We have a regular group sessions at the University of Nottingham, in the calendar as ‘Strengths Workshop’. We bring topics and situations to discuss using Clifton Strengths Finder, Clean Language metaphor modelling and Non Violent Communication. We also cover the Viable Systems Model, eastern and western philosophy, cognitive biases, complex adaptive systems and other bits of experience and knowledge we have.
Tuesday 6th September 2016. Mike, DavidVH, DavidR and Eleonora.
To start today I offer a connection I’ve made that looks like a practical use of philosophy. I show the School of Life Wittgenstein Video, that summarises his work as wanting to help us use language more effectively. There is an especially interesting bit about the ‘games we play with language’.
When a parent says to a frightened child everything will be OK they can’t know that, they are not playing the “Rational prediction from available facts game”, they are playing the “words as an instrument of comfort and security game”
“If ones partner says you never help me you are so unreliable” they are not playing a “stating the facts” game, so respond how you got some vegetables yesterday, and put petrol in the car may not work. They are playing the help and reassurance game.
A similar example from Marshall B. Rosenberg’s NVC book would highlight the judgement in the “you never help me” statement, look at the facts and emotions, and then try to understand the needs – again help and reassurance.
Wittgenstein’s (and Marshall’s too maybe) point is that all types of misunderstands occur when we misunderstand which kind of game someone is Involved in.
Rosenberg’s NVC book seems to have lots of examples of the author understanding the games people are playing, and systematically putting the understanding into ‘observable facts’ feelings, and needs .
In the group David asks about the goal of Non Violent Communication? Is it to avoid issues by doing all the mental work to understand someone who is perhaps not being clear? Will this just encourage bad communication?
We’re unsure that doing the mental heavy lifting for people may foster bad patterns, with people not needing to explain themselves, when they get what they need by triggering the other person to do the work of understanding.
We divert to work and home issues – and suggest a few areas where NVC and clean questions would be helpful.
An example from a recent holiday offered for discussion:
Family on holiday
Mum : I’m feeling a bit peckish.
Dad : OK (Thinking: that’s not really hungry, right)
30 mins later…
Mum: I’m really hungry and the café doesn’t look very good.
Dad: OK. There’s that place down the road we saw yesterday. That’s nearby.
Get to restaurant 10 minutes later, and 20 people just got there in front of us……
Child: It’s Ok, just 20 mins walk to town, we’ll get something there.
Mum : I’m not walking into town. I’ve already walked for over an hour before you were all up.
Dad: We could get the bus if that’s too far.
Mum: You know I hate buses. You didn’t listen to me! You’re all shits……
We asked “what is the game that Mum is playing”. It’s maybe the ‘I’m hungry now, but I don’t want to have to tell you all we need to eat now. But that’s what I’d like. Then ‘did you not hear me the first time’, then – “I’ve told you 2 times already”.
In the group there we discussed a lot of different cultural and family differences to food. These included
- not ever saying you’re hungry in certain company (and taking lots of snacks to eat when visiting)
- “kids always finish what you’re given” / “kids only eating what they choose” in two groups of the same family, with tension and crying at mealtimes when they meet.
- hangovers from childhood about not always saying you’re hungry – especially passed down from grandparents who lived though WW2 in Poland and Mainland Europe.
What would a ‘language games’ / NVC analysis say. Can we break down ‘Mum is saying she’s peckish. To say that, she’s hungry enough to mention going for food, but we know she doesn’t ever like to suggest eating, so she’s saying she needs to eat really soon.
We also discussed the sterility of NVC communication. How it’s normal and healthy to be angry, vent a bit and be passionate sometimes. How cathartic it can be, and how suffocating NVC can be.
Misunderstanding Needs at Work
If we put the food conversation into a work perspective, we’re often asked – ”
- can you squeeze this work in
- no rush, whenever
- when you get time
Is this the same as ‘I’m a bit peckish”, and is there a similar short amount of time from “can you just do this work, no rush” to the business version of “You’re all shits!”. Much laughing in the group, a nerve was hit.
So there were a few threads coming together in this workshop.
- How should we react when we need to do the “mental work” of understanding?
- Can we use clean questions if we don’t know the person enough to understand the language game they are playing?
Sometimes, just understand peoples needs
In the food discussion, a immediate response to “I’m peckish” of “OK, lets get something to eat” – cutting out the unnecessary NVC – would have been best. No need to explain that you have unpacked their communication.
The passionate response to “you shits” perhaps, “yeah, well you ate the last Weetabix and didn’t pack me enough underwear” may not work so well. If you’re on holiday with someone, do the mental work.
At work though, do you want to set up unhelpful patterns? Would you like people to say what they mean and understand when communication is not working? It sounds a bit odd but “what sort of moment is the moment you want me to do this work in?” is a clean question you may want to ask, or at least have an answer to.
Maybe to be continued, we seemed to cover practical uses of philosophy, NVC and Clean Language quite well this week.