Nonviolent communication (NVC) is all about compassionate communication. Its goal is to resolve conflict by working together to meet the needs of all parties concerned. According to the Center for Nonviolent Communication, “This approach to communication emphasizes compassion as the motivation for action rather than fear, guilt, shame, blame, coercion, threat, or justification for punishment. In other words, it is about getting what you want for reasons you will not regret later. NVC is NOT about getting people to do what we want. It is about creating a quality of connection that gets everyone’s needs met through compassionate giving.”
On Saturday, April 1, I joined eight other INEO members at Art House in Kent for a three-hour NVC workshop led by Jennifer Pierce. Jennifer, who has been politically active for several years, has a degree in Conflict Management.
Jennifer helped us understand that:
- Basic unmet needs – belonging, power, freedom, fun, security – are at the root of conflict
an US vs. THEM mentality is frequently at the heart of many conflicts
- Key aspects of NVC include active listening, paraphrasing with empathy, using “I” statements, and setting and adhering to respectful boundaries
- Letting go of the need to “win” in a conflict may allow a person to more creatively approach a situation
- To find common ground in a conflict, the focus must be on the issue, not on the person
- There are different types of conversations and conflict, and not all need to be pursued or end in agreement
Jennifer encouraged us to continue promoting community engagement because, as she sees it, we increase the extent to which we all benefit from a conflict negotiation – we “increase the pie” we share – when we learn from each other. In other words, if we can manage a conflict nonviolently, we all reap the added benefit of learning about those on the other “side” of the conflict.
Jennifer asked a question that really resonated with me: “Why not leave our indignation, even rage, for the policy-makers?” We can – and should – research policy, digest facts, and craft arguments, but if we’re going to ask someone to modify how he or she acts, thinks, or speaks because of these arguments, doesn’t it make sense to direct those arguments toward our political representatives? When we’re with our family members, neighbors, and fellow community members, why not focus on creating community and understanding through nonviolent conversations?
For the last 30 minutes of our workshop, we viewed a short, thought-provoking video about a reformed KKK member. We used this video to role-play how we might converse with others after a public showing of a documentary. Under Jennifer’s guidance, we practiced listening with empathy, paraphrasing the points of view of others, and finding common ground. It was a challenging but eye-opening experience.
We at INEO look forward to using what we learned from Jennifer in our personal lives as we communicate with family members and neighbors but also as we participate in discussions with the wider public. Specifically, we hope to use the tools Jennifer shared with us during our monthly series, open to the public, featuring documentaries and local speakers. We’ll host our first speaker of this series on Monday, April 24 at MadCap Brewery in Kent. Check out our calendar for more information.
To learn more about NVC, I highly encourage you to pick up Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life or listen to him on Youtube where he shares his expertise on how to deal with personal and global conflict. Rosenberg, a Canton native, is the father of nonviolent communication and has worked worldwide as a peacemaker. He founded the nonprofit Center for Nonviolent Communication in Albuquerque, NM, and his many books and talks are highly relevant today.