In Chapter One of Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, he shares:
There is a story of a man under a street lamp searching for something on all fours. A policeman passing by asked what he was doing. “Looking for my car keys,” replied the man, who appeared slightly drunk. “Did you drop them here?” inquired the officer. “No,” answered the man, “I dropped them in the alley.” Seeing the policeman’s baffled expression, the man hastened to explain, “But the light is much better here.”
While this sounds ridiculous, it is in fact something that really stuck with me personally and in my work with leaders at all levels. Many of us have been conditioned to spend time and energy focused on things that will not get us what we want. However, the idea of stepping out of the spotlight and into the uncertain world of conscious and compassionate decisions can seem daunting so we stay in under the street lamp even when it is ineffective. Why? The answer is, becoming more effective requires heartfelt conviction to communicate, even in times of adversity, in a way that builds trust.
It takes courage and desire to use what Rosenberg calls NVC which stands for nonviolent communication.
Please take a few moments to journal/reflect on your answer to the following two questions posed by Rosenberg:
- What happens to disconnect you from your compassionate nature, leading you to act out from a place of anger and/or judgement?
- And conversely, what allows you to stay connected to your compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?
- Finally, do you believe it is your true nature to enjoy giving and receiving in a compassionate manner?
If your answer to the third question is YES then Rosenberg’s model may help you diagnose where you are at during an interaction. You then can spend more time connected to your compassionate nature and feel less likely to disconnect and act out of anger when the going gets tough. There are many complexities and intricacies that can be explored within Rosenberg’s model. What you see below is a high-level introduction to the concept of Nonviolent Communication or NVC.
Before reading through the model, think of a recent difficult conversation you were a part of that you wished you had handled from a more connected compassionate place. Walk through the model below with that conversation in mind:
An important part of expanding emotional intelligence is understanding if the foundation of an interaction is judgement versus observation, we skip over needs and move into demanding what we feel we deserve. Instead of making requests, we make commands. Instead of building trust, we introduce fear. Observe, feel, need, request. That is the new order of things. It takes practice and the rewards are immediate when the intention is true.
Krishnamurti says, “the ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.” This is why Rosenberg’s work matters. It matters because it elevates us from judgment to understanding, from words to meaningful communication, and from mouth to heart. We are more emotionally intelligent when we observe without judgement and yet it seems hard to remember in the heat of the moment. The good news is we have the chance to deepen this skill thousands of times every day. Even if we each focus on observing versus judging in one interaction today, just the facts, everything shifts. It is a kindness we must show ourselves before we can show others and that, in and of itself, is a gift.