The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
The Role of Nonviolent Communication in Sexual and Gender Identity
“Learn powerful skills of compassionate communication to transform your relationships with yourself and others, in a warm, diverse, and welcoming LGBTQ environment.”
Sexual and gender identities existed long before Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and will continue to, in every culture, independently of whether or not people are aware of or practice NVC.
So, what is the role of Nonviolent Communication in sexual and gender identity?
Nonviolent Communication is called “a language of life” for a reason! One of the central questions in NVC is “how is life showing up in this moment?”
NVC practitioners often ask “what is alive for you?” as a variation on how are you? or what’s true and real for you right now?
Many sexual and gender identities today exist beyond the conventional norms most of our ancestors had, and though much of society is opening up this is still a fraught issue for many individuals and communities.
So NVC would ask you to be self-connected, to look courageously at what is true and real for you, and to muster all the self-acceptance and self-compassion that you can — and to extend that compassionate understanding to others.
That said, there is a paradox here because of how NVC generally treats roles and labels!
NVC has a tendency to lean away from or de-emphasize labels that involve static language, for example those that include the verb to be. This is because NVC is a process language, and because so much violence in the world is committed due to violent thinking that includes static labels that pigeon-hole and dehumanize others.
Dr. Marshall Rosenberg often said that he tried not to think of himself as a “man” because that was too limiting a label!
Claiming a label or an identity can be empowering and liberating! And it can also be limiting.
So the paradox is this: be yourself and be true to yourself — and also, don’t limit or pigeon-hole yourself by remaining aware of the power static labels can have.
Ultimately, the role of Nonviolent Communication in sexual and gender identity could come down to promoting love and acceptance of all people — meeting our own needs in a way that is in harmony with the needs of others.
With NVC tools and skills, members of the LGBTQ community can:
- improve intra-personal communication and therefore mental health,
- develop meaningful relationships with anyone, gay or straight,
- learn to handle difficult conversations with friends and family, and
- gain the skills for preventing and resolving conflicts for themselves and others.
Importance of Intrapersonal Communication in Gender Identity and Mental Health
Intrapersonal communication is how you communicate with and relate to yourself.
Why might having excellent skills in this area be beneficial regarding gender identity and mental health?
Many members of the LGBTQ community have experienced rejection — as well as shame, guilt, or depression — both from experiences in society as well as with regard to self-love and self-acceptance.
One element of this is dealing with judgments from others. Another element has to do with self-judgments.
Have you noticed that when you have a judgment of yourself, and then if you hear that judgment coming from outside — it is especially painful? It’s as if that external voice somehow validates or even amplifies the judgment we have of ourselves!
Conversely, once you have dealt with self-judgments, those coming from outside don’t hurt as much — or not at all.
Healthy intrapersonal communication includes looking courageously at our self-judgments and dismantling them one by one.
By looking deeper than the judgment itself, at the underlying needs, we neutralize these internal judgmental voices through the process of giving them empathy. In NVC we don’t try to get rid of internal judgments so much as transform them through giving them empathy. This uncovers the underlying needs which then help us change how we speak to ourselves, because now we have a deeper self understanding of what is alive. This process of giving self-judgmental voices empathy, and uncovering the underlying needs, is often followed by mourning and then self-forgiveness.
When we are self-connected and have resolved many of our self-judgments it becomes easier to offer empathy to those voices that associate non-traditional sexual and gender identity with cultural stigmas or judgments.
Being able to give empathy to judgments coming from the outside doesn’t necessarily mean they are no longer painful. It does mean that we can understand (which is different from agree), and that we are much more equipped to create a connected and constructive conversation than if we are stuck in judgmental thinking of ourselves or others.
At the depth of much of the struggle when you have an identity outside of cultural conventions, are oftentimes issues of acceptance, belonging, and being seen and understood.
Most of us simply want to be loved for who we are!
One thing you can do is commit to learning NVC for self-connection and self-empathy. A simple place to start would be familiarizing yourself with Universal Human Needs and seeing if you can identify one or more needs behind any self-judgments. (Some people benefit from professional support from a CNVC Certified Trainer to make this process quicker and less painful.)
Imagine discovering that your sense of belonging can be entirely separate from others’ acceptance or approval?
This is one possibility from employing intrapersonal communication skills to questions of sexual and gender identity!
Violent Communication: Understanding Discrimination Against LGBTQ People
What is violent communication and how can we begin to understand discrimination against LGBTQ people?
Let’s start by establishing that understanding why or how something occurs is not the same as agreeing with it or justifying it. And by understanding something we have a better chance at dealing with it effectively than if we don’t understand it.
At the heart of understanding any kind of hate speech, prejudice, or discriminatory language is the insight that any judgment or criticism is a tragic expression of one or more unmet needs.
Why tragic? Because it takes us away from connection and serving life.
In order to understand violent communication and discrimination against LGBTQ people, we need to first look at needs.
