Last night, I dreamt I tried NonViolent Communication on George W. Bush. You know, that form of communication where you don’t point fingers, where you assume that your perspective is no better or worse than the other person’s -- that insane belief that any person can be “connected to” as “an authentic human being” if we just stick to identifying our feelings and needs.
I was sitting with him over a light dinner of veal medallions and pretzels, and I am not sure what our previous conversation had been, but I just started in:
“ George, when you tell me that Iraq has nuclear weapons and that they were involved in 9/11, and then I find out it’s a lie, I feel hurt, angry and frightened. What I need is security and a sense that my leader is telling the truth or trying hard to. What I want from you is to get out of Iraq.”
He leaned back and grinned wolfishly; apparently he’d done Cheney-training in recent days - the wolf was quite impressive. And someone had taught him non-violent ju-jitsu.
“When you elect me president and tell me you want me to lead, and then reject me in the polls, I feel hurt, angry and proud of myself for standing tall. What I need is your confidence in me as a leader. What I want from you is admiration, trust and silence.”
I blinked, and tried again. “George, when you continue to swear to me that you are acting responsibly and truthfully, after so many reports and facts have been uncovered that prove otherwise, I feel scared. When you continue to ignore mine and others’ requests that you stop the spying on Americans and the illegal, unethical torture of other nationals, I feel angry, scared and frustrated. What I need is to feel respected and to have a mutually honest relationship. What I want from you is to honor your promises, for a start, and also to listen to the overwhelming worldwide chorus of protests against your fear-mongering to cover the illegal, unethical actions that you have decreed.”
He laughed and reached over to pat my hand. The “I’m just a feller” face came over his features, and he smiled roguishly.
“Honey, when I hear you parroting the words of gutless liberals and Democrats with an agenda, I feel frustrated but also amused. What I need is to lead, because God wants me to. What I want is you to get off my back.”
At that moment he grinned, popped a pretzel in his mouth -- and choked on it. While he was gasping, I threw another couple in his mouth and left. Better the pretzel in the president than being pretzeled by a president. Using NVC against denial is like trying to sop up the ocean with a Kleenex.
But seriously, this tongue-in-cheek dialogue shows all my objections to this new craze of non-violent communications. The flaw in it is that it only works on rational people who have integrity.. and the vast majority of our communications problems stem from those who don’t. If you try to use NVC on those who are in denial, who are manipulating (consciously or unconsciously) or who are irrational, you end up “speaking your truth”, having to leave it at that and often being retaliated against! So what’s the point?
There is a large chunk of wishful thinking in the whole NVC movement and I am sorry to say that I have only seen it used by those who were lying to themselves or others -- those who refused to take accountability for their own actions but instead were trying to “excuse” their actions under the guise of “my perception is as valid as yours”. Anyone want to say that the Hutu warriors who are systematically raping women and girls in the Congo have a “valid” perception?? Yes, that’s extreme, but whenever anyone says NVC can be used on “anyone”, that and good ol’ Dubya are the two examples I think of… There are times when people need to be confronted -- bluntly -- on their bad behavior, and it needs to be called bad, and it needs to stop. What NVC emphasizes is our lack of control of others’ behavior -- granted, that is true, but as in any society, we do have control over our own behavior and response, and sometimes it’s just denial to keep talking gently to monsters… or even flakes.