An open space for global conversation
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?
I'm glad you're asking me about this. What you write about is a fundmental and frustrating issue when people are first learning NVC. I feel sad when I hear about your experience because NVC has been such a positive force in my life, so I feel sad when I hear that you had a negative experience with it. It's late here, so please forgive any typos.
An experienced NVC person would choose not to label, evaluate or critize you, your comments, or your behavior, The reason is that to do any of these things would likely create distance between the two of you, and the intention of NVC is to create a connection. Because most of us have been educated since birth by parents, older siblings, teachers, and religilous leaders to make moralistic judgments and evaluations of one another, judgmental and evaluative communication habits are deeply ingrained. It is common for people who are new to NVC to continue to label, evaluate, and judge others until they integrate the value of not doing it. It takes quite a bit of practice to change this life-long habit.
The person you are talking about, as is ofen the case when first learning NVC, got part of NVC when he said "I'm hearing that..." It seems he was attempting to hear your concerns which is a goal of NVC - really try to hear what the other person is needing, wanting, and feeling. But then he slipped back into the common way of communicating and labeled you and evaluated you - "...that you are angry, bitter." and that "you have mental problems." I'm guessing this did not engender in you a feeling of connection to this person.
Regarding your question about how to respond to a person you believe is attacking you: NVC suggests that the most useful response to a person who is labeling, evaluating, or judging you is empathy, rather than debate. I imagine this may sound simplistic. Debating, however, tends to distance people and they often do not actually take in what you are saying and usually don't hear why it matters to you. Empathy, though, is a way of reflecting back to a person what you're hearing them say. It's a respectful and compassionate action that lets the other person know you are listening and attempting to comprehend them. And in listening to them in this way, each person often does comprehend the other person much better than if the two were defending opinions and debating facts. It's not about ignoring the facts, it's about honoring the human to human connection first. And when we honor that human to human connection, the facts usually end up on the table, but they have gotten to the table without damaging the relationship (and in my experience we all want this kind of respectul, compassionate relationship, even with those we disagree with, and definitely with our political representatives. I get that this is a lot to hope for, but it sure would be nice..
Empathy is only half of NVC. The other half is authentic, compassionate expression of feelings and needs. NVCers call it a dance between empathy and honesty. It's a balance, one that is not usually cultivated in our society. We tend to be honest about our opinioins, judgments, and evaluations and not very empathic with one another. But, I have seen empathy, rather than judging, evaluating, labeling and debating work miracles in creating a connection that leads to comprehension between people. The man who developed NVC, Marshall Rosenberg, tells story after story about connections that he was able to facilitate between war lords, political enemies, and perpetrators and victims in war-torn countries during the post-colonial era of the 1990s and 2000s. Reading and hearing about his successes fed my desire to learn more about NVC.
My experience with NVC over the last 18 years has really made a positive impact on my communications, but I first had to learn the hardest thing of all - empathize, make a connection, and trust that the connection will lead us to an understanding of one another.
I hope my comments are useful. If you respond, I would appreciate it if you first summarize what you have taken in from what I've written, and then tell me how what I have written has impacted you (how did you feel when you read it, did my response meet needs and would you be willing to share what needs it met). Essentially, I hope to connect as two compassionate human beings and then work empathically through any questions, comments, or disagreements you might have with what I've written.
Quarter past one in the morning and I'm tired too, Suzanne, but I'll try to respond.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to read what I posted and reply to it. Even though I may take issue with some of the things you wrote, I do appreciate that you wrote them.
I too was seriously impressed with Marshall Rosenberg. But remember that he was a neutral party and was accepted as such by the people he was dealing with. I'm not sure that the same thing could have been accomplished if the parties were trying to talk directly with each other, without having a neutral intermediary.
One thing I think I understand from what you wrote is that NVC is nonjudgmental and involves establishing a connection between people based on empathy. But that since we are raised to be judgmental it can be a difficult habit to break.
You are, of course, correct, in that the person who attacked me did not cause me to feel connected to them in any way. Quite the opposite. More on this later.
