The fundamentals of Thriving Life NVC (Nonviolent Communication, also known as Compassionate Communication) are based on the following principles.
(Elements that are unique to the Thriving Life approach appear in italics or bold italics):
- It’s our birthright to THRIVE
- Happiness is the feeling we experience when we are THRIVING
- Everyone has the same right to thrive; no person’s well-being is
more important than another person’s
- The only thing anyone is ever doing, is trying to thrive
(however unconscious, misguided, counterproductive, or tragically destructive their strategies might be)
- All human beings require the same essential things (“Life-Needs“ or “Needs“) in order to thrive. Human beings who don’t get their Life-Needs met eventually become ill physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. Examples of Life-Needs include harmonious connection, touch, belonging, self-expression, freedom/choice, etc. Download the full list of 12 Essential Life-Needs here –>
- Once we become adults, our well-being (thriving) is ultimately our own responsibility, and other adults’ well-being is ultimately their responsibility (please also see Requests, below).
- Every one of us has within us all the personal power and discernment we need to learn how to thrive … with ease. (Even if we’ve grown up in a culture that has only taught us how to survive.)
- Because we are social beings, human interaction (relationships of all kinds) is the primary medium through which our well-being is nourished … or diminished.
- We can learn how to communicate in ways that contribute to our own and others’ thriving!
- We can learn how to create and sustain positive connection!
- We can learn how to thrive, and how to have thriving relationships!
Learning how to THRIVE (how to be happy) requires learning how to (in ACTUAL PRACTICE):
- genuinely value and consider (“respect”) our own well-being, remembering that we are ultimately responsible for our own thriving (once we reach adulthood)
- genuinely value and consider (“respect”) others’ well-being, remembering that they are ultimately responsible for their own thriving (once they reach adulthood)
- experience our body sensations and feelings as they’re happening without avoiding, denying, numbing out, going unconscious, being “captured,” or being overwhelmed by them (see Compassionate Noticing mindfulness group for support and practice)
- realize that we are not our body sensations, feelings, thoughts, and impulses and learn how to witness or observe these inner experiences from a consciousness characterized by grounded presence, compassion, and the capacity for authentic choice (see Compassionate Noticing mindfulness group for support and practice)
- identify our Life-Needs (see Presence Practice group for support and practice)
- learn how to meet our Life-Needs, including identifying effective inner-world strategies (e.g., learning how to generate the experience of met Life-Needs through memory or imagination, which I call “basking” or “self-sourcing”) as well as identifying effective outer-world strategies (e.g., making genuine requests of other people and/or engaging effectively with resources, places, circumstances, and/or events)
There are eight essential elements to the NVC view of human expression and experience:
Observations (What Happened) vs. Stories, interpretations, beliefs, judgments, evaluations, (etc.)
Feelings vs. Thoughts
Needs vs. Strategies
Requests vs. Demands
(The words on the left, in bold green, indicate ways of communicating that almost always support positive connection. The words on the right, in bold orange, indicate ways of communicating that can easily create misunderstanding, discomfort, and disconnection.)
- Observations (What Happened) include the facts of what was actually said or done at a specific time or place, without any interpretation (“The thermometer read 82F” rather than “It’s hot out”). Expressions of our own immediate internal experience (“I feel hot” or “You seem upset to me”) can be observations, too, so long as we limit their scope to our own sense of things, and avoid speaking for other people. There is a world of difference between, for example, “you seem upset to me” and “you’re upset.”The essential question is: does how we express what we’re noticing or experiencing recognize that the other person may be having a different experience and “leave room” for that experience, and create a safe place for them to share what they’re perceiving?IMPORTANT: Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) has shown us that our perceptions are often distorted, fabricated, or otherwise inaccurate. Learning how to make observations helps us bridge the differences in our “realities.”
