Labeling helps identify things. We immediately know the difference between a grocery store and a hospital because of labels.

Labeling social, ethnic and political groups eliminates human connection and understanding. This leads to judgment, discrimination and violent communication.

Some people have trouble understanding how communication can be violent. The late Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, created excellent definitions of violent and nonviolent communication.

What is Violent Communication?

If “violent” means acting in ways that result in hurt or harm, then much of how we communicate—judging others, bullying, having racial bias, blaming, finger pointing, discriminating, speaking without listening, criticizing others or ourselves, name-calling, reacting when angry, using political rhetoric, being defensive or judging who is “good/bad” or what’s “right/wrong” with people—could indeed be called “violent communication.”

Nonviolent Communication integrates 4 things:

  1. Consciousness: a set of principles that support living a life of empathy, care, courage, and authenticity
  2. Language: understanding how words contribute to connection or distance
  3. Communication: knowing how to ask for what we want, how to hear others even in disagreement, and how to move toward solutions that work for all
  4. Means of influence: sharing “power with others” rather than using “power over others”

A Citizens Handbook for nonviolent communication has some great tips on how to put nonviolent communication into practice. It is available by following this link.

At Counseling & Recovery Services, we practice nonviolence and open communication as part of our Sanctuary model of trauma-informed care. We care for people, not diseases, and help each person identify what has happened and how to grow and change.

Many children who come to the CALM Center, for example, have spent years being labeled by schools, by peers and by family because of their behavior. They learn for the first time that there is nothing wrong with them. They are not their behavior. They can change their behavior once they understand what causes it.

If you want to help improve language about and portrayals of people with mental health and substance abuse issues, follow this link to a webcast series beginning in February entitled, “The Power of Language and Portrayals.”

Let’s leave behind labels and look at people as individuals who deserve our respect even when we disagree. After all, we all share one label – human.