It’s 9 PM and you’re exhausted after a busy work and parenting day. Lately, it’s been getting harder to get the kids to sleep on time and you feel like your partner isn’t helping you the way you’d like. You’re feeling stressed, unsupported and angry.
It can be tough to shift our way of communicating because most of us rely on complaining or criticizing when we want something to change. This does not usually lead to a peaceful solution or one where everyone feels heard/understood. So how can we get what we need?
Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
One helpful resource is a communication process called Nonviolent Communication (NVC) also known as compassionate communication. Marshall Rosenberg was the Founder and Director of The Center for Nonviolent Communication. Dr. Rosenberg found that to communicate effectively our purpose must shift. In other words, before change can happen, we must first make sure that everyone gets what they need.
Looking at needs and developing a literacy of what a need actually is is key. A need and the request you make to address that need feels very different from a preference you have which can sound to others like you’re making a demand.
Communicating with NVC
Let’s get back to the need you have for more support when trying to get the kids settled in at bedtime. Talking with your partner from a NVC perspective will require that you both to try not to fix, blame or problem-solve right away.
Set aside time (not at bedtime) for you both to express how you feel and ask your partner to listen with
empathy. He or she can even mirror back what you say in order to make sure they have heard you correctly. Hearing our own words mirrored back can help us feel truly understood.
Perhaps there are reasons why your mate is not available to help you with the kids at bedtime? Setting aside your own reasons for why this is and listening to your spouse’s needs sets the stage for you to both to feel heard and understood.
Below are ten ways NVC skills can help you get your needs met:
(1) Spend some time each day quietly observing how you feel and how would like to relate to ourselves and others.
(2) Try to remember that all human beings have the same needs.
(3) Check our intention to see if we are as interested in others getting their needs met as our own.
(4) When asking someone to do something, check first to see if we are making a request or a demand.
(5) Try to say what we DO want a person to do as opposed to what we DON’T what them to do
(6) When speaking, be specific about what action we’d like the person to take instead of saying what we want someone to BE.
(7) Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone’s opinions, try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing.
(8) Instead of saying “No,” say what need of ours prevents us from saying “Yes.”
(9) If we are feeling upset, think about what need of ours is not being met, and what we could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what’s wrong with others or ourselves.
(10) Instead of praising someone who did something we like, express our gratitude by telling the person what need of ours that action met.
Practicing this new communication style can be the beginning of a whole new way of relating with yourself and others. It will also help you get what you need.