Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Communication that Blocks Compassion – NVC Week 2

If you’re following along or just joining us, we’re working through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and  Lucy Leu’s companion Workbook . We’re doing this as part of our homeschool curriculum and we welcome your thoughts and companionship on our journey.

Chapter two deals with what’s termed ‘life-alienating’ communication’ – those types of communication which alienate us from our own feelings and needs, and from others. There are four types that are identified: diagnosis/judgement and comparisons, denial of responsibility, demands, and ‘deserve’-oriented language (entitlement).

One of the things I took from this chapter is the admonition to take responsibility for the things that I do. I don’t tend to think of myself as one who shirks responsibility; if pressed, I’d probably gripe about being ‘too responsible’.

I was raised with the idea that your responsibilities are of paramount importance, and if they’re only met halfway, then they may as well not be met at all. My father in particular is very demanding and has little tolerance for ‘half-assing’ anything. I can’t tell you how often I heard that as a young adult and it’s something I don’t tolerate well from my own kids, either.

I see the problem with that, of course – one of my main complaints as a child was that what I DID do was never seen or recognized or acknowledged, only what remained un-done. That’s not true in every instance, and that’s not to say that praise earned wasn’t given wholeheartedly, but we had a lot of responsibilities as children – much more than my own do now, and much less supervision since my mom worked – and it was overwhelming at times.

But this chapter isn’t really about taking responsibility in those terms. It’s more about taking responsibility for your own actions as a result of and connecting them to your own needs or denial of your feelings or needs. One of the examples mentioned is of a mom talking about cooking; how she hates it, but it must be done and it’s her job to do it and so she does;  not realizing the effect that fulfilling a job out of responsibility and with resentment is having a negative effect on her family. Better, perhaps, that she not do it at all if it’s going to be done ‘like that’. How directly in conflict with how I was raised!

I said that I was going to take this book a chapter a week, and I am going to continue trying to do that… but just from really putting into conscious practice the first two chapters, I can see that I am going to need to go through this book again to really flesh it out in my own life. Still, it’s got me thinking, so I’m counting that as progress.

If you’re working on your own, here are some of the questions from Chapter Two in the workbook:

Describe the meaning of ‘life alienating communication’.

Why is the word ‘tragic’ used to describe this way of expression?

What happens when people (children) do what we want them to do out of fear, guilt or shame and how does that affect them in the future?

What is the difference between VALUE judgements and MORALISTIC judgments?


The horrors which we have seen, and the still greater horrors we shall presently see, are not signs that rebels, insubordinate, untamable men are increasing in number throughout the world, but rather that there is a constant increase in the number of obedient, docile men.” ~ George Beranos

Agree or Disagree?

The workbook goes into the different areas of our lives, the social communities that we operate in, and asks us to identify life-alienating language in them, and how we can re-phase them with giraffe-speak. It’s difficult, I won’t lie. Extremely so – and it feels ‘wrong’ to me. Again, I recognize that this is a process and that my feelings are a product of how I was raised (which is precisely why I am going through this book with my kids), but that doesn’t change the feeling that, especially in parenting matters, by not demanding appropriate behavior or that a task be completed within this time-frame or in this manner – by giving the kids an option… basically to choose not to comply – I don’t see how that will work. And then again, there’s a little niggling voice that pipes up and reminds me how much better they behave when I set reminders instead of demands, and help with chores instead of harangue. I know it works in my heart. It’s getting my head on board that is the challenge.



(Disclaimer: This is not a certified or ‘official’ NVC anything. This is my personal journey through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and Lucy Leu’s NVC Companion Workbook. I am NOT an expert, nor am I particularly skilled in this process. Please use/follow/apply with those things in mind. When in doubt, please disregard my commentary and refer to the book or workbook. I make no money off of this exercise, nor is any copyright infringement meant by posting a sampling of the questions from the workbook. For best results, I  strongly recommend that you purchase the book and workbook for yourself and go through them in their entirety at your leisure.)


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