Lov-In Language draws primarily on the principles of Non-Violent Communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg and the Social Science of Restorative Practices. This blog post details the basics of Rosenberg's Non-Violent communication.
The purpose of Lov-In Language:
to support connections between individuals and in groups which empower compassionate exchange, allowing for each individual to contribute their best self to those receiving them.
to support organizational structures which empower members to contribute their best self to the organization.
Lov-In Language uses the structures of Non-violent Communication (NVC), involving both communication skills that foster compassionate relating and consciousness of the interdependence of your well being and using power with others to work together to acknowledge and meet the needs of all concerned.
This approach to communication emphasizes compassion as the motivation for action rather than fear, guilt, shame, blame, coercion, threat or justification for punishment. In other words, it is about getting what you want for reasons you will not regret later. Lov-In Language is NOT about getting people to do what you want. It's about being able to know and understand others, about being known and understood, and about creating a quality of connection that addresses the needs of all through compassionate connection, giving and receiving.
The process of NVC encourages you to focus on what you and others are observing separate from your interpretations and judgments, to connect your thoughts and feelings to underlying human needs/values (e.g. protection, support, love), and to be clear about what you would like towards meeting those needs. These skills give the ability to translate from a language of criticism, blame, and demand into a language of human needs -- a language of life that consciously connects you to the universal qualities alive in you and all humanity, that sustain and enrich your well being, and focus your attention on what actions you could take to manifest these qualities.
In this post we will cover 4 key distinctions made in NonViolent Communication which can support you when faced with conflict and language which disconnects such as diagnoses, criticisms, condemnations and blaming. You will learn distinctions which allow you to express yourself honestly without attacking. This can help minimize the likelihood of receiving defensive reactions from others. This practice is designed to give you insight into critical and hostile messages without taking them personally, giving in, losing self-esteem, or giving away your personal power. NVC as used in Lov-In Language supports you in all relationships including your relationships at work, at home and at play. Especially important, NVC can support you in your own internal dialogues, giving you greater understanding and compassion for what drives you.
Following NVC, Lov-In Language starts by listening with Empathy. What is Empathy?
Empathy is a quality of being present with someone, and going as deep as possible with what is most alive in the moment. One way to support this "going deep" is by inquiring about what need feelings and needs are present in others as you listen to them (or in yourself as you listen to yourself).
Empathy itself is silent. You can say things out loud to help let the other know that you are in empathy with them, but it is not always necessary or even productive to express empathy verbally. One way to express it in one's mind or out loud - especially for beginners - is to make an empathy guess which looks like this, “Are you feeling ___________ because you need ___________.”
LANGUAGE THAT DISCONNECTS
It is helpful to look at language as either being language which disconnects or which connects. NVC uses 4 basic steps for communicating to compare language which connects and language which disconnects.
EVALUATIONS vs OBSERVATIONS (see "Seeing through your ASS-umptions" for more)
Evaluations/Judgements when expressed as a truth (rather than acknowledged as a judgement) are likely to put others on the defensive unless they agree with your judgement, which is unlikely when engaging with someone you are experiencing conflict with. Judgements and Evaluations disconnect you from others and from yourself. They close the door of curiosity. They don't invite exploration into the deeper feelings and needs under a person's actions.
Observations are objective truths, facts that we can all agree on. They are less likely to add to conflict and more likely to connect since they contain information that everyone can agree on.
“He hates my cooking” is a judgement. “He didn't eat the meatloaf I cooked for dinner” is an observation. The observation invites the question of what need might he have been meeting by not eating the meatloaf.
As an exercise use the chart below to change the evaluations to observations.
THOUGHTS/FAUX FEELINGS vs FEELINGS
When you label your thoughts and judgements as feelings you become disconnected from your needs and are not clearly expressing to others what you are feeling. Feelings exist exclusively within yourself. Although they may arise following an action of another they are independent of others. For example "disrespect" isn't a feeling it's an action and it involves at least two people, one who is respecting, and the other who is being respected. Thoughts expressed as feelings, such as "I feel disrespected" are likely to be received as an accusation and bring up defensiveness in the other, especially when you are already experiencing conflict. Saying “I feel misunderstood.” Doesn't really connect you or others to what you are truly feeling or needing. “Misunderstood” implies an action being done by others to you. When you “feel” misunderstood, you are actually THINKING you are misunderstood because you are not getting a need met (and surely if others understood you, they would meet your need, is your thinking). You might be feeling scared. You might be feeling frustrated. You might be feeling confused or ashamed. Scared, frustration, confusion and shame are all feelings. You can experience them when you are alone walking in the woods. Respect & being understood are needs. They involve more than you in order to exist. Honing in on your deep feelings will help you determine what needs are not getting met and help you clearly ask for what you need.
As an exercise read the thought words below, which are often expressed as feelings, making them what I call "faux feelings". Put the phrase "I feel..." in front of each word and guess at the actually feelings the person may be experiencing. For example, "I feel disrespected". The person may be feeling angry, scared, confused, depressed...etc... To make sure you are listing feelings use the list of feelings words posted at the end of this blog post to complete.
STRATEGIES vs NEEDS
Needs as used in NVC are the universal, life giving needs which all humans share, such as shelter, safety, connection, freedom. It's likely that you and those in your life jump to finding strategies for your and other challenges before identifying your or others underlying needs. With every action and reaction you are attempting to meet one or more needs. For example, when you go for a run, you may be meeting a need to move your body and connect with nature. For someone else, they may detest running and may best meet their need for moving their body and connecting to nature by going paddle boarding. The needs are for exercise and connection to nature. The strategies are running and paddle boarding.
