Saturday, February 03, 2007


Animal Droppings

The Oroville (California) Church of Religious Science, which describes itself as "a growing, loving church of the Now Age" following the teachings of Ernest Holmes, is presently promoting a program developed by Dr. Marshal Rosenberg to teach non-violent communication. Now, non-violent anything is generally a good idea. But my woo-woo antennae start quivering when descriptions like this show up:

From the bedroom to the boardroom, from the classroom to the war zone, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is changing lives every day. ... NVC is now being taught in corporations, classrooms, prisons and mediation centers around the globe. And it is affecting cultural shifts as institutions, corporations and governments integrate NVC consciousness into their organizational structures and their approach to leadership.
This doesn't help either:

The 10-day program Rosenberg personally teaches would cost about $3,000, but Rosenberg decided to make a video and DVD version that is much less expensive and easier for people to access.
But, still, it could be legitimate, right? So what's involved?

According to Dr. Rosenberg's Center for Non-Violent Communication's (NVC) web site, the elements of his program include:

• Honestly expressing how I am and what I would like without using blame, criticism or demands.
• Empathetically receiving how another is and what he/she would like without hearing blame, criticism or demands. Whether expressing or receiving, NVC focuses our attention on four pieces of information:
• Observations -- Objectively describing what is going on without using evaluation, moralistic judgment, interpretation or diagnosis.
• Feelings -- Saying how you feel (emotions and body sensations) about what you have observed without assigning blame.
• Needs -- The basic human needs that are or not being met and are the source of feelings.
• Requests -- Clear request for actions that can meet needs.
Hmmm ... just a tad vague. How might this work in practice?

Supposedly, some people communicate in an aggressive, even hostile manner, which is referred to in NVC as "jackal communications" because it has an attack mode. On the other hand, giraffes "are known to be the animal with the largest heart," so a Giraffe's approach is allegedly more compassionate.

Umm ... blue whales have much larger hearts and, anyway, you guys do know that compassion isn't really centered in the heart, right? Okay, so let's assume they're going for metaphor. In any event, according to the church's pastor, Reverend Eileen Brownell:

[I]f you say, "It really ticks me off when you leave dishes in the sink" you are probably not going to get the reaction you want.
On the other hand:

[U]sing the elements of non-violent communication, you would first observe the dirty dishes in the sink without blaming anyone. Brownell said you could share your feelings by saying, "I feel the need to have and value a clean kitchen." In this manner, you are merely observing and sharing your feelings and needs. And, then you make the request. "Would you be willing to put the dishes in the dishwasher?" So, the request is made without judging or attacking anyone, Brownell said.

"For me, this process teaches you how to observe without evaluating and how to express your feelings. Sometimes people focus on 'I think this way. . .' and we don't know how to talk about how we feel when our needs are not being met," Brownell said.
Let me see if I've gotten the hang of this:

There seems to be gobbledegook on my computer screen. I feel the need to have and value a computer screen free of gobbledegook. Would you be willing to avoid putting gobbledegook in places where it might show up on my computer screen? Thank you so much!
Well, maybe not ...

Oh, and by the way ... if that jackal starts bothering that giraffe, the giraffe's gonna kick the jackal's head clean off its body.

Just thought you'd like to know ...
giraffes "are known to be the animal with the largest heart," so a Giraffe's approach is allegedly more compassionate.

And here I was just reading about giraffes at Tetrapod Zoology this morning. Darren Naish points out that "male giraffes battle with their necks in a sort of ritualized combat.... These battles can be vicious and result in fatalities".

Rosenberg may know something about communication (although I'm not convinced by the examples) but his biology leaves a lot to be desired.
Rosenberg may know something about communication (although I'm not convinced by the examples) ...

I am.
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