🔊 Summer of peace heroes : Marshall Rosenberg

The WoW! News podcast – How Marshall Rosenberg learned to stop fights and listen like a giraffe. Plus our summer of peace challenge!

Transcript podcast – August 7, 2020

Hello and welcome to WoW!, the positive podcast! Showing kids that there’s a lot more to the world news than bad news.

I’m Alastair. As a journalist, I’ve often written about things going wrong. But people also need to know too about what’s going right, to know that we can change the world for the better.

This week, we’re continuing our summer of peace with the second of our profiles of great peacemakers. You remember that with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots movement for young people, we’re preparing to mark the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.

There’s good news in our world today that you don’t often hear. You may hear a lot about people arguing, fighting, having wars even. But in actual fact, there’s a lot less fighting and violence around the world now than there was in the past.

Last time, we told you how Nelson Mandela’s childhood taught him lots of things that helped him bring peace to South Africa. This week, we’re going to hear about a very different kind of peacemaker…

Marshall Rosenberg was a boy growing up in America in the middle of the last century. He liked sport and being outdoors.

He also spent time watching people. He tried to understand why they did things.

Two things puzzled him.

He had a granny who was very ill. Marshall’s uncle spent a lot of time helping her. It was tiring. But he didn’t complain. In fact, doing things for his mother, Marshall’s granny, seemed to make Uncle Julius really happy. So, Marshall noted, helping other people makes us happy.

But at his school things were a bit different. His little brother got bullied. Marshall learned to fight back to protect him. He fought a lot. But he also watched. And he noticed that beating up little boys seemed to make the bullies smile.

Why? How strange people are!

He found people so interesting that when he grew up, Marshall became a psychologist – someone who studies how we think and feel. He wanted to understand people – and he wanted to find how we could stop fighting so much.

He came to realise two things.

First, he saw that no one is born wanting to fight or hurt people. We’re born wanting to help each other. Today, more scientists are showing how we all have a basic need to help other people. It makes us happy. But we can often forget that.

And second, Marshall showed that we all want the same things.

Of course, we don’t all want to eat spaghetti with custard. But we do all need to eat. We don’t all want to be friends with the same people. But we do all need to feel we have friends, to feel safe, to feel listened to.

So, we all have different tastes, different ways we try to meet our needs. We have different ways to stop feeling hungry or to feel safe. But our needs are the same.

Now, Marshall thought, if we all basically care about other people and we all want basically the same things in life, why are we all arguing and fighting all the time? And is there a solution?

It’s a good question, isn’t it?

Let’s imagine an experiment. Let’s say your sister wants you to play with her and you want to read a book by yourself.

“You’re no fun! You’re selfish!” your sister yells at you. “Leave me alone! You’re horrible!” you shout back.

Rows like that happen all the time. You love your sister. She loves you. And Marshall said we all have the same needs. Yet, bam! An argument.

Marshall’s solution was this…

Imagine your sister, instead of yelling what she thinks about you, she told you calmly how she felt inside herself when you refused to come out and play.

What if she said: “I need to feel I’m with someone cares about me. That’s why I’d like you to play with me.”

Now, how would you feel if you heard that? Better than being told you’re boring and selfish! You could listen. And you know yourself how it feels to need to feel you have friend. So you might feel like helping your sister.

Now, that doesn’t mean you do what she wants right now. It’s your turn to tell her what you need today. Not tell her that she’s “horrible”. But that you need some peace and quiet on your own and you don’t want to play.

Your sister can listen and understand. She needs to be on her own sometimes, too.

Now, it’s not easy to listen like that when you’re angry. Marshall would

use hand puppets to show that when we’re angry we’re like a jackal – a frightened little animal that snarls a lot and shows its teeth. And what we can try to be is a giraffe – kind and tall with big ears, able to listen calmly.

Apart from its ears and tall neck, do you know what else Marshall liked about us trying to be giraffes? Well, of all the animals that live on land, the giraffe has the biggest heart.

And so, he said, if you start listening to each other with your giraffe ears, and letting yourself feel with your giraffe heart, well, you might both talk about how you can help each other. How about doing a bit of what each of you wants?

Marshall called his way of talking and listening Non-Violent Communication, or NVC. People all over the world learn about it as a way of talking to others – in their family or at work or in the community.

And Marshall himself took his ideas to places where there were wars going on.

He would sit in a room with people from each side. And each would call the other “murderers” or “terrorists”.

But then Marshall would get them to say what it was that they each needed. Not the thing they were fighting about, but what really, really deep down they needed. And often it basically the same. Often it would be the need to “feel safe”.

And Marshall would show them that if they all basically wanted peace, then, well they should make peace…  Simples!

Now then… it’s over to you! This week’s peace challenge is this:

The next time someone does something or says something that makes you angry, before you say something or do something, just stop a moment. Take a breath. And instead of yelling at the person who’s made you angry, just take a few seconds to look inside yourself.

What’s happening? How do you feel? You might think, that’s not nice. That the other person is annoying. But try to think just about you, not them. What do you feel? Maybe you’re sad.

Well, there are as many situations for arguments as there are people on the planet and moments in a year. But there’s our challenge for you.

Try and listen to yourself before you get mad at someone. And perhaps you can try and find a way to tell them how you feel – without shouting!

Now, if you’ve enjoyed learning about Marshall Rosenberg, do tell a friend!

And tune in again in two weeks for the third in our summer peacemakers series. Meanwhile, you can catch up on all our stories and podcasts at our website wow-news.eu. Have a peaceful summer!

Alastair editor of WoW!





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