That’s the way it is!
It is often the case that we evaluate everything. The people sitting across from us, our environment, and of course, ourselves. Then something is quickly categorized as adequate or abnormal. We assume things about our counterparts, what they think about us or how they meant their words. This is the reason for many misunderstandings.
Do you regularly evaluate your opponents?
We are always evaluating things! This applies to everything that happens around us: it could be a colleague who you assume doesn’t like you, because they speak and laugh with your other colleagues more than with you. You will only know whether or not that is the case if they tell you directly.
Or your boss who is always giving you particularly complex tasks. They must be doing it to annoy you? You always end up having to stay longer in the office. But what is actually the case? Couldn’t it also mean that your boss trusts you in particular and knows that you work especially exactly and carefully? Maybe they are always giving you such difficult tasks because they trust you?
Nonviolent communication is a method that counteracts this constant evaluation. It consists of four steps, the first of which is observation. Through pure observation that is formulated without values, we get more distance from the situation and from our conversation partner. With this step, we can focus more on the objective level, on figures, data, facts. That way we can manage, especially when we are angry, to be objective again.
Recognize and reformulate evaluations
The process is this: if you find yourself in a situation that bothers you somewhat, it is important, first of all, to recognize the evaluations in your head. Formulate this as an objective evaluation that is concrete and doesn’t contain any generalizations.
First of all, there are even evaluations in the description:
A customer picked up an order, and he is not happy with the results. I keep having to take on the changes and then he suddenly thinks of new things that didn’t bother him before. He seems to want to always find something to expose and to want to annoy me with it.
Just these few sentences already contain several evaluations: suddenly, expose, annoy, bother.
Now the goals is to form a pure observation from this:
The customer picked up an order that he is not happy with. I am making the changes for the third time. After these changes, he realizes things that he didn’t find fault with before.
That the customer wants to annoy you is an assumption that you can’t know for sure. Yes, maybe it is the case, but it is rather unlikely. Most people are busy with themselves and don’t have time for that.
Objectivity and linguistic evaluations
Is 100% objectivity possible? Of course, we are not 100% objective, because we bring our own experiences and perspectives with us. Indeed, we are sometimes completely unaware that we are evaluating things again and that is the point of this step. The observation step should serve to sensitize us. What really happened and what is only in your head?
And it carries on. Our evaluations of other people don’t just stay in our head. The evaluations or the sources that we make influence the way we deal with other people and also our language. In the end, we communicate both verbally and physically.
Pay attention to your own language
For a whole week, practice describing situations with other people as exactly as possible and look at the evaluations that your descriptions contain. Resolve to use the first step of nonviolent communication at least once every day for a week.
Pay attention to the following things:
How often do you say “good,” “bad,” “right,” or “wrong,”? Can you be more exact and say what exactly you did or didn’t like?
Are you inclined to exaggerations? Do you generalize and say “always,” “never,” “everyone,” “no one,”? Can you be more concrete here and say how often it was, for example, that your colleagues left the files next to the paper shredder instead of doing it themselves?
What do you notice about your evaluations? What do you evaluate? What annoys you? Even here you can reach some clarity by paying attention to your triggers. Are they about the appearance of other people, are they too fat for you, or too thin? Are they dressed too sexily, or too modern? Does the way they talk annoy you, because they have an accent, or constantly repeat themselves, or talk too loudly or too quietly (for you)?
Is it about politeness? Do you get worked up when someone is not considerate enough? Because they don’t hold the door for you, because they don’t knock before they come into the office? Because they think you always have time to deal with their tasks?
After this week, you will have a glimpse into your spoken behaviour in regards to evaluations. You will know what annoys you and what you evaluate because of that. You will be sensitized to your evaluations and can more easily let go of them.
In conversation without values
If you have practiced for yourself, you can now use it in conversation. Make sure you continue to formulate value-free in conversation. Even in situations that you are unhappy with, it makes sense to try to have the conversation when your head is clearer and free of evaluations. The conversation is easier then. As long as you are still annoyed, you might have value-free formulations, but your body language will give you away. Tell the others, as concretely as possible, what you are talking about, so that they also know what you are talking about.
Influence on other people’s self-image
Keep in mind that you can also influence other people’s self-image with your evaluations or judgments about them. If you tell your colleagues or employees regularly that they can’t do something, they will eventually believe you. That has to do with how pronounced their self confidence is. If we keep hearing the same expressions, eventually, we no longer question them. Role models have a particular influence on us. Be it our parents, teachers, or the manager or mentor in a firm. Words can hurt just as much as a thrashing – that is why everyone should be aware of what they can cause with language. And that is also why it makes sense to re-evaluate yourself and your opinion about others before you express it.
Evaluations through others
What do you do when someone evaluates you directly in speech? The same applies here – take a deep breath and concentrate on facts. What did the person say, exactly? If they said something like “you are completely unreliable,” ask them what they meant exactly by that. Or “you are always too late”. What time period are they referring to? Your conversation partner has to be more definite and focus on facts, dates, figures. If this evaluation has no foundation, it will become very clear through this. If it is about individual days or situations, then it is still not a general verdict that you are like this or that.
What does that bring you?
Through these exercises, you will notice more quickly when you are evaluating something and then manage to do it less. Through that, you will be less annoyed because you will focus more on facts instead of letting the evaluations in your head take up too much space. That way you will recognize potential conflicts more quickly and quarrels can be avoided. So it is worthwhile to put lots of time and energy into this.
Susanne Lorenz offers different seminars about nonviolent communication (links available only in German):
Basic Seminar – nonviolent communication: http://wirksam-kommunizieren.de/gewaltfreie-kommunikation-gfk-nach-marshall-b-rosenberg/
Intensive seminare – nonviolent communication: http://wirksam-kommunizieren.de/intensiv-seminar-gewaltfreie-kommunikation-im-business/
Practice group – nonviolent communication: http://wirksam-kommunizieren.de/uebungsgruppe-gewaltfreie-kommunikation-im-business/