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.

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.

On Needs by Jim Manske

United Hands

For me, the word “need” (as a noun)  points to the essential, intrinsic energy that impels movement toward survival and thriving within living organisms.  In other words, the power that motivates all behaviors.

United Hands

Essential means “absolutely necessary”.

Intrinsic means “inside, coming from within” the organism.  (The dictionary says “belonging naturally”.

Motivational means“spurring action toward a goal or outcome”.

Energy means “that which is non-material and contains potential to sustain and enrich the organism”.

Impels relates to a forward, directional impulse.

Movement implies dynamic, ever-changing motion.

Survival means “to have the necessary resources to continue living.”

Thriving naturally follows survival when abundant resources exist beyond the minimum necessary means to continue life and the organism has access to those resources.  Thriving enhances survival as it increases the likelihood of long-term sustainability.

This energy contains a quality of intelligence, wisdom and compassion that continuously scans through observations (both external and internal) and determines whether pain or pleasure exists; it then motivates an organism to move strategically towards that which it senses will reduce pain and/or enhance pleasure.  (In other word, sensations signal the organism about the state of its needs from moment to moment.  Requests naturally emerge when the organism experiences discomfort, because of the deep impulse emanating from “needs”.)

Additionally, “needs” make meaning for the organism, contributing to learning ever more effective strategies for fulfillment.  This is what I mean when I use the word “value”, which is more or less synonymous with “need”.

For me, the word “need” (as a verb)  points to two levels:

1.  “I need ___________” means “I require ________”, and if I do not get it, I will feel pain or suffer damage or even death.

2.  “I need ____________” means “I yearn for a shift from what is, right now, to what could enhance and/or enrich my life; I notice pain in the present and move toward that which I yearn for to reduce my pain and sustain and/or enhance my life.  Yearn means to long for.  It is interesting for me to note that the archaic definition of yearn is “to be filled with compassion or a warm feeling.”

As I finish this reflection, I remember Marshall’s response to a question I once asked him at a Special Session:  Marshall, what comes up for you when you see people in our community arguing about whether “______ is a feeling or a non-feeling” or if “________ is a need or a strategy”?  I heard him say, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me at all; we are trying to use a language born from domination.  We have not yet invented a language that comes from partnership.”

Jim Manske
Certified Trainer for The Center for Nonviolent Communication, cnvc.org
President, Network for NVC
 
Please join me in a commitment to live from the consciousness that we are one.

Please, let every word that you speak or type be emphatically cleansed of any thought or feeling of separateness before you open your mouth or press “send”. (This in no way implies there is a correct form!)

Please, let every word you hear be filtered by empathy so all you hear is “Please” and “Thank you”.

Please, let every communication express our common aim of living nonviolence and compassion.

May we remember our vision and mission each and every moment, and measure our own actions (and inactions) in relation to those commitments.

NVC in Action: Relationship Dynamics by Aubree Moon

 

This past week, I had a conflict come up with my partner as we were going to sleep. I was feeling sad, and my sadness triggered his anger. He said something to that effect, and I was instantly triggered. A sentence rose in my mind, something along the lines of “I give you support when you feel sad.” Behind those words was the accusation that he didn’t do the same. I KNEW that speaking these words was absolutely in the wrong direction of NVC. I held this sentence in my body, willing myself not to speak it- but the energy of holding it in was excruciating, and it ended up squeaking out of my mouth. Of course, it went downhill from there. Throughout the next couple days, I kept returning to that moment where I had been thinking: ‘Don’t say it. It’s not going to help anything. It’s not NVC, and he’s not even in a place where he can listen.’  And somehow, I said it anyway. My prediction was that he would get even more angry, and my prediction ended up being correct. Why would I say it to him if I had known that it would only make things worse?

