What’s Up Next?
Sunday, November 6, 2016 ~ The Art & Craft of Political Debate/Discussion
Inquiry: How do you conduct yourself when faced with dissenting views during political/religious discussions? Is NVC advantageous/disadvantageous when deciding how to proceed?
“Dialogue is a conversation … the outcome of which is unknown.”
~ Martin Buber
Newt Bailey — paraphrasing from video clip above — on communicating based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg’s (NVC) model and when this tool, in our toolbox, may come into (relevance)/play:
“…To a large extent what I’m suggesting to people is that when they are in a stressful conversation or a fight, an argument, anything where they are finding that their communication is not going in a way that they would want, a lot of the time what I’m basically saying to people is, ‘look you can talk however you like, most of the time, you know if it works for you to say whatever you’re saying, but if you’re really clear that if it’s not working for you, or not working for the other person, then shrink down your available options down to just three options.’ That’s essentially what I’m saying to people. And the practice is in actually, it’s maybe more difficult to shrink down and turn away from all the normal things you ordinarily do, blaming, persuading, criticizing people, making demands, telling stories, telling jokes, all of these other options, many options. To shrink it down to just three options, and the three options are: How am I doing right now (self-connection)? How is the other person doing right now (call this empathy)? And the third choice, just expressing honestly what you got in touch with when you checked in with ‘how am I doing’… That creates a simplicity basically which also, strangely enough, creates much more potential for connection between you and the other person which will then lead, more frequently, to some kind of a useful outcome that you both enjoy…”
Guidelines: How To Do Politics (NVC Style)
Miki Kashtan/Department of Peace Teleconference Training Call Notes
A caller described a scenario is which he quarreled with a co-worker over a political issue. The caller was upset to suddenly find his co-worker passionately disagreeing with him. Later, when the co-worker apologized, he didn’t seem to know how to respond.
How to hear an opposing political position with compassion:
The first thing we’re likely to do is to depersonalize the other person, and make them a stand-in for a group.
‘He’s one of those ‘liberals’.”
‘She’s one of those ‘hawks.”
We need to forget about all the other people that agree with that person, and think of this person as a full and rich person, 3-dimensional, just like me. (Have compassion.) Remember, another person may have a different opinion from me, but their core values may be no different from the core values that live in me.
Ask yourself, “Can I abstract the core value that they are expressing?” “What is their core value?” (A core human feeling and need.)
Take a breath. You are moving from the world of separation, to the world of connection.
As an exercise right now, think of the last political discussion in which you felt some discomfort. Notice the difference it makes in your emotions, to see the needs that you may have in common with your communications partner.
Go back and forth between these two thoughts.
§ when you think of them as a stand-in for what is wrong in the world, and
§ when you think of them as having the same core value as you (safety, understanding).
This opens your heart.
Feeling the connection with your conversational partner:
Pause before seeking to be heard, and really try to connect with what the other person is saying. After they feel heard, then you may choose to hear your truth.
§ hearing the other person,
§ from what you want to say.
Because If I…
§ tell you that I feel connected to you because of our common feeling and need,
§ then, without any pause, tell you what I see as different from your view,
it tends to wipe out the connection.
Take a breath at the end of the connection. Check if you really got it. Mirror not only the thought they said, but mirror their emotional state.
Do not bring any “buts” into the conversation.
After they say, “Yeah, you get me,” then ask,
“Would you be willing to hear what this topic bring up for me?”
(They may not be willing to hear you.)
Speaking what is true for you:
If they are willing to hear you,
Make an “I statement”. Instead of saying what should happen in the political arena, take ownership, and say “what I want to see”. When we say what should happen, we are making it about being right and wrong.
When you say your truth, chunk it up into small bits. Check out each chunk for the other person’s understanding and reaction. This way, they won’t be as likely to feel overwhelmed with information they want to respond to.
