‘But I’m not violent,’ people say, assuming NVC is not for them and instead is for those who shout, threaten and fight. So why do we use this term if it creates a barrier? Surely that’s the last thing we’d want to do! It doesn’t help that in English, we tend to hear it as ‘not violent’ as if it involves simply avoiding physical violence. And that is very far from what Marshall intended…so Why do we call this Nonviolent Communication? Marshall Rosenberg was very clear: he wanted to honour the tradition of radical nonviolence and those who espoused it, such as Martin Luther King and Gandhi. ‘Nonviolence’ is a single word with no hyphen, a specific thing. It is a translation of the term ‘ahimsa’, which Gandhi borrowed from writers of ancient Indian texts. These writers wrote of the near God-like state of being in which a person is so connected to their compassionate nature that they cannot even imagine doing harm. They considered their fellow humans too puny to understand this concept, so, instead of creating a new term, they took the word for the deliberate infliction of violence (‘himsa’) and used the prefix ‘a’ to create its opposite. ‘Ahimsa’ – the complete absence of intention to inflict violence. So, ‘nonviolence’ is a translation of something that is not really the thing itself. It points to something that we don’t have words for… yet. In following the tradition of ahimsa/nonviolence, Marshall aimed to develop a method of communication that allows us to access that state of being where to do harm is unthinkable. He believed that this was our true nature, that what is needed to is to ‘get out of our own way’ by taking responsibility for our own feelings and needs. Buddhists might call this ‘the Buddha nature’, Christians, ‘the mind of Christ’, others might describe it as ‘being in the flow of life’. Whatever the term, when we are in that state, all our actions contribute to our lives and others’ – we can’t help it. All of this is so much bigger than ‘not violent’ and I think that’s important for NVC. In the next episode, I’ll say why.