That person has needs too? ~ how to transform our enemy images!

One of the great blessings we've had is sharing NVC at one of the homeless shelters in Santa Barbara. One of the residents, Ward, shared some of his experience with us.........."That first night I came to class, I could have sat in the class and been grumpy and irritated cause 'they're making me do this'. Then I realized I just might get something out of it." Ward came to sessions and participated actively.

That was many months ago so it was fun to see Ward recently and hear how much he gained from the sessions. He said the thing that most impacted him was the idea that "the other person has needs".

He shared the following experience with 86 woman in his neighbourhood needed some assitance and being a handyman, he offered to help. Imagine his surprise when, instead of receiving appreciation for his offer, the woman launched into a stream of jackals!

Ward says "I could feel my triggers coming up and knew I was in fight or flight mode and I'm not the 'flight' type."  He could feel his teeth clenching and wondered to himself "Am I going to hit this 86 year old woman?"

He took a breath, then asked himself "what am I doing?" The thought that came was "this is a test!" Just pausing long enough to connect with himself in this way gave him the space to get to "I wonder what her needs are? I bet she's feeling scared and helpless & wanting support, understanding and help"

As soon as he had the wondering about her needs, he noticed that he felt sadness and compassion for her. As this shift was taking place in Ward, the woman shifted her behavior and thanked him for his offer of assistance. The woman's caregiver was astonished and asked Ward what he did to cause such a shift in the woman's behavior! 

How profound it is to breathe, take a moment and remind ourselves that this person in front of us has needs as well. Imagine the kind of world we'd co-create if each of us practiced this only once a day!

Anne Walton, CNVC Certified Trainer

Transforming Road Rage - anger is a powerful teacher

by Rodger Sorrow, Certified Trainer

I’m zipping along the Ventura Highway headed south on US101 toward Los Angeles.  I’m happy cruising along at seventy-five miles per hour in the fast lane listening to my tunes.  Traffic is moderate and I look up into my rear view mirror and here is some jerk right on top of me.  What an idiot!  What’s wrong with this moron!  Where are the cops when you need them?  I think I’ll teach this guy a lesson.  My blood is boiling, my whole body is tight and I have a fisted grip on the steering wheel.  I’m pissed! 

Have you ever been there?  If so, then you know what I’m thinking I’ll do next.  I’ll step on the brakes and see how he likes that!  Fortunately at that moment I remembered nonviolent communication (NVC) and I remembered to breathe.  Breathe and enjoy the jackal show.  Breathe and hear my need for safety.  Breathe safety.  Place my attention on safety and connect with it.

When I do that I relax.  I’m not so angry anymore but I am scared because I want safety for me and everyone else.

What would safety do?  Safety would drive in a way that is safe for me, the vehicle behind me and those around us.  That’s what I do and I celebrate safety and using NVC.  I also notice I’m not carrying anger and frustration with me as I continue my journey.  I notice it’s relatively easy to return that place inside myself of happy cruising.

The first time I did this I wanted to shout it from the roof top, “NVC works!  Yahooooo!”    I was so excited and happy to have a little hope for working with my anger.  It had cost me so much in my connection with myself and in relationships.  Now I had some hope and was eager to apply these new skills.

Well I certainly didn’t have to wait long for an opportunity to practice.  I’m driving on the freeway again.  I look into that rear view and here comes another one of those jerks!  This idiot probably expects everyone to get out of his/her way!  How thoughtless and inconsiderate!  Oh yeah!  Breathe!  Safety!  Yes, with a side order of respect and consideration please!  I pull over into the next lane and let this person pass.  I’m pleased that I got to my needs quicker this time.  I also noticed respect and consideration in addition to safety.  I liked that.

This process repeats a number of times.  I notice that gradually with practice I’m getting quicker at getting to my need when I’m triggered.  Then one day I’m out on the freeway and I look up and I don’t see a jerk and a pack of jackals coming but rather I see safety and an opportunity to contribute.  I pull over and he zooms by and then slows down and matches my speed.  He blinks his lights on and off and then zooms again.  He is gone.  I told myself that was a “thank you”.  Wow!  I’m receiving acknowledgement and appreciation out on the freeway!  I’m contributing to the safety and well being of others!  I’m meeting my own need to contribute!  This is the road I want to be on!  This is the world I want to live in!

I don’t know what the needs of the other driver are in moments like these.  Perhaps she/he is on their way to be with a loved one in the emergency ward, or they will be late for work and it will mean their job or perhaps they’re having fun cause they like to drive fast.  I don’t know what their need is but I do know that whatever it is I have those same needs at times.  And I want their needs to be met at the same time there is safety, respect and consideration of others.  

I share this story because it gives me such hope.  We can learn to respond to stimuli that trigger us with NVC.  Even when the stimuli get repeated we can breathe.  Enjoy the critical, blaming judgments we make.   Breathe and choose where we place our attention next because it’s likely to come to us quickly.  There is a lot of energy flowing so it’s important to put our attention on what we really want.  Connect with the energy and wisdom of our needs and let them guide what we say or do next.  This is what I understand to be the life serving purpose of anger. 

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