What are Universal Human Needs?
What do we mean by needs in NVC and why are they important?
The word itself — needs — is a bit problematic with regard to what Dr. Marshall Rosenberg was trying to point to, if only because of the other cultural connotations the word brings with it.
We are not talking about a sense of lack!
This has nothing to do with the judgment of somebody being “needy.”
Universal Human Needs are how Life is seeking to show up in this moment — inside you or any other person.
Needs are the conditions necessary for any person to thrive regardless of cultural background or geographic location — so they include, yet transcend, survival needs.
Needs are “core human motivators” — as they impel us to speak or act in any given situation.
Needs are energies that want to flow, NOT holes to be filled!
Any judgment has one or more Universal Human Needs at its root.
In NVC, when we hear a judgment, we can formulate an empathic guess about what the other person might be going through.
For example, if someone says, “you’re a bad friend,” they might be feeling disappointment because they have a need for support. Or it could be irritation coming from a need for consideration. Or it could be something else.
The point is that we don’t hear anything about us being a “bad friend.” Instead, we assume that there are very real feelings and needs behind a statement like that. When we connect with what those might be, we are much closer to being able to connect empathically with the other person.
It’s the same principle when we hear any judgment.
What is Violent Communication?
What we might call “violent communication” — or as Dr. Rosenberg would call it, life-disconnected, life-alienated communication — is characterized by:
1) Diagnosing: telling others what they are thinking, feeling, needing, or wanting; telling others what’s wrong with them; judging, name-calling, and criticizing others.
2) Denial of responsibility: using language that denies that we have choice by blaming our intentions, words, or actions on:
— Others’ actions:
“I hit my child because they ran into the street.”
— Vague and impersonal forces:
“I cleaned the house because it was necessary.”
— Our psychological condition or diagnosis, or our personal history:
“I drink because I am an alcoholic.”
— Authority’s demands:
“I lied to the client because it was the boss’s orders.”
— Group pressure:
“I started smoking because everyone else did.”
— Institutional policies, rules, and regulations:
“I give my students grades because that’s the school system’s policy.”
— Political, social, or age roles:
“I hate going to work, but I do it because I’m a husband and a father.”
— Uncontrollable impulses:
“I ate the whole box of candy because I just couldn’t resist.”
3) Demands: which are similar to requests except that there is an overt or hidden threat of a negative consequence if the other person doesn’t do what we want. In a demand, by definition, the other person’s needs don’t matter to me equally to my own.
4) “Deserve”: also known as the justification of reward and punishment. Remember that NVC is a process language, and life-disconnected language is static, therefore relying on the verb to be. This is for when someone wants to know who is bad so that they “know who to punish.”
5) Coercion: also known as life-disconnected motivations. These include fear, guilt, shame, duty & obligation, to get a reward, to avoid punishment, should’s and have-to’s. Any time we do anything for each other out of these energies, the relationship will pay a steep price!
Discrimination against LGBTQ individuals will most likely take one or more of the above forms of life-disconnected, life-alienated thinking or language.
When you remember that there are actual human needs behind these, you are able to stand in a more compassionate place, be less likely to feel hurt by the language, and be more able to de-escalate any potential conflict.
And it’s helpful to remember that empathy does not equal agreement!
Learn how to be True to Yourself in the Face of LGBTQ Cultural Intolerance
To be true to yourself you need to first know yourself. To whom are you being true?
When you look inside, are you able to accept, or even embrace, what you find?
If you consider yourself LGBTQ, cultural intolerance about it is going to be harder if you don’t work out your own shame or discomfort.
Once you’ve worked out any inner conflicts you have with your identity or who you are, the cultural intolerance doesn’t sting as much. You are able to handle it in stride, with less angst and grief than if a part of you shared the judgments or the intolerance.
To be true to yourself in the face of LGBTQ cultural intolerance, NVC would start with self-connection. Out of self-connection would come self-knowledge. With self-empathy you can work through layers of stories and judgments and finally arrive at a deeper place of self-acceptance.
Nonviolently Confronting the Fear of Being Yourself: Coming Out to Family
How do you nonviolently confront the fear of being yourself and come out to your family?
Many of us often hide a part of ourselves out of fear of what others might think of us.
If we accepted it fully and loved ourselves completely — would we care so much what others think that we would continue to hide it? (There is not a right or wrong answer as there are so many cultural and societal differences and nuances.)
Is it possible to access belonging without the acceptance of our immediate family?
Is it possible that you can source your belonging from deep inside and the simple fact of your existence and interconnectedness with everything?
When we work out our own self-rejection — along with all our fears of being judged by others — we can finally arrive at full self-acceptance.
With full self-acceptance you can come out to those closest to you with less attachment to how they will respond. And the biggest benefit of taking this bold step is that you no longer need to hide who you are.
