Why Do We Have Feelings; By Jim Manske

Imagine it was your job to operate a complex piece of machinery, for example being the pilot of an aircraft. As the pilot, you have clarity on your role, and you have been well trained to perform it.
And then, imagine you volunteer to fly a new kind of an airplane as a test pilot. This new plane is considered to be the state of the art, with the capacity of efficiently whisking passengers and freight from one location to another with a single crew member, a pilot.
When you climb into the cockpit for your first training flight, you sit in the cockpit, strapped into your seat with a spectacular view out of the windscreen. Everything seems so sleek and modern. At first, the simplicity of the design stimulates excitement and you look forward to trying this new machine!
You see the various control systems, like familiar pedals and steering devices, lots of switches and knobs.
But, something is missing.  There are no instruments, no display, not even a clock! You look for basic information like, “is there fuel in the tank?” or “which direction are we pointing toward.” You learn nothing.
No doubt, you leave the cockpit and say, “I can’t fly this! There’s no feedback! There’s no information about the state of various systems required to operate a complex piece of machinery like this!”
——
Obviously, that’s not a workable scenario. To operate an airplane, or a car, or even a simple piece of machinery like a toaster, we need instruments that give us feedback about the state of the machine. Likewise with our bodies, we require information that lets us know the state of the organism that we inhabit. That’s the function of feelings.
Feelings (sensations and emotions) give us the information we need to manage our bodies and our relationships. The feelings of hunger or thirst let us know we need sustenance, and the feeling fullness lets us know we have had enough. Feeling uncomfortably stuffed lets us know we ate or drank more than our body could easily process.
Likewise, a feeling of loneliness tells us we are hungry for connection. Every feeling sends us a signal about the state of our needs. We need our feelings to address our Needs! Our Needs actually create our feelings! Our feelings may be influenced by the outside world, but the cause is inside us, our Needs.
Once we understand the reason that we have feelings, it becomes easier to own them. We come to understand that the sensations and emotions we generate exist to support us in sustaining our lives, and once we succeed in that, we can move toward thriving.  We can learn to appreciate the full range of sensations and emotions we experience as human, grateful for the information they provide and the guidance they give us about our movement toward fulfilling our Needs.

On the Punishment and the Protective Use of Force; by Jim Manske

For me, distinctions about “the protective use of force” seem one of the concepts most likely to be misunderstood and misused in NVC.

We make a distinction between the punitive use of force and the protective use of force.  The goal of punishment is “To teach the other a lesson” about the way we want the other to live.  Education is the goal.  It fails miserably in contributing to the need for learning, and instead leaves a wake of pain and suffering that reverberate through succeeding generations.

Study after study shows the futility of punishment.  Nevertheless, “Around the world, close to 300 million children 2 to 4 receive some type of physical discipline from their parents or caregivers on a regular basis, according to a 2017 UNICEF report.” According to a recent report on CNN.com, a meta-analysis of 75 studies on spanking found that it contributed to aggression, mental health, and social esteem problems and antisocial behavior in children, which carried into adulthood.

The evidence so far clarifies that punishment causes more harm than any good that may come from it. Other studies have found children who are corporally punished also experience academic problems in schools and cognitive deficits and were more likely to be violent toward women later in life.One of the investigators, pediatrician Dr. Robert Sege said, “when parents and schools model violence, it tends to increase the willingness of children to fight, to get physically violent themselves.”

NVC offers an alternative toolbox of strategies that nonviolently address the need for learning that punishment tries and fails to address.

And yet, Marshall Rosenberg (founder and developer of Nonviolent Communication, NVC) noted that sometimes force remains necessary.  For me, the state of being from which we live in NVC includes an intention to connect and cultivating presence leading to an openness to outcome. Under some situations, that intention shifts “to prevent injury or injustice”. (Marshall’s quote)

Marshall coaches very limited circumstances for using the protective use of force:

  1. There is an imminent threat to life, wellbeing or rights.
  2. There is no opportunity or willingness on the other party to connect.

