Communication for Life is a way of speaking and listening, and understanding Life, that supports us to stay engaged in Life – open, curious. It is an understanding of Life that inspires compassion, trust, respect, courage, acceptance, connection and strength.
Communication for Life is based on the following principles of Nonviolent Communication (named after Gandhi’s term ‘nonviolence’ to describe our natural compassionate state), developed in the 60s by Dr Marshall Rosenberg (www.cnvc.org).
- We are all compassionate by nature; violent strategies, physical or verbal, against self or other are learned behaviours taught and supported by the prevailing culture.
- All humans share the same basic universal needs
- All actions are a strategy to meet one or more of our needs, and if we are aware of what those needs are, we have more choices of how to meet them.
Nonviolent Communication contains nothing new: the intent is to remind us about what we already know—about how we humans were meant to relate to one another—and to assist us in living in a way that concretely manifests this knowledge. Training in Communication for Life exposes how thoroughly we have been indoctrinated with conditioned language and thinking and a faulty perception of humanity.
Our perception of ourselves, which is so deeply embedded in our unconscious that we think it is normal, is built on the premise that humans are separate from Life and each other, deficient, and in need of something to make them complete or worthy. This gives rise to the tragically common, all pervasive belief that “I am not enough”, which stimulates an obsessive drive towards goal orientation, achieving, competition and consumerism on all levels. The language that both reflects and holds this perception in place is that of right/wrong, good/bad, should/shouldn’t, victim/perpetrator – the moralistic language of judgement and blame, diagnosis and analysis, domination and demand, fault-finding and lack. It is all of this ‘programming’ that dehumanises us and renders us capable of inflicting harm on ourselves, other humans, animals and the planet we depend on for our lives.
Alongside this essential awareness-raising of our conditioning, NVC teaches a simple process for supporting us to strengthen our ability to remain human, even under trying conditions.
The 4 step form is simple, yet powerfully transformative. These skills involve:
- Differentiating objective observation from evaluation
- Differentiating feeling from thinking
- Connecting with the universal human needs/values in us that are being met or not met in relation to what is happening and how we are feeling; and,
- Making clear, doable requests of self or other/s, free of demand and even subtle coercion
Other skills specifically taught on a training involve empathy and listening.
The essence of NVC is to be found in the consciousness of its underlying principles, not in the actual words that are exchanged. As people become more aware of their unconscious participation in the prevailing culture of domination, separation and competition, and gradually transform to a consciousness of nonviolence, they start to:
- Experience a broader range of feelings, and more acceptance of even the previously “bad” feelings in themselves and others
- Feel more confident about expressing their feelings and needs, and be able to express them in ways less likely to stimulate defensiveness or resistance in others
- Become more able to listen to others without taking their message personally
- Hear judgement or criticism without loss of self-esteem
- Feel more at peace inside their own skin
- Experience greater empathy and compassion for themselves and others
- Feel deeper connection with themselves and others
- Take more responsibility for their thoughts, choices and actions
- Resolve conflicts peacefully with outcomes that meet everyone’s needs
- Resolve feelings of guilt, shame, anger and depression
- Heal the pain of past relationships or experiences
- Express anger without violence, judgment or blame
- Take care of themselves and each other simply because it feels good: they are not motivated by, nor do they use coercion in the form of guilt, shame, duty, obligation, fear of punishment, or hope for extrinsic rewards.
NVC is offered in over 65 countries worldwide in many different contexts: intimate relationships, parenting, adolescents, health care, social services, business organisations, police, prison staff and inmates, governments, schools and social change organizations.
In Aotearoa NZ there are about a dozen trainers throughout the country. A Charitable Trust, NVC Aotearoa NZ, was established in 2009 to support trainers and encourage the spreading of NVC.