Responding to Arguments Against NVC
A gem reader recently wrote: "In the experience I had, a woman said that she felt I was suggesting NVC "as a way to avoid confrontation", adding that she feels she "has the courage to deal with things directly".
Our gem reader asked, "How do you handle statements that position NVC as an avoidance of conflict?"
The first thing I do any time someone offers an argument against what I am suggesting is listen with empathy. In the woman's comment I hear an expression of nervousness and possibly anger. I am guessing she values honesty and authenticity. In addition, when she heard our gem reader suggest NVC, she may have interpreted that she was being judged as incompetent in communication. If this is true, she may have felt angry and defensive wanting acceptance and appreciation for what she has to offer.
As I was teaching a NVC workshop last weekend, I was surprised at the number of times students wanted recognition for the skillful ways they were already creating connection and resolving conflict in their lives. I was happy to reassure them that in offering NVC I was not intending to discount the skills and understanding they already possessed. In a workshop setting this was pretty easy to do. In personal situations it can be more difficult.
In the example our gem reader offered I am reminded of an important NVC mantra - empathy before education. The woman's response let's us know that more trust and connection is needed in the relationship before she can take the risk of trying something new.
Another difficulty arises when you identify your way of talking as you, hearing someone suggest that you talk differently can be perceived as a rejection of who you are. This is why it's especially important that when offering NVC to others you first establish a connection in which the other trusts that you see and value them as a person.
This week notice even a small instance where someone argues with something you suggest. Experiment with offering empathy (reflecting back the feelings and/or needs you guess you're hearing or expressing).
If you are not confident about guessing feelings and needs you can simply set aside your suggestion and ask more about the other's perspective. For example, as I am in the process of trying to find homes for two cats I rescued (please let me know if you'd like a sweet affectionate cat), my partner and I have polarized a little around different needs. When I am stressed about my own needs and still want to connect to his heart, I often ask him if he can help me understand what's in his heart about a given situation. Other versions of this question are: what's important to you in this, what do you want to care for here, what are some feelings that are up for you. Questions like these do a lot to keep us from polarizing more and escalating into an argument. Let me know how your practice of this goes.
You don't have to agree to be supportive