Observations: Just The Facts, Ma'am

ASK DR. DONNA

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Dear Readers,

Today, I would like to take a broader look at the first step of the four part model of Nonviolent Communication (www.cnvc.org): Observations.

The philosopher Krishnamurti has been quoted as saying, "The ability to make an observation without an evaluation is the highest form of human intelligence."

We all have various reactions to the events that confront us in our daily lives. The same event can be interpreted in a multitude of ways.

Let me provide an example. Let's say a friend promised to meet with you somewhere for a certain event. On that morning, you call this friend to remind them and they say they cannot make it because they have made other plans.

What is your observation in this situation? I can imagine ideas spinning in your head about how "rude" this friend was, because they didn't let you know ahead of time.

Using Nonviolent Communication we might phrase our observation in the following manner:

Friend, I heard you say last week, "of course I'll go with you," and then I called to remind you on the day of the show and heard you say "I'm sorry, I made other plans."

Now, although you may think it is too cumbersome to express the details this way, it may well be worth your investment of time to do so. It is much faster for us to generalize or label others' actions, and that is a habit we have learned over our lifetime.

In Nonviolent Communication, we have a pet name for this language of judgment.

We call it "jackal language." Here are some of the ABC's of "jackal": Accusing, blaming, criticizing, demands and evaluations.

They all convey "you-messages," that the other person did something wrong and must pay indefinite penance for their actions.

Even if you don't actually point a finger, they can see an invisible one and can tell from your eyes what you are thinking. It's not a pretty picture.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the process in next Friday's column. Until then, I invite you to consider the actual facts the next time you find yourself reacting with "jackals" in your head.

-- Write Dr. Donna, P.O. Box 2204, Payson, AZ 85547, or e-mail drdonna@cbiwireless.com.

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