Learning therapeutic communication techniques is one of the most useful skills you can ever learn, but how many of us realize this??
In school, kids get taught how to read and write…
How to draw cartoons and mix paint…
How to make calculations with numbers…
How to play jingle bells on the flute…
But there are no classes on good COMMUNICATION.
Think about how ridiculous this is.
The skill of relating well with other human beings is The Skill that allows us to have strong reciprocal friendships, deeply intimate romantic partnerships, functional work bonds, and smooth conflict resolution.
The success of job interviews, dates, negotiations, marriages, parenthood, work, social media use, sports, and nearly any other social human activity depends on one’s ability to communicate well.
On the flip-side, nearly all the trauma that we experience in this life is the direct result of other people. We get bullied, manipulated, abused, harassed, and beaten by other human beings who nearly always have an extremely dysfunctional communication style.
Now I know most of us have been scraping by with our communication skills.
We’ve figured a few things out simply because we’ve had no choice.
We also figured out how to eat, but the obesity stats show we’ve got a long way to go here too.
Let’s make a commitment to stop “coping” with these vital life skills and master them instead.
And what’s a great step to mastering therapeutic communication techniques?
Non Violent Communication: A Treasure Trove of Therapeutic Communication Techniques
In the 1960s, American psychologist Marshall Rosenberg set out on a mission to systematise good communication.
He called the model Non Violent Communication (NVC), and it’s received decades of refinement since its conception.
I strongly believe Non-Violent Communication should be taught to every human being on the planet.
People want “self-help.” They want to “transform.” They want to become “superhuman.”
Their heart is in the right place.
But unfortunately many of us are blind to the implications of our violent communication habits. We often don’t have truly violent intent, but violence is administered from lack of awareness.
The first step to radical transformation is to improve the way you communicate with yourself and others.
Rosenberg has a gemstone of a book called Non-Violent Communication, which as you might guess, I highly recommend.
I’ve done a deep dive into the book, and below I’ve written what I consider to be the most important 57 therapeutic communication techniques in the Non-Violent Communication Model.
As you read through this list for the first time, look for the principles that you absolutely DO NOT DO and start changing those first.
I like to create 30 day challenges with specific communication patterns that I want to work on.
1) When we live In the world of judgments, our concern centres on “who is what” instead of “who is who.”
The “what” part of that equation is greatly colored by our own needs and values and blocks true understanding of the other. Catch yourself trying to snobbishly sum other complex individuals up into a category and instead adopt the perspective of a curious fiction writer fascinated by character nuance.
2) When we deny our responsibility for our own thoughts, words, feelings, and actions we are dangerous.
The person who is only reacting to the world and other people without taking ownership over their own choices, decisions, and interpretations will not only be more likely to act unskilfully, they will blame the other for making them do so.
3) The misguided belief that we can make others do things promotes violent communication.
If we believe we can make others do things against their will or others can make us do things against our will, we are taking away the power of the human will and will feel tempted to use instrumental language, manipulation, and therefore violent communication.
4) Thinking based on “who deserves what” blocks compassionate communication.
Any time you think in these terms, you are putting yourself in the position of an all knowing God who has access to ultimate truth. This, quite obviously, shuts down compassionate and therapeutic communication.
5) When we combine observation with evaluation, people are apt to hear criticism.
It is possible to simply observe and provide facts without jumping to evaluations. I can tell you what you did without judging you. Communicating this way respects the other and shows a healthy dose of humility on your side.
6) Expressing our vulnerability during a conflict can help resolve it.
Most of us shy away from vulnerability during conflict and either withdraw or act out aggressively. Neither of these strategies help to increase intimacy and resolve the conflict. Simply pausing and expressing a vulnerable feeling during the heat of conflict without it coming from a place of blame can go a long way toward ending the conflict… if that’s what you want.
7) Other people may stimulate certain feelings, but they are never the direct cause.
Other people can bring up all kinds of feelings in us, but they are not the direct cause of those feelings. Situations in life can push on our emotional hot buttons, but the hot button was always there for someone to push in the first place. The clearer we see this, the more control we will have over our responses.
