Tag Archives: #nonviolentcommunication

Lazy or Lying On The Couch

How many times have you heard yourself think or say the following statements about yourself or others?
– She is lazy or I am lazy.
– She is always late or I am always late.
– You or I never do this.
When we make such statements, we are very harsh/critical and judgemental. But for some of us, unfortunately, this is so normal that we are not even aware of our word choice.

If we were to rephrase the above as
– She was lying on the couch on Sunday for four hours.
– She has been late two times last week by 15 minutes.
– I have never done this once in the previous one month.

Now, don’t these statements have different energy even when you read them. It is because we are not boxing people into a fixed cube from which there is not getting out. It is because we are not using words like always/never which imply forever – a sense of eternity.

Why is it vital for us to move away from such words or mindset?
Because we are creating a reality which is limiting me or others – and nothing lasts forever. Nobody can be lazy forever. Can you remember a comment from your childhood where somebody said – “She is so careless – she will never be able to do this X as an adult?” And now you can do not only X but Y and Z as well.

Let’s say that for argument sake that since change is hard some people might not change. Even in these scenarios, not putting a finality to their behavior will provide more motivation. Also if there was a small spark of change in them – your word choice or attitude might seal its fate. And at the end of the day, you can only talk about what you see, and it is a little presumptuous of us to pass judgment based on the minuscule things we see.

Why do we do this?
Because it makes life easier for us. If we have decided that the other person is lazy then we have a way to deal with them – they fit a box that we know how to carry. For most of us, life is black and white and so are people – but only because we have learnt to cope in a world where it is so. And that does not make the world so. The following poem sums this sentiment neatly.

POEM By Ruth Bebermeyer
I’ve never seen a lazy man

I’ve never seen a lazy man;
I’ve seen a man who never ran
while I watched him, and I’ve seen
a man who sometimes slept between
lunch and dinner, and who’d stay
at home upon a rainy day,
but he was not a lazy man.
Before you call me crazy,
think, was he a lazy man or
did he just do things we label “lazy”?

I’ve never seen a stupid kid;
I’ve seen a kid who sometimes did
things I didn’t understand
or things in ways I hadn’t planned;
I’ve seen a kid who hadn’t seen
the same places where I had been,
but he was not a stupid kid.
Before you call him stupid,
think, was he a stupid kid or did he
just know different things than you did?

I’ve looked as hard as I can look
but never ever seen a cook;
I saw a person who combined
ingredients on which we dined,
A person who turned on the heat
and watched the stove that cook the meat –
I saw those things but not a cook.
Tell me when you’re looking,
is it a cook you see or is it someone
doing things that we call cooking?

What some of us call lazy
some call tired or easy-going,
what some of us call stupid
some just call a different knowing,
so I’ve come to the conclusion,
it will save us all confusion
if we don’t mix up what we can see
with what is our opinion.
Because you may, I want to say also;
I know that’s only my opinion.

Giraffe and Jackals

I recently attended a Non Violent Communication workshop, and they used a couple of metaphors which I loved.
First one was a Giraffe – there were things about Giraffe that I discovered.
1. Giraffes have an 11-Kg or a 26-pound heart.
2. Giraffes have a 1.8m or 6 feet long neck.
3. Giraffes Saliva is magical – it dissolves even thorns. Well, the saliva coats the thorns so well that it does not harm them.

Now, why would this be important in a Non-Violent Communication Course? In a nutshell,
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is based on the principles of nonviolence– the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart.
NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture. NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs and that each of our actions is a strategy to meet one or more of these needs.

It is a means of communication that invites us to meet at the space beyond right and wrongs. This is not about physical violence but the harm we might do with our words.

Giraffe – metaphor reminds us to
1. Ensure that heart and mind are connected. We are not only responding with our mind but also cognizant of the feelings in our heart.
2. long neck reminds us to make sure we have the long-term view and not just this interaction. Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and it takes a long time to build – keeping the long-term outlook is essential if we want to create a relationship and not just have a successful transaction.
3. Saliva reminds us to get rid of judgments and let them pass through us.

Second metaphor referred to Jackals as a reference to all the judgments and biases we have – this is nothing against Jackals. When we are judging another person, we are surrounded by Jackals, and it is better to get rid of them or let them pass through.

I knew about Non-Violent Communication almost ten years ago, but I was not ready for it then. And this year the book called out to me. The reason I am drawn to the book is that I have realized how inadept I am at communication.
For example:
I call X lazy when in reality all that person X is doing is lying on the couch.
I want Y to be more responsive when what I need Y to do is to respond to my emails within 25 hours.

As I am reading the book, I realize how I am not clear on what I need and how I am feeling. And if me the originator of the request is not clear then how can the recipient fare any better. And to top it all I blame the recipient for all the miscommunication. I am surprised that I have managed for so long with this kind of thinking.

Like any foundational change – this will take days, months, years but all journeys start with a baby step and here is mine.

To Truly Listen

We had an open space session in one of our CPM retreats. And the topic was Silence – I went to the breakout room, and the session leader was there. He asked me, ‘Inside or Outside’ and I replied, ‘Does it matter?’ and he said no. We had just started a conversation when another person walked in, and Session Leader asked him, “Do you want to be outside or inside?” and he said, “Outside” and we had our topic discussion outside. As we were walking out I told the leader that I thought his question meant which topic would I choose – Silence inside or silence outside. We had a chuckle about it.

But this got me thinking. He said something, I understood it to be something, and we carried on with our logical yet misunderstood conversation. It was only when another person walked in the misunderstanding became clear. Now, this is a simple misunderstanding and did not have much of a consequence either. But I can imagine thousands of other conversations where I probably misunderstood what the other party was saying, or the other party did not understand what I was saying.

This is an issue because we humans use language as a significant means to communicate. How do we truly understand what the other person is saying? Does the other person even know what they are saying? Is there a meaning beneath the words we speak? Not sure, I have an answer, but I can offer the following viewpoints

Non Violent Communication: is the technique/practice that helps us listen to what is being said. It enables you to listen with your whole being without the senses to truly listen. “With NVC we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us discover the depth of our compassion. This language reveals the awareness that all human beings are only trying to honor universal values and needs, every minute, every day.” Check out the link for more information.

Silent Saint: Ramana Maharishi was also known as the Silent Saint – he rarely spoke, and still people got their answers. What would happen if we all went about our lives silently? When I go to Vipassana meditation I remain silent for 10-days, and there is a course for 60 days, 90 days where people stay silent. Life goes on well for them.

Does it matter: Does genuinely listening to other matter? We are a population of 8.5 billion on this planet earth and for the most part, life goes on with very few of use connecting with others.

Let’s talk a bit more about the “Does it matter?” – Can you imagine a world where we listened to each other without any bias/ judgment. Trust the process, and you get the results. For the most part your outer state is a reflection of your inner state. Being silent as we listen will ensure that we are heard. Understand to be understood.