4 Steps to Start Communicating Non-Violently
If your response to that headline was anything close to “WHAT? I AM NOT! I AM SUCH A MINDFUL COMMUNICATOR!!!”, then you are experiencing the defensiveness that results from violent communication. Typically, people expect abusive language to be the only kind of violent communication. But, according to Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, the author of Non-Violent Communication, A Language for Life, violent communication is language that causes hurt and harm, so even this headline — calling you a violent communicator, is violent.
Rosenberg presents that language that judges, condemns or leads with opinions instead of emotions, creates defensive reaction and separation rather than compassion and connection. On the other hand, non-violent communication “leads us to give from the heart.” And, when we “give from the heart…[it] benefits both the giver and the receiver,” he says in his book.
Among the signs of violent communication are blame, moralistic judgments, comparisons, denial of responsibility, put-downs, and demands masked as requests. Here are some phrases that illustrate this:
- “You make me so angry when you ignore my texts!” (denial of responsibility)
- “You are so insensitive.” (moralistic judgement)
- “She’s rude and unpleasant.”
- Any phrases with “have to”, “need to”, “should”
For a moment, think to a time when someone (or you!) passed judgment on you(or yourself) like the above. What was your response? Did you want to defend yourself? Did you want to be in connection or disconnection?
Likely, the outcome was an escalated disagreement and a defensive one at that. It’s also likely neither person had needs met, which is the underlying goal of moving through conflict and/or negative feelings. SO what’s the alternative?
In the Happy Partners Project Check-In process, partners commit to using more “I” statements than “you” statements. “I feel x, when y happens.” This is one straightforward way to start practicing non-violent communication.
But, let’s break it down even further.
These 4 steps will guide you towards effective non-violent communication that fosters connection and the environment for needs to be met, instead of ignored.
Step 1: Observe without Evaluation: An observation is simply noticing and refraining from labeling it. Here are two contrasting examples to illustrate this: “He’s not good at soccer” versus “He has not scored a goal in the last 10 games.” The first statement passes judgment and labels an action as “bad”. The second notes specific actions or behavior.
Step 2. Identify the actions or behaviors that led to the feeling ‘when x happens’ and be specific.
This was touched upon in the first step. This is the opportunity to outline specific actions or behaviors. “You left your socks on the floor every day this week.” versus “You’re messy.”
Step 3. Identify the feeling “I feel sad, excited, disappointed, fearful, lonely, happy, fulfilled, inspired…”
*NOTE: Often we use the word “feel” in a way that does not express emotions. “I feel that…”, “I feel like…”, “I feel lost, hurt, etc.”. These statements express opinions or beliefs or states rather than emotions.
Step 4. Determine what need exists behind the feeling and make a request (not demand) that supports that need.
So now let’s stitch it all together.
Can you select which of the below correctly uses the non-violent communication approach?
A: “Seeing socks (and clothes) all over the house makes me annoyed and I’d really love if you could pick up after yourself.”
B: “I feel resentment when socks and clothes are left all over the house because I see it as more work for me to do when I get home. Would you be willing to take your things with you when you leave the room?”
C: “You’ve been really messy lately and it adds stress to my life to come home to a messy house. Please pick up after yourself.”
D: “Would you be willing to take your things with you when you leave the room? I feel annoyed when I see your things lying around.”
If you answered “B”, you are correct, here’s why:
“I feel resentment (emotion) when socks and clothes are left all over the house (behavior) because I see it as more work (need: to relax at home, not work) for me to do when I get home. Would you be willing to take your things with you when you leave the room? (request)”
We’d encourage you to give non-violent communication a whirl in your relationship! Our check-in card deck coaches couples on this methodology as they work together to build and maintain healthy dynamics within the relationship.
Tell us how you do and engage with us on social media @happypartnersproject.