Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication and Boulding’s integrative function of power

Boulding named an integrative function of power that operates across the three faces of power: threat, exchange and love. This integrative function acts to bind, to inspire loyalty and to create community. The integrative function acts through a number of structures. These structures include:

  • trust, communication, courtesy and
  • pride, guilt, shame,

Boulding recognised that neither power with the face of love nor the integrative structure was necessarily positive but did not clearly distinguish between the structures. The practice of nonviolent communication (nvc) as described by Rosenberg can be used to  distinguish these integrative structures in the space between requests and demands.

Request

Meet my needs if it meets your needs to do so.

Your needs may include a desire to contribute to me, however a request does not directly or indirectly facilitate an exchange: there is no implication that if you meet my need I will meet your need. No threat – explicit or implicit  – is present. To distinguish and maintain an absence of threat or desire for exchange, an nvc request requires the presence of authenticity, trust, and mutuality. Under these conditions, a deeper relationship may develop (the integrative function). This relationship is grounded in love.

Interestingly, a request could only be present with the domain of Boulding’s love power.

Demands

Meet my needs regardless of whether this will meet your needs.

My demand may be be accompanied by an explicit or implicit threat supported by an integrative structure. I may turn to another to invoke the threat of jealousy. I may imply that a ‘nice’ person would meet my need and invoke a threat of guilt. I may also offer something in exchange, such as affection, company, or  conversation that could displace your loneliness. A demand requires the presence or possibility of emotions such as jealousy, shame, and guilt. Under these conditions a relationship may also develop and strengthen (the integrative function). Such a relationship will be grounded in fear.

A demand operating via an integrative structure can be made within any of Boulding’s faces of power: threat, exchange, or love.

Sources

Boulding, K.E. (1989). Three faces of power.  London: Sage.

Rosenberg, M.B. (2015) Nonviolent communication: A language of life (3rd Ed.). Encinitas: Puddledancer.

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