NonViolent Communication changed my life. It’s showed me how to be authentic, to express my truth in ways less likely to offend, and more likely to be heard. It’s taught me how to deal more peacefully with conflict, both internal and external. It’s clarified for me why people behave in the very strange ways that they do (myself included). Best of all, it’s taught me how to be at peace with myself most of the time, and how to cope with and respond to situations that once would have sent me spiraling into depression.
An example: I once took my very excited 14 year old daughter to a cosplay/fandom convention (hence the TARDIS behind me in the photo!), requiring large doses of driving, waiting, queuing, money and sunburn. When we finally got inside, it was very crowded, and my daughter started to lose it. Nothing I did helped. She snapped, she snarled, she whinged. Agh! I’d spent all this money! It was all just for her!! Where was the gratitude? Before, I’d probably have snapped and snarled back, feeling utterly miserable. She’d have slammed the door to her room when we got home and not spoken to anyone for hours, feeling bitter and misunderstood – and I’d have felt the same.
And so, I paused; I noticed how frustrated I felt, how intensely I wanted to snap back at her. I saw how painful this was for me, and how my thoughts of not being appreciated had been with me for a long time. I took a moment to let that part of me know that I cared, that I understood; I took a moment to feel sad, and to notice how important it was for me to know that my feelings mattered too; I made an internal note to myself to find regular ways to better meet my need for mattering. And then, taking a deep breath, I made some guesses about how it might be for my daughter. I knew how much she’d been looking forward to this – how frustrated she must feel at not being able to enjoy it! I guessed that she felt embarrassed about being in such a state in full view of so many people, how desperately she must want to keep it together and look cool, to fit in, to be part of what was going on. Just like me, she needs a sense of belonging, of worth.
It doesn’t actually matter whether my guesses were right. The point is that my guesses brought me into empathy with her. My daughter was in pain, and I was her loving mother, also in pain. And so, I was able to navigate her (and my!) tossing and turning with genuine compassion, and we eventually got home in one piece, a bit the worse for wear, but ultimately whole, with our relationship intact.
The ongoing practice of the four clear and simple steps of NVC (observation, feelings, needs and requests) can bring about huge paradigm shifts that change how you live. Knowing that everyone’s needs and feelings can be heard, can matter, changes everything. I don’t have to put my feelings aside for someone else, to sacrifice myself, then explosively demand my needs be met when I can’t take it any more. I can find strategies that take into account all needs for each of us, and I can do it in harmony with my values, which lets me live in peace with myself, and with others. It starts with self-compassion, and spreads out to take in the whole world.
NVC is the most precious gift I have, and my goal in life is to pass it on, in gratitude and in love.