Listened to the show with Alissa Kriteman on Just for Women, on which she shared about using the NVC model in daily communication because she now could make sure her meets were met. As an example Alissa gave a not entirely unusual situation in which the partner leaves his pants lying on the floor. She approaches him saying something in the line of , “Honey, would you be willing to put your pants in the laundry basket?”. As I understand, in the NVC model we are to express our feelings, voice a request but also say what need this request would meet and why it is so important to us. In the example above Alissa did not do those steps so in fact the request was formulated in the usual way, not following the NVC model. In the partner’s place I might simply ask her “Why would I want to do that?” and carry on.
Say I were in the same situation and actually used NVC. What kind of need would I expect to be met in this case? Possibly the need for the house to be tidy. For starters, can we really see that as a need? Secondly, what if I before turning to the parner with my obsession about keeping the place tidy, looked at this so called need of mine and asked myself, “Why is it so important for me that the place is tidy?” I’d encourage myself to not accept any fluffy answers but really look into the “why” behind. After all, I am interested in the truth. This is how the inquiry could go (easy to imagine as I used to obsess about things being “in the right places”):
– Why is it so important for me that the place is tidy?
– Hmmm… Because I feel very uneasy when I see things lying on the floor.
– What is about it that you experience as uneasy? (The reformulated why).
– Hmmm… I feel guilty about not looking after the place.
– Why? (Where does the guilt come from?)
– Because my mother used to tell me how that “nice girls” always had their homes tidy.
– Anything else?
– Because if one of my friends pops in, they might think I am sloppy! I don’t want my friends to think I am sloppy while it is T. who is creating the mess around here.
(Getting somewhere with but still there is some digging to do).
– Why is it important for you that your friends don’t think you are sloppy?
– Because I want them to like me and think of me as someone who can take care of their home!
This is really hard work, challenging myself to go deeper and see what I am really asking for: it is about me trying to live up to my mother’s expectations of me being a “nice girl” and about my own ego. Are these my values? Do I really believe my friends will stop liking me if they see a pair of pants on the floor? What if they do (stop liking me)? For me the valuable piece of information in this internal inquiry is how my emotional well-being and a sense of self-worth is dependent on other people’s approval and actions: my friends’, my mother’s, my partner’s. I need to ask myself at this point if I really believe other people can give me self-worth and make me happy?
Also, can we really call this a need? To me it sounds more like a wish rather something that I need. If I do decide this is a need, is it really something I should push for being met? Maybe I can take this as an opportunity to instead of asking someone fix the situation for me, look at my own reactivity and choose otherwise? Whatever the result of this investigation, it allows me to be more honest with myself and others. Even if I still find that these pants on the floor are bothering me, I can voice the request with more understanding about where it comes from, “I have this neurosis about your pants lying on the floor in their place and I am working on it. Would you be willing to help me by picking them up and hanging them in the closet?” At the same time, I can see that just like I am acting out my habituated patterns so can my partner be acing out his and this is where I can feel more compassion for him, instead of simply being irritated and eager for him to take on my values (my mother’s values!). So the problem is not my partner being sloppy (they might as well be), but that these pants push my buttons and it’s helpful to know why.
Ok, enough with the pants. 🙂 While I really appreciate the part of the model where we are to identify and express how we feel about things, I am ambivalent about the motives behind the whole structure: why do we want to become better at communicating in the first place? People often talk about having those needs met and how wonderful it is. That is I want to communicate better in order that you get to know what it is I need and satisfy my need. It is all about me and my needs. Is this truly a better communication? For whom? How non-violent is it? Of course, the model itself is not violent, but I anticipate that in many situations it can result in a subtle form of verbal and emotional manipulation: by telling people why this need is important to me (“It is important that the place is tidy”) I make it more difficult for them to say no to my request and lift something that can be a result of a habituated pattern to the level of a need.
My point here is we should try to become aware of the motives behind our requests before turning to others to fix our problems. One of the greatest needs of all – us feeling fulfilled and happy – cannot be met by others changing their habits or liking us.
What are our experiences of NVC? In what situations using NVC really helped you to resolve the situation?