Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nonviolent Communication

NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture. NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that each of our actions are a strategy to meet one or more of these needs.

Nonviolent Communication (abbreviated NVC, also called Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication) is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. NVC often functions as a conflict resolution process. It focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one's own inner experience), empathy (defined as listening to another with deep compassion), and honest self-expression (defined as expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others).

Four components

  • Observation: the facts (what we are seeing, hearing, or touching) as distinct from our evaluation of meaning and significance. NVC discourages static generalizations. It is said that "When we combine observation with evaluation others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying." Instead, a focus on observations specific to time and context is recommended.
  • Feelings: emotions or sensations, free of thought and story. These are to be distinguished from thoughts (e.g., "I feel I didn't get a fair deal") and from words colloquially used as feelings but which convey what we think we are (e.g., "inadequate"), how we think others are evaluating us (e.g., "unimportant"), or what we think others are doing to us (e.g., "misunderstood", "ignored"). Feelings are said to reflect whether we are experiencing our needs as met or unmet. Identifying feelings is said to allow us to more easily connect with one another, and "Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can help resolve conflicts."
  • Needs: universal human needs, as distinct from particular strategies for meeting needs. It is posited that "Everything we do is in service of our needs."
  • Request: request for a specific action, free of demand. Requests are distinguished from demands in that one is open to hearing a response of "no" without this triggering an attempt to force the matter. If one makes a request and receives a "no" it is recommended not that one give up, but that one empathize with what is preventing the other person from saying "yes," before deciding how to continue the conversation. It is recommended that requests use clear, positive, concrete action language.

“What others do may be a stimulus of our feelings, but not the cause.” - Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.,

Most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand and diagnose — to think and communicate in terms of what is “right“ and “wrong“ with people. We express our feelings in terms of what another person has “done to us.” We struggle to understand what we want or need in the moment, and how to effectively ask for what we want without using unhealthy demands, threats or coercion.

There are a lot of subtleties to using NVC effectively, but the process involves breaking down your experience into four steps—Observation, Feeling, Need, and Request. For example I might express myself by saying the following:
Observation: “Your personal things are lying all over the floor.”
Feeling: “This makes me feel unsettled.”
Need: “I have a need for a clean and tidy living space.”
Request: “So my request is that you pick up your things before I get home.”
That the feeling itself, the felt sensation in the body — whether experienced as a sinking feeling in the gut, anxious butterflies, a stab through the heart, or a headache — is something that will always fall under the general category of feeling “bad” or at least “not ideal.” It doesn’t matter if you express exactly how you’re feeling. The other person doesn’t really care whether it’s a sinking gut sensation or a headache. The important point is, You feel bad! That’s all you need to get across.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Where I am.

The man was right up against it—a wire fence with jagged barbs densely interwoven. No chance of getting through those barbs. The path ahead looked attractive. But the barbed-wire fence… Even if he could somehow get through the first one, he could see there was another beyond it. And another, and another. Yet he had to try. Maybe if he could find someone who could give him a wire cutter.

If he could just “cut through” it as he put it—then he knew he could have a really nice future. It turned out that the barbed wire fence went completely across the path in front of him from left to right—but then it stopped. Beyond the edge of the fence was just flat ground. The same thing on the left. The entire fence was only about 6 feet in length.

By really recognizing “where I am” in this way it becomes possible to discover the options. I may be trying to move forward, but it might work out better if I consider moving around. Perhaps I do need to get something off my chest. Perhaps if I move closer—or farther—other things will change.
Blips from: How Our Metaphors Reveal Creative Solutions