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Sacred Communication: Into to Non-Violent Communication Part 1

I use the term Sacred Communication to describe communication which connects us with compassion, courage and truth to ourselves and others.   When you use sacred communication you share what is alive in yourself and listen for what is alive in others without blame or criticism.  You take responsibility for your stories, your history (his”story”, her”story). You learn how your stories affect your thoughts and feelings and learn to separate yourself from them to gain clarity about what you and others are wanting and needing right now in your life.

Sacred Communication uses the concepts of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) as developed by Marshall Rosenberg.   In this 5 part series I will explore the basics of NVC and introduce the 4 focuses of information expressed when using Non-Violent Communication.  Please visit the Center for Non-Violent Communication to learn more about Non-Violent Communication.  

The process of NVC encourages us to focus on what we and others are observing separate from our interpretations and judgments, to connect our thoughts and feelings to underlying human needs/values (e.g. protection, support, love), and to be clear about what we would like towards meeting those needs. These skills give the ability to translate from a language of criticism, blame, and demand into a language of human needs — a language of life that consciously connects us to the universal qualities alive in us that sustain and enrich our well being, and focuses our attention on what actions we could take to manifest these qualities.
— CNVC, 2007


Being able to connect with what is alive in yourself and others without judgement starts with empathy.  Empathy allows you to be fully present with yourself and with others.  When you connect with empathy you listen for and acknowledge the feelings and the underlying needs which are alive in your experience or another's experience.   When listening with empathy you ask yourself, “I wonder what this person if feeling.  I wonder what they are needing.”  When you communicate with empathy you might say, “It sounds like you were really scared.  Is that right?”  or “I hear how sad you are.  What are you needing right now?”   There are no stories when listening and communicating with empathy.  There is no judgment, no analysis, no advice, no fixing, no correcting.  There is only connecting with the feelings and needs which are alive in the experience.

When speaking listening and speaking with empathy, “What a jerk, you should dump him” becomes, “are you angry because you aren’t getting the respect you need?”, “you should have left the house sooner” becomes, “are you frustrated because it really matters to honor your commitments”,  “I didn’t say that!” becomes “it sounds like you are feeling really sad and worried that I don’t want …(fill in the blank) and you would like reassurance.”

When you listen and speak with empathy you create a safe place for others (and yourself) to explore what needs are wanting to be addressed.  This builds trust and connection rather than barriers and disconnection.  Empathy is the first and most important step in finding peace within yourself and in creating peace within your world.  

Read more examples of what empathy is and isn't

Watch this short and insightful video about Empathy by Brene Brown

Next week I will continue the introduction to NVC by exploring Observations, the first of the 4 basic pieces of information shared when communicating with Non-Violent Communication.