Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The King of the Giraffes

Marshall Rosenberg passed away last week. 
The world lost a great agent for change! 

Marshall described and developed a communication practice he named Non Violent Communication (NVC), sometimes called Compassionate Communication. It is much more than a communication technique, it is a practice to reframe your thinking and your perspective on situations and is a path to move beyond blame and shame habits to an art of real connecting.

My own thinking about communication owes a debt of gratitude to Marshall Rosenberg. His basic premise is that we try to become conscious of our own feelings and needs and how those drive our actions and reaction patterns. His idea is that all action is driven by attempts to get one’s needs met. When we change how we think and are able to see behavior as strategy to get needs met we stop our blaming and fault-finding. We can apply this to everyone we interact with or think about.

NVC as articulated by Marshall Rosenberg has the primary goal of creating and enhancing connection. One of our most basic human needs is connection yet so often how we think and what we say creates obstacles to that connecting. 

The basics of NVC are that first we must be conscious of when to be speaking and when to be listening. When we are listening we have to put to sleep all of our own thinking and inner dialog to be able to truly listen and empathize. 

In examining our experiences, we can be clear about what we observe, what feelings arise from those observations, what needs or values drive those feelings, and then try to do something about all that by making specific requests of others. Mostly though, people criticize, judge, offer opinions, make assumptions give diagnoses, blame, shame and make demands. Phhfew..... No one likes to be shamed or have demands put on them!

Marshall laid out a structure for speaking the ‘hard’ things in ways that support connection, and he aptly described how the communication patterns that do not enhance connecting are so prevalent and tenacious in our world whether on a personal level, or in large group interactions. Read his biography to see what sorts of conflicts he waded into to offer support for resolution.

Most of us are hungry for skills that can improve the quality of our relationships, to deepen our sense of personal empowerment or simply help us communicate more effectively. Unfortunately, most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand and diagnose; to think and communicate in terms of what is “right“ and “wrong“ with people. At best, the habitual ways we think and speak hinder communication and create misunderstanding and frustration. And still worse, they can cause anger and pain, and may lead to violence. Without wanting to, even people with the best of intentions generate needless conflict. NVC helps us reach beneath the surface and discover what is alive and vital within us, and how all of our actions are based on human needs that we are seeking to meet. We learn to develop a vocabulary of feelings and needs that helps us more clearly express what is going on in us, and understand what is going on it others, at any given moment. When we understand and acknowledge our needs, we develop a shared foundation for much more satisfying relationships. Join the thousands of people worldwide who have improved their relationships and their lives with this simple yet revolutionary process. Marshall Rosenberg provides us with the most effective tools to foster health and relationships. Nonviolent Communication connects soul to soul . . . It is the missing element in what we do. - Deepak Chopra

In Marshall’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, he offers an idea that I think is important to understand especially in relation to adult child interactions.

The intention behind the protective use of force is to prevent injury or injustice. The intention behind the punitive use of force is to cause individuals to suffer for their perceived misdeeds. When we grab a child who is running into the street to prevent the child from being injured, we are applying protective force. The punitive use of force, on the other hand, might involve physical or psychological attack, such as spanking the child or reproofs like, "How could you be so stupid! You should be ashamed of yourself!"

Two kinds of force: protective and punitive
When we exercise the protective use of force, we are focusing on the life or rights we want to protect without passing judgment on either the person or the behavior. We are not blaming or condemning the child rushing into the street; our thinking is solely directed toward protecting the child from danger.
When we submit to doing something solely for the purpose of avoiding punishment, our attention is distracted from the value of the action itself. Instead, we are focusing upon the consequences of what might happen if we fail to take that action. If a worker's performance is prompted by fear of punishment, the job gets done, but morale suffers; sooner or later, productivity will decrease. Self-esteem is also diminished when punitive force is used. If children brush their teeth because they fear shame and ridicule, their oral health may improve but their self-respect will develop cavities. Furthermore, as we all know, punishment is costly in terms of goodwill. The more we are seen as agents of punishment, the harder it is for others to respond compassionately to our needs.

Sometimes Marshall called Nonviolent Communication ‘Giraffe talk.’ 

The giraffe has became a symbol for NVC because it has a very large heart, its long neck allow it to have an overview and its big ears can orient ahead or behind. You might have noticed my 'logo.' I chose that image because of the giraffe that is prominent in it.

Marshall Rosenberg, the king of giraffe-speak is gone, and his influence lives on and on.

Marshall Rosenberg was a wise and funny human being who affected my life and the lives of millions of others. As Michael Mendizza said, “Many hope to leave the world a better place. If Marshall, a tough guy from the streets of Detroit can, and he certainly did, so can we.”