Avoiding Communication Conflicts
Tips for more effective and affective communication
How we say what we say is important when talking with others.
Sometimes our conversations can flow like a dance of giving and receiving.
Sometimes they can become boxing matches and are more about scoring points than sharing feelings.
Here are some thoughts about turning those important conversations into dances not fights.
Words to be careful with …
Must, Should, Ought
These are command words and imply an order.
“you should know by now…”
“you must try to understand…”
The embedded assumption that you are telling another person what to do can create conflict.
Words like “might”, “possibly” or “could” can be used in place of the three “command” words.
Why is a word we use a lot, but it calls for a justification.
“Why did you do that…?”
It can take the listener, the one being asked the question, back to a situation where they felt a little powerless.
Think about it “Why?” Is a question we may associate as being asked by parents and teachers.
If you want to explore the reasons behind a situation or behaviour, think of “what” or “how”…,
“What caused that reaction?”
“How did that happen?”
“What is this all about?”
These are still not ideal, but they invite an exploration of causes and are not about “guilt” tripping.
But is a word which can negate everything that came before it.
“I agree, but ..” actually means you don’t agree.
“Yes - But” … can create a feeling that what the other person said has not really been understood,
If you disagree with what is being said, own the disagreement…
“I understand what you’re saying. However, I think that…”
Then offer your idea or thought in a positive way.
Always, Never, Every Time
These are very powerful words of accusation and will generally create a conflict.
“Every time we try to talk, you always get upset and never really listen to me…”
The reality is that very few things always happen, or never happen or happen every time.
What we do is create generalisations about our experiences which lead to the belief that always, never, and every time are statements of reality.
Once we believe in this reality, our minds reject or simply forget the times when the opposite was true. (It’s called confirmation bias).
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing, and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there. -- Rumi
Non Violenr Communication
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is an approach to communication-based on principles of nonviolence. It is not a technique to end disagreements but rather a method designed to increase empathy and improve the quality of life of those who utilise the method and the people around them.
Nonviolent Communication holds that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about their needs due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt, shame and so on.
These "violent" modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict
Four Components of NVC
….. what we see or hear that we identify as the stimulus to our reactions.
The key to making an observation is to separate our own judgments, evaluations or interpretations from our description of what happened.
For example, if we say: “You’re rude,” the other person may disagree, while if we say: “When I saw you walk in and I didn’t hear you say hello to me,” the other person is more likely to recognise the moment that is described.
When we can describe what we see or hear in observation language without mixing in evaluation, we raise the likelihood that the person listening to us will hear this first step without immediately wanting to respond and will be more willing to hear our feelings and needs.
… represent our emotional experience and physical sensations associated with our needs that have been met or that remain unmet.
Aim to identify, name and connect with those feelings.
The key to identifying and expressing feelings is focusing on words that describe our inner experience rather than our interpretations of people’s actions.
For example: “I feel lonely” describes an inner experience, while “I feel like you don’t love me” describes an interpretation of how the other person may be feeling.
… an expression of our deepest shared humanity. All human beings share key survival needs: hydration, nourishment, rest, shelter, and connection.
We also share many other needs, though we may experience them to varying degrees and may experience them more or less intensely at various times.
In the context of NVC, needs refer to what is most alive in us: our core values and deepest human longings.
Understanding, naming, and connecting with our needs helps us improve our relationship with ourselves, as well as foster understanding with others, so we are all more likely to take actions that meet everyone’s needs.
The key to identifying, expressing, and connecting with needs is to focus on words that describe shared human experience rather than the particular strategies to meet those needs. Whenever we include a person, a location, an action, a time, or an object in our expression of what we want, we describe a strategy rather than a need.
For example: “I want you to come to my birthday party” may be a particular strategy to meet a need for love and connection. In this case, we have a person, an action, and an implied time and location in the original statement.
The internal shift from focusing on a specific strategy to connecting with needs often results in a sense of power and liberation. We can free ourselves from being attached to one strategy by identifying the underlying needs and exploring alternative strategies.
Feelings arise when our needs are met or not met, which happens at every moment of life.
Our feelings are related to the trigger, but they are not caused by the trigger: their source is our own experience of met or unmet needs.
By connecting our feelings with our needs, therefore, we take full responsibility for our feelings, freeing us and others from fault and blame. And by expressing our unique experience in the moment of the shared human reality of needs, we create the most likely opportunity for another person to see our humanity and to experience empathy and understanding for us.
…. to meet our needs, we make requests to assess how likely we are to get cooperation for particular strategies we have in mind for meeting our needs.
Our aim is to identify and express a specific action that we believe will serve this purpose and then check with others involved about their willingness to participate in meeting our needs in this way.
In a given moment, it is our connection with another that determines the quality of their response to our request. Therefore often, our requests at the moment are “connection requests,” intended to foster connection and understanding and to determine whether we have sufficiently connected to move to a “solution request.”
An example of a connection request might be: “Would you tell me how you feel about this?”
An example of a solution request might be, “Would you be willing to take your shoes off when you come into the house?”
The spirit of requests relies on our willingness to hear a “no” and to continue to work with ourselves or others to find ways to meet everyone’s needs.
Whether we are making a request or a demand is often evident by our response when our request is denied.
A denied demand will lead to punitive consequences; a denied request will often lead to further dialogue. We recognise that “no” is an expression of some need that prevents the other person from saying “yes”. If we trust that through dialogue, we can find strategies to meet our needs, “no” is simply information to alert us that saying “yes” to our request may be too costly in terms of the other person’s needs. We can then continue to seek connection and understanding to allow additional strategies to arise that will work to meet more needs.
To increase the likelihood that our requests would be understood, we attempt to use language that is as concrete and doable as possible and truly a request rather than a demand.
For example, “I would like you to always come on time” is unlikely to be doable, while “Would you be willing to spend 15 minutes with me talking about what may help you arrive at 9 am to our meetings?” is concrete and doable.
While a person may assent to the former expression (“Yes, I’ll always come on time”), our deeper needs – for connection, confidence, trust, responsibility, respect, or others – are likely to remain unmet.
NVC Source: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Arun Gandhi
"All that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions." -- Marshall B. Rosenberg, Phd
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