There is a thing called non-violent communication, a technique developed by Marshall Rosenberg, and there is now even a Center for Nonviolent Communication, and it is really a nice set of techniques for how to communicate with someone in a compassionate and responsible way. So for example, the techniques involve:
- Differentiating observation from evaluation, so as to carefully observe what is happening free of evaluation, and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us;
- Differentiating feeling from thinking, so as to identify and express internal feeling states in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, or blame/punishment;
- Connecting with the universal human needs like sustenance, trust, and understanding, and which are being met or not met in relation to what is happening and how we are feeling; and,
- Requesting what we would like in a way that clearly and specifically states what we do want, rather than what we don’t want.
I learned about this technique from my former partner (let’s call her Isabella for the purposes of this post). The irony is that Isabella could not engage in nonviolent communication when it mattered most. When it mattered most, she was mostly capable of engaging in violent communication.
Isabella would say outrageous things, or just scream and yell, and after a period of trying to reason with her I would just scream and yell back. Yes, there were profanities involved. Eventually, the storm would subside and we could try to reason through the argument, and sometimes that took many hours. But whenever I caved in to the urge to yell back at Isabella, I always felt disappointed in myself. Really, I should have done better.
And so it is with the rhetoric that has been showing up in this blog. Consider that just this week:
- I called Antonin Scalia a first class prick;
- I called Ann Coulter a hate-monger;
- I called Bill O’Reilly a bully;
- I called Glenn Beck a phony;
- I called Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh assholes;
- I called Chris Harper Mercer an insecure narcissistic young twerp;
- And I called us all chicken-shit for our response to Umpqua and similar massacres.
Not that some of this name-calling isn’t deserved; some of it most certainly is. But I’m always disappointed in myself when I can’t find a more constructive way to express myself.
 I learned with time to stay in an argument for many hours, which is not a natural thing for a man to do. As some of you who know psychology can attest to, men as a group tend to get more easily “flooded” than women in an argument. That’s why men like to keep it short, and sometimes just end up walking out. Women – although this is not universally true, of course – tend to be able to hang in an argument much longer.