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Excerpted from Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Copyright © 1999 by Marshall Rosenberg. Excerpted by permission of PuddleDancer Press.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"I didnít know whether my guess was correct, but what is critical is my sincere effort to connect with his feeling and need."

  Marshall Rosenberg
Nonviolent Communication
, Part 4

NVC in Action

Interspersed throughout the book are dialogues entitled NVC in Action. These dialogues intend to impart the flavor of an actual exchange where a speaker is applying the principles of Nonviolent Communication. However, NVC is not simply a language or a set of techniques for using words; the consciousness and intent which it embraces may be expressed through silence, a quality of presence, as well as through facial expressions and body language. The NVC in Action dialogues you will be reading are necessarily distilled and abridged versions of real-life exchanges, where moments of silent empathy, stories, humor, gestures, etc. would all contribute to a more natural flow of connection between the two parties than might be apparent when dialogues are condensed in print.

"Murderer!", "Assassin", "Child-killer!", "Murderer!"

I was presenting Nonviolent Communication in a mosque at Deheisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem to about 170 Palestinian Moslem men. Attitudes toward Americans at that time were not favorable. As I was speaking, I suddenly noticed a wave of muffled commotion fluttering through the audience. "Theyíre whispering that you are American!" my translator alerted me, just as a gentleman in the audience leapt to his feet. Facing me squarely, he hollered at the top of his lungs, "Murderer!" Immediately a dozen other voices joined him in chorus: "Assassin!" "Child-killer!" "Murderer!"

Fortunately, I was able to focus my attention on what the man was feeling and needing. In this case, I had some cues. On the way into the refugee camp, I had seen several empty tear gas canisters that had been shot into the camp the night before. Clearly marked on each canister were the words "Made in U.S.A." I knew that the refugees harbored a lot of anger toward the U.S. for supplying tear gas and other weapons to Israel.

I addressed the man who had called me a murderer:

I: Are you angry because you would like my government to use its resources differently? (I didnít know whether my guess was correct, but what is critical is my sincere effort to connect with his feeling and need.)

He: Damn right Iím angry! You think we need tear gas? We need sewers, not your tear gas! We need housing! We need to have our own country!

I: So youíre furious and would appreciate some support in improving your living conditions and gaining political independence?

He: Do you know what itís like to live here for twenty-seven years the way I have with my family -- children and all? Have you got the faintest idea what thatís been like for us?

I: Sounds like youíre feeling very desperate and youíre wondering whether I or anybody else can really understand what itís like to be living under these conditions.

He: You want to understand? Tell me, do you have children? Do they go to school? Do they have playgrounds? My son is sick! He plays in open sewage! His classroom has no books! Have you seen a school that has no books?

I: I hear how painful it is for you to raise your children here; youíd like me to know that what you want is what all parents want for their children -- a good education, opportunity to play and grow in a healthy environment...

He: Thatís right, the basics! Human rights -- isnít that what you Americans call it? Why donít more of you come here and see what kind of human rights youíre bringing here!

I: Youíd like more Americans to be aware of the enormity of the suffering here and to look more deeply at the consequences of our political actions?

Our dialogue continued, with him expressing his pain for nearly twenty more minutes, and I listening for the feeling and need behind each statement. I didnít agree or disagree. I received his words, not as attacks, but as gifts from a fellow human willing to share his soul and deep vulnerabilities with me.

Once the gentleman felt understood, he was able to hear me as I explained my purpose for being at the camp. An hour later, the same man who had called me a murderer was inviting me to his home for a Ramadan dinner.

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