When non-violent communication is violent

You always interrupt me,” came the complaint. “In non-violent communication we own-up,” she continued…

I have periodically heard about something called “non-violent communication” and while I knew nothing about it, immediately I liked the idea the name implies. But this was the first time I ran into it head-on in real life, and I clearly saw how it failed (in this case) to meet its own namesake. (Or perhaps there was confusion in its understanding, or application.)

I had been communicating with a co-worker and wanted to share an insight, but when I began to address the subject, I was interrupted and the topic went in another direction.

“You always interrupt me,” she complained.

Always?” I asked.

“Well, ok, not always, but you’re not owning it,” she said with pained  accusation.

She was hurting, and upon noticing that, clear seeing dawned brightly. She wanted me to accept responsibility for how she feels. How violent, came the ironic thought.

“Interruption may happen,” I said. “That is certainly true. And you interrupt me too, often, actually. But I don’t feel interrupted, or whatever bad feeling it is that you are experiencing. I could guess that perhaps it has something to do with feeling not heard, or not being respected?”

Yes! That’s it!” she exclaimed.

“I own my actions, but I cannot own your feelings. I would not want to own your feelings–even if I could. I would not want to take that power away from you,” I replied.

And I cannot. That is not the reality of it. You may be interrupted, but that does not mean that you are not heard or respected. When we apply our fearful thoughts to other people and presume it to be their intention or purpose, we are doing both them and ourselves violence.

Of course, this is not malicious. It is just currently the human habit and confusion; the confusion of our thoughts with reality. In our constant effort to defend and protect that which we believe to be ourselves (which is apparently thought to be a tiny, vulnerable being), we mistake those painful thoughts for what is, and for truth–the truth of others.

It is not reality that hurts, it is not the interruption that creates bad feeling, it is the thought about what you believe the interruption means that hurts. (Of course one could even take it a step further, but that is another book.)

If you carry an underlying belief that you are not worthy, or not respected, or not heard, or that someone in particular does not listen to you or respect you, then not only will you see interruption as a problem, but you will be watching for things that can be interpreted to match your beliefs (and you may notice this pattern in your life with multiple people).

While you carry this idea that you are interrupted and not respected, you will experience it over and over, until you own your underlying need and become self-fulfilling; until you listen to yourself and give yourself the respect you desire.

You are perfect as you are, whole and complete, until you take something away from yourself. Use The Alchemy of Love and Joy(TM) and give it back.

Then you won’t even notice interruptions (or certainly not as a “problem”), freeing yourself and others.

Postscript – Later, out of curiosity, I read about Non-Violent Communication from the source, and it itself is not at all what it seemed to be from this experience. Non-Violent Communication does not teach that others are responsible for how you feel. I use this interaction to highlight this error that people make (educated in Non-Violent Communication or not), and not to criticize Non-Violent Communication.

“There are no problems with others that is not self.”
– C. Teevens, The Alchemy of Love and Joy.

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