For the past couple of weeks I have attended a training session in Marshall Rosenberg’s non-violent communication skills. I was attracted by the idea of doing it every Monday night for five weeks, in the next suburb. Like going off to a community choir, but instead of doing scales we practice fundamental communication skills. I had a good time the first night, feeling quite moved by an exercise (“empathy poker”) where other people identify one’s basic needs in response to a few hints about a recent experience. The next week, feeling cocky, I bowled along to be confronted by my own inability to recreate or articulate my actual feelings about an irritating conversation. I went completely blank. And was humbled by the challenge to do something, on face value, both simple and profound.
A core skill of NVC is to distinguish between feeling and needs. In order to gain a strong sense of choice and autonomy in difficult circumstances. Feelings are not really ‘thoughts’ as we often talk of them (“I feel that you are really lazy”). They have a strong body aspect, and we often jump to huge inferences about someone else’s fault, when we are hurt by them. NVC teaches how to listen in a way that is generative for others, not blaming them or limiting their sense of freedom and liveliness in communication.
I look forward to next week’s training, with feelings of both excitement and, since last night, trepidation
If you want to learn more about NVC, Marshall Rosenberg, and the valuable network around his work, go to http://www.cnvc.org