Now the first thing that I take issue with is that we all want a compassionate connection with everyone, "even with those we disagree with, and definitely with our political representatives." I expressly do not wish to have a connection with everyone and particularly not with political "representatives." I don't vote. I will not voluntarily and individually delegate my power to other people to make my decisions for me. I don't want representatives. I consider myself fully competent to make my own decisions and I believe in self-governance, not governmental authority. I feel that anyone who seeks or accepts political power is morally and ethically defective. I'm quite happy to accept leadership from those who have skills I wish to learn, but I don't think that makes them superior to me or makes me inferior to them, and I will not authorize anyone, not even those I admire and respect most, to make decisions on my behalf, particularly not without consulting me or allowing my opinions to influence their policy decisions. The US government has stated quite clearly through both Democratic and Republican administrations, that it does not allow public opinion to influence policy decisions,. That means that it is not a democracy or a republic. It is a tyranny. I will not consent to tyranny, not even to benevolent tyranny.
Now back to listening, comprehending, and establishing empathy before "defending opinions or debating facts."
Let me give an extreme hypothetical example. Suppose you're starting to talk to a group of people about NVC. One person in the group interrupts you and asks, "How are you feeling today, Suzanne?" So you stop what you're doing and respond to them with empathy and compassion so as to establish a connection. You tell them exactly how you're feeling. And, not to be rude, you also ask them how they're feeling, and they respond at length. Good. The beginning of an empathic connection might be established. So then you try to continue your talk. But the same person interrrupts again and says, "Suzanne, I've been thinking about what you said about how you're feeling, and I'm hearing that you feel happy, excited, and challenged to be holding this seminar. Is that correct? And if so, is it because you think that we're all going to learn ways to communicate in more positive ways?" So you say, "Yes, exactly. Thank you for your feedback." Once again you start to talk, and once again you're interrupted by the same person who says, "Suzanne, I'm hearing that you expect us to come away from this seminar with knowledge of NVC, feeling more able to establish positive, empathic connections with others, and with some gratitude towards you personally for teaching us. Is that correct?"
Okay, you get the idea. You're trying to hold a seminar and somebody is, in ways that on the surface may appear to be nonviolent, preventing you from speaking about the topic. If everyone else has come there to learn about NVC, they're probably getting very restless by that time and want you to get on with it, even if it might mean hurting the feelings of the person who apparently sincerely wants to establish an empathic connection with you before discussing NVC.
You see, there are times when people want to discuss a particular topic. Most people don't enroll in math classes to discuss their feelings, any more than people enroll in peer counselling groups to learn math. The immigrant rights mailing list was a group of people interested in immigrant rights, not in somebody establishing an empathic connection with me or me with them. The list had been running successfully for years as a group focused on immigrant rights. It still is. We already had an empathic connection with each other, even if we'd never addressed each other directly, because we were all interested in and supportive of immigrant rights. The guy who attacked me wasn't interested in immigrant rights, he didn't care if his political representative, in this case Hillary Clinton, supported or didn't support immigrant rights, he wanted to establish a connection with me personally. He claimed that he had selected that list and selected me as the subject of his experiment randomly, but I don't believe it. I think he was there to ensure that nobody criticized a Democratic political representative for not supporting immigrant rights, and to prevent any such discussion from continuing.
I'm hoping that we can communicate as equals, Suzanne. I can't communicate with people who feel that they're superior to me because they have skills that I lack. I'm happy to learn new skills and I respect people who can teach me new skills, but I won't give people power over me. If I'm giving a teach-in on why people shouldn't vote, something I have done several times, I'd be as happy to have you there as I am to have anyone else who is interested. But I wouldn't allow you to disrupt what I'm saying by trying to use my time and everyone else's time to establish an empathic, compassionate relationship with me before you allow me to speak. And if I attend a seminar you're giving about NVC, as much as I might wish to establish a respectful, empathic, compassionate relationship with you before I let you discuss facts about NVC, I'd have the decency to wait until you finished speaking. If I didn't, I think you'd be justified in tossing me out so that everyone else could have the opportunity to learn what they came to learn. It wouldn't be the least bit respectful for me to prevent you from speaking and prevent others from learning, no matter how I phrased or framed it.
