How to manage a difficult conversation with Non Violent Communications
by Christian Norman, 11th December 2020
In our quest to better equip you to lead a more confident, empowered and stress free life I will be exploring different new age tools and techniques so you don’t have to.
Nonviolent communication is an approach to nonviolent living developed by pacifist Marshall Rosenberg in the beginning of the 1960s. NVC is taught as a process of interpersonal communication skills designed to improve compassionate connection to others.
Having worked with a team in San Francisco a couple of years back I had heard of Non Violent Communications as a way to help managers have productive and non confrontational meetings with fellow staff members. SF had a reputation for being a bit hippy but for me this was at its height of emotionally conscious business management.
Having signed up for a double weekender introduction it became clear to me this is not solely a new age business tool but an insanely helpful tool for your emotional tool box when dealing with just about anyone. Since practicing the technique I have used it while dating, with my housemate, my boss and a young girl I saw crying by the side of the road. Once a classically awkward Brit I would strain for the right things to say and more often than not put my foot in it. Many people spend their lives dying to be understood and desperately trying to understand those around them however they just haven’t been shown how. Lucky for you it’s actually kinda easy once you get the hang of it. So let me share with you the 411 on NVC and how to manage those difficult conversations.
How to manage a difficult conversation
- Check in with yourself, how are you feeling and what do you need. I would try one of our hypnotherapy sessions to go deeper into yourself and find out how you’re really feeling and needing. Draw it out, journal, anything that helps you get clarity on the situation.
- Is your intention connection? If not please go directly to jail; do not pass go, do not collect $200. Sadly if you want to control, judge, condem or punish etc then you most likely won’t come out of this conversation in a good way. Intention is primary and language is secondary but still important to connect with someone. It’s a language of connection over control. Control leads us to confrontation and resistance. Connection breeds empathy and leaning in to others. Ask yourself - am I trying to connect or am I trying to control? Being right is a form of control and domination, asserting myself over you my view is better than yours.
- Prepare for this conversation. As you are just learning I think it’s important to run through what you are going to say and deal with any emotions that arise while practising - that way you will be less reactive if it gets a little bit heated later on.
- Let’s start with the problem. Make your Observation. This is crucial. You need to take the sting out of what hurt you and you can’t make any accusations or evaluations of what someone has said or done. Avoid snarly and judgmental demands, generalisations, blame, judging and comparison to name a few. You really need to strip it down to the bare bone. It can be as subtle as “When you raised your voice at me” instead of ‘When you shouted at me’. Get really specific about the words that hurt you. If you start throwing round loads of evaluative statements like, ‘You always do this’ or ‘You never do that’ then again good luck because you’ll soon find yourself in a row. Simply start with “when you said…”
- Express your feelings. Once you have got very specific with the problem then you need to be clear with you and the other person how it made you feel. It takes me a while and can have a lot of levels. It’s best to keep it brief and easy for the other person to understand. Really it needs to be only one or two emotions. As you know underneath anger can be sadness or anxiety there could be greif. So the next part of the sentence starts with “I feel”. For example ‘When you raise your voice at me I feel scared”.
- Share your needs. This is where it gets a bit heavier so stick with me. This part of the course was quite hard for me because I struggle identifying my own needs when I’ve been trained to be such a g*d d*mn people pleaser! Needs can be security, closeness, food, fun, recognition, sympathy etc. For example ‘When you raise your voice at me I feel scared. I need / would like respect.
- Make a request. Be Specific. Make it measurable. Make sure it’s achievable. Be realistic - can this person really give you what you need or make the changes you want - be real with yourself here. Make the request time bound or put time in at a later date to check in again on the situation. Offer a do not a don’t. “Would you be willing to?” ”When you raise your voice at me I feel scared. I need / would like respect. Would you be willing to keep your voice at it’s normal level when speaking to me?
- Connect empathically with them, listen to what they say. NVC recommends reflective listening aka, mirroring back what you are hearing them say. Sometimes this can be word for word. This way the person really feels like they have been heard, and eventually enough so that you start to feel a connection with them. Normally it’s clear you can move on the next step by the fact they become monosyllabic. You might sound a bit like this “I am hearing you were tired, needed to go to sleep and rest and didn’t want to have to clean the glass up.”
- Sometimes you will need to go to extra lengths by connecting with their feelings, if their feelings seem strong “I’m sensing you’re feeling defensive, a bit angry. And maybe you feel criticised?”
- Put all their needs and your needs on the table. “I want you to get your needs met for . . . AND . . . I also have a need for . . . (your original needs that you set).
- Now, this isn’t a fool proof way to get what you want, remember our intention is connection. It may be that both of you can’t get what you want, in which case you may have to think about compromises or to abort the mission entirely.
Sounds like a lot to take on or something you’d like to learn more about? I would recommend studying with Darren. He was incredibly insightful and had so much experience across the board, including family constellations and couples therapy.