Language & Chronic Reactivity

Reactive language can be quite subtle and can keep you stuck in chronic forms of reactivity. Noticing reactive language isn't about policing yourself and or telling someone else how they should say something.  Language is another place to observe what helps and what hinders you connection to aliveness and joy.


Marshal Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication, named the following categories of language that tend to move us toward disconnect:


Judgment: Judgment may seem like an obvious form of disconnecting language, but in reality you likely express a stream of judgments of which you are unaware.  Judgments are typically shorthand for "I had unpleasant feelings and unmet needs when that person did or said "x".   The judgments most difficult to notice usually sound educated like:  "She's an INT on the meyers-briggs so…", "That's part of his OCD.", "He has to control things to deal with anxiety."  And of course, any of such judgments turned towards yourself are equally disconnecting.  The point here is not to determine whether or not a judgment is true, but rather to stay connected to your own experience and notice the impact of your words and tone.


Denial of Responsibility:  This form of language is common but is particularly paired with those for whom autonomy and expression are tender needs.  With a core limiting belief that life is a burden to be carried and that one must withstand the pressure of others' demands, life and language take on a heavy resentful quality.  Here are some examples: "I have to, it's my job," "They dumped clients on me," "I never have time to rest," "There are so many demands on my time," "There's no one to help, I have to do it," "It is what it is." "Play, what's that?" Heavy sighs. With this kind of language things that could easily be experienced as fun or satisfying become just another task on the list of what others demand from you.


Deserve:  This is the most violent form of language. It makes the validity of one's needs contingent on something external such as race, gender, specific behaviors, etc.  Deserve language arises most often from being conditioned by systems of reward and punishment.  For example:  "He deserved what he got," "I worked hard, I deserve to blow off steam,"  "You deserve a promotion," "I've been here the longest, I deserve to speak my opinion."  This kind of thinking and language is an example of replacing a connection to the sacredness of all life with internal and external standards for what makes someone worthy of life.  It cuts off the possibility of being compassionate, wise, and responsiveness to your own needs and those of others.


As you catch yourself in this kind of language and the underlying tones/attitudes, bring curiosity.  Notice what's happening in your body.  You might also have a response at the ready to practice with like:  "I'm hurting," "I feel tired," "I feel resentful," or "There must be something important to me about this."


When you can bring enough awareness to the language and underlying attitude that is most common for you, you can write them down and begin to find what you might say instead.  For example, "He's a control freak," becomes "I would like more collaboration."



Set your intention now to practice with one of the three kinds of language listed above.  Make a plan for what you will do to practice with it the next time it arises.