(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. For more on services offered by Steve Pollack, please visit www.mediation-usa.net)
When people are new to NVC, one of the patterns I’ve observed, especially with people in challenging relationships, is a sort of rejoicing and celebration of having found a communication tool so powerful that it gives them tremendous hope. It appears to be the ultimate way to address and eventually resolve all the ongoing relationship issues.
Then comes a precarious thought: If only I could get my spouse to take this up with me! That would be ideal, because it is a whole new language and I’m going to need support and encouragement along the way, and so will my spouse.
So, I often see one person in the relationship give an NVC book or DVD to their spouse. They invite their spouse to the NVC support group as well.
More often than not, all this enthusiasm falls kind of flat on the spouse. They may feel overwhelmed by it, distrustful or anxious. Especially if his or her strong suit is not talking about feelings and needs and all that touchy-feely psychological stuff. Sometimes they won’t even finish reading the book or watching DVDs. Sometimes they refuse to go to the support group.
A gulf then begins to widen between the two partners. The one left to learn NVC on her own may feel disappointed or lonely, their need for support and encouragement left so unfulfilled.
The enthusiastic one may even lose some steam when she sees how challenging it can be to attain a “black belt” in NVC–to function at that level of consciousness where one speaks in purely nonviolent terms and is able to give deep empathy when needed. With time, she may be tempted to blame the partner for aborting the NVC ship, and for carrying on the same old hurtful ways of communication as before.
In some scenarios, the partner is willing to read the book, watch the DVDs, or attend the practice group and to be generally supportive of introducing this new language of life. But then real life may upturn the apple cart with all its twists and turns, ups and downs. When the chips are down, and the enthusiastic one is at the end of their patience, they may lash out with angry, jackal words. The partner is tempted to point out, in hurt and resentment: “That’s NOT NVC you’re practicing there! You’re a big hypocrite!”
After seeing this play out more times than I care to remember, I began to suggest a strategy to NVC newcomers: Start out as a closet NVCer. If they’re willing to take this to the extreme, I suggest they might even choose to hide the books and DVDs.
I’ve found that an ounce of practice is worth tons of theory. Nothing will inspire curiosity in a partner quite like becoming centered in your own fledgling NVC practice. Nothing will attract them more than seeing the transformation NVC inspires in your own empathetic way of responding to stressful jackal outbursts from your spouse.
Before you get to the “black belt” level of NVC practice, you may feel delighted to hear your partner ask if you’ve been doing or learning anything new. Then and only then is he or she starting to open and become receptive to the possibility of joining you in your exploration of this nonjudgmental way of being and communicating. And only at their own pace and level.
Even if they don’t pick up the book or watch videos or attend a practice group, they will at least be exposed to your example as you model the process time after time.
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For more information about Steve Pollack’s services, please visit www.mediation-usa.net
In the Miami area? You can attend Steve’s NVC Support Group by visiting www.nvccoachmiami.com