“Dialogue is a conversation … the outcome of which is unknown.”
~ Martin Buber
“In a separated world, I can attend to my needs or to your needs, not to both.
In a chosen interdependent world, I can embrace both.” ~ Miki Kashtan
View an Outline-of-Call
Tools utilizied on our Street Giraffe tele-practice call:
(courtesy of Catherine Cadden & Jesse Wiens of ZENVC)
|ZENVC’s: Communication Flow Chart (PDF format)|
(courtesy of the work of Jim & Jori Manske of RadicalCompassion.com)
Pick a situation in which you are struggling to connect and all you can come up with is judgments, demands, etc. (a.) Write down what you said or what you would say if you opened your mouth. (b.) Pick one commitment* (several excerpted beneath) or one intention** from the reference materials that feels relevant to the situation, and imagine applying it. Write down how your language might change if you aligned your heart with the intention or commitment you picked.
*Consciousness Transformation Community: Core Commitments
(Descriptive of NVC Consciousness and courtesy of the work of Miki Kashtan)
“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended my answer.” Henry David Thoreau
In the video below, Ali Miller and Newt Bailey portray a couple, Debbie and Jason, who have a mildly contentious conversation. They then try using the “Connected Conversation Process” the foundational process of the Communication Dojo, to navigate through their conflict with greater mutual understanding and connection. (See also ~ “Connected Conversation Process” – quick example)
The 2 Parts and 4 Components of NVC
Two monologues do not make a dialogue.
~ Jeff Daly
In the beginning aggressiveness seems to win,
But at the end, he who is compassionate wins.”
– Translated by Octavian Sarbatoare, 2002, Chapter 69
Excerpt from Miki Kashtan’s
Dialogue and Conversation
“Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.”
— Margaret Millar
“Dialogue is a conversation … the outcome of which is unknown.” — Martin Buber
While every dialogue is a conversation, not every conversation is a dialogue. What are the features that distinguish dialogue from other forms of conversation? If we accept Buber’s characterization of dialogue, what makes it possible for the outcome to be unknown?
Listening: I know I have embraced dialogue when I recognize in me a sense of openness to the other person’s experience. Part of what makes so many conversations different from the true magic of dialogue is that so often we use the time during which others are speaking to think about the next thing we are going to say, without giving our ears and hearts to the person speaking. This is even more pronounced when whoever is speaking is someone whose actions, words, or opinions we are opposing. This, after all, is the context for this exploration: dialogue as a response to a situation we don’t like.
Openness to change: An unknown outcome means that something along the way has changed from whatever it was that could have been predicted as an outcome. Especially if we are unhappy with how things are, this willingness takes active dedication and commitment. Without it, I don’t trust my own integrity. If I am unwilling to change, to be affected by what I hear sufficiently to consider options which are new to me, on what grounds am I expecting the other person to change?
Holding everyone’s needs: At bottom, embracing the spirit of dialogue is a commitment to caring for everyone who is part of the dialogue, even if they have taken actions that deeply concern me. I love what I see as the radical gift of this commitment. Without it I could so easily be tempted to impose solutions on a less-than-willing person just because I believe they address my own needs better. With this commitment in place I work for an inclusive solution even when the other person may still be advocating for their needs only. This, to me, is where the strength of the commitment to nonviolence gets tested: I want to be able to hold enough love and trust, both in myself and in the humanity of the other parties, that I will stay the course until we are connected, until we have some solution with which we can all live. I have seen it happen on a small scale, and I continue to have faith that such dialogue is possible at all levels.
Honoring Our Limits
The commitment to dialogue may appear to ask of us to have infinite capacity. Always be open to dialogue? With anyone? About anything? Any time they want it?
I have wrestled with this question for years in various contexts, and just recently I reached some clarity that has helped me put it to rest, at least in part. Key to my peace was the distinction between the openness to shifting through dialogue and the act of having an actual conversation with a particular person. Inner and outer aspects.
As to the act of being in conversation with another, that act happens on the material plane, and is therefore subject to finitude in a way that willingness is not. Willingness, like any inner state, has not limits. Our capacity to schedule, mobilize resources, and create the conditions for dialogue to occur, is humanly limited. I have often seen many of us get so confused by material limitations that we close ourselves down and disengage. If I am going to say “no” to participating in a dialogue, I want absolute honesty with myself that my choice is based on clear assessment of my resources rather than a subtle form of avoidance, closed-heartedness, or any other form of putting a barrier between me and another person.
I have found repeatedly that the experience of openness to dialogue in and of itself is transformative. I can tell the difference, sometimes in a very visceral way, in my body itself, when I am or am not open in that way. I know how attachment feels because I have had so many times now the experience of not having it, and the immense freedom that comes with that. It’s not about not wanting, even wanting passionately; it’s not about not having opinions, even strong ones; it’s not about going along with anything or anyone. It’s simply about the willingness to be affected by what I hear, or even by my own imagination about another’s needs or perspective. It’s about allowing connection with needs, my own and another’s, to be the moving force of life, the source of creative strategies.
Kashtan, “A Naturalizing the NVC language comes from aligning ourselves with the truth and expressing from that place.”
Re: Street Giraffe Dialogue
Ask the Trainer
I have been practicing and integrating NVC into my life in a focused way for the past three years or so and have found the benefits of it truly transformative. At one point in my practice, it was brought to my attention that some people find the use of “formal NVC” off-putting, that it sounds phony, contrived, or mechanical. In asking a trainer about this, I was told that part of integrating NVC to more fully connect with others means “letting go of the mechanics” of NVC, of not (it seems) using the formal OFNR model.
