In the beginning of my NVC experience
When I started learning NVC, I was very passionate. At last, I had discovered a way to communicate where connection and the needs of everyone matter. I could both listen with empathy to what was important to others as well as express myself honestly, be listened to and be taken in consideration. How great isn’t that! I did not have to choose between diminishing myself or overruling others.
When others don’t respond as you expect
With some practice, it eventually became quite easy for me to practice NVC together with other enthusiastic workshop participants. In role-playing and empathy talks, I got a taste of how communication could bridge misunderstandings and conflicts. I experienced how relieved and nourished I felt when being heard by a compassionate fellow human being. And that it was possible to understand the motive behind someone’s wacky actions. But when I tried to communicate with people who had no idea about NVC, it was much more difficult. I did not find the words and the people I spoke to did not respond as I had expected. When I wanted to express myself honestly, they seemed to hear criticism and when I tried to listen empathetically, my empathy guesses got stuck in my throat.
Importance of the intention
When I look back at my early days as an NVC practitioner, I see some common pitfalls. As a student of a new way of communicating, I wanted to do the right thing. I was focused on using the right words and following the steps of the four components. My focus was more on the form than on the intention. I tried to express myself correctly, using the NVC model, but was not always in touch with what was behind it. In my eagerness to use this new form of communication, my intention of connection was not always so present in my awareness. Many around me consciously or unconsciously questioned my intention (or maybe the lack of it), and I reacted with old habits. I tended to go into a defensive state with thoughts like: “They don’t understand me” or “They are not in touch with their needs”. I also questioned myself: “I’m not able to use NVC” or “I’m a failure”.
Do you have similar experiences? You are reaching out, trying to connect and people around you go into a counterattack, start defending themselves or shut down. And then you forget all about NVC and respond with similar strategies. You may think that NVC is not for you, that you cannot express yourself or that others have a dysfunctional way of being or plainly that NVC doesn’t work.
“I am right”
My belief is that our minds mess things up for us. Our conscious “I” wants contact, but our unconscious “I” wants us to be right (and others to be wrong). What is going on? Our evolving brain wants us to survive. If we were not constantly on our guard as we were on the savannah, wrong decisions could mean death and the end of our evolutionary lifeline. Being happy and content was of secondary importance. In our modern society, not many mistakes have such fatal consequences. Yet our brain reacts based on old instincts and habits.
How our brain works
If we are not aware how our brain works, it tends to hijack our agenda and it becomes more difficult for us to create the contact we are longing for. With support of NVC, we can create new response patterns in our brain. Our immediate reaction may still be to flight or fight, but the more we expose ourselves to new experiences and practice meeting situations with the awareness of needs, we can replace old habits with new, more functional ways of being. When the heart beats hard and the adrenaline rushes in our system, we can choose not to reflexively react, but instead take a pause, breathe and make a conscious decision how we want to act in the next moment. That potential choice of ours makes all the difference in the world.
Do you want to learn more and practice a new way of responding to different situations?
Take part in a new workshop series consisting of four parts:
- Part 1. The power of not knowing all (evolution of our brain, how we receive the world, observations, feelings and needs) – 21 October 2021
- Part 2. Radical responsibility (self-empathy) – 18 November 2021
- Part 3. Re:active lab (empathy) – 16 December 2021
- Part 4. Honest high-jumpers (expressing your honesty with ease) – 13 January 2022
CNVC Certified Trainer, Sweden
I am a communication consultant and a certified CNVC trainer. I work with groups and individuals who want to be able to communicate better and build sustainable connections in their family, with their friends, at their workplace and in the bigger community. I am offering lectures, workshops, mediation and individual training both for individuals and for organizations. Anything from shorter presentations to several days or weeks of training. Since 2010 I have offered over 100 lectures and workshops with inspiration from NVC (Nonviolent Communication). I have attended three one year programs organised by Friare Liv (Liv Larsson and Kay Rung): the Year 1, the Year 2 and the Mediation program. I have been assistant trainer on five of Friare Livs one year programs as well as on several of their shorter workshops.