Connection before Education

I love sharing the tools of Nonviolent Communication.

The local coordinator of Voices for Freedom approached me with the request to run a workshop with the title “Bridging across Differences”. Of course I said ‘yes’ to this invitation, always keen to share the tools of NVC. The topic was how to keep the connection during times of polarisation and division. In this blog I will share some of the concepts that came up during this session.

Connection before Education
Over the last year especially, I have experienced again and again how people are busy educating each other without first establishing a connection. More often than not, the result is that both people end up dissatisfied with the conversation; neither have their need to be heard met. Each one is trying to convince the other about what is right or wrong, but the words disappear into nothingness. Create awareness whether a connection has first been established. Then establish if a mutual willingness to hear each other’s points of view has arisen. These steps may lead to a more effective and satisfying interaction.

The Power of Reflective Listening
When hearing another person’s anger in the way of blame, criticism or judgment I aim to have my biggest giraffe ears on. I know that their expression of anger in this way, is a tragic expression of an unmet need. When I go to a place of thinking they are ‘wrong’ to express themselves in this way, I’m actually continuing the cycle of verbal violence. So instead, with my extended giraffe ears, I want to remain calm. To do that, it really helps to reflect back the words they have just said (shouted) and then make some guesses… ‘You’re really angry eh? you really think I should have been more careful on the road, instead of driving into the back of your car?’ Then I can guess the feelings underneath the anger (which is one of the life-alienating, ‘top’ feelings)… ‘were you really scared, upset, annoyed’ and connect them to some beautiful needs underneath… ‘I guess you wanna have safety, ease and predictability in your life?’ I want to really connect with those universal needs behind the anger and it will support me to be present with the other person. Using this way of empathy will let the other person know that I have truly heard them. This can be a powerful way to transform the conflict into connection.
If appropriate, I want to acknowledge that I am glad that the other person has expressed him/herself. I prefer their sharing above any kind of suppression of feelings.

Request and Demand
NVC is based on the understanding that each individual is, ultimately, solely responsible for the fulfilment of his/her needs. Once there is an awareness of our need, we can look at certain strategies to fulfil this need and this can lead to a request of self or someone else to support this. A request is purely an invitation to self / someone to take a certain ‘action’ (in the widest sense of this word) that would support the fulfilment of my need. The key to this request is the choice that is experienced in this request. If there is the slightest inkling of pressure, reward, punishment or expectation, the ‘request’ is in fact a demand. The only options the other person has, are to submit or rebel.
What is crucial in the difference between request and demand is the response from the person making the ‘request’. Is a ‘no, I don’t want to’ just as acceptable as a ‘yes’? Only then will it be obvious to the person saying ‘no’ that the question was a true request.
When a request gets met with a ‘no’, further dialogue can follow

Instead of playing the game “Making Life Wonderful”,
we often play the game called “Who’s Right”.
Do you know that game? It’s a game where everybody loses.
~ Marshall Rosenberg ~

2 thoughts on “Connection before Education

  1. Thank you so much for this 1 day workshop. I have some new tools and some old rusty ones I am now putting g to use. I loved the feelings and needs cards.


  2. Thank you Irma for sharing this. It’s so funny I was thinking about contacting you while just yesterday about what to do when I have to deal with Cherifs blame and anger at me and you’ve just answered it!! Xx B


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