My love, she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence

Bob Dylan, Love minus zero / No limit

Also known in NVC as radical honesty. Honest because it’s as close to our truth as we can manage, and radical because in daily life people so rarely express the core realities of feelings and needs, without dressing them up in evaluations, interpretations, apologies and so on, that it can have a powerful effect when we do. There is a special format for learning to do express yourself in NVC. It’s a really smart trick for training yourself to think in the NVC way. And, it’s pretty much guaranteed to present what is really alive in you in that moment in an impeccable way, nothing more, nothing less. In real life it can sound clunky though, and as with any language, once one grasps the basic grammar of NVC and has learned a bit of vocabulary, one can be more creative and find smoother ways of expressing ourselves honestly.

I think of it like learning to play jazz piano. Once you’ve mastered your musical scales and chords and have done the exercises and your fingers know where to find all the keys, you’re free to improvise. If you try to be clever without having done the ground-work, though, it’s unlikely to sound good at all. I recommend practising the standard format in a safe environment (practice group, etc) until it comes easily, and only then start working on the fluency or ‘street NVC’ needed for everyday discourse.

As you let go of the standard NVC format, remember that radical honesty doesn’t mean just abandoning our inhibitions and blurting out whatever’s rippling through our minds. Rather it is what emerges from the stillness and silence we achieve within.

The standard workshop format for training self-expression goes like this :

When I hear / see / remember.”                                         (Observation)

.. I feel                                                                                   (Feelings)

“.. because..” (each feeling connected with a need)

.. I have a need for “.                                                           (Needs)

Would you be willing to (help me meet that need by …)?”  (Request)

Example: “When I see you waving that samurai sword around, I feel scared, because I have a need for safety. Would you be willing to put the sword down while we are talking?

Overview of the NVC model