Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Power of Words

     Words are powerful. As a writer, I am acutely aware of this. And you, I feel sure, are also aware of their power. What you may not be aware of, however, is the power of your spoken words. 

     I have been studying Marshall Rosenberg's excellent book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Marshall was introduced to the violent nature of man early in his life which led him to ask two questions:
  • What disconnects us from our compassionate nature leading us to behave violently? (He believes our nature is to be compassionate, not violent.)
  • What allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature, even under difficult circumstances?
     In exploring these two questions, Marshall was struck by the crucial role  language and words play. The words we use often lead to hurting someone or causing them pain, even when we don't intend for this to happen. We often cause pain for ourselves when we direct critical statements at ourselves.

     Unfortunately, our cultural conditioning leads us to be judgemental in a very large percentage of our observations.

     Oh no, not me, you may be thinking. 
     At first, I also thought I was pretty much free of making judgements. But after reading a few chapters of Marshall's book and then paying special attention to what I said over the period of one week, I realized how difficult it is to communicate without judgement. 

     I didn't just observe my conversation, but also that of others around me. And I can't help but come away with the conclusion that unless you have been working very hard at communicating in a compassionate manner, you too are expressing judgements many times during the day.

     What is the problem with being judgemental you might ask. One problem is that when your message contains criticism, that is all the receiver of your message will hear and they will become defensive. That being the case, it hurts relationships and messes with our ability to communicate clearly.

     Relationships that are harmed include: friendships, teacher/student, parent/child, husband/wife, co-workers, boss/employee, and any other  where comunication is essential. 

     In future blogs I'll be giving examples of all of the above and share some of the solutions found in Marashall's book and others I have to offer. 

     Have you ever experienced difficulty in a relationship due to judgemental communication? I would be interested in hearing about your experience. 


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Your Children Can Say To Their Homeless Friends

     Polk County in central Florida now has a record number of students enrolled who are homeless. This is likely true of many school districts throughout the nation thanks to high unemployment and the large number of home foreclosures. The chances are pretty good then that if you have a child in public school, he/she knows someone who is homeless.

     Polk County Schools has distributed an activity book to help kids understand homelessness. It's a very thoughtful booklet that helps students get in touch with their own feelings and explore how they might feel if they were without a home to live in. This is an important step in helping them to learn to empathize with others. 

     After exploring how they might feel if they were homeless, have your child think about the many reasons that could lead to someone being homeless. Through understanding that loss of a job, death or illness of a parent, or any number of reasons that might happen to anyone could lead to losing a home, helps your child to not be judgemental or see that child as "bad" or a "loser."

     Finally, have your child think about the ways he can help a homeless student. Being a friend, playing with the person, and including him in activities are some ways. Also, the homeless child is more than just "homeless." He is still a child, a student, a friend, and still has the same feelings, wishes and desires as he always had. It is important to not think of someone just as "homeless."

     Of course there are many other things one can do on a larger scale. Donating food to a shelter, writing letters to local newspapers and to congress calling attention to the plight of the homeless are a few examples.

     Helping our children to grow up with empathy towards others and an interest in resolving social problems is the right thing to do.