If someone attacks you, judges you, or swears at you:
A caller related their sadness when they met with their Congressman, who said, “Your legislation has no chance in hell of passing.” The caller was shocked and left the meeting feeling upset, judgmental and resentful. If something like this this happens, you could say:
1) “I’m a bit shocked.”
2) “I’m wondering if you might give me a moment to recover.”
Then, work as fast as you can within yourself to release the hold that this feeling of shock has on you:
1. How do you feel? Sad? Frustrated?
2. What do you imagine is causing the other person to express what they are saying (what human need of theirs is motivating them to say what they are saying). What matters to them? What is the underlying message that they want you to hear? What is motivating them to say something that you are interpreting it as an attack?
Then you might be able to ask of them:
“Are you feeling like it would be too difficult to sponsor this legislation, because you have a need to sponsor legislation that has a good shot at passing?” or “Are you saying, you want me to be realistic about whether or not this legislation could actually pass?”
Our goal in any given lobbying conversation:
If you go into a conversation with your congressperson thinking you are going to change them, you may have a difficult conversation, and may end up feeling very disappointed.
§ connect, from a vantage of mutual understanding.
§ consider: what can I learn from this? OK, so you don’t think this is a good idea? Tell me why.
Keep the focus on what they are feeling and needing. If you can do this for a while, the opportunity to tell them your opinions (without creating more upset) may come up later because they felt that their feelings and needs have been heard by you.
We might have other goals as well, that could be accomplished from the interaction.
§ Connect: To make a human connect with the person we are lobbying
§ Model Peace: To experience a small bit of world peace during the conversation, thus modeling the peace we are seeking to realize globally
§ Expand our worldview: To learn from the person. Our perspective is parochial and limited if we only are capable of preaching to the choir of fellow believers in the peace movement.
§ Learn to respond to objections: Perhaps we can learn from Congress members how the legislation might generate objections in Congress. This way, we can start to learn to answer those objections
When many people first learn NVC, they become so enthusiastic about the possibilities they see unfolding, that they immediately try to put it to use everywhere. Often enough, the results can be disastrous, such that other people become deeply suspicious of NVC. Here is a sample of what people often hear from others in such circumstances:
- “It’s like I’ve got a complete stranger staying in my house.”
- “Don’t use this NVC thing on me.”
- “What happened to you? Can’t you speak normal?”
- “You sound so clinical.”
- “Why can’t you just be honest with me and tell me what’s really going on with you?”
The fundamental issue happening here, as I see it, is that people fall in love with what NVC can bring to their lives and to the world, while attributing that miracle to thelanguage used rather than to the consciousness shift that precedes the choice of words. As a result, they use the language in their interactions with others instead of seeing it as a practice tool designed to support integration of principles and to facilitate navigation of difficult moments with mutual consent. Because of how challenging that distinction between the language and the underlying consciousness is, I want to carefully unpack this paradox.
Almost everyone I’ve come in contact with sees and experiences the immediate power of NVC when used by an experienced person who is calm and present in the moment of using it. Even people who would otherwise vehemently disagree with the premises of NVC, especially with the idea of transcending right/wrong thinking completely, derive immediate benefit from being heard. However, getting to the level of mastery that allows such presence and fluidity to emerge requires something far beyond facility with a certaintemplate of speech (pdf). Until this integration happens, the gap between the words and the consciousness is likely to show up as lack of authenticity, which is a big piece of what’s annoying to people.Two factors combine to create this gap. One is the awkwardness of using a new and unfamiliar form of speech. Trying out something new, especially if there is any tension with another person, is highly likely to bring about self-consciousness and discomfort. Having such discomfort and then hiding it, as we are wont to do, immediately shows up as inauthenticity. Any hiding of visible discomfort does.
The other aspect of the gap derives more directly from the difference between our words and our thoughts. If we use empathic words while judging another person, or make something look like a request when it’s really a demand, we create inner tension. The empathic words or our request is likely to carry with it the tension, in our body’s movements and posture and in our tone of voice. Add to this our habitual preoccupation with “doing it right”, and the possibility of connection diminishes even as we are trying to forge a more satisfying level of connection that we have seen work.
