Does communicating with compassion mean letting go of our judgements?

When we begin learning Nonviolent Communication, we start becoming more aware of our judgements.

When I first learnt NVC, I thought to myself, “This is it. I won’t make judgements about others any more. I’m going to be nonjudgemental.”It didn’t take me too long to understand that that wasn’t possible.

And that’s because our mind makes meaning of what we see and experience. As a human, it’s highly likely that I’ll have judgements—about myself, others and the world.

Telling myself I shouldn’t have judgements isn’t going to help. It’s only going to backfire because that takes me into a vicious cycle:

When I judge myself for having a judgement, I’m creating more judgements within me.

Given that we’re bound to have judgements, what can we do with them instead?

First, I want to see my judgements differently: Instead of seeing them as good or bad, I can see them as information about my needs. Every single judgement I have is pointing me towards a need—and instead of believing my judgement to be true, I can ask, “What need of mine is this judgement pointing me to?When I have a judgement of someone as being untrustworthy, it points to my need for trust.

When I think someone is being very careless, my judgement points to my need for care.

Second, I want to be aware of where judgements help, and where they don’t: My judgements are helpful when I use them as a doorway to getting in touch with what matters to me (my needs). They are unhelpful when I speak them out loud into the other person, as if they hold the truth about them.

Third, I can clarify my judgements and speak from needs awareness: Speaking from my judgements is likely to lead to disconnection—it often leaves the listener defensive. Instead of expressing my judgements, I can express the feelings and needs underlying them—and make a request to have that need met!

Practice tip:Think of one judgement that you have about someone else. What need is your judgement pointing to?

Knowing what your need is, what would you like to do next?

More on this topic:

Last fortnight, I held my first open NVC workshop of the year. This is a topic that’s meaningful to me, and I’m glad to have been able to explore it with a vibrant group!Here’s what a participant had to say about their experience (click on the image to enlarge):

I’ll be offering this workshop again in the near future—so if you missed this edition, stay tuned for an announcement about the next!

Upcoming events

This June, the NVC Academy is offering two new courses:

  1. Conversational Connections: Practical Skills for Communicating Compassionately: A nature-informed introduction to NVC with James Prieto. Click here to read more.

  2. Boundaries to Create Closeness: How to Set Personal Boundaries for Deeper Connection with Yvette Erasmus, beginning June 14. Click here for more info.