We have a NVC practitioner and teacher here, so I'm starting this thread to ask about something that has been troubling me for a long time.

I am a member of an immigrant solidarity mailing list and have been for years. A couple of years ago, one of the list members posted a comment made by Hillary Clinton that was not favorable towards immigrants. I agreed with the post that Clinton's statement was not helpful to immigrants.

On many lists and forums for the past twenty-five years, I've had to deal with tag-teams of Democratic Party political operatives who attack anyone who criticizes a Democratic government official in any way. Usually they'd make ad hominem attacks like saying I was obviously an angry, bitter person, or that I was obviously clinically insane, etc. I never responded in kind, but would just point out that they were off-topic, making personal attacks on me, and that it was inappropriate. I'd also use the opportunity to reiterate and clarify whatever comments I'd made. 

When I made the comment about Hillary, some new guy on the list started saying the same things, but in a different way. Instead of calling me angry or bitter, he'd say, "I'm hearing that you are an angry, bitter person, is that correct?" Instead of calling me crazy, he'd say, "I'm hearing that you have mental problems and are seeking help. Is that correct? I'd like to help you."

I responded the same way I always did to personal attacks by telling him that I was not the subject of the discussion, that he was off-topic, that his remarks were inappropriate, and, of course, I used the opportunity to further explain why Hillary's statement was not helpful to immigrants.

He didn't stop. He kept it up for what the list administrator later counted up to be 32 full pages. Finally the admin asked him to stop attacking me. He then started attacking the list admin and kept that up for about a week before the admin banned him from the list. He explained to the list that he wasn't making personal attacks, that he had studied NVC and he was using his newly learned techniques to experiment with NVC.

People have told me that he didn't really understand NVC and was misusing it. 

I don't know how I could have responded other than the way that I did. The list was for the purpose of discussing immigrant rights, not for analyzing or discussing me. By diverting attention from what Clinton had said about immigrants, to me personally, he was disrupting the discussion. I believe, since the circumstances were similar and the words he used, although differently phrased, were the same words typically used by political operatives, that he was a Democratic Party political operative, but I have no evidence for that, it is just what I think based on past experiences. When they don't have a way to refute valid criticism, political operatives will attack the person making the criticism and try to smear and isolate them. It's an old psy-ops technique straight out of the KUBARK manual.

Do you know of other situations in which political party operatives have misused NVC as a weapon? Is there a proper way to respond to them?

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Mark, when i use the word relationship, I'm using the definition that is larger than just
"involving ourselves."  We can involve ourselves with a movement or a person and not be the least bit "in relationship."  "Relationship" in my circle of friends means a true heart to heart connection.

Jitendra just started a discussion reminding us of Einstein's quote about how the problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness from which they were created.

Where these two topics come together in my opinion is when a group can sufficiently set their individual egoic agendas aside (that is, all the conversation we hear  in our heads that we identify with as "me")...... and can create a field of true connection or relationship--something beyond egoic thought, defenses, and positions can show up and real solutions will be at hand.

NVC can help us get to that place as can many other practices with sufficient group intent and practice (and a nice dollop of Grace.)

All the tools in the world, used between occupy and the police or whomever, if utilized from the level of consciousness that got us to this point will be marginally effective at best. 

If I find myself going on and on trying to win a point, its usually a pretty good indicator that ego is running the show.  If I am truly committed to being of service on the planet,  the point of highest leverage is taking full responsibility for waking my azz up. 

Finding a committed group to support me in the process (and a good teacher) is a path that's worked for me.  Dropping the "story" we're so attached to however, is easier said than done.... unfortunately, until we do, all we have are groups with endless dueling monologues; going nowhere.

Kerry, there's a difference between a crush and a relationship. I can have a crush on a movie star, but it doesn't mean that I'm in a relationship with them. As you said, relationship "means a true heart to heart connection." I agree.

I also agree with Jitendra (and Einstein, and you) that the problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness from which they were created. As an example, if problems were created within a level of consciousness that assumes and acts within hierarchy, they can't be solved by continuing to assume and act within hierarchy.

I don't think that the Occupy movement is based solely on egoic agendas, or that it could establish a less violent relationship with the police by setting aside egoic thoughts, defenses, and positions. If Occupy were to set aside the agenda of wanting to create a better world, there might indeed be less police violence, but only at the cost of accepting the world as it is instead of trying to create a better one. Wanting and trying to create a better world is not an egoic agenda (unless, of course, it is intended to be a better world only for some and not for everyone).

Tools cannot be used between Occupy and the police unless there is a relationship between Occupy and the police. Do you believe that there is a heart to heart connection between Occupy and the police, or that the police are in a position to allow such a relationship to develop?

You write, "If I find myself going on and on trying to win a point, its usually a pretty good indicator that ego is running the show.  If I am truly committed to being of service on the planet,  the point of highest leverage is taking full responsibility for waking my azz up."

So you believe that by going on and on about Nonviolent Communications, Marshall Rosenberg's ego was running the show and that he wasn't being of service on the planet? I strongly disagree.

I'm glad that you've found committed groups and good teachers to support you on your path. If I thought that it would be beneficial for me to learn Japanese, I might look for a committed group and a good teacher to help me, but that wouldn't help resolve the problem of police violence against Occupy. If you think that police violence against Occupy is not an urgent problem, or that discussing it is just a dueling monologue going nowhere that cannot support you in your path, then why are you participating in this discussion? Some people seem to find this discussion worthwhile, for whatever reason, and I don't think that having this discussion is hurting Occupy, Occupy Cafe, the police, you, or anyone else. If you feel that this thread is unimportant, unproductive, or in any other way not meeting your needs, I respect that and I hope you have found or will start topics that accomplish what you find necessary. But as long as this topic isn't hurting anyone, would you be willing to agree to allow it to continue to take place?

