Nonviolent communication

Referring to “nonviolent communication” brought me back to a history of 30 years ago, where I received this book from a then already old but very bright lady who knew Krishnamurti from the beginning of the Ommen Campen and was also present at the dissolution speech in 1929.

The occasion was a dialogue that got out of hand at the then summer week Krishnamurti co-organized by me.
Even then I did not understand that people who were engaged in the teaching could treat each other in such a way. She comforted me with the remark: "Wim, there are people who talk a lot without saying anything meaningful, these people suffer from verbal incontinence. She then brought to my attention the very subtle pitfalls of communication, how certain words or sentence constructions brought people to their defense and how they also conceal around the ego.

As a result of James’ question, I went in search of the booklet that had been quietly waiting all this time to get some attention again. However the topic in question had now been closed and I don’t know if there is any interest outside of James in going further into this.

If so let me hear you and if not even good fellow humans, I don’t care.

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So, what is nonviolent communication?
Is it a way of somehow tempering the violence we may be feeling against our interlocutor? Making sure that we don’t impose it too harshly on other people.
Or is it way of tempering the pride in our interlocutor, making sure they don’t feel attacked?

Perhaps it is being sensitive to the authoritarian sting of the way we sometimes communicate?

(Btw, I’ve only heard of nonviolent communication, so I don’t properly know what it is about).

So, for instance, if I say to you: “You are this, you are that, you made me feel a certain way, you are in the wrong”, then clearly I am making an objective judgement about you from which you cannot escape. I have taken on the role of judge, of the authority. And usually the other person will respond by defending themselves against this judgment, objecting to the implication of authority. They will say something like, “I’m not wrong, you are wrong; I’m not this, you are this; I didn’t take you feel anything, it is all in your head”, etc. Or, they may passively accept the judgement, but unconsciously they will still react to it.

So, clearly, this meeting of authorities - which is a meeting of super-egos - will generally create conflict (unless the other person picks up that I am not being completely judgmental about them, that I have affection for them, that I am only using the accusatory form of speech in a loose, playful way, etc).

But if I can communicate to the other person what I feel without directly implying that it is (objectively) the case that they are bad, wrong, evil, etc, but that it is I who feel hurt or threatened by what they have said or done, then I implicitly take authority out of the equation. So: “I felt hurt when you said that. I felt confused when you did what you did”, etc.

I don’t how far this will be effective with actually violent, aggressive, authoritarian people, but it at least brings to light some of the dynamics at work in our human interactions with each other - the unconscious power struggles, the need to be right, the need to align ourselves with God, truth, the authority of others, etc - all of which bedevil human relationships.

According to wiki:

Nonviolent Communication holds that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about their human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt, shame, etc. These “violent” modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.

It prioritises

  1. Observation (i.e specifically observed facts)
  2. Feelings (emotions or sensations as they present themselves, and a “frankness about one’s emotional state”)
  3. A recognition of assumed basic human needs (such as sustenance, safety, consideration, understanding, etc)
  4. Requests (as opposed to demands), in which the other party is permitted to say “no”
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This description does not do justice to all that is involved in this approach.

There it it seem as if there is conscious manipulation, whereas it actually reveals that the use of language can unconsciously contribute to unintentional reactions, both on the part of the speaker and on the part of the listener.

There is a great deal of emphasis on listening, which involves examining your own internal dialogue and putting yourself in the position of what the speaker is actually saying, i.e. listening behind the words.

If I remember correctly, Rumi also says something about this: Where words lose their meaning, there we meet.

I thought it would be useful to take the trouble to go through the details of this course of action again. While doing so I noticed how much overlap there is with the lessons I have learned over the past 30 years. You could perhaps also say incorporealised (what an accurate word, btw!).

Communication can be seen as the implementation of an invitation to being together.

It does not help if this invitation is answered with an overflow of knowledge. Actually, your reply is a good example of this. First you say you know nothing about the subject and then you spout your knowledge about the teaching-related information about communication.

With which the other person - in this case me - can clam up, feel forced to point out all the differences or establish that the subject ‘what is … ?’ has been taken over and changed into ‘what is it different from’.

In a K- oneliner ’ knowledge is in the way of meeting each other '. Such a situation can, of course, quickly lead to a dispute instead of an exchange of information and is also completely unrelated to the subject of conversation.

