A case study in Nonviolent communication.
I just got a call from a charity for Breast Cancer Research asking for
a little something for underprivileged women.
This is how it began:
Them…Is the lady of the house there?
Note that I did not say… Oh yes, I am the lady of the house…
Them… This is so and so and we serve women who cannot…..
Me… I support breast cancer research and will not be able to support
Them…Please do not draw the line, these women cannot pay their rent….etc
Now I am pissed, she did not hear my NO.
But then I think of the book Nonviolent Communication that I have
been devouring and I think, oh what a great time to use it here.
So I quickly do:
O- observe what is happening.
F- feel my feelings… I knew that I was feeling irritated and I
started down a road of “if she only knew how much I donate”… Then I stopped
N- What are my needs and what are her needs? She needs me to give her
money and I need to be true to my established charity budget and not go over
R- What request am I going to make based on MY needs?
So let’s return to the conversation
Them…Please don’t draw the line….
Me…Amanda, I support Breast Cancer research and I am NOT going to
give anything more at this moment.
My voice was clear and precise and very purposeful.
She heard it and responded.
Them… Oh, thanks for supporting Breast Cancer.
Me… You are welcome.
Here’s what I did:
I knew my NO.
I knew why I was saying NO.
I did not let myself get caught up in the story of her population, not
out of not caring for them but out of a very caring place for me and
where I put my charity dollars. I really believe that I am doing what
I can do and I will do more when I decide it is time to do more.
If you go back up to the top of the post you will see many little
things that could have derailed me…
-Request for a little something
-The story of who needs the help
-Her telling me that I have drawn a line
NONE of those things matter when you are standing on solid ground.
This makes me sound like a right winger. I am neither a left winger
nor a right winger. I am simply following the plan that I set out at
the beginning of the year before the charities had a chance to get to
Emotions have a big role in what we give and who we give to BUT giving
has to support the bigger picture and must come from the heart.
This lesson is especially true for your energy. Money is easier to
find than energy.
A dear friend, Gretchen Pisano (www.soundingboardink.com) taught me
this past week that we all have units of energy and we must manage our
energy, not just our time and I am adding not just our other resources.
When people make requests of you that involve energy expenditures, you
have to use:
O… Observe what is happening without evaluating… You will know if
you are evaluating if words like should and must pop into your
Here are some examples of observations and evaluations from Nonviolent Communication by Rosenberg
1. John was angry with me yesterday for no reason.
2. My father is a good man
3. Pam was first in line every day this week.
What was an observation VS evaluation here?
F…knowing what we are feeling and expressing what we are feeling.
I realized rather quickly after she said ” drawing a line” that I was
getting irritated, and I could have spoken instead to “how dare you
tell me I am drawing a line blah, blah, blah” but I just FELT the
feelings and then asked myself what I wanted for me…what is my
request of me, not of her? I could wish that no one hits me up for
money anymore, but I can only be in charge of what I will do when it
Here are examples from Rosenberg about statements of feelings
1. I feel like hitting you.
2. I feel good about what you did for me.
3. You’re disgusting.
What is a feeling VS a non-feeling here?
N…knowing what you need is taking responsibility for your feelings.
In my case with Amanda, I was irritated because I had an unmet need
for HER to know that I am generous and that I do not draw lines around
charity giving. I am very purposeful and give quite freely. In this
case, Amanda’s job was to get my money. My job was not to keep it from
her but for ME to KNOW what I was willing to do and not do. I met my
need for acknowledgement of generosity by telling myself that I was
generous and by communicating it to her very purposefully.
Here are some examples of needs from Rosenberg… Remember a need is
taking responsibility for YOUR feelings.
1. I feel frustrated when you come late.
2. I feel disappointed that you said you would do it and you did not.
3. I feel scared when you raise your voice.
Which of the above statements takes responsibility for their own feelings?
R…request of others in order to enrich life for us…Rosenberg
In this case vague language will not help clarify the situation… E.g.
you know Amanda, I kinda give a lot and I feel so bad and I don’t know
what to do because…
This language does not serve me. Being clear and requesting what I
want is called for here. I could have said “I do not want you to ask me for a donation”, but I chose to focus on saying what I do and
saying what I was not going to do.
I also did not use a negative as in “I won’t give to you” I used a
positive as in “I give generously already”.
Here are some examples of requesting statements that are very clear
and not so clear.
1. I want you to understand me.
2. I want you to stop drinking.
3. I would like you to drive at or below the speed limit.
Which statements are clear VS vague?
This way of communicating is not easy, as we have been taught to
use language to onshore what we truly feel. This way we won’t feel
A brilliant woman, Brene Brown tells us that vulnerability is the key to
being who we are and getting what we want from life.
Hear her Vulnerability TED talk here.
I also recommend that you read
If you are having judgments of whether I should have given in to the
charity that is a whole other conversation called a moralistic
judgment. You can have a VALUE of charity giving, but when you start
judging others on HOW much and how often they SHOULD give, then we are
getting on our moral high horse.
Love and light