I was getting on a plane last night, right behind a mother and her teenage children. The teenagers ran up the jetway while the obviously long-suffering mother struggled to get he luggage to the end and board. Her communication with her children, her flesh and blood, was angry, petulant and dismissive. What was she thinking, upbraiding her progeny so thoroughly in front of a bunch of strangers. In that moment, I thought about this book.
It is about something that we all do, every day: Communication. We all do it. It is fundamental to each and every relationship we have. It is fundamental in each and every interaction we have. Why are we collectively so poor at communication? Why do we invite resistance when we should be inviting cooperation? We should be experts, right? The problem is that we tend to see things and react to them through the lens of our biases. Our ego, our needs, or our own expectations, they stop us from truly listening, understanding and having empathy. Nonviolent Communication provides a way out of our biases and in to a new level of communication
There are four elements of nonviolent communication: observations, feelings, needs and requests. When you observe the impact a situation has on your feelings, you can identify your need which allows you to request how another person can fill your need. It is taking a moment to understand the entire picture before you speak. So simple yet so effective. And hard to do.
My favorite take away is replacing what you “must do” with “I chose to” followed by your “why” you do it. It changes your perspective, which in turn will change your feelings. When we change how we communicate, focusing on nonviolent and empathic listening, we begin a new cycle of communication that is enriching and fulfilling. Who doesn’t want that?