Pitfalls in mastering NbC

Usually people are pretty quick to learn the NVC model and the distinctions between the components. Then one of two things can happen. Either (1) we get carried away with our new-found zeal for NVC, or (2) we just give up without really trying. Or both.

(1) Many of us, like newly converted members of some religious sect, find it hard to accept that the rest of the world, who did not attend that mind-blowing weekend course which we went on, are not queueing up to hear the gospel we are preaching. Then we can hear ourselves coming out with truly violent ‘non-violent communication’ of this sort:

Tell me your need! (damn it!)

“I must have a doable request, or I’m helpless (you moron!!)

I insist that you communicate your feelings and needs (you unfeeling robot!)

If you would just hear my feelings and needs, there would be connection (you unempathic bastard!)

(Acknowledgments to Ray Taylor for recording these gems!)

Here the speaker has learnt the jargon but he’s not exactly walking the talk. When I talk about needs-based communication, I hope that the first question that springs to mind will be “What are my needs?”. Every time I open my mouth, in fact, I want to be aware of what need is pushing me. Too often, I am focused on the other person first, and then I have lost connection with us both.

(2) Or, we give up almost straight away – maybe after ‘using’ NVC for the first time on our estranged ex-husband and not getting an immediately positive response! For many of us, trying to use NVC stirs up all the hopes and fears which were locked in when our original world view was challenged and crushed. We want this to work but on one level we ‘know’ it can’t work because we have experienced how it didn’t work and have paid the price for many years. So we don’t find it as easy to follow through as we expect to.