8) When expressing, connect your feelings with needs: “I feel … because I need …”
If we are to communicate effectively, we must take responsibility for our feelings and our needs and break the cycle of blame and reaction. Whenever we feel a negative emotion, it is nearly always because we are not getting something we need. If we can express both the feeling and the need, people will be more likely to empathise with us.
9) Distinguish between giving from the heart and being motivated by guilt.
So many of the social decisions we make in this life come from a fear of negative feedback. We do things because we don’t want people to be unhappy with us or because we don’t want to be excluded from a group. How many parents give in to the demands of their children through guilt tripping? How many people allow their partners to control them through irrational demands? To give out of fear, obligation, or guilt is a sign of dysfunction. Listen to your heart and learn to only give when it comes through a free benevolent choice.
10) Judgments of others are alienated expressions of our own unmet needs.
If we need something, and someone prevents us from getting that, the default reaction is judgment. If I order a coffee at a coffeehouse and it doesn’t come, I label the waiter as incompetent or stupid. I do this simply because a need wasn’t’ met. That need is not coffee, but an emotional one that would facilitate me getting angry whereas someone else without that need might not. This is an obvious example, but in our messy relationships we have many unconscious needs that our partner doesn’t meet, and out of that dynamic, judgments arise. Whenever you have the inclination of judging someone, ask yourself what needs are not being met and work on expressing that honestly.
11) If we express our needs, we have a better chance of getting them met.
Think of your typical “naughty kid” in school. You will invariably find that they are not getting something they need and then “act out” to get it. For example, they may feel insignificant at home, so they cause trouble at school for attention. They may feel bullied at home, so they reassert their need for power by bullying others at school. The problem is, this is a very poor strategy to truly fulfilling our needs. The best strategy is to recognise what we need and to express that to people. It will not always work, but it gives us a much better chance at getting what we want. In adult life, passive-aggressive behaviour is a classic example of acting out to get our needs met, which rarely works.
12) If we don’t value our needs, others may not either.
You may be reading these ideas about recognising and expressing our feelings and needs and think that this seems like too much work or not something you want to pay much attention to. You may think you are naturally quite content and don’t have many “needs.” Everyone has needs, criteria that need to be met for them to feel contentment, and if we don’t value those needs, nobody else will. We may need to come home after work and be greeted warmly by our family. If this doesn’t happen, we may feel unloved. If you stay quiet and don’t express the importance of this to your family, nothing will change.
13) Vague language contributes to internal confusion.
When we speak or write, we clarify things for ourselves. If you watch a great teacher, it’s almost as if they are thinking out loud. The act of teaching helps them to clarify and consolidate their ideas. If you express yourself in vague language, you will be less clear on your own thoughts. Learn to think of expressing yourself as a way to clarify your own ideas, and you will improve your therapeutic communication technique and gain a sharper perspective on the situation at the same time.
14) When we simply express our feelings, it may not be clear to the listener what we want them to do.
Simply by expressing our feelings with feeling words (sad, angry, hurt, frustrated, etc.) we will dramatically improve the quality of our relationships. However, expressing feelings on their own is not enough if we want our needs met. We must also express our request for what needs to happen for our needs to be met.
15) Making requests in clear, positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want.
If we tell people we “don’t want” this or “don’t want” that, the real message will be lost in translation. We are setting ourselves up for failure if we are vague with the requests we make. Instead of telling someone that you don’t want them to keep their shoes on when they enter your house, which may sound like criticism, instead tell them that you would like them to take off their shoes and put them on the shoe rack when they come over. This is very clear and framed in the positive.
16) Requests may sound like demands when unaccompanied by the speaker’s feelings and needs.
It is not good enough to say, “I want you to clean the dishes.” That sounds very much like an order. A much more compassionate and clear expression would be, “I feel tired, frustrated, and a bit disrespected. I am putting a lot of time into keeping the house tidy, and I need to feel appreciated and understood in this situation otherwise I feel even more stressed and upset. Would you be willing to tidy the dishes after our evening meals three times each week?”
17) To make sure the message we sent is the message that’s received, ask the listener to reflect it back.
