“Nonviolence’, with or without a hyphen, is perhaps the only Italian word that is defined by negation. As if to say that there is no real opposite of ‘violence’: many words can only come close to it. This makes me think that the meaning of violence lies in the very fact of defining something in a clear and unquestionable way, and instead nonviolence lies precisely in withdrawing, avoiding wanting to impose one’s choice.
In life I have never had much contact with physical violence, which for me belongs more to the world of fantasy, literature or cinema. On the other hand, the violence that cannot be seen, the psychological and verbal violence, has been part of my world I think since childhood, well before I could develop any kind of awareness.
It is only in 2017 that I realised how much our relationships in the family, in the couple, at work and in all of our social life are permeated by violent patterns. We use violence when we speak, when we think, and even when we listen. It is from that moment that I began working to limit or eliminate this pattern from my life, and I am convinced that the future of humankind lies in adopting nonviolent communication practices, without which physical violence itself will always loom large.
I would like to be able to practise the dyad technique in my relationships, but also in my friendships, and I am sorry that almost none of the people I meet know this technique.
In the dyad, two people sit face to face in a comfortable position. They talk in turn, 5 minutes each, for four rounds in total. During the first round, if you wish, you can state a topic, or an issue that the speaker wants to address in the dyad, but it is not compulsory to do so. The important thing is that the listener remains listening, without interrupting, and without interfering even with gestures or facial expressions. The speaker, on the other hand, will avoid communicating in a violent way. They will not accuse their interlocutor of something, but focus on their own emotions, feelings and thoughts. At the end of the round, the two interlocutors thank each other and the word passes to the other. The topic is free, in a couple the dyad can serve to process conflicts and problems. It gives the opportunity to say what we have wanted to say for a while but could never find the right moment, and which risks remaining unsaid. It also gives the opportunity to let thoughts flow that need time to be generated. The dyad can also be invoked as an alternative to a classic, individualistic quarrel in which one tries to prevail over the other, perhaps by raising one’s voice, and accusing each other, typically feeding each other’s anger and ending up saying things one does not mean, creating unnecessary wounds that if unresolved will become grudges.
The classic quarrel is a zero-sum game in which a winner and a loser can be defined each time, and in a couple it easily provokes revenge, sadism and humiliation. The dyad is a collaborative game in which both sides have an interest in being understood by the other.
In the film 120 Beats Per Minute, which tells the story of a group of French activists defending the rights of HIV-positive people, the debates are shown how they worked: there were two moderators, and all the participants could speak on any subject. When time ran out, the moderator would gesture for the speaker to finish. To express consensus, there was no applause, but a snap of the fingers.
These forms of nonviolent management of a public debate are the subject of sociocracy, a practice I experienced when I was in the ecovillage environment. In that case, there was an even quieter alternative for expressing consensus: raising one’s arms to the sky while swinging one’s hands. It seems paradoxical when you think about it, but there is something violent in the applause too.
Among the many public speeches on nonviolence, there is the one given by the musician Leonard Bernstein on 25 November 1963, in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination.« Den Gamle By Dilemma di Buridano »