We all have people in our lives we might think of as the “unreasonable, egoistic” people who are not practicing compassionate consciousness.
They want to be judgmental.
They want to get control.
They want to dominate.
They’re invested in the jackal world. They like it, they buy into it, and that’s how they live.
So the question is, if you’re practicing nonviolent communication, or if you have different values, where does that leave you?
Actually, this was a question I received in a recent session of Conversations from the Heart, and I’ve put my response to it here on YouTube.
In the video, I walk through a Nonviolent Communication framework on how to work with this very universal experience. You can watch the video for all the content, or if you’d prefer to read through the steps, here you go:
1. Become aware and let your jackal go for a run.
Start with becoming aware of your own evaluations. You’re thinking they’re being “unreasonable” or “egoistic” or “narcissistic” or whatever it may be. Whatever diagnoses we’re using captures what we’re finding challenging with them.
Next, you slow down and ground yourself in the micro-moments of their behavior. Ask yourself, “What exactly is it that this person does or doesn’t do or says or doesn’t say that I’m evaluating?”
Make a list of those micro-moments.
Now, notice your criticisms and evaluations. You might take some time to journal it out as though you’re talking to them, for example: “The problem with you is you’re so judgmental…you’re so selfish…you don’t take into consideration anybody’s needs…it’s always about you…all you want is control…you don’t have the same values as me…”
Let your judgmental voice get expressed. Get it all out so that you can see it and hear it.
We honor our judgmental natures as part of our protection systems. We don’t other it. We don’t send it into the shadows. We don’t make it bad and wrong. We want to be able to see and hear and love and embrace those parts of ourselves.
We actually give our judgmental parts a voice. We meet our needs for self-expression, but we don’t say it to the person because that would be repeating the cycle of violence.
We take responsibility for what is emerging in us and how we’re perceiving and thinking, and we get it on paper so that we can start working with it.
2. Practice translating judgments.
Now do the practice of translating every label, every diagnosis, every judgment into the underlying feelings and needs.
For this, set up 2 columns in your journal.
On the left, list the judgment: I think you’re narcissistic and selfish and egoistic and unreasonable.
Then do the work to translate the judgment and put the underlying feelings and needs you discover in the right column.
For the feelings, think about the specific micro-moment of behavior and ask, “In that moment, I felt what?”
Maybe frustrated. Maybe confused. Maybe disoriented.
Then ask yourself, “What need of mine wasn’t being met?”
Perhaps you had a need for consideration. Perhaps you had a need to matter. Maybe you had a deeper need for understanding or connection or clarity. Or you had a need for more trust, to matter equally, or to be seen and heard, or that you’re valued or considered in a decision.
The key is to get very clear about what’s coming up for you. Take some time to wake up to your observations, your feelings, and your needs. (You might appreciate referencing the feelings and needs lists for this step.)
3. Empathize with the other person.
Then you’re going to take some time to empathize with the other person, in your head, in your heart, and in your body.
You’re going to imagine: If it were me in the moment behaving the way they were, what might I have been feeling and what might I have been needing? What might have been going on with me to do or say (or not do or say) that thing?
Find the part of you that would behave in the same exact way. Ask yourself, “What would have to be going on in my life? Under what conditions would I be doing that?”
For example, I can remember times when I said really mean or selfish things, and often it’s because I had been feeling disconnected from myself or desperate or out of options and helpless.
Then ask yourself, “What are the needs that I might be having at that moment that would be driving that kind of behavior?”
4. Arrive in shared humanity.
The path we took to get here:
- We listened to our jackal voices. We saw them and heard them and loved them up.
- We’ve grounded our judgments: We became aware of the specific things that happened or didn’t happen, and we became aware of what we’re feeling and needing.
- We imagined under what circumstances we might be behaving the same way, and we built a bridge to rehumanizing the other person.
This work of moving back into shared humanity takes time. It might be an hour, or it might be 3 years. It might be a lifetime. We give ourselves all the time we need.
Once it’s done and our nervous systems have re-regulated, we’re ready to have the conversation. Of course, it’s always an option to have the conversation while we’re activated, but we know it’s going to go differently when we’ve done some work to get grounded and self-connected.
5. Remember you have a choice.
Know that you always have a choice to connect or disconnect from the other person. You can ask yourself, is this the case of boundary-setting or is this the case of going to bat for more connection?
If you realize…
- This relationship is beyond my capacity.
- If I keep interacting with this human, I’m going to get hurt.
- I can’t keep myself safe and protected when I make myself available to these dynamics.
Then a wise and legitimate strategy is to create more distance between you and this other person, and you can choose to disconnect in ways that are nonviolent and compassionate.
Or you might realize…
- We could both be working more on this.
- I could make a clearer request.
- I could try to empathize with them a little bit more.
- I could enter their world more, or I could really help them enter my world.
If this is a person and relationship that really matters to you, there are a million things you can try to increase the likelihood that they may step into the space with you, but get this point:
Ultimately you are not responsible for their growth or whether or not they step into that space.
If you want relationships that are based on mutuality and shared values of compassion or nonviolence, or if you would like your needs met in a particular way and you realize that the other person doesn’t yet have the desire, the willingness, or the capacity to meet your needs, then the most nonviolent thing you can do is leave them alone and let them be who they are.
It becomes a version of domination when you keep trying to make the other person be who you want them to be. There’s wisdom and love in accepting who and what someone is, how they work, and what they do and don’t want to change. You can get your needs met elsewhere.
If somebody can’t meet your needs for consideration, or doesn’t want to consider you, or doesn’t think you matter, or doesn’t value you, then there’s no amount of changing how you show up and communicate that’s going to get them to value you.
When you realize that, you can very gently disconnect without making them bad and wrong. Understand that they’re in a different place and their job on this planet isn’t to be an object to meet your needs, and nor are you an object to meet other people’s needs.
For more guidance for navigating relational red flags, check out my mini-course Assess the Health of Your Relationship.
And how does this framework sound to you? Any ideas that surprise you? Where might you get stuck? I’d love to hear more. Leave a comment below.
Want to go deeper in this work?
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Conversations from the Heart, a free Q&A learning call on Wednesdays at 10am CT.
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