The people who met with Marshall Rosenberg not only accepted him as a neutral party, but they voluntarily agreed to meet with him. They may previously have been enemies, but they were able to establish respectful, empathic, compassionate connections with each other, through his mediation. That's a totally different situation from one in which people already have a respectful, empathic, compassionate relationship with each other, and are already nonviolently communicating about something that is of mutual interest and concern to all of them.
Do you see the difference? I know we may not agree about power and hierarchy, but I'm hoping that we might find some common ground with regard to respect.
Hi Mark, Ben, Kerry, and Christopher,
I am glad to see this discussion of NVC happening on the OC forum. I regret that I’m not able to respond to each of you individually, which is what I’d really like to do. I cannot even respond to all of what Mark has said, so I’m going to respond to his initial response to me and see where that leads us. My response is long because, you may know, that Mark is asking questions that do not have simple answers in NVC terms.
First, I want to share my appreciation, Mark, that you appreciated my effort of reading and responding to you even though it was late last night. Reading of your your appreciation, I already feel more connected to you, and feel inspired to continue our conversation.
I also want to respond upfront to your comment that Marshal Rosenberg was usually a third party and was accepted as a mediator. I agree that it certainly helps to be an accepted mediator. The good news is that Marshall also has numerous stories where he was not the accepted mediator and focusing on hearing people’s feelings and needs still diffused tensions, led to more comprehension, and even significantly shifted everyone’s attitude toward one another. I believe his stories because I have also had this type of experience with NVC many times.
That said, NVC (which includes empathy as one of its elements) is a tool; there are no guarantees. It is, though, a profoundly effective tool for getting people out of conflict and into connection when used as it is meant to be used.
Wanting to respond specifically to your concerns and examples, I am going to refer to each paragraph that I am respond to before responding. I hope this provides clarity in what I’m responding to.
In response to your paragraph beginning,” Now the first thing that I take issue with is that we all want a compassionate connection with everyone…”
I get from what you say here that 1) you do not want a connection with everyone, and especially with politicians, and 2) You do not believe that a representative political system is useful and that anyone who seeks or accepts political power is morally and ethically defective.
I also get that you are willing to learn from those who have skills you wish to learn. But just because a person has more information than you have about something, it doesn’t give them the automatic right to dominate you or see you as inferior.
Have I interpreted you accurately?
In regards to the paragraph that begins with “Let me give an extreme hypothetical example. Suppose you're starting to talk to a group of people about NVC.” And you go on to show how a person might keep interrupting you, rather than letting you have the space.
This is a great example to use to expound on what I was saying about NVC being a dance between empathy for the other person and authentic expression of my feelings and needs. But the answer to your question about how to handle such a situation is not that simple because it requires a series of actions, not just one. So, first I would choose to empathize with the person for quite a while. If I’m not genuinely willing to be present to a person and feed back to them empathically, then staying in the conversation would be doing violence to the relationship (because eventually I might become impatient, or get annoyed and could end up treating this person and their needs disrespectfully).
Next, it is my responsibility in every moment, not just to empathize with the other person, but to put my needs on the table, too. What I have experienced, though, is that the longer I am able to be empathically present to the other person, and the more compassionately I put my needs on the table, the more likely it is that I will also be heard.
So, at some point in the situation you have created above, I am likely to want to express my needs. My need may be for a space of 15 minutes to share what I have to share without people asking questions or making comments. At this point a negotiation begins.
We are negotiating for time, space, and attention. If we negotiate, rather than insist on the communication going the way we want it to, we are authentically, respectfully, moment-to-moment working through our needs, and maybe working out our differences.
Responding to the paragraph that says, “You're trying to hold a seminar and somebody is, in ways that on the surface may appear to be nonviolent, preventing you from speaking about the topic. If everyone else has come there to learn about NVC, they're probably getting very restless by that time and want you to get on with it, even if it might mean hurting the feelings of the person who apparently sincerely wants to establish an empathic connection with you before discussing NVC.”
