"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there."
I attended a class on nonviolent communication (or compassionate communication) all week. There is not enough compassion in the world, most certainly not coming from me. I have known this for some time.
The instructor talks about jackals and giraffes though animals are not the primary teaching. The idea is that we were raised to judge ourselves and others, to make assumptions, to blame, demand, evaluate and have huge expectations from other people (and ourselves). The jackal is a nasty-mouthed beast from Africa, and in NVC, the jackal is the one making all the judgements and demands; the negative self-talk. The giraffe has a long neck thus a huge heart (because it's difficult to pump blood from the giraffe's heart to his brain (it's so far away). The idea of giraffe speak is that a giraffe speaks from a compassionate (big) heart using facts, feelings and needs as a guide to speech.
While taking the class I realize I've been coming from a pretty jackal-y space, however, if I condemn my own self for speaking from the jackal space, I would be judging myself (which is a jackal tactic) for jackaling. So no condemning allowed. I seriously dislike how judging other people actually makes my body feel. I became aware of this feeling during the morning commute after I'd condemn a half dozen or so drivers and pedestrians, and furry critters that get in my way, and then condemn myself for condemning them. What a nifty idea! By the time I arrived at work, I was about ready to puke. Jackaling is mostly unconscious. We jackal all day long -- all our lives long. It is a very hard habit to break. While learning how to speak from a big heart takes a lot of training.
The primary goal of NVC is to create human connections that empower compassionate giving and receiving. This is done primarily through dialogue -- at least I've not seen anyone applying the same principle to giving or receiving actual gifts though in many relationships, I'd wager that if the people spoke compassionately to each other, the conversations would seem like a gift! The communication taught in these classes emphasizes compassion as the motivation for action, rather than fear, shame or blame or freaking out or any of the other things I might do.
Behind every feeling is a need. Needs are considered universal as in we really don't want to live without them. (If you check out the list, you'll see what I mean.) One useful thing to remember is all actions by all people are attempts to meet needs.
One thing the instructor taught us straight away was that the idea of rejection, abandonment, or someone 'feeling' disrespected are perceptions (non-feelings) we have, not real feelings. For instance, if I feel rejected (and I thought I did) or abandoned (who doesn't?), what I am really feeling is sad and/or lonely etc. Now, those are feelings. But when I tell myself that I feel rejected, that is my own perception of the situation. I could be telling myself, "I'm sad. I feel sad as a result of what just happened." These responses and actions all require tremendous thinking which is one of the reasons I'm going to keep studying this work.
One of the most important things to realize is that it's important to identify the other person's needs, to listen with empathy and identify with them, and use compassion to come to resolution or solution, rather than making judgements and condemnations. This all may sound boring to you but I am thrilled by the idea of it. (Plus I really don't care what you think.)
There are many groups that teach the idea of compassionate communication was originally started by Marshall Rosenberg (who is not a cult leader) who wrote the book Nonviolent Communication: The language of life. I'm going to be taking a book study starting in September. In addition I may sign up for an 9 month immersion program. By that time no one will be reading my blog.