Friday, April 8

Nonviolent Communication: Best Way to Get Needs Met. A Tale of Two Approaches ...................4/8/11

    One Approach to Conflict
 Not Advised:

      Last night was interesting, almost entertaining. I cer-tainly didn't need to watch TV to witness drama.  I attended a business meeting for a non-profit organiz-ation.  Initially, the meeting went pretty well.  Attending sessions like these I've done for more than twenty years.  We covered the agenda items. 

      A budget issue was brought up; one person suggested setting aside money for an upcoming expense that will require more money than is normally spent.  Fair enough.  Before the vote, there was discussion about the motion.  

        This is where it got exciting.  The only thing missing was the popcorn and the seats with cup holders for drinks. We tabled the issue until we could get information about the projected expenses, a reasonable conclusion. 

         It's amazing what reason can do, or so I thought.  One member became agitated, the conversation turned for the worse.  This person, the one who had made the recommendation, stood up, raising his voice.  It was “ridiculous” that we didn’t take action, right then, we were emphatically informed.   Others disagreed. The issue didn't need addressing until October.

         I mindlessly reached for the bag of popcorn, but it wasn't there.  Darn.  But, I was glued to the unfolding theatrics. The chairman bolted from the room, insulted.  The distraught person continued lecturing, the veins in his forehead standing out, his body shaking. 

         Wow, this was pretty good.  I didn't even have to pay to view this performance. Two committee members listened to the tirade, their bodies turned away from this angry guy.  A third member faced the agitated individual, a defensive smile screwed onto her face, but uttered nothing.  
   
         Me?  I took it all in.  I didn't dare go to the bathroom, seeing the conclusion of this stage show was a must. 

         I don’t argue with a drunk person.  This agitated person was emotionally intoxicated.  Knowing that allowed me to relax, not taking his actions personally. 

        The climax came when he stated this situation was like his family.  When he was a kid, he was never listened to.  Yep, he actually said that.

        Striding to the door, he yelled his resignation. It would be a long time before he ever came back.  I waited for the credits to show and the curtain to close.  Instead, the meeting ended in stunned silence. 

A Better Approach to Conflict: 
Nonviolent Communication

        Blame, shame, fear, guilt and judgment don’t help, when making a point. They are forms of life alienating communication.  Every one of these negative techniques were used this evening.  These techniques are a form of violence: emotional coercion

        It’s best expressing the needs beneath our feelings.  Followed up with a request for meeting them.  In tonight's case, his need may have been effectiveness or being heard.  We listened; we simply disagreed. These are principles from nonviolent communication, you can read more about it here and here

My Gratitudes: 

1.  I’m glad for seeing the humor in last night's event.     

2.  I didn't pay an admission price other than the slight annoyance of hearing someone rant.  The ineffectiveness of using anger to make a point was vividly displayed. 

3.  No longer get triggered---agitated---during times of conflict adds greatly to my serenity and equanimity. What a relief it is, staying present, responding and not reacting.  

Take Two
Using A Healthier Approach To Conflict

       Yesterday, I took steps towards improving a relationship with a client, addressing uncomfortable issues.  Being patronized doesn't work for me.  My concerns were mentioned, my need for dignity in our interactions.  My point was made without making an enemy. 

       The outcome was positive.  The concerns were heard; this person will change how he relates with me.  

      Speaking respectfully, while disagreeing is one form of spiritual weightlifting.  It requires effort and can be awkward, especially in the heat of an emotionally charged moment.  It's easier to fight, I know. 

      But the consequences of conflict are usually dire: tension, resentment and anger.  I've learned that the more I do relational weightlifting, using nonviolent communication, the stronger I get, like any other habit.  The best part is that it gets easier with practice.  This is placing principles above personalities, including mine. 

      I'm happy that---during emotional times, like last night----when we replace default reactions with healthier responses, characterological growth occurs.  We are eradicating unhelpful, established patterns----yelling, blaming shaming, etc., that contribute to discord.  I'm thankful that, by responding instead of reacting, healthy dialogue possible.  "Let it begin with me."

      We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we do have control over our responses.  Harmony is no longer contingent upon others or external circumstances, but where I choose to focus.  This realization provides plenty of gratitude.

      Today, while relating with a difficult client, harmony prevailed.  That's not guaranteed. Thankfully, the other person heard my concerns.  Am I’m glad.  Our relationship is improving.  I'll take victories where peace reigns, anytime.

How About You? 
What do you do when you need to address a need of yours? I'd love hearing your response.

Related Post: 
Expressing Feelings, Part II

3 comments:

Thag Jones said...

He stated this was like his family when he was a kid. He was never listened to. He strode away from the group, yelling as he left, saying he resigned, and that it would be a long time before he ever came back.

Wow. That's pretty embarrassing from a grown man. I like this concept of emotional intoxication - which of course can apply to positive emotions as well! ("Falling in love" comes to mind, lol).

Paul NorthernCal said...

Thag,
I agree. It was awkward for those of us there, to watch his emotional meltdown. I couldn't find a remote control, to put his histrionics on pause. I did place healthy principles above my personality; it permitted me to pause, take stock, and not allow the drama to affect me. I detached with love.
.
What was also surprising was the response from the group: each person froze----there was no response, except mine. Passivity doesn't cut it. Problems don't go away when ignored.
.
Yeah, emotional intoxication happens too, when we're in love, or someone else is in such a state of heart. Again, it's best to wait until a more clear moment, before addressing any concerns. I find it's at this time that simply state my position and let go. I think I'll elaborate more in my next post.
.
One other thing, realizing I can become emotionally intoxicated, helps me to be alert for being blind in my relationship with the person I'm connected to, whether it's a loved one, family member or friend. I want to make sure my values always supercede my attachment to this person. This is placing principles above my personality, a good thing to do.

.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul. I witnessed something a long time ago, which this reminded me of. A member of my church choir gave vent to some long held anger that he had toward our choir director. She stood there and took it as he ranted at her in front of everybody. We all sat there, shocked, silent, deer-in-the-headlights. Finally one of our older members spoke up, against the bully and in support of the attacked director. I was very much in admiration of the defender. Also ashamed of myself for not being the defender. I resolved to try in the future to summon my courage more quickly and step up when I see bullying. I've made baby steps in that direction. And I enjoyed your description of detaching, reaching for the popcorn! Lynne

Quotes from the Posts

"I'm mindful that our thoughts affect the words we use, our words influence our actions, our actions shape our character and our character determines our destiny."

From "My Character Determines My Destiny." To read it, please click here.

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"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its trouble, but it does empty today of its strength"
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"Even though we cannot control our circumstances, we can control how we choose to respond to them."

From, "Handling Stress and Dealing With an Emotional Bully."Click here to read this post.

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