Being Present with Feelings; by Jim Manske

 

I remember the first time I saw a kaleidoscope. I felt awed by the ever-changing, unique patterns that materialized and disappeared as I manipulated it. I felt entranced by the beauty and complexity, joyfully astonished at the seemingly infinite variety of temporary pattern and color. I still feel excited when I see kaleidoscopes!

When I started teaching NVC, I used a kaleidoscope as a metaphor for the ever-changing, dynamic nature of our human responses, our feelings. When something happens in the world, it stimulates us in our bodies. Something arises within us, our subjective experience of physical sensations and emotions. These signals give us vital information about the current state of our needs.

Developing an ever-increasing awareness of feelings, as well as a vocabulary to describe how we feel, supports both self-connection and connecting with others. We can develop descriptions of our inner landscape to support us in understanding our own needs and communicating our requests to others. This expanded inner awareness also supports us in empathy as we realize that feelings can be pointers to Needs.

We generally experience pleasurable feelings as easy to be with (e.g. happy, content, satisfied, relaxed); but, painful feelings can be challenging! Learning to stay present and observational during painful emotions stretches our capacity and goes against the grain of a deeply habitual reaction to automatically move away from pain. This seems like a common experience among all people and other living beings. Sometimes it even saves us from more pain to move away! This deeply adaptive response is hooked to our very survival!

It’s easy for me to connect to the fear of experiencing certain feelings in myself or others. For example, it’s still a challenge for me to stay present in the face of anger directed toward me or the suffering of someone I’m close to because of my habitual fearful or sympathetic reactions. I’m learning to increase my presence to that kind of strong emotion by sharpening my intention to observe what is happening and to connect to the meaning of the feeling. I’m also learning to coach myself to stay present by gently challenging the assumption that experiencing a feeling can permanently damage me or others.

Once, I had developed an expectation that Jori and I would go out on a date together, celebrating at a local restaurant. When the time for the date arrived, our life circumstances had shifted and other pressing requests caused us to change our plans. I felt disappointment. As we talked about this together, a wave of emotion arose within me. I could also notice how much I wanted to move away from this strong, painful reaction.

Instead of following this old habit to move away, to find some balm or mask for the pain, I excused myself and went to just sit on my meditation pillow, curious to see how deep these feelings would go if I allowed myself permission to explore them with Presence. I noticed the pain ebbing and flowing, tears welling, crying, disappointment, annoyance…my emotional experience shifted to a monologue of life’s parade of disappointments, how I “always” “had to” give up my needs for others, how I “never” got what I wanted! This suffering mutated into a seething stew of resentment and anger.

Suddenly, I contacted a deeper level of sadness. Sitting in the sadness, I cried. Soon, the sobbing quieted, my mind stilled, and an openness in my heart awakened. And all that in about 5 minutes! Wow, what an eye-opener that was for me.

Of course, I felt sad! So often, humans feel the sting of things not going the way they expect! Of course, we hurt when this happens!

When I remind myself that feelings are transient, usually lasting for 40 seconds or less, I feel open, relaxed, and alert. As I open to the present experience of emotion within me or alive in others, I am learning to cultivate wonder, focusing my attention on the meaning of the signal represented by the feeling. This awareness supports me in an opening to the quality of connection that inspires compassionate giving and receiving.

Judgment and Insight

In my experience, I almost always judge a person or situation because I would judge myself in the same way if I behaved that way.
For example, in the culture I grew up in, it was considered impolite to interrupt, that is, to begin speaking before another person finishes.
So, I have created lots of suffering because not everyone was raised in the post-antebellum south. I would judge (and still do sometimes) others who interrupt me or others.
Likewise, when I notice (or another points out) that I have interrupted, I become my own harshest critic.
NVC helps me to soften both judgment and self-judgment by helping me to understand that all behaviors are motivated by needs. Thus, I can humanize “the interruptor”, guessing about their needs to be heard, for connection, for empathy, for engagement. I may not agree with their strategy. I do understand the human, universal needs that motivate their behavior which softens my judgment.
Likewise, when I discover my own behavior, I can meet myself with warmth and connect to the needs I was hoping to meet by interrupting, and from that self-empathy choose how I want to proceed, from now on. This has helped me to develop both patience and discernment. Now I see that the most needs meeting behavior sometimes is to start speaking before another finishes, and that is true for others as well. (Discenrment). I also have learned to appreciate my southern culture and patiently await another finishing if my intuition tells me that will meet the most needs at the least cost.

 

Jim Manske
Certified Trainer, Center for Nonviolent Communication CNVC.org
President, Network for NVC www.networkfornvc.org (a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization)

Infinite Possibility and Unimpeded Hope: NVC in Practice by Aubree Moon

Studying Nonviolent Communication in this dynamic blend of internship and academic study has deepened my understanding and proficiency with communication and self-awareness. The element of being a part of a community that values and actively practices NVC was incredibly stimulating. The multiple practice groups every week offered a dynamic level to my learning, and I also was able to spend a lot of time with NVC facilitators as I worked with NVC NextGeneration. The community element of my program provided the opportunity to absorb knowledge through conversation and collaboration. I also was able to spend time teaching to both educators and students, and through that process my understanding of these skills became much more ingrained in my own understanding. Creating lessons and explaining NVC and mediation in my own words allowed me to engage creativity with these ideas and think of them in new ways.

