by Miki Kashtan
In my last post I wrote about some of the ways that I see Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as being remarkably practical. That piece was set up as a response to the frequent critiques of NVC that come my way, sometimes even from long-time NVC enthusiasts. In this post I want to address this critique from a different angle.
I have, indeed, often seen dialogues that take way longer than I would anticipate, even with support from an experienced NVC mediator or facilitator. I know of people who have given up on certain relationships or groups they were part of, despite making ongoing attempts to connect and reach mutual understanding. I have seen many times decisions about seemingly small items take so long that many wished someone would just dictate the outcome instead of the agonizing attempt to get everyone’s needs on the table. What is going on in all of these situations?
Lack of Trust
Undoubtedly there are many different reasons and issues at play in each situation. My own experience leads me to a strong suspicion that a major contributor to this difficulty is the degree to which so many of us live with a permanent sense of mistrust. Just last week I was present for a situation between two friends and business partners who clearly love each other and nonetheless operate in a mutually antagonistic way about their business. I was astonished by how each of their attempts to protect and guard their own needs resulted in more stress for the other, who then proceeded to guard their own needs even more strongly. Trust, especially the foundational trust that we matter, appears to me to be a sine qua non for the possibility of resolving conflicts, reaching agreements, making collaborative decisions, or any other endeavor that includes within it the possibility of difference and disagreement.
Tuesday evening, during the discussion of my previous blog post that took place as part of my weekly telecourse on the topics of this blog, I became even more clearly aware of this dynamic as one person after another spoke about the ease with which they lose their emotional balance in difficult situations. That ease, in my view, is rooted in the lack of trust that our needs would matter, and hence an intensity of protectiveness around them. Learning to make NVC more practical, then, is about cultivating inner trust as well as recognizing others’ lack of trust, and aiming to nurture both while engaging in any challenging conversation.