I have heard the question quite a few times:

How do I change/teach my partner <about some topic like non-violent communication>?

In my experience, you can’t. More than that, attempting to do so is an easy road to more conflict and even the possibility that you may be manipulative or controlling in your attempts to do so.

I tried myself to do this very same thing while attempting to rescue my marriage. I tried to teach non-violent communication among other techniques as well as to convince her to go to couples therapy.
Instead what happened was that the language of NVC was used, but the actions and as far as I can tell also the intentions behind them did not change. With that basis, the recriminations and blame continued as before despite the language being used.
Then when the communication does not improve, the technique takes the blame along with the person who suggested using it.

This all becomes easier to understand once one realizes that we humans are an intensely emotional species. We make decisions according to our emotions, then rationalize them after the fact.

This means that unless someone is already willing and wanting to change or learn, they will not. Reasons for the failure will be subconsciously invented even if they are contradictory to facts or other opinions. This is called emotional investment and can be often clearly seen in people holding strong political or religeous opinions.

This does not mean that it is impossible for us to think rationally, but it does tend to require utilizing a technique that recognizes our own bias and pro-actively work around it – techniques such as the scientific method and mindfulness.

If you want to find out more about these mental processes, I can recommend Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking fast and slow examples sketch

However, I don’t think this is something that you can do to someone else – you can’t make someone think in a different pattern. All you can do is show them the door. They have to walk through it themselves.

One Comment Add yours

  1. polyhydra says:

    Another resource relevant to this topic:
    View at


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