Non-violent communication

We studied about the non-Violent communication for a week with Fr. Guy Theunis, a Missionary of Africa (“White Father”). He also spoke about the Enneagram each afternoon. The topics focused on the language according Marshall B. Rosenberg, self-communication, good listening, conflict, negotiation and how we respond to conflict.

Fr. Guy explained to us that Marshall B. Rosenberg, an American psychologist was very well-versed in the study of the language and its concepts. For example, he referred to “Jackal Language” which is a language of demand and of a negative opinion while “Giraffe Language” is welcoming, freeing and kind. He mentioned four key points for non-violent communication: observation (saying what we see), feelings (saying what we feel), the needs at the base of my feelings (we express my unmet needs) and requests (saying what I would like the other person to do for us).

We did an exercise on how to recognize the Jackal and Giraffe language in various phrases and what was missing in the phases. This helped us to be attentive and more aware in how we express to others and what positive action we want in our language.

Jesus was a person who did not encourage violence. The way that he freely spoke and listened to people was wonderful and He had the ability to understand and to share His feelings with people (empathy). For instance, when He restored a young girl to life: “He took her by the hand and said to her “Talitha cum” which means, “Little girl, get up!” (Mark 5, 10)

Good listening is an art and there is a whole range of attitudes required in order to put ourselves on the same wavelength as the one who communicates. When we are listening the first thing we need to do is to thank the person for the sharing; secondly we need to summarize what the person said in our own words; thirdly we need to express his /her feelings (empathy) and finally we need to question if it is right. Sometimes we need to be like Moses and take off our sandal because where we are, is sacred ground, it is the heart of the other person.

In the Self communication we are able to communicate with ourselves. There are four ways of speaking about ourselves. Firstly we need to speak about ourselves, secondly we need to share ideas about ourselves, thirdly we need to share the values of ourselves and finally we need to share in depth with others. For example, when the disciples from Emmaus said to each other:

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scripture to us?” (Luke 24, 32).

They expressed their feeling and they were listening to themselves. It is good to become aware of where we stand on this point. My life, my relationships, all these have been influenced by the way we are able to communicate with ourselves.

Conflict can mobilize and make us lose a lot of energy. Sometimes we think when we hear the word “conflict,” it is something negative, but conflict is natural, normal and neutral. Since every conflict has a solution with good communication and after it can give life in ourselves and in community. One way of manage conflict is through dialogue; we need to speak and negotiate to finish with our problems. The negotiation is important since we then find the way to prevent conflicts. Also negotiation is part of the life and reconciliation and peace are important since these build a good atmosphere around us. A Senegalese proverb says

“It is not about two people who are not in agreement. It is simple two people who have not yet talked together.”

Moreover, the Enneagram helped us to better understand ourselves and others. It helps us to know more about our behavior and what is actually going on inside of us. Fr. Guy gave us an introduction to the descriptions of the nine enneagram-types. There are three centers of Energy: Head center, Heart center and Gut Center. We tried to find out where our energy comes from and which is our number, since it will help us to recognize and observe our behaviors and feelings. In that way we will try to understand the other person better, since each person is unique and special. Also, if we know what is happening inside ourselves, we can change our reactions and behaviors, so it helps us to grow personally and spiritually.

In conclusion, we had a beautiful time together and shared our knowledge and feelings about non-violent communication. Really we understood how we can speak, listen and dialogue with a language that is a positive action to others. We discovered that sometimes we think that we are expressing our needs well or how we acted with conflict is correct, but really we need to improve and to be very clear in our communication. We finished our session with a day of silent retreat time guided by Fr. Guy. He focused on the fifth antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount

“You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth. But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5, 38-42)

Following this we had a beautiful mass in the afternoon.

Andrea Chacón Carmona, Novice NDS
Community St. John in Montana
August 28th, 2016.