Thursday, May 26, 2022

My Continuing Relationship with Nonviolent Communication

I have a long-standing and complex relationship with Nonviolent Communication. This is something that I have publicly reflected upon and pontificated about in the past. A few years ago I wrote a blog post titled Why I Am Not Into NVC Anymore and more recently I have felt moved to write a follow-up piece here elaborating on where things stand now with regards to my relationship with NVC. Long story short, I am into NVC once again and that blog post was indicative of but a temporary period of time away from NVC. Let me explain...

I believe that what happened was that over time, in a ten-year period between the years of 2008 and 2018, my personal practice of NVC gradually decreased. My participation in things like empathy exchanges, practice groups and other NVC events as well as my personal individual NVC practice, things like self-empathy inquiry and journaling, all of these things became fewer and further between for me. This resulted in my relationship with NVC becoming more of an abstraction to me, more of a mental concept than a lived practice. During this time, the founder/creator of NVC Marshall Rosenberg passed away. This set in motion a chain of events that would substantially affect the global community of NVC enthusiasts. In other words, people needed to figure out where to go next with NVC without the top dog being around anymore. One thing lead to another and eventually the Center for Nonviolent Communication organization launched an initiative to restructure itself along the lines of more of a decentralized bottom-up network. This initiative was called the New Future Process. I had a lot of excitement about this initiative and my big hope was that this could lead to a lot of the different changes that I wanted to see in the global NVC network finally coming about. When work on the New Future Process was suspended that was the "final straw" for me. I was hurt, disappointed, disillusioned and disgusted with the CNVC organization. My faith and trust in both NVC in general and the CNVC organization in particular took a big blow with that. This all resulted in me deciding to take a break from NVC in general and writing that aforementioned blog post, Why I Am Not Into NVC Anymore.

After a couple of years went by, something happened. Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns and social distancing that was happening all around the world, the international NVC community began to create it's own new decentralized network of NVC practitioners who organized primarily online through various platforms such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Signal, Facebook and the like. I discovered various international online NVC events that were taking place, organized by various different groups around the world such as NVC Rising, NVC Academy, Empathic Way Europe and NVCDayOne. I believe that the ease of access for these events, being able to attend them while staying in the comfort of my own home, lead to me being more open and receptive to exploring NVC again. My previous period of heavy involvement with NVC was predicated on me being both willing and able to travel all across the country to attend various NVC events. Given that my lifestyle no longer enables me to have that same kind of freedom to travel, I think that I unconsciously must have come to the conclusion that that kind of involvement with NVC was no longer possible for me anymore. Through my getting involved with NVC though this decentralized online network I have been able to meet a number of different NVC practitioners from all across the country and around the world, which is something that I am very much grateful for since it has significantly contributed to my life. And in some respects, this decentralized network is the kind of thing that I was wanting to see come about as a result of the New Future Process in the first place!

Because of this process of being re-introduced to NVC through this informal online global network of NVC practitioners, I have resumed having a personal practice of NVC once again. I have beem engaging in empathic listening exchanges with others in addition to self-empathy for myself, as well as having many conversations with other NVC practitioners about their own NVC practice. This resumed personal practice has been of great benefit to me, it has helped me to be both more self-aware and attuned with what's going on within me mentally/emotionally-speaking, and it has helped me to be more aware of the various choices that I have been making and the effects of these choices. This practice has also helped me to get better at empathizing with other people, to view others with more compassion, and it has gradually made me more aware of how various choices I have made has lead to there being more or less connection with others. And thanks to one NVC friend I met through this, I have also been able to come to appreciate how intentionally setting boundaries with others can be supportive to me and my practice of NVC. Throughout all of this I began to dust off my old NVC skills and knowledge and I began to appreciate NVC as a lived practice once again, and not just as a theoretical understanding (although that can be helpful too).

Ultimately I have come to appreciate NVC again as a great tool for increaseing my own self-understanding, for humanizing others and developing more compassion, for getting clear on what exactly my choices and actions are, and for better understanding the complex interplay of emotions and what drives them. I think that I lost a lot of this through neglecting my personal practice of NVC. I certainly do not view NVC as being the only practice or tool that can be useful for people in this realm, nor do I view it as being the "best" one out there per se. But NVC is the one that I have a high degree of comfort and familiarity with and appreciation for, so I believe that I will contunue to stick with it.

This all being said, I also realize that nowadays I have no interest in being an NVC trainer or teacher, nor do I have any interest in marketing or proselytizing NVC to others. If you have an interest in practicing NVC, that's great, come join me in practicing it sometime somewhere. If you have no interest in NVC, that's great too, go do something else then that suits you better. I have no desire to convince or convert others to NVC. I leave it entirely up to other people to determine for themselves what they think about and how they relate with NVC.

Frankly, I recognize that attempting to practice and live NVC is tough work. Our pre-existing social conditioning is extensive and our habitual patterns of thought and behavior are deeply engrained in us. Trying to undue all of that to live in a radically different way is an uphill battle. The standard marketing pitch for NVC is filled with promises of joyful connection and playful contribution, and while those things can occur at times, experiences of emotional pain and difficult conversations are just as likely. And what I said in that blog post, "Why I am Not Into NVC Anymore", about my never having witnessed NVC being used to successfully resolve conflicts, well that still rings true for me. I still haven't seen it happen. It might be happening without me knowing about it, and I hope that it is, but unfortunately I still haven't seen it myself.

So where does this all leave me in my relationship with NVC now? What is my role within the greater NVC community currently? Well, this is still a work-in-progress for me. This is something that I am still trying to figure out. What I would like to be, in addition to being an NVC practitioner, is an NVC supporter. I would like to be someone who helps other people who are trying to learn and practice NVC and who are looking for support with this. Maybe one can call this role a "coach", a "guide", a "faciltiator", I don't know, nor do I particularly care about these labels (although I am fond of the term "flying giraffe"). The key thing is that I would like to work with people who already know NVC to some extent, people who already have some degree of personal committement to NVC and it's principles and practices and who actively want somebody such as myself to help them with whatever it is that they are struggling with. I do not want to impose myself on others who do not want my assistance or involvement with their NVC journey, nor do I want to try to sell NVC to others who are not familiar with NVC. In a number of ways, what I wrote about this subject over ten years ago still applies to me. I do very much appreciate the sense of community and mutual aid that can develop between NVC enthusiasts, and that is something that I would like to partake in and support as well.

Taken altogether, I guess that I will say that I am back in NVC-land now! The landscape has certainly changed, since it is all much more online now and less reliant upon in-person gatherings, the Grand Poobah is dead, as are a few other notable NVC trainers. Some of my friends who were also into NVC in the past have drifted away from it, some of these friends have died, and I now have some new friends who are into NVC, all coming from a variety of different backgrounds and experience levels with NVC. Things arise and pass away, in constant motion and change, and I guess that that is an essential part of life. I am glad that I have something like Nonviolent Communication to accompany me through all of this.

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