Surprising parallels to parts of rationalist culture eg double crux, tabooing words, tell culture.
Shouldn’t be surprising since the underlying strategy seems to be the same - make sure everyone actually agrees on what the problem actually is, with no room for ambiguity due to different values or different interpretations of abstractions.
Much of the book doesn’t seem as applicable to zero- or negative-sum interactions eg negotiating prices. It relies on sharing as much information as possible.
Basic components of NVC language: observations, feelings, needs, requests.
- concrete, factual, specific time and context
- separate observation from evaluation
- avoid excess confidence: ‘if you keep smoking you will die’ -> ‘I worry that if you keep smoking you will die’
- avoid exaggeration: ‘you never tidy up’ -> ‘I cant recall the last time you tidied up’
- avoid moralistic language eg ‘should’, ‘ought’, ‘must’, ‘have to’, ‘deserve’, too open to disagreement or multiple interpretations
- avoid value judgments: ‘you are too messy’ -> ‘I dont like how much mess there is right now’
- compliments are also often value judgements, tend to be better received as observations and feelings: ‘you are a really good teacher’ -> ‘the way you explained X finally made sense to me and I feel less anxious about my exam now’
- basically, try to make statements that are inarguably true, that any observer would be unable to disagree with
- not directly caused by events/actions because receiver has some control over how to interpret events and what to dwell on
- separate feelings from stimulus: ‘you make me angry’ -> ‘when you do X, I feel angry because…’
- take responsibility/ownership: ‘I have to do X’ -> ‘I choose to do X because…’
- separate feelings from thoughts: ‘I feel unimportant to you’ -> ‘I feel sad because I think that you do not value me’
- needs are much more likely to be met if you can express them clearly
- be willing to be express vulnerability
- no reference to anybody taking any particular action: ‘I need to get out of here’ = strategy -> ‘I need to feel safe’ = need
- similarly for figuring out other people, notice the strategy but focus on the need it meets
- replace moralistic language with unmet needs: ‘you are so untidy’ -> ‘I need to have a tidy living space, and I feel anxious when surrounded by clutter’
- concrete, factual, specific time and context - so both parties have the same understanding of what exactly is being requested: ‘listen to me’ -> ‘summarize what I said so that I know you understand’
- specify actions, not goal states: ‘stop being so messy’ -> ‘make sure the floor is clean and the dishes are washed before you leave in the morning’
- positive actions, not negative - specifies behavior more clearly: ‘stop spending so much time at work’ -> ‘spend more time with the family’
- if you react negatively to ‘no’ it wasn’t a request, it was a demand
- doesn’t mean give up, means find out what are the obstacles to ‘yes’ and empathize with those
Possible responses to receiving negative messages:
- blame ourselves
- blame others
- focus on our feelings and needs
- focus on others feelings and needs
(Obviously the author would recommend 3 or 4)
Ideal: fulfill others needs out of compassion, not fear/guilt/shame. Not responsible for others feelings, but willing to take them into account.
How to listen:
- theory building
- paraphrase what you think they are saying and ask them whether your paraphrasal is correct
- don’t make assumptions - your theories about their motives are only validated if they endorse them
- express theories as questions/guesses: ‘it sounds like you are concerned about X because…’
- avoid finite options: ‘are you concerned about Y or just Z?’ -> ‘are you concerned about Y? maybe about Z then?’
- interpret attacks as expressions of unmet needs
- continue listening and paraphrasing until they have nothing left to add and feel they have been understood
- something like aversion factoring may be useful here to ensure nothing has been left out - ‘so you are concerned about Y and Z. if we could fix both would you still be concerned about X?’
- express own reactions in terms of OFNR
- it’s really frustrating to get advice or reassurance when you were looking for empathy - ask before offering!
- Request reactions
- be specific: ‘what do you think’ -> ‘would you be willing to tell me if you think this proposal will succeed’
- ask if there is anything left unaddressed
In India, when people have received the response they want in conversations they have initiated, they say “bas” (pronounced “bus”). This means, “You need not say more. I feel satisfied and am now ready to move on to something else.” Though we lack such a word in our own language, we can benefit from developing and promoting “bas-consciousness” in all our interactions.
‘What will they think of me’ must be put aside…
Apply same process to self-talk and self-criticism.
A basic premise of NVC is that whenever we imply that someone is wrong or bad, what we are really saying is that he or she is not acting in harmony with our needs. If the person we are judging happens to be ourselves, what we are saying is, “I myself am not behaving in harmony with my own needs.”
“When I behaved in the way which I now regret, what need of mine was I trying to meet?” I believe that human beings are always acting in the service of needs and values. This is true whether the action does or does not meet the need, or whether it’s one we end up celebrating or regretting.