Gratefully, I didn’t berate myself for speaking that sentence. In the past I might have gotten upset with myself for “doing something I knew I shouldn’t have done”. Now, I can recognize that I clearly didn’t know that I shouldn’t do it- because I did do it. This means that part of me did in fact want to say it. Admitting that feels validating to a certain part of my consciousness. When I can recognize that part of me wanted to say this accusatory sentence, I can go deeper and find the underlying needs I had in that moment. I had already been feeling sad that evening; I was needing love and empathy. Then when he became upset, I felt anger and fear. My need for empathy became desperate, which triggered my old programming of ‘blaming’ to get what I want. In my highest consciousness, I know this program doesn’t get the results I want; however, it’s very ingrained in my unconscious mind that shaming equals control.

In that moment, I really needed empathy. I was so desperate for it that I couldn’t keep my mouth closed. I felt urgency around being heard and receiving validation. I resorted to unconscious behaviors. There was also an element of the situation feeling “unfair” that made me choose to “stick up for myself” (how I saw it in my mind) versus not say anything and try to stay connected. I see this as experience as taking action to try to meet my needs for empathy and respect. I celebrate those needs and my attempt to get them met, and I also mourn the unmet nature of my needs for integrity and respect. After I said the sentence, my partner felt threatened and left the room. I continued to lay in bed, and pretty quickly connected with myself and my true intentions for love and connection. I was able to soothe myself and after my partner did the same, we reconnected with shy smiles and apologies.

I’m grateful for this experience because next time I recognize that what I am about to say won’t be grounded in intention for connection, I can reflect on this experience and try to give myself empathy instead of seeking it externally. If it’s my need for respect that is in question, I can see that taking some space to be alone and soothe myself is the best action. It’s not often that I have the experience of wanting to say something accusatory and also know that it won’t be beneficial. I see this as a measurement of growth; I am becoming more conscious about the intention and effect of my communication.

The Potential of Mourning Integrity by Aubree Moon

Week four of my internship with NVC NextGen is coming to a close, and there are many wonderful moments of learning to reflect on. After attending the last two NVC practice groups, I had experiences of the lessons integrating into my daily life. Last week, Jim and Jori taught about ‘have to’, as in things you feel like you have to do. They guided the group through finding to activities that we feel like we have to do, and then explained how to connect to the need that we are trying to meet through doing that activity. For example, I feel like I have to read my texts for school, but by reading the texts, I am trying get my needs for security and integrity met. We also looked at the needs that aren’t met by these activities and held space both to mourn the unmet needs and celebrate our attempts to meet some of our needs. This process of mourning and celebrating has really affected my thinking; I’ve noticed most of my experiences boil down to either mourning or celebrating something. To allow the space for both to come up naturally has really given me a more balanced view of my life.

Just the other day this lesson became very apparent as I was driving to the store. On the way, there’s a turn that is pretty sharp without much visibility. I can’t remember what I was doing while I was driving, but this particular time there was something taking up some amount of my attention, like drinking from my water bottle or opening Spotify on my phone. I turned the corner without anticipating how sharp it would be, and regrettably I didn’t navigate it with as much precision and attention as I would have liked. Luckily, I was taking it slow, but the woman in the car coming towards me didn’t seem pleased with my driving. I got to the store and parked, and I felt some shame. As I gave more attention to the feeling, I could tell there was a part of me that wanted to ignore and suppress it. Instead, I invoked the quality of mourning, and connected to the needs that weren’t met by my behavior: integrity and safety. When I allowed the mourning to occur, there was much more space for the feeling of shame. I also connected to the needs that I had been trying to meet during my inattentive moment of driving, probably ease and fun. I celebrated my attempt of trying to meet those needs.

