Nonviolent Communication -- an introduction

One of the main reasons why I created this blog is in order to introduce people to, and explain the personal, cultural and institutional consequences of taking Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (NVC) seriously. I was introduced to NVC a few years ago, shortly after I and my partner went vegan. I've since come to find it invaluable, because of how it's helped me to better understand not just why it is so easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone's needs have equal value, but also how we can overcome this.

One of the core insights NVC teaches, is the difference between needs and the strategies we employ to try and meet those needs. This may sound odd or trivial, yet we frequently confuse or conflate the two (e.g., many people think they have a need for "money" or "to be successful", when both of these are just strategies of meeting basic needs like security or competency and recognition). And this is a problem because it tends to lead us to feel free to use violence, because these strategies very often involve zero-sum games. Learning NVC also helps you realize how much of the language we use all day every day is value- or responsibility-laden in a way that encourages us to lose sight of our shared humanity (so that we become blind to or disinterested in the fact that we are harming others to meet our needs because we view the other as, say, a cockroach, and 'therefore' meriting or deserving the same treatment we give any pest), and of our responsibility for our actions (because we talk and think about ourselves in ways that deny our responsibility and agency, e.g. when we say we "must" do something because it's "policy", "orders", or "the law").

Once you decide reject this meritocratic logic -- the bureaucratic way of thinking that encourages us to reduce people to titles ('cockroach', 'black', 'foreign', 'employee', 'evil', 'uneducated', 'bad') -- and the notion that we may resort to violence to get our way, it will quickly becomes clear to you that most of what humans currently are up to -- especially at the institutional (inter)state and corporate levels -- is at best only serving some of us; and that this is impossible to reconcile those actions and institutional structures with the notion that everyone has equal inherent value.

That said, I've also come to realize, by seeing what people who've internalized NVC are doing, that simply embracing NVC won't automatically make you able to recognize all of the lies and the layers of oppression the societies we live in have taught us to accept, and that they impose on us. We're way too used to seeing and living with inequality and structural violence; we are too used to seeing the application of violence as redemptive, and property claims as sacrosanct; and we're generally too willing to assume good reasons for the way the world works today, and to trust others, to seriously challenge the institutions, authority figures and education that structure our lives, and that we ourselves also contribute to in our roles as citizens, parents, bosses, consumers and people who must work to 'make a living'. In sum, we are simply too used to the violence most of the time, and even when we are aware of it, untangling the mess to find better ways of meeting the needs involved often isn't an option due to time constraints.

And this is the other reason why I've started this blog: to give people a hand analyzing what we get up to as societies and as people, to explain how and why things work the way they do currently, and to offer up my suggestions with respect to how we could organize ourselves differently, and why I think that would be preferable. (Namely, because we'd be doing more justice to the fact that we all have an equal claim on life, and a right to a decent life in which you aren't constantly told by others to behave like they want you to.)

I've found that listening to the course I've linked to below a very good way of acquainting myself with NVC, while also helping me get in the right frame of mind, and giving me some peace of mind and hope that better ways of dealing with needs are possible. That said, it's taken me a while to figure out how to translate my jugments into jugments that are in line with NVC consciousness, and to learn to better hear the needs that are behind the things people say. And since I expect something similar will be true for others, I'd strongly encourage you to start listening and applying the insights Rosenberg provides sooner rather than later. As that starts to sink in and becomes more familiar, I hope that my other posts will provide you with other food for thought, and reconsideration.

Thank you for your time, and your interest. :)

PS: If any of these links break, please leave a message, and I'll update them.

1. Origins of Nonviolent Communication

2. Applying NVC within Ourselves

3. A Radically Different Kind of Honesty

4. Empathically Connecting with Others

5. Meeting Our Needs in Intimate Relationships

6. Experiencing and Exercising Authority

7. Healing, Mediation, and Reconciliation

8. How NVC Supports Social Change

9. Living Compassionately with Celebration and Gratitude

This intermediate-level course is also quite helpful:

Making Life Wonderful, Part 1

Making Life Wonderful, Part 2

Making Life Wonderful, Part 3

Making Life Wonderful, Part 4


Also useful as a first introduction: this three-hour SF Workshop.

Main Video Nvc

Permalink - Published on Jul 21, 2019, 8:00:00 AM

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