There is a reason why in the army or out at sea, you hear a lot of repeating of orders. On a ship you might hear, “Raise the sail!” and the person who is raising he sail will shout back, “Raise the sail.” They do this to let the captain know they heard the order and to confirm that they received it clearly. When we express ourselves to others, it’s very reasonable to ask them to reflect the message back to us. “Could you just reflect back what I said to you, as I’m worried that some of what I said was lost in translation.” This will make you feel more heard, and ensure that you were indeed listened to.
18) Express appreciation when your listener tries to meet your request for a reflection. Empathise with the listener who doesn’t want to reflect back.
If the person you’re talking to agrees to reflect your message back, this is wonderful and ought to be appreciated. If they do not wish to do that, it’s okay. Empathise with their feelings and needs for why they did not want to reflect back.
19 Empathising with someone’s “no” protects us from taking it personally.
For some reason when people hear the word “no” it hurts them. If I ask someone out on a date and they say, “No” then I assume that they are rejecting me and I take it personally. This is very dysfunctional response. From now on, truly appreciate the word “No.” Every time you hear this, you are getting an opportunity to empathise deeply with the speaker. In fact, the more times you hear “No” the more profound your abilities will be to tune into the emotions and needs of other people. Thank people when they are honest enough with you to give you a direct response.
20) In a group, much time is wasted when speakers aren’t certain what response they’re wanting.
Whenever you are part of a group discussion, whether at work or at home, if you do not consciously know what kind of response you want you will waste so much time going around in circles and potentially making the situation worse. Making compromises are fine, but even making compromises will be difficult if you are unclear as to what is the North Star you’re aiming at.
21) When the other person hears a demand from us, they see two options: to submit or to rebel.
If I were to bark at you very aggressively to get out of my face immediately, you are faced with two options. Listen to my instructions and feel as though I have just ordered you against your will to comply, or rebel against my instructions and play a role in the escalation of a conflict. This is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. Demands are not helpful because there is no winner, at least in the long term.
22) To tell if it’s a demand or a request, observe what the speaker does if the request is not complied with. It’s a demand if the speaker then criticizes, judges, or guilt trips you.
If I ask you in the sweetest way possible to pass me the remote, but then if you don’t comply, I punch you… that’s demand. I am training you through my behaviour to do as I say. On a more subtle level, if I ask you to lend me money, and you don’t so I purposefully tell you how much I’m struggling and try and guilt trip you, that’s also a demand. A true request means that you can compassionately handle “no” from the person you’re interacting with. Watch out for this in your behaviour, if you ask someone for something and then you react poorly when they don’t comply, realise that you are behaving with violence and demanding that someone do as you say.
23) The two fundamental goals of non violent communication is expressing honestly and receiving empathically.
There are many great books on therapeutic communication techniques out there. But it’s important to remember they all share this law in common—the goal of all good communication is authenticity and empathy. The psychopath is often seen as the archetypal “violent communicator” because they lie, manipulate, and act without any empathy. They are the opposite of authentic and empathic. If you are even in a difficult conversation and are finding it hard to remember all the 57 therapeutic communication techniques, just keep this one in mind.
24) Empathy: emptying our mind and listening with our whole being.
How does one practice empathic listening? Stop thinking so hard. Instead, listen with your body. Feel the emotions in yourself as you listen. Allow the persons words to hit. Stop everything you’re doing. Giving someone your complete attention is a very powerful gift, and ideally should be the default mode of listening in all your interactions.
25) Ask before offering advice or reassurance.
As someone who’s a writer and coach, I used to find it hard not to jump in and give people advice when they came to me with problems. The answer seemed so obvious to me, but then I came to see they weren’t looking for a solution. The were looking for connection. Now I never give people unsolicited advice. It takes their power away from them, and trains them to rely on others for the answers to their problems.
26) No matter what others say, we only hear what they are (1) observing, (2) feeling, (3) needing, and (4) requesting.
As you become better in your communication abilities, you may start to communicate very well on your side of the relationship, but then critique others on how they speak to you! Part of your training in becoming a compassionate communicator relies on you actively reading between the lines of what the other person says and locating their observations, feelings, needs, and requests. If you do this, they will feel incredibly understood and it will make them communicate far better with you than if you were to point out all of their communication flaws.
27) Listen to what people are needing rather than what they are thinking.