Often, when listening to others, rather than simply listening for the feelings and needs, you may jump to trying to “FIX” the problem. When you do this you may create a disconnection because 1) you likely don’t even know the need trying to be fulfilled, 2) the speaker may just want to be heard and known and will feel resentful being told what to do. When your friend comes to you and says, "Ugh, I've been stuck in the house working on my computer for two days!", They may have a need to move their body and connect with nature - but if they do you don't know what strategies would best meet either of those needs without asking them. Even more importantly, their need might simply be needs for empathy, and the best way to support them could be to say, "That sounds uncomfortable to me. How is it affecting you?"
ALWAYS make sure you understand a person’s needs and then ask permission before giving advice, i.e. “Are you saying you need your child to be safe? While at the same time supporting his autonomy?" If you receive a YES...you may follow with, "I’d like to support you. Would you like me to share some ideas for how you might do that? Or is there another way you could use my support?”
UNIVERSAL NEEDS: Safety, Love, Freedom, Sustenance, Empathy, Honesty, Play, Community, Contribution. Is there any of these needs you can honestly say you don’t need to THRIVE? Would you wish anyone to live without any of these needs being met (assuming their need being met doesn’t threaten your own needs being met)?
As an exercise use your list of Universal Needs shared at the end of this post to explore what needs might lie under the strategies used below:
DEMANDS vs REQUESTS
Demands are often veiled as requests and almost always elicit resistance. Why does a teenager stomp to the door as he takes out the trash? Even though mom said, “Would you take out the trash before you go out tonight?” he knows she isn't making a request of him. He stomps because he is angry. He is angry because he knows that if had answered no, his mom would have taken away the car keys and he wouldn't be able to go out. Mom may have used the words "Would you please” but the phrase was very obviously to the teenager (given 15 years of his life experience) a demand not a request. Demands masked as requests usually illicit even more defiance, anger, frustration, and disconnection than demands spoken clearly as a demand, because the demand is not only a demand but it is also (consciously or unconscious is irrelevant) a deception.
When you make a request, make it as clear as possible, always be willing to hear a no and stay open-hearted. A request is not a request, no matter how sweetly spoken, if the answer will result in you creating a negative consequence for the person being asked.
There are definitely times in your life when making a demand is the best strategy you can come up with to get the result you want. For example, it's important for a toddler's safety that they don't run out into a busy street. Similarly, at work, it may be important for team members to fully comply with confidentiality rules. It's important in both these examples that messaging is NOT relayed as a request but as a demand with clear and meaningful reasoning and consequences.
Note: In my experience the first powerful request you can make of another is, “Would you be willing to tell me what you just heard me say? Or “Would you be willing to tell me what you understand about what I just shared?”
HEARING THE YES IN THE NO - STAYING CONNECTED
Invariably and likely often, you will receive a "No" to your requests. No matter how clearly and compassionately you communicate, those you communicate with may not have the capacity to support you in the way you are asking while maintaining their whatever it is they need to thrive. How do you hear a no and stay open hearted? You hear the yes in the no. When a person says no to your request they are saying yes to a need they have. They are not saying “I don’t want to support you.” They are saying “I need to support myself before I can support you.”
To stay connected after hearing a NO. You could ask the other something to the effect of, “I am guessing you said no because there is something you need. Would you mind sharing with me what that is?”
To stay connected when answering NO. Acknowledge the other person's need and your desire for them to get their need met. Is there another way you might be able to support them? Imagine someone asked you to wash the dishes, but you are in the middle of an important project, you might help them hear your no by adding, “I want to finish my work here before moving on. Can I do the dishes in an hour?” or “Is there another chore I can do to help out when I am done?”.
APPLY THE PRINCIPLES ABOVE USING THIS EXERCISE:
Try this exercise. Think of something someone said to you recently which triggered you to have an intense feeling like anger, frustration, sadness, etc...someone said to you, “You never listen to me!” (it's important you pick the specific phrase they said to you which triggered the biggest reaction.)
FIRST write down all the judgmental phrases about the person speaking to you which came to you in the moment. “She’s a bitch. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Everyone hates her. Every knows she’s pushy,”
NEXT write down all the judgmental phrases you told yourself in this moment. “I am so stupid. Here I am again. She’s right. I am a horrible friend.”
NEXT look into your feelings and needs in this moment, “I’m feeling scared, because I don’t want to lose her as a friend. I am feeling angry, because I want her to know me and trust me and listen to me. I am feeling frustrated, because I want her to know I care about her. I want us to be connected.”
LASTLY - if you can, explore the feelings and needs which might be driving the words this person expressed. “I wonder if she is afraid that I am not listening to her because she doesn’t matter to me.” “Is she mad because she doesn’t think I understand her and she needs to be understood.” “Is she afraid that she won’t get the support she needs because I don't hear her, or understand her?”
Use the charts below to complete the exercises above. These have been compiled from various NVC sources including CNVC.org
This post gives a very general overview of the 4 basic principles of NVC communication and how you might apply them. To learn more, look for blog posts which go deeper into each principle and explore Lov-In Communication deeper and more intricately.
Meanwhile, I urge you to take a few moments and ask yourself, "What stands out most to me after reading this?" "What might make a difference in my life?" "What would I like to know more about?"
Recognize you have your own language, and it's a language you've spend your whole life learning. It's not easy to change the way you talk or the way you interpret how others talk. Start with using these tools to learn about yourself and bring more self love, self compassion and self understanding into your life...and call me if you want to go deeper!
Center for Non-Violent Communication: CNVC.org
NVC Academy: NVCTraining.com
Bay Area NVC: BayNVC.org
Santa Cruz NVC: http://www.nvcsantacruz.org/