I came across Nonviolent Communication (NVC) about a year and half ago, in the midst of dating what I thought a very attractive woman. After being through half a dozen miserably failed relationships, I was prepared to wonder if there was something out of kilter with me.
The origin of the NVC came from Marshall Rosenberg observing, at a very young age, how his uncle came nearly every day to care for Marshall's grandma who was bed ridden and invalid. This care for the grandma was no easy work, yet, his uncle brought joy, ease, and comfort forth by being compassionately present with everyone in the house. The uncle seemed always happy, and, as Marshall put it in his words, his uncle was "making life more wonderful for himself and others."
I imagine for a young person this type of behavior that his uncle had demonstrated had an impact on Marshall that created curiosity within him, especially during his early years as a student of psychology. Indeed, throughout his college career, Marshal studied the differences between how some people are naturally kind and compassionate, and others weren't. As I read about him I notice his rich belief that the deepest longing of Human Beings is to contribute to humanity and be acknowledged.
As I read about him I notice his rich belief that the deepest longing of Human Beings is to contribute to humanity and be acknowledged.
Marshall's contribution to humanity to this day is still to spread the word and practice of NVC, a way of interacting with others that creates relationships from the perspective of requests in place of demands, through connecting with the feelings that are alive in any moment of relational interaction. A large part of NVC is noticing, in the midst of the feelings that are alive and present, if there is an underlying longing or need deep inside the other person. Awareness and connection with this need is a precious dynamic when the need is expressed as a request from an awareness of deep compassion. This dynamic shifts the relationship between two beings to a very heartfelt connection for both beings.
Rosenberg himself declared that, one person alone using NVC, in a roomful of people can shift the whole dynamic of the room. Language construction when making requests is important. Consider the difference between the following two series of phrases:
"Would you be willing…?" | "Would you enjoy…?" | "I am wondering what you are hearing…"
as opposed to
"Do this…" | "Don't do that…" | "Go there…"
There is a special awareness involved in NVC Llanguage that is one key aspect of it's powerfulness. Some of the teachers I've encountered over the past year are good at the style of language used to engage others in NVC interaction. Only a small number of teachers, however, are able to be present within the spiritual aspect of NVC.
I struggled for quite a while with what I call the mechanical aspect of NVC. To me, the technical, mechanical aspects of the practice seemed to be a rigid, scripted language that rolled out of the head on command. For months, I was reluctant to use the language outside my relationship with the woman I was dating. That relationship bursted apart in the middle of the struggle with my own inner growth process in the realm of NVC.
In that space, I realized something was missing from this way of being in NVC, I called it the spiritual presence, and I heard some people refer to what I was talking about as the essence of the practice. In the language of NVC, compassion and empathy are main stays in relationships. This is where the richness of NVC comes alive for me now. When I experience empathy in the presence of another being, inside the NVC language, there is a presence, a beingness in the midst of the relationship between two beings that goes beyond words , allowing transformation to occur in the relationship. This is the spiritual aspect of NVC, and I imagine each person has a different flavor of this Essence and yet deeply transformative.
I believe Marshall Rosenberg has this essence present within him, and somehow there are I imagine many people out in the world who are clueless to this precious way of being in the midst of the practice of NVC. People who teach compassion and empathy as a "Thing" one learns to do, I imagine are in this league of clueless. Empathy and compassion are living breathing relationships; relationships take time and care, moment to moment to moment. In the heart of this empathetic relationship, transformation occurs in the midst of uncertainty.
I imagine this is the miracle Marshal Rosenberg witnessed each day between his Grandma and Uncle. These days, The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) requires many hours of recorded experience, trainings, coachings, and assessments in order to be certified as a Trainer of NVC. A large investment of money is required to attain all this training for certification. First point of notice for me is imagining the absence of underprivileged people in these training events.
Then, there is the very obvious low representation of minorities in a lot of the trainings. Why is that happening? I am wondering why ia lot of the people training in NVC according to CNVC standards, make life more wonderful for their own class of society, and not so much for the underprivileged. CNVC, I imagine, has become an institution, not much different than any other institution such as Religion, Politics, or Economics. The ways I notice CNVC, which is leaning into becoming an Institution, is the creation of expectations, and spoken and unspoken rules that are entering into the space of the heart of NVC. CNVC seems to be focusing on what we should do and how we should do it, in order to meet the institution's expectations.
As such, the essence of NVC, more specifically, the spirituality of NVC, gets smothered in the bindings of rules and requirements. The being of relationship NVC is supposed to be, is pushed aside in favor of dollars rules and expectations. They seem to want to make you fit their institution.
Enough is enough. Now is the time to halt the suffering in the world. Now is the time to speak the truth of what is alive inside you. Now is the time to transform institutions into growing relationships with expectancy and a willingness to engage the unknown. Spiritual NVC may open the door to possibilities.