A few days later, I was driving another windy jungle road, and I was trying to open a podcast on my phone. I instantly felt a flash of recognition *this behavior has led to mourning my integrity in the past*. It spontaneously arose as a reminder stemming from previously taking the time to mourn my action of distracted driving. As soon as this thought came up, I dropped my phone on the passenger seat. I focused on the road and experienced a surge of joy and celebration for seeing the potential to be out of alignment with my integrity and choosing not to. I didn’t drop the phone out of shame, but for the joy of being connected to my integrity. This experience showed me that mourning unmet needs is incredibly powerful and transformative. We react to unmet needs in so many ways: anger, depression, apathy- but to consciously mourn, to touch your tender heart with empathy and compassion, provides a quality of healing. Mourning unmet needs contributes to self-awareness and consequently self-empowerment. It creates more understanding and consciousness around how to get your needs met and illuminates the pathway to a more wonderful life.

Another experience I had that came to life through NVC teachings was around inviting a conversation. This past Monday, Jim and Jori taught on this subject and we were able to practice our conversation invitations. It seemed simple enough, I thought about it briefly and then said to my practice partner: “Hey, I was wondering if you have some time to sit and chat with me. I have something on my mind and I’d really love to share and hear your thoughts.” I spoke those words once, and then we moved on to something else. A couple days later, this practice re-entered my consciousness. I was in the middle of doing yoga when my partner got home and came into our bedroom. I stopped my practice and said “hi”. That morning, I had had a realization about how my life could be more wonderful, and there was a request I wanted to make of my partner. It wasn’t a “big deal”, but it was more important that just our everyday dialogue.

As I was figuring out how to say it, he kissed me on the head and walked out of the room. As I stood there on my yoga mat and had been about to launch into my spiel, I noticed that when I have something to say that feels important, I usually just dive right in. Because my partner walked out before I could say anything, I realized: I had been about to invite a conversation. Unconsciously. This was a wonderful realization because it provided more space in my consciousness and allowed me to really think about how I wanted to approach inviting a conversation. What did I really want to say and how did I want to set the tone? And even more importantly, it gave me the space to remember the zero step, or the intention for connection. Jim and Jori coined this term for a precursory step to the nonviolent communication dialogue.

To go into a conversation with an intention to stay connected to the other person is a profound idea. In the situation with my partner, the energy I had been about to come from was very self-centered and independent, thinking only of my needs and requests. When he left the room and I realized I had been about to invite a conversation, I remembered the zero step and it shifted the energy that I would have had the conversation from. Instead of “I realized this, I need this, wow, I’m so excited about this–” I instead would have approached it instead like “I realized this would make my life more wonderful, how does that impact you?”  It’s been amazing to have these learning experiences come to life. It is so inspiring that just attending a short weekly practice group can have so much impact in my thinking and behavior. There’s nothing better than the experience of expanding consciousness contributing to more fulfilling relationships!

Let it RAIN! -Jim Manske CNVC Certified Trainer

For me, remembering the distinction between needs and strategies supports well-being because it goes to the root of suffering.  To clarify what I mean, consider this example I heard at a recent workshop:  “When I need empathy and understanding I want to rely on my mate.  There is something about the quality of intimacy and connection that I expect to get.  When I hear, “No” to my request, I feel hurt andlike I don’t matter.  I realize I can call my friend to get empathy, and sometimes I do.  But, it’s just not the same.  Even after I get some empathy, the next time I see my mate, I feel resentful.”

So, listening to this person it seems clear the needs they would like met:  empathy, understanding, connection, intimacy, to matter.  It also seems clear the person knows how to ask for what they want.  They even seem to understand that, “A need makes no reference to a particular person doing a specific thing.”  Yet, it also seems they are trapped in a web of suffering and resentment.  Why?

When we get addicted to a strategy, we are bound to suffer.  In fact the cause of suffering is addictive thinking.  These addictions, expectations, and demands cause and reinforce a sense of separateness and destroy our serenity.  How then, can we become liberated from these destructive habitual patterns?

RAIN:  Recognize, Accept, Insight, Need

First, learn to recognize the symptoms of addiction, including anger, guilt, depression, shame, anxiety, and resentment.  These destructive feelings are caused by life-alienated thinking patterns including demands, denial of responsibility diagnosis, and deserve-oriented thoughts.

