I have often heard students express frustration because they want authenticity and fluency in using Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and sometimes get feedback from others that they sound like a robot.
Most folks who first learn a second language have an accent. The accent tells the listener that the speaker is new to the language.
The same is true for NVC. In many ways, you are learning a new language. You are learning to speak from your heart rather than your head and use a new vocabulary and syntax that reflects self-awareness and self-responsibility. That's a lot to do all at once. It makes sense that in the beginning you would speak in a halting sort of way.
And, of course, you want to sound natural and have a certain flow in your communication. What you are referring to as "natural" is often really just something that is habitual. In the big picture, when you have practiced the classical format of NVC so much that it becomes a habit, you will begin to sound "natural". At the same time, I will offer a couple of things you can do now to help you on the path to sounding more natural.
First, let's look at the phrase "I need_____" This seems to be the most awkward part of NVC. Here are some more familiar ways to express universal needs:
because __________ is important to me
because I long for__________
because I am hoping for____________
because I am wanting______________
because I am missing_____________
because I am looking for a sense of _______________
because I enjoy ____________
These same phrases could be used when offering empathy by replacing the "I" with "you".
Second, if you reflect on every disonnecting or difficult conversation with the following five distinctions in mind, you will make significant progress toward integrating NVC consciousness as a way of life. Here are the distinctions:
- OBSERVATION: What happened? vs. What did you make it mean?
- FEELINGS: Feelings arise from needs vs. Feelings are caused by others
You hurt me.
I feel disappointed because you didn't come the concert.
You made me angry.
I feel that you are being irresponsible.
None of these expressions reveal your need or the fact that your feelings arise out of your needs. Instead they blame others for your feelings and make you an emotional victim.
- FEELINGS: Feelings vs. Interpretations of others' behavior
- NEEDS: Universal Needs vs. Strategies to meet needs
- REQUESTS: Requests vs. Vague invitations or Demands
These five distinctions are, perhaps, not so difficult to understand conceptually. The difficult part is that they ask you to change habits of thought and speech that you have likely been practicing all your life. For this reason I encourage you to give yourself permission to sound awkward and robotic and follow the form of classical giraffe until you can really sense that your habits have been re-wired. You can make space for sounding awkward by simply letting your listener know that you are learning something new that you are hoping will help with connection, but it might sound kind of robotic and take a little longer.
Take time now to reflect on a recent difficult conservation. Review both what you said and what the other person said relative to the five distinctions. In which distinction did the disconnect occur? How would you express yourself differently next time according to these distinctions?