Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Can We Think and Communicate Nonviolently?

Breakthrough insights and practices for nonviolent communication and practical peacemaking

I have been recommended or come across three books that I've either purchased or checked out of the public library. All three deal with nonviolence and peace, but not in ways most might consider typical. These works have nothing to do with a protest, march, or sit-in. Each is dealing with the underpinnings of thinking and communication at personal, interpersonal, family, professional and, after that, community and international arenas in the face of conflicts.

ANATOMY OF PEACE. The first book to come to my attention is The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute. Told as a story, the principles challenge perceptions of enemy formation and dealing with conflicts within and without. I'm glad Chris Province, an urban activist and founder of Rebuilding the Wall, Inc., recommended it. I can't imagine anyone this book would not help as it is helping me to pay close attention to how I look at conflicts small and large--and how I can respond to them differently than I have in the past.

BREAKING SELF-DECEPTION. The second book, mentioned on the cover of the first, is Leadership and Self-Deception, also by The Arbinger Institute. Also told in story that connects to the first book, this volume opens up awareness to the power of unexamined emotions, reactions, and judgments in relationships at home, school, work, and community. It is equally as important to read, I think, as The Anatomy of Peace if you are searching for breakthrough to better understanding and higher levels of competency in living nonviolently and in witness to grace.

COMMUNICATING NONVIOLENTLY. I happened on to the third book at the public library's audio books section. I have been listening to Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall Rosenberg as I drive around town in my VW or commute on my bike. Listening to Rosenberg offer alternative ways to receive and bear information in situations charged with conflict is insightful. His work in conflict resolution around the world commends him. I am listening to this volume repeatedly, it is so important to me. His approach is reasonable and practical, it seems to me.

PARTLY NONVIOLENT? I made a commitment to try to live nonviolently in every possible dimension of my life several years ago, partly out of a response of faith to the words and witness of Jesus in the Bible, partly out of my conviction that Christian theology points toward it, and partly because I am convinced that the way of violence, under whatever justification, is an insane and costly denial of all that is intended for us in life and in re
lationships near and far. I no longer buy the line that violence, though regrettable, is necessary as a way of resolving conflicts or moving toward peace.

TO LIVE NONVIOLENTLY. Yet the language of violence and anger, I have found, pervades our conversations and common thinking as much as ever. It still profoundly impacts the most basic relationships and problem-solving challenges. It is not enough simply not to not use physical or verbal violence; something greater is pointed toward. I want to bring nonviolence to fully into practice in my relationship with my spouse, children, friends, neighbors, community--especially when differences of opinion, tension and conflicts arise. Understanding and addressing violence and embracing the best practices and creative possibilities of nonviolence, community-building and peacemaking are critical at this point in my life and, I believe, in the life of the world.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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