Mindfulness & The Big City: Non-violent Communication

A mindful heart relies on peace with living beings, especially people. Although I know that my own peace depends on being in harmony with those around me, and although I know that peace is established through clear communication, I still struggle.

Life isn’t perfect, and conflicts happen every day. It is a difficult tightrope between expressing your own needs and wants and being “nice” to people around you. Unexpressed and unmet needs clutter my conscious, but modern life make clear communication even more difficult. These are rushed times of millisecond tweets and conversation partners glued to their screens.

Yet clear communication is vital for peace.

This summer I was introduced to a brilliantly simple technique. Marshall Rosenberg coined this formula for Non-Violent Communication to help people assert their feelings and needs while opening channels of communication rather than closing them.

  1. Make a non-judgmental observation about the situation, grounded in concrete facts

  2. Say what you feel

  3. Express the need that drives the emotion

  4. Make a simple request of the other person

This exercise may be more difficult than it appears, as many of us have become blinded to our own wants and needs. Pressed to conform to societal expectations and rushed to process more information that the human brain can handle, we have become blinded to our own needs.

Have a look at the feelings chart published by the Center for Non-Violent Communication. How many of those feelings are you in touch with? How many of those feelings are you comfortable expressing?

Now here’s the part that gets scary. According to Rosenberg, every feeling is driven by an unmet need. Have a look at the needs chart that the center has posted.

How many of those needs are you comfortable admitting to?

As an exercise in mindfulness this week, try to take a few minutes each day to identify how you are feeling and what is the need that is driving that feeling. If you are a journal writer, consider writing about your top three needs. Try to use self-compassion and be non-judgment with yourself.

For more insight on Non-Violent Communication, see Marshall Rosenberg’s short video.