Judgemental Language & Violence. A link?

Loren Mielke
4 min readSep 19, 2017

NVC Challenge: Episode 13 (1hour — 1hour6mins)

Continued from Episode 12.

The content of today’s blog marks the start of session 2, focussing on how we apply NVC within ourselves.

What’s required to do this?

Radical transformation!

Why?

Because many of us have been programmed to communicate in a language that categorises and judges people and their actions, ourselves included.

Imagine a language where it is not possible to categorise and label behaviours.

Marshall experienced this when doing work in Malaysia.

The interpreter asked Marshall to meet with him for a half hour before the day began, where he explained, ‘There are some differences between your language and yours that I need you to be aware of, otherwise it will make my job as interpreter much more difficult. In our language language we have no verb ‘to be’ in the sense of judging people or their actions. So Marshall today, if you use language that judges, it will be very hard for me to interpret.’

Marshall thought to himself, ‘How can I go through a day without insulting people? My entire life I’ve been trained to think in terms of how others are judging me, as good or bad, right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate. I’ve been taught to judges others this way too. The idea of a language inherently void of this, is quite amazing!’

‘What if I should say to someone today, ‘You are selfish’. How will you interpret this?’ Marshall asked.

‘I would have a real challenge’, the interpreter replied, ‘because, as I’ve told you, we don’t think that way.’

‘Yes but how will you, if I did? How would you translate it?’ Marshall insisted.

‘This is what ‘you are selfish’ would sound like in our language, ‘Marshall sees you taking care of your own needs, and not the needs of others. Marshall would like you to take care of the needs of others as well.’ That is how I would translate it’, the interpreter answered.

Marshall smiled, and said to himself, ‘That is pure NVC!’

If NVC was their native tongue, why was Marshall there?

He wasn’t there to teach NVC. One of their senators, representing over 60,000 people, had asked Marshall to come work with them. Logging interests were coming into their habitat, destroying their environment, and his people didn’t know how to speak with these people who spoke a different language.

Are judgements and violence linked?

OJ Harvey, conducted an interesting study. He went around the world, taking samples of literature along the way, and looking to see how often the word ‘to be’ was used in judgement of others, as good or bad, right or wrong, etc. He then correlated these results with the measures of violence in each of these cultures, towards self or others, he found the more cultures thought in terms of judging and labelling one another, the higher their measures of violence.

‘Warning! Alert! Current thinking is contributing to violence!’

We all have four such internal warning devices. Marshall refers to these as ‘four friends’ that take the form of four distinct feelings. When any of these are felt, they are an alert that we are thinking in a way we have been taught to think, for thousands of years, designed to make us obedient to authority. A way that contributes to violence on our planet, and that we can choose to transform our thinking to a way that promotes peace.

These ‘four friends’ are:

ANGER
DEPRESSION
GUILT
SHAME

To be continued here Episode 14

Personal insights from Loren: I found the Malaysian language story profound. Understanding one another is not just about having an interpreter to bridge two distinct mother tongues, but even when there are parties communicating in the ‘same’ language, when two parties are both using violent communication, they are not understanding what’s really going, what’s alive in one another. I was amazed by the results of the study correlating use of judgmental language and violence in cultures, and loved how Marshall re framed those four challenging emotions as powerful friends, serving to alert us to an opportunity for transformation.

This is the online training program I’m listening to as I journey through this challenge:

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Loren Mielke

Passionate about living consciously, connecting and contributing meaningfully