- Stories, interpretations, beliefs, judgments, evaluations, etc. are ways that we attempt to make sense of the world, other people, ourselves, and our experience of all these. (“It’s cold in here” or “You made an assumption” or “I can’t believe I screwed that up again!”) When we notice, disidentify from, and know how to engage with them, our stories/judgments/etc. can bring us into deeper, more life-giving connection to ourselves, Life, and others. When we automatically believe them and react from that belief, they can disconnect us from ourselves, Life, and others. (NOTE: A great deal of conflict with other people arises from collapsing our Stories with What Happened. It’s essential to keep these separate.)
- Our Feelings are primary emotions that arise from our body sensations. Feelings let us know whether what we’re experiencing is moving us towards thriving or away from it. Specifically:
- “positive” feelings indicate that our needs are being met and our well-being is increasing
- “negative” feelings indicate that our needs are not being met and our well-being is diminishing
- the longer a need goes unmet, the more negative and more intense our feelings become, and the harder it becomes to manage and relate to them them in ways that sustain connection with ourselves and others
- Thoughts are not the same thing as feelings, although we very often mislabel them as feelings, which tends to create confusion and contribute to more disconnection. Thoughts arise from mental activity; their energy is literally located “up in our heads.” “I feel like you do that on purpose” is a thought, not a feeling; it would be more accurate and less likely to cause upset if we said, “I think you do that on purpose.” It’s particularly likely to create confusion and disconnection when we combine feelings with thoughts (faux feelings like “I feel betrayed,” instead of “I feel shocked, hurt, outraged, scared, and uncertain, and I think you did that on purpose”).
- Strategies are ways we attempt to meet our Life-Needs. They are specific to time, place, and actor. (“Food” is a Life-Need; “spinach” is a strategy. Note that money, property, and positional power are all strategies; none of these are Life-Needs; none in themselves, directly contribute to our thriving.) The effectiveness of any specific strategy in contributing to our own or others’ well-being can and does vary from person to person, and from one point in time to another.
- Requests are ways we invite ourself and others to take actions that we believe will contribute to our own well-being. Requests are expressions of Respect for both ourselves and others: when we make a request, we are acknowledging, valuing, and considering our own personal power, well-being, and autonomy, as well as the other person’s. (IMPORTANT: Remember that granting our request requires a gift of life-energy from the other person. NVC and Thriving Life principles hold that, in day-t0-day life, others have no inherent obligation to give that gift, and only a situational obligation when they have a current agreement in place to give that gift. The one exception is that parents have an inherent obligation to take actions to ensure the overall well-being of their minor children.) Requests tend to create openheartedness and willingness to help, even when it doesn’t work to grant that specific request.
- Demands are ways we attempt to get our needs met without acknowledgement of or consideration for others’ well-being. Demands imply or openly express the threat of judgment, blame, and/or punishment if the other doesn’t comply.When we make a demand, we are:
- not acknowledging our primary responsibility for our own well-being
- not acknowledging our power to effectively meet our own Life-Needs
- not valuing or considering the other person’s well-being
- insisting that the other person set aside their own well-being and preferences so that our well-being and preferences can be served.
In essence, when we make demands, we are treating people like objects. This understandably tends to create disconnection and upset between us and others.
This brief overview only begins to touch on a landscape that is as vast, complex, and varied as we and our relationships are. There are many, many questions that can arise for us as we begin to explore this territory, including:
- “How do we value and care for our own well-being “first” while still being appropriately mindful of the impact of our choices on others’ well-being?”
- “Does being responsible for our own well-being mean we shouldn’t ask others for help?” (The short answer is — not at all! It does, however, mean that “the buck stops here.” There’s an essential difference between being primarily responsible for our own well-being with the support of a community of others, and being dependent on specific other people for our well-being.)
- “What about when someone breaks an agreement, creating an enormous negative impact for others? Isn’t that wrong?”
- “I feel excited about what I’m reading, but I don’t think anybody in my life is going to agree with any of this stuff. How do I explore this new world without becoming even more disconnected from them than I am already?”
I have decades of experience with navigating these questions and concerns in life-giving, connection-sustaining ways, and can offer guidance as you look for answers that satisfy your own values and sensibilities.
Please feel warmly welcome to reach out and connect with me, I’m delighted to share this wonderful, challenging, luminous human journey with you!