Communicating effectively isn’t always simple. There tend to be more assumptions and misunderstandings than clear messages and accurate interpretations. That’s why Marshall Rosenberg created empathetic communication, also known as Nonviolent Communication (NVC).
Rosenberg created this tool to give us the necessary skills to relate to each other in a more collaborative way and in harmony with our values. In addition to avoiding possible conflicts and misunderstandings, it allows us to resolve emotional and rational conflicts. With nonviolent communication, we can abandon more traditional forms of communication. Empathetic communication sets out to help us practice active listening based on mutual understanding.
Assertiveness is the happy medium between passivity and aggressiveness. It is a skill that allows you to express personal opinions, respect others, and set boundaries. The psychologist Marshall Rosenberg encourages us to put it into practice to improve our relationships.
One of the most common traits of assertive people is the fondness they have for other’s faults. That is, they don’t criticize or neglect them, or feel indifferent. On the contrary, they embrace them and try to understand them. Therefore, assertiveness is an important aspect of nonviolent communication.
An assertive person other’s limits, needs, desires, and opinions.Share
Contributions of nonviolent communication
Empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, is also part of this type of communication. Also important is a command of verbal and non-verbal communication, both in yourself and in others.
Empathetic communication seeks to establish a sincere and authentic relationship between the speaker and the listener. So, some of the benefits of communicating this way are the following.
Satisfying personal relationships
Nonviolent communication wagers on the concise, precise, and accurate expression of a message. Its goal is to improve understanding. That kind of expression leaves less room for criticism and more space for an effective exchange of messages.
If you share your concerns in an assertive way, you are giving the other person the chance to understand and share them. Marshall Rosenberg insists on the importance of making the other person a participant in the “shared hope that has been able to fail.”
The key to proper nonviolent communication is to speak from your own perspective. That way, no one can argue with what you communicate. That’s because the message belongs to the one who is expressing it. So, when you want to avoid someone interpreting your message as some kind of insinuation or attack, use “I” statements like “I feel.”
Here’s an example. You could say “We agreed to meet an hour ago, but you are always late. You are so selfish.” Instead, try “I feel like everytime you make me wait so long, it makes me not want to stay with you. It is demoralizing and it makes me feel helpless.”
Replace accusations and criticism with messages about how you feel. That way, your communication won’t become so negative. You can express yourself without the other person becoming offended. And, instead of being irritated, you will both be able to find a solution to the problem.
You have to know how to say “no” and accept a negative answer. That’s the only way to be honest with yourself and others. But to really be a master of nonviolent communication, there’s another step. You have to eliminate any kind of speculation or destructive communication behavior.
According to Bob Wentworth, an NVC expert, “an observation sets the context, feelings support connection and getting out of our heads, needs support connection and identify what is important, and a request clarifies what sort of response you might enjoy.” If you use those components, you eliminate the probability of passing moral judgment. We will discuss that in more detail later.
Development of listening and comprehension skills
Nonviolent communication fosters the development of empathy. We understand empathy as the compassionate way of understanding what is happening inside each one of us. It means taking note of feelings, thoughts, and judgments. It is about connecting with necessities that paralyze us or cause mental blocks.
This type of communication also fosters another kind of empathy. That is the ability to emotionally understand the other person. Not only does it allow us to understand ideas and thoughts, but also emotions and feelings.
Behavior that obstructs nonviolent communication
Rosenberg believes that just as nonviolent communication offers many benefits, there are other communication styles that inhibit positive communication. They obstruct the development of this type of communication, and, as a result, of empathy and assertiveness. Let’s take a look at some of those communication styles.
Moralistic judgments are an impersonal form of expression. They don’t communicate what the other person is actually feeling, only what they are covering up. They take on different forms, such as criticism, harassment, insults, or cynicism. Rosenberg proposes substituting these for objective observations. He encourages people to avoid judging others, and instead focus on what they feel.
“The report you gave me is a disaster. We can’t give it to anyone like this.” You could change that for “In the report you gave me, there are some ideas that we need to flesh out. Try to change them before we give them to the client.”
Demands and comparisons with other people
Requests, demands, offenses… We use all kinds of tools to make someone else understand us. At the end of the day, they are threats that imply blame or punishment if we don’t get what we want. These are just other forms of manipulation and aggressive communication.
A very common example of this type of behavior is when a teenager shows his grades to his mom and says “Mom, they suspended me.” The “they suspended” is a way of blaming the third party for his problems and avoiding responsibility.
Another way people deny responsibility is to use impersonal or conditional language. They make reference to their diagnosis, history, or experiences. The point is to avoid the consequences of being responsible for what happened.
As you can see, nonviolent communication requires a good deal personal effort from all parties. However, the benefits of nonviolent communication make the effort well worth it.