Hi Mark,

I have the power to neither allow nor disallow this conversation taking place.   My observation of it however is that when folks respond to you from outside your paradigm that within short order you navigate the conversation back into themes that is more familiar to you.  I guess I am looking for a different trajectory so I wish you luck with your quest.  You certainly put a lot of energy into it and seem passionate about your beliefs. 

Thank you, Kerry.

I happen to think that Marshall Rosenberg is one of the most admirable people in human history and that Nonviolent Communications, when used appropriately, is one of the most effective tools for resolving conflicts--certainly the most effective tool for resolving conflicts that I've ever heard of. So I am indeed passionate about seeing it used appropriately and not seeing it misused. That's why I started this topic and that's why I will always try to steer the discussion back to that topic when it strays. That's my paradigm and I'm sticking to it. ;)


This topic may be old news, but i've just looked over the dialogue.  

I'd like to note I've seen Marshall speak, read a few books, attended a number of classes and practice sessions and see the value of NVC, in terms of focus on empathy & creating connection to self and others.  

(wanting to be clear I am quite familiar butI am not an expert by any means),

I also want to say I've seen and interpreted it as not working or not being effective in many contexts, so I am not a cheerleader for it in every case.  (This is a total understatement, BTW)

I think the purpose of NVC is something along the lines of having more conciousness in communication, and being more in touch with feelings and needs in a belief that this focus will naturally help us communicate better and find solutions.  Laudable & very useful to some extent...

But I've also seen it not be a fit, and empathize with Mark's concern that it be offered as a solution/fix all .  It appears to me there is so much NVC Missionary Zeal, if you get my drift, and I don't tend to like that approach as it assume that the missionary sees himself as right or having the answer.  I believe the purpose I as I understand it has value, but that NVC is just one framing for that purpose.

I have felt personally challenged when it seems like using the NVC mode has resulted in choosing to focus on the underlining feelings and needs at the expense of the content of an issue.  Those underlying needs & feelings are important for consideration but sometimes it seems like a hijacking of an agenda to go off into that mode, kind of like the example Mark posited regarding the workshop topic & the one participant.  I've seen that happen, and I've judged it as a kind of attention grabbing strategy on the part of the interrupter, and as a kind of co-dependent, lack of boundaries & respect for group needs on the part of a facilitator.  

In the circumstances I've mentioned above, i've mostly chosen to try to see the situation as an opportunity to develop patience and listening, or to prioritize my need for efficiency and other goals & sometimes just get the heck out of dodge if I do not feel open heartedly compassionate (i.e. give myself empathy & take responsibility for meeting my own needs.

I also have to say NVC lingo often comes across as very condecending, and there seem to be far more example of people awkwardly and ineffectively trying to check in with me about their observation/guessingfeelings and connecting to needs/formulting requests  in a manner that feels inauthentic and frustrating.   I believe I was 10 years old when I first told an adult "don't Pop-Psych Me", and I frequently feel NVC interactions I witness are just another version of that.

It also to me seems to have many signifiers & assumptions and What is appropriate/modelled for NVC of what I'd like to call (for lack of a better label)  dominant/white culture. 

I know saying that is a bit of a conversational bombshell/potentially triggering, so i won't complicate this post further other than to summarize by saying I am not convinced NVC delivers all that the sales pitch offers, if you will, particularly when it hits the ground, in the real world of activism and politics, with the many agendas and skill sets and power imbalances present.   Take what you want from this, I welcome dialogue on any aspect, don't expect all my points to be responded to, and am not in need of heavy handed attempts at blanket validation (another thing I see lots of of in NVC).

In empathy,


Thanks, Kelly.

"Don't pop-psych me!" I love it!

If I say something people don't agree with, I'd much prefer them to state their reasons for disagreement than to start to analyze me. It's like they're saying, "I don't agree with you and I don't have any rational reasons for disagreeing, but I have to assume that there's something wrong with you for saying something that I disagree with, so let's analyze what's wrong with you for saying something I disagree with."

I'm going to borrow your brilliant response when you were ten, Kelly, and the next time somebody tries to analyze me because they disagree with something I say, that's what I'll tell them, "Don't pop-psych me." Thank you. You're the first and only person to come up with an answer to the question I asked in starting this topic--how to respond to misuse of NVC.

I'm glad I was able to offer you a useful tool and want to reiterate that NVC does have value as well as contribute to the menu of other communication models and tools.

I particularly like Susan Campbell's work.  I have her book Saying What's Real, and wish her model was as popular as NVC so that I had local options for practice groups/classes etc.

See her 10 Truth skills & seven keys to communication at susancampbell.com

I like the personal responsibility her methods embrace, and the focus on honesty, couched in consciousness and compassion.  I do not know what she would advise in regard to figuring out how Occupy protesters should get along with the cops.

Thanks, Kelly. That's a good resource for people involved in business or relationships, particularly for those involved with hierarchical working or living situations they cannot or do not wish to escape. Communications is key, so I don't think Susan Campbell would recommend anything for situations where police in riot gear are listening to orders over their headsets or radios and are unable to communicate with protesters.


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