This week I learned a valuable lesson at my job. A lesson which I hope to take with me for the rest of my life. After a very difficult and emotional discussion with a colleague, who is also a close friend of mine, I learned about the importance of non-violent communication. As loaded as the words “non-violent communication” may sound, it simply means to engage in conversation with another human being in a way that gives both of you the space to express yourselves fully and to feel heard. It requires not just listening fluently and patiently to each other without interrupting (i.e., giving space), but also exerting mental effort to actively process and interpret what has been said by the other person (instead of focusing on what you want to say next) and then clearly telling the other person, your understanding of what they have said. This latter step ensures that any misconceptions or misunderstandings are immediately brought to the fore, where they can be swiftly clarified. It is a very effective way of communicating which ensures that everyone has a fair chance to share their viewpoint.
It is a wonder to me why non-violent communication (also sometimes referred to as the language of the heart or language of life) is not applied more often and used in a wider variety of contexts such as schools and the workplace. I can see many tangible benefits to this form of communication, also at the societal level when one thinks about heightened tensions surrounding political and religious affiliatons. Sadly in my experience I have not encountered many people who are routinely communicating nonviolently, it is actually quite the opposite. There is a pandemic of violent communication everywhere around us – on television programs, in political debates, in school playgrounds and in coporate boardrooms. We ought to make an effort to change this since improving our understanding of each other has the potential to make our lives significantly better, also from a spiritual perspective. If you would like to learn more about non-violent communication, below are few useful links that you can use as a starting point:
The Center for Violent Communication
Nonviolent Communication and Self Awareness
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