Not a shred of evidence exists in favour of the idea that life is serious.

(Brendan Gill)

On CNVC’s website there is sentence about the purpose of NVC being to ‘work together to meet the needs of all concerned’.

While I love the sentiment I’d prefer to use a different word than ‘work’.

I grew up with a certain concept of ‘work’ conjuring up pictures of effort, seriousness and heaviness. I fully accept these are my own associations with the word but I’m guessing I’m not alone. It misses for me the potential lightness and pleasure had when we truly connect and create something together.

I propose changing the sentence to: play together to meet the needs of all concerned’.

NVC has great power for celebrating life, both when things are going well and during the resolution of difficult situations and conflicts.

Why not approach everything as play?

Dance Together

NVC is sometimes described as a dance of communication. An interplay of honest expression and empathy, step by step revealing something about my inner world and discovering something about your inner world.

I liken it to those long conversations with a new lover. A give and take where we gradually get to know what’s in each others’ hearts. When we are in this period of a relationship everything is a pleasure. Even when we’re sharing about the wounds and scars we’ve picked up on life’s journey there is a delicious lightness and joy in the discovery of each other.

Why not approach all conflicts and difficult situations with the same touch? As a dance of discovery.

The Ups …

I guess for most people it’s much easier to imagine playing together when we are celebrating life. Expressing gratitude and appreciation is a great opportunity to share how our actions are making life more wonderful.

I suggest making it a regular practice.

In our home, bath time is play time for our 18 month old daughter, Sara. It’s also the time of the day we each express gratitude for what treasures life has brought to us that day. Sometimes this is about day-to-day stuff  we’ve noticed and it keeps us from taking for granted those things we might otherwise call ‘chores’. At other times we’re grateful for more significant things or have been reminded of a quality or feature of our lives we especially enjoy.

We’ve built this into our daily routine and Sara is joins in. She’s only just started using words and most of what she says makes sense only to her but last night, for example, during this time was telling us a long story in her own baby language, complete with laughter and smiles. We don’t need to make sense of it to connect with her joy.

… and downs of living together

Why not take coming together in conflict and dealing with the downs with the same lightness we take celebration?

I’ve long believed how we’ve learned to resolve conflicts is a problem – not the conflicts themselves. I see them as inevitable when two or more people are trying to live together in any way. They are also wonderful opportunities to learn something and connect with the deeper currents of our humanness, provided we bring a certain awareness and skill to them.

NVC suggests conflicts arise when our strategies for meeting our needs are different from the strategies of the people we live with (in the broadest sense possible). In other words, how we try to meet needs come into conflict – not the needs themselves. As such, conflicts represent a window into our unfulfilled needs covered by a curtain of strategies. We can choose to keep the curtains closed, or open them to peer through and see what’s inside.

Conflict may come hand in hand with unpleasant feelings (anger, fear etc.) but there is no good reason we should identify ourselves with those feelings. I prefer to simply hold them as signals of an opportunity to enrich life!

When a conflict arises we have a choice about how to relate it. We could choose to see it as difficult or dangerous or something we have to work at.

We could equally choose to see it as positive, a chance to learn and to create something new. Why not play at resolving these conflicts that inevitably show up? I don’t mean being silly or immature but rather welcome them with lightness, warmth, a sense of humour and joy.

To finish, I recommend this TED talk on the subject of play. It’s set in the context of Bulgaria and the business world,  but I believe the video applies to us all.