“When we exercise the protective use of force, we are focusing on the life or rights we want to protect, without passing judgment on either the person or the behavior.” (Marshall’s quote)

“The assumption behind the protective use of force is that people behave in ways injurious to themselves and others due to some form of ignorance. The corrective process is therefore one of education, not punishment. Ignorance includes (1) a lack of awareness of the consequences of our actions, (2) an inability to see how our needs may be met without injury to others, (3) the belief that we have the right to punish or hurt others because they “deserve” it, and (4) delusional thinking that involves, for example, hearing a voice that instructs us to kill someone.”  (Marshall’s quote).

I tell myself If I have time to make a threat, I have time to connect. The urge to threaten punishment seems like a reliable alarm clock that I have slipped from the intention to connect, fallen into the haze of the past or the demands of the future and become attached to an outcome. In those instances, I need empathy or self-empathy to return to my intnetion.

When there in no time to connect, though, we can still intervene forcefully in the service of protection. Once that goal has been achieved, we then return to use NVC for any repair work necessary to knit any broken connection that may have been stimulated by our choice to use force.

How is for you to consider these ideas?

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.

N>N>N>N Four Skills of Self-Empathy; by Jim Manske

Notice

Name

Need

Now

Here’s a quick self-empathy tool you can try, an homage to the 14th letter of the English alphabet, the letter N.

1. Notice.   Notice what’s happening, right  now.  You can notice anything, and it can contribute to self-reflection and self-understanding.

You can notice a feeling, especially a feeling of separateness.  You may notice a wish for space between you and another, You may notice a feeling of constriction in the body.  You may notice something in the world that calls you to become more alert. Or you may notice a thought, for example, blame, criticism, the urge to punish, or a demand.

Various forms of mindfulness help to heighten our acuity in noticing.  For example, traditional mantra-style meditation can contribute to more awareness of thinking, a meal enjoyed in silence may increase our awareness of flavors and aromas, or loving-kindness meditation may enhance our capability to feel our feelings.

NVC, for me, has become a mindfulness toolbox, each moment inviting me to notice my direct experience. Each component of NVC calls me to Presence:  Observing the World, Feeling the Body, Attending to Needs and tuning into to intuitions and Requests.  What do you notice, right now?

2. Name.  Naming what you notice gives you perspective and creates a witnessing distance between yourself and thoughts, feelings, or the world of objects.  Naming also calms the nervous system, engaging parts of the brain less likely to continue reacting in a life-alienated way.  You can experiment with different levels of granularity about your naming, ranging from the vague, “something’s happening” to the concrete specifics of a sensory-rich observation: “the breeze is blowing across my moist skin.  I notice a chill.”

3. Need.  This skill emerges from a combination of the other two.  I notice a feeling.  I name it “discomfort in my belly.”  I notice the clock.  The clock reports it’s 12:30 pm.  I notice the thought, “lunchtime!”  Considering what I notice and what I name, I check further with a gentle inquiry.  What is this feeling telling me is important?  Ahhh, the discomfort is hunger.  I need sustenance!  This noticing a feeling, naming it, and linking the feeling to a need tends to foster self-compassion.  With practice, we deepen our understanding that our needs make us human, and that these needs connect us within our human family.  We all share the same needs.  Thus, self-compassion breeds compassion.  And compassion can lead to action…

4. Now!  Naming, Noticing and acknowledging Needs brings us to Presence.  In this moment, we can choose from a menu of options about how we would like to respond to the need(s) we have identified.  This helps us to foster self-connection and intuition as well as self-responsibility and self-empowerment.  I go to the refrigerator, I open the door, I scan the options, I make a choice, and then I make something to eat.

Now that you have read this, what will you do?  How can you practice these four skills of self-empathy, right now?

Compassion & Empathy; By Jaya Manske

United Hands

There is a cost to compassion and empathy. When everything, all your love, all your care, all your passion is extended outward, there is an exhaustion that sets in slowly and lightly, and then eventually so heavy it’s hard to move.

Remember to turn some of that compassion inward.

