Learning to back off through vulnerable honesty

Aug 18, 2013

Vulnerable honesty is a concept I learned during a Nonviolent Communication (NVC) training by Yoram Mosenzon. For him it seems it’s a way of life – real (vulnerable) honesty in communication, or meaningless-ness. Vulnerable honesty is different than the sort of honesty I grew up knowing, such as “I want to tell you the truth, you are so stubborn it is amazing.” Vulnerable honesty is to connect to and reveal what is really going on in ME (my feelings and needs), not what I think about someone else. For example, “I feel sad, because I so want to do things together and experience a quality of care for you and care for me. I am now lost in knowing how to achieve this. Can we please talk about what I can do differently that will bring care for both of us?”

It boils down to me being honest with myself first and foremost, and this isn’t as easy as I might have always assumed. Language is important – it can make all the difference in whether we feel connected to or alienated from ourselves and our communication partners. So I’ve been taking it super seriously, practicing the NVC model in my conversations with myself and with my husband and children the past year.  It’s become something of a passion of mine to say the least.  I may have gotten carried away somewhat, letting my expectations of my effort get too high . . . feeling frustration when my family members didn’t seem to be following my lead.

At least I could appreciate, while enjoying a warm Southern night next to a camp fire this past summer, some scary vulnerable honesty was being practiced by my husband. As hard as it was, he let me know that he was experiencing quite a bit of frustration of his own and could really use some backing off of all my expectations. Perhaps I could be more patient and gentler in my corrections of his deeply rooted what-is-it-again? Right, “alienating language.”

It was hard to hear – I mean, didn’t he see the beauty in what I’ve been learning and implementing for the sake of family closeness and connectivity? Er, well, no actually, not if it came at such an expense during the transition period, which by the way he didn’t even sign up for!

Our conversation was very meaningful to me/us. After getting over my initial urges to defend myself, I actually felt gratitude, connection, and happiness. In the end, I received clarity on my husband’s experience/observations of recent months, a not-so-pleasant resulting feeling (frustration) and an important need of his (care). In the end, he even made a clear actionable request of me (patience and understanding). I am grateful, because I really want to learn and practice NVC in a way that is fun for my beloved ones and not present it to them as pressuring and demanding.

What more, after all, could this NVC-phile wish for?

Cara Crisler
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