This past weekend I attended a course in Nonviolent Communication, a process language which I largely base my own compassion programs on. For two days, I met with some beautiful people in Shari Elle’s home overlooking the harbour as we practised Nonviolent Communication and reconnecting with our compassionate roots.

Nonviolent Communication is motivated by a sincere desire to foster a connection of love and caring in our relationships. We are concerned with the suffering of others and use empathy for both ourselves and others to strengthen this connection.

Engaging in compassionate communication requires us to be vulnerable and honest, often creating fear that others will mistreat us.

By staying with the process though, we can build stronger relationships with those around us; whether it’s in business, with strangers, our family, children, or intimate relationships.

In a world where so many things seem dire, our ability to compassionately relate to each other is more important than ever.

I took copious notes on the course and came away feeling inspired. There are many ideas I have for incorporating in future courses here at Owlsight. I’d like to share with you a few of these lessons, which may be more relevant to your own situation.

  1. When we communicate with a connection to what’s going on in our hearts, rather than in our heads, we’re more likely to have peaceful interactions.
  2. When acting, move toward what is important to you, rather than resisting what is.
  3. In order to express ourselves honestly, we need a strong connection to self.
  4. You already have all the tools to communicate with compassion inside of you. I’m simply showing you the door.
  5. The intention when communicating is not for a certain outcome to occur, but rather to form a connection with the other person. That’s the difference between doing and being Nonviolent Communication.
  6. 20-odd strangers were quite wonderful, open and compassionate. They’re not that different from anyone else.
  7. The butterfly effect applies to our emotions too. I honk my horn at someone in traffic, he turns and yells at his kids, his kids then bully their friends at school… and on and on.
  8. If you’re struggling to split the evaluations from your observations, write it out as if you were writing instructions for an actor.
  9. By expressing our “jackals” (blame, criticism and all violent communication), we can get clues to the underlying emotions and needs.
  10. A paradigm of scarcity prevents us from giving. This can apply to physical resources: e.g. there’s only one piece of meat to feed four people – someone has to go without. It doesn’t apply to compassion and connection, though. We have an unlimited potential to give empathy and compassion to others.
  11. When listening to someone, we move from an assumption-based to an inquisitive-based mindset. We don’t assume what’s going on in the other person, we make guesses and ask questions to clarify, expressing our curiosity.
  12. This process is not a magic formula. At times, you’ll have to make some tough decisions about when to go your separate ways. We all do at some point.
  13. Conflict occurs when thoughts collide with thoughts. When we connect with the needs, there is no conflict, because our needs are the same (excluding physical needs like food, water, air, shelter, etc.)
  14. Empathy is not active listening or reflective listening.
  15. When listening to someone, let the pregnant pauses sit. Often the person will continue to speak.

Reflecting back on those 15 points, there’s a lot there. Each one is a conversation or article in itself. The purpose is to provide you with food for thought and me with a space to wrap my head around it. I’ll be writing about many of these in the near future.

In the meantime, if any are unclear or you’d like to discuss them further, leave a comment below to get the conversation started. Alternatively, you can email me at luke@owlsight.org.

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Photo is looking out over the harbour in Waverton. You can see the ANZAC bridge (one of my favourites) in the background.


3 Comments

Amara · May 11, 2017 at 7:42 am

Excellent points which promote further thinking, for point 14, doesn’t empathy and compassion come from active listening? While it is not the emotion empathy, it is one of the skills that enables you grasp what a person is experiencing in order to emphasise with them and find compassion for them.

    Luke Weatherstone · May 11, 2017 at 11:54 am

    What I mean by point 14 is not to get bogged down and parrot back what someone says. Feeling and connecting with the underlying emotions and needs is much more important. Often you won’t even need to say something.

    The danger I find sometimes with reflective listening is that as the listener, I’m so focused on reflecting back (verbally) that I cut the person off to tell them what I’m hearing. You definitely do want to reflect back occasionally, but it’s a fine line to tread.

    Good pick up though, Amara!

      Amara · May 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Ah I see and yes agree with the side effects there, this is also often where the ‘pause’ can come in, not only to allow them to continue but to stop you the listener from reflecting back reflexively.

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