Quick Project Update: Nonviolent Communication

I am now more than halfway through my 30-day project to focus on nonviolent communication (NVC) and practice it via social media. Want to give a quick update just to make sure I share something before it ends. This has been enormously helpful to me so far.

Social Media

The commitment I made via this blog was to practice NVC via social media at least once a day for 30 days. The social media aspect is primarily just to keep me focused on the bigger project of focusing on developing my nonviolent communication skills. I’ve actually been getting tired of Twitter as a result of this, but I do have trouble concentrating, so it’s been helpful to the end of NVC. I’m impatient to be done with Twitter for a while, but it’s the easiest way for me to stand by my commitment.

A Month+ of NVC

I made a much bigger commitment to myself: to really spend 30 days focusing on nonviolent communication, in order to build a strong foundation of NVC skills. I plan on continuing to focus on it after 30 days, but haven’t yet laid out (much) how I will ensure that I continue to work on it.

I won’t try to say what the future holds, where this will take me in the long run or even where I’ll be tomorrow. I don’t want to force things with predictions, as I think I did that a bit too much with my last major self-confidence project. But I am sure, after more than two weeks of this, that I cannot live anymore without a continuous effort to improve my nonviolent communication skills.

Since beginning this project, I’ve gone from feeling very uncertain of my life, feeling kind of dead inside, to feeling a peace, a harmony, an inspiration, a sense of being alive, and a confidence that I hadn’t felt in … frankly, ages. I don’t think any of these things are either/or, but that they’re all on a scale. However, there’s a certain point on the scale of fulfilling each of these needs that feels bad, another point that feels okay, and another that feels great. I’ve gone from feeling mostly bad to feeling mostly okay or good in these areas.

At first I focused a lot on expressing feelings, especially via Twitter. But in general, the biggest focus for me so far has been on human needs. That’s ultimately what it’s about. At first I focused a lot on expressing my own needs, and that’s opened the doorway to focus more on being present to others’ needs. I find myself immediately thinking of NVC and needs every time I’m in a conflict or thinking of an ongoing conflict. That’s a major step in itself. It’s stops me from spiraling into all kinds of violent thoughts.

Concentration

I focused on NVC most when I was rereading Rosenberg’s book, practicing it at the same time. Since then, it’s been less and less, but I’m still thinking of it throughout the day. I tried to find the book in French in order to motivate myself to reread it, but I’d have to actually order it from France, which is expensive. I did luckily find 19 podcasts that simply read parts of the book in French, and I’ve been listening to that while biking, running errands, and at work. I’ve already replayed it more than 5 times. I’ve also been reading bits in French online about NVC.

I went to the library recently and looked for books on NVC, as apparently Rosenberg published a number of others. I found one other book, which I’m planning on reading either this month or next month. It’s available electronically to anyone with a D.C. Public Library card, from anywhere.

I’ve been having a lot of interesting conversations about NVC. Whenever I talk to anyone in any depth, the subject of NVC has come up and become a major topic of discussion. This also helps me to focus on it. People like talking about it with me now that I actually have a strong grasp of the basics. One person I started talking to about it suggested that I facilitate a workshop on it for an organization I’m part of, and told me she wants to help me organize it as she’s on the steering committee (and I used to be). Obviously I’m not going to be facilitating as an expert, but I love this idea. That should help me stay focused on NVC after this month-long project ends.

Conclusion

I didn’t go into much detail here as this is just a quick summary. For more details, please follow me on Twitter @purityismyth. And stay tuned for more posts here as I’m planning on sharing more about this project and NVC. This is really changing the way I think about self-confidence.

Quick NVC Practice: Right now I’m feeling optimistic about the impact NVC will have on my life. I’m also feeling peaceful and pleased due to having written this post: it has met my needs for creativity and order. Order because I never post as much as I’d like, and because this is actually organized enough to post (unlike a draft I wrote a week ago). And I’m a little anxious, because I don’t publicize this blog much and don’t expect many people to read it. But the more sure I am of what I’m sharing, and the more sure I am that others will appreciate it without judgment, the more I want to share what I’ve written.

À vous : How about you? How do you feel reading this post? Has it helped you meet any of your needs, or left you feeling like any weren’t being met?

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30 Days of Non-Violent Communication (NVC)

Yesterday I decided to start a new project: for 30 days, I will practice nonviolent communication (NVC) on social media. NVC is based on the framework presented by Marshall Rosenberg in his book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. I’ll explain below how this is related to self-confidence, but first a brief summary of NVC.

This practice can involve any aspect of the NVC framework. It is essentially a way of practicing empathy through language, and it consists of four components:

  1. Observation without evaluations.
  2. Expression of feelings related to observation.
  3. Expression of met or unmet needs and desires that lead to these feelings.
  4. Concrete request for action that will help meet these needs/desires.

There are two parts to this, and one needs to participate in at least one of these parts to participate in NVC:

  1. Expression of our own observations, feelings, needs/desires, and requests.
  2. Listening for the observations, feelings, needs/desires, and requests of others without evaluating them.

Self-Confidence

So what does this have to do with self-confidence? A lot. NVC can be practiced with oneself as with another, because we can speak violently to ourselves as well. Of course, how NVC impacts our relationships with others also greatly affects our self-confidence. For this is a language of affirmation: of affirming our reality, our experiences, our existence, and of working to fulfill all our needs. What can be more confidence-inspiring than that?

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Confidently Shy

It’s totally okay to be shy. To say that “confidence is sexy” isn’t much more profound than saying that cuteness is sexy. There are many ways to be confident; all of us are in different ways. It’s not always a good thing. Confidence means “with faith,” or without doubt. Doubt can be a good thing. That’s why it exists.