Integration addresses both of these at once. As we become fluid with the language itself, it’s less likely to sound clunky. We can speak poetically and creatively even while using the language of needs, provided we have mastery and ease, and provided we genuinely care about the other person’s well-being even in conflict, and have capacity to let go of attachment to outcome while engaging in dialogue.
Practice and Life
Integration doesn’t happen overnight or by itself just because we love the new ideas. Integration arises from practice. This is why people who learn about NVC so often gravitate toward others who have learned it, so that they can practice together. I have no doubt that using the template in a practice setting, where everyone else has the same intention, supports the integration of the principles, which are truly the heart of NVC. At the same time, as often as I can remember to do so, I ask people to let go of the language altogether when they are outside of a practice group context, and only focus on what is most likely, moment by moment, to lead to an outcome that attends to everyone’s needs. If only it were so easy to do… People continue to hold on to the language because it’s so concrete that they feel more secure having it as a “crutch”, without realizing that they are losing their most valuable resource, which is the authenticity of their heart intention… (continues)
Adapting to Context
Bringing NVC to a workplace setting is not the same as using NVC in a personal relationship or in a therapeutic relationship. Because I have used NVC in these and other contexts, I have a deep appreciation for how much clarity, resilience, and creativity are required to navigate these differences… (continues here: Psychology Today)
One of the reasons that I opted to reference Miki’s piece on pitfalls, above, is that I have experienced a tendency to try to ‘straight jacket’ a more fluent, natural (read, ‘jackal’) response — especially in an attempt to adhere to a kind of NVC purified litmus test — as highly problematic (sometimes even interfering with my willingness to experiment and grow as an NVC practitioner at all). Once, while applying myself to a different modality, I recall being told by a practitioner of that style of communication that they “could never have a real conversation” with someone who practiced NVC. And I understood what she meant. Trying to adhere too closely to the model can come across as stilted; just as sanitizing one’s speech of any remnants of ‘jackal’ can neuter descriptive potency. To see what I mean, try to picture a stand up comedian relegated to observations/feelings/needs/requests and devoid of diagnoses, labels, or salty language (not so fun). Over time, I’ve gained conviction that while I want to become more fluent in giraffe, I do not wish to do so without retaining my native jackal tongue. Instead it is an aspiration to become increasingly mindful and at choice as to how and when to use NVC (or not). In arenas such as the current political climate, it seems imperative to borrow from a wide variety of self-expressive possibilities, for authenticity’s sake.
I once heard an anecdote of how to frame the arc of acquiring NVC skills (i.e. embodying its consciousness or opting not to), which seems particularly relevant to any discussion about engaging in political debate. Borrowing from what I can only assume must be the psychoanalyst, Lawrence Kohlberg, and his stages of moral development, learning NVC was similarly broken down into three stages: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional. To delineate between these, first imagine a toddler — representing “pre-conventional” — assembling an outfit that mixes stripes, polka dots and a lady-bug patterning. Next, envision the same little girl, now an adolescent, and wishing to blend in with the “conventional” milieu of her peers by wearing the same name brand jeans and sneakers (so as not to stand out!). Finally, see her as an adult professional at Manhattan’s fashion week — a top notch designer of haute couture — assembling those seemingly bizarre “post-conventional” ensembles. To the untrained eye, the post-conventional of high fashion costuming is not all that dissimilar to the “pre-conventional” polka-dots/stripes/lady-bug patterning. But now the creative self-expression seems quite deliberate, of conscious intent/design, as there’s a method to the ‘madness’.
Opting out of being guided by the OFNR model when choosing amongst NVC’s three choices of self-connection/empathy/honesty, and/or opting out of NVC altogether, can also be framed within the broader, historical context which was the catalyst for Marshall Rosenberg’s naming of nonviolent communication.
