Have you ever wished you could demonstrate your Agorist, Anarchist, or Libertarian (hereinafter, for efficiency, I’ll use “Voluntaryist”) principles more in everyday life; be able to act in a way that actually influences everyone around you to better understand how valuable individual liberty is – 89.5% of the times you speak?
Is it not ironic that people striving for a system that is based on non-coercion would use language full of coercion? Notice how often you hear attempts to motivate people via guilt, shame, demands, punishment, or reward. I mean- not you- them! See how this can be ironic for people to use those tactics when they espouse liberty or peace as their favorite principle? My belief is that if we want real change, we need to focus on the foundations of interaction and one of those is language.
We need certain types of judgement in order to survive. Especially to protect ourselves from those who would take advantage of us. Our language is full of moral judgement and evaluation that are not useful and that can make it easier to dominate individuals. I propose a shift to value judgement. NVC (“Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD) is one tool that make this process easy and clear.
A Voluntaryist might say, “What’s that about moral judgement!?” I know many Vountaryists rely on moral judgement in order to determine right action from wrong action. Rest assured: NVC is not a morally subjective language. It’s more about being used when you are not being concerned with finding truth in a conversation as much as with understanding the perspective of another person. So if we want to truly deeply understand the perspective of another person, we leave our evaluation of that person out of the equation. So yeah, if the purpose of a particular conversation is to find objective truth, then you may not use a fully NVC-type style in that moment.
That said, the objectivist might find stage one of the “NVC formula” quite interesting:
NVC is a methodological approach that shines a light of truth on ways of communicating that support coercion and dodging of responsibility, and that tend to stimulate a defensive or aggressive response. NVC provides this structure:
Stage 1 – Observation: Separate the objective “what happened (what we saw/heard/etc)” from our subjective evaluation. This also serves to get clear on what each person perceived so there can be a foundation of agreement of what is true. And this makes it easier to identify the feeling, which comes next.
Stage 2 – Feelings: Identify the feelings of ourselves and others. Identifying the feeling makes it easier to guess the need/value.
Stage 3 – Needs/Values: Attempt to understand the met and unmet wants/values that are being expressed. Ask a question to determine if our guess at their wants/values is correct. “Did you want more consideration for your perspective?” or “Did you want more respect?” or “Where you doing [that thing] because fairness is important to you?”
Stage 4 – Positive Do-able Request: If applicable, make a positive do-able request. This part of NVC is very clearly in favor of our interactions being voluntary in nature. We make sure to be clear on the distinction between request and demand because we want people to do a thing only when it is something they want to do.
This is listening that goes deeper than the feelings and straight to the underlying wants/values.
Now if you are a Voluntaryist like I am, warning signs might come up when you hear about “needs”. This is why I call them “wants/values”. No need to worry. NVC draws a clear line between recognizing a person’s needs (wants/values) and any obligation to fulfill those needs. NVC teaches the only obligation we have is obligation we choose. My personal take on NVC needs is that they are more like “wants” than actual live or die “needs”. More here on needs/values.
NVC is a language of empowerment. A person who understands NVC will be less likely to treat another person unfairly or allow themselves to be treated so. It is a language of choice and responsibility. NVC teaches us that we always have choices and we hold ourselves responsible for our choices and our feelings. So it discourages anything akin to slavery.
Example: Instead of saying, “I have to…”, we say, “I choose to…”
Another principle NVC shares with Voluntaryists is that we want people to do things for intrinsic (their own) reasons rather than to appease or protect the feelings of others. Notice the parallels in this chart to Voluntaryist ideals?
Clinical vs. Natural: But NVC Sounds Un-natural!
If you really want to spread Voluntaryism, I have a suggestion that will improve all your relationships as well as make it easier to show people how and why freedom is the choice that serves them best. If you want to help people understand why Voluntaryism leads to prosperity for all, it is much easier for people to see first how NVC works because it is “closer to home”. It is much easier to understand the principles of freedom when applied on a personal level. Then, from there it is natural to expand: “I see how it is impractical for me to be responsible for other peoples’ feelings or have expectations of other people other than that they do not attack me…” a next logical step is to understand how those exact same principles can be applied on a larger scale for positive effect.
When you are talking with Statists about Mises, Bastiat, Hayek, Rothbard, Larken Rose, Adam Kokesh, or Ron Paul, showing respect (not agreement) for their ideas is the only way you are going to get respect for your ideas. NVC is a tool that fits this purpose very well. Notice how the Ron Paul supporter in this skit uses NVC to empathize with the woman being critical?
This site has tons of NVC resources. Please feel free to look around. I recommend the many animations I’ve made that show characters resolving conflicts using NVC. Notice the freedom-respecting language used by the characters. Notice how, when using NVC, they are comfortable asking for what they want and standing their ground when faced with attempts at guilt- or blame-induction? In conflict, if the traditional paths are attack and defend, NVC offers a third path and it leads to liberation.
Here is another example of NVC in action:
Did they hesitate to abolish slavery for fear that slavery might start up again?
“Hey! It’s counter-productive and even destructive to force people to work and then steal the bounty of their labor, so let’s work toward an end to slavery!”
Response: “But if we get it outlawed, what’s to stop those damn slavers from bribing future politicians and just starting it back up again?”
“Really? You won’t support ending this obviously unproductive and unfair practice because you are afraid it might start back up again later?”
Response: “If you are going to be rude I won’t talk to you.”
NOW WITH NVC: “Ok. Are you worried that your effort would be wasted because the corruption runs so deep?”
Response: “Exactly! And also: I am just one person against all those who support slavery and make money from it.”
MORE NVC: “When you think about the number and power of those who benefit from slavery, do you feel hopeless and discouraged about how much affect you can have?”
Response: “Yeah! And speaking of that, what about all the people in the slave trade whose families will starve because they lose their jobs?”
MORE NVC: “Do you worry about the innocent people who might be affected if we were to suddenly end slavery?”
Response: “Yeah. Uhm. But-“
Response: “I do see the irony. Hesitating to end a thing that takes advantage of innocent people for fear that those living off of their blood & sweat might suffer.”
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