Technology Gets in the Way of Pure NVC Expression
One of the most common temptations we face when starting to learn Nonviolent Communication (NVC), is to put convenience first. This is sometimes done at the cost of human connection. Many of us have access to some pretty convenient communication technologies. We might try to do NVC via Skype, Facetime or other video conferencing. We try to iron out our differences with NVC over the phone. Even greater is the temptation to text or email our way to peace. Each of these hi-tech modes has its advantages. Yet the further away we go from in-person meetings, the more difficult it becomes to really connect.
Perhaps the most convenient technology that doesn’t even require a meeting in person, is to use the psychic airwaves. These are free and require no hardware, software, or tech skills.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these modes.
NVC via Videoconferencing
Videoconferencing is probably the electronic mode that’s closest to an actual face-to-face meeting. You can see and hear each other. Ideally your Skype, Facetime (or other) connection will be clear throughout the session. In a perfect world, all parties to the conference will be equipped with large, brightly lit HD computer monitors or screens on which to view each other. They will sit in a well-lit area so their camera can pick up on the nuances of their own facial expressions. Quality audio speakers will convey the subtleties of human speech, so you can perceive the precise tone of voice.
In the real world, it’s rare for all those ideal criteria to be met. Internet connections cause the picture to fade or disappear occasionally. Someone may be using an older, slower computer with a small screen that’s not so brightly lit. Someone else insists on sitting in a dark room, or the light is not illuminating their face and eyes adequately. (Maybe they’re having a bad hair day or haven’t taken time to dress or put on make-up.) Audio quality fades in and out during a typical conference. Laptop or cell phone batteries can run out of juice in mid-conversation. Murphy’s Law is alive and well.
NVC via Mobile Phone
Cell phones sure are convenient as they meet our need for freedom to move about. They enable us to talk while driving a car, or riding in a vehicle. The price of that freedom is that we can’t see facial expressions at all. In addition, technology can get in the way of pure NVC expression. The cell phone signal will fade in and out unpredictably. While in a car, there’s distracting road noise. If you’re driving the car, there are the inevitable stresses and strains of navigating through traffic. Cell phone batteries can die, sometimes at a delicate or crucial point in the conversation.
NVC via Email
Email can be even more convenient than the phone in some ways. It gives you time to choose your “NVC feelings and needs” vocabulary more carefully. You can take hours or even days to reread and edit your message. That way, it’s easier to make sure you’re following the four-step NVC process.
Email helps to meet needs for depth of expression and for safety. You just press the “send” button and feel satisfied that you’ve expressed yourself clearly and fully. There’s no chance for the other party to speak while you’re in mid-sentence. You’re less likely to lose your train of thought. You feel hopeful that they’ll finally understand. You feel sure they will be more likely to agree with you and feel more compassion for you.
Woe unto he who emails with all these high hopes that his requests will always be fulfilled. This is especially true if these requests and hopes are really expectations or demands in disguise.
The High Cost of Attempting NVC via Email
Email has its advantages, but the downside is considerable. The Achilles heel of expressing NVC through email is the loss of human interaction in real time. Sometimes, if your email is going off in a direction not founded in reality, you’d actually benefit if someone speaks up on the other end–while you’re speaking–and nips it in the bud. This contributes to a sense of shared reality.
Sometimes a lot of hurt will result from emails, regardless of whether or not they’re composed in perfect NVC form. This can happen even if the intention is purely compassionate. Just as in person, in emails we have no control over how someone will take, hear or interpret our message. Many will feel irritated, annoyed or confused just seeing that we’ve sent them an email. They may have preferred a call or a visit in person. They might take it personally, feeling hurt that you didn’t want to talk instead. They may judge email as an inappropriate medium for a delicate discussion.
That’s not to say that practicing NVC face-to-face, in person, is always a cakewalk! It, too, can be very challenging. It can seem downright impossible if we hold expectations that our NVC words are supposed to change someone’s character, personality or behavior. That’s not at all what true NVC practice is all about. It’s about standing in our truth vulnerably and without judgment. We’re never more powerful than when we stand vulnerably, persistently, yet humbly in our truth.
NVC through Psychic “Airwaves”
You don’t have to be psychic or have telepathic skills to practice basic NVC through psychic airwaves. All you need is the intention to connect compassionately with someone. It’s easier, of course, if you have come to the spiritual realization that all beings are essentially connected. Mystics through the ages have claimed that we are all one, at the level of ultimate reality. This means that when we dislike or hate someone, we are disliking or hating some aspect of ourselves that we see in them.
One of the most insidious pitfalls for any NVC practitioner is the “enemy image.” We tend to create and hold enemy images in our mind about anyone we see as not sharing our values or views. We might do this consciously or unconsciously. If it’s unconscious, we’re at a severe disadvantage. All our NVC efforts, though they may be in perfect 4-step form, are less likely to connect. Becoming aware of these self-created enemy images is essential. Dissolving these images in our mind is what I call practicing NVC through Psychic airwaves. Anyone can do this without a mobile phone, computer, or technical skills…
It Begins with Compassion for Self
If you’ve created and held onto an enemy image of someone for a long time, you’ve been under some real emotional strain. If it’s true that all beings are really one, then you’ve been creating a painful division in your mind. That division separates those you deem as good from those you see as evil. With these enemy images in the back of your mind, your efforts at NVC may have led to frustration and what we might judge as failure. Holding onto enemy images, conscious or unconscious, is hard work. It can be tiring and painful over months or years. To heal from that, you may need to soak up lots of deep empathy!
So take some quiet time to give yourself some authentic, heartfelt self-empathy. Take a long, profoundly compassionate look at how holding these enemy images has been difficult. How frightened or angry you’ve felt. How your need for safety hasn’t been met for so long. If possible, you can find a skilled NVC practitioner to give you extra empathy from a source outside of yourself. Both kinds of empathy may be needed–internal and external. When you feel a sense of relief or release, you’re ready to do some psychic NVC work.
Next, go through the 4-step NVC process as if you were advocating for the person(s) you saw as your enemy. Do this in your own mind, while thinking of the so-called enemy, but not in their presence. That’s where the psychic connection is. It’s most effective if you write down:
1) What the enemy may have observed
2) All the painful feelings they may have felt
3) What needs they were trying to fulfill when they
4) Said or did things you didn’t like or agree with
You may get to a place in your own heart where you can actually feel compassion for the pain of the “enemy” and his unmet needs. If you do, focus your thoughts on him while you’re feeling this profound compassion for his pain. No need for any electronic communication or even an in-person meeting. This will help to shift your own consciousness away from the old jackal judgments behind the enemy images that have plagued you for years. It may also soften the mind of the former enemy. This way he is more likely to be a bit more receptive to requests you make in person or through any other means.