For instance, during a Peer Mediation Training for 7th graders, I could tell that they were struggling with the concept of “needs” relating to NVC and this lack of understanding was causing them to disengage from being active in the learning process. On the spot, I created an activity for them to understand the material in a way that also allowed them to physically move their bodies and get focused attention. I wrote “I am feeling ____ because my need for ____ wasn’t being met” on the whiteboard, shared a personal example and asked them to each come to the front of the room and share their own experience. One by one, the students came up and shared a story of interpersonal conflict. With some guidance, they stated the emotion they felt and what the underlying unmet need or needs were. They wrote the emotions and the needs on the board, deepened their understanding and became reengaged with the learning. This experience of observing the quality of learning taking place and stepping in to adjust it to better meet everyone’s needs was incredibly empowering and confidence building. I received great feedback from my fellow facilitators, and I directly saw the positive impact I made on the learning process.

I spent the majority of this quarter focusing on and developing a better understanding of the NVC mediation process. Aside from teaching regularly at local middle schools, I attended a weekly Mediation Dojo where I observed and practiced mediation. This focused learning on NVC mediation was very eye-opening into the world of conflict and understanding. I began to see much deeper into my own issues around interpersonal conflict and how there are so many roadblocks to truly understanding someone else, especially in conflict. In the Mediation Dojos, the mediations followed a simple format of going back and forth between the disputants collecting information. The mediator focused on each person one at a time, developing a sense of trust with them through employing curiosity and empathy. The goal of the mediator was to understand how they were feeling and identify the corresponding unmet need.

 

Mediator (turning to Disputant A): “And how are you doing?”

Disputant A: “Well, I’m angry. I hear her (Disputant B) saying that she didn’t mean to forget about our plans, but it still affects me. I showed up, I wasted my time waiting. And I feel like she doesn’t even care.”

Mediator: “I hear you that you are feeling angry. Are consideration and empathy important to you?”

Disputant A: “Yeah. Totally.”

After finding the need, the mediator then asks the other person to reflect that those qualities are important to them. This would look like:

Mediator: “Disputant B, are you willing to reflect that consideration and empathy are important to Disputant A?”

Disputant B: “Consideration and empathy are important to Disputant A.”

 

This seems like such a simple process, yet I watched it transform real emotions in a matter of minutes. As I participated weekly in various roles of mediator, role-playing as a disputant or just observing, I began to notice the transformational power of having the disputants repeat what is important to the other. In the last Mediation Dojo I attended, we were working with the conflict between a couple, where A wasn’t feeling accepted by B. After listening to that person speak, the mediator distilled the needs from what A said, in the disputant’s own words, and carried it over to B. “Would you be willing to repeat that A is wanting to feel cared for and valued?” B replied, A is wanting to feel cared for and valued.” To observe this interaction in any of the roles, it is very noticeable that something shifts in the dynamic of the disputants when their needs are repeated by the other person.

In one of the first Mediation Dojos I attended, we ended up working with a conflict from my own life that I had experienced in relationship with my mom. I played myself in the mediation, and at one point, prompted by the mediator, the person playing my mother repeated my needs while looking in my eyes: “You want to feel free to make mistakes.” Even though this person wasn’t even my mom, I felt like part of me returned to life after hearing some of my deepest needs acknowledged. When there is deep conflict between two people, to hear them say what you really need is nothing less than transformational. I’ve tried to pin down the pieces of what is occurring in that moment; a sense of hope is renewed as the possibility of understanding and connection presents itself, the reflection of needs is validating on a deep level and inspires awareness and empowerment… but there is an elusive element of this moment that goes beyond being able to articulate. In my somatic experience, watching this moment happen between two people creates a portal into indescribable feelings of awe. It feels like infinite possibility and unimpeded hope. It evokes a quality of immortality and light that correlates to my definition of God. The levels of profundity fluctuate mediation to mediation, but this NVC structure creates the opportunity for deep healing, re-connection and hope.

While I was largely learning from experience, I did read two books on conflict resolution that gave tremendous depth to my education. The text Challenging Conflict: Mediation Through Understanding was written by two former lawyers who have extensive experience teaching at Ivy League schools, and now run the Center for Mediation in Law. This book was published with Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, and it is wonderful to know that the information of this book is so highly valued in the academic world. Although I already knew that the act of gaining understanding was a significant piece in any sort of conflict resolution, this book showed me why it’s important and how to assist and empower the disputants to actively engage with its unfolding. I really appreciated the authors’ focus of ensuring that the power remain with the disputants and not to view mediator as any sort of authority figure, like a judge might be seen. This empowerment of the disputants to face their conflict and realize their own resolution ability is the real transformative power of mediation.

