A Triumph of Nonviolent Communication in Action

Being the Change I Want to See Maybe you’ve heard some version of the old story about a man who came to Buddha and yelled and screamed at him, judging him up and down. Buddha just observed the man and … Continue reading

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Judgments: What You Judge, You Become

I‘ve heard an old saying, “What you judge, you become.” I’ve elaborated on this with my own twist. “What you judge harshly in others, you may eventually become; what you judge compassionately in yourself through value judgments, you may eventually … Continue reading

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Jackal Finger-Pointing: 1 Finger Outward, 3 Inward

One Jackal Finger to Three Giraffe Fingers Much of the time we all find ourselves living in judgmental, “jackal” consciousness. That is, we point the one finger outward at other people as we judge and criticize how stupid they are. … Continue reading

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Tossing Out the Community Rules, Nonviolently

(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, and is based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy … Continue reading

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Heart Connection: Will You Dig Deep to Find the Empathy you Want?

Heart Connection is one of the main goals in NVC (Nonviolent Communication). Recently in my NVC support/practice group, a participant commented on how many words it took to get to the heart of an issue and to resolve it. It … Continue reading

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The Definition of “Right” and “Wrong”

I love the Neale Donald Walsh quote about the loaded meaning of two words, right and wrong. He wrote:

“The idea that you call ‘right’ is the idea someone else calls ‘wrong.’ The solution that you call ‘perfect’ is the solution that another calls ‘unworkable.’ The position that you feel is unassailable is the very position that others assail. What will solve all of this? Not attack, that’s for sure. And not defense, either. So what is left? Simple human love. The kind of love that says, ‘It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. It only matters that you are not hurt. And that we both can benefit. All true benefits are mutual.”

Those words were written by Mr. Walsh, a very well-known author and speaker. I am far less known, yet I’ve been pointing out to folks for years that using extremely simplified words and ideas such as right and wrong is painfully divisive. These words are commonly used at home and at work, in so many fields such as education, politics, religion, even social work. It is a widely accepted practice all over the world, to label things as right or wrong even though these words step on a lot of toes and trigger a lot of pain and anger. These simple words are for many an invitation to argue or fight, or worse yet,  to pass judgment on one another. “Right” and “wrong” are two of the most explosively judgmental and misunderstood words in any language. The reason? They are loaded; they have esoteric, moral implications which cause all sorts of assumptions and misunderstandings.

Rumi wrote about his intention to meet people out in that field of consciousness beyond all ideas of right and wrong.

Even spiritual leaders and masters do use these shorthand words at times, and I have faith that their meaning is always a compassionate and wise one. They are just using the various languages of this world in the traditional way, which is of course to use shortcuts and shorthand words.  Over time, humanity will evolve toward deeper compassion. I believe the human race will grow and mature to a level of consciousness which values the other’s needs as equal to our own. When humanity makes a concerted effort to create a world of compassion and sharing, then and only then will the world’s languages evolve to where these words “right” and “wrong” will become archaic and rarely used.

But for now, in the early 21st century, you can bet people still use these fighting words. When they do use them in a seemingly judgmental way, I take it as a special invitation and a challenge. The challenge is simply to translate these words into the language of feelings and needs. In particular, to guess at the unmet needs, values and wishes of the people making claims about what is right and wrong. Even if they are quoting from scriptures. Some people seem to have no tolerance for people who argue for religious dogma, and they quickly feel hatred for them. I suggest that the ones caught up in painful fear-based dogma may be needing our compassion and empathy more than anyone.  Except, maybe, for the haters of the dogmatists.

Religious and spiritual authorities do not always mean any judgments when they say right or wrong. As with everyone else, right and wrong are just a quick shorthand. Right is shorthand for what helps to meet some specific and subjective human needs according to their interpretation of certain scriptures they value highly. Wrong is shorthand for what does not help to meet those specific, subjective needs. What is absolutely essential if we are to increase the peace, is to learn the simple skills of nonviolent communication. We need to learn the skills of saying what needs and values we have, what helps to meet them, and what doesn’t. Also how we feel when they are met and unmet.  We need to get clear on objective, universal human needs, not just specific, subjective needs.

I pray that someday the world will slow down enough that people don’t feel so rushed to where they must use this vague, powder-keg shorthand. It is possible to learn to use “right” as a synonym for “correct.”  For example, did I get that phone number right in my records? Why not use “wrong” as a synonym for “incorrect.” Such as, Did I get that phone number wrong somehow?  It is truly not necessary to toss the morally divisive terms “right” and “wrong” around all the time, even when time is of the essence. It may be quick and easy to shout: “He is wrong! That is so wrong! They are absolutely wrong!” But it takes only a few minutes to get specific and to pinpoint the universal human needs that one is trying to address or fulfill.

So instead of judging and proclaiming, “You’re all wrong!” you might share your truth in a nonjudgmental way. For instance, “When you tell me what you want to buy, I feel irritated and frustrated because I really want to see more mutuality and equality of power in deciding how we spend our budget.  I want to share power with you, rather than anyone having power over the other. How about taking another look at the situation…let’s negotiate a new approach in all fairness.”

In this way, we all will be saying precisely what we mean. And others will understand much more clearly. It would avoid so much painful conflict and separation between friends, family members, spouses, coworkers. Perhaps it would even prevent some wars.  Is that worth a few minutes of focusing on emotional intelligence here and there? I think so!

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The Challenge to Avoid NVC Dogma

Through the NVC Academy, Robert Gonzales recorded a free webcast as part of a series entitled Practical Pathways. Robert holds a Ph.D., and is a CNVC Certified Trainer, widely respected in the global NVC community. Listening to this webcast I … Continue reading

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Make Your NVC Conversations Sound Truly Natural

Recently a client gave me quite a challenge. He wanted me to help him find the NVC way to express himself to a family member where there has been a thick wall of conflict and resentment for years. He insisted, … Continue reading

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NVC Exercise #3: Letting Go of Judgments

A very simple yet effective exercise that may help those in your NVC Practice Group. The goal is to let go of current judgments or judgmental attitudes we are holding, which are no longer serving us, which trigger painfully unmet … Continue reading

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A Connection between Humility and NVC Consciousness?

This question came to mind recently as I had listened to the last few chapters of Catcher in the Rye on audiobook, just before facilitating the local NVC support/practice group. J.D. Salinger included at a key point in his novel, … Continue reading

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