Thursday, May 10, 2012

Life-alienating Moments

Life-alienating moments can be hard to detect unless you know where to look and what they look like.  They can undermine you and others and deflate your self esteem.  If they happen too often depression or rage can result, so its important to know when theses moments occur. There are specific forms of communication that Marshall Rosenberg identifies in his book "Non-Violent Communication".  They include:

  • Moralistic Judgments which include blame, insults, put-downs, labels and criticism.  They are based on the concept of "Who is what?".  When we make judgments we are actually expressing our own needs and values.  When others concur with our judgments they do so out of fear, guilt or shame.  Classifying and judging people sets the stage for depersonalization and violence.
  • Comparisons are a form of judgement.
  • Denial of Responsibility makes someone else accountable for your judgmental behavior and appears in the phrase "You make me feel _______________".  
  • Demanding: communicating our desires as demands.
  • Deserving: thinking that is based on "who deserves what" blocks compassionate communication.
Where do all these life-alienating beliefs come from?  They exist in society at large when a very few people maintain control by undermining the majority.  It's so much a part of everything we do that we don't notice it any more or dismiss it when someone less advantaged than us brings it to our attention. Where can we find these beliefs at work?
  • In our families
  • In our churches
  • In our schools
  • As we give birth in our hospitals
  • as we parent our children
  • I suspect that even as we die people are told what we should do and how we should comply. 
How do we get out?  By using Compassionate Communication which is also known as Non-Violent Communication to slow down our thought process and consciously make choices about what we say and how we say it. It all begins with:

"When you (do a specific action)__________________,
I feel (state the feeling and only the feeling) ________________,
And I would like you to (name a specific action)____________________.

"When you are late,
I feel worried,
and I would like you to call me when you are not on your normal schedule or tell me the morning before that you will be late."   There is no blame, name calling, demands other judgement in this statement.

The other party replies with their understanding of the person's statement. ie. "You feel worried when I don't call or let you know when I am late?"  The respondent can answer the specific statement without becoming emotionally engaged. 

The original party can simply answer "yes."

Most communication is more complicated than this exchange, but the format of give and take remains the same.  If life-alienating words or phrases emerge you know you need to stop and look more carefully at what you are needing or wanting.  It takes allot of practice to make it a habit, but its definately worth the effort.  Especially in parenting our children.