nice guyism

Nonviolent Communication can hurt people

People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication. 

This is often not a good idea. Nonviolent Communication is an approach based on refraining from seeming to judge others, and instead expressing everything in terms of your own feelings. For instance, instead of “Don’t be such an inconsiderate jerk about leaving your clothes around”, you’d say “When you leave your clothing around, I feel disrespected.”. That approach is useful in situations in which people basically want to treat each other well but have trouble doing so because they don’t understand one another’s needs and feelings. In every other type of situation, the ideology and methodology of Nonviolent Communication can make things much worse.

Nonviolent Communication can be particularly harmful to marginalized people or abuse survivors. It can also teach powerful people to abuse their power more than they had previously, and to feel good about doing so. Non-Violent Communication has strategies that can be helpful in some situations, but it also teaches a lot of anti-skills that can undermine the ability to survive and fight injustice and abuse.

For marginalized or abused people, being judgmental is a necessary survival skill. Sometimes it’s not enough to say “when you call me slurs, I feel humiliated” - particularly if the other person doesn’t care about hurting you or actually wants to hurt you. Sometimes you have to say “The word you called me is a slur. It’s not ok to call me slurs. Stop.” Or “If you call me that again, I’m leaving.” Sometimes you have to say to yourself “I’m ok, they’re mean.” All of those things are judgments, and it’s important to be judgmental in those ways.

You can’t protect yourself from people who mean you harm without judging them. Nonviolent Communication works when people are hurting each other by accident; it only works when everyone means well. It doesn’t have responses that work when people are hurting others on purpose or without caring about damage they do. Which, if you’re marginalized or abused, happens several times a day. NVC does not have a framework for acknowledging this or responding to it.

In order to protect yourself from people who mean you harm, you have to see yourself as having the right to judge that someone is hurting you. You also have to be able to unilaterally set boundaries, even when your boundaries are upsetting to other people. Nonviolent Communication culture can teach you that whenever others are upset with you, you’re doing something wrong and should change what you do in order to meet the needs of others better. That’s a major anti-skill. People need to be able to decide things for themselves even when others are upset.

Further, NVC places a dangerous degree of emphasis on using a very specific kind of language and tone. NVC culture often judges people less on the content of what they’re saying than how they are saying it. Abusers and cluelessly powerful people are usually much better at using NVC language than people who are actively being hurt. When you’re just messing with someone’s head or protecting your own right to mess with their head, it’s easy to phrase things correctly. When someone is abusing you and you’re trying to explain what’s wrong, and you’re actively terrified, it’s much, much harder to phrase things in I-statements that take an acceptable tone.

Further, there is *always* a way to take issue with the way someone phrased something. It’s really easy to make something that’s really about shutting someone up look like a concern about the way they’re using language, or advice on how to communicate better. Every group I’ve seen that valued this type of language highly ended up nitpicking the language of the least popular person in the group as a way of shutting them up. 

tl;dr Be careful with Nonviolent Communication. It has some merits, but it is not the complete solution to conflict or communication that it presents itself as. If you have certain common problems, NVC is dangerous.

A post for men about creepy men

I wrote a post a while back about how some people are very good at getting away with doing intentionally creepy things by passing themselves off as just ~awkward~.

Recently, I noticed a particular pattern that plays out. While creeps can be any gender, there’s a gendered pattern by which creepy men get other men to help them be creepy:

  • A guy runs over the boundaries of women constantly
  • He makes them very uncomfortable and creeped out
  • But he doesn’t do that to guys, and
  • He doesn’t talk to guys about it in an unambiguous way, and
  • When he does it in front of guys, he finds a way to make it look deniable
  • And then some women complain to a man, maybe even a man in charge who is supposed to be responsible for preventing abuse in a space
  • and he has no idea what they are talking about, since he’s never the target or witness
  • And he’s had a lot of pleasant interactions with that guy
  • So he sympathizes with him, and thinks he must mean well but be have trouble with social skills
  • And then takes no action to get him to stop or to protect women
  • And so the group stays a place that is safe for predatory men, but not for the women they target

For example:

  • Mary, Jill, and Susan: Bill, Bob’s been making all of us really uncomfortable. He’s been sitting way too close, making innuendo after everything we say, and making excuses to touch us.
  • Bill: Wow, I’m surprised to hear that. Bob’s a nice guy, but he’s a little awkward. I’m sure he doesn’t mean anything by it. I’m not comfortable accusing him of something so serious from my position of authority.

What went wrong here?

  • Bill assumed that, if Bob was actually doing something wrong, he would have noticed.
  • Bill didn’t think he needed to listen to the women who were telling him about Bob’s creepy actions. He didn’t take seriously the possibility that they were right. 
  • Bill assumed that women who were uncomfortable with Bob must be at fault; that they must be judging him too harshly or not understanding his awkwardness
  • Bill told women that he didn’t think that several women complaining about a guy was sufficient reason to think something was wrong
  • Bill assumed that innocently awkward men should not be confronted about inadvertantly creepy things they do, but rather women should shut up and let them be creepy

A rule of thumb for men:

  • If several women come to you saying that a man is being creepy towards them, assume that they are seeing something you aren’t
  • Listen to them about what they tell you
  • If you like the guy and have no idea what they’re talking about, that means that what he is doing is *not* innocent awkwardness.
  • If it was innocent awkwardness, he wouldn’t know how to hide it from other men
  • Men who are actually just awkward and bad at understanding boundaries also make *other men* uncomfortable
  • If a man is only making women uncomfortable but not men, that probably means he’s doing it on purpose
  • Take that possibility seriously, and listen to what women tell you about men

tl;dr If you are a man, other men in your circle who are nice to you are creepy towards women. Don’t assume that if something was wrong that you would have noticed; creepy men are good at finding the lines of what other men will tolerate. Listen to women. They know better than you do whether a man is being creepy and threatening towards women; if they think something is wrong, listen and find out why. Don’t give predatory dudes who are nice to you cover to keep hurting women.

cannibalhands:

Allons-y My Friends!: Keeping your touchy-feely off others.

marisa-kirisame:

realsocialskills:

“I’m a touchy-feely person.”

Some people say this a lot. Some of them are really, really scary and dangerous people.

Sometimes what people mean by this is “I’m the kind of person who is allowed to touch and feel people, and I don’t have to…

Fucking guy who was harassing me all semester, you guys know who.

“Hugs are scientifically proven to make people feel better.”

No they’re not, dipshit.

“No, I have a girlfriend, this is totally platonic.”

… ?

And even if that was true, it would still not be ok for him to hug people who don’t want hugs.