How to Non-Violently Communicate
Without even realizing it, sometimes we communicate with others in a not-so-healthy way. We sometimes talk this way because that's how our parents talked to us. Or, we never learned how to communicate affectively! Now I won't lecture you on different types of communication - you can Google that. Instead, I'd like to share several non-violent approaches to letting someone know how they're affecting you.
I learned all these skills while working as a field guide at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy. We can use these skills not only when relationships are tense but to also strengthen relationships when they're going well.
Take a pause and check in with yourself
This is the ability to take a pause IN THE MOMENT and feel what's happening in your body. So often we don't check in with ourselves on an emotional level. Let the other person know you'll be back in 10 minutes once you calm down.
Example check in: "Am I feeling angry? No, I'm actually feeling sad and scared right now."
When we get heated our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) gets activated by a stress hormone called cortisol. There are numerous regulation tactics, but the one that comes installed with the human body is controlling your breathing. Taking longer, deep breaths has been shown to activate our parasympathetic nervous system which promotes rest and relaxation.
"I Feel" statement
Once you've checked in with yourself it's time to re-enter the conversation and address the issue at hand. This is called an "I Feel" statement and it works because the point is to only focus on YOU. Instead of "I'm angry because when you yell at me it shows you don't love me," NO, "I'm angry because when you yell at me I feel small." It points the finger more at yourself instead of blaming the other person. Here's how it works:
I feel __________ (enter feeling). Ex: I feel angry
When _______________ (objective event occurs. Just describe the event - no details or added inflammatory comments). Ex: When you yell at me
I believe/imagine I feel this way because (your subjective perspective) _______________ Ex: I believe I feel this way because I've asked you not to raise your voice at me and you still are
In the future, my intention for myself is to ______________ Ex: In the future, my intention for myself is to take a walk around the house next time I feel the anger bubble up inside
In the future, my request is ______________ Ex: In the future, my request is when you start to feel a strong emotion that you speak to me in a calmer manner
Then have the listener mirror everything that was said. This last step is not about agreeing, solving or understanding. It is a matter of reflecting and validating.
Now here it is in full action:
(After taking time to myself)
I feel annoyed and sad when you snooze your alarm 10 times. I believe I feel this way because I've asked you to stop and I value respect. My intention for myself is to connect with myself first if this happens again before talking to you. My request for you is to please get up at your first alarm.
It doesn't always have to be negative, however. Again, these communication approaches can also help strengthen relationships. Here's an example:
I feel proud, self-assured, powerful, and grateful when I publish an article. I believe I feel this way because I have to step outside of my comfort zone to publish them. My intention for myself is to keep listening to my heart and writing on topics that make me feel good. And my request for you is to keep supporting me.
If you struggle with identifying your emotions - no worries! I just started working with my emotions in 2020. What helped me was a feelings wheel. I didn't even know we had so many emotions. I saved this as the wallpaper on my phone and use it whenever I can't tell how I'm feeling, good feelings or bad feelings.
Lastly, if you'd like more information on this topic I recommend you listen to this Open Sky Wilderness Therapy Podcast titled "How to Build a Communication Toolbox and Improve Family Relationships with Clinical Therapist Nick Lenderking-Brill: https://open.spotify.com/episode/3C9M5iAUVptPhoRJZnLS8w?si=V2uoYX2URzqJa8VywDMZFA
I'd like to give a huge shoutout to Open Sky Wilderness Therapy for the work they did. Over the 8 months I worked there I gained wilderness skills, emotional skills, mental skills and people skills. Without them I'd still be afraid of platonic intimacy and most likely would still be struggling to express my emotions to people. I gained just as much as I put in. Unfortunately, they will be closing in February of 2024 due to low admissions.
Of All Trades,