The Crucial First Step before Dialogue: NVC for Self-Connection

by | Jun 17, 2024 | Healing Trauma, Personal Growth

A crucial step in preparing for meaningful dialogue with someone else, is making it a practice to use NVC for self-connection first.

When I first discovered Nonviolent Communication (NVC), I didn’t realize how using NVC for self-connection was fundamental to all other aspects of this practice.

Initially, I hoped that NVC would finally help me find the right words to get my needs met, and I enthusiastically tried to get everyone else to communicate with me in new ways.  I was probably a bit obnoxious in my exuberance, but I do have a tender and gentle spot in my heart for my earnest, deep desire to have better connections and deeper, safer relationships with other people.  I did settle down over time – especially as it became clearer and clearer to me that the work of nonviolence is mostly an inside job, before we ever get to the transformative dialogues that many of us long for.

At first glance, NVC seems quite simple and easy to learn.
We all know the formula.  (And if you don’t here’s a primer!)

  1. Use observations instead of evaluations.
  2. Connect with everyone’s feelings, not just their thoughts.
  3. Connect with everyone’s needs, don’t get distracted by their strategies and attachments
  4. Make requests instead of demands

As Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication, used to say, it’s simple, but definitely not easy.

NVC is deeply counter-cultural, and the antithesis of what most of us have internalized as “normal” communication.  Learning to speak and listen from a nonviolent frame, courageously from our hearts instead of fearfully from our minds, takes years of unwinding and reconditioning our attention habits and reactivity.

We unwind our self-judgment.
We create more room on our insides for more part of ourselves.
We speak to ourselves gently, with more kindness.
We reclaim our feelings – all of them, especially the disowned ones.
We sit with grief, hurt, pain, shame, guilt, irritation, helplessness.  All those feelings we were good at defending ourselves from? We make room for them all.
We develop our needs consciousness, finally seeing the good intentions behind human actions – ours and theirs.
We stop imposing ourselves on other people, and practice embracing the power of a simple request.

Why Use NVC for Self-Connection?

  1. As we soften into our feelings, we find it easier to open our hearts to ourselves and others.  By tuning into our feelings, identifying our universal human needs, and acknowledging our inner experiences without judgment, we deepen our relationship with ourselves and build more self-acceptance and self-trust. Through self-reflection and mindfulness, we cultivate self-awareness, gaining clarity about what truly matters to us. When we use NVC for self-connection, it provides a compassion-based framework for our inner journeys, guiding us to listen to the whispers of our own hearts before engaging with the world around us.
  2. NVC provides a framework through which we can offer ourselves compassion and empathy. Self-compassion is the art of treating ourselves with the same warmth and care that we would offer to a beloved friend. NVC teaches us to recognize our inherent worth and dignity, regardless of our perceived flaws or shortcomings. By practicing self-compassion, we create a nurturing inner environment where growth and healing can flourish.
  3. NVC makes room for all experiences and parts, fostering connection through honest and kind communication with ourselves and others.  When faced with challenging emotions or inner conflicts, NVC encourages us to embrace these experiences with kindness and curiosity.  Rather than suppressing or denying our feelings, we acknowledge them with gentleness, seeking to understand the underlying needs driving our emotional landscape and to find kind and honest ways to communicate those feelings.

On this week’s podcast, we talk about the limitations of trying to use formulaic NVC as a mother longs to connect more with her adult daughter. We explore the ways in which NVC is often an internal and invisible tool for self-connection, first.

Listen to the podcast in its entirety, or find the section you’d like:

  • 1:33  I’m annoyed by my daughter’s desire to micro-manage me.  What do I do?
  • 4:27  NVC is about more than following a formula
  • 11:00  The importance of establishing safety and trust
  • 16:00  If it doesn’t bring joy, don’t do it

Self-Connection Builds Self-Trust.  Check out this blog to find out how.

When have you used NVC for more self-connection?  
I’d love to know.  Leave a comment below.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *