Scary honesty builds community.

Do you need some empathy, support and inspiration around putting Nonviolent Communication into practice? Find out about our new Facebook Forum below…

Shortly after uprooting myself from South Africa and arriving in Australia a few months ago, I urgently needed to find a place to stay with my daughter, to get some distance from a situation in our home town. A friend spoke to a friend and a complete stranger, Philip, and his wife, Gretel, offered to clear out their mud brick cottage for us. My daughter and I moved into the cottage alongside their home. As it was a crisis situation, we had no agreements upfront around length of stay, or what the exchange would be.

Having had a lot of experience in shared homes, I knew that this would only work if there was clarity and open communication between us. I had no idea if Philip and Gretel would be open to my preferred strategy to achieve this: Nonviolent Communication (NVC). I actually felt quite nervous about making a request that we have regular weekly meetings using NVC principles, which I would gradually share with them.

They quickly came to appreciate our meetings and the space it gave all of us to express what was working, what was bothering us and to agree on which projects or jobs we wanted to prioritise. After a couple of weeks, I lent them Marshall Rosenberg’s book, A Language of Life. When I came in for breakfast the next morning, Gretel was excitedly putting together the four steps of NVC and told me that: when I left the lights on in her car the night before (1. Observation), she felt concerned (2. Feeling) because she needed to be able to trust that she would be get the children to school the next morning (3. Need) and asked me to be more careful when parking the car (4. Request).

We were all grateful that over the weeks, we felt safer to express honestly, that we had a mutual understanding around practical living issues and that we had a regular time to be heard. One of the high points of our meetings for me, came when I shared how anxious I felt after a particularly challenging incident had occurred involving my daughter.

I said that I imagined that our arrival into their family was a cause of stress which they would understandably want to eliminate from their lives. To my delight and surprise, Gretel responded that on the contrary, she was grateful for the growth she had experienced in the time we had been staying with them, as she had had to stretch herself. She said that on some level, she had longed for this challenge and the expansion that was its reward.

It was taking the time and space to reflect on our journey together, that had allowed Gretel to become aware of this really important insight. She saw that this is what helped her to deal with the challenge that undoubtedly comes when we open up our nuclear family situation to community. Most of us long for authentic connection and it is my lived experience that this requires us to be vulnerable. There is something quite humbling and beautiful in the realisation that: getting our needs met, almost always involves becoming vulnerable.   I was really glad that I decided to take this risk with the family, what a deeply enriching connection it was for all of us!

“Because we are called to reveal our deepest feelings and needs, we may sometimes find it challenging to express ourselves in NVC.”   Marshall Rosenberg

Language that Works has set up a Facebook community group for those that have completed training with us. The intention is to create a forum where participants feel safe enough to be vulnerable and to bring their whole selves, where you can give and receive empathy. In this forum, our wish is that your needs for connection, authenticity and communication will be met. As Forum members, you are invited to engage in discussions, request support or ask questions around NVC.

A group of trainers who have been involved in offering NVC in South Africa support the forum, sharing insights, feedback, new resources and upcoming training opportunities.

If you’re interested in joining the Forum, contact sarah@languagethatworks.co.za to apply. We will consider anyone who has completed training. This would meet our need for safety in the group.

Our next 6-week course will be running on Thursday evenings, 6-pm from 13 July till 17 August 2017.

By Misty Wittenberg