(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, and making humble requests rather than demands.)
1. In a phone conversation, a neighbor was criticizing me harshly for not being as observant as others are of what goes on in our condominium parking lot, comings and goings, whose car is parked where, etc. When I heard him say, “And I fault you for that!” I felt a flash of hurt and anger, but then I remembered how much I wanted to practice NVC in my communications. So I stepped back for a moment and translated his words into the pain of his fear and worry of being mugged (he’d been mugged twice in a decade), and his unmet need for informational support and understanding from me. Just looking at it that way took the pain away almost instantly. I felt amazed and grateful for that revelation, and was able to connect compassionately, through nonviolent or compassionate communication with my neighbor.
2. I once took a container of crafting clay to the infamous WalMart customer service desk, where the line seems as long as the Great Wall of China. I waited in line for 30 minutes to get service. I asked to return it for a refund. On seeing my store receipt, the woman said, “I can’t use that receipt–it expired last week. I felt irritated and frustrated for having spent 30 minutes in line, and wanted to rebel angrily against the big corporate rules. Instead, my NVC training kicked in and I focused on how hard it must be on this woman to have to uphold these rules while facing countless disgruntled customers. So I smiled and said, “Now I’m kind of frustrated … it’s just a few days past the receipt expiration date… I need a little compassion here, can you please ask a manager to help us?” She did, and in a couple minutes I’d returned the clay and was happily on my way.
3. Another corporate NVC encounter went like this: My wireless phone company insisted on charging me $50 to replace a defective phone, which in another couple of weeks, would have been replaced for free under their “new every 2 years” phone replacement plan. I paid the $50, and waited a few weeks for my feelings of irritation and disgust to mellow so I could communicate about them in a more calm way. Then I emailed the company, saying, “I feel deeply annoyed and dissatisfied with this new-equipment charge, considering I’ve been with your company over 4 years. I need some fairness, gratitude for my business, and some greater value and efficiency with my funds. Would you be willing to waive the $50 fee promptly for me?” They waived half of it. I wrote to remind them that many other carriers are wooing my business, and that I’m not willing to pay any of this fee. They then waived the other half.” Right then and there, my basic NVC skills paid off in dollars and sense, and saved me from getting upset all over again!
4. A friend was struggling with deep-seated feelings of anger and rage toward some people in his life. I gave him empathy on the phone for nearly an hour. Afterward, he said he’d never even tried an NVC approach of looking at the unmet needs that were triggering his anger, and felt hopeful that now he could do that.
Until next time, I wish you lots of NVC breakthroughs and compassionate successes!