Before diving into the premises, let’s first take a moment to answer the question, ‘What is Nonviolent Communication (NVC)?’
Nonviolent Communication (aka Compassionate Communication), founded by Marshall Rosenberg, is a specific approach to communicating – both speaking and listening – that leads you to give from the heart, connecting you with yourself and others in a way that allows your natural compassion to flourish.
While you may not consider the way you talk to be ‘violent,’ words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for others or yourself.
NVC is founded on language and communication skills that strengthen your ability to remain in control, even under trying conditions.
Find out more about the NVC process here.
This is an interview with Dr. Marshall Rosenberg – the founder of NVC. It describes the genesis of the project, and is a shortened version of a longer interview that you can find here.
To be clear, I share NVC as a modality of yogic practice, and therefore my style of NVC offering has a distinct Yoga philosophy flavour. This is not the way all trainers share it, and if you are looking for something different you can find a full list of Certified trainers here.
There are 10 key premises outlined in this Bay NVC Blog Post by Inbal Kashtan and Miki Kashtan, which is the inspiration from which I write. I will cover the first five in this post and the second five in a future post.
Okay! Onto the premises!
NVC suggests that we all have the same Needs, although the strategies we use to meet these Needs may differ.
On this view, conflict then occurs at the level of strategy, not at the level of Needs.
Needs are intangible, and examples include:
Here is an example of the difference between Needs and strategies:
I invite you to take a moment to acknowledge your need for security. How do you meet that Need in your daily life?
– One strategy might be working a job with an annual salary and a pension.
– Another strategy could be installing an alarm system in your house.
– And the strategy that you potentially thought of may well be entirely different!
Invitation to Practice:
Next time you disagree with someone, notice that you are disagreeing with their tangible strategy for meeting one or more of their intangible Needs.
And see if you can silently guess what their Needs might be!
This is an important practice in NVC: silent empathy for others.
Consider for a moment that
Every judgmental thought you have ever had about yourself or someone else
Every mistake that you have made
Every success that you have had
Every word that you speak
Is simply an attempt to meet a Need.
This is a premise in NVC, and when I consider this, I feel relief in my body.
I am not my judgmental thoughts. They are not something necessary or fundamental about me.
I am not my mistakes or my successes. They do not define me.
I am not the words that I speak, and I am not chained to them.
Yogic success is defined as, “control of the (moral) character of thought.” (YS I.2, translation by Dr. Shyam Ranganathan)
To be able to control your thought, you first need to relate responsibly to your experiences.
This premise in NVC helps me to lay a foundation for that responsible relationship.
This premise creates space between me and my experiences so that I can appreciate the contingent circumstances of the past when I chose to think, say or do something.
This space creates the opportunity to change these contingent circumstances in the future so that I can think, say or do things that most effectively meet my Needs going forwards.
“Feelings may be triggered – but not caused – by others.” – Miki Kashtan
I appreciate this sentence so much because when I read it because I remember that I can choose to be in the driver’s seat of my experience.
When you feel some kind of way about something, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) suggests that this feeling is actually data and feedback about your met or unmet Needs. Nothing more, nothing less.
(like affection, interest, gratitude, hope, peace, etc.)
indicate that Needs of yours are being met in a situation.
(like annoyance, anger, confusion, embarrassment, fear, stress, pain, sadness, etc.)
indicate that Needs of yours are not being met in a situation.
Can it really be that simple?
It turns out.. yes! It can.
Since I was born I was taught to blame everything external to me when I experienced dense feelings.
Even my daycare teachers told me about how sad I made them when I did something they deemed wrong.
This taught me by example to outsource and offload responsibility for MY feelings.
This also taught me that I am responsible for OTHER’S feelings.
Looking back, I see how this narrative upholds the values of western imperialism:
Yield to the authority – who is not you – because they know better. And don’t step out of line.. it’s your job to keep others happy.
I am grateful to be unlearning this narrative and stepping into empowerment and self-responsibility.
NVC as an expression of Yoga philosophy is an incredible tool for creating space between yourself and your experiences.
This fourth premise of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) really captures the ethics of Yogic practice:
Release expectations and outcomes as motivators for action, and instead focus on the practice itself as intrinsically good and therefore worth doing.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Well if I just had this…” or “If they just did that… then I’d be happy.”
But NVC posits that the most direct path to peace is NOT through having every single one of your Needs met in the exact way that you want them to be.
The most direct path to peace is through Self-Connection.
How do you practice Self-Connection?
A very impactful NVC tool for me has been a Self-Empathy practice, where I take a particular situation (expansive or contractive) and distill it down into its components: what happened, my feelings about what happened, and my Needs within that situation.
Only when I take this self-responsible, self-connecting, systematic approach to a situation do I understand it, and it is through that understanding that I find peace.
Peace is not about other people doing whatever you want them to do. It’s not about achieving some kind of goal.
Peace is alive in Self-Connection.
And NVC is a modality that can assist you in this practice.
The Yoga Sūtra starts by presenting a basic, internal choice that you get to make:
Either you choose to take responsibility for sorting the content of your experiences, or your choose not to. (Yoga Sūtra I.2-.3.)
All other decisions that you make rest on this foundational choice.
This is why NVC as a modality – and Yoga as a moral philosophy – are so empowering!
You don’t have to wait for anyone else. You do not need other people change. You don’t have to attempt to control anything that is outside of your control.
You are simply practicing making the internal choice of self-responsibility instead of offloading your responsibility onto causality.
The result of practicing Yoga (through a modality like NVC) is that over time, responsibility (rather than causality) will become the primary explanatory factor of your life
This results in your ability to abide in your essence as a person (aka occupy a space of PERSON-al freedom). Yoga Sutra I.4.
It all starts with this primary, basic, internal choice.
Are you willing to practice taking radical responsibility for your life?
I hope that you enjoyed moving through these first five premises with me! Keep an eye out for the next five coming out soon.
And if you have found this post interesting, please consider sharing it with the people you know by clicking one of the icons below.