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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Four D’s of Disconnection Language

by @ 10:08 pm. Filed under hate speech, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

The concept of the Four D’s of Disconnection was first introduced by a writer named Lucy Leu in the book, Nonviolent Communication: Companion Workbook to describe the various ways our choices of words and language disconnect us from others and ourselves.   I have been working on these in the past few weeks as I really resonate with the philosophy and teaching behind them and want to really use them in my life to better connect with those with whom I speak.   Below is my take on the “four D’s” and their meaning.

These talk about how we use language in ways that disconnect us from ourselves and others:

1. Diagnosis (including evaluation, judgment, analysis, criticism and making comparisons):

We disconnect ourselves when we use language as a diagnosis of others or ourselves.  We say things like “you are so lazy” or “I think you are slow” rather than telling people what we need to make life more wonderful for ourselves or others.   Perhaps in a heated moment, rather than connecting with someone’s feelings and needs, we choose to diagnose them by saying, “oh, Your angry” when in reality, they are not angry at all, they are hurt.

The issue with diagnosis is that it isn’t effective to tell people what they are when we could be telling them what we need or what we really feel in the moment.   If we are wanting someone to show up on time, telling then “they don’t care about our feelings” isn’t likely to motivate them to meet our need for punctuality.  If we tell someone “your just lazy”, it is unlikely they are going to feel motivated to help us clean up the dishes.

Such language is ineffective at getting our needs met.   One of the core concepts of NVC is that all behavior is in the service of needs.  The creator of NVC notes that “Moralistic judgments are the tragic expressions of unmet needs.”    When someone says, “You’re so insensitive”, I would bet they are needing emotional connection.   When someone says, “You’re just a liar”, I bet their need is for honesty or transparency.  When someone states, “You talk just too much”, I am betting they have a need to be heard. Either way, moral judgments, evaluation and diagnosis are not connecting us with the energy or needs that will get our needs met regardless what those needs may be.

2. Denial of Responsibility for our feelings and actions:

Keeping in mind that one of the core concept of NVC is that all behavior is in the service of needs, our feelings act as an indicator that our needs are met or not met.   We are happy when are needs are met and we are unhappy when our needs are not met.   It is always our needs and not other people that are responsible for our feelings.  In the book, Being Genuine by French writer, Thomas D’Ansembourg, he uses the metaphor of a dashboard on a car.  The oil light goes on to tell you that you “need” oil.  The service engine soon light comes on to remind you that you “need” to take the car in for a check up and maintenance.   Our feelings do the same thing for us but for our needs.   If we are feeling hungry, we are needing sustenance.  If we are feeling tired, it is an indication we are needing rest.   If we feel lonely, it is the light going off telling us we need connection with others.

Whenever we use language in ways that blame others for our feelings, we are disconnected from the true source of our feelings, our needs.   It is unlikely we can get our needs met when we blame others for our feelings.  “YOU MAKE ME SO MAD” or the ever popular, “You make me feel…..”  It takes the responsibility of our feelings and dumps onto others.    While this is an expression of our needs, it isn’t a clear request, so it is unlike our needs will be met.

There is also the denial of responsibility for our actions.   Our current language allows us to blame our actions on all sorts of reasons outside ourselves.  Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communication, writes in his book these 8 ways we deny responsibility for our actions.  He notes how we deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their causes to

a) Vague, impersonal forces:  “I just had to to it”

b) Our condition, diagnosis, personal or psychological history: “I smoke because I am addicted”

c) The actions of others: “I had to beat him up, he hit on me”

d) The dictates of authority:  “The higher ups made me fire her”

e.) Group Pressure: “I teased her because everyone else was doing it”

f.) Institutional Policies, rules and regulations: “I have to do it because we have a zero tolerance policy”

g.) Gender roles, Social roles, or Age roles:  “I don’t want to cook, but I am a wife and mother”

h.) Uncontrollable impulses: “I just couldn’t help myself”

I understand there are those out there reading this rolling their eyes and saying, that there are just somethings you “have to” do.  I would say name one…..and then try this simple sentence to change the focus of responsibility from one of the above back to you (also adapted from Marshall Rosenberg):

“I choose to [fill in blank] because I need [fill in blank]”

3. Demands: 

We all remember our mothers saying to us, “You stop that crying or I will give you a reason to cry.”  That was a demand.  Demands give the receiver just two choices, either submit or rebel.  If we submit, it is likely out of fear, guilt, shame or manipulation rather than a genuine desire to make others lives more wonderful.  If we rebel, we are walking into the face of conflict for both ourselves and others.    It is unlikely anyone “wants” out of the goodness of their heart to meet a “demand.”  By their nature demands invoke either fear or anger.   On the other hand, when someone makes a request of us, the natural joy of giving and fulfilling others needs comes up.   It reminds me of the holidays or birthdays where we have bought a present for someone.   We can hardly keep ourselves from exploding until we give the person the gift we have prepared for them.   That is the difference between requests and demands.

When we make demands on others, we are disconnected from them but also ourselves.  It is unlikely we will connect with life serving needs if we are making demands.   If we add a degree of “choice” into our requests, they will have a sense of choice.   An example would be, “Would you be willing to stop crying so we can talk about this?”

4.  “Deserve” – oriented language:

We were taught from an early age that bad people deserve punishment and that good people deserve reward.  Sadly, this has been used to control and manipulate us for centuries.   It has been reinforced even in cartoons where the hero, Superman or Spiderman, managed to beat up the bad guy as a sign that justice has been served.   I know as I was growing up this form of justice was propagated with cartoons like the “Justice League” where the team of good guys went searching for ways to stop the bad guys by beating them up.  The hero, of course, was given the reward like a key to the city city.   Such language does more than disconnect us, it helps to maintain the culture of violence against anyone we deem “bad.”

Much like #1 at the top of this list, deserve language consists of  moralistic judgments that determine who should get what.  We call others, good, bad, right, wrong, sinful, righteous, or even holy.   I am reminded of the famous quote by the philosopher, Rumi which says, “Out beyond the fields of wrongness and rightness there is a place, I’ll meet you there.”   When we are only telling people what we think they deserve, it is unlikely we will have connected with them on a needs level that gets our needs met.  It is also unlikely we will be able to help meet their needs.

I hope that this is a good start at getting you to think about the different words you use to connect with others.   If you are speaking or writing and hoping you will motivate others into action, these are some things to consider!   Especially, as we approach the holidays and many of us will spend time with our families.   It might be better to rethink telling Aunt Miriam how she is “too needy” or telling Uncle Frank how is he “has to sit” at the kid’s table.    It is amazing how language changes the connection we try to make with others.   We have choices, we can choose language that connects us or language the builds walls between us and the needs that met, would make life more wonderful for all of us.


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