When you hear someone complain to you about the weather, don’t seize this opportunity to tell them that complaining is unhelpful and pointless. Instead look for their need. Are they bored spending so much time at home? Are they frustrated and want to share some of that frustration with a friend? Are they just looking for connection and trying to find something trivial to chat about? In all expressed thoughts there are very beautiful needs. Listen to those, and don’t get caught on the logic of what the other person is saying. If you are debating something with someone who likes to argue about different logical points, then you can keep a looser grip on this rule.
28) When asking for information, first express our own feelings and needs.
Nobody likes to be interrogated. A teenage girl comes home late and her parents are sitting there asking him a million questions about where she’s been. Will this build trust or make it more likely the girl will hide things from her parents in the future? It’s much better to express honestly what we are feeling and needing before we start demanding that someone provides us with information. It will help the other person empathise with us more and build a better relationship through meaningful shares.
29) It’s impossible for us to give something that we don’t have.
It’s important that you respect your own boundaries. If you are completely starved of empathy from other people then it will be very difficult for you to give empathy to others. It’s also very difficult for you to offer calmness to others if your life is completely chaotic. In this way, respect where you’re at and be honest with the person. It’s okay to say that you feel incredibly stressed by something that’s happened and you may not be able to offer them the calm, tranquil voice of reason they might need. This is very vulnerable expression that will increase intimacy.
30) Reflect back messages that are emotionally charged.
When someone gives us a message that is emotionally charged, it’s very easy to get triggered by this and to either ignore the tone of the message and focus on the logical statement, or to ignore the logic and highlight only the tone. In such situations, take a pause and simply reflect back the statement the person made. Paraphrase it back, but do so in a way that helps them feel understood. Do not have any sarcasm or ulterior motives at work when you paraphrase.
31) Paraphrase only when it contributes to greater compassion and understanding.
The act of paraphrasing emotionally charged statements back to someone is an extremely powerful therapeutic communication technique. However, it should be used tactically. Don’t become a parrot of other people. Choose to paraphrase back what someone else says only when you believe that it might lead to more intimacy and comes from a place of compassion.
32) Behind intimidating messages are merely people appealing to us to meet their needs.
The vast majority of us were never taught how to express ourselves well. In fact, many of us were “trained” to express ourselves dysfunctionally. We need something and that need isn’t met so we act up like a child, manipulate, throw tantrums, act passive-aggressive, and such, to get that need met. It’s a fine short term solution to get what you need, but will eventually lead to irreparably damaged relationships. To try and end this cycle of destruction, try to understand that when people are intimidating you or acting in ways that trigger you to tense up, they are trying to express a need. Very often, violent people feel way more threatened than non-violent people, and they act violently as a coping mechanism to feel safe. Practice locating the hidden and unmet needs behind intimidating messages.
33) A difficult message is an opportunity to enrich someone’s life.
Sometimes the the most painful insights are the ones that lead to the greatest change. My father smoked for more than two decades, then gave up overnight when he thought he was having a heart attack. He wasn’t, he just had muscle pain. But the emotional realisation that he was not on a good path was enough for him to never smoke a cigarette again. When we hear a difficult message the tendency for many of us is to tense up and to try and negate the challenging feelings that come up. While this may reduce the cognitive dissonance we experience, it doesn’t lead to inner transformation. We cannot grow without guidance from others, and all types of feedback can be an opportunity to enrich our lives.
34) When we stay with empathy, we allow speakers to touch deeper levels of themselves.
What is the role of a therapist? To give life advice? To ask good questions? All of that is secondary stuff. The real value of a therapist is to create a safe container for the client to go much deeper into their own psyche in the presence of another human than ever before. This process of being vulnerable, emotional, and at times analytical can itself be deeply healing. Whenever we keep our empathy up through the ups and downs of an interaction it can really help the speaker to get to know themselves much better and get deep insights into the nature of their mind. In turn, this will likely lead to much greater self-awareness and communication.
35) We know a speaker has received adequate empathy when (1) we sense a release of tension, or (2) the flow of words comes to a halt.
How do we recognise if someone is receiving the empathy we are giving them? Usually when someone feels “held” they will not be so tense and agitated. They will soften and relax. This is a very important thing to look out for. The other thing people do when they are not feeling understood is ramble or rant. If someone is rambling or ranting at you, it might be because they do not feel heard and they are spraying you with words in a “more is better” approach. When someone is rambling, feel free to interrupt and say, “Just so I’m hearing you right, are you saying…?” Paraphrase with empathy and slow everything down.
