It’s not enough to only study a new language. To learn it means also practicing it by talking and listening to other people who are using it as well. Learning Nonviolent Communication is no different.
Reading about it, watching videos or listening to people talk about it give a decent understanding. Workshops and journalling will boost your learning by providing opportunities to practice and reflect.
Most people find this is not quite sufficient and this is where the NVC Practice Group steps in. I’ve led and been part of several practice groups on my NVC journey and found them invaluable for deepening my skills in NVC and providing motivation to keep going.
If you can’t find a suitable one close by, consider starting one yourself. They are easy to set up, extremely flexible in what you can do with them and put you together with a group committed to learn NVC.
Here’s my Guide on how to set one up.
Basically there are three things to get started:
Invite people interested to learn NVC or deepen their learning. Best to choose people willing to commit to a regular meeting and within a convenient distance.
You can start with any number, though I find the ideal group size is between 5 to 8 people. It needs enough to get some variety in experience and not too large so people get lost in the crowd and have time to work on their own challenges. In fact, you could get one going with 3 people and then grow it to keep some momentum.
I recommend meeting in someone’s home. It’s free, intimate and (usually) comfortable. If you decide somewhere else (e.g. a café) then make sure you have enough privacy for people to share deeper stuff and is quiet.
Office space is usually a bit too formal and is probably not the best environment but can work sometimes.
3. Date and time
I suggest you allow 3 to 4 hours for the meeting. Less than 3 hours doesn’t allow for much more than checking in and out and any longer can make it hard for many people to continue to commit.
Doodle is a convenient online resource for helping set up a day and time – and it’s free.
The beauty of a practice group is its flexibility. You can decide to use the time together in whatever way would be most supportive for the group. I recommend three parts to the meeting and setting a rough time guide for each to help make sure there is enough time for each element.
1. Checking In
Start with an opening circle where everyone ‘checks in’ by sharing what’s alive in them right now. You can either go round the circle in order or give a free space where people share when they are ready. It’s useful for tuning in to the meeting and each other. It’s also great practice in self-awareness, expressing what’s really alive in a concise way and in listening to others with empathy.
At the end of opening circle it’s a good idea to confirm or find the date for the next meeting. Even if you have a regular meeting time, it is helpful to hear who plans to be there and who has other plans.
Around 20 minutes for the opening circle is usually enough.
This is the main section of the meeting and are many possible ways to use this. Here are a few suggestions:
a. structured programme: Follow a structured learning programme over consecutive meetings. This is especially useful for groups who are relatively new to NVC. Lucy Leu’s ‘Companion Workbook’ is a great resource for such a programme.
b. pick a theme: Pick a theme to work with, either before the meeting or at the start. The NVC key distinctions is one place for inspiration or simply brainstorm possible topics and select those with most appeal to the group. During the practice session consider role-playing with real situations related to the topic. Try to avoid only ‘talking about’ the theme which, although often interesting, isn’t really practice!
c. empathy: You may find someone in the group has some stuff going on for them and in need of empathy. Devoting some time to this is great practice for them in finding what’s really alive and for the rest of the group to sharpen the skills of empathy.
d. what’s alive: Often some specific situation comes up, such as a conflict between members of the group, and presents a chance to work with NVC on a live issue. There may also be a member of the group working with a challenge back home and could do with some practice and rehearsal about how they might handle it.
e. training sessions: For more advanced groups, and especially for those where people want to learn how to share NVC, a member of the group might lead a mini-workshop and bring a topic and exercises.
3. Closing Circle
The closing circle allows everyone to ‘check out’ of the meeting by sharing what needs were met and/or not met. What treasures, insights and learning are people taking away?
Make sure there is enough time at the end so the closing circle is not rushed – and that might mean cutting the practice section if it starts to cut into the last 20-30 minutes of the meeting.
Keeping The Group Alive
Starting the group is often the easy bit. Keeping it going requires commitment and energy and rarely happens ‘by itself’. Some things to think about to help keep the group alive:
Frequency, length and place
Some groups meet at the same day every week, time and place. Others take a more flexible approach. Meeting too infrequently or frequently makes it more likely people will drift away. I find meeting every other week works well. Weekly is too much of a stretch for many and monthly leaves too much of a gap between meetings.
All of these are up to the group to decide. The most important thing is to establish and communicate clarity.
My experience is a group requires at least one person fully committed to keeping the group alive. This is someone who reminds people of times and places for meetings, keeps connection with the members of the group between meetings, collects ideas for topics and generally keeps communication open.
Changes to group membership
Inevitably people will leave the group for any number of reasons. Some people drift away and others leave with a more definite ‘I’m leaving’. This is inevitable and rarely a cause for concern. When people do leave, consider getting feedback about anything happening or not happening in the group that led to their decision.
People will also want to join the group, either because they are invited or they found you and requested to join.
There’s no best way – some groups prefer to stay closed to new members and others are very fluid in terms of people coming and going. Either way works provided it’s a conscious choice by the group so my recommendation is for the group to decide early on their policy about accepting newcomers.
Leader or leaderless
Again there is no best way. Groups can function perfectly well with or without a leader.
A leader of a group would usually start and close the meeting and manage the process, in particular how time is used. They might also provide content such as topics or exercises – especially where the leader is maybe someone with more experience in NVC. And if there is a leader this can be rotated between members.
Leaderless groups can function very well with at least a minimum level of structure. Without a leader or a structure they run the risk of becoming a social gathering of like-minded people. That’s just great .. but it’s not really a practice group.
From time to time it’s worth setting aside one meeting for a review. You might consider reviewing the aims of the group, membership policy and how you are using time. The review meeting identifies to what extent the practice group fulfils the needs of the participants and if anything can be changed to meet more needs.
Do you have experiences and suggestions about practice groups?
I’d love to read about them in the comments below.
Tagged with: Teaching NVC
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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