Tell me that you’re disappointed with the unfinished chores you see,
but calling me ‘irresponsible’ is no way to motivate me.
And tell me that you’re feeling hurt when I say ‘no’ to your advances,
but calling me a frigid man won’t increase your future chances.
Marshall Rosenberg Non-Violent Communication: A language of life http://www.cnvc.org/about/marshall-rosenberg.html,
I have enjoyed the wordless experiences of Authentic Movement and Zero Balancing and also last week had a fascinating experience of the ‘disengaged mind’ in a kinesiology session. Words are the way I communicate, live and work with others. Words are the tool of this blog. I am going to take up learning Italian again, so I can use even more words with even more people! Odd that such a used tool is often so little considered.
‘You never think of others, you are always being selfish!’ What is unhelpful about this type of statement?
Let’s look at it word by word. If we consider the use of the word ‘you’, what this word does in this sentence, is to bring the focus to that person. If we use the word ‘you’, when trying to express ourselves and our own perspective, we invite the listener to focus on themselves not on what we are trying to communicate. So a sentence beginning ‘I’, for example, ‘I need some help.’ would help the listener hear and understand our motivation for speaking to them. If we use ‘you’, they are less likely to hear us from that point in, as they will have had their focus directed away from us.
What is your motivation in speaking? What do you want? And ‘to be loved/understood’ is not a suitable answer! It doesn’t help the listener know what to do. If you think about your motivation, you may feel it’s to feel loved or appreciated, but what do you want them to do? ‘I would like you to listen to me and tell me afterwards what you understand of what I have said.’ would be a clear and helpful instruction to your listener. ‘I would like you to move your muddy shoes, please, and clear up the mud from the floor.’ is another example.
‘Never’ and ‘Always’ are similarly unhelpful words, many people will be then sidetracked into clarification or defensive thinking, ‘I did last Thursday, and don’t see the point, as you have obviously forgotten, again’. (‘again’ is another unhelpful sidetrack). This is often where discussions de-rail as the listener then searches through the history archives to see how accurate the accusation is!
The phrases ‘think of others’ and ‘being selfish’ are phrases of judgment rather than observation. A judgment is, ‘He’s a rubbish football player’, an observation is, ‘He missed a penalty the last three games’. Similarly, ‘You don’t care’ and phrases like this, are judgments. An observation might be, ‘I notice you did not put your plate in the dishwasher this evening.’
So step one: use, ‘I’. Step two: observe rather than judge. Step three: Don’t use ‘always’ or ‘never’, try and be as specific as possible, sticking to the current situation and not referring to history (History is always distorted and disagreed on depending on the historian). Consider what your motivation is in speaking, what do you want?
Of course if we are honest with ourselves, maybe our real motivation is just to start a drama, in which case the original statement stands as suitably effective, there are so many options there for argument, defensiveness, misunderstanding and hurt.
I have been lucky to have some teachers about words along the way. My first was Mairi Evans who was Transactional Analysis trained, and she helped me write my first contract for clients about 20 years ago. She suggested I wrote that, ‘I do this and I do that and this is how I work’, rather than ‘you will do this and you won’t do that’. My brother, Jeremy, http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssd/chaplains/christian/anglican introduced me to Non- Violent Communication as outlined in Marshall Rosenberg’s book quoted above the concepts from here I use a lot when working with couples and groups and in team building or team conflict in the workplace. My current teacher, David James Lees http://www.davidjameslees.com/ is a big believer in the power of words, I am new to his approach and I think that I am only on the surface of this next depth of learning, so watch this space as I learn more on my journey with him.
In the meantime, perhaps this explains a little of my speaking and writing style, why I like to use ‘we’ and why I like to use personal examples.
Arrivederci per oggi!