36) It’s harder to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status, or resources.
Have you ever caught yourself almost dismissing the emotions of the rich and famous if they are upset? Or if you see some man with a Rolex and a business suit screaming angrily down the phone, you just point out that they are wealthy and will be fine…? It’s much easier to empathise with someone who is really and truly struggling in life. But when someone seems to have it all: money, looks, status, we may resist really empathising with such a person. Try as best as you can not to create rules for who deserves empathy and who doesn’t. Every person you interact with deserves empathy, outside of situations with extreme danger, which is clearly not what this article is dealing with.
37) In non violent communication, we “say a lot” by listening for other people’s feelings and needs.
You’re in a difficult or emotional conversation and you feel this desire to make it better. You want to give a useful perspective, or help them see they’re thinking about it wrong, or give some advice as to what to do… when this happens, resist this urge. Instead, realise you actually say so much by simply listening. Listening properly, deeply, is an action that speaks so much louder than words.
38) Rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person, empathise.
Pay very careful attention to where you use the word “but” in your speech. If you are finding that you’re starting sentences or replies with that word, that may be a sure indication that you are in a battle of your point vs. their point. That is not therapeutic communication. Every time you notice yourself saying “but” or trying to be “right,” simply stop and try and empathise with the speaker. If you try to win, you lose. If your aim is connection and empathy, you can’t lose.
39) It may be difficult to empathize with those who are closest to us.
There’s an old joke: If you want to measure your level of enlightenment, go spend a week with your family. When we are close to certain people, we have so many entrenched communication habits, it can be a real challenge to practice therapeutic communication techniques with them. “Why should I be the one to change?” is what most of us think. With new relationships it’s much easier to empathise, but the benefits are also much smaller. When you can learn to start empathising with the needs and feelings of those closest to you, that’s where the real life transforming effects will take place.
40) To bring a conversation back to life: interrupt with empathy.
As a coach, I have to speak with clients and direct the conversation in a way that serves them, and sometimes that means interrupting them. If someone is in the habit of rambling on a meaningless topic for 30 minutes, and there’s important work to do—it’s my role to interrupt with empathy and pump some life back into the conversation. Have you ever been in a conversation and felt like you were being “talked at”? Is this even a conversation? What is the compassionate thing to do? Sit there uncomfortably and pretend to listen or bring the conversation back to life in a win-win way? Being extremely polite isn’t always the compassionate thing to do.
41) What bores the listener bores the speaker too.
This is a fantastic rule to keep in mind. Whenever you start to feel bored in a conversation, realise that the other person will find this boring too. We like speaking to engaged, enthusiastic partners. Who likes to talk to people who are pretending to find us interesting? Being the host of the HighExistence podcast has given me the skill of having conversations with the aim of entertaining and teaching others through the process. If I start losing interest, I assume my listeners will too. Training in this way has given me the ability to take charge of a conversation in a way that benefits everyone. If you care about the person you’re speaking to, you will not let them bore you.
42) Speakers prefer that listeners interrupt rather than pretend to listen.
Imagine you are trying to tell someone a story in as vivid detail as possible. You finish telling the story, and the person who was listening looks at you with a glazed over expression. They tell you that it mostly makes sense… kinda. Now contrast this to a situation where a listener hangs off every work you say and periodically interrupts you for more clarification on the key points. The latter would be such a richer interaction. Interrupt has a bad rep because sometimes people interrupt because they just love the sound of their own voice. Don’t be like this. But instead change your relationship to interrupting so that you start seeing it as a form of engagement with the speaker.
43) Practice therapeutic communication techniques with yourself, not just others.
When you first learn about the therapeutic communication techniques, you may be thinking it could be hard to practice, unless you have constant exposure to difficult individuals. But remember, the most important person to practice non violent communication with is yourself. If you catch yourself doing things that causes internal friction, observe without evaluating. Locate your feelings. Contemplate your needs. Make a compassionate request to yourself. It’s no good being compassionate to others but hard on yourself. That is not a sustainable approach to cultivating the skill of non violent communication.
