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.
Effectively connecting to the Zero Step leads you to understand the needs you are hoping to meet before you open your mouth. The next step to weaving a connected conversation begins with warmly and vulnerably exposing those needs when you start a conversation. In other words, we let the other person know our intention and what is important to us about connecting right now:
“Honey, I so deeply appreciate the connection we’ve been having recently, and I’m eager to continue to deepen that connection…”
“Bill, I’m hesitant to bring up a point of tension between us, but clarity and connection really matters to me…”
“Jane, I feel regretful about what happened the last time we spoke, and I’m hoping to repair any damage that was done…”
“Son, I’m so grateful to see that you have taken the garbage out without being asked!”
Expressing our vulnerability increases the likelihood of creating a compassionate and open response in the other person.
Contrast vulnerability with the other habits we may have in opening conversation:
Blame (“You didn’t pick up the tomato sauce! How do you expect me to make dinner?”)
Complaint (“You left the gate open again!”)
Sarcasm (“You are so prompt! This time at least we will only be fifteen minutes late!”)
Criticism (“You always interrupt me when I am talking!”)
Contempt (“You are such a lying snake. No wonder you’ve been divorced three times. No real human being could stand to stay married to something like you!”
Conviction: Beginning to Build A Case “You said when you left home this morning you would call when you got to the office. You didn’t. Then you didn’t respond to either my voice mail or my text message. When I drove by the office this afternoon, your car was not in your parking spot. You told me you would be there all day.”
Comparison “I don’t get as much “me-time” as you do!”
Correction “You never put your clothes in the hamper! If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times!”
Denial of Responsibility “You didn’t give me what I needed to finish the project on schedule!”
Demands: “I have told you a million times, if you don’t do your chores, no screen time for you!”
These old habits are easy to spot because they almost always begin with the same word: “You”. Careful cultivation of the Zero Step helps you to transform each of these habits into connection. Noticing yourself in a pattern gives you the chance for a do-over. Noticing the habit in another gives you the chance for self-connection, empathy and honesty.
1. Guided Self-empathy.
2. Empathy. As you listen to your partner role play the other, make a guess about what they are feeling and needing. Acknowledge the other person’s experience. Role play the empathy with your partner:
For example: You hear: “You didn’t pick up the tomato sauce! How do you expect me to make dinner?” (INSIDE JOB:EMPATHY) I’m sensing disappointment, frustration and eagerness because ease, support and contribution are important…”
EXPRESSING EMPATHY: So, you’re disappointed and frustrated that you need tomato sauce for making dinner. Do want to brainstorm ideas about what to do about that?”
3. Authenticity. What could you do differently? Now that you have empathized with yourself and the other, you can imagine what you could do if you were in a similar situation, and wanted to practice clarity, warmth and vulnerability. What could you say to open the conversation?
First, remember the zero step!
Second Consider these four questions:
What’s happening? I planned on making spaghetti for dinner and I do not have the tomato sauce.
How do I feel about it? I feel eager and frustrated
Who needs what? I need support and connection; guessing the other needs to contribute.
What might help? Collaboration emerging from a soft startup:
“ Honey, we don’t have any tomato sauce for the spaghetti. I’m freaking out a little bit because I wanted to make spaghetti tonight because we promised the kids Are you willing to help me figure out what to do?”
Now, working with your partner, answer the four questions and craft an opening that conveys clarity, vulnerability and warmth based on your scenario. Feel free to write it here:
Please, let every word that you speak or type be empathically 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.
In the language of Hawai’i, aloha means many things…greetings, farewell, love, compassion. I have heard some say that aloha literally means “we breathe the same air”.
The work of Marshall Rosenberg (Nonviolent Communication, NVC) points to this deep truth that unites all of humanity. We breathe the same air. We are all connected, therefore, because of this basic and undeniable truth. Marshall’s genius is that he created a “technology of the human heart” that allows us all to experience this connection, even in the midst of conflict and violence.
Marshall taught me to focus on the “air that we all breathe” in all of its forms: the security that comes only when basic human needs are fulfilled in a reliable way; the needs for safety, order, and community; the universally shared values for learning, love and justice; the requirements to thrive that we all have for respect, cooperation, and peace; the inspiring power of gratitude…and many more words that point to the energy of our ongoing, universal connection through human needs.
I have seen the power of Marshall’s “technology” to cultivate compassionate giving and receiving even among “warring parties”. Most of my NVC peacemaking work these days is at the micro-scale of couples and families. The enemy images and the violence that ensues within our basic societal unit leads to incalculable suffering. NVC addresses the root cause of that suffering, the natural pain of unmet needs, and uses the universal experiences of judgment, sorrow and anguish to knit connection and inspire collaboration through self-awareness, empathy and honesty.
I heard recently from one of the parents we work with something like, “before NVC I was quick to judge, defend against and attack those that I love the most, my partner and kids! Now, before going on the attack, I connect with what’s really important…the love I have for myself and my family, and I take a stand for that. NVC gives me the tools I need to make peace my priority in my home.”
