What happens when you choose a ‘warm approach’

One day the Sun and the Wind decided to compare their power. Who is stronger. As they couldn’t decide the Sun suggested the following:

“Let’s test it. Over there, there is a man wrapped up in his cloak. The one who can get the cloak off his shoulders will be named the stronger.”

The Wind agreed with the Sun’s proposal. He went first. The Wind started as a light breeze. However, as he was getting closer and closer to the man he became more and more blustery. The man didn’t wait for the worst to happen. He kept wrapping his cloak around his body tighter. The gustier the Wind got, the tighter the cloak got on the man. 

After a while the Wind got tired and gave up. It was the Sun’s turn. The Sun didn’t use an aggressive way. Instead, he started to shine brighter and warmer. The man started to sweat and as the time passed, the cloak gradually came off his shoulders.

“See, I am stronger than you” – turned the Sun toward the Wind.

Two images: on one the man is wrapped into his cloak. The wind is blowing strongly.
The other image the man is holding his cloak in his hand - the sun is hot.

This is a Hungarian folk tale. One of the many folk tales I read as a child. The moral of the story is just as valid now as it was in my childhood. Aggression is never the answer. And I don’t only mean physical aggression. Words can hurt just as much.

Then what is the way forward?

What I want in life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

Dr Marshall Rosenberg introduced the concept of Non-violent communication. We as humans share the same needs – need to connect, need for love, safety. However, as we are all unique individuals we use different strategies for achieving these needs. And our strategy can be explained differently by the people around us.

For example if you feel a need for connection, you call your friends up, or you start having a conversation with a shop assistant while a long queue of slightly annoyed customers waiting behind you. They don’t know that your reason for this small talk is that you might feel a little bit lonely, hence you have a little bit longer conversation at the till. If we take a look at what lies behind our actions, we will see that all we want is having our needs met. It is the strategy that we are using that is not always the ‘right’ one.

Dr Rosenberg believed that with a non-violent communication allows us to connect with another human being on a more profound level. And not only with others but also with ourselves.

I’ve been practising non-violent communication ever since I came across it. It hasn’t always been easy, and frankly up to this date it can be challenging. What it has taught me so far is, not RE-ACT in a situation but take time to tune in with myself and from that point it is easier to see where the other person is coming from.  

How to do it?

Here are the 4 basic components of the non-violent communication: 

  1. Observation – camera method
  2. Feelings
  3. Needs/values/desires
  4. Request

Observations – observe the situation in a very objective way. Imagine that you are looking through the lens of a CCTV camera. This means you describe what you see – no presumption, no ‘filling in the gap’. Just what you can see with your eyes. 

Feelings – what can you feel when you look through the lens of the camera. Tune into yourself and identify your feelings. How we feel in relation to what we observed. 

Needs/Values – what is your need that isn’t being meg at the given situation. 

Request – put forward what would help you in the given situation to enrich your life.

Imagine that you are expecting your partner to visit you. But the visit never happened due to unforeseen circumstances. You feel disappointed. There are two ways of expressing your disappointment:

  1. “You disappointed me by not coming over last night.”
  2. “I was disappointed when you didn’t come over, because I wanted to talk over some things that were bothering me.”

Which of these two scenarios do you feel more empathic with? 

We express honestly through the four components  and we also receive empathically through the four components. 

First, start observing yourself and your feelings in different situations. Look beyond the feeling and search for what need of yours hasn’t been met. Once you ‘master’ this empathetic approach to yourself, you can start experimenting with practising non-violent communication with others. 

This might take a little bit longer than our usual approach but it would create a more harmonious interaction. And we will feel more centered and really listened to. Don’t worry if your first try won’t go as imagined. Maybe neither will your second or third. It takes a little practice. 

Remember, it is about truly understanding the other person and most importantly yourselves. It isn’t about talking for the sake of talking. That’s for feeding our ego. When you want to be honest and open with somebody, let’s do it with kindness as:

Honesty without kindness is cruelty

Featured image from the top by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

Reference: Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

Written by Petra J.

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