This brings up another important aspect of NVC interaction. The NVC philosophy sees it as the responsibility of everyone in the room to speak up for themselves and put their needs on the table. If this speaking up is done compassionately (rather than calling people names like “dullard” or making evaluations “you’re boring” or in the case of the person you interacted with, “you’re mentally ill”), the person is more likely to yield the floor and let others’ get their needs met, too. This is just not theory. I’ve seen it happen many times.
In response to the paragraph beginning, “You see, there are times when people want to discuss a particular topic.”
Right, so you believe that the person on the immigrant call came into the call with an agenda. Whatever his agenda may have been, coming into a call with an agenda that you intend to push even if it doesn’t meet anyone else’s needs is not NVC, and I feel sad hearing that you believe he might have used NVC as a cover-up because this contributed to a negative experience of NVC for you.
The NVC approach is to come into every communication willing to find out what everyone else if needing (why they are there in the conversation, rather than push a personal agenda) and to hear one another out (rather than push personal opinions or strategies as the “best or right” opinions or strategies).
Another distinction: The goal of NVC isn’t to ask everybody how they feel in every situation, but to be willing to know how they feel, to know what matters to them. It’s really more about how you show up (willing, compassionate, empathic). Do you just want to talk about what matters to you and insist that everyone listen to you and agree with you or do you want to make a connection and really hear one another out?
In response to the paragraph beginning: “I'm hoping that we can communicate as equals, Suzanne. I can't communicate with people who feel that they're superior to me because they have skills that I lack. I'm happy to learn new skills and I respect people who can teach me new skills, but I won't give people power over me.”
I see that you want respect for your efforts of creating a venue, and respect for your ideas. In fact, you want everyone to get what they came for. I am totally with you on this. Where I differ is: I have found that I do not want to impose my agenda on everyone in the group. Often people want to follow someone else’s need – perhaps it speaks to them more in the moment than what I’m saying. So, I go with it and the result is usually a lively (everyone’s very alive) experience. I learned this approach from Marshall. He calls it caordence (sp?). Out of chaos comes the order that is available to the group. So, keeping this in mind, I would not want to power over you, and I would not want you to power over me, but I would want you to facilitate a lively, stimulating experience where ideas and emotions are allowed to surface and be shared.
* I have a request to put on the table. I’ve got too much going on in my life right now to respond thoughtfully to very lengthy e-mails, especially if the topic roves around. If you respond to me, would you be willing to keep your responses to the topics in this particular exchange between you and me until we feel that we have comprehended one another’s ideas and needs? I know that this is the only way I’ll be able to stay in this conversation with you.
I'll try to keep my responses "to the topics in this particular exchange between you and me until we feel that we have comprehended one another’s ideas and needs," Suzanne, as I'm hearing that you have a lot of other things going on in your life. I'm hearing that you want to respond thoughtfully and don't feel that you can do that if the discussion is too lengthy and roves around, Is that correct? So I'll try to respond in consideration of your needs, to the best of my ability, with the expectation that you will respond with consideration of my needs also. Is that agreeable?
I'll try to respond to your comments, but not in order, because I think it might make more sense to respond in a different order. However I do feel the need to address the way in which I think NVC is being misused with regard to the Occupy movement, so I won't limit my comments only to that which we've already discussed, so I apologize in advance and I will try to keep it as brief as I can.
With regard to handling a person who attends one of your seminars on NVC but keeps interrupting you and won't let you speak, I understand you to say that you would drop what you had planned to say and try to establish a connection with that person so that you could negotiate with them for time and space. For instance, you might ask them if you could have fifteen minutes to speak. Let's say it is a scheduled one-hour seminar and the first fifteen minutes of it are devoted to establishing a connection between you and the person interrupting and then negotiating for fifteen minutes in which you could speak. Is that a reasonable scenario? And I also understand you to be saying that if the other people were unhappy at having a quarter of the time scheduled for your seminar devoted to negotiations to allow you to speak, you would expect them to speak up and, without name calling, put their needs on the table. Do I have it right so far?
