Communicating effectively is essential for happy living – but what if you are used to aggressive modes of expression? Do you find that workplace problems escalate? Do you feel unheard and ignored? How does that make you feel? New Hubber Carolyn Davies is a Non-Violent Communication trainer. She talked with Storyteller Ann Storr about what this means, and how she hopes to combine this with her other love – film-making.
Call it mindful communication, collaborative or compassionate, what this system teaches is how to create connections between people. Say you’ve just had an amazing meeting and you brought up two salient points, and you’re feeling good. A couple of days later, the minutes from the meeting are circulated. You read, sip your coffee and scroll and scroll and – nothing. Nothing you said has been registered but everyone else’s points were noted? How do you feel? What’s your next step?
NVC teaches you to stop: take a minute. How do you really feel? Do you feel ignored? That your team doesn’t value your opinions? Are you worried that you are being elbowed out of your job, that someone else’s opinion carries more weight? Maybe you’re worried that what you thought was valuable, actually isn’t, that you don’t understand your team. Now how do you feel? Scared? Anxious? Angry?
Now you’ve identified the feelings – let’s say you’re worried about being elbowed out, and so you’re feeling anxious, scared and maybe even angry. NVC skills teach you to ask some questions based on your needs. For example, “I need to feel useful, part of my team and valued by my team”. This takes us to the expression “I read over the minutes and I saw that my points weren’t included. I’m worried that my contribution isn’t valued and maybe there are questions about my performance. Could we have a chat about my role please?”
If you’d gone in, “HOW DARE YOU! WTAF! IGNORE *ME*…” you have added to your own tension and aggression. You’ve angered and upset those around you. You also have not solved your own worries, just pushed them down. With NVC you are thinking about your needs and your colleague’s needs for understanding – maybe they were monumentally hungover and weren’t taking good notes. Maybe they’re getting divorced and struggling. Maybe your points weren’t great, and this could be a valuable conversation that will enable you to be a more valuable team member. Calm, compassionate dialogue enables everyone to grow.
The ability to name what triggers us in neutral language enables us to let others know how we really feel and what matters to us. In that way we invite someone to help (“Please can you help me to understand why my points weren’t noted?”) rather than judging them (“I cannot believe you didn’t include my points? What does someone have to do around here to get noticed?”). The hope is that a win-win situation can be created, where everyone benefits.
Carolyn is working at community level in the UK. A few years back she spent 3 months in Nepal, filming NVC in action in a documentary called ‘In the Eyes of the Good‘. After a 10-year civil war with fatalities into the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people displaced, the Nepalese people were struggling to find a way to move forward. With a limited budget, people were given 4 days of NVC training which enabled them to discuss a way to move forward with openness and compassion. Carolyn’s amazing documentary is here.
The sad and troubling right-turn that many countries are facing is where Carolyn is turning her work. Working with youth in a North London mosque, she can see how receptive the teenagers are to the principals, actions and messages of NVC. Faith can play a positive role in many people’s lives and NVC can allow interfaith conversations to flow – learning about each other’s beliefs whilst not expecting or demanding that others change their beliefs. It’s not easy, but learning to listen, to tell people what is troubling or triggering you, and to hear that and be able to meet it: well, isn’t that better than a facebook row, than feeling isolated and powerless?