One of the most profound moments for me was about a year and a half ago, right after trump took office. In the middle of the night, I woke up with such tremendous gratitude for the self-empathy practice I had set out to strengthen a year before

.

A year before I had said to myself “I am tired of the way you speak to me, and I am tired of always being last.” I had realized that, even though I had left my abusive relationship 10 years earlier, I was still in one…with myself. And I became determined to *love the woman in the mirror*.

It is hard in a world that has told us loving ourselves is bad- “you’ll get too big for your britches,” “you’ll develop an ego,” “you’ll become full of yourself,” “you’ll forget about other people.”

The last one is the doozy for a loving, open-hearted, caring soul. Life is spent filling in the gaps it seems so few are willing to fill. Loving and fighting for the people who are on the fringes, at risk of being forgotten. Giving, giving, giving. And the last thing I wanted was to forget *that* love. Because that love is where my *humanity* lives. My capacity for empathy is what kept and keeps me knowing I am alive and in relationship to the world. So I spent a lifetime believing I could not love me and everyone else at the same time. So I chose all of you, and all of those who do not know me.

In that moment 2.5 years ago, I pivoted. I thought to myself “even if it takes until I am 70 years old, this pursuit is worth it. I will find a way to love me, too.”

Just one year later, on this evening, I felt an awakening in me. For the first time, perhaps shockingly to some of you reading, I realized I in the midst of the interconnection I see in humanity and all living things, I also exist. I am a *part* of that interconnected whole. It was a spiritual awakening – in which I realized the truth of the words “if all beings are deserving of love, so am I” that I so desperately wanted to believe in.

So while compassion and empathy can have a cost, when we include ourselves and surround ourselves by others who speak the language of the heart and are interested in love, care, connection, equality, etc., it doesn’t have to break us. In fact, it can fortify. Love is bigger than we are. It is an ever replenishing resource when it is flowing in and flowing out at the same time. There is enough for me and for you, it is not a choice between the two. I would argue that living without this love, without this empathy and compassion, I would be stripping myself of my essence and my humanity. And that, I cannot live without, but I have had to learn to live with it.

Jaya Manske is the founder and owner of Coaching Compassion, and a Certified Mindfulness and Wellness Coach

Her individualized approach to coaching draws from the fields of positive psychology, interpersonal neurobiology, somatics, mindfulness, developmental and attachment theories, Nonviolent Communication and more. Her warm presence has supported clients to have significant breakthroughs, to transform from the inside out, and move forward powerfully.

If you wish to share your thoughts on this piece or are interested in learning more about coaching with Jaya, you can contact her by emailing her at coachingcompassion@gmail.com or filling out a contact form on her website at www.coaching-compassion.com

Why does NVC focus on direct experience rather than creating a new belief system? By Jim Manske

For me, I am learning that thinking (beliefs), although useful for 3 outcomes*, often gets in the way of realizing the connection that is always present when I am observing.  Living in Hawai’i has contributed to trusting my direct experience.

When I go to my direct experience, I do not find any boundary between “me” or “you”.  Instead, I experience “we”.  I notice we live in an interdependent field of mutuality.  As the Hawaiians remind us, “Aloha!  We breath the same air!”
Maybe I can make myself clear if I share my understanding of the “NVC journey”.
Because of the way we have been educated, our NVC journey begins with beliefs like, I am separate from you, and I think or believe, “I feel _______ because you _______.”  (These beliefs seem to me a root of”jackal language patterns that contribute to suffering).
Learning and practicing NVC helped me to get a little closer to the truth of direct experience because it supports conditioning a new belief, “I feel __________ because I need ____________” and because it awakened observing without evaluation and the shared power of making a request.
After about 10 years of NVC (plus about 25 years of other spiritual practice, I discovered a direct experience of “Observing what is actually happening, I am noticing a feeling of ____________ arising from needing ____________, and naturally connect with what I call request energy moving me toward resources to fulfill the need.  (If there is a temporary lack of resources, pain continues to arise, what Marshall called mourning.)
As far as I can tell, this requires no belief, although conceptual thoughts still arise to help me navigate the world.  (For example, “it’s 50 minutes until I board my next flight.”)
So, as far as I can tell at my current level of awakening, no belief is required to navigate the world, any beliefs that arise in me can be observed without believing in them.  Observing is “enough”:
-Observing what arises in the world (Perceiving)
-Observing what arises in the body (Feeling, Sensing)
-Observing what arises in the mind (Thinking, Needing, Requesting)
So, I take a stand as “Giraffe” or Observing Awareness.
*By the way, the three useful strategies for thinking:
1.  Navigating the practical requirements of life, for example. “We don’t have any vegetables in the house.  I guess a stop at the grocery store would be useful!”
2.  Celebration:  Noticing and savoring needs met and unmet in the service of Life.  For example, “I’m feeling grateful I have a roof over my head during this storm!”
3. Awakening, Coaching myself to use skills, integrating new skills and learning.  For example the thought, “Who needs what right now?”
I am grateful for your feedback on what I write here.  I notice vulnerability arising in me, wondering and doubting if words can actually express clearly what I am experiencing.  Please let me know what arises in you as you take in what I write.