Let's suppose that there are ten people attending. One of them is the person you are attempting to establish a connection with and negotiate with. Let's say that three other people speak up and say that they feel that their needs are not being met, that they came to hear you speak, and that they resent that you have to negotiate for the right to speak, because they had assumed that you had that right when they signed up for the seminar. Now you have to establish a connection with each of the three and negotiate with each of them for the time and space you need in which to negotiate with the first person for the fifteen minutes you want. Is that correct?
Even in instances where Marshall Rosenberg was not the accepted mediator, his presence and participation was allowed, and the presence and attention of the antagonists was necessary before he could diffuse tensions between them. Had one party refused to attend, refused to allow him to participate, or refused to pay any attention to anything he said, I don't think he could have accomplished anything.
But more importantly, the situation is still one where there are two antagonistic parties, not one. The idea is to diffuse tensions, increase comprehension, and change attitudes on both sides, not just on one side. Is that correct? So if the hostility was between Group A and Group B, both groups need to be present and to allow Marshall Rosenberg to participate in the discussion. If only one side is present, or he is required to remain silent, the technique wouldn't work. Is that correct?
With regard to Occupy, the two groups are Occupiers and the police. Is that correct? The violence is usually perpetrated on Occupiers by the police, so in order to diffuse tensions, you would need to bring the two groups together. Have you tried that? Has anyone tried that? I understand that there may be situations where there are tensions among Occupiers, and in that case it would be comparatively easy to get both parties together and use NVC. But that doesn't address the bigger, more serious, and definitely more violent problem that exists, which is police brutality against Occupiers. I apologize if you consider that to be going beyond what we've already discussed, but while there may be tensions between Occupiers (or even violence), they are part of the same group and share some common concerns. NVC may be helpful in such a situation, but is not always necessary. It is where there is violence between two groups that NVC as Marshall Rosenberg practices it, becomes necessary. And there is violence between Occupiers and the police, even if all the violence is perpetrated by the police. So we have two antagonistic groups, but one of them won't agree to take part in meetings with the other group. Is that the situation, or do you see it differently?
With regard to my concerns about connections, politicians, and systems of dominance you repeated what I said almost word for word, so I have no way of knowing if you have interpreted what I said correctly or simply repeated it. A tape recorder could repeat what I said, but I know it could not interpret my words in any way. Did you hear and repeat what I said correctly? Yes, you did. Did you interpret what I said correctly? You've given me no way of knowing that.
As for pushing a personal agenda, is starting a topic about NVC or holding a seminar about NVC pushing a personal agenda? I think that it is. I started this topic in hopes that my need to learn how to respond to misuse of NVC might be fulfilled. You teach NVC, I think, because you've seen it accomplish good things and you want more good things to be accomplished. So whether or not our agendas are worthy, they are indeed personal and we do have them. The person who announces a seminar or starts a topic has an agenda, and it is personal for them or they wouldn't bother. It may be selfish or it may be altruistic, but it is still a personal agenda. If somebody comes in and tries to impose a different agenda, that conflict can be resolved through NVC, but only by abandoning, as least for the time necessary to establish a connection and negotiate for space and time, the original agenda. Do you disagree with that assessment? If there is unlimited time, this may be of no importance, but I understand you to say that you do not have unlimited time, is that correct?
I do like the concept of chaordence, however it may be spelled, and I appreciate you bringing it up. I don't think we differ on this at all. If somebody else's ideas are more interesting, more relevant, or more constructive than my own, I'm also happy to go with it and follow their lead. In fact, that's the teaching/learning experience at its best, because it involves both teaching and learning.
Now I hope you'll forgive me, but I feel that I must go beyond what we've already discussed once again. I feel that NVC is being misused as one of the many ways in which Occupy is being co-opted and suppressed. As I explained above, I see the two groups between which violence is occurring as being Occupiers and the police. I see NVC practitioners only addressing one of these groups, Occupiers, rather than trying to create communications and resolve conflicts between the two groups. I don't think Marshall Rosenberg ever dealt only with one party to a conflict or advised only one side to be nonviolent. I think that in a real situation that involves real violence between two real groups, dealing with only one group and advising only one group, the nonviolent group, to be nonviolent, is a misuse and perhaps even a perversion of NVC. Please correct me if I've misunderstood how Marshall Rosenberg uses NVC or how it is being used within the Occupy movement.
