What next after an introductory workshop?

Q. “I’ve completed a weekend introduction to NVC/NbC (also known as a Foundation training). What next?”

A.  Some trainers talk about ‘deepening’ or ‘intermediate’ trainings, but there are no specific graded steps or trajectories to becoming proficient in NVC/NbC, so you can pick any further workshop which sounds interesting. After an intro workshop I personally offer a ‘Second Steps’ weekend which works particularly with putting the NVC principles into practice and overcoming the obstacles that people typically find in doing this. I include lots of practical tips for continuing the ‘self-training’ afterwards, some of which are described below.

It can also be worth repeating the foundation training, perhaps with a different trainer, as we all bring something different to the mix.

Workshops usually offer the most intensive learning, but we can’t be going on workshops every weekend and of course there are other ways to expand your understanding and skill levels. Here are the key ones I recommend.

1. Read ‘A Language of Life‘ by Marshall Rosenberg. This short book is the ‘Bible’ of NVCers worldwide; it’s been translated into dozens of languages and has sold over a million copies. Pretty much everything you need to know to become a competent listener and speaker of NVC is in this one book!

2. Start a Gratitude Diary and a Judgments Diary. In the Gratitude Diary, note down each night before you sleep 4 or 5 things you have received that day which you are grateful for. In the Judgments Diary, note down 4 or 5 things you have said or thought during the day which you now realise were judgments, whether about others or about yourself. Just the simple act of noticing these two processes in you and the effect they have on your feelings and peace of mind will start to support greater awareness and an automatic shift in consciousness towards non-violence. If you can also note down the needs that were ‘soothed’ in you by the gifts you received and the needs that were ‘burning’ in you when you made those judgmental comments, the learning will be further enhanced.

Q. “I’ve done a couple of workshops now, I’ve read the book and I get all the basic concepts. I just can’t seem to make it work in practice, when I try to use NVC with my partner/ kids/ mother / work colleagues etc it just doesn’t work.”

A. Remember that you are literally trying to speak a foreign language which is new to you and totally unknown to your audience, so don’t be surprised if mutual comprehension is lacking! Rather than trying too soon to use the self-expression side of NVC in the real world, especially with your nearest and dearest, concentrate on practising your listening skills! That will support everyone more effectively.

And, yes, you do need to practise speaking too – but start in a safe environment where there are no serious consequences if you mess up. I have two more suggestions to this end:

3. If there is a practice group in your area, join it. Regular interaction with other NVC learners can be very useful, especially if the group is facilitated by a trainer or more experienced NVCer. You will get into the key habit of ‘check-ins‘, will practise empathic listening and very likely do role plays or other games and exercises.

4. Get an empathy buddy. An empathy partner is usually a peer (in this case a fellow beginner) with whom can you practise the key skills of empathic listening and honest self-expression on a regular basis. I suggest one hour once a week which you divide 50:50 into listening and speaking, so you each get a turn. You can agree to just listen, or to listen and then reflect back the feelings and needs you hear. Make a commitment to this weekly time and it will become a rock and a safe place for you to return to for grounding, learning and very likely healing as well.