Many of us are dismayed about the violent rhetoric in politics and on social media. We need ways to be able to communicate across social, cultural, economic and political divides. Nonviolent Communication and Focusing enhance each other and when practiced, are accessible tools for change.
Tag Archive for: Focusing and Nonviolent Communication
Listening for Feelings and Needs in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) can lead to felt sense formation. For that reason, it’s useful to use Nonviolent Communication as a doorway to Focusing, especially if you are not used to the idea of self empathy.
Jackal language and Giraffe language
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) helps us notice when we are speaking Jackal language, i.e. naming, blaming, diagnosing, trying to prove who is right and wrong, etc. NVC encourages us to speak Giraffe Language:
- First, you describe an interaction without evaluating it.
- Next you turn inward to notice your own Feelings and Needs.
- Then you listen empathically to the Feelings and Needs of others.
- As a result of knowing your Needs, you can make requests of yourself or others to meet your needs.
You can easily see the big difference in the two languages, right?
The Revolutionary Pause–an opportunity to decide which language we want to speak.
When there is a conflict, the Revolutionary Pause is an opportunity to decide which language to speak. It’s difficult to pause in daily life! But after the initial difficulty, you’ll start to see what a difference the pause can make. You’ll start noticing when you are making statements that imply judgements and blame. Then you’ll start to notice the way you have been judging yourself! This helps you open to the notion of empathy toward your own inner world. As you start listening to your own Feelings and Needs, you’ll already be in levels 4 or 5 of the Experiencing Scale: http://www.experiential-researchers.org/instruments/exp_scale/exp_scale_long.html
Noticing our Beautiful Human Needs
In NVC, our Beautiful Human Needs are seen as something that unites us as human beings. A Beautiful Human Need is defined as “vital energy that motivates us to act and to grow.” This concept is new for most people, experienced Focusers as well as non-Focusers. Listen to your Beautiful Human Needs and how they feel inside. This lays the groundwork for you to notice naturally-arising felt senses.
Beautiful Human Needs can be physical or emotional, such as the needs for safety, respect, connection, authenticity. There are many more Beautiful Human Needs. We feel angry, resentful, sad, fearful, etc. when our needs are not met.
According to Nonviolent Communication theory, other people are not responsible for how we feel. Our Needs, met and unmet, give rise to how we feel. Everyone is trying to meet their Needs. Sensing into our own Needs and listening for another’s Needs, helps us understand each other’s motivations.
Listening for Feelings and Needs can help a felt sense to form.
Through sensitive, spacious listening for Feelings and Needs, an inner space is created in which a body felt sense can form. With practice and good listening, people are on their way to learning to pause and pay attention to the felt sense of the whole situation. The felt sense of a situation often extends far beyond what could be defined as needs and values. When people access the felt sense, what started as a conflict can transform into forward movement. The carrying forward, the right next step, is often something that could not have been conceived by either individual in a conflict.
NVC is a theory, the practice of which can lead to felt sensing. Felt sensing is pre-conceptual— fresh, intricate and unpredictable in every moment. A lot of practice and careful listening for Feelings and Needs are necessary before people can learn to trust the felt sense in all its transformative power.
Focusing and Nonviolent Communication are inter-related.
NVC brings the awareness of beautiful human needs and how naming and blaming divert us from expressing what we need. Then Focusing can give us insight into ways that we can fulfill that need.
The bodily felt sense that is at the center of Focusing practice, shows us what our needs are, if we learn how to pay attention in a kind and gentle way. Giraffe language teaches us to look for feelings and needs instead of judging, analyzing, diagnosing, giving advice, etc.
Focusing teaches how to listen beyond concepts and theories, to what is real inside us. In the Netherlands and the UK, I shared simple NVC games that we use in El Salvador to teach Listening, self empathy, implicit intricacy (the many-faceted nature of the bodily felt sense of a situation), resonating between words and the felt sense, and that the Focuser is the one who knows what he or she is feeling.
Participants felt that these games were helpful for themselves and in their work.
Many thanks to Harriet Teeuw of Nijeholtpade, Friesland; to Erna de Bruijn and Christine Langeveld of Focus Centrum Den Haag; and to Mohamed Altawil and David Harod of the Palestine Center in Hatfield, UK, for arranging these workshops for me. And thanks to Harriet and René for making it possible for Nicolas Areiza from El Salvador to attend the weeklong training in Being Seriously Playful. It was a transformative experience for all!
The photo is of psychologist and woman-of-the-world Branca Sa Pires of Portugal modeling the giraffe ears I made.
Last night I had a long conversation with my son, who is 25 years old, and works as a civil engineer for a large project that is redesigning and revamping the water drainage system of a major US city. His department is responsible for looking at traditional water drainage projects and adding “green” components, like water- permeable pavement that filters rain water instead of shunting it off into drainage systems, or “rain gardens”: areas planted with native species that are watered by the flow of the drainage system and thus filter the water and retain some of it as well.
His department looks for where these innovative green systems can fit into already-planned public works. Naturally, his department encounters resistance and complaints when they suggest their green innovations, because the traditional engineers are not used to working with natural systems like rain and plants, or thinking about permeable pavement, etc.
Dan told me that when he encounters this kind of resistance and rivalry between his department and the “sticks and bricks” engineers, he remembers that in Nonviolent Communication, everyone is acting from their needs. They are not “enemies” or “difficult people”. He said his department relies on him to go downstairs and deal with the “sticks and bricks” engineers, because he knows how to listen to them, find out what their needs are, and communicate those to his department and vice versa. He said that he was surprised by the amount of strife and “talking behind each others backs” that he encountered in both the engineering jobs he has had, and that listening to people’s needs helps him get around all that and makes it easier to get things done.