What really is the point of communication? And what does it really mean to fail when communicating?
I was having a very interesting conversation with my brother today, as we always do about how we think and how that translate into action, and he introduced me to someone I confess I’d never come across until today … Marshall Rosenberg.
In light of the recent shooting at a Connecticut School, I was enlightened by one of his quotes …
“All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished.”
Whether the outcome of communication is good or bad, the reason for the communication is needs based.
Someone might argue, what’s needful about taking someone’s life? I’ve asked this question over and over again, and Dr Tim Stanley, a historian of the United States, writing for the Telegraph in relation to the Connecticut shootings suggest that “to deny the killers’ agency and self-awareness is to deny an important aspect of their crimes: they exhibited a need to create a public testament to their pain.”
Do you see the correlation between this and Marshall’s quote?
Whilst I’ve used an extreme case here, it’s not just violent crimes that result in violent acts. Rosenberg, founder of The Center for Non Violent Communication, suggests that even in everyday conversation, we can use violence in our communication because we have learnt that a certain way of speaking to another person or group, will somehow get our needs met.
Of course, if you speak in a particular way and you get what you want, this further cements the notion that this is the correct way to communicate to get your desired outcome.
Somewhere along the lines though, the communication between two parties becomes more complex and you reach stalemate … you don’t understand the other party and they don’t understand you.
This happened when Rosenberg was asked to mediate between two tribes who couldn’t settle their differences …
To get to a level of communication where both parties needs are being met certainly isn’t easy and even with the best will in the world, isn’t always attainable.
However, as Rosenberg says, if we approach communication in a way that contributes to the other person’s wellbeing, “that’s the most enjoyable play that we human beings engage in.”
So how can you engage in enjoyable play through communication today? Could you maybe rephrase something you were going to say so that you get your needs met without committing an act on violence on the person you’re communicating with?
Yes it’s going to require some thinking but like Rosenberg, I believe this is more natural and so it’s down to unlearning the old way and learning a new and better way.