Second, accept that an addictive pattern is playing out in your consciousness.  Human beings have been suffering from addictions for longer than recorded history, so take solace that this is simply part of the human condition.  By accepting that you have addictions, you help to end the addictive hold by not being addicted to not having addictions!

Third, work toward the insight that, “my addictions cause my suffering.”  There are a variety of methods available to support you in achieving this insight, including “translating” addictive, judgmental thinking into feelings and needs through journaling. self-empathy, and/or empathic connection with another community member.

Clarifying that, “my addiction causes my suffering” is the antidote for blame and supports us in taking responsibility and maintaining the clarity that “my feelings emerge from the state of my needs”.  This empowering insight frees up the energy to attend to ourselves and others compassionately.

We may touch profound sadness, despair, and mourning as we connect to the depth of our pain in relationship to certainneeds that have gone unfulfilled.  This pain is a felt sense within the body and is distinct from the suffering of addictive thinking that we sometimes add to the feeling we are having.

From this deepening awareness and self-compassion, a shift inevitably occurs from addictive constriction to the creativity and openness to possibility that characterizes preferences and requests.

To become liberated from the suffering contemplate the following definitions and distinctions.

Need:  the universal resources required to sustain and enrich life.

Strategies:  methods that may or may not contribute to fulfilling needs.

Request:  An offering of a strategy that one predicts will contribute to well-being by fulfilling one or more needs.

Demand:  A life-alienated communication pattern characterized by the urge to punish when one does not get what one wants.  Examples of demand language include phrases that contain, “Should” “Must”, “Have to _________ or else __________.”

Addiction: A strategy that we demand is fulfilled.  When the strategy is not used we suffer from life-alienated thinking, enemy images, and destructive emotions like anger, hatred, and resentment.

Preference: A strategy that we predict will meet needs.  If the preference is not utilized,  one may feel mourning, but there is no suffering.

Suffering:  Destructive emotions and the life-alienated thinking/communication patterns that cause them.

Pain:  The felt-sense of an unmet need composed of physical sensations and emotions.

So returning to the example, and speaking from the first-person perspective of the participant”

*%#$@!, I want  __________ to listen to me!  Can’t they see I’m in pain and need support?  How dare they say no?

AH….I recognize that I am caught up in addictive thinking!  I can accept that I still have addictions.  Everybody on the planet wants to have their way sometime!

Hmmm, I have the insight that my suffering, this resentment, and anger is caused by my thinking.  These enemy images of my lover are excruciating!  How can I hate the person I love?  I want freedom from this addictive thinking!

So, what’s important to me?  What do I Need?  Ah, I’m really needing empathy and the safety that comes from intimacy.  When I hear my mate say, “no”, I feel mournful, disappointment, sadness…I’d really prefer to get my empathy from them, and I don’t want to receive what is not fully given.  I see now that I can get my needs met from within me, perhaps I need some support from my friend.  And, I see how I can approach my mate another time when they are feeling more resourceful and I can ask again to be heard!  So, right now, I’d like to ask me to spend 5 minutes walking and breathing.

The Practice:

Recognize your addictive thinking

Accept that all human beings who have been educated like we have will have addictive thoughts

Gain the Insight that your suffering is the consequence of your thinking

Detect the Need driving the addiction.  As Marshall reminds us: “Every moral judgment is a tragic expression of an unmet Need.”

 

Note:  I first heard the acronym RAIN from one of my Buddhist teachers, Tara Brach.

Taking inspiration from her work with a deep bow of appreciation, I have modified her acronym to fit the NVC model.

