Communication is gripping the hearts and minds of many as a means
of dealing with conflict and humanising the world
Open your heart and talk it out
By Smriti Daniel
They sit across from each other and between them lies a great deal
of pain, anger, bitterness and distrust. For the family, the man
sitting opposite them is the murderer of one of their own, and understandably,
they loathe him. These people are pitted against each other and
yet they share the same room.
have been brought together by someone who believes that Open Hearted
Communication will help them. The session takes hours and culminates
with the prisoner in tears, saying “put me back in jail, I’d
rather go to jail, than face her pain”.
known as Non-Violent Communication or simply NVC, Open Hearted Communication
is fast taking hold of the hearts and minds of people all over the
world. “Open Hearted Communication – the name itself
is a description of what it is,” says Jeyanthy Siva. She goes
on to say that in a world filled with violence, hate and prejudice,
“NVC is about humanising everybody”.
a double major in philosophy and psychology from the University
of Rutger in New Jersey, first went to a NVC session in an attempt
to cope with a family conflict.
saw how powerful it was, how wide its scope and so I gave up what
I was doing and took to it full time” she says. Since then
she has become a dedicated NVC trainer. The brainchild of Marshal
B. Rosenberg, a one-time clinical psychologist, NVC has been around
since the 1960s. Rosenberg uses the term “non-violence”
as Gandhi used it – “to refer to our natural state of
compassion when violence has subsided from the heart”.
is unafraid to trust not only in the goodness of people, but in
our shared humanity as well. Key to this belief are the concepts
of “needs” and “strategies”. Needs are universal
and natural while strategies are attempts to meet a positive need.
“At the levels of needs there is no conflict, it is at the
level of strategies that we begin to disagree,” says Jeyanthy
ruefully. NVC helps people sort through these conflicts to find
a solution which meets the requirements of all concerned parties.
Jeyanthy believes that this is always possible, if only people are
willing to work at it.
is difficult to overestimate the impact of NVC both in the lives
of the individual and the community and Jeyanthy puts it simply
when she says that “NVC is invaluable to anyone who has to
interact with another human being”. It can bring peace between
husband and wife, between boss and employee, between father and
son and even between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. For the
community too, NVC is a priceless tool as it gives us an alternative
to violence. It has been used successfully in places such as Rwanda,
where communities torn apart by brutality have finally come together
to hear each other out and resolve their differences.
goes out of the rightness and wrongness of behaviour and looks instead
to the painfulness of the act,” Jeyanthy says. “A person
is only violent when they are so caught up in their pain that they
cannot see another way or that the person they are harming is another
human, like themselves.” She explains that as a society, we
have begun to believe that there is simply not enough to go around
and that our needs can only be met at the expense of others.
NVC changes that by introducing us to a different way of talking,
even as it helps us think differently. She says that NVC is “not
just about conflict resolution, it is about empowerment,”
because it gives people desperately fighting for their identity
a chance to be heard.
who has herself conducted over a 100 training sessions all over
the island, believes that NVC could find many applications in Sri
Lanka. She tells of how one Police Inspector came up to her and
said “if you were to teach this to all the children in the
school, then nobody would ever have to come to me”.
Such responses are common. In fact Jeyanthy says that “those
who have fought the hardest have become its biggest advocates”.
Many, who dismissed it as a “western idea”, soon realised
that NVC draws its inspiration from cultures all over the world
and has been adapted to fit different contexts, religions and even
entire cultures. NVC has begun to seep into workplaces as well,
and internationally, many people are working on applying its core
principles to corporations and institutions.
NVC, is akin to studying a new language in some ways, and aside
from needs and strategies, there is much to else to learn and internalise.
While the concept remains simple, practising it takes time and experience.
Jeyanthy’s next training session will be from July 23-24 and
she welcomes those who want to know more to register on her website