How many times every day is this playing out in our world because of Marshall’s influence? Hundreds of thousands of peacemakers have been nurtured and empowered to bring peace to families, neighborhoods, workplaces and religious communities for more than 50 years. Marshall’s work empowers all of us to make a difference every day where it really counts, and to inspire a quality of compassionate social change from the grassroots to boardrooms, as well as with and for the executive, legislative and judicial leaders responsible for building an enduring culture of peace and collaboration.
I appreciate the impetus of acknowledging Marshall’s work in the service of peace and justice through the skills and consciousness of NVC. Remembering to live from the consciousness of NVC brings Aloha closer to my actual experience in every human interaction. Each of these ordinary connections has within it an extraordinary opportunity for a peace congress of enduring benefit to everyones’ life and the Life we all share.
Aloha from Maui,
CNVC Certified Trainer
It took 52 hours due to storms and rerouting – what an adventure! We can share more about this when we see you. Here’s what we are doing his week:
Monday 4:30-6:30: 9 Skills Navigating from Conflict to Connection
Prefer to do this online on Tuesdays?
Check out 9 Skills for Navigating Conflict on NVC Academy.
For more information and to register Click Here.
Friday 4-6pm Mediation Dojo (see more below)
Check out Becky’s class on Tuesdays below
More About Monday’s class: We will share some of what we have learned during our trainings in Hong Kong and China. Teaching NVC in a different culture has helped us to understand in an even deeper way how the skills and consciousness of NVC offer us a universal pathway toward creating connection and compassion within ourselves, in our relationships, in our communities and in the world. Please join us Monday for an overview and deeper understanding of the 9 Skills for navigating from conflict to connection with a focus on the Zero Step with lots of practice. The class is open to all, no previous NVC experience required.
More about Friday’s class: Practice using the skills of NVC helping others connect during a conflict as a way of increasing access to skills for navigating conflicts in your own life, as well as contributing to peace between others.
WHERE? 53 Palulu Way, Haiku, off Hohani @ Hana Hwy mile marker 14; Note: both the Hohani and Palulu Street signs are missing.)
Need directions? Click here or call us at 505-344-1305
Parking is very limited, so please park on the street if possible.
Please do not park on the grass.
If you are arriving after the starting time you are welcome! And please lower your voice when entering to support those engaged in the class.
You are welcome to drop-in to any or all of these groups and you are welcome to bring requests, suggestions and questions. Feel free to bring friends and family members…no previous NVC experience necessary! We offer these groups in the spirit of compassionate giving and receiving. Contribute what you choose.
HAVE SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO OFFER?
TUESDAYS BIWEEKLY 4-6pm with Becky Lewis: Kihei Practice Group usually meets every other Tuesday. The intention of our group is to practice and deepen our NVC skills. Newcomers are welcome. The focus of our group is learning and deepening Nonviolent Communication skills. Newcomers are welcome.
Contact Becky for more details at 510-761-6215 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jori and Jim
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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:
- Why does NVC seem to fail us sometimes?
- How can you make living the process more natural?
- 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:
- Clarity of intention
- Openness to outcome
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.
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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:
- Presence: Ask yourself, “Am I aware? What do I see, hear, smell taste, or touch, right now?
- Clarity of Intention: Ask yourself, “Do I want to connect or do I want to correct?”
- 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
*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.
It is difficult to understand NVC without first opening up to the place of vulnerability. That word vulnerable has two meanings for me; one from a place of acceptance within yourself and an openness to explore reasons. Without this openness of being vulnerable NVC would just be a word or a concept for me, and not a practice.
One of our facilitators shared with the group that we cannot show true empathy (verbal and nonverbal) and self-expression in a healthy manner without understanding our connection to self. When we can truly connect internally to our own feelings and needs, we can then listen for and reflect on the other person’s needs and feelings (empathy). When we are connected to the self, we know how to request our own feelings and needs.
By Nalani Cleveland
“At an NVC parenting class I recently attended, I had the opportunity to go over an exchange that I had with my two year old son. The exchange with my son had left me feeling frustrated and sad, as well as at a loss for how to deal with his refusal to cooperate with me in the morning.
I just wanted a way to work together with my son that was respectful, and effective at getting him dressed!
After reviewing the scenario with the trainer, we then created a redo of the exchange to look at what I could try doing differently. I then “tried on” the idea of checking in with myself before reaching the boiling point of my frustration. I would simply pause to see what my own needs were in that moment. In this process I was able to identify what was really important to me in the situation. I then reflected on what needs were being unmet for me (the actual cause of my frustration), and what was really going on for my son, what was motivating him.
It was suggested that I also take a moment to notice that he was in fact only playing a game, and connecting with where he was at. In this case I could say, “Ah, seems like you are having a fun game right now?”
He was playing his “you cant get me game”, and I was needing to take care of myself and feeling unable to.
My frustration began melting in the realization that underlying my need for cooperation, was my need for my son’s and my own well being, i.e.; getting him dressed warmly, and myself fed.
I took this practice home and tried applying it right away, my son noticed a difference in my approach and our level of cooperation, and even more importantly to me, our level of connection improved tremendously! All of this shifted in mere moments. It turns out, cooperation and respect are only possible when both of us are feeling connection first.”
by Joy Parker-Brown, NVCnextgen Parenting Class attendee