He had been grumpy all week. It didn’t matter if it was during the community meetings, when we were playing volleyball or during meals. Not a smile crossed his lips. What was wrong with him? My judgments about one of the participants at the European NVC Summer Festival spun around in my head. My thoughts became critical as soon as I saw him.
After the Festival, I was attending a different NVC event. There were only a few participants from the Festival who were going to join it and… he was one of them. “Sigh…”. I had to put up with his grumpiness for three additional days!
Luckily, during one of the exercises on the first day, I was paired up with him. The exercise consisted of wordlessly mirroring each other’s movements. It was the first time I was face to face with him. After a somewhat tentative introduction, we started following each other’s movements. Our eyes met each other. Our bodies and limbs began to move in synchronicity.
Soon we entered a flow and it was as if our bodies and our minds became one. In front of me, the grumpy, boring and critical man was transformed into this lively and cheerful human being. From that moment on, my enemy image of him was transformed into a more accurate image – an image that included more elements of reality.
The power of connection
I have experienced the power of connection many times in my life. It’s almost magical! In a conversation or during an exercise, contact occurs and suddenly my judgments are gone. Gone with the wind. A moment ago, I was sitting in front of a person with faults, flaws and shortcomings. Now, the only thing I see in front of me is an innocent human being filled with the same longing as me – a longing for connection, acceptance and belonging.
I want to be able to enjoy this kind of contact without striving for anything more. And at the same time, I want to achieve and accomplish things in collaboration with others. I know that collaboration is significantly easier if there is connection. Can I live in these two worlds simultaneously? Enjoying contact without a hidden agenda for specific outcomes and at the same time being able to use contact to effectively collaborate and achieve certain goals?
Maybe I can compare it to NVC in general? I want to be able to communicate in a way where I can both listen to others empathetically and express myself honestly. I know that if I’m aware of the four components (observation, feelings, needs and request), it’s easier for me to reach contact. At the same time, I don’t want to use NVC in an instrumental way to reach specific goals by exploiting people’s need for connection as a tool.
People who are in connection with each other seem to want to contribute to each other’s needs. The strategies and goals I have are attempts to satisfy my needs. Can I stick to my own needs while also wanting to contribute to others? Can I hold my strategies lightly and trust that life will support me in fulfilling my needs? Perhaps in unexpected and at the same time sometimes more gratifying ways?
The risk of passivity
The experience of connection is so wonderful that it can sometimes invite passiveness. It’s as if the mind says: “God, how cosy! Let’s stay here!” But when we express concrete requests about specific strategies, there is always the risk that we want different things than the other person. So there might be potential conflicting goals as a result. The mind again: “Isn’t it better to enjoy the connection and ignore accomplishing things?”
I think this is based on a scarcity mentality. Contact could be considered as a finite resource, something that can be used up and run out of stock, like oil. If I look at contact in this way, I might be attached and cling when contact occurs. I’m afraid of losing the connection. If, on the other hand, I see different needs, in this case the need for connection, as renewable resources, I know that there is abundance.
The needs are like the sun. It will also shine tomorrow, although it may be temporarily covered by clouds. If this is the case, then there is no risk in going to concrete requests with the possibility of receiving a “no” and an eventual temporarily broken contact. The source is still intact and the potential for future connections are endless.
Do you experience connection as an abundant or a finite resource?
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Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)
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On 27 July at 19:00-19:45 CEST, you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Petra Kumm. We will talk about the need for connection.
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