An Ode to Nonviolent Communication

Holding Hands - Nonviolent Communication

Happy to announce I am now 100% nonviolent after reading Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg.

I am also 100% lying.

Because, like all good things in life, NVC takes effort. And practice. Having just finished the book, I only have an idea of what to say but no practical experience.

Conflict resolution is an interesting topic to me since we have to deal with conflicts in every aspect of our lives. How can we be stern and kind at the same time? How can we get the best out of any situation? Being able to communicate effectively is an art in itself.

I have always taken away something, if not everything, from every book I’ve read – a new kind of awareness. What I took away from this one was to take a moment to step back and focus on needs instead of the more apparent negatives during an argument. It helps with forgiveness. It keeps you calm. So it’s a win-win overall.

What is NVC?

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a practice that must be consciously ingrained in our daily interactions to see results. It includes letting go of your judgments and interacting with the other person to focus on each other’s needs instead of playing the blame game. We attribute violence to physical and mental abuse. But here, the author talks about negative communication as violence too. Things like incessant blaming, judging, silent treatment, and mocking all form a part of violent communication.

So here are some of the key takeaways from the book:

Focusing on needs

The four components of NVC include: what we are observing, feeling, and needing, and what we would like to request to enrich our lives. To summarize, the two parts of NVC are 1) expressing honestly 2) receiving empathically.

Connect your feeling with your need: “I feel.. because I need..”

Something you need to keep repeating to yourself whenever you are agitated. What is it that you need? Focus on each other’s primary emotion (need) instead of lashing out at each other.

Avoiding blame and judgment

Why would people want to tell the truth, knowing they will be judged and punished for doing so?

The more people hear blame and judgment, the more defensive and aggressive they become and the less they will care about our needs in the future. So even if our present need is met in the sense that people do what we want, we will pay for it later.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? Why would someone tell you the truth if they knew they would be misunderstood or shouted at? I feel the more we make someone feel uncomfortable and “dirty” for telling us the truth, the more they will hide it the next time.

Being empathic even with people who hurt you

Blaming is easy. People are used to hearing blame; sometimes they agree with it and hate themselves – which doesn’t stop them from behaving the same way – and sometimes they hate us for calling them names – which also doesn’t stop their behavior. If we sense blame entering their mind, we may need to slow down, go back, and hear their pain for a while more.

NVC stresses hearing the other person a while longer and understanding their feelings before we put forward our requests. Such a method lets the other person relax and be in a proper frame of mind to receive and reciprocate.

Conflict Resolution

The more experience I have gained in mediating conflicts over the years and the more I’ve seen what leads families to argue and nations to go to war, the more convinced I am that most schoolchildren could solve these conflicts. If we could just say, “Here are the needs of both sides. Here are the resources. What can be done to meet these needs?,” conflicts would be easily resolved. But instead, our thinking is focused on dehumanizing one another with labels and judgments until even the simplest of conflicts becomes very difficult to solve. NVC helps us avoid that trap, thereby enhancing the chances of reaching a satisfying resolution.

Why can’t warring countries adopt this methodology, sit together, and discuss resolutions in a non-confrontational way? The world would be a more peaceful place to live in.

An Ode to the Kind Stranger at the Café

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A bitter argument,

A door slam,

An empty apartment. A heavy heart.

Tears. Surplus tears.

Misery spanning the entire morning and half of afternoon,

No breakfast, no lunch; hunger killed by words as sharp as a knife,

Hunger killed by heart-numbing brashness.

Soul crushing, sky falling, world burning,

It feels like death – this beginning of the end.

Death of a person still very much alive,

Death of a marriage,

Death of love.

I push myself up, wiping away tears,

I head outdoors,

I walk aimlessly, like a lost soul,

And I spot a small café.

Self-care beckons,

I should eat something.

An order placed with gloom. Face full of despair.

Eyes down. Gaze lowered. No strength to face anyone,

No strength to smile.

A cup of coffee and a sandwich.

The order arrives,

I lift my gaze, and I smile,

The coffee has a heart on top.

A beautiful little heart.

Intrigued, I look at other cups around me,

No, this one is just for me.

In a sea of pain, it felt like a wave of comfort,

A compassionate message,

A comforting hug.

I look around for the waiter,

I spot him in a corner,

Working but eyes fixed on me.

He smiles compassionately,

I smile back,

Warmth.

A sign that the world is not so bad after all,

A sign that I’ll be okay – even if it’s the beginning of the end.

Context: The magic of kindness. A stranger I’ve never met before provided me hope on the most hopeless of days. I never met him after that. The incident happened years ago, but I still think of it fondly. I feel a cocktail of emotions whenever I remember that moment in the café. It still makes me smile.

An Ode to Staying Unmarried Forever

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I am in my late 30s, and I might never get married.

Initially, I wanted to. I terribly did. When I was in my teens, I never pictured myself as an unmarried woman with no children. In my dreams, I had a dashing husband, the cutest of kids, and all the usual, regular mush coated with a sugary sweetness that had the full potential to make anyone diabetic.

Then life happened.

Life happens for everyone of course, but for me, my journey took a complete U-turn from what I expected.

I did not get a dreamy husband.

I was not a dreamy wife.

I did not get any dreamy children.

My fairy tale turned out to be a horror story in disguise.. and I got divorced.

I thought my life was going to end. How is a woman in her late 20s going to live without a husband? It used to hurt initially. The thought that life would be so unfair, blessing others with the good things in life while I was left with nothing but despair, was too much for me to fathom. A desolate soul in search of a deeper meaning in the form of marital status – that was me.

