When I coach couples, or parents and children, the main issue is usually communication. One of the big shifts that can be made in their relationship happens by changing their way of interacting and communicating with each other.
When we judge and criticise others, they feel unloved. When we use general statements like “You always…”, we label them and push them into a corner. When we blame them, they shut down. When we want to change another person, he or she feels “not good enough”. When we try to fix them, we are forgetting that everybody–no matter what age–is perfect, whole, complete and resourceful. We all have the answers and the solutions for change inside us.
By communicating from a place of love and acceptance, you can help the other person open up to change. Successful communication uses “I” statements, expresses how YOU feel without judgement or blame and ends with a concrete request from your side, so your family member, friend or colleague knows what you need.
Marshall Rosenberg in his acclaimed book “Nonviolent Communication” explains the NVC Process as follows:
1. State the concrete actions you have OBSERVED that affect you.
2. Share how you FEEL in relation to what you have observed.
3. Explain the NEEDS, values, desires etc. that create your feelings.
4. Make a concrete REQUEST in order to improve a situation or relationship.
One example for non-violent communication is:
“I have NOTICED that you spend a lot of time at the gym. I FEEL a bit left out when you come home late almost every night. I WOULD LIKE to spend more quality time with. WOULD YOU BE WILLING to come home earlier once or twice a week, so we can spend more time together?”
Another example is:
“When you make negative comments about my family I FEEL criticised and embarrassed. I love them as much as I love you. I NEED to feel I can see them whenever I want. WOULD YOU BE WILLING to keep negative comments to yourself, or to focus on the good sides they all have?”
By using those steps, we are showing the willingness to be emotionally responsible and the willingness to talk straight. We are taking responsibility for our own feelings, and acknowledging our needs. Nobody makes us feel a certain way; that is an inside job. By communicating our feelings clearly, we are in integrity in our relationships.
We are also making clear requests, not demands. How do you know when you have made a request, not a demand? If it is a true request the other person has a choice to say “no”.