Enjoy Improved Relationships by Using Nonviolent Communication, Part IV

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This is part four in my series on Nonviolent Communication.  You can find part one here, part two here and part three here.

Today we'll be focusing on the second stage of the NVC process.  As I shared in part three of this series, first you'll want to make an observation of the actions of others.  This is where you pinpoint a time when your needs are or aren't being met.

The next step is to express what's alive in you by stating what you are feeling.

This sounds simple, but as you'll see, much of what we've learned about feelings isn't true and our ability to clearly express feelings is often limited.

One reason for this is that we've been trained to focus on the needs and feelings of others, rather than getting in tune with our own emotions. We're also taught to consider what others think is the "right" way for us to feel or what we should do.

We encounter these obstacles even in our churches and homes.  Did you grow up with the "JOY" principle?  (Jesus first, yourself last, others in-between)  Were you taught that it was considered "good manners" to put the needs of others before your own?  Do you find yourself feeling a certain way, then stopping yourself, because it's not considered the "right" way for a Christian to feel?

Oh, I'm not saying we shouldn't think of others, but it seems that often taking time to consider our own feelings is thought of as something evil.  Take a moment to recall what we're instructed to do on an airplane.  You know, the whole "put on your own oxygen mask first so that you can help your child with theirs" spiel.  There's no way we can help others and show them care and compassion unless we make sure our own needs are being taken care of and to do this, we have to learn to clearly express our emotions.

We need to strengthen our feeling vocabulary.

One way to do this is to become familiar with some difficulties in clearly expressing feelings:
  • Stating an opinion
    • "I feel it's not right to have to clean it by myself." vs. "I feel angry when I have to clean it myself."
  • Labels 
    • I feel inadequate as a guitar player." vs. "I feel frustrated." 
  • Diagnosis of another person
    • "You are disgusting when you eat." vs. "I feel disgusted when I watch you eat."
  • Being too vague
    • "I feel good/bad." vs. "I feel delighted/uncomfortable when you hug me."
  • Following "I feel" with phrases like that, like, or as if
    • "I feel as if you don't care when I cook dinner." vs. "I feel annoyed when I don't receive a thank you for cooking dinner."
  • Following "I feel" with a pronoun - or a noun referring to another person
    • "I feel you don't love me." vs. "I feel sad."
  •  Describing how we think others are evaluating us
    •  "I feel unimportant." vs. "I feel insecure."
  • Forming an assessment of others' understanding
    • "I feel misunderstood." vs. "I feel troubled."
  • Making an interpretation of the actions of others
    • "I feel ignored/neglected."  vs. "I feel hurt." 
  • Self-judgement
    • "I feel worthless." vs. "I feel fragile."
  • Using words like abandoned, abused, neglected, attacked, cheated, unwanted (not true feelings - words like these convey evaluations and interpretations)
  •  If you can replace the word feel with think, then it's not a true feeling.
We don't always have to use the words "I feel" if it's really an emotion.  We can just use the emotion.  ("I'm outraged" works just as well as "I feel outraged.")

Just as practicing a sport can strengthen our muscles, we can strengthen our feeling vocabulary by becoming more familiar with emotional states and physical sensations and the words associated with them.  I've created these feelings mini-posters to help you when your needs are and aren't being satisfied and I'm sharing them with you as a free download!

You can print them out to display and help you practice specific emotions, post them on your refrigerator as a reminder of what words you can use, or even use them as flash cards (Do you homeschool?  These mini-posters would work well for studying different feelings words!)

What's next in this series?  You'll find out that while it's important to clearly express our feelings, it's equally important to learn how to share the cause behind the feeling (I feel X because Y) as well as make requests to others to ensure our needs are being met.

NVC concepts can make such a difference in how you view yourself and others.  Feel free to ask any questions regarding NVC you might have in the comments - and don't forget to sign up to receive Syncopated Mama blog updates by email, so you don't miss a single installment of this series!

Resources I've used to learn about NVC

Keep reading!  Find Part 5 of my NVC series here!

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