Do the underlying premises of NVC operate as a kind of platonic ideal? The act of applying oneself, as a practitioner of Nonviolent Communication, often entails a process of coming to terms with an alternative paradigmatic world view, one that encompasses the history of nonviolence, represented by figures such as Gandhi and King, who altered the face of their respective nations when they wagered their very lives on the prospect that widespread compassion could be awakened thereby instilling greater equality. So when we encounter certain premises of NVC, such as ” all human beings have the capacity for compassion” it has a certain moral force, due to the last 100 years of nonviolence.
On the other hand, such sweeping statements can arouse cognitive dissonance and resistance, or seem but oversimplified generalizations to the discerning eye, lacking the nuance found in our own lived experience (such as that presented in this video clip describing the erosion of empathy: Zero Degrees of Empathy – YouTube which depicts compassion as existing on a spectrum akin to the familiar continuum of a bell curve; or the scientific evidence, such as that discussed in this article: Lessons From The Brain–Damaged Investor – WSJ.com in which it is noted how structurally the brain’s capacity to register empathy can be diminished).
Sunday, March 10, 2013 ~ Learning NVC Mindfully:
Underlying Assumptions & Intentions
How do you integrate the premises of NVC [consciousness]…
Mindfulness, she tells the medical school audience, is the process of actively noticing new things, relinquishing preconceived mindsets, and then acting on the new observations. Much of the time, she says, our behavior is mindless. She recounts one of her favorite anecdotes: “I once went to make a purchase and I gave [the cashier] my credit card and she saw it wasn’t signed.” The cashier asked Langer to sign it, which she did, and the cashier then ran it through the machine. When the receipt was generated, she asked Langer to sign that as well. With the newly signed card in one hand, and the receipt in the other, “[the cashier] then compared the two signatures,” Langer says, with deadpan delivery. She nods, as if counting beats, waiting for the audience to catch up. A moment later, the room rumbles with laughter. Mindlessness blinds us to new possibilities, says Langer, and that is what drove her to study its flip side. Often, researchers in psychology describe what is, she explains. “But knowing what is and what can be are not the same things.” via http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/09/the-mindfulness-chronicles
by: Miki Kashtan
The premises underlying the practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) often stand in stark contrast to the messages we receive in the culture at large – whether from our parents or teachers while growing up, or from the media or other cultural venues for the rest of our lives. They also, often enough, belie what we see around us in terms of human behavior. To take just one example, how much evidence do we see on a daily basis that would support the assumption that human beings enjoy giving? If we just look at how people behave, without adding layers of contextualizing their choices, there’s no question that the conclusion that people are selfish would be much more warranted.
Looked at from this angle, choosing to embrace Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is admittedly an outrageous proposition. Indeed, many people choose a very limited version of this practice, one that focuses pragmatically on seeing it as a set of skills designed to resolve conflicts. At the same time, I see people, repeatedly, be attracted to the all-encompassing vision that is implicitly painted by these assumptions even when they disagree with them. Often enough, I know of this inner struggle people have because they challenge me when I present NVC from the perspective of its underlying principles… (continues here)
I. Assumptions Underlying the Practice of Nonviolent Communication
Following are key assumptions that NVC practice is based on. Many traditions share these assumptions; NVC gives us concrete, powerful tools for putting them into practice. When we live based on these assumptions, self-connection and connection with others become increasingly possible and easy.
- All human beings share the same needs: We all have the same needs, although the strategies we use to meet these needs may differ. Conflict occurs at the level of strategies, not at the level of needs.
- Our world offers sufficient resources for meeting everyone’s basic needs: The scarcity experienced by so many people arises because we have not designed our social structures to meet everyone’s needs. We can attribute any apparent scarcity to a current systemic limitation, a crisis of imagination, or a lack of skills for fostering connection.
- All actions are attempts to meet needs: Our desire to meet needs, whether conscious or unconscious, underlies every action we take. We only resort to violence or other actions that do not meet our own or others’ needs when we do not recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs.