It’s worth noting that MLK spoke of awakening “a sense of shame” as part and parcel of his use of nonviolence, while Nelson Mandela spoke of eschewing nonviolence altogether (viewing it in tactical terms). These historical examples of iconic practitioners of nonviolence have buttressed my realization that nonviolence, and how one opts to engage with it, is a choice.
‘He [ANC’s Lutuli] of course opposed the decision because he was a man who believed in nonviolence as a principle,’ Mandela recalled. ‘Whereas I and others believed in nonviolence as a strategy, which could be changed at any time the conditions demanded it. So that was the difference between us.’ ~ Nelson Mandela
Via Wikipedia: The concept known as the law of the instrument, Maslow’s hammer, Gavel or a golden hammer is an over-reliance on a familiar tool; as Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
LET’S put shame to work for a good cause. That’s the provocative assertion of Jennifer Jacquet, a conservationist at New York University. In Is Shame Necessary? she argues that we need to rely more on shame, and less on guilt, as a way of putting pressure on people and institutions to act in environmentally responsible ways. While guilt is a private emotion, a failure to live up to one’s own standards, shame occurs when a transgressor is held up to public disapproval. And that, Jacquet says, makes all the difference.
For one thing, institutions such as governments and corporations lack the capacity to feel guilt but they can be shamed into changing their behaviour. The private nature of guilt also means, though, that people can find their own ways of salving their consciences, often in trivial ways. “Consumers are swept up in using reusable bags and mugs and turning off the lights,” she writes. “This is like taking vitamin C after fracturing your skull in a car accident: it is not wrong; it is just so far from what is needed to actually fix things.”
Shaming, by contrast, gives citizens a way to shine a light on the worst offenders, the bad apples that cause harm out of all proportion to their numbers. Think of the US and China and their carbon emissions, or the American coal-mining companies that level whole mountains in Appalachia. The bad publicity that results can sometimes change policies, much as the campaign for dolphin-safe tuna did in the late 1980s.
Jacquet systematically explores the nature of shaming and some of the psychological evidence that shows why it works. In doing so, she makes a strong case for the value of shaming for shaping and enforcing social norms… (continues here: New Scientist)
I recall seeing an interview by Richard Stengel, then Time magazine editor and the author of the book: Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage, earlier along in the arc of studying NVC. The fifteen lessons are summarized here.
At about the five minute mark of this video clip: Richard Stengel — Charlie Rose Richard Stengel points to one of Nelson Mandela’s lessons, discussing how “to have one overarching/core principle and view everything else as a tactic.”
Wednesday 04/07/2010 — Richard Stengel, Time managing editor, reflects on working with Nelson Mandela and shares his new book, “Mandela’s Way.”
CHARLIE ROSE: The other thing that he had was some sense of what comes across here is the steel that was there.
RICHARD STENGEL: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: And he often said to you that everything — it wasn’t about principle, it was about tactics.
RICHARD STENGEL: Well, it’s funny, he had — that’s one of the chapters, is to have an overarching principle, and everything else is a tactic. He would say — and I’m going to say it in a plainer way than he would — he said, you have to have one core principle. He had one core principle above everything else, an overarching principle, which is to bring democracy one person, one man, one vote to South Africa, to reverse the history of apartheid, to bring democracy there. Everything else was a tactic. So even, for example, the ANC’s original embrace of non-violence from the Gandhi tradition, he would say “That’s a tactic, that’s not a principle.”
CHARLIE ROSE: So you can violate that.
RICHARD STENGEL: That’s right. And he did. When he became the leader of the ANC’s military wing he violated that, because he felt to achieve his great goal he needed to do that. And that was just a tactic. A lot of us would say, no, that’s a principle. He would say that’s a tactic.
