64 Days – Week 6

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Practice Group Curriculum

 

Week Six - What's Alive in Me...What's Alive in You

Thoughts and Intentions for the Week

Over the past weeks we have learned concepts to focus on, to increase our NVC "Consciousness." Concepts like Observation, Feelings, Needs and Requests. Additionally we have learned about empathically receiving ourselves and others. This week we will focus on relating to ourselves and others on a level of needs by practicing NVC empathy and expression. It is through the development of these tools (or skills) that we can "navigate" our way to a shared awareness of "what's alive in me...what's alive in you" or "what I am feeling and needing" and "what you are feeling and needing.

It is through these skills that we will learn to make effective connections by connection requests and ultimately transformative action requests. We will spend more time with Requests later. For now we are working on our "radar" and our "giraffe ears."

Reading and Discussion

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Self Empathy and Empathy in Action

by Thom Bond

I'll never forget the first time I "used NVC" with my father. After 40 years, I was sure that he would never stop criticizing me and giving me advice. All my adult life I felt miserable visiting during the holidays. It was driving me crazy.

I had been studying NVC for a little over a year when I went to see my parents for Thanksgiving. Eventually, I found myself having a "face-to-face" with my father. I was sharing my immediate plans with him and out it came. "Thom, you really have to get your act together. All the best plans and ideas don't matter if you don't get them on paper."

How I got through that moment was NOTHING like the last forty years. I'd like to share it with you in "slow motion," hoping it may contribute to you.

Step 1) Stop and slow down! As they say, if you keep doing what you' re doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting. The moment my father started in, I remembered to slow down and choose to act -- and not REact. In these moments, it helps to remember that there are probably three things happening. First, I have an unmet need. Second, I have a judgment. Three, I'm about to get into another fight with my father if I don't do something different this time.

My challenge was to focus on the "unmet need" part, and not the "judgment" part. This can be a challenge for me, since throughout my life I've been taught NOT to do this. As might be true for you, too, I'd been taught to blame someone else for my unmet needs, and focus my attention on blaming them rather than focusing on my own needs. In my NVC studies, I had been working on catching these moments and slowing down so I could focus on my needs and others' needs, NOT the blame.

To reinforce this new habit, I had given myself some "keys" to look for that would remind me I was going down the same path again. I noticed a tightening in my chest and the thought, "He shouldn't be saying that, he's wrong." That was my cue. Tight chest, and the "should/shouldn't" word.

Step 2) Give me Empathy! "What do I really feel and need in this moment?" My next step was to focus on my feelings and needs. I was feeling afraid, but also hopeful. I wanted to have more ease, to be seen, and I'm sure I would have liked some more connection and safety. So I made a choice. I went for connection instead of arguing.

Step 3) Listen Empathically to the Other Person! I then put on my "empathy ears," ears that hear only feelings and needs. This was the moment of truth. I repeated Marshall's Rosenberg's words in my head. "All acts can be seen as an attempt to meet needs." But what need, I wondered, could possibly be met in my father by giving me a "hard time?" I wondered... That was it! Suddenly all those workshop hours were about to pay off. My empathy ears had survived the "attack," and somehow I could ask myself, "what needs could possibly be met by talking to me this way?" Focusing on my father's feelings and needs changed the moment right there. Right before my eyes, my father transformed from a "critical, didactic, know-it-all," to a man who loved his son and wanted to help him succeed. I spoke...

"So Dad, it really sounds like you want me to do well out there and want to contribute by sharing your experience with me." He looked confused for a moment, took a breath, and tipped his head to one side. In a tone that seemed a combination of relief and delight, he said, "Yeah, I do."

I'll never forget that moment. I could have defended myself, tried to convince him that I did have my act together. But all that didn't matter. What really mattered in that moment was that my Dad just wanted to support me, and express his care. I was able to just listen, and for the first time in a long long time, we weren't fighting.

Discussion Questions

1) What is Empathy really? In a nutshell?

2) Why is it so difficult to be empathic with the people we love the most?

3) Why is it so easy to see someone's needs at one time and difficult at others?

Exercise #1 - Self Empathy

This exercise can be done in diads or triads. This exercise is much more effective when modeled by the facilitator first. Particularly part "a", "requesting a moment." We will be practicing getting in touch with our own feelings and needs, as a means of "centering" and "choosing" our interactions. In this exercise, we will practice taking a moment in a conversation and "self-empathizing."

