In today’s world, in business as well as private life, communication plays an important role. Without conflicts communication in our daily life is easy but what happens in cases of conflict? Can we still be esteeming? From the early days in our life we learn a language, which involves moralistic reviews (“Your room is messy!”) making someone responsible for the feelings of others (“I am sad if you do that.”) and making assumptions about the behavior of others (“You are so rude!”). Thus, in our culture, we internalize a language that very often leads to anger or guilt.

“Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.” (M. Rosenberg)

Marshall B. Rosenberg, an American psychologist and founder of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), created a different “language” by saying that every person, from a caring mother to a front line soldier, has the same needs and wants them to be met. The violent language of our culture hides those needs. According to NVC, we should instead look for what is alive inside. What needs does the other person have? And what needs do I have? Those were the main key points of the three-day ZEBS course which was led by the certified NVC coach Klaus Karstädt in Starnberg near Munich. The course was taught in a chair circle with theoretical input and many practical exercises to understand and deepen the new knowledge.

On the first day, after definitions about certain words in NVC, Klaus Karstädt lectured about conflictual situations and the primary reason for not getting our needs fulfilled which is that we do not talk about the situation at all. The second reason is that we do not really know how to do so. He introduced the method of NVC that suggest four steps for sincere communication excluding criticism or any expression of anger. At first, one has to say what the observed facts are without mixing it with any valuations. The second step is to express a feeling, which either states that a need is met or in the case of a conflict, has not been met. This directly leads to the third step, the core of conflicts, needs and values. Finally, there has to be a clear request that asks for a strategy to fulfill that need. There are many strategies to meet a need and the key point is to fulfill it with one possible strategy and not desperately pursue a strategy we cannot fulfill.

Besides communicating personal concerns, empathy plays an important role in NVC. Being empathetic implies that one tries to understand the needs of others by inquiring about their feelings and the unmet need that caused this feeling. Mostly, a need is covered in an insult or an expression of anger. NVC defines four different “ears” with which we can receive a message. With the so-called “Jackal Ears”, one focuses on his faults or the faults of others, which leads to a sense of shame or anger. This is the common way people communicate and should be changed into “Giraffe Ears”. With “Giraffe Ears, one listens to the feelings and needs behind a message, no matter how harsh the message has been.

On the last day of the seminar, two additional teachers joined the group and Klaus Karstädt introduced a model for conflict solutions. The model consisted of uncovering the opponent’s needs and communicating their own needs before finding a solution for the problem. The students practiced their own examples in three small groups, each group with its own NVC coach.

Klaus Karstädt combined lecturing with many stories and the course was well balanced between theory and practical exercises. Thus, the overall course was appreciated by the students as very valuable and was a great success. He closed the seminar by emphasizing that one cannot internalize the relatively easy theory within a short amount of time and that it takes time to develop an esteeming attitude but by consciously practicing, one could eventually practically learn how to communicate nonviolently.

Simon – IMP Student