Connecting with Others using Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a skill set we teach at Zen Life & Meditation Center (ZLMC) to help improve the quality of our communication with others. It is a natural extension of mindfulness meditation because, like mindfulness, it is rooted in an awareness free of judgments. If you are able to bring mindful awareness to your own experience, you will appreciate how easily judgments arise in your own mind. These judgments can prevent you from being with yourself and others in ways that are more compassionate. As you learn new habits based on the sound communication principles of NVC, you will enrich the quality of connection with your friends and even your enemies. One of the strengths of NVC is the specific and concrete language patterns it teaches. Sometimes when we are in the middle of a difficult conflict and we are not able to think as clearly as we would like, having this formula at your command, is very helpful.

But it's also important to understand that this language arises from a deeper inner awareness based on needs and feelings. If you simply mimic the technique of NVC without the empathic awareness of self and other, people will notice this and may react negatively, feeling they are being manipulated by your words.

So empathy is as much as an art as it is a technique. Its practice in real life is always dynamic and flowing, and  can be learned and practiced to improve its application and effectiveness. Learning and practicing NVC supports communication that is more proactive. It supports ways of speaking with others that do not blame or even imply blame. It does this by helping you focus on what is important to you.  So instead of merely reacting to what someone else has said, you respond from the experience of what you are actually needing and feeling.

When you set about living a Zen-inspired lifestyle of openness, empathy and clarity, you begin the journey of cultivating new, more constructive and proactive habits that will sustain and enrich the quality of your life and your interpersonal relationships. When you learn NVC and  are able to speak more clearly about what is alive in you right now, you speak in a manner that is more genuine and authentic. When your awareness shifts from "being right" to "being connected", you are able to remain open, receptive and empathic towards yourself and others.

With this shift in your awareness and speech, will grow new habits that cultivate increased confidence and trust in your interpersonal relationships. You will be surprised to discover that you can approach conflicts that used to paralyze you with more confidence and fearlessness. You will become more skilled at discerning what is truly important to you. You will be able to listen more deeply and empathically to others. The empathic awareness from which this NVC language arises is the key. It grows out of the practice of mindfulness meditation and the intention to live a Zen-inspired life.

Robert Althouse