Communicating Kindly Part 2

After my previous post on communication, I’ve become even more aware of how frequently communication breaks down…not only between me and another person, but also between others. I noticed that for me, this issue happens frequently with the people I care the most about. Repeatedly, I come away from conversations frustrated, helpless, discouraged and unsatisfied. I knew I was missing something, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

In the middle of September, I stumbled upon the website for The Center for Nonviolent Communication. The title quite startled me, and I sat there, staring at the screen debating the pros and cons of such a title. Why would someone use such a strongly worded title?! My first reaction was fiercely opposed to the use of the word “nonviolent,” for all I focused on was the “violent” portion of the word. “Who wants to communicate violently?!” I asked incredulously, and then I stopped, once again startled. Well, me. Because it feels good. But does it help? Huh. Well…as a parade of images flooded my mind of past communication epic failures, I had to grudgingly admit…not in the long-run. Then I thought of all the other places in society where communication is violent and as the list progressed in my mind I became aghast. No wonder there is so much violence in our culture…because we foster a violently based language and form of communication.

At that point, I knew it was no accident I had stumbled upon this website, and I realized this was my missing piece. I also knew how deeply I wanted to change how I communicated with others. In exploring the website, I found teachers. And, not only teachers in my area, but also a free class through my local community college…beginning in two days. Unhesitatingly, I registered.

This is the now the sixth week of an eight week class, and I have to express gratitude for such a fabulous resource. I have learned so much about myself…about how I communicate and how my communication either connects or disconnects me with others, and how to remedy it. For example, I tend to respond to others by sharing a similar story from my experience. I think that by doing that I’m demonstrating empathy and understanding. However, after much struggling with that impulse during class practice, I experienced something quite different when I focused only on the other person and kept my internal revelations to myself until a more appropriate time. There is such a deep satisfaction that accompanies such an interaction, both for the speaker and the listener, that I found myself pondering the implications of this experience for quite some time. Then, I got to practice this skill outside of class.

Last week, a dear, dear friend reached out to me in a moment of deep overwhelmedness. This same dear friend is one with whom I often feel helpless during our communication. We’ve frequently talked about this disconnect and my sorrow at my inability to know how to help her best when she needs it most. I am so grateful for her patience with me and continued trust in my intentions. It is this gratitude that was one of the biggest motivators for taking the class. I was honored to have my first out-of-class practice with her.

This time everything was different! And I knew it was different as the conversation progressed. As I used the tools taught to me in class, I watched her progress through identifying her emotions and needs which then empowered her to express her needs and identify appropriate solutions. I simply offered support in the form of reflecting emotions back to her…nothing was about me. Afterwards, I felt myself tear up with joy and gratitude at the opportunity I’d just had. I was able to connect rather than cause a power struggle or judgement or shame or frustration for either party. I finally was able to be the friend I’ve wanted to be for so long. It truly was an empoweringly magical and beautiful moment.

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