Once again, thank you Suzanne for making and taking time to respond to me here.
I am glad to hear that you intend to consider my needs and I intend to consider yours.
I’m concerned that I need to clarify some things before responding to your comments and questions. Otherwise I would be responding to something that isn’t true for me or true to my experience. Are you willing to take the time for me to do that?
Also, seeing that there are additional questions and comments on most of what I wrote to you, I'm now thinking it would be a good idea to take this one paragraph at a time. It will take more time, but I believe you are sincere in wanting to learn about the misuse of NVC and this is a complex subject because NVC is about so much more than just the surface guidelines of asking people what they feel and need. Would you be willing to take it one paragraph at a time?
Suzanne, when you mentioned chaordence, you said you would go with it. I don't feel that you are doing that. I feel that instead you are trying to limit the discussion.
Is it not true for you or to your experiences that Marshall Rosenberg uses NVC to resolve conflicts between two sides? Has he ever resolved a violent conflict by speaking with only one side in the conflict? If you or other NVC practitioners have reached out to the police and tried to establish communications, change attitudes, and resolve the violent conflict between Occupiers and the police, why not say so?
I think the above paragraph is relevant, urgent, and key to how NVC is being misused within the Occupy movement, so if you need to take things one paragraph at a time, please respond to that paragraph. I'm happy to give you all the time you need. Thank you.
I sincerely appreciate your willingness to go more slowly. I have several degenerated discs in my lower back and cannot sit at a computer for long periods of time. Plus, my mother-in-law recently had a stroke and I was the only one available to handle all the discussions with the hospital, doctor, and assisted living care. I'm exhausted and haven't had time to recover. When I posted to the OC site about my wishes regarding the OC culture, I wasn't anticipating our engagement.
I'm glad you told me about your concern that I was trying to limit the discussion. I'm not trying to limit the contents of our discussion. I'm putting my need on the table for us to handle the several issues that have already arisen one at a time before adding more. If I don't put my needs on the table, I'm not likely to get them met, right? I'm also not insisting that you do what I request. I'm open to hearing your needs and I'm glad you told me the paragraph you wanted to address first. I take your point about chaordance. It's an appoach more suited to a time when people are in the same room together, where they can interact in present time rather than wait for a response from the other person that may take hours or days.
Your 2nd paragraph above contains points from two of the paragrapgs in your previous post, so I'll answer both. First, what I was trying to say is that there have been many times when Marshall was not the appointed mediator and times when he was not initially welcome by everyone in the room and he still gained the attention and respect of those people by using NVC ways of communicating. My point being, it often takes only one person who is using NVC to shift the dynamics. I have experienced this many times with my own interactions with individuals, dyads, and groups.
Secondly, I had no intention of withholding information from you about police participation. I was simply addressing what was most alive for me in my last post; a need to slow down. I have been facilitating and co-facilitating a daily call since last October where we invited anyone impacted by the occupy movement to join us to discuss nonviolent communication strategies and to experience, and learn how, to offer and receive empathy. Several NVC facilitators reached out to police from different cities. I communicated several times with a policeman in the Oakland Police Department who also passed information about our daily call to the Mayor's office. We were all sad that no police persons, to our knowledge, ever called in.
Regarding your 3rd paragraph: It's not really possible to misuse NVC. Either you use it, or you don't. Use of NVC elements usually engenders more genuine listening, and more desire to cooperate than happens with the way people commonly interact and communicate.
So, if you are willing to tell me if this response answers your questions and/or addresses your comments in your last post to me, I'd be glad to know that. If not, I'm willing to stick with these two topics, and move on when we can. I'm trusting that you'll tell me if you have a change of mind about this approach.
