Thursday, January 7, 2010

Learning a New Language

I grew up with dysfunctional family patterns of communication when it came to any sort of disagreement or conflict, real or perceived.  One side of the family would play the passive-aggressive cold shoulder game, while the other thrived on verbal confrontation.  I was lucky enough to get the best of both worlds, being able to cold-shoulder like a professional, while also rising to the verbal “fight back” occasion when the situation warrants.  I have also felt guilty about both reactions, and have taken the “don’t lose your temper, don’t be selfish” commandment from my childhood to new levels of self-effacement and putting everyone else’s needs ahead of my own to the point where there are times that I need to remind myself that it is indeed ok to take up space in this world.

I have struggled with this for my entire adult life, and wondered if I would ever find a happy medium that enables a win/win method of communication rather than the winner/loser paradigm I was all too familiar with.

Enter Havi and her wonderful blog.  One of the books she recommends is Non Violent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg. 

At first I was not interested in the book, because I assumed it would be full of woo-woo “everyone else’s feelings are more important than mine” advice, and I expected yet another lecture about how I was wrong and everyone else was right.  I continued to read Havi’s blog, including the archives, and observed how she interacted with her readers.  Slowly I was being convinced that I could at least look at the book.  I didn’t have to take any of it seriously, and I gave myself permission to return it to the library unfinished if it was more of the “you are not a good person and this is how to fix yourself” jargon.

I opened the book a skeptic, and finished it convinced.  I returned the book to the library and picked up my own copy because this is not a book to read once and be done.  It will be marked up and written in and returned to again and again.  Because, as Havi says at the end of each of her posts, I am practicing.

Mr. Rosenberg described the patterns of communication I grew up seeing in my family.  He described methods of changing how to interact with people so that they feel heard, and how to better express yourself so that you feel understood.  I was so blown away by what he wrote, and I wanted to share it with everyone I knew.  I also knew that I would not be able to immediately apply everything in the book, and I didn’t know how to find a group to work through the book with, so I am choosing to do it here on my blog. 

Every Thursday I will write about my impressions and experiences of what Mr. Rosenberg writes about, chapter by chapter, until the book is complete.  You’re welcome to get a copy of the book and join in.  I can’t wait to see what we learn.


Anonymous said...

Excellent practice! I can't wait to read more. I've been trying to make my use of NVC more conscious.

Andrea Stern said...

There is so much, and so many moments of "bing" when I was reading through the first time. I want to retain and retrain. :)