Talking & Walking the Razor’s Edge
Sometimes I’d start to feel sure I’d finally got this NVC discipline down. I was balancing upon the proverbial razor’s edge, avoiding judgmental words left and right. Then, out of the blue, an NVC trainer would tell me of yet another figure of speech that has inherent shades of judgment. Suddenly, I’d be trying to kick yet another word out of my vocabulary. My learning curve would start afresh.
Black-belt NVC: Is it Just “Too” Much?
A simple word, like “too,” can seem harmless. The conventional wisdom considers it okay. But let’s say you want to soar to the highest levels of NVC consciousness known to humanity. Suppose you aspire to take your NVC practice to the Olympic, black-belt level. My friend, you may not be using the word “too” quite the way you used to.
“Too” is such a convenient qualifier that I found it one of the hardest ones to give up. “Too fast, too slow; too skinny, too fat.” Ever heard this one: “You’re just too sensitive!” Or “You’re insensitive because you do too little to help around the house.” (Or, “you don’t do enough around the house to help me out!”) Same goes for the prefix, “over-” as in, “You are so oversensitive!” It also applies to the prefix, “under-” as in, “You’re such an underachiever and an under-earner.”
The uses of “too” and “over-” are endless. Their implied judgmental meanings slowly chip away at the hearts and minds of many. It’s like an abrasive cleanser: it may be a quick way to surface-clean something. It may be convenient. Yet it leaves behind woeful scratches and dull spots. Relationships lose their former luster and shiny appeal. Open hearts tend to close down to protect from the judgments.
The Razor’s Edge Alternatives
Just as you can try a gentler cleaning agent like SoftScrub, likewise you can soften the harsh effects of “too.” You can make it a habit to follow it with specific phrases, like “for me,” or “for my liking.” E.g., “Your salsa is too hot and spicy for me.” That way, at least you’re not making sweeping generalizations.
You can soften the “abrasive scrub factor” even further by eliminating “too” at times. An alternative is to refer to your own likes or preferences. E.g., “Your salsa is more spicy than I prefer, or hotter than I would like.” Do you see the difference in tone? Even if you don’t intend to sound haughty, “too” can come off sounding like a broad, judgmental pronouncement. The alternative way sounds more like a specific, personal preference.
If the NVC substitute for “too” is to tell the person what you’d like, it’s easy to reword things. “You’re rattling on way too fast” translates into this: “You’re talking faster than I’d like. I’m a bit frustrated and confused…I need a few moments after each thought to fully absorb it. Would you be willing to speak more slowly for me?”
The Ultimate Pursuit of the Razor’s Edge
Remember, these are among the finer points of NVC expression. If you’re new to this practical philosophy of communication, it may seem more difficult than you’d like. (Notice how I didn’t say “too” difficult?) I share these finer points here just to illustrate the higher levels of language purity that are possible. Sometimes, even for beginners, it can be intriguing or inspiring to be exposed to the black-belt level of a discipline. To see the razor’s edge path that is always there, always beckoning us to take up the ultimate challenge in nonviolent communication.
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Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also referred to as Compassionate Communication. It’s based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands. For more on services offered by Steve Pollack, please visit www.mediation-usa.net
In the Miami area? You can attend Steve’s NVC Support Group by visiting www.nvccoachmiami.com