Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is NVC Practical?

by Miki Kashtan

One of the most common critiques I hear of Nonviolent Communication is that it’s simply not practical. “It would be great if this can work,” the line often goes. “Too bad that in my (school, family, organization) we don’t have the luxury of taking all this time to do all this endless dialogue that it takes to get anywhere. No one would have the patience, anyway.”

I have my thoughts about why working things out for everyone’s benefit takes as long as it often does and how to shift out of those challenges. I plan to write about it in a blog post soon. For now, I want to highlight three areas in which I see the use of NVC as directly contributing to movement. So practical, in fact, that I sometimes wonder how anyone can get anything done without this support.

Resolving Inner Conflict
My experience of working with people in diverse situations over the years has shown me that more often than not our inner conflicts are equally if not more distressing to us than our outer conflicts. Inner conflicts take many forms. It can be a decision that we can’t make, a painful inner loop of self-criticism followed by impatience with ourselves for still criticizing ourselves, regret about something we did that we can’t seem to come to peace about, or a host of other equally familiar ones. Even our outer conflicts are often intertwined with our inner life, since our reaction to others is fundamentally more the expression of our own meaning-making than a direct result of anything the other person  does.

I have seen both myself and others reach fast and lasting relief, even from ongoing issues, by applying the core practice of NVC which makes everything else possible: being able to name and make full emotional contact with the needs that give rise to the various thoughts, images, inner demands, judgments, or even fears that we carry internally. When I was agonizing for weeks with the decision about whether or not to continue to lead the BayNVC Leadership Program, I went back and forth without much progress until I listened fully to all the different voices inside myself. Once all the needs were on the table, I was able to make a decision easily and gently in less than an hour. What makes this possible, in my experience, is overcoming any reluctance to listen seriously to what any part in me would want, which allows synergy and internal coherence to emerge.