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|A common complaint of people considering the suggestions of the Center for Nonviolent
Communication (CNVC) and the web forums of Synergy Communication and Pondering NVC is
that 'NVCers' do not come across as authentically empathic. In other words, we pretend to
empathy we don't have. Many consider that this is inevitable -- for two reasons.
First, the NVC journey of developing an empathic way of being from the judging, diagnosing,
competing, demanding, and ignoring! ways of being from which most of us begin (at least in
some respects!) is not at all easy. So of course we will be caught aspiring to more empathy than
we may actually feel in our hearts. And second, language can rarely convey all of what we want
to express: most especially, there is very often a gap between what we want to convey that will
fully express all the sentiments we feel and what we actually do convey in the language we have
put to the attentions of others -- attentions which, like our own, can wander.
These are major factors, to be sure. But there's also another factor involved here -- one that is
coming from a part of our psyches of which only a few of us are aware, let alone always fully
conscious. It is that the linguistic form by which Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of the Center, its
Director of Education, and also author of its most widely read book "Nonviolent Communication:
A Language of Life", illustrates how to express our feelings embodies a linguistic anomaly. The
anomaly lies in the ambivalences surrounding the meanings of the various tenses and
conjugations of the verb 'to be', specifically in the term 'I am', as in "I am (an NVCer, for
Those familiar with that book will recall that he models use of the "I am (whatever)" construction
(IAW, or Eeyore) in conjunction with a list of, for the most part, passive adjectival words such as
"afraid, disgusted, absorbed, engrossed, moved, disgruntled, frustrated, shaky". "I am 'X passive
adjective'" statements tend, logically, to reinforce the feeling that we are those feelings, i.e. at
that moment that is who we are; and this can, but not always, keep us from making the effort
to discover, or keep presently in mind, the reality that we can actively introspect to allow into our
conscious minds an idea or memory likely to move our states of being into more equanimous
ones. What I want to convey here is that articulation of another linguistic construction than the
Eeyore construction advocated in MR's book can sometimes be extremely helpful in engaging our
own innermost resources for gaining, or returning to, the equanimous (centred) states from which
we can generate other ways of proceeding than the one then dominating our mind.
Specifically I propose the "I have 'X emotion' now" form of I-statement (IHXEN -- an acronym
pronounced Eye-Zen), where 'X emotion' is limited to a noun, such as anger, concern, grief, joy or
any noun such as those on the list supplied at the end of this paper for this purpose, or any noun
phrase, such as risng alarm. The specific reasons for why I particularly propose IHXENs are not
easy to explain quickly, but this link supplies some rational reasons for doing so, which is to say,
reasons with which others in our circle are likely in due course to agree because they constitute a
more enlightened view; and this link is to a narrative of a real instance in which this approach
resulted in both a restoration of justice and the goodwill with which to build better teamwork.
The IHXEN linguistic is not an easy one to articulate, at least not yet, because (1) few of us have
mastered the emotion nouns required to do so and (2) "it doesn't feel 'normal (i.e. customary)'".
Yet few of us have mastery of the (mostly) passive adjectives suggested in the various NVC lists
now existing on the internet, so as a matter of vocabulary, newcomers to NVC have either to
master the NVC list of adjectives or to master the IHXEN list of nouns below (or later, do both).
As to the matter of "it doesn't feel normal", the IHXEN approach and the standard NVC approach
BOTH require practice in applying them so that, in challenging moments when one is trying to
incorporate non-violent philosophy (ahimsa) into one's speech, writing, listening, and being, they
can become easily available to us.
People who are already adept at NVC will have more trouble incorporating the IHXEN linguistic into
their ways of being, so Alex Censor, the first NVC trainer certified by Marshall Rosenberg, has
developed a way of implementing the OFNR logic structure (Observations, Feelings, Needs, and
Requests) that obviates the 'I am' problem when we are confronted by behaviour that triggers
'jackallian' feelings in us. Following are Alex's illustrative linguistics, together with some unpackings
by me of the emotions likely to accompany them:
|Easing out the 'less than fully
authentic' to 'truly' connect!
(c) 2008-15 by
Principal, Authentix Coaches
I recall once being in an NVC group meeting and feeling (in spite of every straining on my part not
to feel them) disgust, contempt, and disbelief at the Eeyores to which my fellow meeting
participants were, in my opinion, robotically trotting out -- a perception based on a studied
comparison of their words, behaviors, and appearances. Indeed many seemed unengaged,
distracted, or pretending, or sometimes even hostile. What I wanted to do was scream "Get real,
you precious little childish exaggerators of your own predicaments. You are NOT what you
pretend, but I do sense you have an emotion that you don't like. Well, hear this and make sure
you bloody well listen very, very closely. I HAVE ANGER NOW. I want more authenticity from
Well, of course, I didn't indulge in expressing what, in a Canadian group, might have been
stereotyped as the typically 'British jackal attitude' possessing me through much of that meeting.
I waited until I was at a little more distance from NVCers -- in actuality until I had the CNVC blog
and Alex to write to, and then I expressed those pent-up emotions -- but without resort to any
Eeyores. I was able to do that only because (a) Alex was very helpful, (b) I had been practising
for some years expressing my emotions with "I have 'X emotion' now" statements (IHXENs) to
amplify and render more fully true the Fs in the OFNR logic structure, and (c) I had been discussing
the book "Nonviolent Communications: A Language of Life" with a very distinguished colleague of
mine, Christopher Walker, whose testimonial is at this link.
"Now them's fighting words", may be the reactions of some of you to reading this but, if so, I
request that you try your keyboards at composing as authentic an OF-->IHXEN-->NR rejoinder
as you have ever done in your lives -- for I truly want such connections. Responses like that
would, I believe, be fruitful. Here's a list of emotion nouns you might find helpful for that purpose:
Decision-making that uses language accurately, i.e. with care for both internal viewpoint and
external perspective, then becomes possible:
Sorry: the notes are long! But they are in my soon-to-be-published book. If you would like to
view a short version of the notes, please review the 8 items at the bottom of this link.
Becoming proficient in IHXENs turns out to have many benefits, especially if one practises with an
IHXEN partner. For more on this, consider exploring what is becoming called Eye-Zen English.
|Is honesty the best policy? Well, when you know how ...
NewBook! To download Preface, Table of Contents and Introduction see menu item below.