For more information on the source:  https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Tara+Brach+RAIN&bext=msl&atb=v95-5&ia=web

Jim Manske
Certified Trainer for The Center for Nonviolent Communication, cnvc.org
President, Network for NVC
 
 
Please check out my online newspaper:
http://www.scoop.it/t/radical-compassion

The more we pay attention, the more we’ll recognize the trance of separation and, from a deep longing for connection and freedom, start examining the causes. But that desire needs to become intentional; we have to want to understand the landscape of what has happened in this country and what’s actually shaping our own limited sense of identity. We need to ask ourselves, “What is it that I’m not seeing?” And if we sincerely want to know the answer—if we want to wake up—we will open our eyes and our hearts. We will begin to free ourselves from the suffering of separation, act in ways that serve the healing of racism, and discover the blessings of realizing our true belonging with each other.”
—-
Jim Manske

p  e  a  c  e  w  o  r  k  s
training~mediating~facilitating~coaching~mentoring~consulting

“Contributing to a world where everyone’s needs can be satisfied reliably & abundantly!”

Why did the chicken cross the road? by Jim Manske

My guess is before you even finished reading that sentence, you already knew the answer.  That ancient childhood joke has become part of how we experience the world at an intuitive level.

Remarkably, for me, the joke contains an important insight into Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

As humans, we intuitively know that every behavior is motivated by a “why”, even the behavior of a chicken.

So, let’s change the joke slightly and consider, “Why did the giraffe** open her mouth?”  The answer?  To get to “the other side of connection.”   We humans intuitively know that opening our mouth (and our ears) supports the connection we need, not only to survive, but to thrive as individuals and as a community.  This understanding represents a deep insight into how to live NVC consciousness, how to make living that process more natural, and shines the light of awareness on why NVC seems to fail us sometimes.

Three questions arise:

  1. Why does NVC seem to fail us sometimes?
  2. How can you make living the process more natural?
  3. How does one live NVC consciousness?

First things first: Why does NVC seem to fail us sometimes? Because of the way we have been educated, we habitually open our mouth in the service of correction, rather than connection.  We are sometimes quick to judge another person’s behavior as wrong (and ours as right); we scan for people that are bad, and think its our job to straighten them out; we take on the role of moral authority, deciding not only what is or is not appropriate, but also who deserves to be punished or rewarded. We think its our job to play the roles of police, prosecutor, judge, and sometimes even executioner.  We may even turn our corrective wrath on ourselves, ruminating about our own bad thoughts or behaviors, then feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious or depressed.

Operating from this intention to correct temporarily blocks the consciousness of NVC.  It’s as if we armor our heart with a protective layer of separateness, anxiously scanning for threats and enemies.  Tragically, this habit can get in the way of another receiving the contribution that we would like to give.  And it gets in the way of getting our own needs met!

So, now looking at the second question, how can we make living NVC more natural and available?”  The quick answer is to notice more often how we naturally live NVC.  In other words, train yourself to notice the times when connection flows easily, when you are joyfully receiving another person’s contribution to you and when you are openly giving to another without expectation of reciprocity.

Check your memory right now for instances when you said a genuine thank you, when you offered support to another or when you responded to another person’s request with an open heart.  All of those are examples of living NVC.  You can make this reality more of your lived experience by simply noting at least three examples of this each day in a gratitude journal.  Writing just a three sentence report about “what’s going well” in your life can have a profound impact on well-being.**

My guess is that you live this consciousness more often than you recognize.  See what happens if you watch for opportunities to acknowledge and notice gratitude and other life-fulfilling emotions.

Now, to the final and most vital question:  How does one live in NVC consciousness?

Three important concepts help us to answer the question:

  1. Presence
  2. Clarity of intention
  3. Openness to outcome

Presence

Living NVC always happens now.  Notice and refine your sense of presence.  Presence is actually our default mode.  Are you present to the words that you are reading right now?  If yes, that is presence.  If you notice you are distracted momentarily with a thought of the past or the future, notice that your awareness of that absence happens right now.  So, even the awareness of absence is a sign of presence.

Notice presence.

