July 19, 2014

The Hidden Violence in Non-Violent, New-Age Communication.

talk quiet speak intention

The new age world is overrun with non-violent communication.

It seems that every other person is talking about projection, mirrors, emotional detachment, conscious communication and more. Having been involved as a yoga instructor for the past 10 years, I must admit, I’m sick of the language.

Speaking non-violently doesn’t make the language non-violent.

Violence stems from attitudes, perceptions and personality. A person who is aggressive will be aggressive regardless if the words have sharp edges or are couched in fluffy clouds.

While it is a noble sentiment, and a well-meaning intention to learn how to speak with greater awareness, it does not mean that the message communicated is any less hurtful. In my experience, people who learn to speak with so-called non-violence are even more hurtful. Why?

Because they recognized that the original approach to language was out of alignment. Rather than changing the attitude that precedes language, they instead discovered a way to appear more loving and kind. Discovering how to use ‘non-violent’ language only creates additional confusion. Soft words couched with violence are harder to identify, especially when the person uttering them is convinced that their language is not violent.

Most communication happens non-verbally. Scientists claim that up to 80 percent of communication happens without words.

Do you know how it feels to have somebody say that your heart-break is simply emotional attachment?

How wonderful it feels when experiencing grief and a death in the family to have some smart-ass spout how your pain is caused by attachment. The worst part is that these types of individuals fail to see how hurtful their presence and words still are. All the finances spent to learn how to communicate non-violently are wasted.

In my own experience, people who believe they are non-violent in communication are the worst listeners.

I cannot describe how delicious it is when expressing a perspective to have somebody claim that its a projection. And wrong. Whenever somebody starts spouting about projections, mirrors and pseudo-psychology my alarm bells go off. Such an individual is, for me, a well-intentioned individual with whom I cannot communicate.

For me, such language is the height of inconsiderate relationship.

When a person starts the holier than thou speech about projection or mirroring, I wonder if they are aware of the other aspects present. Before such words occur, something non-spiritual happens. A judgment. An assumption. And most assuredly, an absence of listening or understanding.

The person who claims to be so wise and points out the fallacies of others and how they are projecting have first made an assumption, then a judgment, and then opened their mouth. It is a clear case of foot-in-mouth disease.

A wise man once said, “Open Mouth, Big Mistake.”

And that is because when a person is experiencing true emotional turmoil, telling them to feel otherwise or pointing out their flaws is not helpful or loving. It only makes the person with the open mouth an pompous jerk. It is separative language, unkind and absent of sympathy or compassion.

I’m speaking from experience. I’ve been that person. I’ve seen people respond to this type of language.

And they were right. It sucks. I listened to them and grew past it. Novices make amateur errors.

Did you lose your beloved pet? How enamored will you be with the person who says its just an emotional attachment and to get over it. Did you lose your job? How wonderful to have it pointed out that it was this or that fault of yours. Have a co-worker on your case? It’s a blast to explain yourself and receive a wall of ‘you-are-projecting’ and other such language.

Now take that kind of language and apply it to somebody who has died. A mother or father, brother or sister, relative, friend or community member. Losing somebody from a broken relationship is a type of death.

Can you imagine anything more thoughtless and unkind than the violence in non-violent communication?

A broken, grieving heart will not be receptive to pseudo-psychological new-agey helpful language. Try it, and receive a mouthful of anger and rage. And rightly so.

A story I heard in the ashram comes to mind.

There was once a man who was the head monk of a monastery. Far and wide, he was known for being enlightened and people inquired of him for wisdom and guidance in life. His disciples saw him one day through an open window in a home. He was crying. Upon his return to the monastery the disciples berated him and asked him, “How could you, such an enlightened being, be sitting there crying? That isn’t enlightenment.”

His response was, “How could I not cry. They had lost their child.”

The enlightened monk was fully human with the full range of emotional experiences.

He was participating in life with the family. Not telling them that crying was futile. Or to focus on an afterlife. Or to release their emotional attachments. He was present, felt fully, and was moved.

The ideology about emotional attachment and detachment, language and non-violence are so out of alignment with reality in our modern world.

And like the novices who spouted non-sense, participating with thoughtless language will only provoke the person who is already hurting to a deeper pain. It communicates a lack of support, a blindness to their humanity, an insensitivity to the life experience they are having.

