Nonviolent communication: no screaming or threats

Nonviolent communication: no screaming or threats

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On February 28 of this year, UNICEF launched the “I Treat Well” campaign.

Although I had personally baptized her with a much less generic name, I applaud and support the intention behind this important action towards nonviolent communication:

"I treat well" pretends "dto naturalize the use of violence as a method to discipline and educate children and adolescents in the home ”.

Any campaign that focuses on the current violence that often becomes the protagonist of the Communication between parents and children, and especially parents with teenagers, and raise awareness about the possible consequences in the lives of your children, it is a campaign that deserves to be applauded and shared.

We all know that communication, of whatever kind, is a challenge.

The difficulties multiply in the extreme when one enters into a dynamic of bad forms between fathers / mothers and children.

As a teacher, Coach, Psychologist or parent, you will know that this is one of the biggest challenges of today's families. Screams, threats, ultimatums, monosyllables, prolonged silences, grunts, words that should not be pronounced ...

With the passage of time, a vicious circle of “incommunication” and “disagreement” is entered from which it is impossible to escape and that leads families to ask two of the questions they ask me in my workshops more frequently:

How can I make my child listen to me?

How can I understand him / her?

The strategies and attitudes I share below help us express our strong feelings, frustrations and emotions with empathy and mutual respect.
This type of “non-violent communication” or CNV offers us some of the most effective answers with which I have worked for many years as a facilitator of communication between adults and children and adolescents, and Master Trainer in Spain of the Certification “How to speak for children and teenagers to listen "by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish".


  • 1 Why do we sometimes communicate violently with our children?
  • 2 What is nonviolent communication?
  • 3 How to achieve non-violent communication: Empathy and expression of feelings
  • 4 Exercises to practice non-violent communication

Why do we sometimes communicate violently with our children?

One of the promoters of the “I Treat Well” campaign that I was talking about earlier were the results obtained by this institution during a qualitative investigation carried out in 2017.

The study concluded that the majority of adults surveyed "they didn't perceive cheeks, colleges, sarcasms or the screams as violent behaviors and it was difficult for them to recognize psychological abuse at home. They did not know the negative consequences that this type of behavior has on the development of children and girls.”

The language and the violent behaviors, according to this study, are tolerated and they apply in many formats: from cheeks, colleges, sarcasms and screams to the underestimation of their abilities, and the prohibition of crying or expressing certain feelings.

That is to say, violent communication is still used to educate children because this format is a social pattern which is still engraved in the minds of many parents and educators.

The study itself confirmed that the parents interviewed were convinced that they wanted the best for their sons and daughters. And they were certain that this type of communication was the best way to educate them possible with the methods and strategies they and they knew.

That's where we come in, the Facilitators.

One of our missions is to propose other alternatives that replace those social patterns to which these parents stick to ...

Prove that you can change the paradigms and you can change the dynamics.

And let them know in detail the many benefits for their families of Nonviolent Communication.

What is nonviolent communication?

The Nonviolent Communication born from the experience of the American mediator, psychologist and educator Marshall Rosenberg. One of the main components of this communicative method consists of separate observation and evaluation.

That is, Rosenberg urges us to watch closely Everything we see, hear or touch without mixing it with an evaluation. "If we mix the evaluation with the observation ” Rosenberg explains, “We will reduce the probability that the other person understands what we intend to convey. Instead, it will pick up criticism and resist what we are saying..”

If we talk to someone, child or adult, from criticism or anger because we are not able to separate evaluation and observation, we are communicating violently.

If we speak to someone, child or adult, from joy and happiness, having separated our moral judgments from our observations, we are communicating nonviolently.

The CNV allows us to resolve conflicts and teaches us to say “no” and to accept the “no” of the other person, helping us, therefore, to Manage emotions such as anger and frustration.

How to achieve non-violent communication: Empathy and expression of feelings

I opened this article by telling you that I had baptized the recent UNICEF campaign with another less generic title.

Possibly, I would have called her "Treat with empathy and respect."

Because, my experience tells me that empathy and respect are one of the primary keys to nonviolent communication.

What is empathy?

Empathy is a quality that is talked about a lot lately in all contexts. However, I believe that few understand its real meaning and how to apply it to interpersonal communication.

Empathy is not the same as sympathy.

Jesse Prinz, Professor of Philosophy at the University of the City of New York, Graduate Center, writes that "... Sympathy is an emotional response in the third person, while empathy involves putting yourself in the shoes of another person".

Sympathy, according to the SAR, is "affective inclination between people, usually spontaneous and mutual".

Empathy consists of two parts:

  • The intellectual identification with the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of other.
  • The real experience of those feelings, thoughts or attitudes.

"Empathy requires a kind of emotional mimicry”, Says Prinz. "Empathy is feeling what makes that person feel what they feel".

If we want children and adolescents to feel understood, we must feel the real experience of their feelings, thoughts or attitudes.

If we want to communicate without violence with our children and adolescents, we must take their feelings very seriously, identify them, name them, validate them and even reflect them as if it were a mirror!

Let's look at the example of Monica, a teenage girl who felt deeply sad because her best friend moved with her family to another country.

Monica's mother had two options:

"Put on your skin and show you that you felt perfectly the departure of your best friend",

Or "dismiss Monica's feelings as a" life lesson, "a passing emotion that will overcome with time" ...

Which would you choose for?

Your first step in following the principles of respectful Communication is to put yourself in Monica's shoes.

  • How does it feel when a loved one is lost?
  • How did I feel when I had to say goodbye to someone who has been very important to me?

These types of questions get you into your mind and create an empathic state that allows you to understand the anguish that the adolescent goes through.

“I know you will miss her a lot”…

I understand how difficult it will be for you to be separated from your best friend after having such good times together ”…

These words may seem very simple, but they are extremely powerful since they make the difference between a teenager who has to go through a bad drink alone and a teenager who feels accompanied and understood by her mother.

The Israelite child psychologist Haim Ginott claimed that:

These types of responses create intimacy between mother and daughter. When children feel understood, their loneliness and pain decrease. When children are understood, their love for the father or mother deepens. The empathy of mothers and fathers serves as emotional first aid for hurt feelings”.

Exercises to practice non-violent communication

Can you imagine communicating with teenagers without trials or assessments?
Can you imagine being able to communicate honestly and respectfully?
Breaking that vicious circle of violent communication that falls so easily?

There are many exercises and practices that will help you break old paradigms and create new communication dynamics. However, I think that one of the best ways to start familiarizing yourself with this process is to follow the four guidelines or steps proposed by Marshall Rosenberg.

Apply these guidelines when emotions can interfere with your communication and obscure the message you want to convey to your interlocutor.

  1. Look at the facts and objectively describe what happened. Analyzing your reality will help you share the same perception of the problem and understand where our reaction comes from.
  2. The interlocutors explain how they feel. With simple words describe what you feel right now in a respectful and bidirectional conversation.
  3. The interlocutors explain what they need to not feel this way. This analysis is carried out from a global vision and with a view to possible similar situations.
  4. Action plan proposal. To prevent the problem from re-emerging and to maintain the same communicative process, an action plan is proposed to which both participants adhere.

Yes, even with the little ones we can follow these useful guidelines and commit to implementing a new way of communicating non-violently between children / adolescents and the elderly.

If it's a matter of changing social constructs, we can all do it together!

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