If you’re anything like me then you weren’t given the tools required to effectively communicate your feelings and your needs. In fact, I’d say that for some of us (mostly men) we’ve been taught to do the exact opposite. And that is to suppress and ignore our feelings and needs. So then how can we be expected to do something we’ve never been taught how to do? How can we open up and share when the messaging has been predominantly to do the exact opposite?
Well for starters, we can recognize that we do in fact need to start sharing. We can also acknowledge that maybe the way we’ve been taught is no longer serving us in the ways we need it to as we venture and explore ENM/CNM and the many challenges it can often bring up. In my experience as a CNM man, communication is of the utmost importance in any relationship. Especially if you’re having multiple intimate relationships simultaneously. So, how do we do that? Where can we start to work on becoming more communicative and transparent with our feelings and needs? Well, lucky for us there’s a road map we can follow and it’s called Nonviolent Communication (NVC). It was developed by Marshall Rosenberg and while it has many components to it, there are 4 key elements that are the foundation of the work.
These 4 key elements are:
We start with a simple sentence structure. Simple is perfect, especially when you’re trying something new for the first time! So try this….
“When (Observation), I feel (feeling) because I’m needing some (Need). Would you be willing to (Request)?”
Let’s break each element down in a little more detail:
Avoiding emotive evaluation, judgement or even analysis. Observation is focused on neutral statements about the facts of what has happened and what is triggering the conflict or situation.
Example: When I see you talking to your other partners
Identifying the emotional response triggered by the observation. Use a feelings wheel or a list of feelings to help you find the words (I can provide a comprehensive list). These statements centre on emotional or physical sensations and must avoid what are called ‘victim verbs’ that essentially blame statements posed as feelings.
Example of feeling statement: I feel insecure and jealous
Example of a ‘victim verb’ to be avoided: I feel ignored and disregarded
Identifying universal needs and values that are either met or unmet, that drive those feelings. Rosenberg explained: “At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled”. These needs are linked to the observation and feeling for specificity.
Example: Because I need to spend more time with you.
Presenting a doable, concrete and specific way that needs can be more effectively met. Alternatively, you might make a request for someone to reflect on what you’ve said.
Example of an action-based request: Would you be willing to make some more time for me in your schedule?
Example of a reflective request: How do you feel about what I’ve said?
Nonviolent Communication article on www.modelthinkers.com (excluding examples)
Going back to the the idea of a simple structure, this is what our finished statement looks like using all 4 elements:
When I see you talking to your other partners I feel insecure and jealous because I need to spend more time with you. Would you be willing to make more time for me in your schedule? OR How do you feel about what I’ve said?
Like any new skill, this one takes practice in order to become proficient. At first it might feel robotic and awkward (it totally does!!!) but as we start to use it more and more, we get used to it and start finding ways to make it unique to us by using our own language and sentence structure (the order or the 4 elements is less important than the intention).
So, if you find yourself struggling with how to express what you’re feeling or what you need from your partners I encourage you to start simple and experiment with the above exercise and see how it works for you in your connections.