Expressing feelings in “Nonviolent Communication”
Whoever has heard about the nonviolent communication might remember the following points:
1: Observe what’s happening.
2: State the feeling that is generated as well as its underlying causes.
3: Identify the need behind the feeling
4: Request an action.
I am one of many therapists who often suggest this form of communication instead of name calling, judgment, threats and screaming matches. I do it because disagreements often derive from miscommunication, undistinguished desires, and unknown needs. Part of the nonviolent communication is talking about one’s feelings in the context of ‘me’ messages: “I feel abandoned, when…”“I become angry, if…” “I am frustrated, because…” By so doing, it is bringing our mental state to the knowledge of our partner.
This concept is based on that assumption that the conversationalists want to cooperate, they pay attention to each other’s feelings and mutually want to meet each other’s needs. In these circumstances knowing what feels good and what feels bad to the other improves the situation.
Communication with “manipulative people”
On the other hand, when we are faced with manipulative people, one of the teachings is: don’t tell the manipulator how you feel because it empowers them. Why and how?
Let’s look behind the curtain a little bit and see how manipulation works: they want you to do something that you don’t want to. They make you feel guilty, ashamed or anxious and show or tell you what to do in order to avoid these painful – and destructive – feelings. They don’t care about your will, they don’t care if you suffer or not. They care about one thing only: the outcome. This outcome must be in alignment with their needs and wants exclusively.
If s/he doesn’t care about your feelings, it is unnecessary to talk about them. But it is more than that: Consciously or unconsciously, s/he monitors your reaction. Throughout the process, they monitor how the persuasion process is moving forward. Whenever you show the sign of feeling uncomfortable from guilt, shame or anxiety, s/he knows the pressure has begun to establish traction and establish its effect. Furthermore, s/he knows just a bit more push and you’ll eventually cave in to his/her will.
Thus, it is forthright dangerous admitting that you suffer from guilt, shame anxiety – or insecurity, uncertainty as a consequence. This is the sign of you losing ground.
The best you can do in this situation to ask for some time out: go into your room, do the laundry, do some gardening work or go for a walk. Clean up your mind! It is imperative that you understand what makes you angry/sad/frustrated. Whose interest is it when you are “supposed to do” something? If your partner goes after his/her selfish goals regardless of your feelings, you don’t have to admit your feelings just resist the pressure and do what you want to do. If you need to communicate about it, you do it with the best possible composure and neutrality.
What does it look like in reality?
If your partner threatens you to do something otherwise…- you can answer with kind neutrality: “I don’t fulfill request told by yelling.” (Emotional message: I am not intimidated by your yelling.)
If your partner applies the silent treatment on you; you might say: “I see you don’t want to talk to me right now. I am going to my room to read. When you feel like talking to me again, you can tell me.” (Emotional message: I am not anxious about you not communicating with me.)
If your partner makes you feel guilty and pressures you to do or not to do something: don’t get involved. Don’t argue and respond in defense with something such as: “No, I’m not that kind of a person.” Bear it! Wear it! – Guilt is a very heavy feeling to withstand, but be sure it’s temporary. It’s “just a feeling” and it will not kill you. (On the contrary: if you always give in and do what others want you to; that is more dangerous for your health!) Acknowledge and empathize: “I am sorry you feel that way.” “I am sorry you think about me this way.” – and do what you would do without that pressure.
Expressing or not: what does it depend on?
If you know that your partner is a nice man/woman, s/he is able to and willing to compromise, if you don’t have to worry that the other would abuse the information you give him/her, you might want to disclose your true feelings.
If you suspect that the other does not fight fairly, if s/he is rather selfish in other aspects of life, if you feel like the other pursue controls rather than cooperates, you better make yourself aware about your emotions but keep the realization to yourself.
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