In this time of great cultural, political and social strife, it feels increasingly important for all of us to learn how to communicate with compassion for ourselves and others. Zen priest angel Koyodo williams says, “for us to transform as a society, we have to allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals.”
Ghandi is often misquoted about this idea. The “be the change you wish to see” quote is not actually something he said, nor does it accurately convey what he was communicating. What Ghandi actually said was, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.” Here Ghandi is echoing what Reverend williams says, that personal and social transformations are entwined together.
So, with that in mind, we will be presenting a two-part post on strategies individuals can use to cultivate inner peace that can likewise lead to outer peace.
The Center for Nonviolent Communication offers a list of 10 THINGS WE CAN DO TO CONTRIBUTE TO INTERNAL, INTERPERSONAL, AND ORGANIZATIONAL PEACE.
Here in part 1 of this post, we’ll discuss the first five. The first strategy that CNVC offers is to,
“Spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how we would like to relate to ourselves and others.”
This suggestion can be done anywhere, anytime, and for as long or as short a time as we have available. The key here is to do this with intentionality and in a quiet space, free from distractions. As you consider this prompt, consider also how you want to feel in these interactions. How do you want to feel internally when you say something to yourself? Likewise, how do you want to feel after saying something to another person? Take a second to see if you can feel any of that in your body in the present moment.
The next suggestion is,
“Remember that all human beings have the same needs.”
Despite all the social and cultural structures in place to make us think that some human beings, for example wealthy people, are different from others, we are all in fact human. This means that there are basic needs that we all share. I would include on this list food, water, shelter, and love/human connection as some of the top ones. What else would you add?
When communicating with other people, it is helpful to
“check our intention to see if we are as interested in others getting their needs met as our own.”
Remember that this is not synonymous with being responsible for meeting the other person’s needs. Rather, this is about simply remembering that the other person also has needs, and checking to see if, as we communicate with this person, we can want them to succeed.
CNVC reminds us that,
“When asking someone to do something, check first to see if we are making a request or a demand.”
This is an incredibly useful suggestion, since the lack of this awareness is often the spark that begins conflict. When we ask someone a question, we need to make sure that we’re prepared for the possibility that they’ll say no.
“Instead of saying what we DON’T want someone to do, say what we DO want the person to do.”
This last suggestion is similar to a strategy employed by some of our country’s best teachers—to focus on what the student did well and how to cultivate more of that. For example, when you want to tell your spouse to spend less time online, instead try telling your spouse how you want to go on more walks together. No one likes to be criticized. And it is very difficult to stop doing a behavior if there’s not a replacement in place to fill the gap.
In Part 2 of this post we’ll discuss the last five suggestions that the CNVC offers for how to cultivate internal and external peace. Remember that all of these strategies can be used when we communicate with ourselves and when we communicate with others.