One very common reaction I come across when introducing NVC is it sounds artificial, formal and contrived in some way.
I’m guessing for many people, imagining using the standard ‘NVC formula’ triggers some nervousness because they need authenticity and ease of communication. They would like to communicate in a way that brings them closer to people and makes it more likely everyone will get their needs met rather than putting up more barriers by using false language patterns.
When a young kid learns to ride a bike they often use extra wheels to support them until they can ride the bike confidently and the extra wheels can be discarded.
I regard the 4 steps, or the ‘formal NVC’, as a set of training wheels to support transformation of how we communicate with each other. I suggest to use the structured formulation of the 4 steps only in environments specifically designed to support learning of NVC. This would include during workshops, practice groups or when writing a journal.
In day to day to communication I think it’s critical to personalise how I express myself whilst retaining the intention and frame of NVC. In British English, training wheels are called ‘stabilisers’ which I think is a great way of thinking about the NVC 4 steps. I can keep the 4 step support wheels to hand when I get a bit unbalanced, but in most conversations I want to ride without them.
Confidence is one of the key ingredients in riding without training wheels.
Imagine you’ve just completed a workshop.
Chances are you feel excited and impatient to use what you’ve learned. Yet no matter how well you’ve taken it all on board, those first steps with people who are important to you will likely leave you feeling a little nervous. You want to improve the quality of your relationships, after all, and NVC could wreck them instead, couldn’t it?
Confidence comes when the words in your mouth fit and feel familiar. It’s like trying clothes on in a store. Not everything you take into the changing room feels right or looks good on you! You try on different items until you find the one that feels good and you can wear it with confidence.
My guess is the basic formulation of “I’m feeling xxx because I need xxx” is not something you would have used before coming across NVC and probably not something you would ever use exactly in this form. And there’s no need to!
When you try these words in your mouth, how do they feel? If they don’t fit, I suggest you find others that do.
I’d like to offer a few suggestions about possible alternatives to the two middle steps of the model. I’ve used as an example ‘I’m feeling alarmed because I need consideration.’
I’m alarmed ..
I’m experiencing alarm right now ..
It’s alarming for me ..
I feel alarmed ..
Silently and showing alarm on my face!
I’m looking for consideration.
I’m seeking consideration.
I’m wanting consideration.
I’m hoping for consideration.
I’m missing consideration.
Consideration is important for me right now.
I’m not getting consideration.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list and I’m also aware these forms may well convey some different meaning than ‘I’m feeling …’ or ‘I need …’. The point is not to find synonyms but to choose words that get you closer to feelings and needs. I view it as a balancing act between picking forms of expression that feel right for you and are more likely to be heard in a way that’s close to what you want to convey.
And when we can get close to hearing each other’s needs we can enter that sweet connection where we can all meet our needs and the form of expression becomes unimportant.
Do you have forms of expressing NVC that feel ‘right’ for you? Please consider using the comment section to share them.
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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