44) To practice therapeutic communication techniques, avoid “shoulding” yourself!
What does it mean when you say that you should do something. “I should drink more water.” Or, “I should listen more.” If you investigate the word should, you’ll find that it’s a filler word some something much more intricate. A great tip I picked up from Dr. Aziz in his book Not Nice, is to replace the word “should” with “prefer.” This is specific and accurate. And if the word prefer doesn’t work, perhaps you “shouldn’t” be doing it! “I would prefer it if I drank more water.” Much better.
45) We want to take action out of the desire to contribute to life rather than out of fear, guilt, shame, or obligation.
Victims of abusive relationships compare the feeling to being in a FOG, which stands for fear, obligation, and guilt. The give up autonomy and instead only act out of a negative feeling. This, needless to say, is not healthy. But you don’t have to be in a “abusive relationship” to still act on negative feelings. Many people simply learn that they must always keep other people happy, and will do anything to not rock the boat. It’s important if you truly value cultivating therapeutic communication techniques, that you do not make others act out of fear, guilt, or obligation, and you don’t act for those reasons either. When you are asked to do something, check in with yourself and ask: “Do I want to do this?”
46) With every choice you make, be conscious of what need it serves.
This therapeutic communication technique alone will completely change your life for the better. There are a lot of books on self-discipline, but few books on discipline cover this ground. If you want to cultivate healthier habits, the best thing you can do is see why you’re doing bad habits in the first place. You open the fridge and reach for the cake… why? Because I’m hungry. Are you though? Ummm… well actually I’m kind of bored. Bingo. Are their other things you can do to help you with your boredom? If you start locating the needs behind every action you take, it won’t take long before you start to make the decisions you consciously want, instead of letting unconscious programs run you.
47) The most dangerous of all behaviours may consist of doing things “because we’re supposed to.”
You’re not a child. You’re a grown adult who can make their own decisions. There’s nothing “you’re supposed to do.” Different cultures have widely different social rules. Different people within the same cultures have widely differing opinions about appropriate behaviour in a given situation. If you are doing things because you’re supposed to, you are quite literally throwing your personal power and freedom in the trash. The way of non violent communication, is to bring awareness to our own behaviour so that we can benefit others. Many evil deeds were carried out because they were “supposed to.” Break the chain, and cultivate conscious awareness over your actions.
48) The cause of anger lies in our thinking—in thoughts of blame and judgment.
Why do you get angry? Have you ever investigated the patterns that give rise to this emotion? What you’ll often notice is the desire to blame others, a judgment toward them, and a feeling of injustice. If your car keys go missing, and your wife had the last, she didn’t respect you, she never listens, and she doesn’t care about you being late for your appointment. All of these judgements and accusations are imaginary. And yet we believe the story as if it were true. The next time you start to experience sensations go anger, examine your desire to blame and judge. Investigate those thoughts and feelings until the anger naturally subsides. Then act in a way that serves you best.
49) Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment.
Look back over your life at the times when you lashed out at someone or acted in ways opposite to the therapeutic communication techniques model. It is not unlikely that the logic that made you act in this way was something to the effect of: This person made me feel bad, so they must be bad and I should punish them. It’s the logic of a child, but it the pattern that many of us still operate with as adults. Anyone who thinks they have the right to punish another human should be very careful. Nobody has access to ultimate truth, and to believe you have the right to punish someone is a claim to absolute truth—to a godlike power. If the entire legal system with all the systems in place still often create punishments that are contestable, it is absurd to think that the emotional impulse to punish another person would be sound.
50) Stay conscious of the violent thoughts that arise in our minds, without judging them.
There is a part of the human psyche Carl Jung called “The Shadow.” It is where all of our primal desires, fears, and impulses reside. The idea is not to push this shadow away, but to integrate it into our being. How do we do that? The first step is to be aware of it. If we aren’t aware of our impulses, they control us. The next step is to accept the shadow without judging it. Only at this point can you start making the shadow work for you. A person with a well integrated shadow has a sense of power about them, but is so aware of their own violent thoughts and drives, they will rarely, if ever, act on them.
51) People do not hear our pain when they believe they are at fault.
