Friday, November 10, 2006

Communication: Responding to a Negative Message

How do you respond to a negative message from someone? Where do you go with your thoughts and words when someone labels you with a negative adjective (i.e., self-centered, pessimistic, irritating) disagrees with your opinion, or honks at you while you are driving your car.

In Dr. Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, he discusses the four ways we can respond to a negative statement from another. We can blame ourselves (“Yes, you are probably right.” or “Oh my, what could I have done wrong!”). We can blame the other person. (“How dare you say that!”). We can sense our own needs and feelings (“I feel hurt when you say that to me.”). Or we can sense the other person’s needs and feelings. (“Wow, you sound irritated!”)

I brought this idea up on one of the teleclasses and asked everyone where they fell in the range of responses. All of us agreed that we were currently or had been in the past, in the first two choices, blaming ourselves or blaming the other person. A few participants also realized that they had shifted from there and we discussed how they did it.

One person told of how she had gained perspective in situations. She had risen in the building of consciousness through the work of this year and other awareness work she is doing so she is now able to understand situations from a higher level. She is now aware that both parties have responsibility and both parties have needs and feelings that are probably going unvoiced. She is rising above the details of the moment, the actual words, and getting to the foundation. Although she did admit she is still miles from being able to help the other person get the root of their feelings and is still working on getting through her own.

Another person commented that she was now beginning to understand that she has needs that she doesn’t express openly and that is her responsibility in any conversation if she wants those needs to be met. With that understanding came the realization that others have unspoken needs as well; needs that they are not voicing as well that are behind their words. That idea has allowed her to gain a higher perspective too.

Finally, one participant found that now that she is finally comfortable with taking responsibility for herself and her actions, she wants to give others space to do the same for themselves.

Where do you fall in the range of responses?