Standing on the Shoulders of “Nonviolence” Giants
A Longing for Nonviolence and Peace
I remember just last year consoling my 11-year-old daughter as she cried long and hard about all the things she saw happening in the world. Things like hunger, animal extinction, wars and terrorism. It was especially the violent parts that made her cry with despair. I listened and waited until she was ready to take part in a dialogue. Then I said to her, “You know, there IS hope. There have been people who feel like you do and decide to dedicate their lives to making the world a better place.” She asked me what I meant, so I went on to say, “There have been people who led a whole mass movement toward equality and peace. And they did it using NONviolent means.” I named three in particular: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. She stayed intrigued as I told her about each of these three nonviolence movements.
Honoring Three Giants
So I was awfully excited to see just a few months following this conversation a “We Have a Dream” banner on the side of the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. An exhibition on these three leaders! I was so moved as I read all about their stories, particularly how they pursued their dreams while withstanding violence and protesting WITHOUT violence. This is to me the definition of conviction, strength and resilience in leadership. Not only did they help bring about serious change, their role modelling continues to make an impact on those of us who want to believe there is a better way than violent strategies.
Standing on the Giants’ Shoulders with NVC
I consider these three men to own the “giants’ shoulders” on which Marshall Rosenberg stood. This American psychologist named his communication model after their movements: “Nonviolent Communication” (or NVC). I have at times regretted this name choice, because when some people hear it, they assume it has nothing to do with them because they’re not “violent people.” I long for everyone to know that NVC is not about physical violence! It’s is for ANYONE who wishes to learn to communicate in ways that bring HONESTY, UNDERSTANDING, COMPASSION, CONNECTION and ultimately more PEACE. I believe that all humans want this, and yet most of us don’t get the opportunity to learn these skills. Instead we’re raised in cultures all around the world to speak in ways that lead to win-lose outcomes. NVC teaches how to get through any conflict using nonviolence skills in ways that bring about WIN-WIN outcomes.
I (also) Have a Dream
I’ve grown passionate about NVC, because it has genuinely brought all of these things to my life. And now in my work I’m using it as a model for coaching, mediation and training others. So while walking through that exhibition on nonviolence, I felt such gratitude to these three men (and for sure their super supportive wives!). I have the humble idea that I also stand on the shoulders of these giants. I share the dream that I will contribute to a more peaceful world, even if it means supporting one person, couple or small team at a time. And I feel grateful that this help me look my daughter in the eyes and tell her sincerely, “There is hope.”