From 2003 until pretty recently I was really into Nonviolent Communication (aka: "NVC"). This is not the case for me anymore. I have a few reasons as to why this is the case.
The central claim behind NVC, and the initial selling-point to get people interested in it, is that NVC is a uniquely effective way for peacefully resolving conflicts between people. This is not true. In the 15 years that I have been involved with NVC circles I have seen countless conflicts occur between people who are ostensibly committed to NVC and the overwhelming majority of these conflicts were not peacefully resolved to the satisfaction of everybody involved.
For a long time I have been ignoring this fact and persisted in having a faith in the conflict transforming power of NVC. Now I see that my faith has been misplaced and that my actual real-life experience shows that NVC does not achieve what people says it does. I do not wish to continue believing in something when the evidence right in front of me does not support it.
Shortly upon entering the NVC milieu I was introduced to a whole slew of other different self-help, personal growth, interpersonal, spiritual and organizational methods, practices, processes and packages. Each of these claim to be uniquely beneficial and a good thing to have as a regular part of your life. I agree that a lot of these are useful helpful things to use and have a working knowledge of. But then I ask myself: why is it that I prioritize NVC as being the thing that I most practice and talk about to others?
And the answer that I come to for this is that NVC is the personal/interpersonal tool that I came across first. I established a habit of thinking and talking about it, and I maintained that habit over the years since my initial encounter. A habit is a habit, not necessarily a good thing or bad thing in and of itself. It just is what it is.
When I think about it, a lot, if not most, of the other different personal/interpersonal tools have some beneficial things to offer. Prioritizing NVC over the others is essentially an arbitrary thing to do that comes from whatever personal biases people have. My personal bias has been towards NVC and as a result I have been showcasing the benefits of NVC over the years, while disregarding the benefits of all of the other different personal/interpersonal tools that are out there.
For a long time I have been frustrated with NVC essentially manifesting itself as a perpetual series of workshops, retreats, practice groups and merchandise that one can purchase. Utilizing this model is pretty standard within the larger self-help subculture that NVC is a part of. A few attempts by NVC enthusiasts have been made to go beyond that model, but these attempts pretty much always sputter and die due to a combination of confusion, conflict and lack of interest. I think that by and large the NVC milieu has found a comfortable routine and niche for itself through the model of workshops, retreats, practice groups and merchandise. If you want something transgressive you need to go somewhere else.
Most of the time when people think of "Nonviolent Communication" they think of one man: Marshall Rosenberg. I have long been frustrated with that tendency and I have hoped that that would go away with Marshall Rosenberg passing away. That was not the case.
NVC is filled with Grand Poobahs, people who are adored, put up on pedestals and who appear to have very high opinions of themselves. What these people say generally carries a lot of weight within NVC circles, whereas what the people who are not in these positions have to say is generally inconsequential. I am tired of this dynamic.
When I think about it, though, this is probably tied to the training and merchandising model that NVC is wedded to. If you have people whose economic livelihood is dependent upon other people paying money to them for their NVC goods and services, the best way for you to have security and stability in that position is to have people think that you are hot shit and be eager to hand over their money to you for whatever you say or do next. This is a tiered system of trainers, students and administrative support staff for the trainers who may or may not be paid for the work that they do. For someone who is opposed to hierarchy in all its forms I find this to be a profoundly uninteresting set-up to be stuck with.
I have long had the belief that NVC enthusiasts are more likely to display the qualities of empathic listening, abstaining from judging people, and expressing themselves honestly and vulnerably. I no longer believe that this is the case. I now think that NVC people, just like other people, are just as likely to perpetuate blame, shame, judgement and emotional disconnection. I give them kudos for trying to go beyond it, that is, when they actually do try to do so.
However I think that it is unwise to expect anything else when we are all programmed by the same overarching society that we all live in, a society that is based upon blame, shame, judgement and emotional disconnection. This is not to say that I have not met some remarkable people in NVC circles who clearly have displayed these qualities of empathy, non-judgement and personal authenticity, but I have also met such people in spaces outside of the NVC milieu as well. So, again, NVC is not particularly special in this regard.
I have heard a number of different NVC trainers over the years say that the purpose of NVC practice is to get one's mind into a kind of consciousness of peace and love. These same NVC trainers are also often quick to point out that this kind of consciousness is not only available via NVC and that many other means also exist to achieve this end goal. The NVC trainers say that NVC is their preferred method for reaching that kind of consciousness and that their preference for NVC does not make NVC "better" than the other methods out there.
What comes up for me upon reflecting upon this is: What about the other paths? What if I prefer to use one of those instead? Perhaps over time some other path, or combination of paths, has become more appropriate for me?
Regardless of all of that, my excitement and enthusiasm for "walking the path" these days is shot. It is simply not something that is important to me right now. The principles and intentions behind NVC are still things that are close to my heart, but an NVC practice or affiliation is not.
I do not feel any kind of anger or hostility towards the various different NVC people out there. I wish those people who continue to be enthusiastic about NVC well and good luck. And to those people who are new to NVC and who are interested in learning more about it: by all means, go for it!
But for me, personally, my time with NVC is up. My enthusiasm for it is gone, my faith in it has evaporated and my interests now lay elsewhere. NVC has had a profound impact and effect on me and my life, but now my life is at a different place from where it was in the past. It does not make sense to me to keep things around simply for the sake of nostalgia and habit. It was great while it lasted, and now it is time for me to move on to other things.