A Buddhist Approach to NVC

I’m grateful to have been able to attend a daylong program over at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in the Bay Area this weekend, “Skillful Speech in Difficult Situations.”

Essentially, it focused on a mindfulness-based approach to Nonviolent Communication skills. The speaker, Oren Jay Sofer, brought Buddhist principles to his knowledge of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s ideas regarding NVC through short lectures and transformative meditation practices that we then shared and reflected on with a partner.

It was very helpful for me to learn some of these ideas and skills at a time when I’m being challenged in certain key relationships. I’d like to share with you now some of what stood out for me, and hope that it can be useful for you, as well.

The first thing that caught my attention were the following fundamental principles underlying Sofer’s approach:

  • All humans share a set of fundamental needs.
  • Every action we take is an attempt to meet one of these needs.
  • Emotions are a response to our needs being met (or not).

Knowing these things, we can then begin to better understand other’s motivations and behavior. When we understand that their negative emotions and unskillful behavior is often a response to the pain and discomfort of unmet needs, we may be more willing to be compassionate and collaborative in our approach to them.

One of the practices that I found really useful were the 3 “Practices of Presence” that we later engaged in with a partner. We learned how to come back to the present moment through focusing on the breath, grounding in our bodies, and orienting ourselves to the wider space around us.

Other valuable skills mentioned were active listening, reflecting, and how to skillfully interrupt or pause a difficult conversation.

I was able to get myself a copy of Sofer’s new book, “Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication.” I’m excited to get back home to LA and spend some time with this book, I can’t wait to learn more.

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