(Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also sometimes referred to as Compassionate Communication. The process is based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands. For services offered by Steve Pollack, visit www.mediation-usa.net)
A Nonjudgmental & Nonviolent View of Vampires
We all know what this term, emotional vampires, refers to. We’ve all had experiences with humans who seem to suck the energy right out of us, like a vampire. They may seem somehow less than fully human when they do this, especially if they make a habit of it. So we call them emotional vampires (timely with Halloween around the corner!).
Dehumanizing Labels & Judgments
We sometimes dehumanize people by labeling them. When we were kids, we did this through childish name-calling. As adults we do it in a more sophisticated intellectual way. There’s a simple litmus test to see if a label is judgmental: imagine someone calling you an emotional vampire and really meaning it. If you don’t like being sized up that way, chances are the “vampires” don’t either.
The Victimization Scenario
Sadly, I fear we may dehumanize ourselves for a moment, or at least lose consciousness of our humanity, in those moments when we categorize, label, evaluate, criticize or judge people whose company we don’t much enjoy. How can we re-frame this victimization scenario and see through the judgmental, “jackal” story we tell ourselves about vampires? It may go something like this, and for discussion’s sake let’s call the vampire Bob:
A Nonviolent Communication Approach:
When you observe Bob’s intensity when he speaks or acts, you may feel irritated, anxious or even hurt. When you see patterns of intense behavior repeating over days or weeks, you may feel tired, suspicious or worried. You need more emotional freedom and autonomy in your relationships, more time and space to rest between visits or phone conversations with Bob. You may also need more trust and emotional safety. You could then make requests asking Bob if he’d be willing to understand your feelings and help you meet your needs. Your requests would be positive action/agreement requests that are highly specific and feasible. You could both chat about it, tweaking some various ideas or strategies that might meet the needs of both people.
It might work out and Bob may end up becoming a longtime cherished friend. Or it may work out just for a time, or not at all.
Keeping our Innate Compassion
Regardless, with the nonviolent, nonjudgmental approach, you would have kept in touch with your innate humanity and compassion. You would not have resorted to labels, telling yourself a jackal story that Bob is an emotional vampire, even if others have reported many similar experiences with him.
You can move on into deeper friendship with Bob, or a limited relationship, or none at all. Any of those choices can be made without necessarily evaluating, diagnosing or judging him. That is emotional liberation. It’s a rare thing these days, but it is always possible if we stay aware of our humanity and our power to choose our responses carefully. That’s what wisdom communication is all about.