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)

Update from Shenzhen; By Jim Manske

Greetings from one of the newest cities in China, Shenzen.

About 30 years ago, this sleepy little fishing village across the bay from vibrant, colonial Hong Kong became the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in China.  Like Yantai where we were a couple of weeks ago, China began reaching out to the world here.

Now, almost 12 million people, with an average age of less than 30(!) live, work and play here.

The city vibrates with an effervescent intensity an octave above Yantai.  For me, it seems the height of consumptive society, yet with a quality of care for the future inching toward sustainability.  Because it is an SEZ, Shenzhen attracts lots of ex-pats and business folks from all around the world.  It has an international and cosmopolitan flavor like Shanghai.

The economic output of this single city is about the same as all of Portugal!  It’s a place where lots of new businesses spring up, and perhaps that “fertility” will support the growth of NVC here.  In my dream of the world, someday there will be at least one trainer per million folks, so this single city may have 12 trainers in the not to distant future.  As my mentor Christa Morf says, “We’ll see what happens!”

We’ve just completed a two day workshop with about 35 folks, the first NVC workshop by certified trainers here, as far as I know.  When we did a process early on the first day to understand how much previous NVC experience folks had, we discovered that about 70% of the folks had less than a year and some had just learned about NVC days ago.  How inspiring to be present for the first baby steps of helping to support an emerging NVC community here!

We offered our 9 skills training coupled with some introductory processes exploring universal Needs and the connection between feelings and needs.  The participants eagerly assimilated our offering as fast as we could give it.  They seemed content with brief breaks and a leisurely lunch, allowing us lots of time for practice.

Hearing the checkout round this afternoon touched me deeply.  It seemed they were taking away deep learning and inspiration to continue their practice.  If you are still doing the gratitude practice we encouraged before you left, more than a 100 Chinese folks are now joining us from all of the cities we have visited.

One of the highlights of the training was showing a brief video Jori and I had seen this morning of the leaders of North and South Korea connecting and shaking hands.  There is a precious moment in the video that demonstrated the power of an invitation as Kim Jong Un gently encouraged his South Korean counterpart to step over the line into North Korea.  Many of the participants seemed to be as touched as we were.  I could barely control my emotions as I shared how impactful this moment is for me, how much hope I have in the possibility of peace and denuclearization.  What a long distance we seemed to have come since that wild morning in January when we all freaked out about the incoming missile that turned out to be a false alarm!

Tomorrow we facilitate a meeting of volunteers who visit schools in southern China hoping to inspire kids there to dream big, even in the face of a traditional rote-learning strategy still common in many Chinese schools.  I wonder what will happen.

We hope all is well with you!  We have one more weekend workshop in a few days before heading home for Maui.  Until we see you in mid-May, please keep going to Zero, keep refining your intention to connect and enjoy this precious moment.

Warm aloha!

Jim

Link to video:  https://youtu.be/i7LXeCTOEuU

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.

