Our daily lives are saturated with communication. How can we navigate these conversations in a way that helps us to heal rather than hurt?
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” Ghandi
From face-to-face conversations to online interactions, our daily lives are becoming increasingly saturated with communication. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew how to navigate these conversations in a way that helped us heal rather than hurt?
Instead, much of our communication has become entrenched in aggression, hostility and conflict. Verbal abuse, sarcasm, mockery, contempt, and passive-aggressiveness are increasingly common in our daily interactions. This type of “violent” communication takes a toll on our wellbeing, leaving us traumatised, isolated and with a deep sense of aloneness.
Beyond physical harm, “violence” in communication includes using language to demean, insult or psychologically attack others.
Violence in communication manifests through aggressive, hurtful, or destructive language. It can include yelling, name-calling, judgements and personal attacks. Underlying these is an intent to dominate or inflict emotional damage rather than understand different perspectives and connect with the human on the other side of the interaction.
It’s an attempt to assert dominance or inflict emotional harm on others.
1. Sarcasm and Mockery: While humour is a valuable communication tool, sarcasm and mockery are employed to belittle and hurt people, leading to feelings of inadequacy or resentment.
2. Passive-Aggression: Instead of addressing issues directly, passive-aggressive communication involves indirect hostility, often leaving others confused and frustrated.
3. Contempt: Minimising someone’s experiences or feelings, criticism, gaslighting, eye-rolling, blaming and humiliation are how we reveal contempt through the way we speak to each other.
I learned English at school. How to spell words, how to form them into a sentence, where to put the punctuation and even how to throw in a bit of personification here and there for dramatic effect. What I didn’t learn was how to have a conversation that reached for connection and understanding. Instead we were taught to debate where we go head to head and one person gets to win. Most likely the one with the loudest voice, or in the case of the political arena, the one with the most resources.
Here’s the thing. In my experience, this use of language doesn’t make life better or heal the hurt we all carry. There’s no need to attempt to reach a place of understanding and connection with debate. Nor is there any need to self reflect and reach for introspection, to explore and question our cognitive biases. As long as I hold my position, and most likely recruit others to support my position, present you with evidence of how wrong you are, I win. And you lose.
And of course the debate model suggests that everyone gets to have a voice in the arena in the first place and many groups within our society don’t. And so the effects of domination culture continue to have their violent impact on our beings.
Why does it matter?
We are exquisitely made for resonance. Nothing else calms our nervous systems and soothes our brains as well as resonance does. So what impact does violent communication have on our well-being?
Hello stress. Hello anxiety. Hello depression. Hello strained relationships. Hello shut down, withdrawal and disengagement. Hello erosion of trust and hope and faith. Hello helplessness and despair. Hello isolation and loneliness.
The Power of Non-Violent Communication
On the other hand, non-violent communication skills offer healthier alternatives rooted in empathy, mindfulness and respect and can help build stronger relationships and communities, improve mental health and create space for constructive dialogue on important issues.
What would our world be like if we were taught to have conversations that sought understanding and respect at the very minimum? Conversations where we practiced empathy, active listening, mindfulness, and used our words to heal rather than harm.
When we choose our words wisely and respond to others with care and understanding, it leads to happier, more harmonious lives. Non-violent communication creates space for meaningful dialogue even on difficult issues and contributes to a more just, compassionate world.
Are you interested in a more empathetic world?
Or are you using your resources to cushion you from needing to make any change to how you interact with others?
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”