Sometimes, all we need is for another person to understand the pain that we’re experiencing. If this happens, a beautiful connection can occur where two humans truly see each other, and intimacy increases. This will not be possible if there is a sense of blame or “fault” at play. The moment I start an interaction by pointing the finger at you, I am also shutting down your capacity for empathy. If my goal is simply to make you feel defensive and hurt and damaging our relationship then blaming you is fine. But if I value non violent communication and I want to actually express myself in a way that gets understood, it’s important that I avoid making you feel at fault for how I feel. We must take ownership of our feelings and link them back to the need that is not getting met for us.
52) Avoid the use of language that implies wrongness in non violent communication.
A great exercise to improve your therapeutic communication technique is to watch television shows with conflict and try and locate the communication errors. You will find, that at the heart of all conflict is the implication of wrongness. You did something to me that was “wrong” and that’s why I acted in the way that I did. If you want happy, healthy relationships with the people in your life, you must eradicate a sense of “wrongness” from your judgement of others. If someone swears at you and calls you a name, that is not actually “wrong.” Now it may make you feel angry and not want to spend time around that person (totally valid), but summing up a behaviour as “wrong” is not helpful to you or them if your goal is mastery of therapeutic communication techniques.
53) The intention behind the protective use of force is only to protect, not to punish, blame, or condemn.
There may be times in your life such as when in imminent danger where you may have to break the “rules” of non violent communication or use physical force. In such events, it is vital that you do not act in ways that are designed to inflict suffering upon an individual but to simply protect yourself or others from injustice. If someone you care about walks onto the road and a car is coming, you may have to tackle them to protect them from getting killed. In protecting them, you may injure them, but your intent was to help them. If after you saved them you chose to punish them, that would not be the protective use of force. Pay attention to your intensions and only use force for protective or self-defence reasons.
54) Compliments are often judgments—however positive-of others.
In my experience, the people who often gossip the most, also give a lot of compliments. They are in the habit of judging others, both good or bad. When someone praises you for something, even though it feels nice, there is also the understanding that they would think less of your if you didn’t meet that appraisal. This is the shadow of compliments, they are still judgements. If you appreciate something in someone, you can be very direct about what you appreciated, and how it made you feel. “The drawing you did made me feel a sense of awe at the technical way it was constructed, and I feel so much more energised after looking at it.” Compare this to “You’re a great artist!” The first is a specific, clear expression and the second is a fixed judgement about a person.
55) Express appreciation to celebrate, not to manipulate.
Many of us are in the habit of giving validation to others so that we will get validation back. We express appreciation to manipulate the social outcome. If someone does well at something, such as getting a raise at work, don’t offer them praise so that they see you as someone who is considerate. Offer praise to actually celebrate with them. Compassion means wanting the best for others, experiencing sympathetic joy. When you want to express appreciation, embody an attitude of celebration so that it matters not what you get out of the situation.
56) Saying “thank you” in non violent communication: “This is what you did; this is what I feel; this is the need of mine that was met.”
This is an extremely powerful principle, and a great way to practice therapeutic communication techniques. If someone cleans up your room, don’t just say “Thanks for cleaning my room.” Instead, say, “I saw that you cleaned my room; I feel very warm and joyful that you did that for me; I have wanted to do that for a few days and you have helped me save time and feel very respected by you, which is important to me.” Now that’s how you say thank you… If you start practicing just this from the entire 57 laws, you will be astounded at the improvements in your relationships.
57) Receive appreciation without feelings of superiority or false humility.
If you are on the receiving end of someone else’s appreciation, don’t let it pump up your ego, but on the flip side, don’t downplay it. Someone is reaching out to you here to express something important to them. Make them feel heard by actually acknowledging what they say. When I give some appreciation to a friend and they fully receive it and appreciate my appreciation, it’s a beautiful experience. But If I am met with an egotistical, overconfident response, or a response that doesn’t acknowledge what I said, then I feel unheard and my need of being valued is not met. Let appreciation into your heart, but not into your head.
I hope that you have found these 57 therapeutic communication techniques useful. This article will be even more powerful if you use it as a reference guide along with the actual book.
Remember not to be too perfectionistic with your approach to these laws. Small daily improvements is the best way to proceed.