Communication was my strength, or so I thought

It was a December Friday in 2014. My friend asked me if I could teach her daughter math. A lot of teachers had already failed. The aunt had failed. The uncle. The father as well. Even academic experts in teaching had failed. But I was sure that I would be the right person to teach her. I love math, and I have always liked Luise very much. She was a great teenager.

I set her a goal. Luise would improve her grade point average by 2 points within the year. I had no doubt that I could help her because: I love math, my parents are teachers, I have a psychology degree and certificates in supervision and coaching. I felt that it wasn’t possible to be more prepared for the task than I was.

For a while, everything went well. I explained. Luise nodded.

Then, some lessons later, Luise violently shut her book, grabbed her things and jumped up, knocking over her chair. Without looking at me, she stamped out of the room, the slamming door echoed behind her. Then silence. I stared at the closed door. Should I follow her and ask her what happened?

I stood up, wanting to run from the apartment. Instead, I paced around, cleaned the already tidy apartment, wiped up invisible dust, and then finally called my friend and said, „I look for an algorithm for communication that always works.“ She laughed at me.

An algorithm for communication

I drove to my favorite bookstore, stood before the bookshelf, and let the book titles speak to me. Always, when I am frustrated, I am looking for a book that speaks to me. The topics vary: from math to marketing to psychology to children’s tales.

„Resolving Conflicts through Nonviolent Communication“ by Marshall B. Rosenberg.

I had never heard the name of the author. I dismissed it as „woo“, you know that genre of unverifiable feel-good fluff. I moved on to another bookshelf, read other titles, turned around, went back, took the book, opened it, and read: „You can be right or happy; you can’t be both at the same time.“ I read the sentence again and again.

I read the explanation and thought back to the situation with Luise as I continued flipping through the book and reading the sentence from Rumi: „Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.“ Then I read about four steps, which ensure that every communication works.

I felt that this book was written for me.

I bought it and realized I had never learned to communicate.

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