Since I was in high school in 1994-96, at the United World College (http://www.uwc-usa.org), I have been very interested in conflict management and peace work. Whether it was a reflection on concerns I had had when I was bullied in primary school or simply the highly international UWC study environment where our diversity could easily trigger misunderstandings, misperceptions and conflict – I am not sure. What is clear to me that these new tools we would learn in our conflict resolution community service in New Mexico would be useful throughout my life, particularly if I could manage my own conflicts and help others manage theirs and, in this way, prevent violence.
The Giraffe Language
Fast forward to 2002: Immediately after University, a Norwegian conflict management NGO hired me to go to South Africa through the Norwegian Peace Corps (FK Norway) and teach Peace Studies and International Relations at the University of North-West (now the North West University). An exhilarating experience, designing the syllabus, teaching and mentoring the students was probably one of the most gratifying jobs I have ever had. Back in Norway, I continued with the NGO, and came across materials on “the giraffe language” – a different way of approaching life – based on our universal human needs and a need to truly connect with our needs and those of others in order to find life-enriching and nonviolent ways of living. I was fascinated, but didn´t think much more about it.
Until 2005, when I was doing my MA in international Relations, Peace and Conflict Resolution as a Rotary Peace Fellow at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As I was doing my internship with UNESCO in Brasília, I decided to attend the World Social Summit in Porto Alegre, as I was also meeting up with David Adams – another hero of mine – to discuss our work on the Civil Society Report on the Decade of the Culture of Peace (2001-10). And there he was – the man who had “created” the giraffe language, Dr Marshall B. Rosenberg. He was about to do a talk, and I decided to go listen, remembering my first encounter with the giraffe language in 2002.
Laughing Out Load at Marshall Rosenberg
Giraffe language was Nonviolent Communication (NVC – http://www.cnvc.org) and I was fascinated as I listened to Marshall speaking about human needs, about feelings as indicators of met or unmet needs and about empathy. With what I recognise as sarcasm, Marshall used many stories and anecdotes to get across his point, and I burst out laughing many times. Since most of the audience were Portuguese speakers, I laughed alone and the others merely laughed some moments later when they got a translation (by Dominic Barter – another huge mentor and inspiration). It seemed Marshall was very happy about this guy laughing away (alone) on the front row, and so we met and had a chat. I knew this was part of what I had been looking for, and I was keen to get involved.
Later that year, some of the Scandinavian NVC enthusiasts gave Marshall a birthday present – a full scholarship to attend an International Intensive Training (IIT) for nine days in Sweden. And I was flabbergasted when they contacted me to say that Marshall wanted me to have the scholarship. I hope it wasn´t only the fact that I liked Marshall´s humour, but that he saw potential in me… The IIT in Sweden was amazing, and I met many more NVC enthusiasts. Later I was also rewarded a scholarship to attend a 14 days long Special Session on NVC in Switzerland, and it was clear I had found my language.
Bubbling with Excitement
After 10 years of work with the United Nations, I am now working for my own company (http://www.empathos.org) and I offer trainings in empathetic communication (a name I use in order to respect the certified NVC trainers who can use the term “nonviolent communication”) – and more… Recently I also registered (again) as a candidate for the NVC certification process, and I am bubbling with excitement. Part of my professional development as a future certified NVC trainer is reflecting on NVC themes in everyday life, sharing NVC with as many people as possible and using and living empathy – for myself and others.
So here goes – my new blog on Everyday Empathy. I hope to share many NVC concepts, as I also reflect on them and on how they relate to and are shared or expressed in my everyday life, and I hope you will also comment and contribute! Let´s get started!