Clarity of Intention

Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of NVC, once suggested in a workshop that I attended that if we want to live NVC, the first step is to “know what you want before you open your mouth.”

I used to interpret this to mean that the first step in a communication is to know what our desired outcome is. Now I understand that rather than visualizing or imagining what I want to happen, Marshall was pointing us to a clarity of intention.  Knowing which strategy to use to contribute to a need comes later.

Now I endeavor to, keep my focus on what Marshall called “Spiritual Clarity”.

The word spiritual points towards an acknowledgment that we live interdependently.  Your needs and my needs co-exist.  If I get my needs met at your expense, we will both pay.  And the opposite is also true:  If you get your needs met at my expense, we both will pay.  How do we pay?  With disconnection, resentment, and suffering.

Clarity points to a deep and profound connection to this reality of interdependence.  

When I live from this quality of spiritual clarity, my behaviors will more likely contribute to making life wonderful for everyone involved.

Openness to Outcome

The natural consequence of Presence and Clarity of Intention is an openness to outcome.  We liberate ourselves in advance from any addiction to “one right way” to get our needs met.  By staying connected to Needs rather than becoming attached to a specific strategy, we support a  flow of connection that inevitably leads to compassionate giving and receiving.

The nickname we give to the combination of these three elemental concepts is “the Zero Step”.  The Zero Step points to what we do in our consciousness before using the four components of NVC developed by Marshall (observation, feeling need and request).  Ironically, when we live in the Zero Step, the four steps fade away into a naturally connecting language.

So, now we arrive at Marshall’s definition of the purpose of NVC:  “To create a quality of connection that inspires compassionate giving and receiving.”  And three elements help us to fulfill that purpose:

  1. Presence:  What is happening right now?  How do you feel right now?  Who needs what right now?  What would make life more wonderful right now?
  2. Clarity of Intention:  Do I want to connect in the service of compassionate giving and receiving?  Or do I want to correct?  If the latter, the antidote is empathy and self-empathy to regain contact with our Spiritual Clarity.
  3. Openness to Outcome:  We finish our expression with a request, not a demand.  We only want to receive from another what they willingly want to contribute.  If we notice we are attached to an outcome, its a signal we need empathy!

Three quick practices:

  1. Presence: Ask yourself, “Am I aware?  What do I see, hear, smell taste, or touch, right now?
  2. Clarity of Intention:  Ask yourself, “Do I want to connect or do I want to correct?”
  3. Openness to outcome:  Consider any universal human need and make a list of all the ways that need could be satisfied.  For example, consider the Need for love:  How many different ways have you had that Need satisfied in your life?  (A hug, a kind word, a gift, an act of service, spending quality time with someone, etc)**

So, from now, we live with a new awareness that can arise just before we next open our mouth.  Where are we going, connection or correction?

We can claim our natural intuition and inclination to contribute to making life wonderful by connecting.  Or we can notice, with ever increasing awareness, how our old habits of correction may still run reactively.

Each moment, we choose which destination we seek.  And the next moment, we can choose once again.

*Giraffe is the term Marshall Rosenberg used as a nickname for NVC and its practitioners.  Since giraffes have long necks, they can easily make observations.  And, an anatomical consequence of that long neck is the strongest heart of any land mammal.  It takes a lot of power to pump that life-enriching blood up to the brain of the giraffe!  Thus, NVC, or giraffe language, is also know as the language of the heart.

**See Flourish, by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

***Inspired by Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages

How Do You Teach Empathy?

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JULY 30, 2005

I like Marshall Rosenberg’s definition of empathy for its simplicity and clarity.  He says, “Empathy is the respectful understanding of another person’s experience.”

We also distinguish between “empathy”, which focuses our attention and presence on what is alive in another person, and “sympathy”, which shifts the focus to our own experience in a self-reflective way.  Sympathy can actually block an experience of empathy.