I'm so sorry to hear about your back problems and your mother-in-law. Even though it exhausted you, you did a really wonderful thing helping out after a stroke. That's one of the most frightening things that can happen to an elderly person, or to anyone for that matter, and without help it would be impossible to cope.
I had some experience with back problems many years ago, I refused surgery and was in a lot of pain for over a year. Then I happened to read something that said that strengthening the stomach muscles could help support the spine. I figured that it wouldn't hurt (it actually did hurt but not as much as back pain), so I started doing sit-ups. It worked for me and my back pain eventually went away.
Please don't feel that you have to respond quickly. I'm grateful that you've chosen to engage with me in this discussion and I can always wait a few days for a response. That's one of the benefits of an online forum from my perspective, as it does not demand an immediate response and it allows time for people to tend to their personal lives and to think things through.
Even when Marshall Rosenberg was not initially welcomed by everyone in the room, he had more than one side in the room. What I'm trying to say is that he did not attempt to resolve conflicts by dealing with only one side in a conflict. It may only take one NVC practitioner to resolve a conflict, but they have to be able to work with both parties to the conflict rather than only with one side. As I mentioned in an earlier post in this thread, you can't do marriage counselling if only one spouse agrees to it, and you can't get a peace treaty signed if only one side attends the peace talks.
I've very happy to hear that you and other NVC practitioners have attempted to reach out to the police. Of course they cannot respond as they are not independent and they do not have the authority to respond. They are paid agents of an extremely hierarchical, authoritarian, and violent police state. They get their orders from Homeland Security and they can either obey or forfeit their jobs. Only independent agents have the power to choose whether or not to participate in something and the power to make decisions.
I'm not at all sure that it is impossible to misuse NVC. If you use it to establish communications, build empathy, create respect, and resolve conflicts, it is being used correctly. If it is used to prevent discussions, like the guy did on that immigrant rights list, that is a misuse. He misunderstood it and wasn't using it correctly. I think it is also a misuse and a misunderstanding to try to use it to resolve a conflict when it is impossible to bring both (or all, if there are more than two) parties to the conflict together.
There are some fundamentalist "marriage counselors" who do nothing more than tell wives that they should submit to their husbands. That not only doesn't stop domestic violence, it can increase it, as the husbands then feel even more justified in using violence, and feel that their use of violence is sanctioned by their church. It also tends to make the wives blame themselves and can prevent them from trying to escape an abusive situation.
In a violent conflict where warlords presided over the mass rapes of women, I can't picture Marshall Rosenberg agreeing to speak only with the rape victims if the warlords wouldn't participate. Yet within the Occupy movement, since the police cannot participate, NVC practitioners have agreed to speak only with Occupiers,. Since the Occupiers are not violently attacking themselves, that cannot and will not resolve the violence.
I hope we can stick with the topic of NVC practitioners within the Occupy movement addressing only one party to a violent conflict, the Occupiers, instead of insisting that both parties to the conflict must participate in order to resolve the conflict. I believe that unless both parties participate, a conflict cannot be resolved with NVC. More than that, I still think it is a misuse of NVC to agree to address only one party to a conflict in a situation where the other party will not or cannot participate, as it could lead to an increase in violence rather than a resolution.
Please let me know if what I'm saying is unclear or difficult to understand, Suzanne, and, as always, thank you for engaging. I'm even more grateful now that I know how much of a hardship and a sacrifice it is for you. But I do think that it is important. I've had these questions ever since NVC was introduced to the Occupy movement, but I've had to wait until an NVC practitioner was willing to participate in order to discuss it. No conflict can be resolved if only one party to the conflict is willing to participate. ;)
I will try to get back to the discussion on Tuesday. This was my last spare moment between now and Tuesday. I appreciate your suggestion about building core muscles for back pain relief. I've had some success with this and hope to do more work on it this summer. I'm glad to hear you are now out of pain.
Great, Suzanne. Looking forward to your input when you have the time. Also glad to hear that you've had some success with building core muscles to support the spine and hope you are even more successful in the future.
