Nonviolent Communication Book Discussion, Chapters 1-5

August 1st, 2011 by Dionna | Leave a comment
Posted in Book Discussions, Consensual Living, Reviews and Giveaways

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Welcome to the third virtual session of the Code Name: Mama book club!1 Your facilitators are Dionna of Code Name: Mama and Amy of Peace 4 Parents. We are so excited to be surrounded by parents who are motivated to explore ways in which we can grow and offer our children the best of ourselves.

Today is our first discussion of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. Anyone and everyone is invited to participate, all you need is a copy of the book (borrowed or bought2), an hour or so each week to read, and about 20-30 minutes to join in the discussion (see below for details). Be sure to enter to win your own copy of Nonviolent Communication and its accompanying workbook (details at link)!

Every week the format for the book club will include a brief summary of the chapters we read as well as discussion questions. This isn’t Parenting 101, so don’t get stressed! No one expects you to write down a bunch of answers and you certainly will not be graded. Just use the information to your benefit and then join in the ongoing conversation surrounding these questions throughout the week. We may not discuss every question, we will see where the conversation takes us. You can discuss the questions in the comments below, and you can also head over to the Natural Parents Network forums where we can have longer, more meaningful (and orderly) conversations. Just look for the “Online Book Discussions” folder under “Books and More.”

If you find something in the book sparks an emotion, or if you discover you could use some book club advice for a specific situation, please email Dionna. We may not be able to get to everyone each week, but we will do our best.

Nonviolent Communication Chapters 1-5 Summary

Nonviolence refers “to our natural state of compassion when violence has subsided from the heart. While we may not consider the way we talk to be ‘violent,’ words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for others or ourselves.” Nonviolent communication {NVC} “guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting. We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention. In any exchange, we come to hear our own deeper needs and those of others.”3

The NVC process contains four components:

  1. Observations. First, we work on observing what is happening in an situations without judgment or evaluation.
  2. Feelings. Second, “we state how we feel when we observe this action.”
  3. Needs. Third, we identify our needs that are connected with our feelings.
  4. Requests. Fourth, We make a very specific request.

The NVC process consists of both communicating these four pieces of information and also receiving this information from others.4

There are several types of language and communication that interrupt compassionate connections. One type of this “life-alienating” communication is moralistic judgments, or implying “wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values.” This includes “[b]lame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticism, comparisons, and diagnoses.”5 Making comparisons between yourself and others can also block compassionate communication. Another type of life-alienating communication occurs when we deny responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions; often this occurs when we attribute our own actions to factors outside of ourselves.6 Finally, communication is hampered when we make demands on others. “A demand explicitly or implicitly threatens listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply.”7

Chapters 3 through 5 explain and illustrate the first three components of the NVC process: observing without evaluation, identifying and expressing feelings, and taking responsibility for our feelings.

Rosenberg explains that “[w]hen we combine observation with evaluation, we decrease the likelihood that others will hear our intended message. Instead, they are apt to hear criticism and thus resist whatever we are saying.8 To be able to identify and express feelings, many of us need to build a bigger vocabulary for feelings. Rosenberg lists 214 words that we can learn to help us identify our feelings – both when our needs are being met and when they are not.9 When we take responsibility for our feelings, we come to understand that while what others do or say may be the stimulus for our feelings, other people’s words and actions are never the cause of our feelings. We all have a choice in how to receive what others say and do. We can choose to take things personally, hearing blame and criticism; we can fault the speaker; we can become conscious of our own feelings and needs; and/or we can focus attention on the speaker’s feelings and needs.10

Chapter 1 Questions
*Note: Many of our discussion questions will be based on questions and activities from the Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook. You do not need to have a copy of this workbook to participate, but you are welcome to obtain a copy and complete all of the exercises.

  1. What draws you to study NVC? What is it that you deeply wish for in your life and in this world?
  2. Can you think of a specific instance from your own life where you have given from the heart? Tell us about that instance and how it made you felt (or how it makes you feel remembering it).
  3. Can you think of a specific instance where you have given, but it was not from the heart? How did that make you feel? What would you like to have happened instead?

Chapter 2 Questions

  1. As you live this week, listen for examples of how words or phrases in the English language obscure awareness of personal responsibility and choice. Share some of those examples. How could one rephrase the sentences to accept choice and responsibility?
  2. Thinking of the four forms of life-alienating communication (a. Diagnosis, judgment, analysis, criticism, comparison; b. Denial of responsibility; c. Demand; d. “Deserve”-oriented language), identify an instance of each category in your own speech – either sometime this week or in your recent past. Write down the exact words used.
  3. Write a dialogue (about 6-8 lines) between two people that is not going well. It could be fictional or from your own life. We will discuss one or two of your dialogues in the comments, so be sure to share!

