I believe that good communication is one of the key components of a happy and successful school.
Nonviolent communication is based on a natural state of compassion – when there is no violence present in the heart.
“All that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions.”
— Marshall B. Rosenberg, Phd
I was intrigued by Nonviolent Communication, a method used at the Wood School my son attended and to find out more, went on a weekend course around 5 years ago. The weekend was hosted by Penny Vine who has worked extensively in schools around the country, promoting this method.
The essence of NVC is that most communication is born out of a need, particularly at times of conflict. When our needs are not met, we often become angry, sad or frustrated. The key is to honestly identify your need and make a request for it to be met. Then, try to listen with empathy to the other person’s needs and requests. It sounds simple but I quickly realised that most people find it very hard to do! Including me.
Passive –aggressive types tend to suppress their own needs, leading to anger and resentment (yep, that’s me). Whereas dominant, alpha-type personalities simply over-ride the needs of others and don’t really consider them. Neither style is healthy or effective when working as a team.
After the course, I used NVC every day in the classroom and on duty in the playground. I encouraged the children to find their own solutions to conflict, as these are more readily accepted. The source of conflict is often something seemingly trivial but one has to remember that children feel things very intensely and have a strong sense of injustice. I encouraged children to empathise with each other, to acknowledge each other’s needs and offer a solution that can be agreed on.
Usually, they suggest with a piece of equipment that it be given a time limit and then passed on. Sometimes they play together with it and a new friendship is born.
The story that most seems to encapsulate this approach to communication was told by Penny Vine on the training weekend: 2 nursery-age children wanted to wear the same fireman outfit, there was only one. Both desperately wanted it and felt they equally deserved to wear it.
The question was posed, what is fair, what shall we do?? In the end, the children decided to wear one half of the outfit each and played in this way, joined together, all day.
If we can teach children to communicate effectively, this will lead to better mental health later on.
Can teachers also benefit?
From the Centre for NVC website:
Ten things you can do:
(1) Spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how we would like to relate to ourselves and others.
(2) Remember that all human beings have the same needs.
(3) Check our intention to see if we are as interested in others getting their needs met as our own.
(4) When asking someone to do something, check first to see if we are making a request or a demand.
(5) Instead of saying what we DON’T want someone to do, say what we DO want the person to do.
(6) Instead of saying what we want someone to BE, say what action we’d like the person to take that we hope will help the person be that way.
(7) Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone’s opinions, try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing.
(8) Instead of saying “No,” say what need of ours prevents us from saying “Yes.”
(9) If we are feeling upset, think about what need of ours is not being met, and what we could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what’s wrong with others or ourselves.
(10) Instead of praising someone who did something we like, express our gratitude by telling the person what need of ours that action met.
I am, of course, still practising!