The not so silent, violent opposition

Published January 14, 2007

The topic of Rob Lorei's radio show last Wednesday was nonviolent communication - a way of dealing with others in which no one is bullied or humiliated and everyone's needs and feelings are equally valued.

As listeners soon found out, that's not as easy as it sounds.

Lorei, news and public affairs director for WMNF-FM 88.5 in Tampa, had two guests in the studio. Ray Williamson and Lore Eargle had come to promote a weekend of seminars by the leading proponent of nonviolent communication, California psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. Rosenberg will be speaking in Sarasota Feb. 9-11; for more information see www.nvcsarasota.com.

Williamson and Eargle spent several minutes explaining nonviolent communication. The keys? Make observations, not accusations; say how you feel and what you need; and make requests, not demands.

One listener wasn't having any of it. Here's what happened when he said so in an e-mail to the show.

Mike Wilson, assistant managing editor/Newsfeatures

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Lorei: This is from R. Kirk, somewhere in Tampa. He says, "Slow day? Gag me with this show." He's complaining about the show. Now, what kind of communication is that when somebody sends in an e-mail like that?

Eargle: It seems that R. Kirk is feeling some anxiety and agitation and perhaps expressing an observation that he's not interested in the topic.

Lorei: And is this an example of violent communication?

Eargle: It would be considered violent communication, yes.

Lorei: If he objected to the contents of this show and wanted to express that in a more peaceful way, how could he go about talking about it?

Williamson: Oh, he might say that he's dissatisfied with the contents of the show . . . I'm just guessing that his concern is that he's tuning in to this show to be interested in the events of the world and events of the community that are going on right now. And he might have some requests that we speed this up or change things around. I really don't know. But an interesting part of nonviolent communication in its practice is to translate into NVC all the messages you receive -

Lorei: Is it - I don't mean to cut you off, Ray - but is it your belief that small things like this escalate into larger things and eventually become real violence if the track is continued?

Williamson: One's initial reaction might be to say, "Who is this guy anyway?" Then neither of us has any respect and then there's no connection and no bridge for a connection. But if instead I translate it into nonviolent communication, I can say, "Mr. Kirk's needs are not being met at this moment, and I'd like to learn more about that."

Lorei: Okay, well, I'm sure he'll send us an e-mail to reply. Let's talk about some of the other concepts . . . You say that what this does is it helps people to speak in a way that inspires compassion and understanding. Lore, can you give me an example?

Eargle: That's an interesting question. You've caught me off guard here, Rob. If I'm R. Kirk and I am saying that you are gagging me with this show, then I'm speaking from a point of view that I want you to do something differently. My approach is an aggressive one in that stance. But I could ask you to do something differently by saying, "This is not meeting my need for information. I'm not interested in this topic," and "Would you be willing to talk about something else?"

Mike Wilson can be reached at (727) 892-2924 or mike@sptimes.com Word for Word excerpts passages from books, Web sites and other sources. The text may be edited for space but the original spelling and grammar are unchanged.