Is the way we communicate violent?
In this month’s newsletter, we explore Nonviolent Communication with Renate Stoecker. This is a process through which we can learn to express ourselves honestly while listening to our feelings and those of others. Renate is a Life Alignment teacher in Germany and has worked as a Transformational Coach for many years.
Maggie: I have not considered the way I speak violent, however I do know that I have hurt people with my words. When do you consider communication to be violent?
Any form of judgment, demand, discrimination, blaming ourselves or others, gossip, negative self-talk, thinking in terms of right and wrong, in categories of “should have”, trying to achieve something by inducing feelings of fear, guilt or shame, is a contribution to violence in some way.
Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication as it is often called, is like learning a new language, the language of compassion and consciousness, of listening and speaking from the heart and looking beyond the words.
Maggie: Knowing there is no way to NOT communicate, I can understand it's like learning a new language. What changed for you, getting introduced to this form of communication?
I was born in the 50’s and my family background is shaped by the fact that people were still traumatized from the war, busily reconstructing their existence and doing what needed to be done. Connecting to feelings and needs seemed irrelevant at that time. It’s the generation of “follow demands and rules, do what is supposed to be done”. A common way of punishment in those days was also not talking to a person anymore for a while. So this language of speaking and listening from the heart felt to me like feeling vibrantly alive all of a sudden and making contact in a new, humane way. Learning this art of listening to what a person is feeling and needing and listening beyond the words, showed me the how to really making contact and resolving conflicts in a good way.
To listen empathically to yourself on the level of feelings and needs, also helps in dealing with your inner critic. When we are blaming ourselves, or when we are hearing blame, we are either buying into it and feeling bad, or we are defending ourselves. Either way, we are disconnecting from ourselves. When we don’t feel well and our needs are not met – instead of taking responsibility for it, we rather blame someone or something for it. It is essential to be aware that something may have triggered a feeling in me, but it is still MY feeling and need and I am taking responsibility for both.
Message from Jeff Levin:
“We had a woman in London years ago and she had to mentally communicate with her husband during a session. The same old pattern of blame came up which is what happens when our buttons are pushed. A wall comes up and from this place you can’t listen but only judge. I said to her “Is he hearing you?” No, he still doesn’t hear me. “Can you say it in a way that comes from your heart to his heart with kindness and compassion”? This woman did a few takes and when we finally got there she felt completely different. “Is he hearing you now?” Yes, he’s hugging and loving me. The reason I’m sharing this is that an hour later her husband came to pick her up from the seminar. The whole energy of the relationship had changed, he felt it without knowing anything about the session and there was a new line of connection.
A Life Alignment process is about rewiring old habitual patterns of behaviour and communication. In a session very often, there is a need to communicate to “an oppressor” and the old patterns can come up as we take the individual into a safe space where they access their sole frequency and their heart. There is then a re-patterning of a trauma related wiring which changes the line of communication from then on”.
Maggie: This reminds me of situations in the work environment. Renate, I am sure it's a very useful tool there as well?
Indeed! Many years ago I was asked to help resolve a conflict for an intercultural project, which was run by Germans and Malays. The Germans accused the Malays of being unpredictable, which made planning for them impossible. The Malays meanwhile thought the German were inflexible, too direct and arrogant. Of course this web of judgments and labels brought up anger and resentment in both parties and made cooperation seem impossible.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field, I will meet you there”
When I was called in, I had been told about all the things that had gone wrong, I focused however on deep listening and understanding “what does each party need in order to work in the best possible way”. Once the whole project team focused on that level of “we can listen to each other”, the energy changed the team became very motivated to look for mutually satisfying solutions. Only when they feel really heard they are ready to open up. That is when compassion as a healing tool comes in and works miracles.
Maggie: This resonates so much, especially when I look at the way of communication during this current pandemic.
Yes. In this time of disruption and transformation many of us feel that it can also be a gift to have the time to tune in with ourselves and feel into what really matters for us. Compassionate Communication can also help to bridge the polarities we see worldwide. Just look at the vaccine opponents and advocates, both groups reacting extremely opinionated, blaming each other of being “insane, stupid, unaware…”. There is so much polarisation going on at the moment instead of listening to fears, worries and needs. Instead we could use the opportunity to meet not only the other person’s needs but also ours! Well, Life Alignment is indeed a powerful tool to deeply connect to ourselves, find out about our fundamental needs and speak our truth.
Maggie: That means Life Alignment Balances do help to learn the language of Nonviolent Communication?
Definitely. In Life Alignment we are connecting on the level of the heart and soul and we realise that it is our inner environment and old trauma, beliefs and hurt, that is triggered by other people or events in our life. By releasing those traumatic memories, it becomes easier to connect to ourselves and be aware of our feelings and needs in the present moment.
Healing comes about when compassion and deep understanding comes in. We are clearing our filters of perception. From the perspective of the heart and soul, the world looks very different.
We also take responsibility as we know we have co-created our experience and realize that it is our inner environment that makes us suffer the most, especially the thoughts and beliefs we have bought into. We know, we can make conscious choices to bring qualities into our lives we truly desire.
Maggie: I can only agree! How can I start practicing Compassionate Communication in my daily life?
A good start would be to connect to your own feelings throughout the day and be curious, what the need is behind your feeling, met or not met. A process of Compassionate Communication consists of four steps:
1. Perceive what is happening and describe the situation as a pure observation without judgment, which is not easy to do. We tend to mix what we perceive with how we evaluate it.
I’ll give you a very common example:
Violent: “She is very disrespectful of our time to always be late for our meeting.”
Compassionated: “She came 15 min late to our meeting for the 3rd time, I wonder what was going on.”
The difference between these approaches is big. The harm originates from the thoughts, interpretations and meanings we attach to an incident.
2. Connecting to yourself – What are you feeling?
Feelings show us whether or not our needs have been fulfilled. When our needs are met, we may feel inspired, balanced, free, enthusiastic, peaceful, etc. On the flip side when our needs are not met we may feel frustrated, discouraged, angry, sad, depressed etc. So when I see you coming later than we agreed, I become unsure, because I am thinking, the meeting is not important to you and I would love everyone to be on board to make decisions together.
3. Find the need behind your feeling:
I am feeling sad, because my need is … because I would like … I desire …
Violent: “Can you not come in time when we schedule a meeting? We all needed to wait for you”.
Compassionated: “When you come late for the meeting I feel sad as I really wish that we are all on board equally. How do you feel about this”?
4. The last step is to express a doable and positive request.
Please will you…; Are you willing to do this?
It is important, not to confuse a request with a demand: Requests mean that you are open to accepting “no” as a response and then find a new arrangement together.
You can practice this at any moment during the day.
Maggie: That sounds fantastic Renate. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom about Compassionate Communication. I am excited to learn this new language and I heard there will be a relating Life Alignment workshop very soon :). I will keep us updated!