You have an idea of what you want or where you’d truly love to be. But something always gets in the way: the kids’ music recital, the boss wanting that damnable report on her desk by tomorrow, or your neighbour telephoning to say that your dog pooped on his lawn. To top it all off, your partner is angry, complaining that you don’t care anymore.
With the frenetic pace that often challenges life, it’s easy to slide into a reactive state about all of this: fix this.mend that.take the kids wherever.ignore what you tell yourself is your partner’s petulance. There’s usually a story you tell yourself with all of this. Your story might include statements like "he should be more considerate" or "why does everything have to be so complicated?" Often it includes some creative analysis about other people or yourself, words like "idiot" or "egotist" or "insensitive". And most often, your story will include some ideas about who is right and who is wrong. We humans are fairly adept at the blame game.
The weird thing about all of this is that when our self-talk is at its most rich and colourful, we are least in touch with what’s really important to us and to the fulfillment of our own particular dreams. And so life bumps along and most things that really matter get lost in the shuffle.
How do we stop this particular treadmill.. things happening, our reacting, this seemingly endless story of overwhelm and woe? Nonviolent Communication or NVC, a process created by international visionary and peacemaker, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, may provide the answer. The term "nonviolent" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Ahimsa" which literally means "that place of natural compassion when violence has subsided from the heart".
From his pioneering work as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Rosenberg evolved a process of communication and thinking that he hoped would decrease the occurrence of physical and verbal violence. In the early 1960’s he left his clinical practise and traveled the highways, teaching people what he had learned. In 1984 he formed the now international Center for Nonviolent Communication. Today he and his approximately 200 trainers share NVC in over 30 different countries around the world. Dr. Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life has been translated into 22 languages.
So, you might ask, how does this NVC process work?
NVC begins by inviting us to notice our story, not with condemnation for our uncharitable thoughts or actions. Instead, we are invited to notice our lives with compassion and curiosity. Even if my story has fostered words or actions I regret, the process is the same. First, what did I observe that stimulated my thoughts and/or actions? Then, how do I feel as I consider this observation?
The strength and uniqueness of NVC, however, occurs with the next question: "As I consider this observation, my feelings, and the story I’m telling myself, what do I need in this moment?" The words in my story will provide clues to my needs. For instance, if I’m telling myself "why does everything have to be so complicated" perhaps I need ease. If I’m labeling someone "insensitive", then maybe I need consideration or respect.
As I continue this process through various challenges that arise, I continue to become aware of factors that are really important to me: my human needs. And now I’m empowered to look to solutions or strategies that will meet those needs and to fulfilling my destiny. And life becomes a little more exquisite.
Penny is a certified trainer for the international Center for Nonviolent Communication. One of the original founders of the BC Network for Compassionate Communication, Penny has offered training in the Nonviolent Communication process to people in Canada and in the USA since 1999. www.pennywassman.ca