Seeking understanding is an act that helps dissolves enemy images. Enemy images are created in our minds as a repercussion of the language of blame and control that we’ve been educated in. Marshall Rosenberg liked to say that we were taught this language because “people who are in touch with their needs do not make good slaves”. As we leave behind this paradigm of power-over language and seek to communicate with compassion and self-empowerment, we no longer need to blame other people when we experience our own needs not being met. This means that in interpersonal conflict, with tools like NVC, we can learn to understand our emotions and needs and extend that curiosity and understanding to the other people involved. Without blame and wanting to control others, we don’t need to create the barriers like enemy images to keep ourselves safe. As I have been studying NVC and cultivating a deep intention for understanding and conflict resolution, I have found it amazing how strongly the program for blame and creating enemy images is ingrained in my thinking. I do my best to only observe this blaming program as it comes into to my awareness, because I know that judging it as ‘bad’ will only perpetuate the blame dynamic and make it harder to move into higher consciousness behaviors.

Cultivating literacy around feelings and needs is the education that can shift the dynamics from dysfunctional to functional relationships. Establishing a sense of self-awareness and beginning to express those feelings and needs are the necessary steps for achieving the deep connection we crave. I see this process as a pivotal learning experience necessary for the well-being of our species. Creating connection to one’s own emotional experience and receiving validation for the basic human needs is an awakening, empowering experience. Partnered with an intention to employ Nonviolent Communication, it is a step towards internal peace. This individual commitment to inner peace is the real first step towards world peace. Participating in this community of NVC and mediation has deeply fed my sense of purpose, meaning and hope for humanity.

Cultivating the Courage to make Authentic Requests

6/10/17
by Stephanie Weisman,
NVCnextgen Administrative Support Team Member

In my weekly NVC practice group, we’ve been dissecting the components of the “OFNR” NVC process, where ~

“O” = Observation
“F” = Feelings
“N” = Needs
“R” = Requests

During the course of this extended exploration, I’ve learned that “When we make an authentic request, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable”, according to our facilitator, Joanna.

Some ideas for how to make clear & present requests, a way to prepare for the vulnerability of requesting:

1) Focus on a positive perspective or action instead of a negative focus:

State what you DO want, not what you DON’T want.”

2) Check your facts to make sure the request is doable,

3) Absolve the receiver from blame, if they are unable to meet your request or your needs, by understanding that:

 “Every ‘no’ is a “yes” to another scenario.”

4) Some connecting request examples, after expressing your feelings and needs non-blamingly:

a. “I’m uncertain about my ability to communicate clearly, would you be willing to tell me what you heard me say just now?”

b. “I’m curious what you heard me say?”

c. “I wonder if you would be willing to….?”

d. “Could you please….?”

**Remember that expressing feelings and needs opens up the possibility for understanding and reciprocity.

Maui Classes List

Nonviolent Communication Classes on Maui

Offerings this week of April 24, 2017:
(for more info click on blue links or reply here)

MONDAY:  The Heart of Mindfulness with Jim and Jori
4:30-6:30pm in Haiku directions click here

This week we will be focusing on Mindful Dialogue. Everyone interested is welcome.

TUESDAY:  Practicing 9 Skills for Navigating Conflict with Jori,
9-11am in Haiku directions here
Can transform relationships at home, at work, or in community. Was “Got Kids?”, now open to all.

TUESDAY: Bi-weekly practice group this week with Becky Lewis
4-6pm in Kihei
For more info call Becky at 510-761-6215 or email nvcbasketry@gmail.com

​Also ​

FREE WEBINARS
 4th Saturday of each month with Jim and Jori Manske, or Rodger Sorrow
CNVC Certified Trainers
1pm-3pm HST, 4-6pm US-PT

Register to attend and have free access to recordings of current and previous teleclasses​ and webinars.

Applying the Lessons with Instant Results

“At an NVC parenting class I recently attended, I had the opportunity to go over an exchange that I had with my two year old son. The exchange with my son had left me feeling frustrated and sad, as well as at a loss for how to deal with his refusal to cooperate with me in the morning.

I just wanted a way to work together with my son that was respectful, and effective at getting him dressed!

After reviewing the scenario with the trainer, we then created a redo of the exchange to look at what I could try doing differently. I then “tried on” the idea of checking in with myself before reaching the boiling point of my frustration. I would simply pause to see what my own needs were in that moment. In this process I was able to identify what was really important to me in the situation. I then reflected on what needs were being unmet for me (the actual cause of my frustration), and what was really going on for my son, what was motivating him.

It was suggested that I also take a moment to notice that he was in fact only playing a game, and connecting with where he was at. In this case I could say, “Ah, seems like you are having a fun game right now?”

He was playing his “you cant get me game”, and I was needing to take care of myself and feeling unable to.

My frustration began melting in the realization that underlying my need for cooperation, was my need for my son’s and my own well being, i.e.; getting him dressed warmly, and myself fed.

I took this practice home and tried applying it right away, my son noticed a difference in my approach and our level of cooperation, and even more importantly to me, our level of connection improved tremendously! All of this shifted in mere moments. It turns out, cooperation and respect are only possible when both of us are feeling connection first.”

by Joy Parker-Brown, NVCnextgen Parenting Class attendee