Week One - Gathering and Developing Shared Understanding
Thoughts and Ideas for the Week
There are many different ways to conduct a practice group. Ultimately, your group will develop its own set of favorite things to do, big groups, small groups, empathy sessions, practice exercises, role-plays and heart-connected discussion. All have a place in practice groups. The following is a typical format for an evening. Many groups have found it helpful to start with a general structure and then make changes based on the needs of the group from there. This way members get more learning and less "process" in the beginning and it contributes to harmony, ease and learning.
Starting - Creating a space to learn and practice NVC can be challenging. Many groups find it helpful to take 30 seconds or a minute of silence to quiet the mind and become "present" to ourselves and the others in the room. Some groups like to use candle lighting or chimes to mark the beginning of the group.
Check-in - Depending on the size of the group this can take 10 to 30 minutes. An "NVC" check-in usually consists of a statement of how you're feeling and what needs and values are in your awareness. I have seen many groups benefit by providing a timer and an agreement to take a certain amount of time for each check-in (like 2 minutes). I have also noticed that it is helpful to keep check-ins simple by letting the person talk as opposed to asking questions and being conversational. This way is more supportive of using time effectively.
Second Check-in - Some groups use this as a way to mention anything special they might want to work on that night or something they forgot to say or something that was stimulated during someone else's check-in.
Practice. For the 9 weeks we will provide discussion questions, exercises and even homework to do during the week. When doing exercises, it is important to follow directions carefully. Facilitators almost always benefit from trying a "dry run" before hand, just to be clear for everyone else.
Harvesting. Harvesting is a way to get learning from exercises and role-plays. By sharing our learning and observations with each other we can often increase the insight and learning we get. Harvesting after each exercise contributes to deeper integration and learning.
Closing. Taking the time to "close" the practice group always feels better than when groups "unravel". Many groups find it helpful to take a moment of silence to end the evening.
Suggested Facilitator Preparation
- Read the "Reading and Discussion" articles published below.
- Go to www.theexercise.org and complete the "Shifting to Compassion" Exercise. Print Feelings and Needs sheets for future use.
- Buy a notebook/journal to keep notes and sheets from the group.
Developing a Shared Foundation of Understanding
Read the following and afterwards, discuss the questions below:
The purpose of Nonviolent communication (NVC) is to strengthen our ability to inspire compassion from others and to respond compassionately to others and to ourselves. NVC guides us to re-frame how we express ourselves and hear others by focusing our consciousness on what we are observing, feeling*, needing*, and requesting. We are trained to make careful observations free of evaluation, and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others, and to identify and clearly articulate what we are wanting in a given moment. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed, rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion.
Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative. While it is taught through the use of a concrete model, and is referred to as “a process of communication” or a “language of compassion,” Nonviolent Communication is more than a process or a language. As our cultural conditioning often leads our attention in directions unlikely to get us what we want, NVC serves as an ongoing reminder to focus our attention on places that have the potential to yield what we are seeking—a flow between ourselves and others based on a mutual giving from the heart. Founded on language and communication skills that enable us to remain human, even under trying conditions, Nonviolent Communication contains nothing new: all that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries. The intent is to remind us about what we already know—about how we humans were meant to relate to one another—and to assist us in living in a way that concretely manifests this knowledge.
The use of NVC does not require that the persons with whom we are communicating be literate in NVC or even motivated to relate to us compassionately. If we stay with the principles of NVC, with the sole intention to give and receive compassionately, and do everything we can to let others know this is our only motive, they will join us in the process and eventually we will be able to respond compassionately to one another. While this may not happen quickly, it is our experience that compassion inevitably blossoms when we stay true to the principles and process of Nonviolent Communication.
-Adapted from “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion”
by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD.
What is Nonviolent Communication?
- What is the main purpose of NVC?
- What do we mean by "The parallel universe of feelings and needs"?
Read the following and afterwards, discuss the questions below:
When I first started studying Nonviolent Communication (NVC), I was amazed at how simple it was. This was immediately followed by my amazement of how difficult it was. How could something so simple be so hard. I learned that the answer didn’t necessarily make NVC any easier to learn. However, it did allow me to be easier on myself. Below is a poem that puts it into perspective for me.
I have a little robot
That goes around with me.
