Updated: Jun 19, 2021
Happy Friday lovely humans!
Today I write to you inspired and empowered with the topic of NVC!
NVC is Non-Violent Communication.
When I was first introduced to NVC, it seemed pretty basic to me, and not very impressive at all.
It was just a way to communicate without violence, meaning, without aggression. Which didn't seem all that challenging to me considering I don't express anger very well to begin with. It didn't feel like a useful tool to learn.
Something quite interesting happened...
I began USING it!!
Here is a piece about NVC, how I used it, and why it's so so sooooooo important for us all!
The main thing I've come to learn about non-violent communication, is that there has to be a certain level of respect for the person you're engaging the conversation with. If you don't care what this person is saying, why converse in the first place? For some people, conversation is a way to express oneself to whomever is nearby, whether they are listening or not is irrelevant. But for others, it's a tool used to actually be heard and understood. If you want to be understood by the person you're speaking with, it means, at least on some level, that you care what they think. And if you care what they think, that means you have some respect present.
The reason I'm talking about respect is because, with NVC, one of the most important things I've come to learn, is that you must be willing to listen to the other person's perspective about the topic at hand.
You must be truly, genuinely, authentically willing to listen to the other person's side of the conversation.
It's good to note here that if you're speaking to a friend about the weather, NVC isn't really required. But if you're talking to a partner about an issue that is bothering you in your relationship, the probability of one or both of you getting triggered, or offended, by what's shared is quite high. In this case, NVC is the tool to use.
So, respecting the other side of the conversation.
I like to bring up difficult topics by naming them flat out.
"I would like to discuss [insert topic here] with you. Are you in the space to hold this conversation?"
This shows that you are transparent with your intention for this conversation. There are no surprises around the corner, no tricks or games that will put your conversation partner on the spot. No one wants to be on the spot. It usually doesn't go very well when people are unprepared to face a hard topic.
Therefore, no games, no tricks, just flat out "this is what I would like to discuss with you", and then "are you able to hold it now?" This question goes such a long way.
Imagine you want to talk to your partner about the other day when they triggered you, and you bring this up to them as they come through the door after a long and exhausting day at work. The chances of them holding this conversation fully and respectfully is much lower than if, say, after dinner and the children are off to sleep and you and they have had some time to do whatever. That would probably be a good time to bring this up. And again, if they are not in the space to converse, respecting that now might not be the best time. It's also in your best interest to wait for the right time, so that the conversation you want to have is held fully from both parties. Remember, NVC means talking WITH someone, not talking AT them.
The next beautiful thing about non-violent communication is letting go of ego. If you can't let it go for very long, then at least for the duration of the most important part of the conversation.
Here is where I will include a little example:
The other day my partner and I were just chilling out. He was telling me a story, and a thought crossed my mind. A thought that was quite persistent and would not let me focus on my partner's story. At that moment, I realized, not only was I not sharing this thought with him, I was also not listening to his story at all. "Can you hold on one second?" I stop him. I had chosen to stop him and share the thought so as to be done with it and go back to listening to his story.
In the moments that followed he told me "I love you.. but I really don't like it when you do this..."
To my past self, that would have been a major trigger. To have a loved one tell me they don't like something I did. My inner people-pleaser would have been ashamed and humiliated. But NVC kicked in to the rescue. "Oh! First off" I tell him "thank you for voicing this with me. Let's talk about what it is exactly you didn't like, and more importantly, why? What's behind that trigger for you?" By holding space for his sharing, I showed that I was respecting him, and was truly interested in what he had to say.
"My intentions are not to trigger you" I said "so I will be more mindful in the future in this regard. But while I'm more mindful of this, it's important that you are mindful of your own trigger, and what it stands for." The second part here is oh, so important. Otherwise, I would begin walking on eggshells around his triggers, which doesn't serve to heal. Both parties have work to do now. I will be mindful of his trigger, and he will explore it more deeply with the intention of healing it over time.
"And while we're on the subject of triggering each other" I decide to share as well "here is one I felt the other day. It seems like a good time to bring it up. Are you able to hold space?"
Non-violent communication creates a platform on which we can express ourselves in a safe space. A space of non-judgement.
Imagine following all the steps (that are not set in stone, by the way, you can create your own steps onto this platform), only to find that the person you've engaged the conversation with is judging what you say and responding with aggression. That would definitely get those shield of yours up like THAT [snapping fingers].
How to deal with someone who responds aggressively:
You can begin by naming it as such. Seeing it for what it is. This person is presently in a trigger, making it difficult to get anything across. This is why it's important to choose your timing accordingly.
But if, just by bringing it up, this person enters the trigger, then you can simply let them go first.
Let them share everything what they think or feel about the topic. If this topic triggers them so immediately, be the bigger person here and let them share first. All the while, listening to what they say. Hold space for their sharing, with non-judgement. Hopefully they are not rude or nasty. But from my experience, I find that people are a lot less rude, and a lot more responsive if they are listened to wholeheartedly.
So let them share. And when they're done, thank them for their sharing, and for voicing to you how they feel about the topic. That is the point, after all, right?!
Then you can begin your part of the NVC.
Last but certainly not least, an important ingredient to include in the soup of NVC is empathy and compassion. Step into the other's shoes for a moment as they share their point of view. See the situation from their side and understand why they feel the way they do. It may surprise you to find out that they simply need some tender loving care. In which case, I humbly urge you to provide them with it, if possible.
By understanding one another, by providing safe haven for each other's thoughts and feelings, by creating a space of non-judgement, we can rest into the knowing that we are seen, respected, and loved. And from this platform, beautiful relationships can arise.
As always, with love and kindness,