In my last post, I said I would continue to focus on nonviolent communication (NVC), and I have. It hasn’t been in as structured of a way as I would like, but I have definitely continued to focus on it and reap the benefits of doing so. I also just gained so much from that one month of focusing intensively on it that has stuck with me, and the benefits are continuous.
Some examples of how learning NVC has benefitted me since my last post:
1. I’ve had an ongoing, profound boost in confidence in my ability to deal with conflicts and therefore to maintain healthy relationships. Which has spread to confidence in other areas, such as my job.
2. I’ve been able to maintain a good relationship with my boss, and feel like I’m actively maintaining it rather than him just being in a different mood about me. Once he said to me, “You don’t care, and it shows.” In the past, I would have just heard this as a judgmental criticism, as him not caring about me. And I kind of did at first. But then I decided it would be more beneficial to both of us if I simply listened for his need here. Why was he saying this? Not because of me—he was saying it because he was needing something. Although I did not go as far as asking him what he was needing, I did listen for it and make a guess and change my behavior to try to meet the need I guessed.
A few days later, I asked for a raise, and got it. This was the first time I had asked him for a raise, and I was quite pleased with the result. I’m even more pleased because I’m pretty sure that when I told my coworker, this gave her the confidence to ask for a raise for herself and another coworker, which they also got. All three of us had been discussing this for a while.
There was also a moment with my boss, when he was berating me over and over one night (he was a little drunk) for something minor. I was frustrated and angry and scared, and I finally burst out at him with some expression of my frustration, without verbally blaming him. I don’t remember exactly what I said, and it wasn’t perfect NVC, but it was something like, “I feel stressed out when you talk to me like this!” And I didn’t say it in an angry tone of voice, or an exasperated one: I said it in a stressed out tone of voice, to make sure he heard my pain. Although his response was a defensive one—”I feel stressed out when…”—it mirrored mine. It was a step in the right direction—instead of merely criticizing me, he was now expressing his feelings.
After that, he literally told me, “get out of here,” in a dismissive tone. But I went home at least feeling a partial sense of relief at having expressed my pain and feeling partially heard. I would never have expressed my feelings in that way before studying NVC.
3. I read a book called Empathy recently. This book mentions NVC and focuses on the importance of asking questions and listening in order to develop empathy skills. Together with what I learned from this book, I just feel like a generally better listener. I have better conversations as a result. I feel more open to people.
4. Love life. I haven’t been dating exactly, but I do have a lover of sorts. We really like each other and want to date again when the time is right. When she expressed great pain to me over what she is currently going through, I didn’t know what to say, but I knew what to do: I just leaned my head toward her and touched her head gently, to let her know that I heard her pain and understood and empathized. I think she appreciated that. Shortly after that, I asked her how she was doing, and to my surprise she said she was doing quite well, happy to be sitting there with me.
When I saw her again, I ended up feeling anxious about her. I won’t share the details here, but I normally would have held this anxiety inside and tortured myself over it. Initially, I was so afraid to let her know how vulnerable I was, especially knowing how vulnerable she was feeling about something else in her life. However, as soon as I woke up the next morning, I expressed this anxiety/vulnerability to her and let her know how it was related to her. I did this using the framework of NVC. What was I observing, feeling, needing? And the message she sent back was enormously helpful, and beautiful, and intimate. At this point I was like, okay, this is helpful because it helped me meet X and Y needs—and that’s all I really needed. It’s amazing to me how simple it was to get those needs met—once I expressed them. Incidentally, I also made sure to try and help her get those same needs met at the same time.
I barely know this woman, but I know that I feel a very deep connection with her. It’s far too soon to say if I could fall in love with her, but I do consider it a possibility, and that’s something. Moreover, knowing her gives me a new hope and openness to falling in love. For the first time in at least 5 years—actually, maybe ever—I can really imagine myself falling in love in a mutually beneficial way that doesn’t end in endless suffering. However, without NVC, I don’t think I would have this renewed hope. It is with NVC, and by experiencing the power of NVC with her already, that I have found this hope. I now trust myself to catch myself—or to help the other person catch me—in that “falling” part of falling in love.
Now I have shared some of the ways that NVC has positively impacted me over the past few months. Here are some of the ways that I’ve continued to stay focused on it:
1. Rereading bits of my book on NVC, including my French mini version.
2. Listening to the French podcast on NVC.
3. Listening to YouTube videos where Marshall Rosenberg talks about NVC.
4. Discussing NVC in Facebook groups.
5. Talking to people about it. I met up with someone from OKCupid with the express purpose of discussing NVC, back in November.
6. Participating on the Memory Circle open conference call for remembering the life of Marshall Rosenberg, who died on February 7, 2015 (this month). The call was moderated for a week, and has turned into a call just to practice NVC. This has been really beautiful and helpful for me. You can find more info about this on the CNVC.org website.
I am also considering organizing an NVC/empathy discussion meetup as a way to celebrate my birthday coming up in two weeks. I am only afraid that it will end up being stressful for me since I struggle with public speaking, and have never done this before. This is why I haven’t made up my mind, but I need to decide very soon.
That’s all for this update. I have come to think of NVC as my north star of healthy communication, and I deeply believe this. So you can expect more from me on this topic.