Monday, January 10, 2011

Communication Without Evaluation

     Nonviolent communication requires that we learn to separate our observations from evaluations. While this may seem easy, it is not. For most of us, when we observe others and their behavior, we too frequently add our evaluation to the observation.
     For example, suppose while walking along a city street I see a man sitting on the sidewalk. His clothes are disheveled and dirty, his hair a mess, and he sports several days growth of beard. I most likely would think that he is homeless and has a drug and/or alcohol problem. I have added my evaluation of him to my observation.

     Or, my teenage child has not cleaned her room in months. In trying to get her to clean the room, I might tell her, among other things, "You are lazy."

     Here, again, I have added my evaluation to my observation. The problem is that all she is going to hear from me is the criticism-"you are lazy." This will lead to hurt feelings and, possibly, an argument. If I had just kept to an observation without the evaluation by saying, "You have not cleaned your room in months" we would have a better chance of discussing the situation and working out a solution. 

     Also, claiming she is lazy does not take into account other areas where she shows effort, perhaps school or sports.

     Other examples of how to omit the evaluation:
--With evaluation: Tom is a poor baseball player.
   Without evaluation: Tom hasn't had a hit in the last five games.

--With evaluation: You are always too busy for me.
  Without evaluation: The last three times I have asked to speak with  you, you said you didn't have time. 

--With evaluation: _____ (name your group of people) are lazy.
   Without: The _______ family at 213 Main Street haven't cut their grass in two months.

To avoid evaluations in conversation be specific as to the behavior and the situation. By avoiding evaluation we learn to speak more accurately and with less criticism, thereby increasing the likelyhood that the other person will hear us and not respond angrily to our being critical.

What do you think?  Using evaluation in our conversation seems to be ingrained in our culture. For me, it is difficult to stop evaluating. Difficult, but something worth doing.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Chuck for the wonderful idea.
    Imagine if we all did this.
    It does take practice...but it's worth it! :)