For many people, coming out to family comes with considerable risk. This includes being kicked out of home, being cut off emotionally or financially, or even being physically harmed.
Of course, staying physically safe is a top priority.
Each situation has unique risks and potentials, and each person’s capacity and tolerance for such risks is different. Furthermore, each person’s reasons for coming out to family might be different.
NVC would encourage you to stay connected to your larger “why” behind coming out.
In the end, you can be of integrity, show care toward yourself and others, take stock of all the resources at your disposal, and live another day to continue to make the world a better place — regardless of how family and friends react.
With NVC skills you can stand in a place of being able to offer empathy to whatever response they have.
With NVC skills, you can engage in the “empathy-honesty dance” in a way that preserves the integrity of all involved. This will be much more likely to get you to a sense of connection and mutual understanding with your family when and if you choose to come out to them.
Use NVC to Deal with Prejudice Within and for the LGBTQ Community
How do you use NVC to deal with prejudice within and for the LGBTQ community?
Being a member of the LGBTQ community does not exempt a person from having judgments and prejudices!
Can members of the LGBTQ community benefit from NVC to create more connection in their lives, access more compassion, and learn to prevent and resolve conflicts? Definitely!
Any judgment — from within or without the LGBTQ community — is an expression of unmet needs.
So much about NVC is about intention and attention! What is my intention right now? Where would I like to put my attention?
We can put our attention on the feelings and the needs behind any specific judgment. Of course, developing feelings and needs vocabulary will help.
And we can also express our honesty — from the heart — about what is alive and what we would like.
The purpose of NVC is to create a high quality of connection out of which we enjoy contributing to one another’s well-being.
With that intention — and with our attention on observations, feelings, needs, and requests — we can deal with prejudice, no matter where it comes from, in a more effective way than if all we have is life-disconnected, life-alienated communication.
Interpersonal Communication Tips for LGBTQ Community Support
Even among advanced practitioners of NVC, conversations can get stuck if both people are needing empathy at the same time. Remember to take turns and to get outside support, as-needed, to keep the conversation moving in the direction of connection.
Connection before correction: focus on connecting requests first. Slow down from the impulse to fix or solve. Once there is mutual understanding then you can look at strategies or solutions.
Remember that empathy is not agreement. Giving someone the experience that you get it is different from agreeing.
Create for yourself a robust circle of support. If you don’t have one, set the intention now to create one. Do not buy into the myth I have to go it alone!
Dr. Marshall Rosenberg on the Importance of Being Yourself
The better you know yourself the more authentically you can be yourself.
Dr. Marshall Rosenberg faced intense discrimination as a jew — and internalized much of it, feeling terrible about himself as a young person.
He was able to recognize these self-judgments and work through them, leading to him being a much more free person inside.
Serving in the civil rights movement of the 1960s United States, Dr. Rosenberg saw how shortsightedness and lack of perspective kept individuals and groups disconnected from each other. He also saw the potential for connection and mutual understanding to grow into a sense of care for one another.
He saw the danger of people continuing to dehumanize one another and how that could further lead to physical violence.
Hiding your true identity would only give more space to bigoted and prejudiced voices.
The LGBTQ movement has come as far as it has in part because some individuals chose to courageously be themselves — even when mainstream society rejected them.
Dr. Rosenberg would remind us that we cannot be fully accepted or be fully in relationship if we do not allow others to see us for our authentic selves.
PuddleDancer Press Books for Personal Growth and Development
PuddleDancer Press is the foremost proponent and publisher of books on Nonviolent Communication and personal growth & development.
NVC has shown time and again how humans can check their stories, access compassion, create high quality connection, and consistently arrive at mutually beneficial solutions.
NVC helps people develop emotional intelligence, self-compassion, compassion for others, leadership skills for conversations and meetings, and interior clarity for better effectiveness personally and professionally.
Our books on personal development can help you:
- Create exceptional personal and professional relationships,
- Offer compassionate understanding to others,
- Know when and how to ask for that same understanding for yourself,
- Prevent and resolve misunderstandings and conflicts,
- Speak your truth in a clear, powerful way more likely to lead to harmony than conflict,
- Create mutual understanding without coercion.
Whether you are a long-time student — or are brand new to NVC — PuddleDancer Press has the educational resources, including the books on personal development, to help you grow your emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and communication prowess.
Check out our catalog of books… and give yourself the gift of Compassionate Communication!
Books Related to Sexual Orientation & Gender
NVC Sexual Orientation and Gender Web Resources
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Sexual Orientation and Gender Articles
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Sexual Orientation and Gender Videos
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Sexual Orientation and Gender Articles
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Sexual Orientation and Gender Videos
There is a wealth of information on Nonviolent Communication – in articles and videos. Of course we endorse all of Marshall’s sharing’s, however, there are many transcripts and videos created by others. Due to limited resources we do not verify the full accuracy of any particular video or articles created by others, even though there is plenty of wonderful and educational information on the web.