Taking The War Out Of Our Words (2009 Edition) Paperback – 1 Jan 2009
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For anyone who has tried out Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication before finding this book, I'd like to say that while I have found some value in his lists of feelings and some of his exercises, I respond to some of his dialogue (his own NVC words, not just others' untrained dialogue) as if there is judgement hidden within it, and I find his methods rather cumbersome and incomplete.
Taking the War Out of Our Words gives me a very different, very positive experience. In the presence of Ellison's writing - explanation, description, exercises, examples, and so on - I find myself relaxing, and feeling safe even while I confront and acknowledge the ways in which I myself act defensively. Her book is very rich in detailed examples, and alive with individual voices. (It also has a wonderful index to the examples, so you can follow them from one part of the book to another.) I find encouragement and acceptance, as well as simple, clear steps I can immediately begin to apply to the way I say things. It has been my experience that these small changes often make a rapid difference.
Ellison's process speaks much more strongly to me than Rosenberg's, and I find it more gentle as well as clearer. I believe that her framework is simultaneously both more radical and simpler than Marshall Rosenberg's. To me, Rosenberg's system nibbles at the edges of our difficulties in communicating with each other, where Sharon Ellison's sweeps the rubble out of the center and starts rebuilding the structures of our communication, but in a way that makes an intuitive kind of sense.
Ellison examines and identifies the fundamental structures of our languages (not only English, but many other languages as well) which, it seems, almost inevitably cause defensiveness between us, even when we don't mean them to. I find her tools profoundly practical and useful, and I find it easy to begin applying them; and even though the process of becoming significantly less defensive is a long one, and not very easy, the encouraging experience of little successes, here and there, helps keep me going. It also seems to me that achieving the very smallest changes, working with everyday issues, is in the end what creates the deepest shift.
For anyone who has previously tried Rosenberg's program, and possibly experienced difficulty in applying it, I would urge you not to give up on the hope of learning a more peaceable and open way of communication, but to have a look at Ellison's book and see if you find it more helpful. I love it, and recommend it highly.
In this book, the author goes into depth about why defensive statements don't work, why these work, and then has a chapter on each one for formats for making them. Repeatedly through the book she tells us what she's going to say, tells us, and then summarizes it. There are many examples, including relationships, unclean housemates, and supervisors that don't listen to us, to help one learn how to do this.
Like others have said, I'll have to read it several times. I regret that I had the book for two years (won it at a Toastmasters event) before I read it. I wish there were some local group of people where I could practice the teachings of this book.
At the heart of its message is the notion that much of our communication is rooted in self defensiveness. Without judging or condemning the reasons for this, Ellison demonstrates how this foundation for any kind of relationship is fraught with risk and unlikely to lead to individuals or relationships flourishing. In contrast, a model for "powerful non-defensive communication" (PNDC) is described at length and in detail.
Where other books may give the appearance of providing guidance - for example, through suggesting one may need to "restore a relationship" or "set a boundary" - they are really just describing broad goals for desired outcomes. In contrast, "Taking The War Out Of Our Words" excels in describing *how* to achieve these goals and *why* some approaches are more constructive than others.
This distinction alone makes the book worth reading. Yet even beyond this the book implicitly speaks to such many and varied topics of interest as boundary setting, codependency, dating, aggression and violence, addiction, same sex relationships, parenting, the workplace and bullying. This is because "Taking The War Out Of Our Words" goes to the heart of relational issues by examining the mechanics of communication itself, together with the motives, heart and attitudes underlying our communication.
"Taking The War Out Of Our Words" truly is a unique book - a powerful, hands-on reference guide that gives you clear, practical steps which encourage you toward healthier perspectives, attitudes, communication styles and relationships.