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

Conscious Leadership and Nonviolent Communication by Aubree Moon

*Note:  Aubree Henke, a senior at Evergreen State University has recently begun at internship at NVC for the Next Generation.  Part of her studies includes periodic reflections on her learning goals and processes.  As “field supervisor”, Jim Manske has the opportunity to work closely with Aubree.  When he received this first reflection paper, he asked for and obtained Aubree‘s permission to publish it here.*

Where to start! There has been so much opportunity for learning and growth in the first two weeks that I am still playing catchup to assimilate and digest it all. When I’m immersed in a quarter that is chock-full of wisdom, these papers really help me concretize the gems of what I’m learning and provide for good reflection months after I’ve completed the “learning session”. Being a part of an NVC practice group is priceless for my learning and development. To witness others going through the same communication struggles and to see their conflicts broken down with consciousness and empathy is incredibly awakening; it feels as if I am learning kinesthetically. The quality of space that is held for both the celebration and mourning of needs is incredibly impactful. It offers a learning opportunity that isn’t found in studying NVC books. As conflicts are worked out in the practice group and the underlying emotions and needs begin to be named, Jim and Jori both exhibit profound empathy by acknowledging and giving space to the met or unmet quality of the needs. Through observing these experiences, I have begun to cultivate that deepening of presence and empathy within myself. I am so grateful to be a part of this practice group so that I can witness and grow in these subtle qualities of awareness and empathy.

A huge development in my consciousness these past weeks has to do with “dissolving enemy images”. Before being aware of a new language of life, I didn’t realize that casting blame was a choice. It was the way I was taught to relate, it was how I believed the world worked. To acknowledge that everyone is acting out of their own needs, and then have the desire to connect with empathy to see what those needs might be, is still a teaching that is creating roots inside my thinking. There are many tools that I am beginning to utilize to take responsibility for my emotions when I am triggered and casting blame and shame on myself others. It still can be quite a challenge to catch me in this act and change the trajectory of my thoughts. The strategy that is the most helpful right now is to practice radical self-connection and self-compassion. In the past, my thinking framework of blame created a polarity where one person could be right, and the other had to be wrong. Because this belief still lingers in my subconscious, it can be hard for me to create the space and empathy to listen to the other person when I feel triggered. To navigate this roadblock, I internally give myself as much validation and compassion as I can, so that when I begin to listen to the other person I can remember that my viewpoint is also true. NVC is helping me see that each person has a story, and each story is completely valid. I don’t have to decide who is right or who should apologize, instead, I’m learning to acknowledge my emotions, connect with my needs and give myself compassion and time to mourn. When I’m doing this process, I can listen much better and extend empathy for the other person’s unmet needs. Quicker and quicker, I am able to see when I am creating the story of “bad other” and remember to my intention to take responsibility for my emotions and understand the other person’s reality with empathy.

Another thing that I want to celebrate my learning is how my self-talk has changed, specifically around regrettable or unconscious behavior. I have spent much of my life putting others’ feelings before my own, and when I would act in a way that hurt others, the shame spiral would be devastating to my relationship with myself. In the past couple weeks, there have been many times that I have had a very exciting practice of bringing this predicament into my conscious mind. For example, one day I went to my partner while he was working on his computer and began tickling him and talking to him in a silly way. He became agitated and angry. It caused a conflict between us. I retreated into my bedroom, alone.

While I sat on my bed, I could feel my face hot with shame. I realized the shame was coming from my unmet need for conscious behavior and integrity. I hadn’t approached him with clarity about my actions, only a subconscious desire to connect in a playful way. After taking the time to connect to mourning my integrity as well as celebrating my attempt to meet my need for connection and play, I was able to brainstorm ways that I could initiate connection without losing connection to my integrity. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I also feel mourning for the innocence and ease of relating in less-conscious ways, a sense of mourning the passing of childhood. This situation is one that comes up for me often, and I’m learning to sense the desire for connection and sit with it before acting in unconscious ways. Although this new process may not have the quality of ease that it might have in childhood, it does bring a sense of excitement that I am seeing deeper into my behaviors and decreasing my reactivity to my unconscious mind.

