September 1, 2016
By Kathleen Gerace
There is a new consciousness rising, inspired by the famous Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This consciousness of our thoughts and words, contributes to fostering peace in our heart, our family, our community and our world. It is outlined by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D, in his landmark book Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life, which offers ways to navigate through our lives by choosing to make life-giving connections, rather than falling back upon the snap judgements, pet peeves, implicit biases, and other negative habits of thought that our families and cultures have conditioned us in, disconnecting us from others.
Rosenberg promotes the importance of having a positive, uplifting intention in all we do, to promote peace and justice, rather than a negative intention that seeks to condemn and judge others. This is not Pollyannaish. We seek to make alliances with everyone involved, to work together to meet all our needs, rather than emphasizing harms done to others, the environment, or the economy. We move away from demonizing others, from refusing to acknowledge their humanity. Instead, a good faith effort is made towards a positive approach for meeting the needs of everyone involved; a way is opened that avoids the usual self defeating battle of wills. Rosenberg has mediated contentious issues in Palestine and Rwanda, as well as with school boards and prison populations with great success. There is even a group of his trainers currently working with the government of Syria. Far from being idealistic, William Ury, who wrote Getting to Yes, deemed Rosenberg’s book to be “one of the most practical books you’ll ever read.”
On a more personal note I’ve been able to benefit enormously from these principles and practices with my own family as well as in my professional life. Rather than responding defensively to criticisms I’ve been able to use those occasions as opportunities to explore more deeply what unmet feelings and needs lay under the criticism in the first place. This kind of dialogue has turned a potentially damaging exchange into one of renewed intimacy and trust.
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Compassionate Pittsburgh has several upcoming happenings this fall for initial introduction to Nonviolent Communication and building local connections with others who are studying and practicing this consciousness. Register through the upcoming events links on our website, https://compassionatepittsburgh.org/, or by leaving a message at 412-223-7729.
Compassionate Communication follows the practices introduced by Marshall Rosenberg in his seminal book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.
Kathleen Gerace has been a Chaplain at UPMC Mercy for the past 28 years and has been involved in social justice work for the same amount of time, including a year in Bolivia. She has written this article for the Compassionate Pittsburgh planning team.