Posted by on March 1, 2013

I used to shy away from conflicts, so much so, I think this is why I devote my time in helping people resolve their conflicts.  Conflict hit me hard in the face when my boys were in their toddler years. Peace and harmony between them and in the home seemed far fetched. I’ve always had a huge desire to stay connected with my kids.  I was lost at how to do this.  Somewhere in this journey of parenting, I’ve discovered Nonviolent Communication, a.k.a. Compassionate Communication.

Violence in our communication may sound like criticism, shame, or blame.  So Nonviolent Communication is finding ways to express which does not criticize, does not shame, and does not blame.  I like the term Compassionate Communication more because it is all about getting to the place of compassion for yourself and for others.  Even in the midst of conflict, when we arrive at this place of compassion, the whole dynamic shifts from being in conflict to being in connection.  This is what I want more of in my life: connection. Connection to those I come in contact with regardless of whether they are a stranger or a loved one, and connection to all the experiences in my every day life.

So I practice and cultivate the skills needed to have more of this connection in my life. What I’ve learned is to listen by:

  1. Giving your full attention to the other person. Notice your reactions and interpretations and know you have a choice to either believe them or not.
  2. Reflecting back what you heard to make sure the other person is communicating what they intended to.
  3. Asking questions for clarification.
  4. Asking what is important for them or what they are longing for?

I’ve also learned to speak by*:

  1. Staying away from judgements. Stick with observations by describing what you heard and what you saw; exactly how a video camera sees it.
  2. Stating what is truly important to you that is missing from this situation. Is it trust, understanding, respect, connection, or something else?
  3. Making a request of the other person. It is only a request if you are OK with hearing a “no.” If you cannot hear a “no,” then take a deep breath and pause.
  4. At this juncture, maybe it’s best not to speak anymore until you can be heard by someone else. Or, if you are calmer now and able to listen to the other person, you may choose to ask the other person to reflect back what they heard you say that was important to you and listen some more (see above).

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*The steps described are embodied in Nonviolent Communication (aka Compassionate Communication). It is Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg’s life work.  This consciousness is described in his book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.”

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