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.
When they first hear about NVC, parents almost inevitably ask if they can use this with their kids. This looks like black belt level stuff to me even though Inbal Kashtan makes it look easy.
I’m going to post links to some of my favourite NVC resources here. There’s a huge and bewildering choice out there, particularly on YouTube. My intention is to direct people who are fairly new to NVC to useful information.
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.
When we hear each other’s needs without hearing an criticism or demands, the solution will find us,
In this 18 minute video, Marshall Rosenberg explains much of the essence of NVC. He covers pretty well everything except the NVC understanding of needs. In particular, he discusses the moralistic judgemental language that leads to violence and disconnection.
The part where he talks about the love is particularly informative.
I noticed something rather lovely on Monday, something that’s been building for several years. I’m effortlessly happy, even in challenging situations. I was happy while waiting to see a vascular consultant about an ancient leg injury that’s limiting my mobility at the moment. A few years ago, I might have been resentful of the time waiting to see the consultant and the probable many months wait for surgery to improve my ruined knee. On Monday, without making any conscious effort, I noticed how kind the nurses were, how amazing the medical technology is compared to what was around when I injured my leg in 1977. The delight was easy and genuine. It’s the result, I think, of several years training and practice in several areas including NVC, Positive Psychology and mindfulness.
Last year, I completed an on-line Positive Psychology training course with Dr Chris Johnstone and Miriam Akhtar. The practices I learnt on the course were valuable, simple to use ideas like optimism, daily gratitude and savouring. I practice most days and they’ve become habit. It might seem that pessimists are most realistic and least likely to be disappointed, but evidence based studies have shown that optimists tend to be happier. Just so long as over-optimism doesn’t lead to extra risky behaviour or repeatedly attempting failed strategies.