Sounds like NVC, must be NVC …?

I’m on a number of mailing lists of NVC providers, publishers, and organizations. Lately, I’ve been noticing that my idea of the consciousness of NVC isn’t always matched by what I’m reading. The following is an excerpt from an newsletter that I read, which shall remain unnamed:

Focus on Needs
Stay focused on needs/values. (Have a needs list available for people to reference.) People can more readily accept and value what’s being said when needs are clearly stated.

It’s easier to warm up to the statement “The way this case was handled didn’t meet my needs for fairness and equality and I’m wondering if you’re willing to explore with me how it might be handled differently in future” than the statement “I was treated unfairly and that’s unacceptable.”

The author is giving a suggestion for how to speak in a more connecting way. I had an “ick” reaction to it instantly, feeling at first annoyance. Obviously my own judge and jury were on duty, there. Then I felt sadness and discouragement as I realized I have a longing for a deeper, more meaningful shift in consciousness so we all might live in more harmony and peace.

What I read above is our same old habitual thinking cloaked a new formula for talking. This is an example of my least favorite form of expressing needs: “That doesn’t meet my need for…” which sounds to me like a vague demand, and is a form that also usually has some criticism wrapped up in it. In the above I hear a statement that, while less obviously ouchy than the original statement, is outwardly directed and still rooted in judgment.

Figuring out what to say instead of “that’s unacceptable,” or whatever, without addressing the thinking that underlies the urge to say such a thing won’t get us far in nurturing a connection. It’s an inside job, as the saying goes. If I’m having a story that I was treated unfairly, just finding a new way to say, “Hey, you’re treating me unfairly” won’t help me release my moralistic judgment (they did something that was unfair) and make a heart connection with another human being. I might take some of the sting out of my statement so they freak out a little less, but I will not get to the yummy place of joyful collaboration.

I’m wondering if people experience some small relief from that little shift in their language. If they find a new way to speak that stings less, perhaps they will be willing to accept the results of mild de-escalation as success. “Hey, they didn’t freak out on me nearly so much! Cool!”

I don’t want us to stop there. I don’t even want us to start there. The yummiest, most connecting, transformative shifts I’ve experienced are shifts in consciousness and thinking. When I’m free of judgment, moralism, blame, attachment, etc., I don’t have to practice how to talk. My words will flow naturally in a way that illustrates my intention and focus on serving life.


  1. NVC Evolves » Blog Archive » Vague demands and “honesty”:

    […] at an IIT. My partner Holly had more to say about these issues today in a post called “Sounds like NVC, must be NVC …?” I recommend her […]

  2. Emma McCreary:

    I resonate with your post. I am often frustrated as a student of NVC. I don’t want to just learn a new way of saying the same judgmental/closed off things. I want to really change my consciousness, because I think my words will naturally flow when I’m in NVC, and when I’m not in NVC consciousness, then I’ll just be using NVC-language in an essentially violent way. I’ve found myself doing that a lot and I feel frustrated. I want to do the juicy connected real stuff, but I can’t always access it. I try, and I come up with NVC language but not NVC consciousness and so it doesn’t help.

    I find a lot of the teaching is focused on the language and wording rather than the consciousness. But it feels like such a radical shift to how I was trained to believe I’d get my needs met that just having the language doesn’t necessarily shift my instincts for violence.

    Do you have any recommendations for how to learn or remember NVC consciousness itself rather than just the wording/tools?

  3. cheekyboots · non-violence in grubby little pieces:

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  4. Holly:

    Emma, I appreciate and was so inspired by your comment that I responded with another post, called “Connecting with NVC Consciousness: It’s Not in the Words.”

  5. The Hollosphere » Blog Archive » Connecting with NVC Consciousness: It’s Not in the Words:

    […] appreciate Emma’s comment and question to my post, “Sounds like NVC, Must be NVC …?” Emma expresses frustration at how easy it can be to find oneself simply masking old, […]

  6. Niklas:

    I’m relieved to read this and also a bit surprised. Maybe I assumed it to be clear, that the “juice” doesn’t come from the words but the intention. And like in many other things I do, focusing on the intention rather than on the instrument lets everything sort of fall into place. So I find myself in what you write, Holly.

    The last workshop I had with Marshall Rosenberg, he made very clear that the most important thing to him is intention, not communication style or wording. Apart from that I’m aware of some trainers who would not consider “fairness” as a need. They might call it “extrinsic” rather than “intrinsic”, since it is still based on the moralistic idea of what IS fair and what isn’t and by that demanding a certain kind of behavior from others which makes any deviation from that difficult to accept and connect to. Behind this “need” for fairness I sense a need for understanding and space to talk things out. Inclusion might be another name for it. And by connecting to this need, the person who has it might come up easily with something that he/she could do to meet it right now. That would help a lot to be open to what can be done about it now. And not earlier.

    I find it important that NVC is really used for transformation and liberation - not for repressing the pain that is caused by judgemental and seperating thinking and not for manipulating others into meeting one’s needs. Like you said, the juice isn’t flowing that way.

  7. Ray Taylor:

    Hi Holly and Emma,

    Emma said:

    > Do you have any recommendations for how to learn or remember NVC consciousness itself rather than just the wording/tools?

    There are several things that I and others have found helpful:

    * - compassion to your own feelings through felt sense

    * mindfulness - check out Thich Nhat Hanh

    * despair work -

    * mother’s and children - body links of hope


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