Fight Less, Fuck More: A Guide to NVC
Updated: Jan 8
A Beginners Guide to Nonviolent Communication
"You're not hearing me!"
"No, You're not hearing me!"
"I just need you to acknowledge my feelings!"
"But what about when you.....!!"
And so it goes for about two days till we either break up temporarily or give up the fight for the sake of both our mental health. How often do you find yourself trapped in these cycles as we did?
Recently Rob and I reached a breaking point. We were tired of hurting each other, tired of fighting, tired of feeling misunderstood. So we broke up and in the days to follow decided to do something drastic. We laid down the swords, and humbly picked up a book that would change the course of our relationship. What we realized is that the problem was not what we were fighting about; it was how. And even more profound than that was that when we acknowledge what is alive in each other, we gain empathy and avoid fighting altogether. This is the journey of nonviolent communication.
"Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is an approach to listening and speaking that leads us to give from the heart, connecting us with ourselves and with each other and that allows our natural compassion to flourish."
As I began to read the book, I noticed how often I was attempting to express my "feelings" but wasn't using feelings at all. And that the language I was using was contributing to feelings of guilt or shame in my partner. When I say, "I feel like you don't acknowledge my feelings," I haven't actually expressed a feeling. Feelings are what is alive in us. At the end of this article, I have attached a list of feelings and needs to help you express yourself articulately.
The other thing I observed was how often my "requests" of my partner were "don'ts." "I don't want to feel like..." or "I don't want you to..." So I took this quote away with me, "I can't do a don't." Instead of giving my partner a list of things I don't want, it became essential to make requests that were clear and obtainable. And in that, I was more likely to get my needs met.
"Anger is a result of life-alienating thinking that is disconnected from needs. It indicates that we have moved up to our head to analyze and judge somebody rather than focus on what we are needing and not getting."
About a month ago Rob and I got into a fight. He had three dates with three different women in 3 days. I was angry about this. And he was mad at me because he thought I was trying to control his life while I was away on the ranch. My words came out as judgments, and what I realized later was that I subconsciously wanted him to feel guilty. After we read this book, as an exercise, we went back to that fight to see how we could have handled it better. And it went something like this.
Rob: "When you're away I feel lonely and sad. I have a need for connection and companionship that is not being met. I want your support in me getting those needs met."
Chelsa: "When you spend this much time with other women, I feel afraid of being abandoned. Because I am not there, I feel guilty for contributing to your pain. I need communication and a sense of security. It would help for you to reassure me of your love and that I am not being replaced."
Wow! What a difference! I was amazed at how quickly I wanted him to get his needs met and how much compassion I felt for him. And him for me. And in a brief amount of time, and with no fighting, we both felt safe and hopeful. Of course, It didn't go quite as gracefully as it appears here. We stumbled a bit but eventually, we got there. Rob grew up in a household where men didn't talk about their emotions and his fear of failure can result in him not wanting to attempt something new. But as we continue to practice this, it is becoming more natural, and for the first time in his 36 years, he is finding his voice. We read this book together, one section at a time, and discussed them as we went. After a week of being broken up, our hearts had softened, and we decided emphatically that we wanted to continue a relationship with each other.
The four components of NVC are Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests.
a. The concrete actions we observe that affect our well-being.
b. How we feel in relation to what we observe.
c. The needs, values, desires, etc. that create our feelings.
d. The concrete actions we request to enrich our lives.
We must first differentiate between an observation and evaluation. It is a difference of saying, "You are lazy," And "I've noticed that you have been late to work the last three days in a row." We must remain objective and avoid inserting our own judgments.
The second step is expressing how that observation makes us feel and to distinguish feelings from thoughts. "I feel resentful because I have to open the shop myself." When we share our feelings, we become vulnerable and contribute to the resolution of conflict. There is no right or wrong when it comes to our emotions. What matters is what we do with them.
The third step is acknowledging the need that is behind our feelings. When we do this, we accept responsibility for our feelings and avoid defensiveness, opening ourselves up to compassion and understanding. "I have a need for fairness and shared responsibility in the workplace."
Next, we make a request for what could enrich our lives. We must avoid blame and making demands. "I can't do a don't." And after we make an explicit request for what we need, we may ask for the listener to repeat back to us what they heard to ensure that the message was received. "I would appreciate it if you could be on time to work to help me complete our tasks."
Finally, one of the most important things we must do is compassionately connect with ourselves. Making mistakes is inevitable. Throw out the "shoulds." "I should have done this." "I should have known better." Inserting moralistic self-judgments will hinder our growth.
"The more you become a connoisseur of gratitude, the less you are a victim of resentment, depression, and despair. Gratitude will act as an elixir that will gradually dissolve the hard shell of your ego—your need to possess and control—and transform you into a generous being. The sense of gratitude produces true spiritual alchemy, makes us magnanimous—large souled." Sam Keen
This may not be the sexiest article I have ever written, but what is sexy is communicating with your partner. Communication is paramount when it comes to participation in any relationship but especially in non-monogamous relationships. When this happens, we spend more time connected and feeling joy, and we spend less time on the conflict carousel. In experiencing empathy for my partner, I become enthusiastic about their needs being met.
Less Fighting, More Fucking.
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Your Kinky Kitty,
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph. D.