Heart Connection is one of the main goals in NVC (Nonviolent Communication). Recently in my NVC support/practice group, a participant commented on how many words it took to get to the heart of an issue and to resolve it. It seemed like way too many words to this person. Even though the whole conversation was less than ten minutes, they believed it should not take so many words. This was my response:
Is Empathy Worth Digging for?
I thought about your question regarding why it takes so many words to find that heart connection sometimes, as it did with my nephew. Especially when we are in pain from being judged.
When we are feeling hurt and in some pain, NVC is like digging for gold or diamonds. You start digging where you think you will find some empathy or heart connection with the other person. Yet, you may find only dirt and cut your hands on the rocks. Or you may just get painful wood splinters in your hands from the wooden handle of the shovel or the pick-ax.
So if that does not work, what to do? Give up, and tell yourself you are not doing it correctly? Judge yourself as a failure in forging that heart connection? How much do you want the gold or the diamonds? There is always another option: simply to dig some more. Dig deeper in the same spot. Or maybe move to approach the vein of gold from another angle, another tack. Or even try again at another time.
Heart Connection Is Not Always Easy
Yes, it is hard work if you are in pain. Yes, it may cut your hands. You may get painful splinters that will stay in your flesh for some time. But that is the price of finding that golden heart connection that you want and need so much with the people in your life.
If you truly believe that we must always use the four steps with very few words, with pinpoint accuracy, then you may be misunderstanding Marshall Rosenberg’s whole process of NVC. There is no guarantee of quick and easy results. Just as on the golf course, there is no certainty of getting a hole-in-one. If we believe there is, or there “should be,” then we set ourselves up for repeated failure, and harsh self-judgment. We will then judge ourselves as failures. We will quickly assume that we can’t find the heart connection, or it just does not work for us. Only Marshall can “do it right.”
But Marshall himself shares vulnerably that it takes him a long time sometimes, many words and repeated efforts. He calls it “dogging” the person he wants to connect with.
Is There A Psychic in the House?
Now, if we are an accomplished psychic and we can read the other person’s mind perfectly, that’s a different story altogether. If we know exactly what the other person is observing, feeling and needing (unmet needs), then yes, we could just address an issue very quickl. It would require few words, and no guesswork. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Sadly, this is usually not the reality. I, for one, do not claim to have exceptional psychic powers.
Practicing NVC is usually hard work. It starts out with some gentle digging. If that doesn’t bring about the desired heart connection, then sometimes we may choose to engage in deep, vigorous digging or “mining” for that connection. Sometimes we get very lucky and our guesswork is right on. Occasionally we resolve things in a few words. Most of the time, however, we dig here, dig there, try a different angle, maybe give it a rest and come back to it another day. We dig, dig and dig some more before we happen to get to the bottom of it. It may get messy. We may need to use many, many words and have many long conversations before we get to the core truths of all the unmet needs. And then even more conversations to do creative brainstorming to find alternative strategies to help meet those unmet needs. Then, finally, all is well.
Withholding Our Judgments
If we don’t have patience and perseverance in these more difficult situations, if we don’t withhold our judgments, then we will most likely not be able to connect. If we do not understand and accept this rather tough reality, then we will soon get discouraged and think ourselves incapable of doing NVC correctly.
No matter how many words, or how much vocabulary is used, it is all with the aim and intention to find the truth and make the wanted heart connection. Tolerating the abundance of words and guesswork is well worth it if it enables us to find the unmet needs. And we don’t have to suffer through the words. Instead we can just hear and observe them without buying into judgmental thoughts. E.g. “That person is using too many words.” As soon as we use the phrase “too many” or “too much” we have slipped out of observation and into judgment.
Your Guess Is As Good As Mine
The guesswork–all the words which do not hit the target, are just part of the process. Instead of getting lost or feeling confused and frustrated by “all the words”… We can just observe all the “misses” as we wait for those words that “hit” the bulls-eye.
Are you willing to dig through the pain and dirt? Are you willing to deal with the “hit or miss” nature of human connection? If so, you will begin to succeed more and more with your NVC practice. You will begin to develop self-confidence with the 4-step process, never expecting perfection of yourself or the other person involved. You will begin to fine tune your sense of timing…when to dig, when to back off, when to try, try again.