In 2004 I first really discovered the work of Carl Rogers. That had a profound and lasting effect on me. There is a lot that I can say about that guy and his philosophy, but I’ll restrain myself here for the sake of brevity and getting to the point. I’ll simply say this - all of Carl Rogers’ approach can be summarized with three key words: authenticity, empathy and caring.
What struck me right away was the pure bare-bones simplicity of this approach. No agenda, plan, grand theory or complicated system was necessary. All protocols, procedures and formulas were beside the point. All that was needed was for one to be personally honest, empathically listening to the other person and really caring about that person without any strings attached. With that all set, good stuff follows. Despite whatever twists, turns and unexpectedness that one comes across along the way, with this approach you can trust that the combination of being authentic, empathic and caring will make things better in the end.
I came to Carl Rogers through my involvement with Nonviolent Communication (aka “NVC”), since Rogers was the teacher of Marshall Rosenberg (the founder of NVC). Everything that NVC was trying to do and get at was already talked about earlier by Carl Rogers. I was struck by how prone to “formulas” and “robot-speak” (as well as "New Age-speak") NVC was in comparison to the straight-forward plain-speaking nature of Rogers’ writings. I was also struck by how Rogers emphasized the “person-centered encounter group” model for learning, whereas NVC was emphasizing the celebrity “trainer” model for teaching. I came to believe that much rich potential existed here, at NVC’s conceptual “source”.
Years of using, learning, trying to study and practice NVC has resulted in myself and countless others getting caught up in loops, knots, and complications. Too many times, I have seen people’s NVC “practice” lead simply to a dead-end. Authenticity, empathy and caring, to me, serve as a good clear reminder of what we are trying to do with all of this “NVC” stuff to begin with. In other words, getting real and speaking it, listening keenly from the other person’s perspective and loving no matter what.
Coming across the work of Carl Rogers also changed the way that I wanted to formulate, present and teach NVC. Rogers engaged with what he called “person-centered learning”, that is, “teaching” without a plan and interacting with the student where they are at, regardless of any pre-existing notions of who they are or where they should be. Being a “teacher”, a “trainer”, or a “professional” so-and-so was not as important as the individual learner connecting with their own authentic interest. At best, the person who wants to support learning helps to facilitate the learner connecting with their own actual interest. If they are not doing that, then they are just wasting their time.
My hope as an “NVC trainer”, if you want to call me that, is to practice embodying those qualities of personal authenticity, empathic understanding and unconditional caring during those times that I am together with those who are wanting to learn. I can share what I can, but nothing is possible without actual ongoing honest mutual dialogue. Perhaps one of the most moving lessons that people get through what is called “NVC training” is that real heart-felt connection between people is possible when one makes the concerted effort to have it happen. The specific “tools” come and go, they can be taken along or left behind, but the core message remains the same. My aim is to facilitate that happening.