The beginning of this transformation was innocuous enough. I was leading the morning session of a Nonviolent Communication Leadership Program retreat. A significant and unexpected conversation happened in the group, and I wanted to bring our attention back to the planned topic. Just then, someone had one more thing to say and asked to be heard, to be given empathy for what she was expressing. In response, I said something familiar such as: “I would love to be present with you now, and I feel too anxious about time.”
Before I managed to choose what to ask of her to see how to resolve the dilemma, someone else jumped in, rather agitated, saying something like: “I am tired of everything always being about time. Time this and time that. Enough. Time… time… time... I can’t stand it any more.” The ferocity of his reaction took me entirely by surprise, and then didn’t. If Nonviolent Communication is about the human needs, then attributing any choice to “time” was exiting the awareness of needs as motivating every action. My awkwardness and confusion turned into serious curiosity. I told him I was eager to explore it deeply and would get back to him. We somehow worked out the agitation of the moment, the decisions about what we would give our attention to were made, and the morning ended.