People hurt. Reality carries pain within it. Do you want to be loving and say to such a person that their emotions are the source of their problem? Do so at your own risk. You’ll lose that person as a friend, diminish their trust and faith, and join the ranks of world-class jerk.

Real communication and true non-violent language begins with personality and attitude.

And from that stems language. Slapping on a facade of feel-good language and conscious dialogue does not change who the person is, their attitude, tone or personality. A person who speaks violently will still do so after learning non-violent communication techniques, except with the added benefit of being passive aggressive and deluded.

Real non-violent communication is open, direct and does not give a flip about political correctness.

Even brutal words can be a soothing salve when spoken by a heart who is loving and understands human experience.

It is simply conscious, responsive, and directly relates to experience and humanity.

It will own the results of words uttered, and adjust. Such a person does not hold back. They stand tall with integrity and will bear the brunt of what has been spoken.

The real secret to non-violent communication is as simple as listening attentively and having compassion.

A wise man once said nothing.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Rosie Bailey Stevenson/Flickr

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Morgan Jan 18, 2016 8:30am

I have to say that I heartily agree with a lot of what you are saying. My husband has Asperger’s and we both thought NVC would be the perfect way to navigate our huge communication gaps. While it does help in some scenarios, I’m basically trapped in an NVC hell right now and am wishing we never stumbled on the program. Since he is so intelligent, he is focused primarily on the formula and actual words being spoken. This part is hard for me because I’m so adept at “jackal language” so even if my heart is the right place, I might accidentally slip in a judgement word, and what I say will not be heard unless I formulate it “correctly.” In fact, it causes a fight in which he will go off on a (usually very anti NVC) tyrade about my poor communication. He seems incapable of using “giraffe ears” or cutting me some slack while I learn. What’s more is that in the context of NVC, he believes no need is too small and armed with the knowledge that his needs are important, our lives are just constantly about his unmet needs now .. And if he phrases what those unmet needs are to me, he expects instant empathy and a positive response to his request, and the empathy has to be exactly in NVC form or he will not accept it. I also can no longer express myself without adding a request or he will get angry .. Sometimes there isn’t a request. Sometimes I don’t even want empathy! I’m simply informing him of my current state so he can connect with me (“so that’s the request,” he says, “that you would like me to connect with you.” Ummm isn’t that obvious??). This has created a dynamic in which I feel it is my job to fix all of his unmet needs and negative feelings, which isn’t fair. I’m also expected to communicate all of my unmet needs and I just need more privacy and agency than that, also I do not always think I can even begin to express myself properly with NVC depending on the scenario. He’s decided this is the only way and if I don’t use it, I’m being “abusive” or “violent” with my language and am accused of not participating in the improvement of our marriage. I’ve tried using NVC to resolve all of this but he’s not having it. I mention all of this because NVC is at it’s core a very lovely thing but in the wrong hands can be used a tool for power, to have others fix negative feelings, and a way to always sound holier-than-though to the person who struggles with the formula. I also think it’s a bit cheesy at times. There, I said it! That felt good. It’s just so unnatural for me and some days that’s the only way he will talk to me and it gets to be exhausting to not be able to speak in a way that comes naturally. It feels very controlling on my end and I don’t see a way out. I just hope if we continue training that he will see that he’s not practicing correctly and adjust, but I’m honestly not sure that I will ever be happy about being expected to communicate this way all the time.

Tameca L Coleman Oct 28, 2015 8:25am

Thank you for writing this! This is my favorite EJ article right now~! Best!

Lauren Rumpler Sep 19, 2015 1:42pm

Have you read any non-violent communication material? It is clear for me, just from the language you use you either didn’t read it or you have somehow confused Neurolingustic programming with NVC… Could you please tell me one book that states that NVC is about telling the other person not to feel the way that they feel. The core of NVC IS LISTENING. The whole goal is to repeat back to the person what you heard to provide clarity. This article is harmful to a beautiful process because it comes from a place of not misinformation. If you’re going to insult NVC please do some research first. Mirroring has nothing to do with NVC. That is Neurolingustic programming.

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Keith Artisan

Keith Artisan believes each human is innately good and imbued with talent. Believing that life is a mystery, he feels it is his life purpose to inspire people to believe in themselves and live their truth. Living what he believes, Keith actively serves his community as an entrepreneur, artist, yoga instructor, musician, writer, and mentor. He is online at Facebook and his website, Living Artisan .