Nonviolent Communication Book Discussion, Chapters 6-9
Today is our second discussion of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. If you’re just joining us, you are welcome to read through part one of the discussion first; be sure to get in on the discussion in the comments! Anyone and everyone is invited to participate, all you need is a copy of the book (borrowed or bought1), 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)!
Nonviolent Communication Chapters 6-9 Summary
The first five chapters of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg assist us in becoming aware of what we are observing, feeling, and needing as we express ourselves. Chapters 6-9 address how to make requests that can enrich life and experience empathy while we communicate.
As we consider making requests that can enhance life, we may notice it is easy to become aware of what we don’t want. Realizing what we don’t want is a valuable starting point when followed by looking for the opposite in what we really do want, and making our requests with positive action language. For example, if we don’t want our child to color on the wall we may look for some opposite actions that would enrich life for anyone in the family such as coloring on paper, an art project, or a special section of wall designated for artwork. Instead of placing the majority of our focus on not coloring on the wall, we can direct our attention to making a request in positive action language, such as “Please color on paper or an art project.”
The intention behind our requests is as important as the request itself. We can become aware of our intentions by noticing the thoughts that accompany them and the results or response we expect. If we notice we are talking to or at people rather than engaging in a two-way communication, we can learn to be as specific as possible with requests to communicate clearly. Asking for an honest reflection of what the person heard helps us determine if our requests have been received the way we intended.
The objective of nonviolent communication is “a relationship based on honesty and empathy.” As we communicate in ways to enrich life, it is important to note the difference between demands and requests. Demands result in force or punishment if the person does not comply. Requests are made with positive expectation and sometimes followed by persuasion with the basis of compassion and empathy; force is not part of the equation.
The objective of NVC is met through expressing honestly and receiving empathically. Rosenberg describes empathy as “a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.” Empathy is simply being with a person, non-judgmentally as they are without offering advice, validation, or solutions. This may be slightly different or simplified from the way some of us have experienced empathy in the past and may take practice.
Listening with our whole being is at the basis of empathy. If someone is outwardly communicating through words we can listen for their observations, feelings, needs, and requests as they fully express themselves. Paying attention to feelings will help us extract needs from judgements.
Observing a person who is silent or not communicating in a way we initially understand is another form of empathic listening and can be healing for both people. Reflecting back what we have heard or what we observe to confirm understanding and before offering solutions allows space for needs to be acknowledged.
Empathy is a powerful healer and developing self-compassion is an integral part of giving and receiving empathy. We truly cannot give what we do not have for ourselves. If we notice defensiveness or the inability to empathize with ourselves or another Rosenberg suggests (1) stop to breathe and be with ourselves non-judgmentally; (2) yell nonviolently; or (3) get space from what we are experiencing.
Nonviolently mourning our mistakes and life experiences that feel less than perfect along with self-forgiveness allows us to acknowledge underlying needs from the past while working to meet those needs in the present. As we release the idea that we should be different than we are and transition from using statements like “have to” to “choose to,” we become open to engaging in activities with a playful, appreciative attitude.
Chapter 6 questions
- Make a list of a few things that you know you do not want in relation to what you are experiencing with other people. On the opposite side of the list write down what you do want instead using positive action language.
- 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?
- Describe some ways you ask for a reflection of what you have requested. Notice how you feel as you listen to feedback.
- Requesting honesty can be an important part of communicating nonviolently. Give some examples of how you state what you want from the listener (to know what they are feeling, thinking, or are willing to take a specific action).
- Have you noticed a tendency to demand? How are you transforming demands into requests?
- How do you feel about the purpose of your communication being to establish and maintain a relationship that meets everyone’s needs rather than just your own?
Chapter 7 questions
- What ideas do you have about empathy that are different from the way empathy is defined in NVC?
- Describe your experience of listening with empathy. How does it feel? What challenges present for you?
- Are you prone to offering advice or solutions when they are not clearly asked for? Notice if you do this, decide to reflect what feelings and needs you heard, and ask the person if they would like a solution before you offer. Describe any experiences you have.
- 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?
- How do you know when your own pain is stopping you from being empathetic with another? What do you do?
Chapter 8 questions
- How does it feel to sustain empathy? Can you sit through uncomfortable silence until there is a release and the energy of the communication becomes more comfortable?
- 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?
- If the idea of empathy sounds good, but putting it into practice is difficult what do you do?
- What does “being present” mean to you?
- How have you found empathy to be healing in your life?
Chapter 9 questions
- 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.
- Notice the use of the word “should.” What need or value is underneath?
- Think of a situation where you feel shame and allow yourself to mourn the unmet needs and feelings while focusing on meeting them in the present through acknowledging them. How do you feel and what possibilities open for resolution?
- How do you feel about self-forgiveness? What needs were you trying to meet when you did things you regret? When you see the need do you experience a sense of understanding about what fuels your actions? How can you allow self-forgiveness to inspire you to take positive actions now?
- Notice when you say “have to” or “must.” Transform the statements using the words “choose to” and notice how you feel.
- Notice the motivation behind your actions. Is it money, approval, to escape punishment, avoid shame or guilt, or to satisfy a sense of duty? Notice how these motivations affect your interactions.
- 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.
A Short List of Questions to Consider While You’re Reading Chapters 10-13
- Recall a time when you felt angry. What were the “should-thoughts” in your head? Translate your “should-thinking” into needs.
- Think of some situations that would warrant the use of protective force. How would you make sure you are acting protectively instead of punitively?
- Pay attention to stress in your life. Look into the stress for needs and wants. How does it feel to focus on what you need and want instead of the stress?
- Notice when you hold back appreciation – either because you think someone will not be affected by it or because you have heard it’s not good to praise others for fear it will create dependency. Choose to share it using the three components of NVC – what the person did, how you felt, and what need it fulfilled.
- Who can you share your appreciation with today? Describe your experience.
- 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. ↩
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