I am feeling very excited about this learning opportunity because it connects to so many of my passions and needs. I have a deep commitment to love and compassion, and nonviolent communication is a beautiful way to embody that pledge and create positive change in the world. I also have strong needs for growth and presence, and NVC provides an unfathomable opportunity for those qualities to be employed. Changing the structure of the only language you have ever known is no small task, and there are many lessons that leave me speechless at their subtle profundity. To be able to reshape your language structure takes a great amount of consciousness and it’s those moments where I find myself so present in my experience. NVC is a tool for communication that only benefits; to structure your life with NVC sets up opportunity after opportunity to have a more wonderful life– and that meets my need for hope.

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
 
 
Please check out my online newspaper:
http://www.scoop.it/t/radical-compassion

What if there’s no such thing as a perfect strategy? by Jim Manske, CNVC Trainer

What if there’s no such thing as a perfect strategy?  (Strategies are behaviors intended to contribute to fulfilling a universal human need.)

What that means to me is that no matter which strategic choice I make, some needs will be satisfied while others remain hungry. We all do the best we can to make wise choices that meet the most needs for Life at the least cost. Only the passage of time will clarify how wise our choices have been.

A year ago (in November of 2016) a few days after the US presidential election, I wrote in a Facebook post:

“We have made a choice.  There is only one Us. Right now, I feel mourning about the results of this election and the likely consequences of this choice. It’s easy to touch and taste the unmet needs mostly around safety, security and well-being for people and our planet.

As I look towards needs met, I see unbounded possibility for connection in the service of natural giving and receiving. Unending vistas for our vision, our hopes.  And, as we make our contributions each day in the service of our mission, we constantly have the opportunity to live our values, inspiring others to join us.  I wonder, how can I show my love for people and planet, right now…

The bottom line for me is that no matter who the president of the United States is, I have a purpose, vision and mission.

The person who holds the office (as all other leaders) may either support me or hinder me. That’s for them. My role is to persevere in fulfilling my purpose.”

So, now a year has passed.  It’s hard for me to keep track of the myriad events since President Trump took office.  There is a wake of unsatisfied needs following the ship of state that Mr. Trump pilots.  Never before have so many been so unsatisfied with a presidency at this point of our election cycle.

On the other hand, many people seem to have found their voice and gathered together to advocate for a way of being in our country and in our world much more in harmony with Needs consciousness.  We seem to be speaking more, sometimes shouting, other times screaming.

I don’t experience as much listening, and I feel concerned by the continuing polarization and siloing that seems apparent.  We may listen to those with whom we agree with, but I’m not sure we are listening to those we do not agree with.

How could I turn this complaint of mine into a commitment?

  1. First, notice what is.  As I look at who I hang out with, my tribe mostly looks like me, talks like me and shares many of my beliefs.
  2. Consider how to expand the circle of connection, beginning with the Needs.  I imagine if I expanded my circle, it would contribute to learning, community, self-expression and empathy, among other needs.  It may come with a cost.  I imagine the likelihood of conflict will increase.  I may feel uncomfortable.  My beliefs may be challenged.  Including other people may not contribute to ease or flow.
  3. Sitting with the needs, I open to wonder…what steps could I take that may contribute to these needs.
  4. I wait for requests to emerge, trusting that we human beings have everything we need to come up with satisfying strategies to support our survival and our thriving.  Sometimes I notice the requests arise after a good night’s sleep.  Other times, after a soak in the tub or a hot shower.  Sometimes in conversation with others, and other times, ideas arise immediately or at random moments.  Sometimes by writing, it supports my creativity as well.
  5. Once the ideas emerge, take action.  Small steps are ok, even teeny tiny ones!  It seems so important to honor our need for safety when we embark on something new and challenging.

So, now, reading this, what will you do?

The process can be used for any creative puzzle, not just the political conundrum I notice on this chilly November day, one year after an historical election.

Please let me know your responses to what I have written, especially what you harvest from trying the Complaint to Commitment process.