(Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also sometimes referred to as Compassionate Communication, and is based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands.)
As I started on this journey of sharing the learning of NVC, I occasionally ran into a really tough customer. The kind who’d insist to me: “NVC doesn’t work! It will NEVER work!!” In fact, I once had someone blurt this out in the middle of an NVC workshop!
I used to feel flabbergasted and frustrated on hearing this, because I needed a bit of faith in my abilities to share an understanding of the NVC process, and I needed some ease and support in my teaching work. I also felt befuddled, wondering why on earth anyone would come to NVC workshops if they believed with such conviction that it will never work?
Sometimes I responded with a sort of 12-step attitude adjustment, saying “It works if you work it.” I’d remind them the great power of NVC is in the attitude shift that it helps us to make, to see the “enemy” or “opponent” as actually a friend and ally. Also, to see our own angry jackals as friends helping us become aware of our unmet needs.
Other times I responded saying it’s really a matter of faith. If one reads Marshall Rosenberg’s book, “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life,” it would be very hard to say it just won’t work. It sure worked for him in some remarkable instances of tremendous anger and even violent opposition.
Even if one has faith in the NVC process or the pure language of compassion, does one have full faith in himself? In his own ability to work it.
Finally, I chose to just agree outright with anyone who claims it will not work. I say, “I agree with you, NVC will not work.” Period. Because when we think of it as a “language model” or a “technique” that we are “using” just to get our way over someone else’s way…it will never work.
Because it is not a “model” at all; Rosenberg himself clearlys sees it as a process which is organic and fluid. It is not a technique, because that would imply we are trying to manipulate others to give us our way, and we don’t care equally about their needs.
It is, however, an organic process of connecting empathically within ourselves and with others to come to a mutual understanding of our human feelings and universal human needs. In tense or angry situations, that does require that we remember our spiritual consciousness deeply, so that we can hear someone’s jackal words hurled at us, and not take them personally. And if we do take it personally and feel deeply hurt and extremely angry, even for a moment, we can give self-empathy or issue a “nonviolent scream” and remove ourselves from the situation until we are able to reconnect with our deeper compassionate nature and try again.
Please feel free to quote me on that: NVC won’t work. It’s not designed to. If we, on the other hand, read between the lines of the so-called “language models” and “techniques,” we will know that it’s really about getting into a purely compassionate or spiritual place in the heart. Once there, we are not trying to work a technique or get a certain response…we can then be fully in the now moment, we can be a compassionate, empathetic presence to whatever or whomever appears before us. And we are much more likely to connect with them in that state.
It is refreshing to hear this no-nonsense approach which does not just sing the praises of NVC but looks at it as more than just a model. A language model implies a sort of perfection, and I don’t believe we are perfect, nor is NVC perfect. It keeps evolving and changing with the times and the varying needs of individuals because it is not 100% complete or perfect. It is practice that makes perfect, and who can practice NVC all the time, perfectly?