- Feelings point to needs being met or unmet: Feelings may be triggered but not caused by others. Our feelings arise directly out of our experience of whether our needs seem to us met or unmet in a given circumstance. Our assessment of whether or not our needs are met almost invariably involves an interpretation or belief. When our needs are met, we may feel happy, satisfied, peaceful, etc. When our needs are not met, we may feel sad, scared, frustrated, etc.
- All human beings have the capacity for compassion: We have an innate capacity for compassion, though not always the knowledge of how to access it. When we are met with compassion and respect for our autonomy, we tend to have more access to our own compassion for ourselves and for others. Growing compassion contributes directly to our capacity to meet needs peacefully.
- Human beings enjoy giving: We inherently enjoy contributing to others when we have connected with our own and others’ needs and can experience our giving as coming from choice.
- Human beings meet needs through interdependent relationships: We meet many of our needs through our relationships with other people and with nature, though some needs are met principally through the quality of our relationship with ourselves and for some, with a spiritual dimension to life. When others’ needs are not met, some needs of our own also remain unmet.
- Human beings change: By virtue of the constantly unfolding nature of needs and strategies to meet them, all of us are dynamic processes, not static entities.
- Choice is internal: Regardless of the circumstances, we can meet our need for autonomy by making conscious choices based on awareness of needs.
- The most direct path to peace is through self-connection: Our capacity for peace is not dependent on having our needs met. Even when many needs are unmet, meeting our need for self-connection can be sufficient for inner peace.
II. Key Intentions when Using Nonviolent Communication
We hold the following intentions when using NVC because we believe that they help us contribute to a world where everyone’s needs are attended to peacefully.
- Self-compassion: We aim to release all self-blame, self-judgments, and self-demands, and meet ourselves with compassion and understanding for the needs we try to meet through all our actions.
- Expressing from the heart: When expressing ourselves, we aim to speak from the heart, expressing our feelings and needs, and making specific, do-able requests.
- Receiving with compassion: When we hear others, we aim to hear the feelings and needs behind their expressions and actions, regardless of how they express themselves, even if their expression or actions do not meet our needs (e.g. judgments, demands, physical violence).
- Prioritizing connection: We aim to focus on connecting open-heartedly with everyone’s needs instead of seeking immediate and potentially compromised solutions, especially in challenging situations.
- Beyond “right” and “wrong”: We aim to transform our habit of making “right” and “wrong” assessments (moralistic judgments), and to focus instead on whether or not human needs appear met (need-based assessments).
Choice, Responsibility, Peace
- Taking responsibility for our feelings: We aim to connect our feelings to our own needs, recognizing that others do not have the power to make us feel anything. This recognition empowers us to take action to meet our needs instead of waiting for others to change.
- Taking responsibility for our actions: We aim to recognize our choice in each moment, and take actions that we believe will most likely meet our needs. We aim to avoid taking actions motivated by fear, guilt, shame, desire for reward, or ideas of duty or obligation.
- Living in peace with unmet needs: We aim to work with our feelings when we experience our needs as unmet, connecting with the needs rather than insisting on meeting them.
- Increasing capacity for meeting needs: We aim to develop our internal resources, particularly our NVC skills, so we can contribute to more connection and greater diversity of strategies for meeting needs.
- Increasing capacity for meeting the present moment: We aim to develop our capacity to connect in each moment with our own and others’ needs, and to respond to present stimuli in the moment instead of through static stories about who we and others are.
Sharing Power (Partnership)
- Caring equally for everyone’s needs: We aim to make requests and not demands, thus staying open to the other’s strategies to meet their needs. When hearing a “No” to our request, or when saying “No” to another’s request, we aim to work towards solutions that meet everyone’s needs, not just our own, and not just the other person’s.
- Protective use of force: We aim to use the minimum force necessary in order to protect, not to educate, punish, or get what we want without the other’s agreement, and only in situations where we find that dialogue fails to meet an immediate need for physical safety. We aim to return to dialogue as soon as we have re-established a sense of physical safety.
More Resources from BayNVC
Read articles by our own BayNVC staff. Also see other articles about Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and others.