In a divided learning community communication is the key, not only for solving conflicts but also for avoiding them. We talk with Mister Hartmut Kay Hirsch about the fundamentals and strategies of Decent Communication approach and its benefits for growing healthier relationships between students, teachers, parents and other members of a learning community.
Dear Kay, thank you for contributing to Searching for Superman. Could you please tell us more about your project, which your main goals are, and how and when did you decide to start it?
In the search for answers during a life that has not been easy so far, that has been full of conflicts, I finally came across with the concept of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, which is mainly focused on dissolving already existing or starting de conflicts by means of communication. In my opinion it is an ingenious idea and achievement of Rosenberg to solve conflicts of all kinds with the help of communication.
When I had internalized his concept, I am a very emotional person, I started to observe more and more the communication of the human being and I came to the conclusion that the human being and his/her environment, which he/she changes operationally only through communication, whether through oral or written language or body language, is well defined through communication. The resulting conflict is also the result of communication.
I became aware that our language, which we have learned and pass on, has a significant influence on our behaviour and that our language has so far produced conflicts all the time. Because of my sons who used to ask me as toddlers «Why?», I took their perspective and ask myself «why?», why is our language so full of conflict?.
«Our language has a significant influence on our behaviour and it has so far produced conflicts all the time.»
The main features of human dignity are self-determination and personal responsibility from birth to death. Conflicts always arise when people’s self-determination and personal responsibility are ignored. I then asked myself what would happen if we incorporated exactly this knowledge into our language culture. My result was that it very often avoids conflict .
«Conflicts always arise when people’s self-determination and personal responsibility are ignored.»
In the language development of decent communication, one can also say that communication is avoiding conflict, it is therefore about learning a new language culture that avoids conflicts. If language culture avoids conflict and always respects the dignity of the human being, that is, his self-determination and personal responsibility, the human being is naturally motivated to make a decision himself, to fulfil the expectations of the other.
As the language culture in Germany is very much shaped by multipliers in kindergartens and schools, in 2017 I founded the Society for the Implementation of Child Prospects and Decent Communication. The aim is to train educational staff in kindergartens and schools in the field of communication with children.
«If we respect his self-determination and personal responsibility, the human being is naturally motivated to make a decision himself to fulfil the expectations of the other»
Do we learn / develop the sense of self-responsibility or we born with it?
Through our previous language culture, we learn to analyse everything and to define the analysis of the result . Self-responsibility, however, is not a result and can not be evaluated; it is only a claim that we feel. I am convinced that we need the right to personal responsibility, for example, to be able to walk alone without the help of parents and to be able to move independently. The claim to personal responsibility is therefore necessarily innate, yes.
«We need the right to personal responsibility.»
What effect has the teacher-centered education in our self-responsibility?
Education means that a person is primarily trained according to the needs of a third party or a society. The word education is therefore a producer of conflicts in view of the dignity of the human being.
The word education suggests the belief that man can not benefit or even harm the community and environment if the community does not educate. That is unfounded.
The word education also suggests making one dependent and compliant with the expectations and needs of the community. In doing so, the human being, especially the adolescent child, naturally imitates his or her environment, because he wants to be involved in the community of human beings on the one hand, and on the other hand also needs to survive.
«The adolescent child, naturally imitates his or her environment, because he wants to be involved in the community of human beings on the one hand, and on the other hand also needs to survive.»
Every living thing strives to experience the practice, including humans. The effect of today’s teacher-based education in our sense of self-responsibility is therefore that of unnecessary compulsion. A compulsion is demotivating. So it makes sense to think about how to develop a sense of responsibility yourself.
The idea of developing a sense of self-responsibility naturally without manipulation sounds really good, but how can we do that in practice?
It will be important to only accompany the learning person in his development. This attitude is to be assumed, in order to be able to transmit and pass on this in a communicatively credible and motivating way.
The sense of self-responsibility can only occur naturally if we include the «I» in our communication as well. Observe yourself, it is currently mainly spoken by the «WE», for example, «We learn today the letter A» instead of «I want to show you the letter A today». The schoolchild imitates the teacher, it speaks of the «WE» without ever learning the own «I».
Thus, our language culture creates an awareness of the responsibility of the other, but not the responsibility for oneself. The result is that the others are always to blame for my situation, the view of self-responsibility is thereby lost.
«Our language culture creates an awareness of the responsibility of the other, but not the responsibility for oneself.»
In the future, therefore, it will be important to demonstrate self-responsibility to the children and students by saying that I have an expectation and that you will fulfill it. The fear, the child or the student would not follow, is unfounded. The child and the pupil will naturally fulfill the teacher’s expectation to learn, because in this case the children feel that they are trusted and trusted to want to learn as well, so it motivates them Child, the student.
All that needs to be done is to re-examine our inner attitude towards the child’s and pupil’s willingness to develop and learn, and to adapt our language accordingly.
«In the future it will be important to demonstrate self-responsibility to the students by saying that I have an expectation and that you will fulfill it.»
It is important to speak in such a way that the target person always has the feeling that he or she can decide for or against the goal. Since children and students want to learn and «help» the teacher, the fear and mistrust of the child and the student is unfounded.
Fear and distrust have a demotivating effect on every human being and we transport this attitude through our communication.
«It is important to speak in such a way that the target person always has the feeling that he or she can decide for or against the goal.»
Could you describe the main features of a Decent Communication?
