People Can Save Lives Using the Language of NVC Nonviolent Communication

Desperate Need for NVC in the World

I only wish NVC had been able to prevent this: A few days ago, a man in a neighboring condominium development shot the woman who lived directly upstairs from him. The incident was splashed all over the local TV news. She’d just driven home from work and was getting out of her car when he shot her dead. He then turned the gun on himself in a murder-suicide. They’d been feuding since she moved in upstairs, 2 or 3 years ago. She was evidently making a lot of noise, possibly by wearing heels on an uninsulated hard floor, or maybe with music, friends partying, etc.

Skylake Gardens is a cute 2-story condo development just 1/2 mile away from my own home.  Several years ago, I considered buying an apartment there to live in myself.  The owner I spoke to at the time was himself struggling with noise issues. People would drive up at 6am and honk the horn for several minutes for carpooling.  His upstairs neighbor had violated the condo rules by installing tile floors without sound insulation. The neighbor was then legally required to tear up the flooring and install insulation. That was far more expensive and difficult than doing it with insulation the first time.

Sound-Sensitive HSPs and NVC

An estimated 20% of human beings are highly sensitive to sound. HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) have a much lower pain threshold, especially to unwanted sound, aka noise. It’s common for people to lose some of their tolerance to noise as they get older.

With a little basic NVC consciousness and training, we could create a culture of compassion that understands wide variations in needs. Some have little or no need for peace and quite; they can sleep through a tornado or hurricane. Others wake at the drop of a pin.

When I see so many neighbors flip the bird to their sound-sensitive neighbors, I’m astounded. Maybe they don’t like the way the sound-sensitive neighbor talks about the noise. They feel irritated and angry because the complaints they hear don’t meet their need for respect. They also needed fun, ease, privacy and autonomy to enjoy their home and their lifestyle. They enjoy and value living out loud, celebrating their life with friends and family without any restriction on audible volume.

What’s Really Going On Inside the Angry Mind

Many people take the attitude of “F him” when they see someone in pain from excessive noise. They judge him (he’s self-centered and has no consideration of our needs). They criticize him (he’s a problem person and should move to a retirement village). They blame him (he has something wrong with his ears or his brain). They label him (he’s a nutcase). They evaluate him (he’s not worth worrying about because he’s got issues, ignore him). Finally they diagnose him (he’s probably OCD or some kind of control freak and should get some medications, sleeping pills, therapy, etc).

In this way, they can meet their own needs for fun, freedom and celebration, while not caring about the neighbor’s conflicting needs. They harden their hearts as a strategy to meet their needs. They ignore the fact that many people have a lower tolerance for unwanted sound. They don’t realize that even some younger folks are highly sensitive.

Is Pride Valued More Highly than Human Life?

The woman who was shot and killed recently here in Miami looked like young middle aged. The man looked a bit older. Still, very sad that they both lost their lives through this painful drama. The final solution of murder may sound effective in moments of rage. It may play out in some movies and books. In real life, however, it only brings heartache, sadness and loss of precious human life.

Were their lives valued less than floor insulation which would cost a few thousand dollars? Would it have killed the upstairs neighbor to move the stereo back away from the windows late at night?  There are other places to party…did it always have to be in her tiny apartment?

The Dialogue of Anger:

It’s all too easy to imagine the kind of dialogue between them:

MAN: Keep the noise down up there, I’m trying to sleep! NEIGHBOR: Oh go take a hike, we’re not trying to bother you!  MAN:  But I can’t sleep in my own home, you are so rude and inconsiderate!  NEIGHBOR: You are the rude one, how dare you complain when we are just enjoying a little family party here.  MAN:  You’re a witch!  NEIGHBOR: You’re completely crazy, you need some help!

The Dialogue of NVC:

It’s almost as easy to imagine a nonviolent approach to communication between the two neighbors:

MAN: Hey neighbor, I know you are enjoying some good times with your family and friends. Nothing wrong with that. I’m happy for you, it’s fun to entertain family and friends. It’s just when I hear the sounds of high heels dancing on my ceiling, I feel irritated. With the volume of the stereo, I feel frustrated because I really need to sleep. Is it possible for you to continue enjoying your visit with shoes off and music turned down lower?   NEIGHBOR:  Well, I don’t know.  It’s only 9pm and we’re not hurting anybody or breaking any laws here.  Why don’t you put on some earplugs or something?  MAN:  Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve tried that. Earplugs irritate my ears and I pull them out in my sleep anyway so they’re not effective at all for me.  NEIGHBOR:  Sounds to me like you have a problem, but it’s not my problem really.  MAN:  Would you be willing to enjoy partying for another half hour and then consider moving it to one of your friend’s homes? I would be so appreciative if I could just get some sleep here.  Please consider it, okay?

You can see the difference in tone here.  Also, in this conversation they are starting to understand each other. They even show a bit of concern by sharing various creative strategies.

Let’s Reduce the Violence and Save Lives

The goal, to save a life or two via NVC, was achievable. This recent murder-suicide could have been prevented with a little compassion.  Painful conflict can be resolved through NVC mediation and communication therapy.  Many still don’t know about this way of communicating. Even some who do know about it believe it’s too hard to learn or to practice. So they ignore it. Thus, the painful, judgmental dramas of the egoic mind continue to happen. And people continue to die and be injured, get thrown in jail, etc.

The Buddha had an awakening, he woke up spiritually and saw the reality. I find that sometimes NVC helps us to wake up emotionally if not spiritually. It wakes us to see the reality of our emotions, others’ emotions, and how those energies are playing out in the dramas of the egoic mind.  They play out externally through communication with others. Internally they play out in the way we talk and think to ourselves.

People are dying, quite literally, from acts of violence. Many, if not all of them, start as strong painful emotions stemming from unmet needs. These sharp emotions lead quickly and unconsciously to violent thoughts. Nonviolent Communication has the potential to soften these intense emotions through deep empathy. NVC has the power to prevent many of these deaths. In addition to saving a life, NVC can also relieve much of the emotional and psychological suffering that leads up to such deadly outcomes. I feel sadness when I see this missed potential. I mourn the repeated loss of human lives.

For more information about my NVC counseling services, please visit my business website.


About swpollack

I’m an independent mediator and collaborative communication coach who can help you to co-create greater ease, connection and mutual understanding in your personal and professional relationships. As a non-traditional specialist, my aim is to get concrete results for my clients in a fraction of the time usually required by traditional therapy and counseling. Please visit my business website: . The emotion-based coaching work I do is deeply therapeutic, yet I am neither a psychologist nor a psychotherapist. Instead I work with a holistic, empathic process called compassionate, nonviolent communication. I also facilitate ongoing support groups for people who want to learn this organic process of nonjudgmental communication to help build bridges of connection, harmony, collaboration and understanding. For more about my Build Compassionate Relationships meetup group, visit: . I’ve been offering these services to the public since 2000 in the greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, as well as by phone and through Skype conferencing. . Nonviolent Communication is a process developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It’s based on a very pure, nonjudgmental language of feelings, needs and requests. I’ve found this to be a powerful tool in my mediation work which involves bringing two or more people together despite a painful history of conflict.
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