Do you have any input or insight into this? Is this a general way of viewing / practicing NVC among those who have practiced for a long time?
I am very curious about this, as now I am feeling great confusion about how (or if) to proceed with this practice.
Thank you very much for your time.
Yours is a question that I hear frequently from people who practice Nonviolent Communication. Many people attempt to use NVC skills in day-to-day life and find that others react negatively.
In fact, when used mechanically — or without a clear intention of connecting with others from the heart — talking about feelings and needs can actually become an obstacle to connection, or stimulate defensiveness in people.
Although I will explain this in evaluative terms, many people develop their NVC skills (and any new skill, for that matter) in four stages:
1. Unconscious incompetence
2. Conscious incompetence
3. Conscious competence
4. Unconscious competence
Stage 1: People think and communicate in life-alienating ways (i.e. “Jackal”) and don’t even realize it. They do not have awareness of the effects of Jackal communication.
Stage 2: You are able to identify jackal communication, and can see the harmful consequences of it and you are aware that you do not have the skills to consistently communicate compassionately.
Stage 3: You develop skills in NVC, and intentionally and deliberately use NVC language with others. Although you “do it right” by expressing your observations, feelings, needs and requests — and also reflect back other people’s feelings and needs to them — you find that your efforts are often received as phony or inauthentic by others.
Stage 4: You have internalized the intentionality and essence of NVC into your life, which is to connect with the life in yourself and the life in others. You are able to communicate freely most of the time without consciously using any particular language patterns; instead, you “live” NVC.
As a trainer, I have these four common stages in my awareness, and try to help people move forward until they reach stage four. I hold these stages lightly, and find that it is simply a helpful way to understand how many people progress in learning NVC.
I find myself in each of the four stages at certain moments in time. The author Ken Wilber makes a distinction between “states” and “stages,” in so far that in any moment we could be in any state. Yet in a more general sense, we can progress from one stage to the next once we can spend the majority of the time in that given stage.
I find that each person progresses at their own pace and in their own way. Every person begins where they are.
Here are some helpful strategies and tips for progressing to:
Stage 4: Unconscious Competence:
1. Realize that NVC is both a set of communication skills, and a way of life (some might say a spiritual practice) that shows us how and where to place our attention in order to invoke compassion in ourselves and others. The language skills are only useful to the extent that they support us in experiencing the energy and intention of NVC.
2. Learn how to use natural NVC language (a.k.a. “Street Giraffe”), such as expressing feelings and needs without actually using the words “feeling” or “need,” and finding natural ways of communicating needs. For example, instead of, “Do you have a need for authenticity?” you might ask, “Do you want others to say what is really in their hearts?”
3. Use the four main ingredients of NVC — observation, feeling, need and request (OFNR) — to remind you where you can place your own attention. OFNR is not just a model for communication; it is also a powerful awareness practice, a way to wake up the heart and to bring power into our communication. Each of the four components has a particular role to contribute toward integrating this new consciousness.
4. Realize the difference between a practice context and a living context. When in a workshop, the participants have chosen to take part in learning and practicing NVC, so there is an agreement to use NVC language. However, outside of a workshop or practice group, people have not made an explicit agreement to use formal NVC language. There, draw upon what you have learned from NVC but simply speak in a way that most expresses your heart.
Jeff Brown with support from Miki Kashtan
Newt Bailey and Ali Miller play “Jason” and “Debbie” getting into a little conflict. Watch for a quick glimpse at how the “Connected Conversation Process” from the Communication Dojo can turn conflict into connection.
For lengthier video (from which above clip was excerpted), please see our
Connected Conversation tab.
[PDF] – On Dialogue
Dialogue is really aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively. We haven’t really paid much attention to thought as a process. We have ENGAGED in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process. Why does thought require attention? Everything requires attention, really. If we ran machines without paying attention to them, they would break down. Our thought, too, is a process, and it requires attention, otherwise it’s going to go wrong.
“a thoroughgoing suspension of tacit individual and cultural infrastructures, in the context of full attention to their contents, frees the mind to move in new ways … The mind is then able to respond to creative new perceptions going beyond the particular points of view that have been suspended.”
In such a dialogue, when one person says something, the other person does not, in general, respond with exactly the same meaning as that seen by the first person. Rather, the meanings are only similar and not identical. Thus, when the 2nd person replies, the 1st person sees a Difference between what he meant to say and what the other person understood. On considering this difference, he may then be able to see something new, which is relevant both to his own views and to those of the other person. And so it can go back and forth, with the continual emergence of a new content that is common to both participants. Thus, in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together. (from On Dialogue)
It seems then that the main trouble is that the other person is the one who is prejudiced and not listening. After all, it is easy for each one of us to see that other people are ‘blocked’ about certain questions, so that without being aware of it, they are avoiding the confrontation of contradictions in certain ideas that may be extremely dear to them. The very nature of such a ‘block’ is, however, that it is a kind of insensitivity or ‘anesthesia’ about one’s own contradictions. Evidently then, what is crucial is to be aware of the nature of one’s own ‘blocks’. If one is alert and attentive, he can see for example that whenever certain questions arise, there are fleeting sensations of fear, which push him away from consideration of those questions, and of pleasure, which attract his thoughts and cause them to be occupied with other questions. So, one is able to keep away from whatever it is that he thinks may disturb him. And as a result, he can be subtle at defending his own ideas, when he supposes that he is really listening to what other people have to say. When we come together to talk, or otherwise to act in common, can each one of us be aware of the subtle fear and pleasure sensations that ‘block’ the ability to listen freely?