The main feature is to change one’s inner attitude to oneself and to all other human beings and living beings in such a way that it is understood that all living beings absolutely want to live and therefore want to learn in order to survive.
Helping people to do so can only even be an offer and not a compulsion. It is important to always disclose your intention and expectation and to make it visible, so that the other person can decide for or against it, or even say his intentions and expectations, and thus create a dialogue.
«All living beings absolutely want to live and therefore want to learn in order to survive.»
The inner attitude can be changed by repeating the following areas :
I have published this procedure again in detail in my last book «Decent Communication in Kindergartens and Schools».
What is the best advice for a teacher who wants to improve his relationship with his students?
First ask the teacher if he really wants to hear this advice! Assuming he wants to hear the advice, I would say that she/he should reflect his own childhood , embrace her/his own inner child, and love him, for he is waiting in him and asks, «Hey, I’ve been waiting for you so long , play with me, take me in my arms and hold me, I miss you so much, because you are always so grown and forget me.
See how your inner child sees the world and accompany it as you see the world as an adult today, let me share it.
«Tell your students your intentions and expectations, and at least give them the feeling of being able to decide. Ask your student what you should do to learn what you want to teach him. «
«Tell your students your intentions and expectations, and at least give them the feeling of being able to decide. Ask your student what you should do to learn what you want to teach him.»
How can we build closer relationships between students and teachers in a classroom that has a 20 to 1 ratio (20 students per teacher) or higher?
Only by changing my attitude towards the students in such a way that I communicate confidence in their willingness to want to learn.
Only by telling my students my intentions and expectations and at least giving them the feeling they can decide.
Only when I ask my students what to do to learn what I want to teach them.
Unconditional confidence in the power of each student is the basis for a closer relationship.
«Unconditional confidence in the power of each student is the basis for a closer relationship.»
Conflicts are becoming increasingly more common in modern schools . Is Decent Communication the key to solving them?
Yes, in any case.
Conflicts occur because children feel that they are not trusted, because they feel compelled to learn and, worse, to be judged unscrupulously with grades. By teaching the children to do so, the children imitate this and then behave, evaluate each other and force their classmates to act.
«Conflicts occur because children feel that they are not trusted, because they feel compelled to learn and, worse, to be judged unscrupulously with grades.»
This is the reason for violence in schools to the point of rampage and long-term demotivation for the following life after school, resulting in poverty, depression and unemployment. «
Nowadays there are many places where the educational community is extremely divided (teachers, parents, school leaders, government…), what can we do to bring them all together again?
Wow, David, nice that you have recognized this and put it up for discussion.
I think it is very important to identify the language culture of this community of people, which all have in common and which is characterized by the inner conversations. Then we have the child who is at school to learn something. The question is how we can motivate the child to learn something, motivate the teacher, to teach something, and motivate the parents to be involved in the learning process of the child.
This motivation can only be achieved if everyone announces and discusses their expectations and hopes about the educational community as well as ideas for the educational community without fear, for example at a round table.
«Motivation of teachers, parents and other members of the educational community can only be achieved if everyone announces and discusses their expectations and hopes about as well as ideas for the educational community without fear.»
Conflicts arise because we often have calculations and expectations that are completely unknown.
In large groups of people, such as schools, it is very important to make rules visible, for example through house rules or school regulations. I often miss them during my visits to kindergartens and schools, everything is often based on assumptions about rules, and conflicts can easily arise because some people do not yet know the expectations, hopes and ideas of the educational institution, but they also do not answer them.
«Everything is often based on assumptions about rules, and conflicts can easily arise because some people do not yet know the expectations, hopes and ideas of the educational institution.»
Expectations and hopes should not be too high and therefore realistic, especially between provider (school) and recipient (parents), as it is not possible at a school to meet all expectations and hopes of parents for their children individually. It should be agreed on a basic idea and basic expectation.
In Germany, parents’ advisory boards are to be switched between parents and educational institutions who expertly handle communication between parents and educational institutions. David, it is, above all, a long, tedious process and communication, especially a conflict- avoiding communication, is very important. «
What is the best advice for parents who want to improve the communication with their children at home? When children become young adults, communication with parents usually suffers and gets worse. Which is the best advice in this case?
First ask the parents if they want to hear this advice at all! Assuming you would like to hear the advice, I would say that, as you said earlier with the teachers, you too should change your inner attitude towards your own inner child as well as your own child. This is possible in particular by conflict-avoiding communication.
They should tell their children their expectations and hopes and not be afraid that the child can always decide against it. It makes a difference if I say «Clean your room!» Or «I want you to clean up your room!». In the second case, there is a much greater chance that the child will clean up the room because children want to help their parents and get the recognition they are looking for.
«The parents should tell their children their expectations and hopes and not be afraid that the child can always decide against it.»
It is important to always ask the child if he wants to do this or that. The children learn that there is responsibility and later do so with their parents when they become young adults, for example, the child will say «I want to go to my friends, is that okay with you?», instead wordlessly leaving the house.
Particularly with young adults, evaluations about the child or their friends and surroundings are to be omitted, as long as the child does not explicitly ask for the opinion of the parents. «
«Evaluations about the child or their friends and surroundings are to be omitted, as long as the child does not explicitly ask for the opinion of the parents.»
Thank you for these wonderful insights! If you would like to know more about the project, take a look at the workshops and the training courses that you can see at www.kindesperspektiven.de and www.kommtheo.de.