2020 has added three major global crises to our long and painful list of ongoing challenges:
- Public health crisis emerging from the Coronavirus infecting humans;
- Governance crisis manifesting especially in global protests against police brutality and governments more generally; and
- Economic crisis unfolding from responses to the pandemic.
And as a result, many of us who share NVC with others have been feeling a growing unease about our roles. I have heard from quite a few who want to go beyond using NVC primarily as a personal growth tool within the market economy, and often don't know how to do so. This course is designed to respond to this need by supporting anyone who shares NVC with others – regardless of experience or certification – in opening to the way systemic perspectives deepen and transform how we bring NVC to people, communities, and organizations.
The course is comprised of three 90-min sessions that were held on three consecutive days. The outline below is loose and may shift to adapt to needs, experiences, and situations as they arise in the course of our time together.
Session 1: Systemic Awareness as Compassion
In our current mindset, whenever needs are not met all eyes focus on individuals. NVC teaches us to shift from punitive perspectives based on right/wrong thinking to a view of all actions as an attempt to meet needs. As NVC is usually taught, participants don't learn why we choose specific strategies, why some needs are glorified and others denigrated – and why those may vary between and within cultures; or why we have a story that locates everything in the individual. A systemic awareness that is rooted in understanding the historical, political, and economic roots of much individual behavior de-personalizes what we do and what is done to us, and invites seeing all of us as deeply shaped by our collective history and current social locations. This kind of awareness can fundamentally shift how we look at NVC, what we will choose to learn in addition in order to make our teaching relevant to others across many differences, and how we can bring NVC to bear on situations that have dramatically different purposes from personal healing, growth, or even liberation.
Session 2: NVC Practices for Liberation
Patriarchy, the root system that has given rise to all forms of oppression – starting with the oppression of women and children, and continuing to oppression based on newly created categories such as class, race, religion, and ethnicity, leading to all the divisions we have today – emerges from scarcity, functions in separation, and results in powerlessness. Liberation, individually and collectively, proceeds by restoring capacity in the opposite direction: what was lost last is restored first, and we move towards life instead of away from life. Our liberation shifts us from powerlessness to choice, from separation to togetherness, and from scarcity to flow. The path of liberation embraces nonviolence as the full flowering of humanity. This session examines specific and concrete ways in which NVC principles and practices support this move, beyond a communication template. Here are some examples:
- Vulnerability, including the willingness to inhabit our needs without knowing if they will ever be met; making requests even when we may hear a "no"; and speaking only from what we know (observations, internal states, and the present moment) all support choice.
- Embracing all our feelings and bringing tenderness to our experience supports movement from right/wrong thinking, including judgments of self and others, into tenderness for all, which then supports togetherness even in the face of disagreements.
- Mourning and celebration, which lead to willingness to give and willingness to receive, support movement towards putting all needs, impacts (feelings and other experiences), and resources (willingness to give) on the table instead of focusing on who deserves what when decisions need to be made.
Session 3: Adapting NVC Core Practices to Power and Cultural Differences
Understanding how our socialization into different positions within society is entirely different from anything essential about us allows us to open up to the possibility that all we learned about NVC may not apply to a world divided along so many lines. We are not equal, and we are not all the same, even if we long for commonality and togetherness at all times. Every single one of the components of the NVC template and all core NVC practices are deeply influenced by such differences. This session explores some of these influences and offers pathways to strengthen capacity. Some examples include:
- Observations: How do we account for the fact that who is observing and where they are observing from shapes what is noticed? How do we find as close to observational language as possible to describe patterns?
- Feelings: How do we account for the danger of experiencing and expressing certain feelings depending on where you are located? (e.g. Black women in the US can get backlash when expressing anger; all men can be ridiculed when expressing vulnerability.)
- Needs: How do we engage with the reality that some people's needs are consistently and systematically prioritized in relation to other people? How do we find capacity to attend to all needs when our socialization may prohibit some needs and not others?
- Requests: How do we learn to make requests and to say "no" to others' requests if we have been socialized not to? How do we release control and make true requests if we have been socialized and habituated to our needs being prioritized and our perspective appearing correct?
- Empathy: How do we open our hearts to the needs and perspectives of people different from us, such as those with more or less power; those embracing different worldviews based on their culture; or those who don't know how to open themselves to us because of such differences?
- Feedback: How do we learn to hear impact without becoming defensive about intention when we have more power in a particular situation? How do we learn to offer feedback about impact without implying intention when we have less power in a particular situation?
- A significant annotated bibliography of non-NVC works to support the beginning of lifelong learning about history, economics, sociology, and more to gain a wider perspective on our modern lives;
- A list of packets and blog posts relevant to: 1) NVC practices informed by a liberation perspective, and to 2) embracing nonviolence in order to expand the purpose of an NVC practice;
- A list of resources to support deep opening to the dynamics of power and cultural differences, including in particular how the NVC lens and practice can contribute to a liberation perspective, as well as how NVC changes when awareness of differences is integrated into it;
- Lifetime access to the classroom.