Non-Violent Sustainability

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

What does Non-Violent Communication have to do with a sustainable way of living?

If you ask me, then I would say a lot.

We live in an age in western society where easy access to resources and, at least online, to other humans is self-evident. This has a huge effect on how we value and treat these resources and connections.

If I focus on our human interactions these days, I observe that we tend to quickly exchange our Facebook or LinkedIn profiles or even phone numbers when we meet somebody new. We have an enjoyable short chat and then we go our own ways. So, this type of connection is pretty loose and mostly without any turbulences. We don’t put much effort in its maintenance and therefore, the quality and depth of these short-term encounters tends to be very limited.

But what about long-term relationships, either with family, partners, friends or even colleagues? How do we treat them and how much effort do we put into these relationships? Do we take care of these relationships and with the same passion, like we take care of our environment and nature? There are plenty of organizations “fighting” for environmental protection to save our planet. Who is fighting for the protection of our human relationships?

More and more of our interactions take place in a virtual world. People walk down the street with their heads down and their eyes focusing on their phone displays. It is difficult to make eye contact this way. Many chances are lost for sharing a beautiful smile.

And if you watch teens these days, they seem to communicate via social media even while sitting next to each other. I see a similar crisis coming for our civilization from this behavior as well as from our destructive behavior towards nature.

What can be done?

I am currently undergoing training for non-violent communication, a technique which focuses on keeping a real empathic connection between humans while they communicate with each other, even during conflict. This technique changed the way I live my life and my relationships completely. It taught me to see behind the words we use and to understand the hidden meaning of these words. When you are able to see beyond words you start to feel the person and understand him or her in a totally new way. You start to hear needs instead of stories and judgments. And that is a game changer.

I would call it building a sustainable relationship. Because it builds on something deeper and more profound than just opinions, judgements and stories. Needs are universal, and every human shares the same basic needs. If we can filter out all the garbage and understand that this person just tries to express a need that you share with him or her and that you have experienced, then you are more likely open to connect with empathy to that person. You are more willing to listen actively and leave your ego and righteousness behind. If you approach relationships like that, you have a high chance to create something which has a better quality.

That we witness so many crises in the outside and at the same time experience alienation amongst each other is for me no coincidence. I think they are strongly connected to each other. As more we lose connection to ourselves and our fellow humans, we lose connection to nature and its beauty.

I am not saying that non-violent communication will save our society. But it can make an incredible contribution to our relationships, making them more authentic and fulfilling. And when we are more caring and empathic with each other we will intuitively treat nature with more respect und humility.

Here is my suggestion for you. The next time you recycle your waste, or you try to be aware of where your food is coming from, ask yourself what good you could do for your relationships.


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