Way of Work:


Nonviolent communication

Communication is arguably one of the most important aspects of life – whether it’s at work meetings or in informal relationships.

Almost every situation we find ourselves in requires an effective way of communication, and because we’re so used to speaking to each other all the time, we often communicate thoughtlessly. We take it for granted that people around us can understand what we mean and that we connect with others through words.

But plenty of things can – and do – go wrong in the process. Sometimes we’re defensive, sometimes we feel frustrated for a reason we can’t quite pinpoint ourselves. Often, we don’t understand where the other person is coming from and we cannot practice empathy. Mostly, we are not being direct or honest, but we are just trying to get what we want.

What we need to do is ask others and ourselves the right questions, to find out the underlying reasons for our conflict – at home and at work.

What is it exactly that we want to communicate? A plausible answer to that question was formulated by Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist.  

Rosenberg coined the term “nonviolent communication’, which denotes a way of communicating that creates mutual understanding, trust, intimacy and meaning.

This changes how we relate to others: by practicing (self-) empathy, connecting to your needs and the needs of others, and asking for what you want.

Instead of defensively saying in a meeting “you aren’t pulling your weight”, one could say “I need more support from you on this project”.

Instead of telling our partner “you wasted your day when you could have gone to the shop”, one could say “I find it important that we share household responsibilities.”

What am I feeling? How do I communicate that honestly without blaming the other person? What are you feeling? How can we improve the situation?

These are questions that need to be addressed in order to come to a solution that fulfills a need for both parties. The result is connection – as in the Dutch translation ‘verbindend communiceren’ – and an avoidance of the violence of language that people have been trained to use in order to assert power or dominance.

It’s a language that we have to relearn, because by blaming, humiliating, threatening or coercing other people, we can find ourselves in a vicious cycle of violence, that is hard to get out of.

By being present to our and others’ feelings and needs, we can become fully empathetic, and find solutions that work for everyone involved. In today’s new perspectives on work and life, what could be more important?