For me nonviolent communication involves
1. Not only truth but authenticity, you need to have a safe emotional space in which to share bad feelings as well as good ones.
2. Avoid blame language, talk of responsibility instead. This involves separating the person from the behavior. We can judge the behavior without also passing judgment on the worth of the person. It comes down to using "I'm OK, You're OK," instead of "I'm OK, You're not OK." I assume the other is worthwhile and deserves respect.
The premises that we are all equal and that nonviolence will get your needs met more than violence are part of what Riane Eisler calls Partnership culture. In Dominator culture conflict is resolved by violence. This has been the dominant type of culture on Earth for well over a millennium. See The Chalice and the Blade.
Alice, you said, "Judging the behaviour is just a sly way of judging the person in my experience." This reflects Dominator culture in which we live, where everyone struggles to find respect in hierarchical social structures. People do in fact criticize behavior in order to put you down as a person and raise their own status. However, it's not good problem solving. There's a better way.
In a safe emotional environment, people can be free to share problems and feelings without having those things used against them later. We assume we are all OK, worthy individuals. Everybody is important, everybody has a right to their feelings. In such an environment we feel free to tell someone a negative judgment about a behavior he/she has done, and share our bad feelings such behavior arouses, in the spirit of working together. "When you do X, it makes me feel Y." You no longer have to be in Honeymoon phase, but can work constructively on conflicts. You do not assume intent on the part of the person who did the behavior, only describe it objectively. You can share how you interpreted the behavior and ask if that was correct. People take turns sharing their feelings, and try to figure out how to avoid a similar problem in the future.
You can avoid judging people but still judge behaviors. We have to judge actions to function. Similarly, we can avoid moralistic judgments of people, but must make moral judgments of behaviors.
Some kinds of demands are legitimate. You have the right to demand nonviolent behavior from those with whom you engage. If they want to abuse you, walk away. You have the right to be treated with respect, and it's legitimate to demand it when someone is disrespecting you. You have to stand up for yourself. If others insist on disrespecting you, they don't deserve your company. Look for more compatible friends.
Your communication on responsibility seems contradictory. " I find talk of responsibility useless. A person can only be as response able as they are." versus " Communication that Blocks Compassion: Denial of Responsibility." Responsibility does mean able to respond, and sometimes it's not easy identifying the extent to which you could have responded differently. But, never feeling responsible for harm done is a psychopathy trait.
I don't have time to study Marshall Rosenberg's NVC, but on the basis of your reports I've formed a judgment from my perspective. The whole package you describe sounds like something worked out by a white middle class guy for personal relationships, which is better then the traditional macho position. But it's not something I'd recommend for women or minorities, or for political activists. You said, "In a way I see him as asking us to remove our god position – the one that causes us to be righteous and dominant – in favour of a passive position." Toning down righteous dominant talk would be fine for someone in a position of dominance, who doesn't have to fight for his hierarchical status daily. It's NOT a good idea for the oppressed.
"NVC frees us from being – slaves and underlings" Not that I can see. Let's take "Making Demands, one of the "communications that block compassion" he wants to eliminate. If you're oppressed, you have a right and a duty to make demands for oppression to stop. Being more passive won't free you. You have a right to judge oppressive actions morally. You have to be authentic, in touch with your feelings of being intimidated, put down, unheard, patronized, etc. Women, for example, are most oppressed when they've internalized the women-hating stereotypes of Dominator culture, when they are unaware of their oppression. There's so much feminist writing on consciousness raising. Marshall Rosenberg has no clue. If you're a dominant male who was raised to habitually make demands, raised to be tough rather than compassionate, his prescriptions would be a step in the right direction. Under those conditions making demands does stand in the way of compassion. But this is entirely wrong-headed for everyone who has faced oppression from birth, who was raised to suppress feelings of anger and resentment, who was raised to obey, to please the powerful.
When I was engaged to a guy named Chester, we had a disagreement. I don't remember what it was about. He grabbed my arm and twisted it painfully to force me to agree with him. That is oppression. I told him to stop because he was hurting me. He didn't. I demanded he stop by saying, "If you don't stop twisting my arm right now, our engagement is off, here and now." He let me go. My demand was justified and appropriate. BTW, I did eventually cancel our engagement and was very glad I had.
As far as I'm concerned, right and wrong aren't just constructs in our heads. If somebody can't tell which action, if any, is wrong from this list he/she has a serious problem: buttering toast, roasting a baby, whipping potatoes. "Do such feelings of righteousness make a difference?" I don't call making a moral judgment righteousness. Righteousness implies an attitude of being morally superior. You tell me, would you hire a babysitter for whom that list was morally identical? Making moral judgments isn't about wanting to feel powerful or looking for excuses to justify violence, it's an essential social function.
I get the impression that immersion in Rosenber's work has somehow separated you from your authentic feelings. You can no longer recognize oppression? One doesn't have to make demands to get needs met in a healthy personal relationship, you just ask.
