When ending a workshop I sometimes warn participants of the ‘alien effect’ .
Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself?
During the workshop you’ve identified situations where NVC is going to transform your life and you, understandably, want to jump in with both feet and give it a go. Your energy, enthusiasm and expectations are all high and you get home and open your mouth only to discover your dearly beloved ‘guinea pigs’ are not as excited about your newly discovered skills of honesty and empathy as you are.
You may well be treated the same way an alien would be received if it suddenly appeared on the doorstep.
How to handle this and make it easier on those around you when you start to integrate NVC into your life?
Here are 4 suggestions:
1. Step into their shoes
Whenever you are on a post-learning ‘wave’ I suggest, before you get home and ruin everything by opening your mouth, you first imagine what it might be like for your dear ones. Just take a step into their shoes for a moment.
You used to talk in a particular way and you used to listen in a particular way and, while you might not have been perfect, you were at least predictable and ‘normal’. Then you went on some strange workshop (or got engrossed in some oddly titled book) and you come home and start talking in a peculiar way. You’re using words like ‘needs’ and ‘strategies’, you talk about your feelings and have a strange glint in your eye. The tone of your voice is different and you seem to believe you have developed super-powers of telepathy.
Your loved ones might be forgiven for concluding you’ve been abducted by aliens or a cult and been subjected to some kind of new-age brainwashing!
By stepping into their shoes you can more easily adapt how you start to bring NVC into your life and you can respond with empathy.
2. Stay authentic
Stay true to yourself.
Empathy goes a long to move past the alien effect but you will make it easier by using language patterns familiar to those who know you. Keep the essence of NVC alive while keeping your basic communication style, at least to start with.
This means, no matter what you’ve practiced in the workshop, never, ever say something like:
‘When you do xxx, I feel yyy, because I need zzz.’
I left out the request in this example. I know its suggested by the NVC model but my experience is this is usually missed out at first, either because of forgetfulness or because the other person has already freaked out and just can’t take any more.
Use your own words, your own ways of expressing things – just without the judgements, evaluations, blame and demands.
3. Intention first, words last
If you’re going on a trip, the route you take and your destination are more important than the map in your hand, though the map might be helpful. The photographs of the places you pass through are less real than the places themselves.
When you communicate, your intention is far more important than the words you use. Words are simply pointers to help you follow a path and take your partner with you. If the words don’t help then don’t use them.
This will largely be influenced by the associations the other has with the words you use.
Take the word ‘need‘.
You will surely have created your own meaning from what you’ve read or heard about it. NVC adds a definition to what you already know, perhaps in a way that resonates with you. Others may well have different meanings and associations when you use the word ‘need’ . Many associate need with lack of something, as being clingy and dependent, or as something ego-driven. Maybe they associate it with weakness or desire or demanding.
If talking about ‘needs’ creates a barrier to understanding and connection, choose words that don’t. Find synonyms that are close to the meaning but are more likely to be heard how you want.
4. Baby steps
If you’ve seen the film ET you will recall the alien creature is revealed bit by bit. He doesn’t jump out of the closet and expose himself in one flash. This makes it easier for the boy to gradually get used to the idea that he has a creature from outer space in his home . He may well have freaked out at sudden exposure and attacked it.
If you change how you communicate too dramatically, those who know you will likely feel confused, suspicious and worried. They need security, understanding and trust. When you, apparently overnight, speak differently they will probably question your authenticity, maybe your sanity.
You can make it easier on those around you by integrating NVC into your life without sudden and dramatic shifts in your language. It may mean patiently introducing the changes you want over time and allowing those around you to get used to it.
This is not about hiding or manipulating. You could announce:
“Hey look, I’ve been learning this thing called Nonviolent Communication and I really like it. It’s quite a change to how I normally think and communicate. As I learn it I want to make small changes here and there as I build up my ability to use it well. Would you help me with this?”
If you don’t have the patience, just want to get stuck in and are quite ok with being treated like an alien, just remember – ET had to leave Earth!
Welcome! I'm Ian Peatey and this site is one way I share Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by writing articles and sharing information about NVC materials, news and people. I hope you'll be a frequent visitor.
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