I want to give a shout out to Michael Collins for sharing this content with me. It has already impacted my life in a hugely positive way in less than 2 weeks time!
I recently watched this 3 hour workshop on nonviolent communication and, wow, what insights have been had through this way of communicating with people. It basically boils things down to all humans have feelings and needs and are simply trying to get them fulfilled. All human beings are ever saying is “please” and “thank you”. Our language and way of thinking has distorted this simple concept in a twisted way. Everyday we could be playing a game called “make life wonderful”, but instead we are taught to play “who is right”. We value being right over being happy and that can be seen in the way we judge others and in our system of rewards and punishments. We reward those who are “right” and punish those who are “wrong”. This is the most ridiculous way of expressing and fulfilling our needs, yet we play this game every single day.
NVC is based on the assumption that people naturally like to give because it makes them feel good. I tend to believe this is true, although in extreme cases like with a psychopath it may not be so. When our needs are fulfilled, there is nothing more that we enjoy than giving freely. The reality is that most people are not getting all or even most of their needs fulfilled and it goes back to playing the game of “who is right” instead of “make life wonderful”.
If I’m being honest, pretty much all of my needs are being fulfilled at the moment. All I can think about is how I want to help others in some way. Whenever I see people lash out or act “negatively” in some manner, all I can see is that their needs aren’t being fulfilled in some way. Anytime you have a conflict or argument with someone, ask yourself if you are playing the game “who is right” instead of “make life wonderful”. More often than not, we evaluate and judge every situation we are in instead of simply observing. We place our moralistic judgments above our needs and the needs of those around us. Every single interaction you have with any person each and every day is a chance to “make life wonderful” for both parties. Every single small interaction you have with strangers or loved ones is a chance to make a difference in their lives. Every interaction is a huge opportunity to be able to get both needs fulfilled in some way. It’s not guaranteed, and in fact, the way we are taught it’s usually win-lose or even lose-lose; but every single interaction with another human is a chance for it to be win-win in some way, even if you are unable to fulfill that person’s need, even helping them see what their need is and that you can empathize with them is a huge win.
I’m going to go off on a tangent, but NVC has helped me see some of these issues more clearly when focusing on feelings and needs. I used to have really bad anger issues. I can now see a huge part of this was having an inflated ego, but also placing being right above all else. I wanted to be right more than I wanted to be happy and only now can I see how miserable I really was. When people would cut me off in traffic I would get hugely offended and pissed off and take it personally. The thing is, humans are imperfect. We all make mistakes, small and big. When you can see each situation for what it really is, it takes out the anger and negative emotion and being personally hurt. The person cut me off for whatever reason, whether they misjudged, are in a hurry, are a bad driver, or countless other reasons – it doesn’t really matter. The situation happened and passed and there is nothing I can do to change what happened. That is fact. All that’s left is how I react. And now, instead of reacting with anger or getting hurt, I say to myself, “that happened (for whatever reason), but it’s ok”. This doesn’t necessarily relate to the nonviolent communication, but it has helped me to see situations for what they truly are and to boil everything down to feelings and needs.
Another thing it has helped me to see clearly is how every single human interaction we have with others is really a reflection on us. Our actions show us what kind of person we truly are. I used to be “a person who gets angry when getting cut off in traffic”. I have made a conscious decision to no longer identify as that person. How often do people get upset or feel the need to be right or place their ego above all else? How many times have you seen a person get mad at a fast food worker when their order is wrong or at a customer service rep on the phone? You are essentially saying “I am a person who gets mad at low level employees and things out of my control”. I can think of countless situations where people make a choice to act a certain way, but it really is a reflection of themselves.
This used to be who I identified as:
- I am a person who gets mad or upset when others are wrong and I am right
- I am a person who gets mad or upset when others don’t agree with me
- I am a person who gets mad or upset when things don’t go MY way
- I am a person who places being right over being happy
Notice all of these identities are through my own thoughts and actions. My choices make up who I am as a person. Every single day I have a choice to identify as the above person but instead I have chosen to shift my identity to:
- I am a person who places the happiness and needs of myself and others above all else
- I am a person who doesn’t judge others, even if I don’t agree with them
- I am a person who doesn’t react to “bad” situations or when things don’t go my way because I will eventually find a way to get my needs fulfilled
- I am a person who is not dependent on a single outcome and can see the bigger picture
Keep in mind again, WE decide and identify with the kind of person we truly are. Not other people. I don’t care if someone spits in your face (Atticus Finch is a fucking bad ass!) or wrongs you in some way, how you react to the situation is still up to you and you are choosing to identify with the person you are. Here are some examples maybe some people can relate to:
- I am a person who yells at their kids or gets upset when they don’t do what I want.
- I am a person who argues with other people (or even partner!) because I think will be able to change them
- I am a person who takes things personally when someone else judges or criticizes me
- I am a person who judges and criticizes others
We choose to be the people we identify as through our thoughts and actions. Things will happen to us both good and bad, and there will be nothing we can do to change what happened. All we can control is how we will react to what happened and that will determine the kind of person we are.
Went off on a bit of a tangent, but NVC has helped me to see the world and people for what they truly are. We all have feelings and needs and are just trying to get them fulfilled. When you simplify things in such a manner, it makes getting everyone’s needs fulfilled so much easier. Everyday we have the power to “make life wonderful” and I hope we all will choose to do so.