NVC in my life – Listen with Empathy

I’ve reached a point in my NVC development where I understand the basic structure of NVC, but I still find it hard to apply.When can I use NVC?

Do you have to do it perfectly? NVC is an attitude or approach. For instance, if I approach a discussion with the intent to listen, be present and try to understand the other person’s feelings and needs, then I use NVC!

Yesterday, I had a call with a friend. She has worked as a teacher for many years. The job as a teacher can be very tough and she has given it everything she has. Yesterday, she told me how she had had enough. It was not fun anymore and she wanted to quit. She talked about how bad teachers are treated, and her frustration over the lack of respect from students.

She also told me, that all her friends tried to “fix” her, tried to find a “solution”, and how tired she was of people that didn’t listen.

To be fair, I said something too that was interpreted as an attempt to “fix”. When I excused myself and said that it was meant to be interpreted that way, she got irritated with me too.

She said: Why do people always assume that it’s the interpretation that is wrong? Why do people not take responsibility for what they are saying?

She had a point! And I quickly retracted and said, she was right. Next time I’ll not say that “what I said was misinterpreted/misunderstood”, instead I’ll say something like: “Sometimes, I’m unclear with the things I say. Let me rephrase it to see if I’m clearer.

This is practical NVC! Focus on what you and I can do, instead of trying to find fault in the other person. If we’re afraid the other person has misunderstood us, let’s ask them to see what they heard us say. If it wasn’t what we intended, let’s give it another try.

The conversation went on, and she continued to tell me about her frustration with her work situation. After about 10 minutes I did something I’d never done before. I asked her; what do you want me to do or say in this situation? You’ve told me, you don’t want any “fixes”.

WOW, this was so NVC-ish! Do you know what happened?

She said, she just needed to talk about it. She needed someone to listen to her and empathize with how she was feeling. (Yes, she used the word empathy)

Sometime later in the call, she used a funny word in a sentence. I made the mistake to interrupt and asking about that word. Yes, I understand now, that it was a mistake. My interruption lead to a 5-6 min monologue about how frustrating it was when people put focus on the wrong things. That word, (which I don’t remember anymore) didn’t have anything to do with the point of the story.

At that time, I can honestly say that I felt a little frustrated myself. I tried my best to listen to her, but when I interrupted, she lashed out at me. I defended myself, by saying that I liked these kinds of words. But it didn’t make any difference.

Today, I’d like to guess what happened. When we were talking, the attention was on her, but my question broke the spell. It moved the focus from her to me. She needed to be heard in that situation, and suddenly she didn’t get that need met. As a result, she got irritated.

How can both our needs get met in this situation?

Next time I hear a funny word, I’ll write it down instead of interrupting. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind explaining the word after she has finished her story when I tell her how much I like these funny words. This way, both our needs can be met!

It can be frustrating learning about NVC, but when we get a small understanding of what happens around us. It’s truly AMAZING!

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