This past weekend I participated in a three-day workshop on “effective communication.” The workshop was held at a local yoga center and taught by someone who was training for certification in the teachings of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), developed by Marshall Rosenberg. Some years ago I purchased some of Rosenberg’s books and found that the basic structure for communication seemed like a way to develop a sense of understanding and use language consciously as a way to connect and particularly diffuse anger that someone else is directing outwards. It’s a way of recognizing our judgments but choosing instead to be clear about our needs or feelings. So for instance, you might initially think “his room is a total wreck” (wreck would be a judgment, a label that we apply). When instead with NVC, you might say “clothes lying around on the floor does not meet my need for order.”

The approach seemed like one that could be used as a way of developing practice with mindful speech. Even though it is not pitched using Buddhist terms, the essence is one of not doing harm in our communications -- how our way of communicating can contribute to closeness with others by being clear about what we need and how the other can contribute.

The idea is that judgments can put up barriers to connection with others (or with ourselves in the case of self-directed judgments). The NVC approach encouraged a beginner’s mind in interactions with others – a desire to find out what the other person is trying to convey rather than just presuming and reacting.

While some of the practice seems mechanistic, rote practice (such as saying “do you feel . . . because you need . . .”) does foster awareness of the difference in judgments, observations, feelings, needs, and strategies. But even after a three-day workshop I feel dismayed because I seem to have a need for mastery (to use NVC language). But I need to relax that grasping for perfection and cultivate patience of continuing any practice I choose to pursue (since it could take many years to change habits)! I wonder if I’ll find myself consciously applying the lessons of the weekend or not.

Have any of you had any experience with this technique?