Friday, January 28, 2011

Speak Peace

Speak Peace in a World of Conflict by Marshall Rosenberg

This is the second book I’ve read by this author/on this topic. As he is quick to point out, the method is simple, but difficult.

The major tenants are: Observation, feelings, needs, requests. Articulating each of those steps without judgment or blame is the challenge. As or more hard is mirroring back those steps to someone you are listening to who isn’t actively presenting his concern that way. Hearing the underlying feelings and unmet needs of the speaker.

The premise is that motivation by reward or punishment is flawed and unproductive. All actions stem from an attempt to get our needs met. Trying to get someone to do or not do something by threat or praise will ultimately be unsuccessful. Helping them to see a better way to get their needs met is likely to be successful.

Two particular sections that struck me concerned apologies and praise (two things I would have previously classified as positive and useful tools).

Mourn, don’t apologize. Apology implies wrongness. Talking about the past is not useful, but instead increases and perpetuates pain. More important to get to the present feeling and unmet needs and empathize with (mourn) those feelings the prior action caused.

Praise and compliments are equally “violent” because they use the language of good/bad. Praise motivates for a short time, just like punishment. Expressing gratitude by telling someone how what they did met which of our needs and how we felt about it is much more productive.

Another section that hit me like a slap in the face concerned excessive talk instead of allowing the listener to determine what is necessary to say. In his words, “Don’t fill the air with words.” Start by saying exactly what you want to happen and let others ask the questions they feel they need to understand. Conversely, my tactic has always been to exhaust all angles up front, often leaving no questions to be answered and so a very one-sided “conversation”.

The issue with these sorts of books, for me, is that I have a hard time translating them into practice. I can say to myself as I’m reading, yes, yes, I’m going to give that a try. But as soon as the book in shelved, I promptly forget. I seem to be really great about putting progress towards physical goals into action, but much less so when it comes to mental goals.