Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!
I start with the question with which I frequently start conflict resolution sessions in order to focus on people’s needs.
A need, as I define it, contains no reference to specific actions, such as spending money or not spending money.
Need is separate from action.
I said to both sides, “I’d like whoever would like to speak first to say what your needs are in this situation. After everyone understands the needs of everyone else, then we’ll move to finding some ways of meeting the needs.”
In conflict resolution, it helps both parties to say clearly what they do want—rather than what they don’t want—in order to meet everyone’s needs.
There are four stages of Non Violent Communication (NVC)
Stage One: Empathic Connection
- Being present: I extend empathy to a person who is hurting, angry, or frightened by being fully present to what is alive in that person, without offering any judgment, diagnosis, or advice.
- Connecting with and checking out current feelings and needs: I do so out loud only if:
- My intention is to verify that I have accurately understood and connected with the person, and
- I sense that the person shared vulnerably and may appreciate verbal empathy from me. My focus is on what is alive in that person right now (as a result of what happened in the past) rather than on the story and past events.
- Staying in empathy: I stay with the person until I receive visible signs that the person is finished (e.g., a sense of relief or a quieting down).
- Checking in: I ask, “Is there more you’d like to say?”
- Receive post empathic request: What would the person like from me in this moment? (Information? Advice? To know how I feel after having heard them speak?)
Stage Two: Mourning
Mourning in NVC requires becoming conscious of my current unmet needs as a result of specific choices I made in the past. For example, in the role-play between the brother and sister, the brother says: “Sister, when I see how my actions have contributed to your pain, I feel very sad. It didn’t meet my need to nurture and support you in a way I really would’ve liked.” As he mourns, the brother also connects with the feeling that now arises (sadness) from those unmet needs (to nurture and support the sister).
NVC mourning is not apologizing. Apologies are based on moralistic judgments involving admission of wrongdoing and the implication that some form of suffering will “make it right.” In NVC mourning, I ask myself whether my action met my needs. If not, I ask myself which needs I didn’t meet and how I am feeling about it.
Stage Three: Acknowledgment of Past Needs (That Led Me to Behave as I Did)
- Following the stages of empathic connection and mourning, the earnest question I may hear asked of me is, “But why did you do it?” I make certain that the person has received all the empathy needed before moving to this next stage, where I address the question by connecting with the needs that I was trying to meet when I behaved as I had.
- For example, in the mother–son role-play, after the mother empathized with the son and then mourned in his presence, she acknowledged what had led her to behave toward her family the way she had: “I never had the feeling that my needs mattered to somebody. I just got desperate and expressed it in the only way I knew how: out of desperation. And then I saw how it affected other people, and I got even more desperate. I just felt such a depth of sadness that I didn’t know other ways of saying, ‘Hey, I’m in pain, and I need some attention.’”
- Just as mourning is distinct from apologizing, the mother’s compassionate self-forgiveness based on connecting to her past feelings (desperation, pain) and needs (for caring attention and “to matter”) is distinct from rationalization or denial of responsibility.
Stage Four: Reverse Empathy
- After the person in pain has received full empathy, has heard my mourning, and has understood the needs I was trying to meet through my behavior, that person will feel a natural desire to turn around and empathize with me.
- When this happens, we will have completed the final stage of healing. It is critical, however, that this occurs only when there is a genuine urge on the other person’s part to empathize with me. Any sense of pressure or a premature invitation will simply contribute to furthering that person’s pain
Three steps in managing anger using NVC
- Identify the stimulus for anger, without confusing it with the evaluation.
- Identify the internal image or judgment that is making you angry.
- Transform this judgmental image into the need that it is expressing; in other words, bring your full attention to the need that is behind the judgment.
These three steps are done internally—nothing is said out loud. Instead, you simply become aware that your anger is not caused by what the other person has done, but rather by your judgment. Then it’s time to look for the need behind the judgment.
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