Progress with Nonviolent Communication
Upon beginning to read Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Nonviolent Communication” two or three weeks ago, it felt like coming home.
As a coach, consultant (long time ago) and more recently Organisational Therapist, I have long felt that the key to meaningful change in people’s lives – and incidentally, in organisations – is the quality of the dialogue they manage (sic) to have.
Dialogue is a Skill
Dialogue – more explicitly, meaningful dialogue, requires much practice to acquire the necessary skills. And it’s hard, no matter into whichever “school” of skilful dialogue you might enrol yourself. Absent such hard-won skills, dialogue can often be insipid and superficial, or worse, a minefield.
I stand in awe at @benjaminm‘s dedication to learning the art of skilful dialogue the Argyris way. For me, the tenor of Argyris’s ideas always made me feel a little uncomfortable, notwithstanding their obvious strengths.
It wasn’t until I came across Rosenberg that I could even begin to articulate my reservations. Again, for me, Argyris seems a tad cold and clinical in its style, compared to the warmth and fuzziness of Nonviolent Communication. I mean, who could fail to love glove puppets (see the Jackal and the Giraffe, below), or indeed Rosenberg himself?
Progress in Practice
Since reading the NVC book, I’ve been diligently practicing, writing (you may have noticed) and thinking about the techniques and implications of Nonviolent Communication.
I’m finding it hard to slough off a lifetime of judgmentalism and thinking, and focus more on feelings. One of the most challenging aspects, for me, has been trying to identify just what I am feeling in any given situation. I had no idea how unpractised I was at finding a suitable label – free from thinking and judgement – about my feelings.
I’m finding much benefit in the practice, though. Especially in terms of dealing with some folks who until recently I would have judged as “difficult” people. Choosing to see them as, instead, needful and worthy of compassion seems to suit me well.
Not that it’s all been a bed of roses. It seems I need more skill before I can truly engage with the more extreme cases of angst or need. Or maybe it’s just always going to be that much harder to apply the ideas through e.g. Twitter.
And when I’ve not been able to produce the kind of dialogue modelled in the book and by Rosenberg in his videos, I’ve found it quite natural to jump to self-judgement, rather than step back and take another look at my own feeling and needs. Still, even Rosenberg relates a number of tales of his own foibles in that regard. More practice required here.
Still, I have my Giraffe Ears now, and I’ll be listening from the heart more, at least, as my energy levels permit.
If you’re wondering whether there’s anything in Nonviolent Communication for you, I thoroughly recommend the book. Who knows, it might suit you.
Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life ~ Marshall Rosenberg
Discussing the Undiscussable: A Guide to Overcoming Defensive Routines in the Workplace ~ Bill Noonan
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High ~ Kerry Patterson
Difficult Conversations ~ Bruce Patton
Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together ~ William Isaacs
More Time to Think: A Way of Being in the World ~ Nancy Kline
Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities ~ Adam Kahane