What i learned giving a lecture on NVC

by Yoav Ravid 9mo20th Feb 20192 min read2 comments

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Recently, I gave a lecture on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) at a democratic school in Israel, the attendees (or at least the active ones), were mostly 11-12 year old girls, and a teacher.

The first thing i found was a potentially good lecture structure (which I'll talk about a little), and the second was about miscommunication.

I had an hour and a half, so i experimented with an unusual nvc-teaching structure (at least to me). I've had past experience teaching nvc, and two key principles i learned are (1) Without some sort of practice, the lecture isn't worth much. and (2) that practice isn't that easy; imaginary cases usually don't work, and getting people to be willing to open and vulnerable is hard. up to now i tried different methods each time.

in this lecture, since it was only a hour-and-half, i decided to just give them a taste. and thought maybe the best way to do that is to start from the easiest and most fun, to the harder and more sensitive. so the first thing i got them to try was actually to express appreciation (which is talked about last in the book), using the nvc model - observation (The thing you did I'm referring to), emotion (how i felt following it), and need (what need was fulfilled). It worked wonderfully better than other time when i tried teaching the 4 steps in other ways.

after each one of them picked another person and expressed their appreciation toward them, i explained about miscommunication and the techniques NVC has to handle it - paraphrasing, and asking for a "reflection" from someone on what they heard you say. i asked half of the pairs to initiate paraphrasing, and the other to ask for reflection. they then protested that they don't see how it's useful, so i professed "yeah, it's true, it suites better situations of negative messages, but i want you to practice it even though you're probably right that you totally understood".

so they played along, and i worried that it'll actually feel like a waste of time. but by the first pair to try, this is (in short) what happened:

Girl A "Can you please say what you heard me say?"
Girl B "you said you like that when you share things with me, i give my opinion"
Me, to Girl A "was this what you meant?"
Girl A "not exactly"
Me, quite excited it worked "Great! so now you're able to clarify what you meant!"
Girl A "what i meant is, that when i share something with you, i like that you listen, not when you express an opinion"

And this happened with all pairs (maybe except one). I thought that much of the miscommunication in negative messages come from defense mechanisms that distort the message. but even here, where it was a really good thing being expressed (and relatively quite clearly), the message was still distorted.

On top of that, not even one percipient thought there was any misunderstanding. heck! even i thought it might turn out super obvious. we were all wrong.

What i took from it is that people might be even worse than i thought at understanding what people mean, and we should probably ask for more clarification more often, and on more sorts of things, than we do.

notes:

1. yes, these were girls, but i believe their age was a minor influence on the miscommunication, and thus mostly applies to adults too.

2. since they weren't familiar with the model, they didn't express their appreciation concisely, I'm curious how a concise expression following the model would work.

So - in the spirit of the post - can you write what you "heard" me say? :)

(And also feedback is appreciated)

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