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Friday, March 17, 2017

Understanding Violence

Being Right

Conflicts, even of long standing duration, can be resolved if we can just keep the flow of communication going in which people come out of their heads and stop criticizing and analyzing each other, and instead get in touch with their needs and hear the needs of others and realize the interdependence that we all have in relation to each other. We can't win at somebody else's expense. We can only fully be satisfied when the other person's needs are fulfilled as well as our own.”
Marshall B. Rosenberg (Nonviolent Communication)

My friend, Garvice, told me about psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg (1934-2015), and the lectures he gave on nonviolent communication. You can find them at his website, or on YouTube. I listened to a couple and realized how much I needed to listen to a whole lot more. Rosenberg made the point that we are trained from childhood in violent communication. I grew up in the 1960's watching TV shows like Gunsmoke, Paladin, and The Bounty Hunter. They were violent enough, but balanced in some ways by shows like I Love Lucy, and The Honeymooners, and Father Knows Best. Nowadays, the prime time shows are almost all graphically violent. And not only that, many of the protagonists are just as bad as the people they fight against. We get a nightly dose of grandiosity, violence, one-upmanship, and devious back-stabbing. And we've been getting it for close to sixty years.

I'm not blaming television so much as reflecting on it. The shows we watch are the way they are because that's what we want to watch—it's all about the ratings, as we well know. And violence and vulgarity sell. I'm just saying that I see a striking increase in incivility, not only in our culture, but in myself. I think it deserves scrutiny. I think it deserves diving deeply into—both within and without.

One component of the violence we are seeing in our homes and in our communities is the result of our need to be right. I don't know about you, but I have a need to be right. When we listen to others, even people we love, we are thinking in terms of what we can say or do to appear smarter, sharper, better informed. While that sometimes makes for entertaining conversation, it's lacking in empathy. It puts the focus on what I think, what I know, and not on what the other person is feeling and thinking. Empathy is found in simply being fully present to another person, not in giving advice or analyzing. This is a lesson I must learn over and over because it does not come naturally to me. It is a critical step in nonviolence. It's definitely something to be conscious of, to work on, to practice. If we want a less violent world, it begins with having less violence within ourselves.

                                                              In the Spirit,


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