Paul Klipp: Components of Listening Part II
- Let the other think, which I covered in Part I,
- Understand emotional expressions, which is covered here, and
- Train your mind to listen and understand, even when things get rough.
Marshal Rosenberg has developed non-violent communication to an art form. He says that any time a person talks to another person they’re trying to express four things (and usually do it very ineffectively):
- an observation,
- a feeling,
- a need, and
- a request.
Paul gave a very beautiful example by telling this story:
A mother looks out of her kitchen window and sees her child fall off a bicycle when doing a trick, and almost crack his head open on the pavement. She freaks out. She runs out of the house and shouts, “Bobby! Get your ass back into the house! What the hell are you doing? You’re going to kill yourself! Go to your room!”
What she means, is, “Bobby, when I observed you fall off your bicycle and almost hit your head on the pavement… I felt very frightened, because… my relationship to you is a very important part of my life, as it fills me with joy and meaning. The thought of that being taken away from me by something as simple as a knock on the head was terrifying for me. So I would like to request, would you please, when you’re doing stunts on your bicycle, always wear a helmet? Would you be willing to do that for me?”
By the same token, if her son was trained in NVC, he would be listening for these things. So, when his Mom comes shouting at him, instead of shouting back, “You never let me do anything, Mom! I hate you!” he would help her express herself by asking:
“Mom, are you angry, because I was doing stunts on my bike and you think that’s inappropriate?” That would be wrong, as she’s not angry, she’s frightened. Yet now, they’re having a conversation about feelings, and she is having a feeling right now. That’s something she can talk about. She says, “No, I’m not angry, I’m frightened! I was terrified! I almost saw you die out there!”
Then he says, “You’re frightened, because… You were afraid that I would be hurt?” — “Yes!” — “Is there something I could do to make you less frightened when I’m doing stunts?” — “You could wear a helmet…”
Non-violent communication is a big set of really valuable and interesting techniques and practices. Having this as a framework to sort out how you express yourself, and to help someone else expressing themselves is very useful.
Knowing how to listen well and create a thinking environment for others, and knowing how to understand others and express yourself with clarity about observations, feelings, needs and requests, may not suffice when you’re in a competitive environment fighting for air time. When you are in a discussion where everyone is trying to drive their point home, or when you are sitting in your office and someone comes in your office and shouts at you, it’s hard to access these communication resources. You have a visceral reaction. It’s how our brains are wired.
To train your brain’s ability to think even when you’re triggered to have a visceral reaction, Paul recommends mindfulness. I’ll cover that in a third post.
Have you had any experiences with non-violent communication? How did it help you?.