Don't ask me to give examples of oppression, I could talk about the varieties of oppression visited on women alone for five pages. You know there are women's groups here.
I’m sorry that you were involved in a physically violent relationship.
Chester clearly didn’t know how to get his needs met in a way that was considerate of the needs of others.
What MR is saying is that NVC is more effective than making demands or being aggressive. He is saying that his constructed method of communication gives us tools that allow us a non violent way to get our needs met that is more effective than violent ways.
So in your situation with Chester – you demanded that he let go and made a threat to back up that demand. In that situation that was your best chance at the time – due to your circumstances and knowledge of that moment. You did want you knew and what you needed to, to be safe.
Perhaps if that sort of situation occurred just after you had read the book NVC you might have tried the NVC way. MR says that this way would have been more likely to elicit compassion than the aggressive way.
I think though in times of physical assault protective force is required before any expressing of feelings and needs. Protective force is used to PROTECT and EDUCATE when there is:
Then you might have had a later dialogue about both of your feelings and needs in the situation. You might have felt scared and needed physical safety. He might have felt angry because of an unmet need that caused him to blame you for not meeting it – because he was unable to express his needs in any other way – than with violence. NVC can really help people to express their needs before it gets to physical violence.
NVC does talk about values – which may be translated to morals also (although personally I don’t like this word – I find it oppressive! LOL)
So you might construct a sentence – when you talk about roasting my baby I feel concerned, because I value the physical safety of my children. Would you be willing to take care of my baby’s physical safety whilst you look after her?
Of course, we might decide to change baby sitters even if she agrees with our request – for fear of her changing her mind.
My main aim of getting involved with NVC is because I struggle to express myself in a way that I value. I get aggressive and angry and lash out – and I don’t value this sort of behaviour – so exposing my self to NVC and studying the suggested methods of communication – I can learn to express myself in a way that is more valuable to me. I value living in a safe and loving home and providing a safe and loving home for my family.
Your response to the potential baby roasting sitter is the most unusual I've heard in such a circumstance.
I think a more reasonable response would be. "Don't ever go near my baby." Then I would walk away and report said sitter to the police and any agencies regulating baby sitters. If the individual was under twenty-one, I would call the parents and tell them what their child was saying and plead with them to get the child therapy.
I don't think the sitter's feelings should be a consideration in this situation. The response you recommend could be interpreted as not taking adequate steps to safe guard you child and failure to notify the appropriate authorities of a public safety issue.
I sounds as though you are saying that you see NVC as another extrinsic force put upon you – whilst you have a need to act from intrinsic motivation without fear or feeling the pressure to repress your feelings in favour of meeting someone else’s needs.
I wonder if many of us get this in our childhoods. I too was asked as a child to keep myself contained in order for my parents to meet their own needs – giving me no mechanism to meet my own needs.
I’ve read a few parenting books for my relationship with my own children – and although I still have many of my parents parenting traits I hope that I have improved them slightly we some better communication skills that allow my children to better express their needs and get them met.
Would you say that anger is your main issue – in that you feel the need now to express anger at things – which is socially inappropriate to your cultural upbringing? Or are there other emotional problems that you face also perhaps regarding fear, guilt, shame, fear of punishment, duty or obligation?
I’ve taken on many of these extrinsic motivational factors – that I’ve internalised and taken on as self regulators. My husband is more free of them than me, which has lead to much incredulity on my part over the years – but over time and exposure to new ideas – I’ve become more able to let go of these oppressive extrinsic motivations in favour of more natural spontaneous intrinsic motivations.
It’s doesn’t serve me well all the time – I find that on some occasions when meeting with new people – others in the room seem embarrassed by my expression – I know that I’ve broken some cultural rule – but I’m not quite sure what it is – I can be quite direct – but in both cases I was also very loving – but people who don’t know me would perhaps think I was being confrontational rather than coming from a place of care.
Fair comment – I was using an example that Ruth had proposed early.
I really don’t think it’s a plausible possibility that a potential baby sitter would suggest that they might roast your baby. But the circumstances wasn’t my point – the style of communication was.
Yes – I agree with your comments – and perhaps my sense of humour is failing to come across as it might be described as dry or black perhaps.
The fact remains that I support the use of NVC as a method of communication – and I do thing that considering others feelings no matter what they are proposing to do is important. In fact valuable. Because as has been said before – emotions effect all our brain and reasoning – and so dealing with them is significant to dealing with a person especially if they are in a desperate state or willing to harm others to get their own needs met in some way.
People who are physically strong enough to force things to happen wouldn’t perhaps need to consider such forms of communication – because they could simply feel confident that if some one was in danger of physical harm, they could simply step in and physically prevent the harm from happening.
NVC allows a person who has less physical strength to negotiate there way out of potential physical harm.
The negotiation is based on the awareness that we all have needs that motivate our actions – and if we can identify this need then we can perhaps help the person to see other ways that will meet their need, without having to harm others.