Chapter 3 Questions

  1. For the following statements, do you regard the speaker to be making an observation free of evaluation? If not, please give an example of an evaluation-free statement that matches the situation:
    a. “One of the best ways to learn NVC is simply to practice, practice, practice.”
    b. “The boss is procrastinating around this decision.”
    c. “You lied to me about your grades.”
    d. “My husband hardly expresses any affection.”
    e. “You are arguing with me for the fourth time this week.”
    f. “They are destroying the environment.”
    g. “The doctor refuses to explain anything to me.”
  2. Write down three observations about yourself. Write down three evaluations about yourself (try to make them about different subjects than the first three things you wrote). Try this exercise with other situations – your thoughts about parenting, your relationship with your partner, or work, for example.

Chapter 4 Questions

  1. How do you know what you are feeling at any given moment? Where do you go to look? At some point this week, set a watch or timer to beep every 30 minutes. For two hours, record what you are feeling the moment the beeping sounds. Carefully observe and record your feelings.

Chapter 5 Questions

  1. Instead of saying directly what we need, how do we often communicate to others when we want something? What kind of reactions are we likely to get by doing this?
  2. How can we make it easier for other people to respond with compassion to what we want or are asking for?
  3. Write the following:
    a. Briefly describe a situation where you experienced a distinct feeling;
    b. Name the feeling;
    c. Identify the stimulus; and
    d. Identify the cause of the feeling.
    Now give an example of how you might have responded using each of the four options presented in chapter 5.
  4. What might be my need if I had the following thought in my head during a meeting?
    a. “She’s irresponsible: We all agreed to let someone know if we weren’t going to show up.”
    b. “Everyone else here knows more NVC than I do.”
    c. “That’s totally irresponsible, what he just said!”
    d. “She always takes more time than anyone else.”
    e. “This is boring.”
    f. “It disgusts me when people don’t do their own share of the work, relying instead on others to pick up the slack.”
  5. Using the same sentences above, translate each statement into a possible observation, feeling, and need. For example, in a we might translate that to “When I hear that none of us got a call from her, I feel discouraged because I want to be able to count on us carrying through with agreements we make together.” (Universal needs: reliability, trust, integrity)

A Short List of Questions to Consider While You’re Reading Chapters 6-9

  1. Notice the requests you make of others. What is the purpose or intention behind the requests? How does choosing to notice your intentions help you become more clear about what you want?
  2. Have you noticed a tendency to demand? How are you transforming demands into requests?
  3. Describe your experience of listening with empathy. How does it feel? What challenges present for you?
  4. What judgments do you have about others as they speak? Connect with the person and notice judgments as what they are – thoughts we have about others that are not necessarily true. What happens in your communication?
  5. What is your first reaction when you hear the word “no”? How can you empathize with the person to prevent yourself from taking it personally?
  6. How do you evaluate yourself? List 3-5 thoughts you have about yourself when you have done something you wish you hadn’t. Then list them in ways that allow growth.
  7. Notice when you say “have to” or “must.” Transform the statements using the words “choose to” and notice how you feel.
  8. For one day (or one hour if that feels like too much) intend to do everything you do because you choose to, with a sense of play or appreciation. Notice what stops you and redirect yourself to your intention. Describe your experience.
  1. If you’d like, feel free to read up on Playful Parenting and Respectful Parents Respectful Kids, our first two books. Those are the first discussions for each book. From each of those links, scroll down to “Related Posts” to find the remaining sections of each discussion.
  2. Code Name: Mama readers will receive a 20% discount on any order through PuddleDancer Press from now through the end of August, 2011. This is 20% off in addition to any bulk order discount you are eligible to receive. After you have clicked on the “Checkout” button, enter codemama in the coupon code box (underneath the credit card information). PuddleDancer strongly recommends a traceable shipping method such as USPS Priority Mail or UPS Ground for any order.
  3. Nonviolent Communication at 2-3.
  4. Nonviolent Communication at 6-7.
  5. Nonviolent Communication at 15.
  6. Nonviolent Communication at 18-20.
  7. Nonviolent Communication at 22.
  8. Nonviolent Communication at 26.
  9. Nonviolent Communication at 44-45.
  10. Nonviolent Communication at 49-50.

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