(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 and making humble requests rather than demands.)
This is a message shared with a board member who was hearing complaints that people were hesitant to talk with her because of her tendency to shout:
The reason that we all bark at people sometimes is because we’re feeling annoyed or angry and we want to be sure they hear us loud and clear. We want them to understand our point of view.
This is especially true when we don’t agree with what they are saying to us. So we cut them off and talk over their words, more loudly than they were talking. We think we are shutting them up by drowning out their voice.
Ironically, by out-shouting them, we stand in our own way, because when we talk while someone is in mid-sentence, they feel extremely irritated or angry and they tune us out, no matter how loudly we speak. Their needs for respect and consideration are not met at all when we out-shout them.
The peaceful, NVC way to truly get our message understood is by LETTING the other person speak, as long as they need to speak, to complete their thoughts and to share their concerns. You may feel impatient listening for SO long when you think they are wrong or you don’t like their views and opinions.
But if you just listen, listen and listen some more until they come to a full stop (which may take several minutes), finally they will calm down. Then you can repeat back to them what you just heard them say, a summary of their message paraphrased in your own words.
E.g., “So if I’m hearing you right, you are very concerned about this, that and the other, and you want the board to consider doing something about this issue?”
When they hear you do this, then they really know that you heard and UNDERSTOOD them fully and respectfully.
You can ask them, “Have I heard and understood you correctly? Is there anything else you want me to know?”
You will be able to see when they are finished sharing their concerns, when they are satisfied that you’ve really listened to them deeply, with compassion and wisdom.
Then and only then it is finally YOUR turn to speak. And you won’t have to bark at all, which is the best part of this process. You can speak to them in a respectful tone of voice, in a respectful volume. They are much more likely to listen to your views, your side of the issues, once you have listened fully to theirs.
Remember, you are a board member so you are seen as having some authority or “power.” The privilege of power is to protect those who are powerless, and to share power with rather than take power over others. The purpose of power is not to overpower those with less power…to simply shout and drown them out completely. That would be like Luke Skywalker crossing over to the dark side with his father, Darth Vader. Is that what you really want? Think about it!