We all know by now that you can only change yourself and your own behavior, and not that of the person you are interacting with.
At the same time, we do have some options to influence someone’s behavior. You’ll certainly ask yourself: How is that supposed to work?
Well, one of the ways is to initiate a process of reflecting and thinking in other people through the use of our language, for instance when we were annoyed by their behavior. We can make the greatest impact by using nonviolent language and – when we are actually using nonviolent language – through the part where we reveal ourselves.
You say that’s all Greek to you? Well, let’s have a closer look: nonviolent language, as defined by Marshall Rosenberg, works in four steps:
- In the first step, we describe what observations we have made with respect to a situation that caused us to be annoyed with somebody. However, this description should be made without any evaluation whatsoever and, as far as possible, should stick to the facts.
- Then, in the second step, we should describe our feelings that were triggered by the behavior of the other person. For example: “I am irritated.” Or “I am feeling insecure.” Or “I am feeling overwhelmed.” Or “I am feeling helpless.”
- In the third step, we are now allowed to express our need which was not fulfilled in the situation described above. For example: “I need a bit of certainty as to what our next step is so that I can adapt myself to the new situation in time.”
- In the fourth and final step, we should express a very specific request as to how we would like the other person to behave in future or in similar situations. For example: “I would like you to inform me next time before you make a decision that also has an impact on me!”
Steps 2 and 3 are a form of self-revelation that we should express as an “I-message”.
I strongly believe that it is these self-revelations – that is, my feelings a certain situation has triggered inside of me, and what kind of need I have personally – that open up the mind of the person I am interacting with. This leads to the other person really listening to me, and thinking about or reflecting on what he or she has just heard. What is heard may then trigger dismay in the person concerned, and the associated willingness to clarify the issue. Just try it out and experience for yourself what influence you may have on the person you are talking to!
Mind you: We are not used to reveal ourselves and talk about our feelings. This has been trained out of us. But it is precisely the part in which we reveal ourselves, with all our vulnerability, that is key to creating a willingness in other people to meet us halfway. And that is, after all, what we wanted: To influence the behavior of the other person....
This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here