This is just one of the many examples that this book deals with.

Given the lack of interest, I wonder if I want to spend my precious time on this.

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Hey there, just slow down a second Wim! I think you have mistaken the meaning and purpose of what I shared on the thread.

My first comment (post 3) was merely a feeling-out (for myself) of what my sense of non-violent communication might be. I was just thinking out loud about it, as it were.

Reading it back over I think it is quite fair - not as an adequate summary of “Nonviolent Communication” (the official version), but just as an attempt to understand (for myself) what may be involved in ordinary constructive dialogue: i.e. taking the authority out of one’s communications, seeking to be less accusatory of the other, communicating what one feels to be the case, as opposed to making categorical assumptions about another person’s motives, etc.

My second comment (post 4) was simply a reply to Douglas, who had asked a very general question - “What is nonviolent communication?” I took him to be asking for a very general overview of what NVC involves, so I looked at the wikipedia page on NVC and reported back - as neutrally as I could - what I found there. That’s all.

I have no judgements about NVC; and I have no particular aversion to the summary I made of what wikipedia had to say about NVC.

All that the summary states is that NVC recognises that much of our communication is littered with manipulative, guilt inducing and accusatory language, when it would be much more efficient to simply communicate our actual feelings, our felt needs, in relation to specifically observed issues that have arisen in relationship. What’s wrong with that?

Obviously, this is just a second-hand summary of something I read about NVC on wikipedia, but I don’t see anything intrinsically negative or unworthy about the summary itself (by which I mean the content of it - although I fully accept that my presentation of the summary may be wholly inadequate!).

Anyway, please don’t be upset on my account Wim. I wasn’t attempting to meet your invitation to talk about NVC with “knowledge” - I was simply trying to provide a beginner’s overview of the subject for myself and for Douglas.

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Believe me or not but I was and am not at all upset by your reaction. I am just trying to make clear what can be the basis for communications that get out of hand. For example, your overload of ‘teaching’ information could also be interpreted as ‘look how much more I know than you’, a belittling of the interlocutor.

I know that NVC does not contradict the teaching anywhere. Wasn’t it a question of yours the other day how you practise teaching? Now after re-reading it, I see NVC as a tool to clearly identify the pitfalls of effective communication, and of course you will have to do it, only knowing it will not change your communication.

Okay, I hear what you are saying Wim.

But it can also be interpreted in the way that I just shared with you, right?

As far as I am concerned there was honestly no attempt to belittle or overwhelm - I just did what I thought was appropriate at the time.

One of the things I appreciate personally - which may explain my actions - is clarity of communication.

So, to take a silly example, if someone began a thread about Aardvarks, I might not know what the hell an Aardvark is. So I might ask someone else, “what is an Aardvark?” And if they are at all like me, they would probably go on wikipedia or somewhere and report back a summary of what they found - such as that “an Aardvark is a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa”, etc.

There would be no attempt to belittle or overwhelm in this, but just an interest in making it as clear as possible what was being discussed. That’s all it was on my part.

Yes, and because we respect each other and as litlle as we now each other and we understood K a litlle bit it got not out of hand.

So where K is speaking of the ego is corruptinng things we can see that as the higher principle of where NVC is pointing the attention to. One of the items therein is ‘judgements’ we make so quickly and by describing it the writer refers to Krishnamurti with: ‘awareness without judgement is the highest form of human intelligence’ by seeing the thought in his head ‘what a nonsense’ and ŕealising he made just a judgement.

As i se it now in communication we are Mirroring in each other’s wavelength and thet provides mutual information about our state of being. And that’s behind the words and not in the wording.

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I want to give the exact frase of Rumi because it’s going deeper than what my memory reproduced.

Far beyond the ideas of right and wrong is a place. I will meet you there…

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.

Rumi

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This proves once again that it is better to go to the source itself than to quote from someone else.

Thank you, the original is even more poetic, fortunately the essence was not lost.

Just to satisfy my curiosity. Where do you get the time to produce so many words on the forum? I already have trouble keeping up with everything in terms of reading!

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At present I am not working full time, so I have a little more leisure than usual (although this will change from September).

“Nonviolent communication”
Is there such a thing as violent communication?

Indeed, the flag does not cover the load; if I were to give this information a name, I would rather call it ‘disarming communication’. But what is in the name ‘a rose is a rose …’?