Ironically, I used to think or fear that I had to be some idealized, masculine kind of self-confident in order to find a healthy long-term sexual relationship. I had love interests who told me that shyness was bad, or that “confidence” was their type. I thought I must change, I must mold myself to that type. The reality is that we just weren’t that compatible.

By trying so hard to be confident in ways that I wasn’t, I kept attracting people into my life who wanted or expected me to be confident in ways that I wasn’t. Now, instead, I am interacting with a lot more people who appreciate my kind of self-confidence and don’t expect more than that.

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Travis T’s Drag Show Debut

This is my debut in a drag show:

“Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer
Blues dancing with Ray/Red.
The End of the World Show
Location: December 2012 at Phase One

King Ken, founder of the D.C. Kings, says that s/he grows more confident as a man on stage, taking on the theatrical role of a man. Confidence, as a man, just fits, because society programs men to be more confident. Drag king shows are to a large extent parody, intended to exaggerate and highlight masculinity as a social construct – as a social role.

I, too, felt much more comfortable flaunting socially constructed masculinity, with shoulders up and back – as a drag king. My friends told me afterward, “I had no idea you had so much swag. Sexy!” I almost never have friends tell me I look sexy, except for those who I am already sexually involved with. Of course, the drag king, as performance, is already more sexually charged, but it was certainly encouraging to receive these unusual compliments. I wouldn’t mind more women tugging on my tie on the dance floor. ;)DC Kings

The drag king performance is but another way to role play self-confidence, and a relatively easy space to do so – because the audience is expecting it. I even managed to do it through a sad, John Mayer break-up song.

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Finding My Unique Confidence

One thing I have realized from writing this blog and doing The Self-Confidence Experiment is that (self-)confidence is not a monolithic concept. It’s not an identity that defines your whole being. Even as I currently use “Self-Confidence” as my screen name, I realize that this is not my identity. To say, “I am self-confidence / self-confident,” can obscure the fact that no one is completely self-confident – that confidence comes in many forms; there are many ways to be self-confident, many aspects of ourselves and the world to be confident in or not.

Upon consideration, this is probably obvious, and yet, it is not how we talk about self-confidence in particular in our society, in our language. We like to say, “I’m very confident,” to describe our whole being. One reason for this is power dynamics (politics): to admit we are not 100% confident is to admit vulnerability, and many of us have fears of losing social power in doing so, especially men. One of the results is that many people pretend to be perfectly confident when they are not, but often without much if any of the self-reflection with which I conducted The Self-Confidence Experiment – they mask fears with a relentless façade of confidence. Confidence becomes linked to other forms of identity policing, based on purity of identity: Real men eat meat. Real Christians go to Church. Real women have XX chromosomes. True Scotsman don’t run. Identity policing is a tautology that can’t be proven wrong, like the existence of God. Noting that confidence derives from Latin for “with faith,” the parallel with Christianity is unsurprising. The result of this closed ideology is that self-doubt, self-reflection, and questioning are discouraged. For one must not violate the purity of the identity, lest one lose the perceived privileges with which it comes. One must not admit that one lacks confidence, lest one lose the privileges of being perceived as confidence.

As I detailed on this blog during The Self-Confidence Experiment, there were privileges that I found in pretending to be self-confident. I found that people were much more positive toward me. But while there were short-term and long-term benefits to this experiment, I actually took the whole act a bit too seriously. For a while, I wasn’t sure how to reconcile confidence as role play with confidence as authenticity. Now that I had some people viewing me as more confident than before, I was afraid to admit when I had doubts, when I regressed in some ways, especially since I wasn’t yet sure how to weave them into uplifting and cohesive thoughts.

What I have come to realize is that role play is but one of the many forms of confidence, but one of the many ways in which we may grow our self-confidence. Thus, by pretending to be self-confident – or self-confidence itself – I can let go of some fears and experience that natural, positive feedback that results in social settings and the universe. I can imagine new ways of being – role play is but an act of the imagination, and a very human one at that. We all role play, we all identity play, so to speak. Learning to loosen up the grip of certain identities by stepping into new roles is a healthy form of social and intellectual exploration. Even lion cubs do it when they play fight. It is a form of play.

As knowledge increases, beyond a certain point, confidence in one’s own viewpoints goes down.

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Secondary Blog

I have not updated in far too long, but I have started a new, secondary blog on self-confidence. The new blog is a tumblr blog, and it’s less formal. The reason I’ve started the new blog is because oftentimes, formality creates writer’s block, or at least makes it more challenging to write. I want to continue blogging about self-confidence without worrying that every post is thoroughly thought-out and polished. Some of the posts might be very stream-of-consciousness. This way, I will be able to post much more frequently. Some of the things I write on the new blog might end up here, too, more formally.

So if you’ve enjoyed this blog, but want more frequent updates via tumblr, please check out the new blog: The Self-Confidence Advocate.

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21-Day Self-Coaching Challenge

I am committing as of today to do 21 days in a row of daily self-coaching, for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Last time I said I was going to do it for 21 days, I did not make it into a daily practice – I never explicitly said they had to be in a row, but that’s part of the problem. Now I’m posting it here to enhance my level of commitment, and I want to tell you a little about what I’ve experienced so far and then the details of the challenge.

I have found these little sessions to be amazingly powerful. By recording them on my iPod/iPhone (using voice memos), I’m able to hold myself accountable to completing the 30 minute sessions. That is, to completing 30 minutes of intense, productive focus! Even when I’m at my laptop with the usual potential of getting distracted by a million little things, I just talk myself out of them by keeping the recorder on. The difference between using the recorder and not is incredible.

With only 8-10 complete sessions behind me, I have already accomplished so much. Continue reading

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