I am guilty of “violent communication”

At Freerange, we are all learning continuously. Being an ALC, we try reflect on our learning and share it. Communication and non-violent communication in particular, was a big part of my learning this week.

Non-violent communication? “I don’t communicate violently!” you might think. You probably do. So do I.

This is what I’m talking about. Earlier this week I sent another adult the following message:

“Hello. I have a request and something to get off my chest. Lately I’ve been experiencing the way you communicate as quite condescending and domineering. Not just with me, but also with others. Please try to just be aware of that. I hope you can receive this as feedback rather than criticism.”

Now I want you to pretend, just for a moment, that I sent you the same text.

Bear with me. Put your name on the dotted line. Read it:

“Hello…………….. I have a request and something to get off my chest. Lately I’ve been experiencing the way you communicate as quite condescending and domineering. Not just with me, but also with others. Please try to just be aware of that. I hope you can receive this as feedback rather than criticism.”

What are you hearing/thinking?

Is this a kind message sent with good intentions? Is it an offer to help me improve my communication? Is this a way to be considerate without confrontation or a fight? A revelation I really needed? A gentle observation?

How about feelings? How did this message make you feel?

Gratitude? Relief? Enthusiasm? Friendship? Connection? Peacefulness?

If that’s the case, I salute you. You are immune to violent communication.

I did this very same exercise. I pretended someone had sent this to me and this is what I heard/thought:

She’s criticizing my ability. What are you talking about? You’re a hypocrite, it’s not like you’re never condescending and domineering! Who are you to judge?

My feelings:

Embarrassed. Angry. Disappointed. Self-doubt.

I used violent communication. Even though my intentions weren’t to hurt or reprimand.

Now that I have shared my rather disgraceful moment of the week, the question is

“Why does it matter?”

I work hard on improving my communication skills because for me this is the seat of respect, building meaningful relationships and real democracy. Non-violent communication facilitates outcomes that are beneficial to everyone involved.

This message of mine, may have sparked some (or all) of the negative thoughts and feelings above. This message does not communicate with the other person. Instead it talks to the other person. It makes a statement about them and tells them what I expect them to do. It assumes a great many things.

The problem is that this does not open dialogue and help us learn about each other and work together. This puts a barrier in between us. It’s controlling. It is vertical, not horizontal. It’s not communicating what my need is and what I’m actually feeling. Non-violent communication is about expressing feelings and needs clearly and with self-responsibility.

If we relate this to communicating with the members at Freerange, consider the difference between these 2 choices:

(Someone is running around in the building, and through the room in which I’m writing a blog.)

1.       “ Stop running!” or even a softer “Please walk”.

2.       “I need some quiet to focus on writing this blog. Having people run through the space is distracting and frustrating. I see you need to move your body and make noise, how can we solve this?”

Non-violent communication requires practice to become a kind of consciousness. A consciousness based on wanting to create connection and foster quality relationships. Mutually desirable outcomes are possible! It doesn’t have to be “I win you lose”. Coexisting in a free, respectful and happy place can not be achieved through fear, guilt or coercion based communication.

[Lourina]