NVC: Praise, compliments and gratitude

Marshall Rosenberg considered praise & compliments to be as violent as criticism & insults. Instead, he encourages us to express gratitude. Praise & compliments are often used to manipulate, to reward compliance, just as insults & criticism are used to punish non-compliance. Both “positive” and “negative” feedback of this kind perpetuate dominance cultures.

Poem: Lament for my village

I’ve been doing a course with the Poetry School, Poetry & Ritual. This exercise is to write a lament, a grief poem. This is mine:

Lament for my village

He stares
Into an abyss
A view no one should bear alone
A new portrait
Of a family
Numb for a moment
Then the shock
Of this thought
She is gone

It takes a village
To accompany a dying
It takes a village
To contain a grieving

The village is here
Grief is welcome here
Finds its voice here
A beautiful, precious howl
Chases birds from the trees

Forty pairs of eyes
Almost as sad as his
Forty pairs of hands
Holding as he thrashes

And I remember
We once lived this way
Now we live alone
Grieved this way
Now we grieve alone
Praised this way
Now we praise alone
And I weep
For the village
I expected
And did not receive

Copyright © 2017, Mike Wilson

Poem: Knock


I knock on your bedroom door
Tell you “I’m going to light fresh incense”
You do not answer

I knock on your bedroom door
Tell you “Good morning”
You do not answer

I knock on your bedroom door
Tell you “Your mother will be here soon”
You do not answer

I knock on your bedroom door
Tell you “Here are the flowers a neighbour left”
You do not answer

A friend visits
She is anxious
I tell her you look beautiful
She does not knock
She does not see beauty

I knock on your bedroom door
I do not speak
You do not answer

No one has revealed as much as you

Some thoughts:

This is a couple of lines shorter than the first version. I wanted the interruption of a visitor to stand apart from the rest of the poem. I’m wanting to maintain a sense of intimacy between the narrator and the person who doesn’t speak, an intimacy which excludes others.

I haven’t used italics to make a stanza stand apart from the others before. The inspiration came from reading another student’s poem on a course I’m doing with The Poetry School. I like the effect and expect I’ll use it again.

I hadn’t realised how clearly my resentment at the visitor came through. I think I’ve toned down or even removed that.

I have written before about the experience that inspired this poem. A poem from June last year may shed some light.


I stand beside my friend, bathed now and wearing a favourite dress, laid on her bed, surrounded by flowers, profoundly still. Without a sound, I hear her gift: “Life is precious”. But I know this already. “No”, she says, silent, insistent, “it’s far more precious than that”. My heart is open and her lesson lands without resistance. Watching her shocking stillness, I understand. Life is precious. “And another thing; you could be a lot more gentle”. I know this is true. But how will I become more gentle? Silence. Stillness. Incomprehensible stillness.

And another from earlier this year:


I said I would be here for this if you wanted me,
wouldn’t beg you to stay a moment longer than you chose.
You smiled, told me “you know what I want”.
So here I am now, just as I promised.
This isn’t what I expected.
What, exactly, has changed?
I thank your ancestors, ask them to collect you.
I trust they did.

Copyright © 2016-2017, Mike Wilson

I painted another ukulele

This is the second ukulele I have decorated. For the first one I used Sharpie pens which weren’t great as they were reluctant to leave enough ink. This time I used Posca pens which are brilliant — strong, opaque colours. I’m pleased with this one and would like to do another. Under all that paint is an inexpensive concert ukulele from eBay.

This one is for sale, UK £105 including delivery to a UK address. Please contact me if you’re interested.

Nonviolent Communication: What are needs in NVC?

In the NVC sense, “needs” are those human longings we all have, and all humans have always had. There isn’t a definitive list of needs and it’s often the subject if conversation among NVC people. There are the pretty obvious physical needs like food, water, air and shelter. Then there are more tenuous ones like connection, kindness, love and being heard. We can survive without having all our needs met, and life will be more wonderful the more our needs are satisfied.

Having needs leads us to strategies to satisfy those needs. We can find ourselves focusing on strategies without being aware of the needs we are trying to fulfill. Awareness of needs may lead us to alternative strategies that have a better chance of fulfilling the need.

Sometimes, we can confuse strategies and needs and find ourselves holding tight to a strategy. I might say “I need a car”. Now having a car is clearly not a need — not all humans need a car, so having a car is a strategy. What need might I be wanting to satisfy by owning a car? I might say “I need to get to work”. Again, work isn’t a need it’s a strategy as not all humans have a need for work. If I keep unwrapping the strategy I’ll probably go through the strategy of money and end up with the needs of food & shelter and other needs having money allow me to fulfil.

Here’s a  list of needs from the Centre for Nonviolent Communication.