I just had an experience where I felt so connected, alive, and clear!
I walked into the cafe where I do most of my computer work. The shop owner was swiping sundried tomato cream cheese on a toasted sesame bagel, which smelled amazing to me.
I complemented the aroma of the shop and felt my senses overloading with sunlight, the sight of handmade of pastries, sounds of the expresso machine, and the energetics of the two folks working behind the counter.
“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you so much for having this cafe. I feel so welcome here. Thank you for your contribution to my life in Philadelphia.”
I made eye contact and heard thanks for my thanks — gratitude for my concise, clear, and specific appreciation.
That kind of interaction is so different than what I was capable of offering before NVC came into my life a few years ago.
Nonviolent communication is a practice introduced by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg to help people participate in meaningful relationships by resolving conflicts peacefully and exchanging information effectively.
I came to NVC after completing a twelve-week Reiki level two course with Sophia in 2014. (Make sure you’re on my mailing list to get the announcement when I start teaching this class soon !!!!!!!! )
I met with Sophia after our final class to say, “Ok, what’s next? What should I do?” There were a couple things on the list, which included going to see Dr. Terrie Lewine for an NVC deep-dive. Over the course of five ninety-minute private sessions, Terrie led me through the foundations of NVC.
I felt like my brain was completely re-wired.
My communication toolbox was broken apart and then put back together in ways that felt totally foreign, more useful, and entertaining to me. Practicing NVC has changed the course of my life by improving my capacity to express, listen, and respond to other people with a sense of clarity, compassion, and accuracy.
I think everyone and their mom would do well to learn about NVC. In fact, I literally sent my mom to my NVC coach for a weekend workshop a few years ago. Our relationship has deepened enormously as we both continue to use these tools with each other.
I used to scream at my mom. I’d stew and stew while she said things I didn’t like and then I’d explode, tear her down, and cut off all communication by leaving the interaction and icing her out for an extended period of time.
And it’s not just my mom I did this with — many folks who’ve shared intimacy with me in the past can probably remember a time (or a number of times) where that (violent) communication pattern happened, especially the silent scorn portion of my former toolkit.
Relationships are everything and NVC practice has improved every part of my life. I’ve had moments in business meetings, emails with clients, difficult discussions with family members, amends conversations, my personal prayer time, romance check-ins, giving compliments to strangers on the street, having someone yell at me in traffic, and the list goes on and on, where NVC has positively impacted my life.
I HIGHLY recommend booking private sessions with Terrie or another experienced NVC teacher to kickstart this magnificent transformation in your life. Workshops and group practice sessions can also be great options. As a starting point or continuing education option, you might enjoy reading Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Dr. Marshal B. Rosenberg.
Following are my top NVC tools that I use literally everyday.
::: NVC works with four elements: observations, feelings, needs, and requests. With NVC we learn to observe with without judgement, connect with our real feelings, identify genuine needs, and take responsibility for making clear requests in our relationships.
::: Use “I” statements all the time.
Instead of saying, “You drive me crazy,” we can say, “When you [speak to me in that tone] I feel [diminished / defensive / sad].”
When we use variations on, “You made me act that way,” we’re off base. No one makes us do or feel anything.
Switching the language to identify what someone’s action brings up in you, transfers the point of power back to your jurisdiction, where change can happen, while also offering the gift of communicating your experience to the other person.
Other people are not responsible for our feelings. We are responsible for communicating what we are feeing and for making choices in our lives.
::: These tools can be used for giving compliments too! Words of appreciation and celebration are a mainstay of NVC practice. For example, if I really tune in to my observations and feelings while sitting across from a person I’m learning with, I can deliver a line packed with meaning and truth like, “When I’m with you I feel safe, present, and seen.” I love being on either side of the table when things like this are said.
::: Switch out the word “stimulated” for the word “triggered” — this one’s more of a Terrie specialty than an specific NVC teaching, as far as I know. Terrie taught me that we use the word triggered when we’re talking about issues we deem negative. Like, “When you called me a brat, I felt triggered.” We don’t often say, “When something great happened, I felt triggered.”
If we can use the word stimulated instead of triggered, then we can get curious and way more specific about what feelings are actually arising — anger? fear? embarrassment? arousal? curiosity?
::: Listen with giraffe ears instead of coyote ears. God, I love this one. When you’re listening to someone talk, are you planning your attack and building your case for the moment it’s your turn to respond and rip them to shreds? Ok, well that’s listening with coyote ears and that approach is certain to lead to disappointment, misunderstanding, and is just plain violent communication.
On the other side of things, giraffes are super peaceful creatures with big hearts. In NVC, when we’re practicing listening with giraffe ears, we stay present with what someone is saying without planning what we’re going to say next. When we listen with giraffe ears, we’re making observations and listening for what the other person is really feeling, needing, and requesting.
::: Be warm to people who aren’t familiar with NVC. Through some embarrassing trial and error, I’ve learned not to correct people who aren’t using NVC language. It’s definitely progress not perfection on this front for me, however.
Instead of giving unsolicited feedback on how someone should be talking to me differently, I try to remember that I can listen with my giraffe ears for what the person is feeling, needing, and requesting (usually witnessing and love), and I can take responsibility for my own communication of feelings, needs, and requests using NVC without being cold, judgmental, and condescending.
::: Get what you want. Make clear requests. People are not mind readers. At best, most people are bad mind readers. If I have a longing for connection, a need I’d like someone else to help me meet, or a desire for a person to show up for me in a specific way, the best way to get what I want is to make a clear request.
I trust the people in my life to say, “Yes,” and, “No,” to my requests honestly. After a few years of NVC practice, I have evidence that making clear requests is one of the greatest contributions I can make in relationships.
::: What do you actually want? I’ve found that “getting what I want” isn’t so much about the cash and prizes of life (though those can be fun if I have my priorities straight).
“Getting what I want” is also not about scoring a dating relationship with someone who will look good on holiday cards. (Though who’s going to say, “No,” to that if there’s also substance, willingness to communicate, genuine attraction, and holiness in the mix too?)
The heart of “getting what I want” seems to be about learning how to live in integrity with myself, with the people who cross my path, and by increasing my tolerance to stay present more and more each day.
I want to feel healthy, sane, witnessed, contributing, loved, loving, adored, adoring, easy, and present. NVC tools are some of the clearest superpowers I have access to that allow me to get in alignment with my core desired feelings, which manifest through relationship with myself, other people, and the bigger picture.
I hope that you go to an NVC workshop, private coaching sessions, read this book, or find other ways to bring these tools into your life.
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Dr. Marshal B. Rosenberg