Da Vinci Schools logo

Social/Emotional Intelligence and Nonviolent Communication

The presentation you attended to learn about the Da Vinci  Innovation Academy, the written materials about the school and even the current Student/Family handbook all state: "Social Emotional Learning is central to Da Vinci " and that we will be using nonviolent communication as a tool to teach and create a culture of tolerance, compassion, workability, self-determination, empathy, conflict resolution and collaboration.

What is social/emotional intelligence?
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, drawing upon the work of Yale psychologist Peter Salovey, maps the ways in which we can bring intelligence to our emotions:

1.  Knowing one's emotions.  Self-awareness - recognizing a feeling as it happens - is the keystone of emotional intelligence.  The ability to monitor feelings from moment to moment is crucial to self-understanding.  An inability to notice our true feelings leaves us at their mercy.   People with greater certainty about their feelings are better pilots of their lives, having a surer sense of how they really feel about personal decisions.

2.  Managing emotions.  Handling feelings so they are appropriate is an ability that builds on self-awareness.  This includes the capacity to soothe oneself and to shake off anxiety, gloom or irritability.  People who are poor at this ability are constantly battling feelings of distress, while those who excel in it can bounce back far more quickly from life's setbacks and upsets.

3.  Motivating oneself.  Marshaling emotions in the service of a goal is essential for paying attention, for self-motivation and mastery, and for creativity.  Emotional self-control - delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness - underlies accomplishment of every sort.  People who have this skill tend to be more highly productive and effective in whatever they undertake. 

4.  Recognizing emotions in others.  Empathy, another ability that builds on self-awareness, is the essential 'people skill'.  Empathy kindles altruism and people who are empathetic are more attuned to the subtle social signals that indicate what others need or want.

5.  Handling relationships.  The art of relationship is, in large part, skill in managing emotions in others.  This is the ability that undergirds leadership and personal effectiveness. 

What is nonviolent communication?
In speaking to some of you, the discussion about nonviolent communication has sometimes created confusion. Since the term has created some confusion, here is some context. Created by Marshall Rosenberg, in the 1960's, nonviolent communication is based on the principles of nonviolence as taught by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Their definition of nonviolence is:  anything that hurts the heart, the mind, the body, the spirit or the relationship is considered an act of violence.  In that context, 'self-criticism' would be considered an act of violence toward oneself.

NVC (nonviolent communication) begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture. NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that all behavior is a person's best attempt/strategy to get a core human need met.

Through the practice of NVC, we can learn to clarify what we are observing, what emotions we are feeling, what values we want to live by, and what we want to ask of ourselves and others. We will no longer need to use the language of blame, judgment or domination. As we practice deep empathetic listening to our own feelings and needs as well as the feelings and needs of others, we can experience the deep pleasure of contributing to each others' well being.

The 4 components of NVC:

1.  Observation - we observe what is actually happening in a situation.  The trick is to be able to articulate this observation without any judgment or evaluation.

2.  Feeling - we state how we feel when we observe this action.

3.  Needs - we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified.

4.  Request - A very specific do-able request that addresses what we are wanting from the other person that would make life more wonderful for us, or at least make the situation 'workable'.

The other aspect of this communication consists of receiving the same four pieces of information from others.  This part of the communication process is referred to as "receiving empathetically".

NVC helps us connect with each other and ourselves in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish. It fosters deep listening and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart.  Because we see our own and other's behavior as simply a strategy to get a core human need met, we no longer need to judge, blame and make people wrong.  NVC holds that needs are never in conflict, but strategies may be.  Strategies may also be sad, destructive and unworkable. NVC fosters collaboration as we work together to resolve conflict and find workable strategies to meet our individual and collective needs

The connection between social/emotional intelligence, NVC and the Da Vinci Innovation Academy community/culture

John Gottman Ph.D, author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child spent several decades studying parent and child relationships in very detailed laboratory studies, which followed the children as they developed.  He discovered that when parents offer their children empathy and help them to cope with negative feelings, these emotional interactions become the foundation for instilling values and raising moral people. He called this 'Emotional Coaching'.

Gottman found that children whose parents consistently practice Emotion Coaching have better physical health and score higher academically than children whose parents don't offer such guidance.  These kids get along better with friends, have fewer behavior problems, and are less prone to acts of violence.  Over all, children who are Emotion Coached experience fewer negative feelings and more positive feelings. They still get sad, angry, or scared under difficult circumstances, but they are better able to soothe themselves, bounce back from distress, and carry on with productive activities.  In other words, they are more resilient and emotionally intelligent.

Emotional Coaching is at the very heart of nonviolent communication. This process of observing, becoming aware of feelings and needs, and articulating them in the form of a request fosters social/emotional intelligence as it deepens our relationships, our families and our Da Vinci community.

"Those who have a natural attunement to their own heart's voice - the language of emotion - are sure to be more adept at articulating it's messages…This inner attunement should make them more gifted in giving voice to the 'wisdom of the unconscious'  - the felt meanings of our dreams and fantasies, the symbols that embody our deepest wishes."

             -- Daniel Goleman, "Emotional Intelligence"

Additional Information and Resources:



Photo by Ryan Ferdinand, Phoenix Hill Farm