|by Scott Swain
"I see benefits of using Nonviolent Communication (NVC) but I don't want to talk in a way that sounds weird or scripted, which may come across as inauthentic or even manipulative."
This is a concern I sometimes hear from people interested in NVC and wanting to be sure they are investing their time in a process that will truly improve their communication.
First, I want to make a distinction between what is natural and what is habitual. NVC teaches that it is natural for us to connect in a way that reveals our feelings and needs while wishing to know and understand the feelings and needs of others.
| "I want to take my time: to come from an energy I choose rather than one I've been programmed to come from." - Marshall B. Rosenberg |
Second, the intended goal of NVC is not to speak in a formulaic manner. The goal is to use the formula to train our brains to more often empathize automatically. As we get more comfortable with listening and speaking from a place of empathy, our language will naturally reflect this. We may still sound a little different, depending on the situation, but more often than not, the people we are communicating with will feel deeply heard and understood. In my work groups and classes, we practice both "clinical" and "natural" NVC. If you want to be effective, rather than scare all your friends away, I encourage you to practice this.
An analogy that may help:
In Kung Fu we spend much of our time practicing "forms". These are like dances we can do alone or in synchronicity with others. They have a set number of specific moves to be done in a certain order. As we do these moves, we are training our minds and nervous systems. When doing the forms, especially in the beginning, we are self-controlled and may not appear so fluid. Definitely not spontaneous. But when we "spar" or play free form, benefits of having practiced the forms influences our movements to be more fluid, efficient, powerful, and accurate.
This is what NVC is for me; merely a tool to train my mind and heart so when I'm interacting with people, I'm automatically empathetic in a fluid, spontaneous, and authentic way. I've seen this shift happen for numerous people. For myself, this has been one of many benefits.
A couple examples of how something can be said with NVC intention using either "clinical" or "more natural sounding" language:
Clinical: I see your red face, tilted eyebrows, and tight jaw. Are you feeling angry because your need for respect is not being met? [Optional: positive do-able request here.]
Natural: Are you pissed off because you didn't get the respect you want?
Clinical: I see and hear the food in your open mouth as you chew with your mouth open. I'm feeling worry about germs flying into my food. My needs for comfort and security are not being met. Would you be willing to close your mouth while you eat with me?
Natural: When you chew with your mouth open, I worry about germs. [Sometimes it is OK to not express the need or the positive do-able request when it might be obvious. That said, it is important to keep in mind if we are training ourselves to _not_ assume people can read our minds, we may benefit from making the positive do-able request, so as to be sure we are clear and we are practicing this.]