I’d like to tell you the story that leads in to this book recommendation.
A couple of years ago I was working at a kindergarten with a group of eleven adorable, wonderful three year-old children who I taught English to for nearly six hours per day. At first it was a really tough job, and I struggled to continually come up with teaching ideas for the day. There was absolutely no curriculum at this school, so another great teacher there basically helped me by giving me ideas of activities to do, giving me advice on classroom management and generally being an awesome guy and a real role model to learn from.
I also had a co-teacher who took a different approach and instead of trying to help me get better at the job that I was very unprepared for, from the first week started telling me that I couldn’t do the job, that I shouldn’t have been hired and that I was useless. She stopped helping me with classroom prep, walked out of the room when I asked to talk about what we were going to be teaching, and left mid-class regularly to complain to our boss about me whether I had done something or not.
One day I was at a friends house, at the end of my tether and contemplating leaving not only my job but even Japan because I just couldn’t take these working conditions any longer.
“She makes me so maddddd!” I told my friend, with a few added expletives.
This friend of mine is a very wise man, and he replied:
“I understand that you’re hurting, but you might like to know that there is nothing that this woman can do to make you mad. She does things that you then interpret in a negative way, and make yourself mad by doing so.”
Now that I look back it makes me think of Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
I thought about this a lot and that same friend gave me a book recommendation that would truly and completely transform all of my relationships to this day, and definitely helped me overcome this work challenge.
I read through the book in a weekend and started on Monday applying the principles within to my work life. I started by changing my thoughts about my co-teacher and about what I was saying so that instead of getting angry at her I would try to see her point of view.
One time she shouted at me in front of the children to hurry up and clean the classroom after lunch despite having had only a few minutes to do so. Instead of thinking “What a horrible cow!” using my new nonviolent techniques I forced myself to think, “She wants the classroom ready for the next part of the day and I haven’t done it as fast as she would like.” Whether I could have done the task in the time I had or not is irrelevant. She has a need that isn’t being met. Logic is largely irrelevant as people are emotional creatures and bend logic in our minds to suit our purposes.
So I offered her an activity I had prepared to play with the kids in the hallway while I finished off cleaning the room. This way, I avoided a confrontation that would have occurred had I told her where to shove it.
Using phrases like “You never help me!” and “What the hell are you doing!” create defensiveness when heard, and doesn’t help you come to a resolution that gets anyone what they want. You might feel a little better to tell your co-worker to go find a nice sharp pine cone and cram it up their bottom but it wouldn’t do anything to improve the situation for either of you!
Eventually management had to come to a decision about our class, as our bad relationship would be noticeable to kids and parents. Out of the blue after school one day I was sat down and fired because there was no peaceful resolution in sight. The management felt like they had no choice but to get rid of one of us and they knew it would be next to impossible to find another bilingual Japanese staff member at that time of year.
I was pretty shocked, as I felt I had done everything I could to make the relationship work.
The next day it was announced to other staff at a meeting, and all of the other teachers at the school came out in my defence. They said that I had always been polite and kind to my co-teacher, been helpful with the preparations we had to make for the kids and my teaching had improved tenfold. My colleagues told the boss that it was unacceptable that I was being forced out when I had made the effort to improve the situation and work together.
In the end the school re-hired me and my co-teacher quit of her own accord when she realised that nobody would support the way she had behaved.
If I had engaged in shouting matches with her, cursed her and created a scene every time we had a disagreement I can safely say that the school wouldn’t have decided to keep me on. Everyone approved of the way I handled the situation and other than my initial ineptitude at teaching (I became much better within the first few months) it became clear to the management that they had made a mistake.
So, Nonviolent Communication saved my job. It has also helped my relationships with my family and loved ones too. I couldn’t recommend it more. It is definitely the kind of book that you need to read more than once, and I have actually revisited it this year while working in another tough environment to improve my mindset about that situation too.
But I want to assure you in case you think I’m sounding like this is a no-brainer. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
It really can be a huge challenge and take a lot of willpower to not get angry and defensive when people are rude to you, when people insult you in front of your friends, co-workers or children. But the results truly speak for themselves.
You can improve every aspect of your social life if you want to. This book put me on the path there, and I know that is it helping millions of people to become better versions of themselves.
I have not been paid to endorse this product. Rather, I firmly believe that it is the best first step to improving your entire life, from relationships at home and at work to crisis management.
If you buy this product from the link below, I will receive a small affiliate fee, which will go towards maintaining the site and helping me continue to deliver free content.