Sitting with not knowing is an NVC skill because its the opposite of reactivity. In our haste to find relief from the discomfort of not knowing, we often become defensive, jump to conclusions, and blame and criticize others. Sitting with not knowing requires us to suspend our distrust, tolerate fear and uncertainty - creating space within us. NVC provides a way forward to enter into a space of wonder, possibility, and creativity.
Past hurt and pain can get triggered even when it doesn't have much to do with the present. When that happens we can gain perspective by self reflecting, engaging self empathy, grounding an "anchor", noticing the present-moment safety, naming needs and making requests.
When someone responds with painful sarcasm, criticism, or dismissal you can respond with empathy, or with clarity about your intention, need and request. If you're unable to do this, later you can privately write what they said, identify the feelings and needs of both of you, then write possible responses. This can help you remember to stay with your intention and what’s true for you without getting caught in defensiveness or reactivity.
Interrupt cycles of conflict by creating a new ways forward. You can do this by connecting with the energy of the met needs you want in the dynamic; guessing the other person's needs; naming your needs; asking essential questions; identifying at least three different strategies to meet each need; and imagining the positive outcome.
What can you do to move towards connection when you you sense reactivity, defense, withdrawal or conflict arising? You can make a connection request, check the congruence between your body language and your words, and get curious about the impact of your actions. When you've tried everything you could also acknowledge that something is off, and choose to come back together when both parties have had time to reflect. Read on for more.
Reactivity is the misperception of threat coupled with lack of access to compassion and wisdom. Sensitivity is an ability to deeply perceive data, plus consciously attend to and attune to data, as it comes through the five senses. It can be a gift. If you lack the skill to care for any of your sensitivity-overwhelm by setting boundaries, you may develop reactive habits, like suddenly withdrawing or lashing out in order to get relief.
There's reactive anger - the sudden outbursts of words, temper or action that create a nervous system response in another. And then there's the anger that's a reaction to someone's anger -- a nervous system startle-response. Instead of either of these, we can learn to heal with empathy, look for unequal power dynamics, take responsibility to make repairs, and shift into the clean, life-serving, fully expressed anger and love.
After acknowledging the impact others have on us, you can ask yourself "What am I telling myself?" and "If that’s true, what am I afraid will happen?". The more present, gentle and compassionate you can be with the underlying feelings, the faster you can move through your trigger. Then you're more likely to respond in ways that feel, kind, responsible, intelligent and aligned for you.
One clue we have trauma is when we respond in a way we don't want (eg. being reactive, self sabotaging, etc). Even when we have high level NVC skills our trauma-related mechanisms can activate, and we can lose access to well honed NVC skills. Read on for approaches that involve healing trauma, and approaches that involve managing the effects of trauma and preventing additional trauma.