Class Focuses On Non-Violent Communication

Psychologist Donna Steckal

Psychologist Donna Steckal

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In light of the recent fatal shooting in Payson, Donna Steckal’s Gila Community College class on the art of non-violent communication could not come at a better time.

Steckal will teach the process of communication without escalating. Instead, she will teach students how to assertively express needs and feelings.

“All feelings come from needs,” said Steckal.

Take the situation of a mother of a teenager, frustrated that her teen will not help with a household project. If the mom tells the teen, “You’re a pain in the butt,” a statement born out of feeling frustrated, she might hear the teen reply, “You ask too much of me!” also born out of frustration.

The two will probably end up yelling at each other, said Steckal.

Instead, one side could use the techniques of non-violent communication to interject empathy into the conversation.

The mother could instead say, “I need help with this project and I feel overwhelmed and frustrated. It would really be great if the trash could be collected and taken out.”

The teen could then see the needs and hear the feelings of the mother without feeling attacked. Because the mother also gave a specific request, without making a demand out of judgment, the teen could offer to help, or express his or her needs as well.

“Identifying the needs are critical to non-violent communication,” said Steckal.

Steckal teaches the 10-week course entitled Non-violent Communication, on top of her private counseling practice. As an added bonus, she has been a certified trainer in Non-violent Communication since 1999.

She likens the technique she teaches to the martial art of Aikido.

“Just like Aikido, you step out of their way and allow their violent energy to diffuse the situation,” she said.

Steckal said the deadliest form of communication is the blame-shame game.

“It turns into survival,” said Steckal, “It’s the language of judgment with words such as ‘why (did you do this to me),’ ‘you should (have made me feel better),’ ‘you are (stupid, lazy, to blame)’ and ‘I am (pathetic, imperfect, to blame).’”

Steckal says the blame-shame game in its extreme form can turn into tragedy. Recently, Steckal made a presentation on non-violent communication to the Time Out Shelter’s staff. Executive Director Camille Levee posted a list to help remind her staff how to use the techniques. The list encapsulates what Steckal hopes students will learn.

One 84-year-old man attended her class, to support his wife, after a successful life as a business owner. “After the first class, he said, ‘In my business, I could have used this. If only I had known this — the ease of my life would have been so different,’” said Steckal.

The first non-violent communication class will start on Jan. 10 from 6 until 8:50 p.m. For information call GCC at (928) 468-8039.

Communication tips

• Speak your truth without blame.

• Hear others’ words (even if they appear

critical) without taking it personally or reacting defensively.

• Change you inner talk from self-doubt or put downs to honesty and self-empathy.

• Learn the art of negotiating win-win outcomes, without giving in or giving up.

• Break patterns of thinking that lead to anger, depression and guilt.

• Transform potential conflicts into peaceful dialogues.

• Improve relationships at work, and with

family and friends.

• Make clear, doable requests without demands.

• Resolve conflict in a way that inspires cooperation. Speak and listen with clarity, purpose and understanding.

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