Nonviolent Communication: When to Use, When to Jettison
At the Exponent II retreat, one session focused on nonviolent communication. Not only did I enjoy every second of Victoria’s dynamic stage presence, but I also was very attracted to these new ideas of how to interact nonviolently with others, particularly those in positions of power.
The basic rules (what I gleaned at least) for non-violent communication are these:
-Don’t use judgmental language (e.g. stay away from words like ‘offensive’ ‘unkind’ ‘ridiculous’ etc.)
-Figure out what needs are not being met. Both your own needs, and the needs of the person you are talking to. (e.g. “It’s very important for me to be involved in my baby’s blessing. This is my need. But I understand that you as bishop need to feel like there’s order in the ward. Is there a way that we can meet both of our needs?)
-Validate the other person’s need, and truly try to connect and sympathize with the other person.
-Make a request, not a demand.
-If the person does not meet your need, don’t punish them with anger or passive aggressive action. Don’t punish in any way. Victoria also mentioned that despair work was an important part of this equation. Interacting nonviolently with those who disagree with us is one thing, but we also need a community of sympathetic like-minded people with whom to vent our pain and share our stories openly and unreservedly.
I loved this presentation. As I reflected on my own interactions with people (most notably my husband) I realized how violent my language could be. How I often used judgmental language and punished when disagreed with. Hearing this presentation made me resolve to be less violent in my speech.
But…. I was left with a burning question after the presentation. When do you use nonviolent communication, and when do you lay it on the table and tell it like it is? Because it just doesn’t seem feasible to never use the strong, evaluative (ok, judgmental) language when in disagreement. It seems to me like there could be a place – a good, true, righteous place – for truly speaking your mind, no holds barred. Quakers sometimes refer to this type of speech – particularly when it’s directed at political leaders – as “Speaking truth to power.” I love that phrase.
As a feminist Mormon woman, trying to carve out a personal space in the church where I can act authentically, I know that there will be times in my life when I will interact with Church leaders. When I will have needs that lie outside the General Handbook. Should I always use this nonviolent communication? What are its limitations? When should I instead “speak truth to power”? And should I be worried that nonviolent communication may ultimately be promoting passivity among the less powerful to some extent?
What do you think?