I am able to respond to your earlier than I thought I would be able to. I also read your posts in response to my response to Ben about NVC not being created as a conflict resolution tool.
I'm not actually going to be responding to your e-mails, but I want to let you know that I am no longer willing to engage with you for two reasos. As mentioned before, I don't have the time and energy to respond to e-mails with numerous paragraphs and numerous points. You seemed willing to slow down but then, seemingly, changed your mind considering the length of the last two e-mails you sent to my response to Ben. Also, I no longer believe that you really do want to know about NVC. I believe that what you want is to make the point that you don't believe NVC is effective in many situations, that you don't believe NVC practitioners should have introduced NVC to occupiers as a conflict resolution tool, and that you believe people often misuse NVC and you don't think they should.And, I hear you about all that.
I have very limited energy right now and want to spend my time engaged with people who are interested in communicating out of the consciousness that NVC stems from (the goal being connection which is best reached by refraining from evaluating one another's ideas and action). That is my strategy about how to contribute to a world in which everyone gets at least their basic needs met and this happens in a peaceful, respectful, compassionate way.
I get it that you don't agree with my strategy. I appreciate your efforts in trying to stay engaged with me, and regret that my energy is too low at this time to stay in contact. I would like to hear how you feel about my decision and my reasons for disengaging. What I'm asking for is your feelings, rather than any further opinions of me, my strategies, or my choices. I'm not making a unilateral decision to leave. I would like to leave, but as I've said before everything, for me, is a negotiation.
I didn't send you any emails, Suzanne. Nor would I. Perhaps you meant my comments in this thread?
You are correct. I don't think NVC is effective in certain types of situations, I do think that NVC is sometimes misused, and I don't think it should have been introduced to Occupy as a conflict resolution tool to use when interacting with the police.
It would work if you could get all parties to communicate out of NVC consciousness and to refrain from evaluating other people's ideas and actions. Obviously the police are not going to stop evaluating Occupy's ideas and actions, so NVC won't work in that situation. Unfortunately, a lot of what goes on here at Occupy Cafe seems, at least to me, to be about evaluating ideas and actions, both our own and those of others. Even Jitendra, and I don't think I've ever encountered a more nonviolent communicator, frequently appears to evaluate ideas and actions as a way of considering whether we're on a good path and should continue, or if we need to explore other directions.
As to how I feel about you leaving, I don't try to control people or tell them what to do or how to think and act. I think you're the world's most qualified expert on what you want to do. I didn't expect you to continue to engage, or to allow anyone to question whether or not NVC is an effective tool for resolving the conflict between Occupy or the police, and, indeed, I expect you and all other NVC practitioners within Occupy to keep offering NVC as such a tool when you know that it isn't. My purpose was never to tell you what you already know, but to bring to the attention of Occupiers something many of us may not have known, which is that NVC is not a tool for resolving the conflict between Occupiers and police, was not designed or intended to be such a tool, and that trying to use it that way can lead to increasing rather than decreasing police violence.
In this discussion, in order to illustrate the problem, I deliberately took on the role of a party that would not be controlled, understanding fully that by doing so I was thwarting rather than meeting your need to present NVC as a panacea for all the world's ills. I apologize for any psychic harm or discomfort that may have caused you, Suzanne, but I did it to try to save Occupiers from the inevitable and increasing police brutality we'll encounter if we mistakenly try to use NVC as a tool for resolving that conflict.
Thank you for engaging to the extent that you did, even though it was a genuine sacrifice and hardship for you. Although you won't state openly that in situations where the NVC mediator cannot get one of the parties to a conflict to agree to learn and practice NVC it cannot resolve the conflict, you've demonstrated it clearly by expressing your desire to withdraw. I wish you only the best, but I also wish Occupy the best, which includes finding effective tools to resolve the conflict between Occupiers and law enforcement. I'm sure that NVC will go a great way towards resolving conflicts within the Occupy movement itself, and I hope that NVC practitioners will eventually consider stating clearly that NVC is not a tool for resolving the conflict between Occupiers and the police, so as to prevent any misunderstandings and avoid unnecessary harm.