One other related distinction concerns what is actually happening in our own experience when we are in empathic connection.  We are as present as possible to the experience of another person without feeling what they are feeling.  Again, feeling what another person is feeling can prevent us from experiencing the depth of empathic connection made possible by utilizing the tools and consciousness of Nonviolent Communication (NVC).  We can connect with another person’s experience without having the same experience.  For me, the experience of empathy is like “meditation off the cushion”.

This distinction may become clearer if you consider how we are defining feelings, especially about what feelings “mean” in NVC.  We define feelings as physical sensations and emotions, “guttural” feelings.  We distinguish feelings from “thoughts” or “evaluations”, which can actually block presence to our own feelings or connecting with the feelings of others.

In NVC, we see feelings as signals that give us information about the state of our needs.  To oversimplify, when our need is met, we feel a certain range of feelings (often called “positive” or “good” feelings) and when our need is not met, we feel a different range of feelings (“negative” or “bad”).  Thus, the cause of our feelings is the state of our needs, not what happens in the outside world, what we call the stimulus or observation.

We define needs in a specific way as well, as “that which is required universally to sustain or enhance life.”  We all have the same needs.  Words that point to needs tend to be vague or hazy, like “connection”, “contribution”, “learning”, or “sustenance”.  We distinguish needs from “strategies” or “satisfiers” which are concrete and specific ways of meeting a need.

One example is the need for sustenance.  Humans have invented or discovered about a million ways to meet this most basic of human needs; three strategies are a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet and an omnivorous diet.  All strategies to meet a need come with both costs and benefits, and as impermanence is the rule, no one strategy will always work to meet a need.  A person committed to a vegan diet may choose to meet their need for sustenance by consuming dairy products or meat if their pain (hunger) is great enough and their options are limited in the moment.

So, when we are training people to empathize, we are helping to clarify these distinctions, along with several more.  First we are teaching people to be aware of their own needs and what needs might be met by empathizing with another person.  We are also teaching and guiding them in certain practices designed to cultivate skills and awareness around 6 aspects of empathy:  presence (attention on the present moment and what is actually happening); focus (on the other person’s observations, feelings, needs and requests); space (creating an opportunity for the other person to explore what is important to them while letting go of our thoughts about “agenda” or “fixing”); verbal reflection (certain language patterns designed to support ourselves and others in maintaining presence, focus and space); sensory acuity to notice “shift” (indicators that another person’s needs for empathy and understanding have been met or are unmet); and finally clarifying requests (assisting the other person by empathizing with what they may want next.)

Jim Manske
Certified Trainer for The Center for Nonviolent Communication, cnvc.org
President, Network for NVC
 
 
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Nonviolence in the Face of Hatred – a blog article by Miki Kashtan

…Although this was very tender for her, she wasn’t bringing it up for empathy or sympathy. She was bringing it up because she wanted to find a way to transform her thinking about what her sister had shared with her, so she would know what to do with the violent thoughts that were populating her mind and challenging her commitment. Out of respect for her dignity and choice, I never asked for the specific nature of the thoughts.

Anita is part of a very small tribe of people who are fully committed to nonviolence: in thought, word, and deed. There are many people who are committed to nonviolence in action; far fewer are committed in word; and way fewer are committed to nonviolence in thought. Since leadership, for me, entails inspiring others by what we are able to model, if we are committed to nonviolence in thought, and we make our inner struggles known to others as Anita did that day, we act as leaders. What we are modeling is how we can support ourselves, others who have been harmed, the communities around us, and the world at large, without creating new cycles of violence.

The practice of nonviolence begins, for real, precisely when our actions, words, or thoughts are not aligning with our commitment. Because, as I finally understood recently, our capacity often lags behind our commitment. This does not mean we are not truly committed; only that we need more practice…

Read more at: The Fearless Heart: Inspiration and Tools for Creating the Future We Want. Courage to live it now. by Miki Kashtan