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Nonviolent Communication

Friday, November 16, 2007

Exploring nonviolent communication will help you find a deeper understanding of and better experience with the Principle and Sutra Exercise for today (Friday).

There will always be situations and circumstances in your life when someone will cross some personal boundary, triggering strong emotional responses. An excellent book from which the following is derived is: Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.

There are four basic steps to nonviolent communication, which involve questions you ask yourself whenever you find yourself becoming defensive. When someone pushes your buttons, it's tempting to want to push back. But that is not an optimal response - it is not productive, it wastes valuable personal energy, and it creates more turbulence in the world. As you go through these basic steps, it might be helpful to think of a recent experience you may have had that left you feeling defensive.

Step 1: Separate Observation from Evaluation.

Define what actually happened, instead of relying on your interpretation of what happened.Be as objective as possible when describing the event. Ask yourself:
  • What did you actually respond to?
  • What actually occurred?
  • What did you see and hear?
  • Were you responding to the actual event?
  • Or were you responding to your interpretation of the event?

Whenever you find yourself having an emotional reaction, stop for a moment and try to discern the difference between your interpretation of the event and the objective observation of the event.

Step 2: Define your Feelings

Describe your feelings in a language that reflects only the feelings that you are responsible for and avoid words that victimize you. Also avoid words that require another person to "make" you feel a certain way. Think to yourself:

  • What feelings arose as a result of the situation?
  • What am I feeling?
  • Which words best describe how this feels within me?

For example, you might feel appreciated, angry, antagonistic, anxious, afraid, bold, beautiful, confident, blissful, bewildered, glad, free, exhilarated, calm, astonished, cheerful, eager, hopeful, joyful, optimistic, proud, sensitive, ashamed, bored, confused, dejected, disgruntled, displeased, fatigued, guilty, hostile, jealous, lazy, or lonely.

Words to avoid might include: abandoned, abused, betrayed, cheated, coerced, diminished, manipulated, misunderstood, overworked, rejected, unheard, unseen, unsupported. These words do not arise from you, instead they describe your response to the other person or the event. These words give others too much power over your emotions. And when you do that, the tendency will be to get caught up in a vicious cycle of attracting people who evoke these feelings.

Step 3: State your needs clearly

You wouldn't be having strong feelings if all your needs were being met. Identify the need as specifically as possible. Ask yourself:

  • What do I need in this situation?
  • Why?

Continue that line of thought until it eventually leads to something you can ask of another person. For example:

  • I need to feel loved. Why?
  • I feel lonely. I need to feel less alone. Why?
  • I don't have close friends.
  • I need to find some friends and develop relationships.

You cannot ask another person to make you feel loved; that is beyond any one's capability. But you can ask another person to go out to a movie with you, to come to a party, to have a cup of coffee. etc.

Step 4: Ask, Don't demand.

Once we identify a need and are ready to make a request, we often demand rather than request that our needs be met. Demands are less likely to be fulfilled because people inherently respond poorly to demands. Most people, however, are happy to fulfill a request. Also, the more specific you are, the more likely your request will be answered. Here are some examples along with the alternatives:

  • Pick up the dry cleaning. / Would you please pick up the dry cleaning?
  • Love me forever. / Will you marry me?
  • Can we spend more time together? / Can we go to the park this afternoon?

In summary:

Whenever you are part of tense situation, allow yourself to take a step back from the emotions of the moment and choose conscious communication.

  1. What do you observe?
  2. How does it make you feel?
  3. Determine your need.
  4. Make a request.


Anonymous said...

I first heard of Marshall Rosenberg on a U-Tube clip from Byron Katie's blog. He expressed an example so clearly I wanted to know more - and here pops up more! I have been working on stating my needs clearly and it has added depth and clarity to the other work I have been doing as well as making small miracles in my every day life. Have you worked on this yet Shirley? I am very interested if and when you do -

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