feelings. No one can make me feel sad. They can act without thought, which will in turn trigger me to feel inconsequential, which will make me feel sad. But they didn’t use their Jedi mind power to suddenly make me miserable. If I was a sociopath, they could have acted the same way, and I’d have felt nothing. Need an example if denying responsibility IRL?
See the following dialogue.
Denying responsibility: When I catch you looking at our waitresses’ booty, it pisses me off.
Taking responsibility: I feel hurt right now. I saw you looking out our pretty waitress, and it makes me feel incapable of holding your attention, and inadequate in comparison.
Did any of that make sense to you at all? It’s important to remember NVC can be used in any and all relationships, not just romantic ones. The next time you’re raging because of something your mother-in-law or frenemy did, practice NVC to avoid a cat or dog fight. Tell me your tricks for peaceful communication, please!