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Connecting with yourself through Nonviolent Communication

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The way in which I communicated was direct, enthusiastic and convincing. At first sight functional for my work as a teacher, but furthermore frustrating in my personal relationships.

I thought authentic . Until I discovered that my way of communicating turned out to be more of a strategy to fulfill my need for safety. Still clinging to the fearful illusion of duality, to bonding patterns and protective mechanisms, I constantly tried – unconsciously – to find safety outside of myself.

At the same time, I lacked space and freedom and so longed for connection! How could the language of NVC help me realize that connection?

sincere curiosity

Who wants to be convinced? Nobody, I suspect, since no two people are identical and therefore will never experience the same inner world and – thus – outer world. Connecting with the other became impossible when I worded something too firmly, filled in instead of checked, and so went into my persuasion mode.

Precisely a genuine curiosity, about what lives in another person , gave me the key to connection. It was the key to freedom, to allow the other person the space to stay (with) themselves and for myself the key to discover what authenticity really means. That started with a sincere curiosity about what lived in me!

From head to heart

Marshall B. Rosenberg ‘discovered’ a language in his life with which we can enrich each other’s lives on a daily basis: Nonviolent Communication. A way of communicating that intuitively reminds us of how good it feels to experience connection from the heart, of natural compassion.

And although this language consists of four imitable steps in the way of communication, I myself appeared to get stuck listening to my heart when practicing with this language.

My world was one where analyzing and rationalizing were so familiar that I wanted my head to answer the question of what I was feeling. Although my head could reason perfectly how I should feel, albeit throbbing with my perception of the circumstances, my heart tended to have other feelings.

stay with yourself

Just as unconditional love for me starts from the love for myself, so does the connection with another, my palpable desire, also start with connecting with myself. The first step is perception, an objective description of that which is . The heart responds to this with a feeling.

What follows is listening to the need that lies behind this feeling and noting: is this need being fulfilled or not?

The last step, as far as I’m concerned, is the most powerful in the NVC language: formulating a request. It gives this language a bit of vulnerability: I ask something of myself or the other person and this can be followed by a “no” . Staying true to yourself means to me that I or the other person does not say “yes” to everything.

Shortcut

Many seemingly insurmountable conflicts in education, politics and relationships have already been resolved in connection through NVC, but in the meantime I myself was involved in a fierce conflict between head and heart. It was (and is) a process of becoming aware, listening to myself and daring to feel.

In the meantime, thanks to this language, I have learned to replace the question to myself how I feel with a loving ‘Do you feel…?’ . It turned out to be the shortcut to my heart. When I ask myself, “Do you feel disappointed?” “Does it make you sad?” or “Do you feel uncomfortable?” , then I can more easily connect with what lives in my heart than when I give my head the space to think about how I feel.

By going to my head, I gave myself little room to feel through the emotions that were actually being touched.

Self-empathy

For me it is liberating to no longer depend on another to be heard. Listening to myself, to the feeling that lives in me, offers me the space for self-empathy.

If I have given words to the feelings in me that have been touched – that required an enrichment of my emotional vocabulary – I can determine for myself what need is at play here – or needs are at play here. I also check this by giving myself suggestions: “Do you need to be seen?” or “Do you need some rest?” . The answer becomes clear to me. Loving kindness, that’s how I experience it.

And that loving kindness to myself is for me the starting point of compassion for everyone else. A world in which we do not try to convince and condemn each other, but connect based on empathy.

Creativity from your head

If I have let the facts pass by (observation), have listened to my heart (feeling) and understand what is important to me (need), I can formulate a request (strategy). I discovered how much pleasure it gave me to use my creativity to create freedom and space for myself. The more strategies I could come up with, the more freedom and space I was allowed to experience. This was a nice task for my head! It’s a very practical way for me to get back into my power (or stay in it). It fills my need to play – with words!

Life enriching in the morning

I have experienced NVC as life-enriching from the very first moment. I realize that learning a new language – because that’s how I experience it – takes practice. Practice with myself, practice with others. Listening without judgment, with loving kindness to myself and to the other, offers me what I was looking for.

Yes, I still often feel frustrated in the morning when I prepare breakfast in the kitchen and it is anything but quiet and friendly around me. However, I can fulfill my need for rest in so many ways, even if my children’s energy at 7 a.m. is expressed in an unacceptable number of decibels for me. Because of course I can ask them to talk in whispered voices, to get dressed in their bedroom, to first discuss with each other what they will be playing with… I can also put in earplugs, turn on some quiet music, close the kitchen door or hide in the toilet for 5 minutes to come to my senses again.

By seeing these possibilities for myself, I can give the other person – my children in this case – the space and freedom to say “no” to my request to them. I give them the space to remain their authentic I-jes, I allow myself the connection with myself. And I allow myself to see my authentic self , with its need for early morning rest, which I can fulfill in all kinds of ways. I grant myself this space and freedom!

presents

I always find the great thing that when a sincere ‘yes’ follows a request, it also creates a feeling of happiness in the other person. My children enjoy giving me ‘a present’ that they know will make me happy: they enrich my life in that moment when they do something that fulfills my need for rest.

At other times, they enjoy giving themselves “the present” in fulfillment of the needs that matter to them at the time. The greatest gift for me is staying in touch with myself, which I hope to pass on to my children by living it out in this way.

Can you connect with yourself, by feeling what wants to be felt in your heart, discovering what needs you have and letting your mind think of the ways in which you could fulfill these needs?

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