First, with you as "receiver," have your partner read one of the following quotes to you. Ask for a moment. Give yourself empathy (out loud with hand on head). Ask yourself "what would I like to do right now?" Option: See if you can think of what you might say back to the person.
1. Just once, I’d like to talk about what’s going on for me.

a) Request a moment

b) Self-Empathy...What is that?

c) When I see/hear:

d) I feel:

e) Because I need:

f) What would I like to do right now?:

2. You’re just not putting in your share of the work.

a) Request a moment

b) Self-Empathy...What is that?

c) When I see/hear:

d) I feel:

e) Because I need:

f) What would I like to do right now?:

3. This place is a mess!

a) Request a moment

b) Self-Empathy...What is that?

c) When I see/hear:

d) I feel:

e) Because I need:

f) What would I like to do right now?:

Exercise #2 - Empathy Circle Part II

KEYS:

a. NVC empathy is a process of discovering or being present to another's (or one's own) feelings and needs. “Accuracy” is not necessary for empathy to take place. If the person does not connect with our guess, he or she will let us know and we can then make another guess based on this new information.

b. Keep yourself out of the empathy guess, making sure to connect the person’s feelings to his or her own needs, not to you, even when their feelings seem very much about you. Example: Instead of saying: “Are you frustrated at me because you want me to understand you?” you could say: “Are you frustrated because you’re needing understanding?” Keeping yourself out of the empathy guess will help both of you to remain clear about the source of feelings and give you more room to hear those feelings without either “defending” yourself or “attacking” the other person.

This exercise is designed for Diads. In this exercise have your partner tell you about an interaction or situation that is alive for them. Something incomplete or stimulating. NOTE: It is very important to become good at identifying and remembering these situations. Respond "empathically by guessing a feeling and a need. Do this for 10 minutes. Facilitators should role-model for the group and check in to diads for quality of connection and coaching if possible. After 10-20 minutes switch and repeat.

EXAMPLE:

1. “I'm really bummed about the job scene here in New York.”

Are you feeling: Sad?

Because you’re needing: Hope?

2. "I just wish I could get a job that fits me."

Are you feeling: Frustrated?

Because you value: choice?

3. "This has been going on for years"

Are you feeling: frustrated?

Because you’re needing: some movement?

At the end of the exercise, in the large group, share experiences with an emphasis on focus (i.e. a habitual way of thinking about something other than your partner's feelings and needs).

Exercise #3 - Four Ears

In any given instance, we can choose how we are going to respond to a “hard to hear” statement. We can judge others, we can judge ourselves. We can connect with our feelings and needs or we can connect with others feelings and needs. In this exercise we are going to respond in four different ways, using the metaphor of jackal and giraffe “ears” to help clarify the differences.
First we are going to write down a “hard to hear” statement, something that someone said to you that you did not like hearing. Next we break into smaller groups of 2-4. Now have your partner read it to you and respond as follows: 
  • 1.  Judgment Ears Out​– Blaming or Judging Them 
  • ❏ What's wrong with them  
  • ❏ What they should or shouldn't be doing  
  • 2.  Judgment Ears In​– Blaming or Judging Myself 
  • ❏ What's wrong with me  
  • ❏ What I should or shouldn't be doing
  • 3.  Compassionate Ears In ​My Feelings and Needs 
  • ❏ How I’m feeling  
  • ❏ What I might possibly be needing and requesting 
  • 4.  Compassionate Ears Out ​Their Feelings and Needs
  • ❏ How they might be feeling
  • ❏ What they might possibly be needing and requesting 
Harvest 

Exercise #4 - Expression

Translating into NVC – Expression – OFNR
(with a little help from your friends)

KEYS:

a. Every judgment, demand, or other form of habitual expression is an expression of feelings and needs.

b. We can respond to our reactions by connecting our feelings to our own unmet needs.

c. By following with requests, we are far more likely to have our needs considered or fulfilled.

This exercise is done in triads or diads.

Part 1
Begin by practicing with the first 3 statements below. Imagine each statement is something that you might want to say to another person. Translate the statements into your observations, feelings, needs and requests. Feel free to use the feelings and needs inventories and the list of connection requests. Share your answers with your partners).

Part 2
In this part (number 4), think of a quote or situation in your life where you are experiencing "Jackal thoughts." You can continue on the subject you choose earlier or you can work with something else. It is very helpful to work with a QUOTE as opposed to a situation. Try doing "self-empathy out loud" and/or get empathy from your partner(s). At the end of your self-empathy/empathy session, identify a specific need you would like to pay attention to and work with your partner(s) to think of 3 requests you could make of yourself or others.

Harvest in the large group.

1. Would you please stop criticizing me?

When I see/hear:

I feel:

Because I need:

Would you be willing to:

2. This whole evening has been a disaster.

When I see/hear:

I feel:

Because I need:

Would you be willing to:

3. I feel like I’m doing all the work in this relationship.

When I see/hear:

I feel:

Because I need:

Would you be willing to:

4. Your own.

When I see/hear, think about:

I feel:

Because I need:

Would you be willing to:

Homework

1) Give someone empathy (silently) when they tell you about some pain or unmet need they have or when they express a judgment. Try this a minimum of three times this week.

2) Explain "what empathy is and why you would like to be more empathic" to someone who is important to you.

For more information call (646) 201-9226 or email to 64days@nycnvc.org.