Thoughts on Nonviolent Communication
Through communication, I’ve always found connection. It’s been an exchange of information, a means of offering my thoughts and a way to learn from others. I’ve used it to express myself; it’s allowed me to share my experience, and in turn, it’s allowed others to share their perspectives with me.
But with that, there have been moments when communication has granted me control, times when I’ve leaned into its persuasion. Abusing communication shifts it into a territory of influence and power dynamics, and I’ve found this most often within my own personal dialogue.
I’ve looked for strategies and solutions, answers for combatting what feels like chronic negative self-talk. But everything has felt like an oversimplification, a generalizing and condensing down of my feelings and thoughts, never really addressing what’s wrong, nor getting to the root of the problem.
A part of me has always been aware of the many resources that can help me work against this, but no combattant to this negative inner dialogue has ever resonated with me so deeply as self-empathy.
Self-empathy is a component of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Also termed Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication, the practice offers us a strategy for tapping into our needs, others’ needs, and how we can align to reach these together, or when we must fulfill these needs ourselves.
Its success is dependent upon reflection and questioning each step of our experience. With this, we become clear on our role and objectives in our communication, composing our words and directing our thoughts so that all needs are met.
I love this about NVC, the esteem to which it holds intentionality in our communication. It begins with this idea that we come into our interactions and relationships with a personal compass that’s in-step with our wants and needs. In that way, it’s personal, but empathetic, and when we approach our interactions by assuming these shared universal needs, it levels the playing field. We enter conversation with compassion, care, and an acknowledgement for what we’re asking in that given moment.
Too often, I’m quick to judge myself and I’m far more likely to self-criticize than to extend it towards others. So I’ve tried being a bit gentler and more understanding with myself, approaching my feelings with curiosity and replacing this judgement with self-empathy and Nonviolent Communication.
Lately, I’ve been trying to work on intuitive eating. For those who don’t know, intuitive eating is way of eating that disregards diets, putting meal plans to the side, and ignores concepts like “discipline” or “willpower” that are so often used in the language surrounding weight loss. I know that when I do the opposite, separating myself from the truth of what my body wants, I berate myself, knocking myself down, disapproving of my actions. What if I could speak to myself with compassion for the reality and true depth of my emotions? Let’s see.
1) Observation: See and specify what you are doing and any judgement you have about those actions. Example: When I notice I’m eating without feeling hungry… When I notice I’ve finished a meal without tasting my food… When I notice I’m reading or using my phone while eating...
2) Feeling: Ask what you’re feeling. Example: I feel distracted. I feel like my body is disconnected from my mind.
3) Need: Connect that feeling with a need or value and ask what isn’t being met. Example: I have a need for pause, for quiet and relaxation. Following this, allow yourself a moment to “sit with” or “feel into” the nature of that need and understand its importance (a pause, quiet, relaxation) to you.
4) Request: After you take a moment with that need, ask if you have a request for yourself. Example: Am I willing to inhale deeply for three breaths before continuing to eat?
And I did. I’m writing this after having snacked before dinner when I would have been fine waiting another hour for the meal. It’s happened before, and I’ve beaten myself up for it, either skipping dinner or falling down the rabbit hole of eating without enjoying or truly nourishing myself.
Using self-empathy and NVC resulted in a more relaxed, kinder me, allowing me to eat dinner slowly, really chewing and tasting each bite. I shifted my perspective and met my own needs, breathing stillness and compassion into my actions and experience.
If you’re strapped for time, or if the moment is so overwhelming that you need immediate support, know that you can streamline these questions as well, by simply asking what you’re feeling and what it is that you need. I’ve extended this condensed version to conversations that become heated, and to times with myself when it feels like anxiety and tension will overtake any calm these emotions just replaced.
NVC relieves me of doubt and distrust in the challenges that I’m confronted with, and instead lets me trust that I know how to speak so that everything I’m feeling, everything I’m needing, is communicated and understood.
I’m a novice with NVC, holding a still nascent-knowledge of its practice and process. But reveling in this beginner’s mindset, I’m curious, interested in how I can learn more and how I can delve further into its benefits and applications to other areas of my life.
One way I’m learning more? I’ll be attending We Myndful’s next event on the morning of November 28. Kathy Marchant will be sharing her expansive knowledge on Nonviolent Communication. As a coach and consultant who leads workshops and classes on NVC, and having trained with Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of Nonviolent Communication, Kathy has a breadth of experience that I’m looking forward to hearing about.
I’ve leaned upon her website as a resource, versing myself in NVC, what it is, how to practice it, and what it opens you up to once you allow it into your life. I’m more than intrigued, I’m excited about the possibilities of its application and how Nonviolent Communication can improve how I express myself in my relationships and show kindness and patience to myself.
(Blog contributor for We Myndful)
Fullerton, Elaine (February 2009). "The development of "Nonviolent Communication [...]” Behaviour4Learning. GTC Scotland.
Miller, Ali. “Self-Empathy” Befriending Ourselves. https://www.befriendingourselves.com/Self-empathy.html 2009.