The Eiffel Tower was lit up in green to mark the success of the Paris Agreement on Friday. The pact is intended to help slash man-made global warming gases.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” he said. “It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Excerpts from Chapter Six:
Have a Core Principle – Everything Else is Tactics
“Nelson Mandela is a man of principle – exactly one: Equal rights for all, regardless of race, class, or gender. Pretty much everything else is a tactic. I know that seems like an exaggeration – but to a degree very few people suspect, Mandela is a thoroughgoing pragmatist who was willing to compromise, change, adapt, and refine his strategy as long as it got him to the promised land. Almost any means justified that one noble end…Mandela has been called a prophet, a saint, a hero. What he is not is a naive idealist. He is an idealistic pragmatist, even a high-minded one, but at the end of the day, he is about getting things done. Over and over during the course of our time together, Mandela made a distinction between principles and tactics. (Or principles and strategy – he used the words tactics and strategy interchangeably.) This view evolved over his time in prison; the man who first went to jail was not nearly as strategic or tactical as the man who came out…After seeing the government’s consistent use of violence in repressing black protest, Mandela grew impatient with nonviolence. He felt a though he was carrying a spear to a gunfight. Finally, in 1961, Mandela journey to Natal to discuss a change of course with Chief Albert Luthuli, who was then the president of the ANC and who had won the Nobel Peace Prize the year before for leading the nonviolent struggle against apartheid. Mandela had immense respect for ‘the Chief,’ as he called him, and I asked Mandela what was Luthuli’s response to the change in strategy. ‘He of course opposed the decision because he was a man who believed in nonviolence as a principle,’ Mandela recalled.’ ‘Whereas I and others believed in nonviolence as a strategy, which could be changed at any time the conditions demanded it. So that was the difference between us.’ Many of the Indian members of the ANC were adamant about not abandoning nonviolence. Mandela recalled that J. N. Singh, the great Indian freedom fighter, fought the change. ‘J. N. kept on saying, with great eloquence, ‘No, nonviolence has not failed us, we have failed nonviolence.’ And these slogans, you know, can be powerful.’ But for him, the opposition had become a slogan, not a principle. In his hardheaded way, he had concluded that only a violent guerrilla movement had a chance of toppling apartheid. ‘It is a question the conditions which prevail, whether you have to use peaceful methods or violent methods. And that is determined purely by conditions,’ he told me. Conditions plus principles determined strategy. Mandela is not and never was a Gandhi, a man whose devotion to nonviolence was a life a principle that if violated would make the victory not worth having. Yes, Mandela preferred nonviolence – and had a personal revulsion toward violence of any kind – but the policy of nonviolence was undermining the one overarching principle that he could never lose sight of…Once he had achieved his great goal of bringing constitutional democracy to South Africa, he embraced its corollary: achieving racial harmony. Everything else was subordinate to those overriding goals. When conditions change you must change your strategy and your mind. That’s not indecisiveness, that’s pragmatism.” (See also – Sharing ‘Mandela’s Way’ In Fifteen Lessons : NPR)
CHARLIE ROSE: Where did it come from? What shaped Nelson Mandela?
RICHARD STENGEL: Everyone says he’s from a royal background. His father was a headman, and his father died when he was a young man. And his father was very close to the regent of the Tenbu tribe who then adopted Mandela as a seven or eight-year-old. And he grew up in this royal household. And it gave him confidence. The fact that he was raised away from apartheid in an African area with African traditions and hearing about African leaders who had fought battles for hundreds of years, it imbued him with a kind of confidence and a sense of himself as an African leader that young men and women growing up in townships in the cities I think didn’t have. And so when he left that area to go to Johannesburg and he encountered prejudice for the first time, he encountered people who treated him as less than human, it wounded him deeply. It affected him deeply. And it changed his whole trajectory in life. He basically realized the rest of my life is dedicated to overturning this, because it offended him so deeply because of his sense of self-worth and his sense of self- esteem. African leaders, ANC leaders always used to evaluate each other and say “Well, he’s very confident” or “He lacks self-confidence.” You never hear that here, but that was avery core principle in a way to them, because that was something that you had to be to be an African leader in SouthAfrica. It was just — it was danger from the beginning of the day to the end of the day every day.