“When you’re busy judging people, you have no time to love them.” - Mother Theresa
There is a lot of talk about being non-judgmental, and what that looks like. Some judgments are evident, but most I believe are not. According to NVC, we are full of judgments in our daily life, and practicing pure non-violent communication as prescribed by MR’s model would mean changing about 50-80% of our language for most of us.
The primary purpose of Nonviolent Communication is to connect with other people in a way that enables giving to take place: compassionate giving. It’s compassionate in that our giving comes willingly from the heart. We are giving service to others and ourselves –not out of duty or obligation, not out of fear of punishment or hope for a reward, not out of guilt or shame, but for what I consider part of our nature. It’s in our nature to enjoy giving to one another.
The main postulate of NVC is that certain ways of communicating alienate us from our natural state of compassion and trap us in a world of ideas about rightness and wrongness – a world of judgments. Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we, and others, need and are not getting.
Diagnoses, analyses, criticisms, comparisons, blame, insults, labels (even positive labels) are all forms of judgment. It is important not to confuse value judgments and moralistic judgments. Value judgments reflect our beliefs of how life can be best served (for example we might value honesty, freedom, or peace). Moralistic judgments are judgments of one another based on subjective concepts of justice (“right”-”wrong”, “good”-”bad”), which dictates what we “deserve”. In the world of judgments, we are concerned with WHO is WHAT.
When we judge, we increase defensiveness and resistance from others. If they do agree to act in harmony with our values because they concur with our analysis of their wrongness, they will likely do so out of fear, guilt, or shame. The prevailing educational process is one of making people hate themselves for what they’ve done. The idea is that you have to get them to see how terrible they are, and then they will be penitent and change the error of their ways. When driving, if someone else is driving in a way you don’t like, and you want to educate them, you would open up the window and yell, “Idiot.” They are supposed to feel guilt and repent, and they’re supposed to say, “I am sorry”, which never works.
According to NVC, in order to communicate in a non-violent way, we have to express: 1) an observation, 2) our feeling, 3) our need, and then 4) make a request. Everything else is violent, and will encourage violence in others. Children are particularly sensitive to "violent" ways of communicating, since they respond more to the energy behind the words, than to the words themselves.
1. Observation vs. Evaluation:
The first component of NVC entails the separation of observation from evaluation. We need to clearly observe what we are seeing, hearing, or touching, that is affecting our sense of well being, without mixing in any evaluation.
For most of us, it is difficult to make observations of people and their behavior that are free of evaluation (judgment, criticism, or other forms of analysis, diagnosis or opinion). Even a positive or an apparently neutral label limits our perception of the totality of another person’s being.
Distinguishing observation from evaluation:
“John was angry with me yesterday for no reason.” – evaluation “John told me he was angry” – observation “John pounded his fist on the table” – observation “My father is a good man.” – evaluation “For the last 25 years my father has given one tenth of his salary to charity.” – observation “Janice works too much.” – evaluation “Janice spent over 60 hours at the office this week.” – observation “Henry is aggressive.” – evaluation “Henry hit his sister when she switched the television channel.” – observation “You are a responsible child.” – evaluation (positive labeling) “You are too generous.” – evaluation (positive labeling) “When I see you doing that, I think you are being too generous” – NVC “You are going to fall” – evaluation (statement with no possibilities) “Be careful, I fear that you could fall” – NVC “He is a poor soccer player” – evaluation (negative label) “He has not scored a goal in 20 games” – NVC (observation) “My aunt complains when I talk with her.” – evaluation “My aunt called me three times this week, and each time talked about people who treated her in ways she didn’t like.” – observation “One of the best ways to learn NVC is simply to practice, practice, practice.” – evaluation “All the people in my practice group say that one of the best ways to learn NVC is simply to practice, practice, practice.” – observation “Marshal said the only way to learn NVC is to practice.” – observation “You lied to me about your grades.” – evaluation “I heard you say you passed all your courses, but this report card shows two F’s.” – observation “My husband hardly express any affection.” – evaluation “My husband hasn’t kissed me for two weeks.” – observation “You are arguing with me for the fourth time this week.” – evaluation “This is the fourth time this week that you stated you disagree with something I’m saying.” – observation “They made fun of the fact I served pigs’ feet for dinner.” – evaluation “When I served pig’s feet for dinner, I heard laughter and someone saying, ‘Where are the toenail clippers when we need them?’” – observation “They are destroying the environment.” – evaluation “They have cut over 90% of this territory, and are still continuing.” – observation. “The doctor refuses to explain anything to me.” – evaluation “The doctor did not say anything to me about what causes the pain or what can be done.” – observation
2. Feelings versus non-feelings:
NVC distinguish the expressions of actual feelings from words and statements that describe thoughts, opinion, assessments, and interpretations.
a) Distinguishing feelings from thoughts (opinion, interpretations):
“I feel that you should know better.” – thought (“I think…”) “I feel frustrated.” – feeling “I feel it is useless.” – thought (“I think…”) “I feel scared when you say that” – feeling “I feel you don’t love me.” – opinion (“I think…”) “I am sad that you’re living” – feeling “I feel you are annoying me on purpose.” – opinion (“I think…”) “I am upset because I think you are annoying me purpose.” – feeling “I feel I am being unkind to them.” – opinion (“I think…”) “I feel regret around how I am behaving towards them.” – feeling
b) Distinguishing between words that express feelings and those that describe what we think we are (self opinion):
“I feel inadequate as a guitar player.” – opinion of my ability “I feel (disappointed, impatient, frustrated) with myself as a guitar player.” – feelings c) Differentiating between words that express feelings and those that describe how we think others are evaluating us. (opinion).
“I feel unimportant to the people with whom I work.” – how I think others are evaluating me.
d) Differentiating between words that express feelings and those that describe how we think others are behaving towards (or around) us:
“I feel misunderstood.” – my opinion about the other person level of understanding. “I feel ignored.” – again it is an interpretation of the action of others rather than a clear statement of how we are feeling. “When you don’t greet me, I feel neglected.” – interpretation “When you don’t greet me at the door, I feel lonely.” – feeling
Interpretations (not feelings) we confuse with feelings:
“I am happy that you can come.” – feeling “I feel disturbed” – feeling “I feel like hitting you” – opinion “I’d be furious too if that had happened to me.” – interpretation “I feel concerned that this happened to you. I would have been furious if it had been me.” – feeling “You are wearing me out.” – opinion (denial of responsibility) “I feel exhausted.” – feeling Building a vocabulary for feelings:
By developing a vocabulary of feelings that allows us to clearly and specifically name or identify our emotions, we can connect more easily with one another.
• Optimistic, excited, energetic, eager • Hopeful, confident, positive, trustful • Encouraged, inspired, stimulated • Interested, intrigued, curious • Amazed, surprised, delighted • Calm, comfortable, cool, relaxed • Peaceful, carefree, composed • Fulfilled, pleased, relieved, satisfied • Happy, joyous, radiant • Touched, moved • Thankful, gratified, grateful, glad • Tender, sensitive, warm 3. Needs: expressing what needs we have that are not satisfied is the third step in the NVC process (see pdf).
4. Requests: making direct and specific requests on how others can help satisfy our needs is step 4 in the NVC process (see pdf).
I will end by highlighting that, according to NVC, the words “have to” and “should” are violent, because they imply lack of choice, and to be replaced with language that acknowledges choice: replace “I have to” with “I choose to”, and “I should/ should have” with “I might/ I could have”. Think about how many times we are being violent with ourselves by saying “I should/ should have…”