“STOP trying to NVC ME! Just talk to me like a PERSON!”
Be Quiet. Be Curious. BE GENUINE!
Yes, the much overlooked aspect of genuineness. NVC is, especially in the beginning, a tool that one picks up to experience and foster more compassion in this world. And, others are perceptive enough to see when you’re struggling underneath a formula rather than allowing your natural compassion and empathy to flow forward.
So should I just abandon the formula?!
If it’s tripping you up in the moment, yes, jettison the formulaic language and go for the heart.
However, the more you practice thinking in the formulas (observations/feelings/needs/requests) the more naturally it will come to you, and the more you’ll be able to integrate it into your thought process. So, strike a balance between moving down the path by sticking to the teachings of NVC, and relying on your older methods of offering compassion.
R/R/V is helpful here
Likely, the other person in the conversation is experiencing coercion from you. They’re assuming that you’re ‘using’ NVC to ‘trick’ them into doing something they don’t want to do. Their outburst is likely a request for more control and self-mastery in the conversation, masked by their emotional frustration. Honor their feelings and needs, and offer to move to a space that’s more genuine: “Wow, I get that you don’t like NVC ‘cause it feels strange right now. So I’ll drop it, just tell me what’s going on for you, ‘cause it sounds like you’re pretty pissed.” [note that what we’ve dropped here is the formulaic language… the intent of NVC is still there: “I’m curious. I’m quiet… and now I’m being totally genuine!”
If you are using NVC with a clear goal in mind, or to manipulate the other person, STOP!
Letting go of these end points (even noble endpoints like ‘to make them feel better’) will open up more options for the conversation and lead you to more productive (and compassionate!) paths together.
If someone is triggered, especially triggered by NVC (the way you’re communicating), the best thing you can do is listen.
They are wanting to be heard. In fact, being understood is a human need. Being quiet, especially during conflict, and listening is like setting a stage for another persons thoughts, wants, and needs. When we set that stage, we acknowledge, “I care about you. I care about what you say. You are valued. Your feelings and needs are valuable to me.”
Getting this sentiment across is, in-and-of-itself, one of the most effective antidotes we possess against pain and misunderstanding.
Also, remember the 30 second rule – It can be hard to listen for feelings and needs past 3-4 sentences without reflecting back. And, especially if the person is giving information or a story, you can listen for a lot longer! Try not speaking for more than 30 seconds at a time. And if someone else is speaking, try making breaks in your speech longer than 30 seconds.
From the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:
I commit to growing in self-awareness. I commit to regarding every interaction as an opportunity to learn. I commit to curiosity as a path to rapid learning.
I commit to being right and to seeing this situation as something that is happening to me. I commit to being defensive especially when I am certain that I am RIGHT.
When we’re authentically curious, we’re ‘above the line,’ operating within our Creative Brain. The opposite, ‘below the line’ is attached to a fixed idea of right and wrong, in which the Reactive Brain says “I need to teach this person what makes me right.”
Curiosity is a powerful state. In-hand with quietness, this shows a person when we’re really listening. It shows a person that we care, we are receptive, and we are open to learning from them.
Being ‘right’ is like an addictive drug. So many of us are so frequently attached to our point of view, even to extreme ends: fighting in wars, committing acts of terror to prove a point. Showing detachment from one’s own sense of rightness is like opening a door and welcoming people into your awareness with grace and gratitude.
And curiosity offers more than just a valuable key to listening and empathy. It’s a source of motivation and a crucial element to learning.
“When we adopt the mind of a beginner, we endeavor to look at things as if for the first time, free from the influence of the past or speculation about the future. We open ourselves to what is here now, rather than constructing stories about what we think is here. Much like a scientist who observes without bias, beginner’s mind allows us to collect raw data. This opens us up to new possibilities, rather than being confined by habits and conditioning.” — Tracy Ochester
No matter what you do, what you say, how you sound…if it isn’t authentic, a chasm is created between you and another person.
Ultimately, a certain degree of trust is required for any exchange to happen. We speak because we trust that our words will have value, or some effect. We listen, hopefully, because we are curious about the value of others’ perspectives. If someone comes across as disingenuous, that trust is broken.
Even Nihilists value authenticity. If nothing is real, mustn’t our creation and use of ideas strive for reality, at least?
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche
When you speak to others, show them that you are sincere. It’s usually easy for us to see if a person is not.
Ask yourself, “Am I sincere?” If you aren’t, don’t do it, whatever you were going to do. If you’re chatting with another person, and you find you don’t actually care at all about what they are saying, stop and come back. Check in with yourself. ‘Am I being curious toward this person?’ Am I in Creative Brain or Reactive Brain? If the latter, then Shift!