In hindsight, I never enjoyed my marital life – if you take away the husband part of it as well. The regular chores, and the responsibilities, made me think, “Is this what I am going to do the rest of my life?” I had no time for hobbies, things that mattered to me, my work, or anything that kept me alive, active, and fulfilled. Marital life is indeed a busy world, and you should not step into it unless you are ready to take on the responsibilities, compromises, and adjustments that come with cohabitation.

I was never ready for it.

Within a few years of my divorced life, I realized how much I was adjusting and compromising in my married life. When I left the relationship, it was as if a chain was broken, and I finally attained wings to fly. This freedom felt like finally finding water in a desert. My thirst, however, did not get quenched. Instead, I found it ever-increasing. The thirst to enjoy the things I want, the thirst to not be answerable to anyone for the first time in my life, the thirst to just be. It was liberating, it was extraordinary, and it felt like love. I never knew love in the form of freedom. I thought love could only be found in people. It took a break from one kind of love for me to discover another. The type of love that I had never experienced before because all through my life I was told: “marriage is important.”

I never realized a woman could live without getting married. I have seen others living a content life without tying the knot, but I used to look at them with compassion. The thought that marriage is mandatory and the only thing that can make a woman happy was so ingrained and indoctrinated in me that any other way of living was callously dismissed.

Why did it take a divorce for me to find freedom? The answer might be that the people in my vicinity finally stopped pressurizing me to get into something I was not comfortable with i.e., marriage.

Note the usage of the word “unmarried” instead of “single.” A good relationship is like a cherry on the cake. It is a bonus—a plus. But I feel if a relationship is what makes you feel “complete,” then it would mean that you are lacking otherwise. This is far from the truth. We should celebrate individuality as much as coupledom, if not more. In the end, it all boils down to choice. There is never really one single right path. But you should have the complete freedom to choose the path you desire.

My dream is no longer marriage. It feels like I have seen the other side, and now I choose the other side – the path less taken. My dream is now to selfishly enjoy my freedom till the end of life. To those wondering how the path is – it is not easy. It is definitely not easy. You always have this big FOMO because everyone around you is following a path entirely different from yours – they find someone they love, they marry, and they live happily(?) ever after.

What happens when you don’t marry? For a reclusive person like me, it is a journey of self-discovery, freedom, and fulfillment. For another, it might be that of melancholy. It truly is subjective. But it is a life that is definitely worthy, liveable, and sustainable.

To end this with the ever-famous lines by Robert Frost:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

The Best Quotes from Rumi’s Little Book of Life

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Rumi has a way with words. His love for all things divine and spiritual is like a medicinal balm for a tired soul. I am always swept away by his verbal dexterity and his nonchalant aura. He has the power to induce both transcendence and melancholy in a single frame and you are left craving for more by the end of each couplet.

There is a neat little book available for Amazon Prime subscribers for free called “Rumi’s Little Book of Life.” It is a quick read filled with wisdom, dreamy poetry, and wonder. An enchanting journey that takes you through Rumi’s ruminations on life (see what I did there?).

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

Why do you seek water when you are the stream?

Indulging our pride, we run after every fleeting image.

How odd that being so unimportant we cultivate such grand illusions.

The intellect is luminous and seeks justice so why does the dark ego prevail over it? Because the ego is at home in the body while the intellect is only a visitor, the ego-dog at his own door is like a lion.

Embrace sorrowful thoughts for they sweep the house of your heart clean, scatter the withered leaves, and pull out the twisted roots, preparing the ground for the new shoots of joy. What sorrow takes away from the heart it replaces with something better. Without the fury of thunder and lightning the plants will be scorched by the sun. Be grateful for all you receive, good and bad alike, for it may be a gift from the treasury of Spirit that will bring the fulfilment of your most secret desire.

You carry a basket full of bread, yet you beg for crumbs from door to door. You are up to your knees in water, yet you beg for a drink from everyone you see. Why are you so blind and stubborn? Beg at the door of your heart instead.

My heart whispered, “Do not be so concerned, in the midst of people I am like a gold coin hidden in the dust, but even gold cannot find buyers unless it is brought out from the depths of the mine into the light.”

The night is blind to the glory of dawn man is blind to the glory of the lover. He who complains of burning is not a lover for the lover’s heart is constantly on fire.

Of the rain at night no one is aware for every soul is asleep. Yet the freshness of the rose garden in the morning is evidence of the rain that no one saw.

Many pass their lives deprived of love unaware that their heart is dark and narrow where the sun never penetrates. A grave is better than such a heart.

The body is like a pot with the lid on. Lift the lid to see if it is filled with the Water of Life or the poison of death. Focus on the contents and you will become a master focus on the pot and you will be misguided. Your eyes only see the body while the spiritual eye perceives the soul.

My heart twisted with passion in the fire of your words. Now I see what I saw as fire was only ice what I saw as water, only a mirage and our story, an old forgotten dream.

There are hundreds of religious books yet they are all one chapter, there are a hundred different holy places yet only one altar. All roads lead to the one House from one seed a thousand ears of corn emerge. There are many kinds of food and drink with one purpose only, to feed. The eyes of hunger are greedy, when satiated with one kind of food all others become repulsive to your heart. I dissolved as a grain of salt in your Sea of Serenity. Nothing remained, no faith, no certainty, no doubt. In my heart a star was born and inside all worlds dissolved.