The Art Of Non-Violent Communication In Successful Dating
In understanding the art of non-violent communication for successful dating, it will be necessary to reference the work of psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, who was a student of the humanist Carl Rogers, himself a founder of client centred counselling. Rosenberg developed what he called Non-Violent Communication, a simple four step process that is based on identifying and expressing feelings and needs.
The aim is to build a heart-centred connection with the other person, regardless of whether other needs get met or not. Another of the things Rosenberg was passionate about was whether you are “making life wonderful” for others.
According to him, one of our common human needs is the desire to contribute, and so making life wonderful for others is a way to fulfill this need. Think about your partner; how much of the time are you considering how to “make life wonderful for them”, as opposed to thinking about how your partner can make life wonderful for you?!
What do you think would change in your relationship if you devoted yourself to making life wonderful for your partner? Take some time to journal about this.
Don’t inhibit yourself, just let the pen flow with whatever wants to come out. Then write about what would change if your partner devoted him or herself to making life wonderful for you. What have you learnt about yourself and your relationship by writing the answers to these questions down?
Communication is big. Huge, in fact. Rosenberg’s four step strategy of non-violent communication is an invaluable life skill, not just for intimate partner relations. You can use it for conflict resolution in the workplace, or with your children, and of course, with your spouse.
Steps To Non-Violent Communication
State the facts of the situation, without evaluating it. For example, let’s take a silly scenario: Suppose your partner left the lid off the toothpaste, again.
If you were to say, “You’ve left a huge mess in the bathroom again: the lid is not on the toothpaste!”, it would be fair to say that this is your subjective evaluation of the situation.
However, if you said, “I notice you have left the lid off the toothpaste for the second time this week, John”, then this is a clear statement of the facts, (assuming John had, in fact, left the lid off the toothpaste two times in that particular week!).
Of course, this is a ridiculous example but hopefully you get the point. So, step 1, then requires you to state the facts of a given situation. Just the facts. No judgements, no embellishments, no personal interpretations. Just the facts.
State your feelings. Start with, “I feel”. So, the story so far goes like this:
“John, I see you left the lid off the toothpaste twice this week. When I notice this, I feel disappointed”.
Identify and state your underlying need. Before we go any further, here are some lists* of common feelings and universal needs.
As human beings, we all have similar basic needs, so they are known as universal needs since they are common to all of us.
Look and see how many of the following feelings and needs are relevant to you.
Feelings When Your Needs Are Satisfied
Feelings When Your Needs Are Not Satisfied
When someone in a relationship is angry or hurt it’s important to understand what need is being unmet and has led to this breakdown. Often, these issues go unresolved, which means there is an unidentified problem that could eventually cause resentment. Identify the problem and deal with it head on.
to know and be known
to see and be seen
to understand and
celebration of life
Lists Source: (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication; www.cnvc.org
Use the lists to help you learn about and identify your feelings and needs. In the toothpaste lid scenario, what could your underlying need be? Remember that the lists are not exhaustive. Perhaps you really value orderliness, or hygiene, or a harmonious environment, an aesthetic sense of beauty and calm, or cleanliness? Perhaps you value all of these?
So, by now your statement is looking like this: “John, I see you left the lid off the toothpaste twice this week. When I notice this, I feel disappointed, because I really value (or, I really need), a clean and beautiful environment.”
This is where you make a request of your partner. The bottom line of the entire exercise is to bring about a deepened sense of heart-centred connection (aka emotional intimacy) between you and your partner.
Remember that you may not necessarily get your needs met by your partner even though you make a request. In this case, you will learn about self-soothing, self empathy and compassion, which increases your connection to yourself.
Your request to your partner will be something doable, and specific. It will often start with the words, “Would you be willing to….”. Or, you could equally ask, “How do you feel when you hear me say this?”
Our scenario could now look like this: “John, I see you left the lid off the toothpaste twice this week (Step 1, stating facts). When I notice this, I feel disappointed (Step 2, stating feelings), because I really value (or, I really need), a clean and beautiful environment (Step 3 stating needs). Would you be willing to consider this next time you use the toothpaste? (Step 4, making a request). I would love it if you would put the lid on!”
There is a lot to learn in order to use non-violent communication effectively, and the best way to learn is by putting it into practice. The miracle of non-violent communication is, that when you become more intimately connected to your partner, and acknowledge each other’s feelings and needs, solutions to problems often arise spontaneously.
When Your Partner Cannot Meet Your Needs
Realizing that your partner is only human can be a big help in establishing more emotional intimacy. No one can meet all the needs of another. So, when your partner inevitably falls short, instead of feeling hurt and angry, which will only create distance between you both, you can practise self-soothing.
You can do this by placing one hand over your heart and breathing into that area for a few moments. Say to yourself something long the lines of, “Jenny can’t help me right now, and that is ok. I can send myself the love and compassion I need right now”.
Then imagine sending yourself love and compassion. You may picture it as a pink or golden glow flooding to your heart, and gently surrounding it. Remember to breathe deeply into your belly and feel calmer as you do so. Consider other ways to get your needs met.
A big ingredient in non-violent communication is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of your partner.
Self-soothing is like having empathy for yourself. Next time your partner is frustrated or upset, try practising having empathy for them. See if you can understand where they are coming from.
Can you see why they would feel that way? Can you keep your heart open and feeling compassionate towards them because you understand their situation? Then you are experiencing empathy.
Don’t forget that your partner uses non-verbal cues to speak to you, too. So, pay attention to their tone of voice, body language, their facial expressions, and gestures. This is all improving your emotional intelligence and in turn, it will improve your ability to be emotionally intimate.