Ranjitha Jeurkar studied journalism in college and went on to a career as a reporter, working in print and broadcast media in her home country of India. She reflects that because of her training, people automatically assumed she would be a good communicator. It was an assumption she bought into, as well. “Here, look,” she told herself. “I have a degree in communications and I’m supposed to be good at this.”
A Trained Communicator, But …
Indeed, her journalistic training made her very good at a “very factual level” of storytelling. She could press a source and drill down into the facts for the sake of a story. But when it came to her own needs, she froze. “I was supposed to be asking the tough questions,” she reflects. “And yet, when I had to ask my boss for a day off … it was so hard for me!”
Her years of training and work in communications, she found, “didn’t teach me much about how to communicate what was within me.” Her training didn’t prepare her to go one step deeper, to ask, “How am I responding to what’s happening the world, and to what’s happening within me as I see what’s happening in the world, or even what’s happening within me in terms of my family, in my relationships, in my life, in my career?”
Thus, it was in a very stressful period of her professional life that she stumbled into Nonviolent Communication.
Finding Nonviolent Communication
Ranjitha’s partner came to her one day and said, “There’s a Nonviolent Communication workshop happening in Bangalore. Will you go?”
Her defenses immediately went up. “What are you telling me? I need anger management classes?”
“No,” he said, clarifying that NVC was something he’d been meaning to explore, and he couldn't make it on those days, so he wanted Ranjitha to go and check it out so they could learn together.
“So I went,” she says. “And there was something about Nonviolent Communication that touched me very deeply. I wasn't able to put my finger on what exactly it was.” As she learned about herself through NVC, she realized that she had no idea what to do with her emotions. “Especially emotions like anger,” she recalls now, candidly. “It was a little bit like being on autopilot. I’d be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, everything's fine’, until something blows up.”
Navigating Challenges with NVC
Ranjitha’s challenges didn’t magically disappear after she embraced NVC. In fact, the practice absorbed into her life slowly.
At the time, she reflects, there were limited opportunities for learning NVC in India, with only a handful of certified trainers in the vast country. She discovered an annual convention that assembled Indian trainers and guest trainers from Europe, and she began attending. “And I really enjoyed that sense of community that I experienced there. Something so welcoming, offering space for authenticity without the worry of, Oh, is it okay for me to say something here?”
Life doesn’t stop while you’re learning something new. But gradually, she saw a way through the challenges in her professional life. “I realized that NVC actually gave me the clarity to decide what action I wanted to take in a very challenging situation at work,” she says. “It gave me the language to speak about what was happening, and it also gave me the support of a community that was there for me, with empathy and support. Because in a workplace when you want to speak up against something that's happening, things can get lonely very very quickly.”
NVC, she found, provided her a roadmap to help her navigate so many questions: “What do I do with these experiences that I’m having? How do I stay present to them? How do I actually experience them rather than simply react to them? And what do I do with this? Do I speak up? How do I speak up when I do?”
It was at that point that she “really had a sense of, Wow!” She realized NVC had been empowering her in more ways than she’d been able to see.
“And soon after I thought, Yeah, I want to share this with other people.”
Sharing Through Experience
Ranjitha left her career in media to dedicate herself full time to sharing Nonviolent Communication. She brings forward the empathy derived from her own experiences to create spaces for empowerment — personally and professionally.
Today, as a certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication, Ranjitha shares NVC with individuals, groups, and organizations. To the work, she brings her learnings from the communications industry, her awareness of mental health, and her experience working with a nonprofit to design workplace mental health programs.