Updated: Nov 2, 2018
“When we judge others, we contribute to violence”
Marshall B. Rosenberg
Reading the news brings a constant flow of surprise about how human beings navigate life. Sometimes, I feel delight and I’m touched when reading about acts of care and generosity. Other times, I am horrified and appalled to learn about acts of violence that I would label as nothing less than deeply cruel.
Recent tragic events in Pittsburgh and other places in the United States, and the horrifying details that are emerging in relation to the disappearance and likely murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi from Saudi Arabia are in my mind and heart. And there is the work of co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Denis Mukwege, a physician who has devoted his life to treating the thousands of women who have been victims of sexual violence and injury in war zones. How can we begin to comprehend the extreme physical violence committed by humans on other human beings?
How can Nonviolent Communication help?
First, I want to share what happened in a training a few months ago. I was explaining about a process called “Dissolving Enemy Images which includes the idea that when we feel blame towards others, we have an option to decrease the blame we feel by re-humanizing the other person -- we can become curious and guess how they feel and what they need.
I shared an example of that, and then one man raised his hand to speak. He said (essentially): “I was part of the military sector for several years and we learned to do exactly the opposite of that. We learned how to dehumanize people; we learned how to take away the idea that they would feel or need anything. That was part of our training, it made it possible for us to feel ok with using weapons against people.”
I was shocked, and, at the same time it made a lot of sense. Although I felt deep sadness that people are trained to dehumanize, it explained many of the ways human beings act towards each other.
Although these are extreme cases, I see levels and variations of dehumanizing happening constantly day in, and day out. This feels tragic. We are slowly killing humanity with each of these acts and thoughts of dehumanization.
To save humanity from all the potential challenges we face , we need to learn to rehumanize each other. And here is where NVC provides the best approach I’ve ever encountered: guessing feelings and needs of ourselves and others, and doing that until we re-connect with the humanity of self and others, and just witness the magic, and the grace that unfolds and leads us to different, wiser, and kinder decisions.
That’s it. That’s the recipe. Asking ourselves, how do I feel? And what do I need? And wondering about the other person -- what do they feel? And what do they need?
Even in the midst of the violence happening right now, if we commit to practicing these skills, and consider how even small acts of understanding and connection can improve things, we individually and collectively can alter the future.