Sometimes she thinks what I’m thinking,
Sometimes she’s thinking me.
I have a little robot
That goes around with me.
Sometimes he thinks what I’m thinking,
Sometimes he’s thinking me.
It helps me to understand myself if I think of myself in two parts. My “Being” and my “Robot.” My “Being” has no habitual thoughts. He is always present and compassionate. My “Being” lives in my “Robot,” my human body and brain. The “Robot” is more habitual in thought, language and action. Although my “Robot” does change his habits, he does it a great deal slower than I would like. The good news is that he does eventually come around if I persist.
For example, when I was first studying NVC, I wanted to think about needs more often (mine and others) particularly in difficult situations. My “Being” knew this would bring more connection, understanding and ultimately be more life serving for me and those around me.
Yet my “Robot” continued to think about blame or how other people were “responsible” or what people (myself included) “should” or “shouldn’t” do or say. My inability to follow my own intention to be more compassionate was disturbing and puzzling to me. My “Robot” or “habitual self” was holding my “Being” back. Why?
I found some answers in a movie, “What the Bleep Do We Know?” It showed that the more our brain’s synapses connect in a certain pattern, the more they tend to re-connect in the exact same pattern. It’s this very characteristic that allows us to learn and remember things. So we can think of many thoughts as “habits.” This is why we don’t have to think very hard when brushing our teeth or getting off at our subway stop, yet we are thinking… habitually. It’s our brain doing it’s job without us, our “Robot.”
In many cases our “Robot” makes life easier. It allows us to multi-task and even protects us from danger. And yet there are other cases where we can find ourselves at odds with our “Robot.” Like when we are trying out new thoughts or behaviors. Like when trying to practice NVC.
Over time, habitual patterns can grow to be much more sophisticated than tooth brushing. They influence everything we do and think, from choosing what to eat to thinking your boss is a pain in the neck. Habitual thoughts particularly affect how we relate to ourselves, family and others close to us.
Although our “Robot “ influences the rate at which our thoughts and behaviors will shift, ultimately, with intention and practice, our “Being” creates new habits over time. Our “Being” can be thought of as the Creative Force determining our direction and experience. It is our “Being" that thinks new thoughts, that can bring new awareness to every moment. It is our “Being” that brings our “Robot” to our NVC Practice Group. Our “Being” that drags our “Robot” to the gym, that feeds the “Robot” healthier food.
When I think of my thoughts and actions from this perspective of “Robot/Being,” I feel less anxious about my rate of progress and more compassionate, understanding and present to myself in any new learning, including the integration of NVC. Thanks to my NVC experience, I don’t judge myself as much. That makes my process is less painful, more rewarding and I’m able to stick with it. When I stick with it, slowly and surely, my “Being” and my “Robot” become more aligned.
By Thom Bond
Director of Education, NYCNVC
- Why is NVC often considered "easy to understand and challenging to practice"?
- How can we learn NVC even though we may find it challenging?
Exercises for the Week - Seeing "The parallel Universe"
Exercise #1 Just Like Me
The Compassion Exercise
By Harry Palmer
Honesty with one’s self leads to compassion for others.
Objective: To increase the amount of compassion in the world.
Expected result: Increase in understanding and a personal sense of peace.
Instructions: This exercise can be done anywhere people congregate (airports, events, beaches, etc.) It should be done on strangers, unobtrusively and from some distance. Try to do all five steps on the same person.
Step 1: With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness for his/her life.”
Step 2: With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
Step 3: With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair.”
Step 4: With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”
Step 5: With your attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person is learning about life.”
Exercise #2 - The "T" Exercise
- Hand out feelings and needs sheets.
- Walk/Talk through- www.theexercise.org
Exercise #3 – Habitual Appreciation versus NVC Appreciation
In this exercise we practice giving "NVC appreciation." This means that instead of saying something like "you're great" or "good job" we make an observation of what the person did, tell them how you felt when they did the thing you described and what need was met. Try it!
1) Keep a journal of 2 NVC appreciations every day, including an observation, feeling(s) and need(s) met.
2) Repeat "The Exercise" using something that comes up for you (available through www.theexercise.org).
3) Read the Feelings and Need sheets and find your 5 favorite feelings and needs.
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