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So, the big question is: is this NVC all over again, just translated from French? Yes, and no. D'Ansembourg is a big believer in NVC, but his approach is a bit more pragmatic. Instead of talking out all of the steps of NVC, D'Ansembourg recommends thinking them through both for yourself and the other person. He also goes into the finer points of creating reasonable requests, the fact that people sometimes just need recognition (to be *heard*) more than anything else, and how 'being nice' backfires both in one's relationships and in one's head. It builds off of Rosenberg's work, and adds a level of social consciousness and personal responsibility that Rosenberg touched on. D'Ansembourg goes into detail. He's obviously committed to this program, and offers his own insights and experiences with NVC. It's a deep book that bears re-reading, or at least re-browsing.
If I had to do it all over again, I'd do what I did: Rosenberg, and then this. It's the next step in turning one's communication skills from getting what one wants (peace, security) to giving what the world needs. A lovely book.
Originally published in France in 2001, the English translation has only recently been published in North America. As D'Ansembourg cares deeply about the language he uses, the book is beautifully and elegantly written, a joy to read with a terrific translation. He wears several hats at appropriate times in the book. As a psychotherapist he delves into the psychology of why and how we become disassociated from ourselves. Being nice is a function of neglecting our needs, of not listening to ourselves so we can fulfill the needs of others. As a philosopher, D'Ansembourg examine larger theoretical issues of the individual in society and the meaning and value we place on language. As a coach, he is gentle and thoughtful but persistent as he guides us through our confusion and anxiety with practical, easy to follow steps and appropriate actions.
As one who reads a lot of self help books (and contributed to the genre) I am happy to say that this book is a cut above the rest. The principles he outlines are so basic and so crucial to good communication, every child should be taught them at an early age. He makes the point that if a fraction of military budgets were devoted to teaching communication skills, there would be fewer conflicts and less crimes of aggression. So go our priorities. The basic problem is more of us are taught to `be nice' rather than to be genuine. The result is that we grow up servicing the needs of others and even when we know something is wrong, we lack the language and the skills to be our authentic selves. As a coach I see this "servicing" behavior all too often. Having a resource like Being Genuine makes my task of transforming clients easier.
I can best describe Being Genuine as a highly readable manual of authentic communication, full of examples, theory and genuine warmth. D'Ansembourg describes the four steps:
Observation: We are reacting to something we observe, we hear, or we're saying to ourselves
Feeling: The above observation generates within us one or more feelings.
Need: The feelings guide us to our needs.
Request: Aware now of our needs, we can make a request or implement concrete action.
That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. The trick for the learner of being genuine is to break free of old beliefs and patterns but this can be done with a bit of awareness and some practice. D'Ansembourg believes that what passes today for communication is aggressive and violent. For instance when judgments and blame come up, it's like slamming a door in the conversation. The receiver of this treatment usually responds defensively and often returns the blame and aggression. His method of communication is like opening a door and inviting your partner through it to come in and have a chat by the fire. But rather than waiting on them hand and foot, it's about articulating your needs and feelings to help ensure that you get seen by the other. If their needs are not the same as yours then a compromise can be negotiated, but this is only possible when each side is aware of each other's needs.
Although his respectful techniques may be a bit too touchy-feely for the office bully, the spirit of his teaching can easily be adapted and integrated into a clearer awareness of how humans communicate or more likely, fail to communicate. I have integrated D'Ansembourg's simple and effective techniques into my coaching with great success, especially for clients who have spent too much of their lives being nice at their own expense. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to communicate authentically or to any professional who is in the business of working with clients who can use a boost in the communication area, which in my experience is just about everyone.
Bradley Foster is an experienced Toronto-based life and executive coach with clients on three continents. He is the author of Deep Coaching: A Guide to Self Directed Living and regularly contributes articles and reviews to magazines and journals. He can be reached at [...] or you can visit his website at: [...].
- Listen to others with empathy
- Speak to others with empathy
This book starts with the self-empathy stand and explores from that angle the empathic (nonviolent) communication towards others (by listening and by speaking).
Thomas D'Ansembourg does an excellent job here to go beyond the "it-looks-good-on-paper-so-it-must-be-good" phase and explores and suggests ways to ingrate this method in our daily thinking, relationships, business and social context.
Empathic communication or nonviolent communication (NVC) is the opposite of the judgmental style of communication. And this judgmental communication style is something most of us have been brought up with and use in (work) relationships. The main issue with this judgmental style of communication is that it results in a loss of connection (within us or with others) and therefore results in a loss of authenticity.
The NVC communication model based on 4 steps gets covered in detail (Ref Marshall B. Rosenberg):
- To observe, without judgment, analysis or evaluation
- To express feelings following up on this observation
- To express the needs connected with these feelings
- Making a request (towards ourselves or towards the other person) such these needs can be met within reason
The nice element of this book is also the focus on authenticity itself and the (self-empathic) way of getting a more authentic person, therefore the subtitle "stop being nice, start being real". It is in part autobiographic as Thomas describes his own experiences in becoming more real and this through honest and "real" communication towards himself and others.
- Words that work in business, a practical guide to effective communication in the workplace (Ike Lasater)
- Non violent communication, a language of life (Marschall B. Rosenberg)
Preface - Moving from being nice to being genuine
1 - Why we are alienated from ourselves?
2 - Becoming aware of what we are truly experiencing.
3 - Becoming aware of what others are truly experiencing.
4 - Creating a space to connect.
5 - Emotional security and meaning: Two keys to peace.
6 - Sharing information and our values.
7 - Method
Epilogue - Cultivating pease
How to use the NVC process
Some basic feelings and needs we all have
But don't go into it believing it will magically change everything, it requires some effort on your part - as does anything worth accomplishing. As the old joke goes: "it only takes one psychologist to change a lightbulb, but the lightbulb has to really want to change"
*I much prefer the later label of "Compassionate Communication".
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