There is a lot of fighting an invading going on. Considering this I wanted to share a book that I think would have an immediate and positive impact on… everything. Pretty much everything. I have gifted this book many, many times and if there happen to be any politicians or presidents who would like a copy after they read this compelling (non paid) endorsement, please let me know and we’ll make it happen.
But first I have to share with you some background really quickly to give some context on why I think I have any business recommending this particular gem of a read and what it has to be with arguing and invading.
So, I’m a mom. I became a mom for the first time in 2012 and a few weeks after my daughter was born I started an online community for moms. Eventually this community grew to support ~15,000+ members and I built a platform that connected mom communities across the country.
Therefore, for many years (almost 10) I was deep, deep, deeply involved in conversations between moms. Sleep, lack of sleep, breastfeeding, formula feeding, bed-sharing, cribs, in-laws, socks that will stay on baby feet, relationships, pets, sweating, strollers, insurance, divorce, cravings all of it.
Lots of support. Lots of arguing. Lots of learning. Sometimes lots and lots of arguing.
I made a lot of mistakes moderating these discussions over the years. Eventually, I developed a system for myself that I found helped a lot:
I would not reply to anything I read online until two conditions had been met:
- I had stopped shaking (when I get stressed out and the adrenaline is pumping my hands shake);
- I could understand where the other person was coming from (not necessarily agree with them of course, but I could see how if I was living their experience that perhaps I would have the perspective they did too).
Given that Malcom Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours or approximately 10 years to become an expert in something… AND GIVEN that would mean approximately 3 hours of dedicated effort a day 365 days a year… AND GIVEN I am pretty sure I spent a LOT more time than that chatting away over the years (much to my husband’s chagrin, sorry ’bout that, babe), it may be that I have a very (very) niche expertise that is directly related to the book recommendation I am about to give: holding space for moms in online spaces, and by extension, moderating (online) arguments for this demographic.
Now my book recommendation:
Nonviolent Communication (shorted to NVC) gives very clear guidelines on how to argue. The goal is for understanding to be had and for all parties to get everything they (actually) need. Rosenberg mediated conflict in marriages and political conflict zones and everything in between, so these techniques are legit.
When I picked it up for the first time, after reading a few pages I applied what I learned to an argument that was brewing between John (my husband) and I and the argument STOPPED IN ITS TRACKS. I am not exaggerating. We were ready to dig in and get into it, but then I very clunkily went through the steps NVC lays out… and we dropped it. We felt heard and we moved one, issue resolved. John was amazed and he was fully aware that I was using a “technique,” which would normally be really annoying.
Completely blown away.
I find NVC particularly helpful to quickly get to an understanding of where others might be coming from (getting to a place of empathy… I run though a version of this in my head):
- (1) Observe without judging:
- e.g. You told me I am an unfit mother because I didn’t put a hat on my kid.
- (2) Express feelings:
- e.g. I feel angry. And scared actually, because I worry a lot of time that I am a bad mom, not about hats, but a million other things.
- (3) Express and clarify needs:
- It’s important to me that I be given the benefit of the doubt. I love my kid. I want to have one place where I don’t have to watch my every word.
- (4) Express your specific requests:
- e.g. Would you be able to please either keep your feedback to yourself, or if you really feel like you want to need it, try to remember that you are talking to a tired and scared fellow human who desperately needs to feel safe?
(1) Observe without judging:
e.g. You have bombed hospitals and destroyed several cities.
(2) Express feelings:
e.g. I feel angry. And terrified. I am so scared for the lives of my children.
(3) Express and clarify needs:
It’s important to me that my family and my community and my country feel safe in their homes.
(4) Express your specific requests:
e.g. Could you please stop destroying our cities?
Again, the idea with NVC is to get to a place that works for both parties. Perhaps staying out of someone’s Hat Business is too difficult because they already told everyone they were going to be a Hat-Opinion-Giver and now they are feeling stuck and like they can’t back out now without looking weak. Being made aware of that challenge is helpful, because maybe all parties can opt for a different angle altogether that still results in… safety for tired and scared fellow humans.
I am not an expert on Hat-Opinion-Giving or war or troop morale or many things but I have learned that it is almost impossible for people to fight when they are presented with how much they have in common.
And I have learned that we all have far more in common than we have differences.
When it all gets right down to it, we all want the same things. We want our communities, our children to be safe.
When presented with it, I believe most of us want our children to be safe not at the expense of other children, but alongside them.
Learning how to argue effectively and fairly is actually a really important skill. I think we could all benefit from trying to get better at it.
Even, perhaps especially, people who lead nations.
I am conducting an experiment: I have challenged myself to try something new each month in 2022. Here are my (self imposed) rules. Let me know if you have ideas on fun/ interesting/ novel things I could try in the comments. Or join me, that would be even more lovely actually…